The very brief life of New Jersey Senate Bill 2603 — which would have reorganized the New Jersey Fish and Game Council — had animal rights activist Stuart Chaifetz up in arms after animal rights activists apparently joined hunters groups in opposing the bill.
NJ Sen. Joseph Vitale (D) introduced the bill on May 29, and then withdrew it a couple weeks later on June 12. The bill would have expanded the size of the New Jersey Fish and Game Council from its current 11 members to 19 members.
Of the additional 8 members, one would have been filled by the state Commissioner of Environmental Protection, who the bill also would have granted authority that currently resides with the director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. The other seven seats were to be reserved for “individuals with experience in environmental protection or other fields relevant to animal welfare and with a background in the conservation of fish and game.” I.e., this was a pretty blatant effort to pack the council with activists and take other measures to shift the balance away from hunters and towards activists.
As the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance summed it up,
The bill essentially guts the authority of the Fish and Game Council, and gives it to the Commissioner of Environmental Protection. It specifically grants the Commissioner the authority to suspend hunting seasons without a public hearing or the consent of the Fish and Game Council. All changes and decisions made by the council will have to be approved by the Commissioner as well.
That hunters opposed this is not surprising, but according to animal rights activist Stuart Chaifetz, animal rights activists also expressed their opposition to the bill to Sen. Vitale. In a letter posted to an animal rights e-mail list, Chaifetz complained (emphasis added),
Earlier today I found out that Senator Vitale, Co-Prime sponsor of the legislation to radically change the Council, is pulling his name from the bill. Why? Because he has been getting opposition to the bill from hunters and animal rights people.
Yes, that is no mistake. Animal rights people (I will not grant them such a caring title anymore) joined with hunters to kill S2603.
Now why would these people do such a thing? Why would people who claim to care about wildlife try to destroy the greatest chance wild animals have?
In my opinion, seeing much of the opposition, I can relate the following theories: Some didn’t like the fact that there would only be seven additional seats on the Council (Only seven after six decades of none). Some said that they were afraid that the seats might not go to hardcore anti-hunters. Some claimed in sheer idiocy that this bill would hurt the bears when the truth is it would have saved them. How? By the nature of the bill it drew all of the focus of the hunters to it, leaving a clear path for the bear campaign. With it gone, hunters can now re-focus 100% on getting their bear hunt. The irony is sickening.
I know of one specific person who spread absolute lies about what this bill would do, and can imagine that they and a few choice others were upon the shoulders of many more, whispering these things into there ears. And there were other reasons as well, I am sure, for many are often locked into a box and refuse to see it. None of these people could see what we could do with this bill. And it is the animals that shall pay the price for this.
These people, and I believe they are not large in number, did not try to work to amend the bill or offer any ideas on how to make it better, but instead entered into a campaign of fierce harassment, not only against the sponsor of the bill but against any one from our side ho supported the bill.
A small handful of animal rights activists spreading lies and engaging in a campaign of harassment based on those lies? Imagine that!
The full text of NJ Senate Bill 2603 is available here.
New Jersey Bill Threatens Future of Outdoor Sports. Press Release, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, June 6, 2003.
The disgrace of a few ‘activists’ — sponsor pulls name from Council reform bill. E-mail communication, Stuart Chaifetz, June 13, 2003.