I’m reworking this trapping piece. Just found another trap in the woods with hunks of hair and blood on it. Unforgivable.
By Bob Quarteroni
“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Gandhi
Never, ever, will I forget the soul-rending wails of pain.
We had been out with the dogs for a romp in the woods when the howls of pain from Molly lanced through my heart.
I started running towards here in the low, swampy area off to the side of the woods we were in, and her shrieks got louder as I got closer.
When I finally spotted her, she was thrashing around violently at the base of a tree, desperate to stop the pain.
Her hind leg was caught in a steel leg-hold trap and she couldn’t free herself.
In her panic, she kept biting me as I tried to open the jaws of the trap, which was hard to do in the muck I was sitting in, with a slippery Molly biting me and the pressure of the trap resisting me.
Finally, the jaws parted and Molly darted away in terror, traumatized for days.
Luckily, nothing was broken, but we’ll never forget that day nor, as improbable as it sounds, when she got caught again, a year later.
Again she was frenzied and biting me and again I struggled to get her out. And this time the trap was only about 50 yards off the main highway through our area.
Luckily, neither time did she suffer permanent damage, which I cannot say about my fractured psyche.
Now, every walk in the woods is filled with apprehension and worry that those same wails of pain will again rip the silence and risk the lives of one of our beloved dogs.
After both incidents, we laboriously unsecured the traps, left a note saying where they were and that trapping shouldn’t be done so close to where people and pets wander, and left our name and number.
We never heard anything.
Molly was lucky. She had me to rescue her. But how many pets are never rescued when they are caught in these inhumane devices, how many innocent animals are left to struggle in pain and anguish, how many harmless creatures fall to the steel menace?
Not to mention the intended prey of this bogus “sport” which each year kills more than four million animals for their fur nationally, along with millions more trapped and killed as “nuisance” animals or for “big game protection.”
In 2012, the latest year for which I could find information on the state Game Commission website, trappers “harvested” – their favorite euphemism for slaughtering – 536,411 animals from 210,146 raccoons down to 604 weasels.
Sport? Ha! It’s more akin to torture. Consider that the steel leghold trap, archaically legal in Pennsylvania, has been banned in at least 88 countries. The European Union has banned the use of steel-jaw traps and banned the importation of pelts from countries that use these cruel devices.
Their use is also banned or restricted in several states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington.
But not here.
And before I hear the inevitable retort that trapping (and hunting) is necessary to maintain animal populations, I beg to differ.
As author Doris Lin writes in one of her books, “big game” animals like white-tailed deer and black bear rarely exceed their “biological carrying capacity,” the maximum number of individuals the ecosystem will support without threatening other species.
If they exceed that number, she writes, “a lack of food will kill the weakest individuals, and will also cause the pregnant females to resorb embryos and have fewer offspring. The strongest will survive and the population will become healthier.”
Trapping is simply ludicrously archaic – a caveman ethos in a spaceman era.
Today, we – most of us, that is, who don’t feel obliged to channel blood-lust urges — live to pamper our pets way beyond reason – at least I and most of my friend do.
We have come to marvel at the intelligence of animals ranging from gorillas to whales to dolphins and we have – finally – started to impose real penalties, including jail terms, for those lowlifes who torture or kill animals.
We are slowly but surely becoming more cognizant of the rights of animals to co-exist, to share our world as sentient creatures other but equal, not as mere meat packets to be slaughtered at will.
Luckily there is some progress being made. Pressure for trap reform is growing in the U.S. Last year, a bill was introduced in Congress to ban trapping on national wildlife refuges. In California, officials voted last year to ban all commercial bobcat trapping. In other states, advocates are waging battles to outlaw trapping on public lands.
And there have been bills introduced in Pennsylvania which have gone, predictably nowhere. But it’s a start.
More important is our mindset. We cannot turn a blind eye to what a small percentage of the population does. We need, as we did with the horrid live pigeon shoot in Hegins, to make our voices heard, to refuse to buy fur, and to advocate for the abolition of steel traps and other such monstrosities.
Only then will we be inhabitants of the type of world that Ghandi condoned: A great nation with a great respect for all creatures, great and small.