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Arizona Banned Animal-Killing Contests — Did It Go Far Enough?

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2019 - 10:53am
Updated: Wednesday, June 26, 2019 - 9:06am

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The Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted last week to ban so-called animal-killing contests. These are contests in which hunters are rewarded with money or other prizes for killing the most, the largest — or sometimes, the smallest — animals in a set amount of time.

The issue has become increasingly controversial recently as many states and jurisdictions have passed bans or resolutions against the practice. They say these contests are barbaric, allowing hunters to kill indiscriminately for the fun of it. But some hunters worry this is opening the door to a broader assault on their hunting rights.

Earlier this month on The Show, we heard from the Commissioner who proposed the rule — Kurt Davis, a longtime hunter himself — who told us the contests go against the guidelines set out by the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation because of the money involved.

But now that this rule has been passed, some are saying it does not go far enough. Joe Trudeau, Southwest advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, called this decision a "bittersweet victory" for wildlife in the state.

Trudeau joined The Show to talk about the new rule.

LAUREN GILGER: So Joe you called this decision a bittersweet victory for wildlife in the state, why?

JOE TRUDEAU: Well certainly we're pleased that the Game and Fish Commission recognized the social and scientific problems with killing contests and we're pleased that they voted to put an end to these contests. But the bittersweet part is because there are potential loopholes in it and we would've liked to see those closed up and ultimately we didn't.

GILGER: What are those what are your concerns?

TRUDEAU: So there is basically two main aspects of the rule language as written that provide some flexibility that concerns us and one of them is the idea that contests are defined by requiring registration. So that seems to be something that you can just bypass by not having registration. And then another one was we would have liked to have seen the animals that are covered by this new rule expanded to include all fur bearing animals, in addition to to just non game species.

GILGER: Which animals are included in the ban?

TRUDEAU: So it doesn't say specifically which animals, and so that creates a little bit of flexibility in itself. So it would cover coyotes and fox and probably raccoons or skunks. But what about other animals like rabbits or squirrels which are commonly hunted animals shifting contests from coyotes to rabbits would just become an inexcusable slaughter of rabbits in the landscape and for people who are looking to just go out and shoot as many animals as they please, rabbits could become the next target.

GILGER: So all considered you think though this puts Arizona sort of at the forefront of this movement that we're seeing to end these contests? We saw a similar ban in New Mexico and several cities and jurisdictions putting out resolutions against these even though they can't sort of put teeth into those in that way. Do you think overall this is a good move?

TRUDEAU: Absolutely it's a good move, it's a positive step forward. I think the Game Commission should be commended for recognizing that these contests were inhumane and not scientifically justified. And the grassroots activists that stepped up should be commended for becoming part of a solution and at the end of the day everyone should feel good about making a positive step forward in terms of wildlife management in Arizona.

GILGER: So Commissioner Kurt Davis addressed these concerns at the meeting in which the commission ended up ultimately voting to approve the ban. Let's hear a little of what he said.

KURT DAVIS: You can always look at any hunting regulation and come up with a conclusion that you think there is a loophole, but there isn't because 99 percent of hunters follow the requirements that are put in front of them and then pursue an ethical pursuit of wildlife. We also have a professional department of over 600 folks that engage the public, engage hunters and anglers. And if there is a "loophole." In any of our requirements related to the pursuit of wildlife they will let this commission know.

GILGER: So do you think that adequately addresses your concerns here or do you think more needs to be done?

TRUDEAU: I think that the commissioner is is certainly correct and that the majority of hunters are law abiding ethical hunters who follow the rules, play by the rules. But it's that small, it's that one or two percent, that that we're concerned with and those are the people who are most apt to participate in killing contests currently. So I'm a hunter, I would never think of participating in a killing contest. With this rule change that doesn't really affect me because I never would have done that anyway. But those few people out there who are the gung ho participant fans who go and do this stuff, they may not be deterred by the rule change and they might utilize these loopholes.

GILGER: We did talk to one of the organizations that that puts on these killing contests in our original reporting on this and she said, you know, what our real concern is here is that this is sort of your foothold it's just the beginning of the slippery slope that this will lead to more regulations on banning hunting altogether. Do you think that that's the case or do you think this is something that this is enough and more does not need to be done in terms of regulating hunting beyond this?

TRUDEAU: Speaking for myself and speaking for the Center for Biological Diversity we are not utilizing this rule change as a foot in the door for ending hunting as an American tradition. There may be other people out there who see it that way, but I think that the most committed players in this process on the wildlife protection side are not radicals and not just trying to sneak in and destroy hunting, that would go against a lot of our own personal and organizational ethics to do something like that.

GILGER: What else would you like to see happen in terms of of these killing contests here in Arizona, now they won't be allowed on public lands, and in this way? What do you think needs to happen in the rest of the country, what else would you like to see happen here in the state?

TRUDEAU: Well as a first step this rule passed by the Game and Fish Commission on Friday needs to go through the governor's regulatory review process and, in 1999, when the commission passed a similar rule it died at the governor's Regulatory Review Council. So it's really important that it makes it through this next round within the state government and then, in early 2020, the rule will be implemented and it will be important for our our game wardens our conservation officers to be out there enforcing this rule, educating the public. There's certainly going to be a lot of wildlife killing contest participants who don't know about the rule change so there'll be a period of time where where we anticipate Game and Fish Department on the ground to be in an enforcement capacity, and we will definitely be checking in with them to make sure that things are unfolding as we expect. And if it looks like these loopholes are being taken advantage of, then we're going to have to figure out ways to tighten those up.

GILGER: All right. Joe Trudeau is with the Center for Biological Diversity. Joe thank you for joining us.

TRUDEAU: Thank you very much.

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