Brenna Galdenzi: Once again, Fish & Wildlife is unwilling to look at the cruelty of trapping

This comment was written by Brenna Galdenzi of Stowe, President of Protect Our Wildlife.

In the most recent legislative session, Vermonters were excited by the prospect of a bill, S. 201, that would ban the use of leg traps. I testified on the bill and was overjoyed at the amount of public support the bill had.

A senior Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife employee also testified and, unsurprisingly, concealed the brutality inherent in trapping, convincing some lawmakers that there is a process called “best management practices” for the trap that improves animal welfare. This is a complete farce.

Trapping management best practices have been challenged nationwide, including by many scholars, yet the buzz term still manages to whiten the facts of trapping. Protect Our Wildlife has created this white paper that challenges management best practices, which has been distributed nationally.

For example, under these “approved best management practices” traps, it is considered a “moderate” injury only if a finger is amputated for the trapped animals; permanent fracture of the tooth, exposing the pulp cavity; severe bleeding in the joints; tears in the eye; rib fractures; a major laceration of the foot pads or the tongue; and other injuries.

Would a reasonable person consider these injuries “moderate”? Would the animal even be able to survive in the wild with any of these injuries?

Unfortunately, as a result of Fish & Wildlife certification; s on management best practices, S.201 has been weakened and significantly amended to require Fish & Wildlife to incorporate management best practices into regulations in an effort to improve animal welfare. You can view the final version of the bill, as it was enacted, on the legislature’s website here. You can read Protect Our Wildlife’s letter in response to the final bill here.

Part of Fish & Wildlife’s process of organizing best management practices involved holding working groups with various stakeholders. At first, I declined the Protect Our Wildlife advocacy, despite the fact that we are the leading organization in Vermont representing wildlife conservationists on this particular issue.

Bowing to pressure from lawmakers and other wildlife advocacy organizations, Fish and Wildlife invited us to get involved. It’s disappointing that the meetings were such a waste of time. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has shown little real interest in truly improving animal welfare. The Hunters who were part of the working group were even more disappointed.

While Protect Our Wildlife believes that hunting is inherently cruel, we do believe that there are ways to reduce suffering, which is the only reason we got involved. For example, we asked Fish & Wildlife if it would limit its methods of killing trapped animals to gunshots only. Right now, the trapped animals are being beaten, strangled, drowned, and subjected to grossly inhumane methods of killing.

The fishers in the working group refused to support this meager recommendation, and Fish & Wildlife wanted more time to make a decision.

One of our other recommendations was to ban death traps for crushing corpses on the ground—including on our shared public lands—as other nations have done, but they have refused. We also asked that trapped animals be prevented from being dumped. We’ve asked fishers to set their traps a reasonable distance away from trails, hiking trails, and other public spaces that people recreate, as required by S. 201, and Fish & Wildlife came back with an inadequate recommendation that doesn’t address the problem.

These are just a few examples where even the most modest concessions were met with opposition.

Less than 1% of Vermont’s population has significant control over fish and wildlife policymaking. The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is steeped in a 19th century mentality when it comes to treating wild animals. Just look at the terminology they use when discussing wildlife – they refer to wild animals as “resources” in order to “harvest”.

The majority of Vermonters want better wildlife protection. They don’t want animals like bobcats and otters trapped just for recreation and fur – a recent survey by Fish & Wildlife shows this. Why is the department unwilling to honor the wishes of the vast majority of Vermont residents?

No amount of publicity from hunters, fish and wildlife and their communications consultants can convince us that trapping is anything other than inherently cruel. Vermonters know that. Despite carefully crafted marketing materials and quick buzzwords, a leg trap will always be a foot trap.

Photos and videos of animals suffering in leg traps are marketed as Certified Best Management Practices Don’t Lie. You can learn more about baiting at ProtectOurWildlifeVT.org.

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