This week's "My Turn" column is by non-hunter David Irving.
In mid-December 2009, Congressman Scott Murphy introduced the Hunters Helping the Hungry Act. It entitles hunters who donate their kill to anti-hunger programs, and those who process the kill, to take a tax deduction.
Congressman Murphy's bill is nothing but undisguised pandering to hunters and the hunting industry. They will not soon forget that he attempted to give them a tax break. But proposals like this need thoughtful scrutiny.
Ten years ago the Venison Donation Coalition (VDC) was formed to allow hunters to donate their kill to meat processors for distribution to the needy of New York through charitable organizations. Since then, the VDC boasts that it has processed 337.51 tons of venison.
This may sound impressive, but while it may help a little during the short deer hunting season, annualized over 10 years this comes to only 185 pounds of venison daily for all of New York. This is hardly a drop in the bucket.
About 85 food banks, government agencies, sportsmen's groups, corporations and religious and civil organizations are involved in the VDC effort.
Nobody wants to take food from the needy, but surely a focused effort by these organizations could generate far more food for the hungry than participating in a deer-kill program that contributes little to the poor.
The concept of hunters helping the hungry must be seen for what it is, a self-serving endeavor to create an image of hunting as a benevolent activity that makes an altruistic contribution to society.
Already damaged by growing public recognition of the cruelty of hunting, the hunting industry needs an image change.
Representative Murphy's proposed Hunters Helping the Hungry Act fulfills the same function. It is true that his proposal offers participants a tax break, which would increase kill donations. But are people so enamored of hunters and kill processors that they think they deserve a tax giveaway?
If hunters are as philanthropic as Congressman Murphy's bill would have us believe, they might consider dipping into their own pockets to help the needy.
Hunting is not just a benign, harmless "sport." To even use the word in relation to hunting is to mindlessly repeat a cruel hoax. A sport involves a fair competition in which the better side wins. Only hunters argue that it is fair to stalk a defenseless animal with high-powered rifles, put out cruel leg-hold traps, bait animals with rotting animal flesh, hide behind blinds, lay out decoys, hunt fenced-in animals where it is impossible for them to escape, shoot animals from airplanes, snow sleds and other moving vehicles, and otherwise use superior human intelligence to brutally kill innocent animals that have no means with which to defend themselves.
One has only to see a deer writhing grotesquely on the ground, having been penetrated completely through with a high-powered arrow, to feel thoroughly disgusted by this so-called "sport."
Many people condemn this atrocious "sport" that causes millions of animals wounded by hunters to flee into the woods, where they suffer and die in agony.
This constituency does not support tax breaks that lead to more cruel killing of animals. People of faith should be appalled and should have the courage to stand up and express their opposition.
Many hunters get a kick from killing, or kill just so they can put a trophy on their wall to brag about. Would we dare brag about stalking and shooting a cat or a dog?
If we are honest, we will admit there is no difference between killing a beloved household animal than a deer or an elk or a bear or a pheasant except that one is tame and the other is feral.
But the wonder, beauty and innocence that reside within an animal lives in all animals _ tame or feral. It is wrong to violate that innocence whether by hunting or on factory farms or on fur farms.
The hunting industry protests that it is necessary to kill wildlife because of animal over-population and related problems. But wildlife populations can be relocated and reduced in size by several methods, like putting down taste and odor-based repellants, planting less palatable plants and setting out auditory and visual deterrents (automated noisemakers, whistles, scarecrows, flashing lights, etc.).
Fencing is also effective, and fertility controls can be employed including nonsurgical sterilization of males. Many non-lethal programs have been highly successful in controlling animal populations.
One final point needs to be addressed. Congressman Murphy says that "venison is a highly nutritious, lean-protein source and can have an important impact in the fight against hunger."
But venison is over 20 percent higher in cholesterol than beef or pork. Every single government and private health care agency recommends reducing meat and dairy consumption in order to lower the risk of heart disease and strokes caused by high cholesterol.
Increasing evidence also indicates that these products are cancer-causing agents. If we are to truly help the hungry, we should provide them with nutritious, plant-based foods that reduce, not increase, the risk of these diseases.
The legislature should reject Congressman Murphy's proposal.
Irving can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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