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Butting Heads Over Hunting

Saturday, February 18, 2006

by Blaine Smith, Associate Editor

Should there be a worldwide ban on hunting?"

That was the question posed in a televised debate Oct. 18 between NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) spokesperson Andrew Butler held at Kings College London.

The event was held as a pay-per-view special, with each side making an 8-minute opening statement and a 6-minute closing statement, with the interim given to a debate over questions from moderator Paul Lavers as well as several questions from audience members.

As head of the largest hunting representation group in America, LaPierre has led the National Rifle Association to prominence as the voice of America's hunters and gun owners; as spokesperson for one of the largest anti-hunting groups in the world, Butler came prepared to regurgitate PETA's litany of animal "rights" ephemera based solely on emotion, while lacking any hint of scientific profundity.

Most are familiar with PETA's infamous publicity stunts-as was to be expected, there were moments of sublime audacity on PETA's part that will be discussed later-but a funny thing happened during the debate that night: LaPierre deftly shifted the course of the proceedings from a debate on hunting to a debate on the true character of PETA.

Much like another debate one year ago at Kings College London, where LaPierre firmly cemented the rights of individual gun owners and put global u.n. gun-ban architect Rebecca Peters on the defensive, in his opening statement LaPierre quickly dispensed with any argument that hunting is detrimental to the wild world while PETA is somehow its savior:

"It is an undisputed fact that nobody invests more money in wildlife conservation than hunters; close to $30 billion to date," LaPierre said. In contrast, PETA has spent virtually nothing to buy land for wildlife, to sponsor wildlife restoration or wildlife research, habitat conservation, species protection, game law enforcement or anything else, he noted.

"But you can't discuss how PETA is bad for animals without disclosing how PETA is worse for mankind." Everywhere in the world PETA wants to shut down hunting seasons on animals, and shut down institutions that serve and protect humanity.

LaPierre then stepped up the pressure by focusing on the lunacy at the heart of PETA's agenda, which the group is forcing on the world's impressionable youth. He described how PETA wants much more than to take a fishing pole from every child's hand, take away cats and dogs, ban milk from breakfast, and shut down all circuses, zoos and aquariums.

"PETA wants to stop all medical advancements that use animal research in any way. That would eliminate almost every major medical achievement in the 20th century," he said.

"If a loved one needs treatment for diabetes, heart disease, infection or chronic pain; if a loved one needs dialysis, chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, a pacemaker, bypass surgery, or a corneal implant; if you or your children ever need a heart, liver, lung or kidney transplant; PETA says 'tough.'

"If PETA had their way, there'd be no vaccine for polio, rabies, smallpox or a dozen other diseases. And if PETA has their way now, there may never be a cure for aids, Alzheimer's, cancer, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis or any other human suffering.

"Just a couple of months ago the World Health Organization, for the first time in history, had a chance to avert a worldwide pandemic. The deadly h5n1 bird flu was about to bust out of Southeast Asia. If it did, they predicted up to 50 million people would die. But just in time, modern science moved in to distribute powerful antiviral drugs and destroy countless flu-carrying birds. If PETA had their way, there would be no drug, those infected birds would've spread the disease and millions of people would be dead. Maybe some of us here tonight. This isn't theoretical stuff."

LaPierre then set Butler backpedaling by revealing the shadowy ties PETA has to two violent groups, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). He noted that PETA tax filings reveal contributions to violent extremists who have reportedly committed firebomb attacks and caused $100 million in destruction.

"The eco-terrorism movement is so dangerous, the fbi has declared it America's No. 1 domestic terrorist threat. Eco-terrorists have upstaged al-Qaeda as the greatest terrorist threat on American soil.

"The tragedy is: it's working. Medical research didn't budget for security against terrorists. Our most promising labs shut down. Studies on the verge of medical breakthrough screech to a halt. We are losing our best minds to their madness.

"And that madness is being carefully packaged and pitched to our kids." LaPierre then showed the audience several handouts PETA distributes to kids at elementary schools, telling children their mommy is an animal killer, encouraging kids to pet rats, and showing them ways that they them-selves can be an "animal rights rebel."

Asked by moderator Paul Lavers, "If PETA funds terrorism and permits terrorism to support its ends, how can you stand here today and say that you're not terrorists?" Butler attempted to deflect the question by responding, "PETA has never made a donation to either of the groups that Mr. LaPierre accuses us of. What we have done in the past is made a select few donations to individuals for their legal defense, and this was in cases where those individuals were being prevented from speaking up on behALF of animals." (Emphasis added.)

LaPierre, however, had evidence-nothing short of irs records-proving PETA had in fact made donations to the violent groups ALF and ELF, as well as their agents, and not just for legal defense.

"Just follow the money," LaPierre said.

"IRS records show PETA gave money to (ELF) just a month before it set a $5 million fire at the University of Washington's Urban Horticulture Center in 2001," LaPierre said. "That same year, ELF also firebombed a Vail, Colo., ski resort, causing $12 million in damage. When reporters made the connection in 2002, Andrew Butler said that the funds were, 'used for legal defense as support for caring individuals who are entitled to their day in court.'"

LaPierre went on. "Rodney Coronado of (ALF) got almost 5 years in prison for a multi-million-dollar firebombing at Michigan State Univer-sity. But not before PETA gave $45,000 to his 'support committee' and another $25,000 to Coronado's father.

"PETA's Lisa Lange admitted to Fox News in 2003 that PETA gave money to ELF in 2003, the same year ELF set fire to condominiums under construction near San Diego," LaPierre said. "$50 million in damages.

"PETA gave $5,000 to defend an ALF activist convicted of assaulting a police officer in 2004." After reading off a litany of other ALF and ELF offenses, LaPierre then turned up the heat on PETA's top brass.

"Let me quote PETA campaign coordinator Bruce Friedrich," LaPierre said. "'Blowing stuff up and smashing windows' is 'a great way to bring about animal liberation. I think it would be great if all the fast food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow. I think it's perfectly appropriate to take bricks and toss them through the windows. Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.'

"PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said, 'I don't condemn them as long as no one gets hurt; I understand their frustration.' And she went on to say, 'You can't legally deface someone's property, but if you're somewhere and no one's looking, go ahead.' Newkirk told PETA members not to cooperate with fbi investigations."

Revealed as a group which funds radicals and is opposed to animal research that has found, and continues to find, cures for the most devastating diseases humanity has known, PETA spokesman Butler could muster only a few facile arguments as to why hunting should be outlawed.

Butler tried to argue that one, hunters only kill the largest and most healthy animals and put animal populations in peril; two, hunters use hollow-point ammo so they can make prey suffer; three, hunting is a throwback to Stone Age life and humans as a species should be more evolved; and four, animals deserve the same rights that humans have.

LaPierre quickly proved PETA's total misunderstanding of the fundamentals of hunting. "Trophy hunting encourages taking only mature animals who've been through several breeding cycles," LaPierre responded to Butler's first assumption. "By definition that's the biggest, oldest, most dominant male."

As to the use of hollow-point ammo, LaPierre noted that hunters use bullets-including hollow points -that expand on impact, to help insure that they take game swiftly and with the least amount of suffering.

During the debate, PETA's Butler attempted to compare the act of hunting with the acts of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer-through such vitriolic language as "slaughtering," "dismembering" and "keeping mementos"-and called it irresponsible for NRA to promote the teaching of hunting to children because, Butler said, "Every school shooting in recent years has been perpetrated by children who have been taken hunting."

In response to Butler's attempts to equate hunting with deviant behavior, LaPierre said, "The idea that hunting is sadistic and tyrannical is preposterous. Hunting has been a natural and normal activity for humans for eons."

Yet, in Butler's world, humanity has evolved far beyond the days when man had to hunt for subsistence (which occurs throughout much of the world today). "Wayne seems to think we still live in a Stone Age wilderness where it is still survival of the fittest in the most basic sense ... It's time for us to evolve as a species. We have over the years come up with many laws to curb unsavory practices ..."

In Butler's world, animals as well have evolved to the point where they have rights just like humans. Asked one audience member, "Over and over I hear PETA's main theme of 'We believe in the rights and complete liberation of all animals.' If that happens, will we have animals running rampant, committing animal crimes? Would animals be fighting or raping or killing each other, or even us? Would we need animal police, animal courtrooms, with animal juries, animal lawyers and animal prisons?"

"I'm very glad we can dispense with the ridiculous tonight," Butler mused. "When we talk about animal rights, we're talking about extending basic considerations for their needs," he said. "Animals don't need the right to vote, nor is it useful for them."

This rhetorical question wasn't the only moment of levity that evening, as when an audience member and obvious PETA supporter mentioned a web site that features a study that links hunting with a bogus disorder known as "diminutive male genitalia disorder."

The quip brought laughter to the room, even from LaPierre himsELF, who pointed out the study was an April Fool's prank perpetrated by PETA. He then warned, "Don't be distracted by the bathroom jokes. PETA is a very real organization whose agenda spells dire consequences for humankind."

Several times throughout the debate, PETA's Butler attempted to malign hunting by comparing it to acts such as slavery that humanity has evolved past. And Wayne LaPierre pointed out a PETA ad campaign that equates eating meat with the Holocaust, during which Nazi Germany slaughtered over 6 million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and other human beings.

"I've been called a 'radical' here today," Butler told the crowd gathered. "Well, I think the suffragettes were called radical. The abolitionists were called radicals. I think that animal 'rights' is an idea ahead of its time. But I don't mind standing here and being called a radical in that context."

Like most words in our language, however, "radical" can be defined several ways, and while undoubtedly Butler would like to align himsELF with such luminary figures as Susan B. Anthony and Abraham Lincoln, LaPierre was quick to note the sort of "radical" with which the majority of right-headed people place those who support criminal violence.

In his closing argument, over a brief outburst by several PETA supporters, LaPierre drove home the future of a group of "radicals" who resort to violence in an attempt to reach their goals.

"In poll after poll, people reject the bizarre beliefs you want to impose upon us. And every time a bomb goes off or a business burns or a scientist gets mugged, you lose even more," LaPierre said. "That's why I came here. To expose PETA for what it truly represents. If people learn the truth about this movement, they will never, ever carry the day."


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