×

Stefania Nobile: Teach kids how to protect animals, not kill them



For the Monitor
Saturday, October 13, 2018

Earlier this month, after arriving home from work, I tuned my TV to WMUR News 9. They were playing a segment titled “Pheasants released for hunting season.” I was not surprised this was happening again this year in New Hampshire, but I was very disturbed to see that an elementary school was with Fish and Game personnel during the release of defenseless pheasants destined to be the victims of yet another canned hunt in New Hampshire. “A close look at wildlife and hunting tradition,” reporter Jessica Moran explained.

The short, televised piece contained several issues that our society at large, and our smaller local communities in specific, should discuss openly and honestly: hunting, canned or not, and young children as witnesses.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spends government funds every year on youth recruitment for hunting programs, and while I was watching the segment on WMUR I couldn’t help but wonder if this is a public relations stunt by our New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Certainly it gives the appearance that it is further slipping away from its core mission of conserving and protecting resources (wildlife) and their habitats.

It is disturbing enough that Fish and Game promotes both hunting and angling as tradition, sport and “enjoyment,” but that some adults in leadership positions in local schools (I will not name them here out of respect for the children) have decided to embrace this message is mind-boggling. I cannot stop wondering if children were told where the pheasants came from, why they were trapped in dark crates in New Hampshire and if they were given the context for the stocking. If they were given the unbiased facts, then it would follow that there will be more school outings to bear witness to the pheasants’ grim destiny and violent death by the hand of hunters. It begs the question: Are schools now teaching that killing is conservation? Are schools now teaching that if a species is almost wiped out, we can mass produce and purchase more, and keep right on killing?

Wildlife agencies exist to benefit all citizens, but it is under everybody’s eye that they have become decidedly pro-hunter and angler. Their goal is to protect hunters, not wildlife, and stocking the state for canned hunts is just another way to appease them.

During the segment on WMUR, this idea was reinforced by Fish and Game officer Jonathan Demler: “The tradition of pheasant hunting is about 100 years old in the state of New Hampshire but, right now, the way the state is in regard to its terrain it just is required that we stock pheasants, not really able to hold over in a natural type way.”

Hunting sends the message to children that it is acceptable and even fun to kill and maim other living beings. Killing non-human animals desensitizes children to the suffering of other creatures. It teaches them that they have the right to exercise their power over others violently simply because they are bigger, stronger or well armed.

Schools should be encouraging students of all ages to behave compassionately toward animals. Staff members and volunteers should present children with diversity – in all its forms – to include discussions about animal rights with students. There are plenty of short documentaries about the treatment of animals in contemporary society. There are also groups that would go to the schools, if invited, to talk about the topic. There should be an honest discussion with children about the meaning and consequences of hunting, fishing, factory farming, dissection, vivisection and related topics. These children could have been accompanied to a bird or other sanctuary to see nature up close. Instead the school outing was to see live animals trapped in cages and then released into their non-native habitat. Our education tax dollars can be much better spent.

Children are our future. This planet and all its living things are the future. The time to teach our children stewardship and protection of animals, biodiversity and environment is long overdue.

(Stefania Nobile lives in Bedford.)