You might have seen it come across the wire, whether in a news article or through a social media post – ban the import, export, and trade of wildlife. More than likely, most have ignored it with the excuse that it doesn’t pertain to them, they don’t hunt out of state, or one of a dozen other reasons. Unfortunately, that is our problem. As hunters, we ignore things that could have incredible implications for us and adopt the attitude “That will never affect me.” We have to stop thinking that way.
Who is behind this push to ban all trade in wildlife? There are two entities, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). You don’t need to know much about them except that they, along with PETA and the Humane Society, essentially make up the team that is anti- hunting in the U.S. You may ask if that is even possible. It is, pursuant to Section 553 of the Administrative Protection Act where each agency shall give an interested person the right to petition for the issuance, amendment, or repeal of a rule, so CBD and NRDC petitioned. Do they have that much sway? CBD has 1.7 million members. NRDC has 3 million members. No hunting organization gets anywhere close.
What do they want? They want to ban the import and export of wild mammals and birds and institute a comprehensive chain-of-custody and tracing system for all imports and exports of all wildlife and plants. Who is it really targeting? It’s after the pet trade, citing that the U.S. imports about 20% of all wildlife traded in the world and they have tied that to COVID, but naturally, it has implications for wildlife ranching as well as hunting.
At its surface, the petition is super innocuous, but the devil is in the details. The petition asks the USFWS under DOI to find that the trade in wildlife and birds is injurious to people, and if they do, they can move forward with implementing bans and a chain of custody through the Lacey Act. According to the Lacey Act, wild constitutes any creature, whether raised in the wild or captivity, that is normally found in the wild. What that means is that all wildlife trade will be regulated. This includes transporting any wildlife taken, live or dead. “Hold on!” I hear you say, “The petition is for live animal import and export.” Well that’s what you may think, but buried in their explanation it states, “...generally live animals pose the greatest risk of disease conveyance, but trade in products, parts, and other dead specimens also poses a disease risk.” This also extends to farming and breeding of wildlife.
What can we do? Two people can play at this game. Ducks Unlimited and Safari Club International have created their own to DOI opposing anti-hunting regulations by activist groups. The sad thing is that they have only 15,000 signatures at the time of this article in comparison to CBD’s 100,000+ signature list. We have approximately 11 million hunters in the U.S., but unfortunately, we are so fractured and are of the mentality that something like this will never affect what we do. Squirrel hunters, dog hunters, trad bow hunters, big game hunters, Sitka guys and Mossy Oak guys, whitetail tree stand hunters and spot and stalk bow hunters, free-range hunters and high-fence hunters. In situations like this, we need to leave whatever prejudices we have of how each of us hunts and get on the same team. These attacks are going to become more and more frequent, and the quicker we can put our differences aside and get on the same team, the better the outlook of hunting will look for our kids and grandkids.