Tourism to Alaska Increases while Friends of Animals Spins

In 1993, Friends of Animals initiated a tourist boycott of Alaska after the state resumed aerial killing wolves. Then Gov. Wally Hickel quickly caved to Priscilla Feral’s demands and put a swift end to the wolf hunts. So when Friends of Animals announced yet another boycott in December 2003 after Alaska again decided to allow aerial killing of wolves, the activists must have thought they would be able to bring substantial pressure against Gov. Frank Murkowski. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

In fact, according to the Associated Press, despite the Friends of Animal boycott, the number of people who visited Alaska over the summer actually increased over 2004. Alaska’s 15 national parks set a new record for number of visitors.

This leaves Feral with nothing to do but spin, telling the Associated Press,

Maybe more people would have visited if not for the public outrage over the issue. For me, it’s not a quick fix. I wish it was. We’re just going to keep shedding light on a gruesome issue whatever way we can. It does feel like an uphill battle with the current governor, but even he will eventually be replaced.

Murkowski’s term runs through November 2006, and he can run for re-election. Regardless, if they can’t impact visitors to Alaska, the issue isn’t going to have traction with any Alaskan governor as the program is popular within the state. No one’s going to lose their jobs over increased tourism, regardless of whether or not Feral thinks it might have been higher (one could as easily make the claim that more visitors chose Alaska because the governor resisted the animal rights group’s demands).

Friends of Animals is also not having much luck in court. It has sued to stop the hunting and a trial on the matter is scheduled on May 16. It also sought an injunction to end the killing until that trial takes place. In February, Alaska Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason refused to issue such an injunction, and took a nice legalese swipe at the group,

The plaintiffs [Friends of Animals] have made it quite clear that to them, the practice of killing wolves from airplanes to enhance moose populations for human consumption is a practice they find morally and ethically repugnant. But in balancing the hardships between the parties for purposes of preliminary injunctive relief, the fact that the state’s aerial wolf control programs are in direct contravention to the plaintiffs’ beliefs is not, under the law, a factor that is considered an ‘irreparable injury’ in determining whether preliminary injunctive relief is necessary.

Friends of Animals is currently trying to gather 28,000 pledges to boycott Alaska by the end of February. Since December 2004, it has collected a total of 5,000 signatures at live events, and is now turning to Internet petitions to reach the 28,000 level.

Sources:

Group launches new ways to oppose wolf control program. Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, February 1, 2005.

Judge won’t suspend Alaska wolf control. Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, January 27, 2005.

Judge rejects group’s bid to halt wolf control program. Associated Press, February 2, 2005.

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