Time to Take on Animal Rights Bullies

Paul Jenkins / The Voice of the Times / Anchorage daily News / December 12, 2003

Ah, it's déjà vu all over again.

Friends of Animals, which threatened an Alaska tourism boycott more than a decade ago in response to planned predator control, is agog that Alaska is ignoring the group this time around.

The multimillion-dollar Connecticut-based group formed in 1957 and headed by Priscilla Feral (can that possibly be her real name?) is in a snit over the state's plan to reduce the wolf population by 40 in a 1,700-square-mile area near McGrath. The aim is to improve moose numbers in the area. There are, by the way, perhaps as many as 11,000 wolves in Alaska.

Feral, as she did before, is vowing a tourism boycott and warns she is scheduling "Howl-Ins" in New York, San Francisco, Sacramento, Colorado Springs and in, of all places, Lansing, Mich.

Pardon me for wondering, but who cares? So a bunch of nut jobs parade around in wolf suits. So what?

Are we to believe hunters and fishermen and those who want to experience Alaska will see these clowns and immediately plan trips elsewhere? The only people likely to feel any effect from such a boycott would be eco-tourism operators whose clients probably include folks most likely to share some of Feral's views.

Gov. Frank Murkowski, bless his heart, pretty much has told Feral and her organization to pound sand; that the state's predator control program will continue, boycott or no boycott; that it's business as usual here. Feral (that simply cannot be her real name) and her group have a long history of being stupid in Alaska, including being ordered to pay, along with biologist Gordon Haber, some $170,000 in damages to a trapper some years ago for releasing a live wolf from a snare. They vociferously have gone after the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, attacked Make-A-Wish for arranging for a child weakened by bone cancer to go on a moose hunt, protested a Round Island subsistence walrus hunt, opposed Native whale hunts and howled about wolves in Denali National Park.

With all that, you'd think we take up most of their time. Hardly. This bunch can be stupid almost anywhere.

In Canada, they oppose the spring seal hunt. In Ohio, it's an ordinance requiring animal control officers to pick up free-roaming cats. In Oregon, it's a plan to kill nuisance black bears. In Connecticut, it's pig racing.

They even went after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, another bunch of wack-jobs. Why? Well, PETA suggested Burger King's veggie burger might not be such a bad thing. Feral et al. countered that because the burger was cooked on the same grill as meat and the bun contained butter, the sandwich was not vegan, after all. Butter, she pointed out, "exploits" the reproductive cycle of cows.

These folks are never satisfied. If they were not riled up about wolves, it would be bears, or beavers or garden slugs. This is, after all, how they make their living; playing the suckers for, well, suckers.

There may come a day when Alaska will have to rethink its hunting regulations for areas near growing rural communities. At some point, perhaps not everybody will be able, as in the past, to jump on a snowmobile and roar off to get a moose, predator control or no predator control. Guides might feel the bite. Non-residents might be barred.

A guy thinking ahead called last week to suggest setting up a drawing permit program for those regions, similar to those already in place near Anchorage and other places where demand outstrips game numbers.

But it is not yet time. When it is, the question should be addressed and settled by Alaskans - not Friends of Animals, PETA or any other Outside group that primarily uses our state as a fund-raising tool. To succumb to their mindless demands and whims would only encourage them and demean us.

For now, if Feral wants to boycott Alaska tourism, there are three words she needs to hear from this state:

Bring it on.

Paul Jenkins is an editor of The Anchorage Times.

The Voice of the Times does not represent the editorial views of the Anchorage Daily News. This commentary is published under an agreement with the owner of the former Anchorage Times newspaper to preserve its separate editorial voice. The Voice of the Times staff can be contacted at anchtimes@alaska.net.


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