John Aberth: In response to ‘No one more than a trapper wants to avoid catching a dog’

This commentary is by John Aberth, a resident of Roxbury.

The pro-trapping opinion piece written by Paul Noel, who was recently appointed by Gov. Scott to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board, is nothing more than that: An opinion. 

He admits that he has no "measurable" statistics to back up his arguments, yet he urges us to take his statements at face value, on trust, while at the same time he denigrates his opponents as liars motivated purely by "emotion." 

But if Mr. Noel can be given the benefit of the doubt, why shouldn't his opponents be accorded the same consideration? The answer is that obviously there's no way to settle an argument except by using facts and science. And all the evidence supports the fact that trapping is not necessary to "manage" populations or even provide reliable data on population trends. 

Quite the contrary, trapping is counterproductive to these efforts. Yes, trappers are now required to submit annual reports on their harvests, but there are no repercussions if trappers do not return reports, so the whole exercise is still largely voluntary. 

Last year, for the first time, Act 159 required that trappers also report their nontarget or incidental takes, which include domestic dogs and cats.So we will see how "rare" the trapping of pets really is. 

Paul Noel released a single dog from a trap many years ago, and on that basis he says trapping is harmless? Was the dog examined by a vet afterward? How long did the dog spend in the trap? 

Wild animals, unlike dogs, are not accustomed to being restrained and therefore will struggle that much more in traps and suffer commensurate injuries.The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has itself supplied overwhelming evidence of the injuries all species of animals suffer even in Best Management Practice traps (H. Bryant White, "Best Management Practices for Trapping Furbearers in the United States," Wildlife Monographs, December 2020). 

Trappers, unlike hunters, are not even trying to kill an animal; they are simply trying to restrain the animal until they get there, hours later. So how does an animal not suffer in a trap? This opinion piece is completely off the cuff and doesn't even engage in the debate in any serious way. It ends with an appeal to tradition, which is to say, no argument at all. 

Just because something has been done in the past is no reason to continue with it today. On that basis, we should still engage in eugenics and sterilization, for example, or allow cockfighting, or do any number of things that were horrible in the past, and are still horrible in the present, and future. 

A proposal to ban recreational trapping, H.191, in the current legislative session has received no less than 25 cosponsors in the Vermont House and is what all surveys, including one conducted last year by Vermont's Fish & Wildlife Department, say that the public wants. 

For the governor to appoint a pro-trapping extremist like Paul Noel to the Fish and Wildlife Board at this time sends simply the wrong message to the many Vermonters who voted for him in the last election.


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