copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund asks each of us to consider our values and the ethics of Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Environmental experts also join these protectors of the natural world when they inquire, would we rather have science survive or the ideology of a singular prominent person, Alaskan Governor, Sarah Palin. A woman who could potentially be a heartbeat away from the presidency holds dear a practice that might cause some to cry or cry out. Governor Palin, as an elected official, a churchgoer, and as a citizen promotes her personal fondness for aerial wolf and bear hunts.
Sweet Sarah Palin savors such savagery. For this public leader, it matters not that conservationists, scientists, and many hunters condemned the "custom." She is sure that this "tradition" is best.
Governor Palin encourages hunters to shoot wolves and bears from the air. Humans, in automated flying machines, which can run for hundreds of miles, hover over the heads of helpless furry creatures. Man chases the beautiful "beasts" to exhaustion. Once collapsed, or trapped, unable to hide in the stark terrain, the "sportsman" lands the aircraft. Then, the huntsman shoots his or her fellow (four-legged) mammal point blank.
The animals, blasted with a short-range smoothbore gun, usually die a painful death. The hunters involved in the program keep and sell the animals' pelts. The killers do this with Governor Sarah Palin's blessings. The pleasant Palin, a hunter herself, has ensured brutal practices such as these are sustained. Sarah Palin is a friend to sportsman and those who profit from the execution of animals.
"Sarah Palin's anti-conservation position is so extreme that she condones shooting wolves and bears from airplanes or using airplanes to chase them to exhaustion and then shoot them point blank. Most Americans find this practice barbaric, but it's routine in Alaska under Palin's leadership," said Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund president Rodger Schlickeisen.
Sarah Palin has supported aerial hunting since taking office despite the fact that the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council, the American Society of Mammalogists, and more than 120 other scientists have called for a halt to the program, citing its lack of scientific justification and despite opposition from many hunters who see it as violating the sportsmen's ethic of fair chase.
Palin in 2007 even proposed offering a bounty of $150 per wolf, as long as the hunter provided the wolf's foreleg as proof of the kill. And just earlier this year, she introduced legislation to expand the program and derail a scheduled August 2008 citizens' vote on the issue. The bounty was determined to violate the state's constitution and her legislation failed.
Constitutional considerations have no affect on the woman who wants to believe in the adage survival of the fittest. For Sarah Palin, a person with a gun and aircraft is certainly the more fit than a mere mammal in the wild. However, she is sensitive to the needs of some who are weak, at least Palin pretends to be. A perusal of the record gives reason for doubt.
Sarah Palin hopes to provide for people who are less able. Governor Palin proclaims the wolves and bears impinge on the needs of the poor. She claims to work as an advocate for subsistence hunters. The compassionate Chief Executive publicly states her concern for Alaska's hunters. She fears that those who feed off the land will be "locked in perennial competition with the canine carnivores for the state's prodigious ungulate population."
Hunter Palin vehemently argued with opponents of aerial wolf hunting. The sportswoman has the support of the Alaska Outdoor Council. The association is looked upon as an influential advocacy and lobbying organization for hunting, fishing and recreation groups. Urban hunters, who shoot moose mostly for fun, are members of this powerful guild. The Governor and the Council do not share an inconvenient truth. "Subsistence hunters rely on an occasional moose to make ends meet." Contrary to the claim of Sarah Palin, the wolves and bears do not steal food from the tables of the impoverished.
"Palin acts like she has never met an animal she didn't want shot," says Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, based in Connecticut.
The controversy over Palin's promotion of predator control goes beyond animal rights activists recoiling at the thought of picking off wolves from airplanes. A raft of scientists has argued that Palin has provided little evidence that the current program of systematically killing wolves, estimated at a population of 7,000 to 11,000, will result in more moose for hunters. State estimates of moose populations have come under scrutiny. Some wildlife biologists say predator control advocates don't even understand what wolves eat.
Empathy for the environment or for those creatures who share the planet with Sarah Palin and her friends the "sportsmen" is not evident in the Governor's positions. Wolves may bay. Bears might growl. Sarah Palin does not grovel. She stands her ground. Preservationist, Ecologists, Conservationists who may question the strident Sarah Palin may weep. Nonetheless, the Alaskan Governor remains adamant.
In an attempt to lessen the pain that a Palin Vice Presidency and possible rise to Commander-In-Chief status, many Americans choose to laugh. Persons who know not what else they might do post spoofs throughout the Internet. Sarah Palin and her love of the kill is the source of many a parody. "Bullwinkle the moose is assassinated. Alaskan vacation turns deadly. Shot by Alaskan Governor."
Some may smile. Others relent. No one can deny Sarah Palin is fit. She survives. Actually, this woman thrives. Possibly, she loves the chase or believes wolves and bears do.
Reuters news service states, the prominent moose hunter Palin is being hunted by those that wish to bring her and her brutal practices down, not only for the approval of this barbaric behavior, but also for her position on other issues.
(I)t is not hard to find Alaskans who say Palin's enthusiasm for predator control fits a broader narrative of how she edits science to suit her personal views. She endorses the teaching of creationism in public schools and has questioned whether humans are responsible for global warming.
Many Alaskan residents observe that the new Governor is as cold as the territory in which she lives. The hunt and ultimate kill, for Palin, is the priority. Sarah Palin knows how to get what she wants. The former broadcaster can preach and she knows how to teach.
In 2007, she (Sarah Palin) approved $400,000 to educate the public about the ecological success of shooting wolves and bears from the air. Some of the money went to create a pamphlet distributed in local newspapers, three weeks before the public was to vote on an initiative that would have curtailed aerial killing of wolves by private citizens. "The timing of the state's propaganda on wolf control was terrible," wrote the Anchorage Daily News on its editorial page.
Perchance, the literature was not presented in time to turn minds of many against mammals. Surely, the scientists were not impressed by the Governors gross declarations. Indeed, many experts and environmental enthusiasts defended the wildlife.
"Across the board, Sarah Palin puts on a masquerade, claiming she is using sound management and science," says Nick Jans, an Alaskan writer who co-sponsored the initiative. "In reality she uses ideology and ignores science when it is in her way." The initiative was defeated last month.
Gordon Haber is a wildlife scientist who has studied wolves in Alaska for 43 years. "On wildlife-related issues, whether it is polar bears or predator controls, she has shown no inclination to be objective," he says of Palin. "I cannot find credible scientific data to support their arguments," he adds about the state's rationale for gunning down wolves. "In most cases, there is evidence to the contrary."
Last year, 172 scientists signed a letter to Palin, expressing concern about the lack of science behind the state's wolf-killing operation. According to the scientists, state officials set population objectives for moose and caribou based on "unattainable, unsustainable historically high populations." As a result, the "inadequately designed predator control programs" threatened the long-term health of both the ungulate and wolf populations. The scientists concluded with a plea to Palin to consider the conservation of wolves and bears "on an equal basis with the goal of producing more ungulates for hunters."
However, Sarah Plain is not deterred. Indeed, she is perhaps more determined. Earlier this year the Alaskan Governor introduced State legislation that would place the predator-control program under the authority of Alaska's Board of Game. An Alaskan hunter, Sarah Palin, appointed each of the members in this department.
Again, in a Palin Administration personal philosophy takes precedence and determines policy. Science is set aside. Previously, the state's Department of Fish and Game enforced guidelines. For those in this branch of the government, the study of the physical world was of greater concern. Recreation was a secondary consideration. With the Palin Administration in charge, what was once truth may be no more. People are left to ponder who is the fittest, and what might survive.
The legislation would give Palin's board "more leeway without any scientific input to do whatever the hell they basically wanted," Mark Richards, co-chair of Alaska Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, wrote in an e-mail. The legislation is currently stalled in the Alaska state Senate.
Predator control in Alaska dates back to the 1920s and 1930s. Even then, wildlife biologists insisted that wolves were important to the area's natural ecology and not responsible for inordinate deaths of sheep, caribou, or moose. Yet, the scientists fought a losing battle against ranchers, hunters and government officials, who backed the extermination of tens of thousands of wolves. Aerial hunting began in earnest in the 1940s and continued through the 1960s after Alaska had earned statehood.
Scientists insist that the Palin administration is systematically killing wolves with an inadequate understanding of the relationship between the carnivore and hoofed animals.
Yet, once more Sarah Palin and her personal appointees disagree. Sadly, those in the wild, the wolves, bears, and moose have no vote in Governor Palin's adopted homeland. Perhaps, all that might save our fellow furry mammals is a cast ballot from millions throughout this country. Possibly, all the attention given to an American presidency or vice presidency will put values in the forefront.
United States citizens may help save the Alaskan animals who cannot save themselves. The constituency may even be able to salvage a sense of humanity for more than a northern region. If we, the people of this country vote our conscious and cast a ballot in favor of ethics, it may be possible to preserve the Alaskan habitat and that in the mainland. Might it not be wondrous if those who judge at the barrel of a gun did not determine fitness and the will to survive, in the wild, or in the White House.
Sources of Sorrow and Sarah Palin . . .