Let's Boycott the Boycott

Opinion / Anchorage Daily News / December 8, 2003

Alaskans shouldn't let a threat determine their decision on wolves

No matter how Alaskans feel about shooting wolves from the air, we shouldn't let the threat of a tourism boycott push our decision.

This is a call we should make here, with a tough, honest examination of both facts and feelings.

If Priscilla Feral and Friends of Animals decide to call for a boycott, so be it. That's one of their weapons in the wolf war.

But the decision on whether to shoot wolves from the air should be one we make based on whether we believe it's necessary and right, not on how many protesters howl in how many cities Outside.

This isn't a call to Alaska parochialism. Alaskans know that shooting wolves from the air will become a national issue. But because the decision is ours, we should make it according to our lights. Right here, among Alaskans, there is plenty of disagreement. And even among individual Alaskans, there are conflicting values.

Our attitude toward a boycott should be like the most enlightened attitude of Iditarod supporters when pressure by race opponents spooked major sponsors like Timberland. That attitude was respectful but independent. Iditarod backers told opponents that we disagree with them and that we'll run the race cleanly and well by our own high standards, not according to anyone else's. Iditarod backers told sponsors like Timberland, thank you, thank you for all the support you've given the race, and we're sorry you're pulling out, but we won't trim our race to placate sponsors made skittish by cries of animal cruelty.

In the end, we might well respond to a tourism boycott as the late Joe Redington did to the U.S. Humane Society. After considerable efforts to work with the group, Mr. Redington and other people realized that the society's goal was to kill the race. At that point, he told them to "go to hell."

That's tempting, but there's a better way. Instead of inviting people to go to hell, let's invite them to come to Alaska and learn more. They'll find a wide range of opinions here on the question of wolf control. They'll find a fierce resistance to Outside dictates but also a willingness to engage in debate, to talk and listen, as evidenced by a recent public television panel.

Boycott? It's a free country. Ms. Feral and her supporters can go to town. But thoughtful Alaskans won't let that interfere with the decision about the right thing to do.

BOTTOM LINE: A tourism boycott shouldn't determine Alaska's decision on aerial wolf killing one way or the other.


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