Cherry-picking data from surveys to make your point is a common distortion tactic. Cherry-picking the surveys themselves takes it to another level. With that in mind, it is ironic that the author of a pro-trapping commentary last month complained that an earlier commentary opposing recreational/hobby trapping supposedly distorted the truth.
The initial commentary claimed that according to the most recent survey on public attitudes toward trapping, paid for by the Fish & Wildlife Department (FWD, which supports trapping) and conducted by Responsive Management, 68 percent of Vermonters oppose recreational trapping. To refute that claim, the second pro-trapping author, Jerry D’Amico, referred us all to the Responsive Management trapping survey done for the FWD in 2018. However, the most recent survey the first commentator cited was conducted in 2022. The 2022 survey reports exactly what the first commentator claimed: 68 percent of Vermonters oppose recreational trapping. Page vi (6) bottom of the graph, here: Microsoft Word — VT 2022 Furbearer Report (vtfishandwildlife.com).
Compounding this error, Mr. D’Amico then attempted to undercut a second survey that the first commentator cited supporting her claim (it showed 75 percent opposed recreational trapping and was conducted in 2017 by UVM’s Vermont Center for Rural Studies, not the Vermont Center for Rural Development as Mr. D’Amico wrote) with two more significant errors. Mr. D’Amico claims, with not only no evidence but contrary to available evidence, that the survey was primarily only sent to Chittenden County residents and did not represent Vermont overall. While UVM is in Chittenden County, the Vermont Center for Rural Studies has a long track record of professionally conducted surveys of all Vermonters (https://www.protectourwildlifevt.org/_files/ugd/5073cd_c349fbfa0bfb4458b46919436a9afa8e.pdf).
Mr. D’Amico then asserts that the second survey is suspect because a wildlife advocacy organization that opposes trapping paid for the trapping questions. That is a reasonable caution to bear in mind. However, Mr. D’Amico totally jettisons this reasonable caution when citing the surveys paid for by the FWD, which, again, as an organization, supports recreational trapping. For that reason, it is even more remarkable — and trustworthy since it goes against bias and interest — that the FWD’s own 2022 survey clearly shows a substantial majority of all Vermonters opposing recreational trapping.
Finally, while there is much else to chew on in Mr. D’Amico’s piece, one particular canard stood out – that animals caught in foothold traps don’t suffer but are often found simply sleeping. Exhausted and in deep shock after hours of struggle is more likely. The mortal threat of being caught in a trap is not likely lost on any animal. It beggars the imagination to believe any would decide it is a good time for a nap. The subject recalls a “gentleman” of Charles Darwin’s acquaintance who was quoted in Darwin’s “Trapping Agony” regarding such traps in 1863, “I know of no sight more sorrowful than that of these unoffending animals as they are seen in the torture grip of these traps. They sit drawn up into a little heap as if collecting all their force of endurance to support the agony; some sit in a half torpid state induced by intense suffering.”