Our Oldest Outdoor Tradition

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By Doug Jeanneret, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Vice President of Marketing

As Benjamin Franklin said before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” This could certainly be the mantra for what was the impetus for the opening of the New World making it our oldest outdoor heritage–trapping.

No other outdoor issue has been as sensationalized as trapping, nor has any other issue had as much misinformation surround it. With trapper numbers at best static, it has and will continue to be a prime target for the animal rights lobby.

Some hunters also openly call for an end to trapping as a way to give the antis a bone to keep them away from other forms of hunting.  Unfortunately for all sportsmen, attacks on trapping or any other less utilized outdoor sport is just the tip of the iceberg as it comes to the antis attacks on our traditions.

So before making a decision about the sport, here are some facts to keep in mind:

  • Trapping is our first and foremost traditional outdoor sport, having been the impetus for the opening of the New World, including the U.S.
  • Foothold traps are a vital and humane tool for wildlife management
  • State wildlife agency biologists—the same people who have led the resurgence of a variety of wildlife we now enjoy—support trapping and see it as a necessary tool for managing furbearers
  • Trapping has proven to be a critical element in the prevalence of waterfowl populations
  • Wildlife managers also see it as extremely important in protecting the public from outbreaks of diseases, such as rabies.

Of course, the animal rights lobby continues to spread an abundance of misinformation about trapping in an effort to end what, in its opinion, is an inhumane tradition. How hated is the sport?

All you have to do is read the rhetoric produced by some animal rights groups.

The Humane Society of the United States, the number one anti-hunting group in the nation, has said:

“Trapping is well known for the suffering it causes. Strides have been made to eliminate the use of traps in the United States, with eight states (WA, CA, MA, CO, AZ, NJ, FL, and RI) now banning their use.”  HSUS doesn’t just stop with foothold traps though.  The HSUS has also made clear it seeks an “outright prohibition on all body-gripping traps due to the inherent cruelty of the devices.”

The Animal Protection Institute encourages people to prohibit trapping on their land, boycott businesses that sell fur, support trapping bans and encourage non-lethal wildlife controls.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is famous for its many stunts held to protest trapping and the wearing of fur—naked women in cages, throwing fake blood on fur coats, protesting outside of operas and other higher profile events, are just a few of their publicity tactics all aimed at stopping trapping and the use and wearing of fur.

Just as disturbing, if not more, as I alluded to earlier, is the fact that some sportsmen have developed the attitude that trapping is a disposable part of our outdoor heritage. This type of short-term thinking is the result of not understanding the foes to all hunting, fishing, and trapping.  It is nothing short of ignorant to think that a ban on trapping would not affect all sportsmen and women, and that if the anti’s are handed trapping on a platter, they will leave other sportsmen alone.

During my nearly 17 years at the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, I have witnessed in states such as Massachusetts, that once the anti’s stop trapping, they continue to work even harder to destroy other parts of our heritage.  Add Colorado, California, New Jersey, Florida and other states to that list.

Believe me, if all trapping were banned tomorrow, the animal rights lobby would not just roll up their tents and head home.  They would focus on other aspects of our outdoor heritage. Hunting with hounds, bear hunting, and even fishing are already the next traditions in the antis crosshairs, but they would be encouraged to continue with an even greater assault on these and other sports if trapping were lost.

Sportsmen must understand that if any one of our traditions is sacrificed, other parts of our hunting heritage will fall as well. We should and must continue to solidify our defenses, stand shoulder to shoulder, and support each other regardless of whether we trap, shoot, fish, or hunt.