DEAR DR. FOX: Please read this article about coyote-killing contests in Wisconsin: tinyurl.com/s2rtkcus
Is there any hope to make these kinds of people change? -- K.L., Madison, Wisconsin
DEAR K.L.: The only solution that I see is to pass laws making such activities illegal, and to effectively enforce them. Exposing and shaming those with evident empathy-deficit disorder, who take pleasure in killing, simply creates resistance -- and even death threats, occasionally, against those who question their activities.
So-called “canned hunts” on private property, where people pay to shoot captive wild animals -- sometimes even zoo- and menagerie-bred African “big game” -- are another problem.
My daughter, Camilla Fox, founder and director of the nonprofit Project Coyote, has just released a new documentary film in partnership with National Geographic film producers. It is entitled “Wildlife Killing Contests” and is available at ProjectCoyote.org. It shows a side of human nature that is, frankly, shocking. Also available on that website is a petition in support of banning of wildlife-killing contests on federal public lands.
Until this practice is banned nationally, states must take up the effort, and several have done so. In September, Washington became the seventh state to prohibit wildlife-killing contests when the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to ban the killing of unprotected species as part of a contest, just a few months after Colorado became the sixth. In 2019, Arizona and Massachusetts outlawed contests for predatory and furbearing species; New Mexico and Vermont prohibited coyote-killing contests in 2019 and 2018, respectively; and California outlawed the awarding of prizes and inducements for killing non-game mammals and furbearers in 2014. Maryland passed a moratorium on cownose ray-killing contests in 2017.
That all of this protection for wildlife must be legislated state by state, and take so much time, money and effort, is a tragic fact. There are so many people who still see animals as objects -- targets, varmints or trophies -- and treat them accordingly.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have been reading your column for some years and appreciate your voice for the animals. After reading your book “Animals and Nature First,” I can see why some readers think you prefer animals over people. What do you say to them?
People say that about me, because I rescue and foster strays, but it’s not true. Then again, I do not like all people like I do animals! -- K.Y., Trenton, New Jersey
DEAR K.Y.: I like your candor, and I think we are on the same page. Ever since I was a child, I was more comfortable around animals rather than my own kind -- my peers, in particular, whom I could rarely trust. In contrast, I found animals to be open and true to their natures: I knew if they were friendly, afraid, hurt or dangerous. I would not invoke the term “innocence” in relation to children, or other animals, but rather accept the fact that people can hide or fake emotions to a degree not seen in other species.
This does not make me a misanthrope; my empathy is, perhaps regrettably, all-embracing! As for the so-called philanthropist -- defined as a person who seeks to promote the welfare of others, especially by the generous donation of money -- history informs us of many who made their money exploiting people and animals and even destroying the environment. So-called philanthropic organizations can also serve as window-dressing to cover up moneymaking and laundering activities, and continued profit-making through the mirage of their charitable contributions. Donors and recipients beware!
In short, handle Homo sapiens with care. Putting animals and nature first, as I seek to demonstrate in that book, is like altruism: It is ultimately enlightened self-interest, and is the core of the One Health movement.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)