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US Trappers Bristle at Humane Society Ads on Fox Sports

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Message Martha Rosenberg
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If you broke a dog or cat's limbs, let them freeze or bleed to death or killed them by stomping, you'd be in jail. But if you did it to coyotes, foxes and raccoons you'd just be another U.S. trapper using the steel-jawed leg hold trap--which is no doubt why Fox News agreed to air anti-trapping spots from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in December.

The 15 second TV public service announcements (PSAs) which reached 85 million people on Fox Sports, open with the snap of the trap slamming shut, an action the late news anchor Peter Jennings also demonstrated on TV because of its brutality.

More than 90 nations and several states have outlawed the steel-jawed leg hold trap says Wayne Pacelle, HSUS President and CEO, who appears in the spot and the trap has been declared "inhumane" by the American Veterinary Medical Association and World Veterinary Organization.

But the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance (USSA), an advocacy group best known for sponsoring legislation to lower the age at which children can hunt and removing the safety training requirement (called a "barrier" to hunting) thinks Fox News is inhumane.

"This is not a public service announcement;" said USSA President Bud Pidgeon, "it is a free political advertisement for a movement that wants to eliminate trapping, hunting and all other forms of animal use."

An USSA press release goes on to say that, "trapping is recognized by every wildlife agency at the state and federal level as a viable and important conservation tool. It helps keep furbearer populations at healthy levels and is important in stemming the spread of wildlife diseases that threaten animals and humans."

It is also fun.

Even if prices weren't the highest they've been in 30 years, Todd Lund of Neenah, Wisconsin says he would trap for the "challenge" and "a chance to get outdoors."

He likes to "mix it up with water and land sets, trying for weasels, mink and muskrat" according to the The Post-Crescent. "When one species isn't coming to the steel [trapper language] for a few days, another one might."

Of course water sets are more fun than land sets because they drown their catches so they don't have to be checked every day. (Death by drowning is condemned by the American Veterinary Medical Association and animals can take up to 24 minutes to drown in such traps.)

But land sets are fun at Christmas time when Lund is on break from his job as a community living specialist for chronically mentally ill adults at an Appleton group home.

And land sets for weasels are "an inexpensive way for young trappers to learn the sport," adds Lund.

While steel traps are expensive, "hot dog" sized weasels can be caught with an ordinary rat trap and a small pine box to conceal it," says Lund who squirts beaver blood, pooled at the bottom of a bag of beaver meat stored in his refrigerator, on his weasel traps.

"That's pretty kid-friendly."

John Johnson of Braham county Minnesota agrees. With a couple of dozen traps, some fresh meat for bait, and a quick morning shift to check the sets, youngsters could "find enjoyment" trapping possums and making a few part time dollars at the same time, he tells the Isanti County News.

And there are cool new traps to use.

Like the snare-like cable restraint devices to "take" foxes and coyotes recently put into use in Pennsylvania though vetoed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich as too cruel because they strangle the animal.

"It is easier to keep a cable restraint functioning than a trap functioning," exalts Todd Harteis of Ebensburg, director of District 5 of the Pennsylvania Trappers Association. "A lot of times, the traps freeze."

And of course there's the money.

Muskrats are fetching from $4.50 to $5.50, coyotes, $5 to $10, skunks (with "good broad full stripes around") $5 and raccoons $5 to $8 writes Trapper Hathcock in the News Democrat Leader in Russellville, KY adding, "You guys who hunt with dogs, try to keep the dogs off of them as much as possible" because "hunted and dog-bit" raccoons will be "severely discounted."

For now, the controversial anti-trapping spots are off the air.

But did Fox pull them because sportsmen complained--as the U.S. Sportsmen ╣s Alliance contends?

Or did the PSA schedule simply run its course?

An unnamed official at Fox said top brass "reviewed the ad and believe the content meets their criteria for public service announcements," so trappers may be in for a surprise.

Kind of like the animals.
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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by (more...)

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