FAUX HUNTING IN PENNSYLVANIA
by Walter M. Brasch
American Reporter Correspondent
BLOOMSBURG, Pa. -- Tally, Ho!
As if Pennsylvanians don't have enough things to trap, chase, maim, and kill, add foxes to the list.
Rep. Ed Staback (D-Lackawanna/Wayne counties) has introduced a bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to permit fox hunting on preserves. Rep. Staback is minority chair of the Game and Fisheries Committee; the Pennsylvania Game Commission helped write the bill. ("Our motto: If it moves, shoot it; if it stands still, shoot it twice.")
This isn't your ordinary fox hunt conducted by the snobby Main Line set. The horses and dogs won't cost several thousand dollars. There won't be riding crops to beat against the horses' flanks and neck. No one will be wearing black leather boots, silken shirts, or red coats. And no one will be shouting out not to fire until they see the scared whites of the fox's eyes.
This, if we are to believe the bill's language, is a kinder, gentler fox hunt, one that doesn't permit the hunters or their dogs to kill the fox. HB1448 will allow the Game Commission to issue permits for fox hunting preserves. This isn't canned preserves, since no one plans to make fox jelly and sell it at the local flea market. And, no one plans to skin a fox so Aunt Matilda can have that luxurious dead animal strung around her neck like she always wanted.
Canned preserves for hunters are fenced-in areas in which people pay hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars for the right to pursue a wild animal, then kill, stuff, and mount the trophy of man's inhumanity against nature. It's slam-dunk hunting-minimal risk with maximum kill.
If the bill becomes law, Pennsylvanians will be allowed to buy a permit that allows them to create a preserve. In that preserve, hunters with dogs, provided at least one of them pays an admissions fee, will be able to chase all the foxes they want. The bill doesn't allow the killing of foxes. But there's every evidence that foxes pursued by a pack of dogs and Ride-'em Bob on his palomino charger will be stressed merely by the hunt. Some will be injured; others may collapse from exhaustion; others may die from the pursuit. Of course, if the dogs "accidentally" hunt down and surround the fox, and "accidentally" go into a killing frenzy-why, that's certainly permissible. After all, just as hunters can't control their prey, neither can they control their dogs. After all, people don't kill foxes, dogs kill foxes.
"Even if the hounds cause no obvious injury," says Heidi Prescott, a wildlife rehabilitator and national director of the Fund for Animals, "foxes chased by hounds even once for five minutes have been found to exhibit a physiological stress response." Exposure to repeated pursuits, says Prescott, "could result in chronic physiological stress and death." But the Game Commission has a proposal-escape shelters. It proposes places on the preserve where 15-pound foxes will be able to escape from 70-pound foxhounds-assuming that in the confusion of the hunt the foxes don't first collapse or run in circles trying to find the escape hatches. Since the average fox is a lot brighter than the average hunter, and light years more intelligent than the average Game commissioner, the Legislature is being asked to level the playing field. Foxes on the preserves will be raised domestically. They are likely to be more docile, more trusting of humans, and not as wily as those which breed in the wild. And, there is nothing that says Cowboy Bob can't unleash his hounds upon fox kits as young as three months.
Most states don't permit fox hunting; those that do are primarily in the South and in the Midwest. But, this is Pennsylvania, a northern state that earned national scorn not only for allowing the Hegins pigeon hunt. It also allows the trapping and killing of bobcats, which certainly pose no danger to the public, aren't overpopulating urban areas, and don't have meat that is edible. The legislature just rolled over and played dead to the voices of Trapper John and his few hundred fellow hynters, who thought it'd be a jolly ol' time to "bag a bobcat."
This is the same legislature that has blocked almost every animal rights bill it's been presented, but unanimously passed a resolution (not long before the elections) to honor dogs, apparently in a lame attempt to convince the public that warm and fuzzy politicians need to be re-elected.
And now the legislature has yet another bill. Some of Rep. Staback's constituents in a rural part of Pennsylvania thought fox hunting would be a good way to "train" hounds and have some fun while doing it. This isn't hunting; it's just plain cruelty, disguised as hunting.
Tally, Ho, y'all!
Walter Brasch's latest book is "Sex and the Single Beer Can," a witty and probing look at the American mass media. You may contact Dr. Brasch at mailto:email@example.com.