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Editor of the Reformer:

If you think the kind of senseless violence we saw at the capitol on Wednesday (Jan. 6) does not happen here in Vermont, you are wrong. It does happen here. It's just that the victims of this violence have hardly any advocates on their behalf.

Trapping of wild animals is legal in Vermont and licensed by the Fish and Wildlife Department. Trapping is completely different from hunting. While Vermont hunters traditionally hunt by the rules of clean kills and fair chase, trapping does neither. Leg-hold traps are not designed to kill, but forcefully and painfully immobilize their victims for hours or even days until a trapper shows up to dispatch the animal, usually by clubbing it to death. Underwater traps, such as are used for beaver and muskrat, kill animals by drowning them -- which take at least 20 minutes to accomplish. These are practices that are off limits to hunters, butchers, nuisance wildlife control officers, veterinarians, and wildlife rehabilitators.

The only people who can employ such extraordinarily inhumane means of killing animals are trappers. Although historically trapping was used to harvest animals' fur, this is not why modern trappers trap. The market for animal fur is almost non-existent, and trappers get only a few dollars, if that, for their pelts. This is why the head of the Vermont Trappers Association stood up at a meeting in Bolton a few years ago and said, "I don't know why we still trap, honestly." Trappers also do not trap animals for food, because the winter seasons for trapping are designed to harvest animals when their fur is thickest, but their flesh is thinnest.

Trapping does nothing to manage wildlife populations: Fur-bearing animals self-regulate their populations in accordance with the availability of prey species and natural resources, a biological principle called Carrying Capacity of the land. The only reasons trappers give for why they continue to trap is for "recreation" and "tradition." But given the degree of suffering and abuse that animals suffer in traps, most Vermonters do not accept this as a justification for trapping.

"The way we treat animals says much about ourselves." Senseless and unnecessary violence against wild animals is part of a spectrum of violence in our society, encompassing domestic violence against women, violence against African-Americans and other minorities, and, yes, the politically-motivated violence that we saw in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. If you have pets or care at all about animals, write to your local representatives and senators today, and tell them to support or sponsor a bill to ban trapping in Vermont.

John Aberth

Roxbury, Vermont Jan. 7


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