In My View
In mid-August, 39-year-old Troy Lee Gentry, of the popular country singing duo Montgomery Gentry, appeared before a federal magistrate judge in Duluth, Minnesota, accused of killing a penned, captive-raised black bear for a trophy, and making it appear as though the bear was ambushed in the wild.
The Minnesota Wildlife Connection, owned by Lee Marvin Greenly, is an 80-acre lot, euphemistically called a refuge but actually a site where photographers pay fees to photograph wild animals. Greenly and the singer were indicted in the bow-and-arrow shooting of the huge bear, and also with concocting a deceptive videotape to suggest a so-called fair chase after the bear.
According to the indictment, Greenly sold this bear, whom photographers knew as “Cubby,” for $4,650. Then, on an autumn day in 2004, Gentry, the purchaser, stalked the bear within several fenced acres of Greenly’s property. Cubby would be registered with the state Department of Natural Resources, as though killed from a free-living population.
Gentry’s attorney told the St. Paul Pioneer Press the edited videotape removed the “dead time” Gentry spent waiting for the bear in a tree stand, and that Gentry “prides himself as an environmentalist and an avid hunter who respects the fish and game laws of the United States.” Putting the deplorable federal hunting policies aside for a moment - for killing any bear takes away the only life nature gave a bear - this particular animal was put in a position so vulnerable that this act was a disgrace from any angle. A Colorado photographer who once paid to photograph animals at Greenly’s property told the press, “Everybody loved Cubby.”
Recently, I toured the 40,000-acre Y.O. Ranch in Texas. Within this property is a 1,000-acre, fenced park billed as “an exotic game pasture.” The Y.O. Ranch breeds animals in a nursery for the other sections of the ranch for its all-season menu of pricey and grotesque adventures. Texas licenses over 8,000 private fenced estates where exotic and native mammals and birds are shot like the proverbial fish in a barrel. The exotic animals - called “world trophies” - include Fallow deer, Blackbuck antelopes, Axis deer, Waterbucks, Elands and Scimitar-Horned Oryxes.
Dama gazelles, practically extinct in their own habitat, can be shot to death at the Y.O. Ranch for $5,250. The ranch has a wall of photos, all of proud hunters who presumably “respect the fish and game laws of the United States,” posing with dead bodies, sometimes propping up an antelope’s head for a more lively photo. The Y.O. Ranch promotes itself as “a world class hunting operation.”
If the interest of the 13 million hunters of the United States were not so firmly entrenched in the policies of every federal and state wildlife agency, hunters would experience what it feels like to be outnumbered by the rest of us. We encourage all of our members and readers to turn up the volume of your objections this year and make our voices heard. Letters to the papers and community-based participation in environmental policies are excellent methods for challenging all hunting for the violence it imposes on all animals, and in our culture as a whole. Find out what’s happening in your region. The season for licensed shooting of Canada geese starts in September in many states. Bow-hunting and other shooting events follow. And there’s a trend to permit and encourage young people to stalk and kill. Now more than ever, an environmental peace movement is needed.
On that note, I encourage readers to see the advertisement and merchandise page inside this ActionLine to order Lee Hall’s highly acclaimed new book, Capers in the Churchyard: Animal Rights Advocacy in the Age of Terror. Jay Tutchton, who directs the environmental law clinic at the University of Denver College of Law, observes that Capers in the Churchyard calls forth “the best in both animal and environmental activists.” Both a guide to current events and a resource for creative activists, this book explains that non-violence, in Tutchton’s words, “may not just be the more effective tactic, but also the one that maintains the integrity of the activist, her message, and her movement.”