Activists Complain about Mitt Romney’s Canned Hunt

Animal rights activists are up in arms after Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney bagged some quail on a hunting trip while on a trip to Georgia.

According to the Boston Herald,

. . . the political outing backfired when it was revealed the birds had been fenced in.

Humane Society of the United States’ Michael Markarian complained about Romney hunting at the Cabin Bluff animal preserve, telling the Boston Herald,

Many of these private hunting preserves are basically providing drive-through killing animal opportunities. These animals are often tamed and bred on the property, fed by people and accustomed to people. They have no chance of escape. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals spokeswoman Jennifer McClure told the Boston Herald,

Stalking and shooting animals is a cowardly, violent form of recreation, and if Romney wants to keep his political career alive, then he should stop supporting this dying blood sport.

Right, because hunting really killed the careers of politicians such as George W. Bush and John F. Kerry.

Anyway, opponents of such animal preserves like to call them canned hunts or refer, as the Boston Herald does, to the fact that the animals are fenced in. But this sort of criticism is silly in the case of preserves like Cabin Bluffs which sits on no less than 45,000 acres.

That’s one incredibly large can.


Mitt under fire for hunt: Romney catches flak after quail kill. Dave Wedge, Boston Herald, January 5, 2006.

Activists Obtain Signatures to Put Michigan Dove Season on Ballot

Animal rights activists — funded by $100,000 from the Humane Society of the United States’ lobbying arm the HSUS Fund for Animals — apparently managed to collect more than enough signatures to place a measure to overturn Michigan’s recently approved dove hunt on the 2006 ballot.

In 2004, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed legislation making Michigan the 41st state to allow hunting of mourning doves. The first hunt was held in September 2004. The initial hunt was limited to just six counties, to be expanded after at least three years if studies of the hunt prove to be consistent with good wildlife management policies.

HSUS canvassers needed to collect 159,000 signatures from Michigan residents to place the issue on the 2006 ballot, but collected about 275,000 according to the HSUS.

The HSUS’s Michael Markarian said in a press release,

The dove hunters brought this fight to Michigan after the state’s gentle and inoffensive mourning doves were protected here for several generations. The overwhelming statewide support for the petition drive shows that mainstream Michiganders want to restore the century-old ban on shooting doves. They don’t want the state’s official bird of peace blasted into pieces.

Remember, this comes from a group that claims it does not oppose hunting — apparently it just opposes the killing of animals by hunters!

U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance president Bud Pidegon said in a press release,

National animal rights groups have invaded Michigan to spread their anti-hunting, anti-animal use agenda while attacking generations of sportsmen. They want to ban all hunting.

This should set up a very interesting showdown in a state where rural hunters are an important political bloc.


More Than 275,000 Signatures Collected to Allow Vote on Restoring Michigan’s Century-Old Dove Shooting Ban. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, March 28, 2005.

HSUS/Fund for Animals Merger Apparently A Done Deal

The rumored merger between the Humane Society of the United States and The Fund for Animals appears to be a done deal.

The Associated Press reports that the new organization will be headquartered in Washington, DC, where HSUS is currently located, but will maintain an office in New York where the FUnd for Animals is located.

Along with the merger, the groups plan to launch a new 501c(4) group to increase the amount that they can spend on political lobbying. Both Fund for Animals and HSUS are organized as 501c(3) which strictly limits the amount of lobbying they can do. Animal rights magazine “Animal People” obtained a memo written by Fund for Animals president Mark Markarian in which Markarian wrote,

“A key component of the merger would be the launch of a new 501(c)(4) organization which could spend unlimited resources on lobbying. It would raise money specifically for lobbying.” The new entity might be named either, “The Humane Fund for Animals” or “The Humane Society Fund for Animals,” the memo indicated.

“As you know,” Markarian and the memo continued, “The Fund and HSUS are both [IRS classification] 501(c)(3) organizations, and both currently face lobbying limits that severely encumber their effectiveness. HSUS must limit its [political] spending to $1 million per year—just 1.3 percent of total spending. The Fund must limit its expenditures to $450,000—about 6% of total spending. These hard caps cannot be consistently exceeded without risking the loss of our charitable status.

“In short, as our organizations grow, our lobbying programs cannot grow commensurately because of the rigid formulas established by the IRS. The HSUS spending cap is frozen at $1 million, no matter how much HSUS grows. The spending limit is the same whether an organization’s annual budget is $20 million, $80 million, or $200 million. As wages, benefits, printing, postage, and other expenditures rise from inflationary pressures, we face shrinking ability to spend in the lobbying domain.”

Markarian and the memo pointed out that the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund “distributes in excess of $5 million per year, and its lobbying arm spends nearly $20 million. Other political opponents, including the American Farm Bureau, National Pork Producers Council, Safari Club International, and Feld Entertainment, spend millions more on political activity. We are at a distinct and often insurmountable disadvantage,” Markarian and the memo contended, “when we attempt to push sweeping and meaningful reforms.

“Our hope,” Markarian and the memo said, “is that a single 501(c)(4), viewed as the political lobbying arm of both organizations, would appeal to donors from both The HSUS and The Fund. Within a few years, it is not unreasonable to think that the 501(c)(4) may be able to spend upward of $10 to $15 million on political activities—representing an increase in spending in this domain by a factor of 10.”

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance issued a press release on Nov. 19 saying that it had talked to Scripps Howard News Service reporter Lance Gay and that,

Gay stated that sources within the groups confirmed that the new organization would seek to ban bowhunting as a priority.

Pacelle has also been making noise about removing the exemption for poultry under the Humane Slaughter Act.

According to an article by Lance Gay, Pacelle apparently is looking to possibly merging with other groups as well,

Pacelle said he would like to further unify the animal rights movement in the United States through other mergers, or by creating an umbrella organization that could carry more political clout in Washington.


Animal rights groups to merge. Associated Press, November 19, 2004.

Animal rights groups to announce plan to merge, ban bowhunting. Press release, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, November 19, 2004.

HSUS to merge with Fund for Animals. Lance Gay, Scripps Howard, November 22, 2004.

The Fund, HSUS, and merging packs. Animal People Online, September 2004.

HSUS and Fund for Animals On Mourning Dove Hunting Bill in Minnesota

The Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals issued a press release this week complaining about the close vote that saw the Minnesota legislature approve a bill authorizing the first mourning dove hunt in that state in nearly 60 years.

According to the HSUS press release, a bill that would have stricken the mourning dove provision from the bill originally passed 35-31, but when it was brought up for reconsideration, two senators switched their votes and another abstained, which led to the amendment’s defeat and the mourning dove hunt staying in the bill.

The press release quotes HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle as blaming the entire bill on business who want to sell more ammunition to hunters,

By the narrowest of margins, the Senate has decided to reverse a policy that has endured for nearly 60 years and to allow the target shooting of harmless mourning doves. Legislators who voted to allow the needless target shooting of harmless doves dismissed the views of mainstream Minnesotans and instead sided with gun and hunting manufacturers who simply want to sell more ammunition.

Fund for Animals president Michael Markarian added,

Hunting mourning doves serves no wildlife management purpose. There is no overpopulation problem and the birds pose no threat to any person or agricultural interest. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicates that dove numbers are rapidly dropping in Minnesota.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did in fact show a dramatic drop in the number of doves observed in Minnesota, but this seems more likely to due with the population dynamics of the mourning dove population. In referring to the rapidly dropping population, I’m assuming Markarian is referring to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s estimates that in 2002 there were 16.4 million breeding pairs in Minnesota compared to only 9.3 million in 2003.

But mourning dove populations take very large jumps, both positive and negative, over the years — likely due to the migratory nature of the birds. For example, in Kansas the number of breeding pairs declined by almost 30 million in 1995, only to increase by almost 30 million in 1996. (Another possibility is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s method of estimating the dove population is prone to gross variations from year to year).

There is, however, a generally accepted decline in the mourning dove population due to development, but the total population in the United States is estimated to be in excess of 500 million. Certainly it is not a species that is in any danger of becoming threatened due to hunting.


HSUS Decries Legislation to Allow Target Shooting of Doves in Minn.,; Dove Hunting Has Been Banned for Nearly 60 Years. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, May 11, 2004.

Mourning Dove Population Status 2003. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2004.

Mourning Dove Population Status 2002. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2003.

Maryland DNR Rejects $75,000 from Fund for Animals and HSUS

The Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States made a financial offer to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in March: withdraw plans for a Fall bear hunt season, and the two groups would donate $75,000 to the DNR to compensate property owners for damage from bears as well as help education Maryland residents on managing bear-human conflict.

On April 14, the Maryland DNR said it was willing to accept the $75,000 from the groups but could not agree to the stipulation that the bear hunt season be withdrawn,

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today accepted a funding offer from the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States to mitigate bear and human conflicts. While accepting the funding, DNR rejected the stipulation that the proposed bear hunting season be cancelled.

The funding offer, $75,000 in total, would be used to further the financial resources DNR currently dedicates for bear damage compensation and bear-human conflict management. Specifically, these funds would be used to compensate individuals who document bear damage and to implement an aversive conditioning and bear education campaign in bear-occupied areas.

“While we may not agree on the hunting regulation proposal, I hope that the Fund for Animals and Humane Society of the United StatesÂ’ commitment to assist us is sincere and that we can count on their financial and philosophical support for the remaining non-lethal and education strategies in our bear management plan,” said DNR Wildlife & Heritage Service Director Paul A. Peditto.

This was, in this writer’s opinion, a clever strategy to take, especially Peditto’s comments when he had to know full well that HSUS and the Fund would both interpret this as a rejection. Oddly, the conservative Washington Times ran an op-ed by Gene Mueller who completely missed the point here> Mueller chastised the DNR for getting into bed with animal rights groups and wrote,

I’ll wager the well-heeled Fund for Animals and the Humane Society are having parties right now, celebrating the fact that they got a foot into the door of an agency that regulates all the hunting and fishing of an American state.

Hardly. In fact The Fund for Animals and Humane Society of the United States released a press release the same day noting that the DNR had rejected its offer,

The Fund for Animals and The Humane Society of the United States learned today that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has rejected a substantial financial offer for solving bear conflicts and compensating farmers for bear damage. In a March 17 letter, the two organizations offered collectively to provide $75,000 to compensate farmers for bear damage and expand educational programs to solve bear conflicts, if the DNR’s plan for the first bear hunt in fifty years was withdrawn.

In that press release, Fund president Mark Markarian said,

It is clear that the DNR is not seeking to solve bear conflicts in western Maryland, but simply to put bears in trophy hunters’ sights. Hunting bears for trophies or rugs will not provide money to farmers and will not provide the relief that citizens are demanding. Governor Ehrlich’s administration should look for constructive solutions and new funding partnerships, not trophy hunting opportunities.

And HSUS senior vice president Wayne Pacelle offered this bit of trivia,

There are fewer black bears in Maryland than there are pandas in China or endangered grizzly bears in Montana.

I’m not sure what the population of pandas in a country the size of China has to do with the population of bears in a state the size of Maryland, but such comparisons probably makes perfect sense to animal rights activists.


DNR, animal rights groups in bed. Gene Mueller, The Washington Times, April 21, 2004.

Maryland Rejects $75,000 Offer To Cancel Bear Hunt. Press Release, The Fund for Animals, April 14, 2004.

Letter to DNR Offering $75,000 for Solving Bear Problems. Letter, Michael Markarian, Fund for Animals, March 17, 2004.

DNR Accepts Funding From HSUS, Fund for Animals. Press Release, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, April 14, 2004.

New York Gov. Pataki Vetoes Canned Hunt Legislation

Despite lobbying efforts by a number of animal rights groups, New York Gov. George Pataki (R) vetoed legislation designed to outlaw so-called canned hunts.

In 1999, Pataki signed a bill that made it illegal to hold canned hunts on areas of ten acres or less. Not surprisingly, this had led to no less than 110 canned hunt operations in New York located on 11 or more acres.

The legislation vetoed by Pataki would have banned (emphasis added),

. . . the shooting or spearing of a non-native big game mammal that is confined in a box, pen, cage or similar container [of ten or less contiguous acres] or in a fenced or other area from which there is no means for such mammal to escape;

Animal rights activists denounced the veto.

In a press release, Humane Society of the United States senior vice president Wayne Pacell said,

Governor Pataki has embarrassed himself with this appalling veto of a bill to stop the repugnant practice of shooting animals for a fee in fenced enclosures. The animal protection community in New York will long remember his pardon of animal abusers and his rebuke of humane advocates.

Michael Markarian, The Fund for Animals president, added,

Governor Pataki has thumbed his nose at New Yorkers, including animal advocates, hunters, and upstate newspapers that called for passage of this humane bill. He has aligned himself with the handful of unscrupulous individuals who would pay big bucks to shoot a zebra ambling up to a feed truck or a Corsican ram trapped in the corner of a fence.

Pataki, meanwhile, said that the bill would not only have applied to the 110 canned hunt operations operating on more than 10 acres, but also would have banned 340 deer and elk farms throughout the state.

Supporters of the bill said that last part was nonsense, which puts the activists in a very odd position. For example, here’s a paragraph from a press release put out by The Fund for Animals addressing the issue of whether or not deer and elk farms would have been impacted,

Governor Pataki mistakenly believes that a ban on canned hunts would devastate white-tailed deer farms. The legislation is consistent with the current law which only deals with non-native mammals, and does not change the current exemption for domestic game breeders who raise white-tailed deer and have shoots on their properties. The bill would not apply to bird shooting preserves — only to operations offering the shooting of non-native big game mammals. Moreover, the bill memo indicated that it had no fiscal implications for state or local governments.

Hmmm . . . so The Fund for Animals’ position is that shooting a zebra at close range in enclosed space is inhumane, but screw the native deer and elk species? I’m just not following the logic there. Shouldn’t The Fund for Animals response to Pataki be that hunting deer and elk in enclosed spaces is cruel and that Pataki should want to outlaw the practice? The “don’t worry, we don’t care if you kill deer or elk” line is a bit strange coming from an animal rights group. Especially so since The Fund for Animals’ Dora Schomberg issued a brief press release about the veto that among other things claimed,

Governor Pataki may attempt to masquerade as an animal advocate by occasionally signing some non-controversial legislation to protect dogs or cats, but his decision to veto this much-needed legislation will result in untold suffering for wild animals and it reveals that he is not a genuine advocate of humane treatment.

So Pataki is not a genuine advocate because he only favors cats and dogs, while we’re supposed to believe The Fund is even though it hangs out deer and elk to dry? Could we see just a little consistency from these groups on occasion?

The full text of the vetoed legislation can be read here.


Pataki Endorses Cruel Treatment of Wildlife–Governor Vetoes Popular Canned Hunt Bill. Press Release, The Fund for Animals, August 27, 2003.

Activists out to can hunt. Amy Sacks, New York Daily News, September 13, 2003.

New York Governor Pataki Betrays the Animals. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, August 28, 2003.

New York Governor Pataki Endorses Cruel Treatment of Wildlife. Press Release, Dora Schomberg, The Fund for Animals, August 27, 2003.