Today the Huffington Post covered Paul Ryan’s mixed record on the outdoors. Of course right-leaning bowhunters were thrilled about their candidate’s choice for a running mate (yes, the majority of hunters are red-state Republicans, but they do come in all political stripes.) It’s no surprise that the NRA gave him an ‘A’ rating. Hailed as “the last Boy Scout” by none other than Rush Limbaugh, Ryan must have earned his merit badges in cruelty to animals, pandering to weapons manufacturers and “virtuous” selfishness (one of the only two bills Ryan has ever ushered into law during his congressional career was a cap on excise tax on bowhunting equipment).
Sure, presidential candidates pandering to gun lobbies or seeking to secure the sportsmen’s vote is nothing new. From the likes of Teddy Roosevelt with his head-hunting safaris here and in Africa, to John Kerry with his backfiring cammo-clad goose-hunt-media-stunt, to Dick Cheney blindly blasting at birds (spraying lead at anything or anyone that moves), politicians have shamelessly courted the hunter vote while helping to promote the wise-use twaddle that “hunters are the best environmentalists.” For
his part, the great “varmint” hunter, George W. Bush, penned executive order 13443 on August 17, 2007, encouraging more hunting in parks and on national wildlife refuges.
Cleveland Amory, founder of The Fund for Animals, had this to say about President Roosevelt in his anti-hunting epic, Man Kind? Our Incredible War on Wildlife: “Theodore Roosevelt…could not be faulted for at least some efforts in the field of conservation. But here the praise must end. When it came to killing animals, he was close to psychopathic.” Dangerously close indeed (think: Ted Bundy). But don’t let on to a hunter what you think of their esteemed idol, because, as Mr. Amory put it, “…the least implication anywhere that hunters are not the worthiest souls since the apostles drives them into virtual paroxysms of self-pity.”
Amory goes on to write, “…the hunter, seeing there would soon be nothing left to kill, seized upon the new-fangled idea of ‘conservation’ with a vengeance. Soon they had such a stranglehold [think: Ted Nugent] on so much of the movement that the word itself was turned from the idea of protecting and saving the animals to the idea of raising and using them–for killing. The idea of wildlife ‘management’–for man, of course–was born.”
Though Roosevelt probably killed more trophy “game” animals than all our other presidents combined, in terms of a potential policy maker who could spell doom for wildlife and wilderness for generations to come, Ryan is even more dangerous. His budget plan calls for selling off public lands to private individuals, essentially turning the last of the wild places into high-end private game reserves for trophy hunting. Some of his ideas make the so-called “Sportsmen’s Heritage Act,” which would open our national parks and refuges to hunting (a bill Ryan enthusiastically supported) seem almost tame.
Portions of this post were excerpted from the book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport