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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jon Tester and the Talking Dead

California Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday signed Senate Bill 1221 into law, which bans the hound hunting of bears and bobcats—the inhumane and unsporting practice of using packs of radio-collared dogs to chase large mammals into a tree, so a trophy hunter can follow the radio signal on a handheld telemetry device and shoot the frightened animal off a tree branch at point-blank range. It was a hard-fought battle, and the policy was supported by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the California state legislature. Over the last two decades, voters in Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington have banned hound hunting through citizen ballot initiatives, but it was representative government at work in California with lawmakers rightly heeding the will of the people.

Polar bearsThat type of representation of public sentiment and values was not on display in Congress last weekend, when the Senate rushed through a procedural vote on S. 3525, the so-called “Sportsmen’s Act,” introduced by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., before heading home for the election. The legislation, among other things, allows the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada, even though polar bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It encourages trophy hunters to accelerate the pace of killing imperiled species around the world, and just store the trophies in a warehouse for a couple years until their congressional allies answer their pleadings.

It was an electoral gift to the NRA and Safari Club, and to Tester, who is running against Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., in one of the country’s most competitive Senate races. Both Democrats and Republicans lined up to show their utter fealty to the hunting lobby, and the motion to proceed on Tester’s bill passed by a vote of 84 to 7. We’ve heard of policies to help the 1 percent, but this one is designed to benefit the .001 percent—the tiny fraction of Americans who want to spend $35,000 to trek up to the Arctic and kill a polar bear just for the bragging rights of having a head or hide of this rare creature in their living room. Tester’s bill makes the 1 percent look like a populist movement.

Speaking of heads and hides, Tester is using the bill to promote his hunting bona fides back home in Montana. In what the Oregonian said may be the “year’s oddest campaign ad,” Tester has released a new TV spot featuring talking dead animals. A mounted deer, skinned wolf, and other creatures are on display in a living room, rising like the undead to brag about Tester’s support for hunting, saying he “even took on the Obama Administration over gray wolves.”

It’s one thing to support hunting, but some of the policies Tester is advocating for in Congress don’t benefit rank-and-file sportsmen—only the extreme segment of the trophy hunting lobby that defends any practice, no matter how unsporting, inhumane, or biologically reckless. Montana was more than 90 years ahead of California in banning the hound hunting of bears in 1921, and Montana wildlife officials describe the policy as part of the state’s “fair chase” tradition. We’re guessing Montana hunters don’t want to kill polar bears either. Tester, the man who’s led the charge in promoting the killing of wolves in the Northern Rockies and polar bears in Canada, does not deserve re-election.

Paid for by Humane Society Legislative Fund and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. HSLF, 2100 L Street NW, Suite 310, Washington, D.C., 20037

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