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Killing contests offer no benefit

Just this month, the act of killing played out countless times when a Los Lunas gun store sponsored a competition for the killing of native prairie dogs statewide.

The contest featured a prize for the participant who shot the largest number of the animals as well as merchandise celebrating the killing of prairie dogs. After the fact, the contest sponsors claimed that 1,500 animals had been killed during the competition and announced plans for future such contests. When we allow this in our state, what does that say about us?

Readers of the Albuquerque Journal will recall a similar event, organized last November by the same business, targeting coyotes. Public outcry against the contest generated national and international headlines, and the practice of killing contests was denounced by strong editorials in the Journal and other New Mexico newspapers.

Ultimately, House Bill 316, Rep. Nate Cote’s bill to outlaw coyote killing contests, was introduced in the 2013 state legislative session and heard on the floor of the House of Representatives. Every House member voted on this bill.

Far from unique, such events occur frequently, and increasingly conspicuously, around New Mexico.

With this latest competition also being covered nationally and internationally, it is official that New Mexico has been conclusively associated with the practice of animal killing contests in the eyes of the country and world. This is simply unacceptable for our state.

With no regulation or limits, killing contests are indefensible as scientific wildlife management and are more akin to the misguided 19th Century extermination of species.

Animal-killing contests are an unconscionable risk to public safety. Competition organizers rarely reveal to the public the shooting locations, leaving those wanting to recreate in the outdoors at unnecessary risk.

Plus, competitions offering rewards based on “most animals killed” incentivize many bullets fired and many miles traveled, all adding up to a pointless threat to our state’s residents.

How do these celebrations of violence and disregard for life translate to our children? What lessons are we conveying to them? Where else will these lessons manifest themselves in our society, and what are the costs?

Many caring citizens, including gun owners and hunters, oppose killing contests. In a petition organized by Animal Protection of New Mexico in response to the 2012 coyote-killing event, one-third of more than 1,400 signees self-identified as gun owners, and over one-tenth of signees as hunters or anglers. Many wrote on the petition their belief that contests that glorify killing for its own sake are a slap in the face to people who promote responsible gun ownership.

Additionally, anyone with a belief in responsible hunting rejects the appalling distortion of the sport by killing contests. In celebrating senseless killing, the contests promote disrespect for wildlife – the prairie dog event referred to the animals as “tails” – and reduce the overall tradition of hunting to a mere numbers game for material gain.

For all of these reasons and with momentum of voters appalled by the practice, House Bill 316, Stop Coyote Killing Contests, passed all assigned committees but was narrowly defeated in the House.

Nonetheless, 2013’s contests prove that action must be taken at the state level to address negative effects of the events on the state’s environment, public safety and reputation.

Animal Protection Voters’ 2013 Legislative Scorecard, available free, tallies every representative’s vote on HB 316. The group encourages voters to contact their legislators about past and future bills to ban these repulsive events.

Each representative that voted to continue the practice bears some of the responsibility for the latest killing event and its impact on our state.

Killing contests provide no benefit to our state and serve only to reflect ugly, inaccurate stereotypes of hunters, gun owners and New Mexicans.

It is not too late to reverse this and celebrate life, not kill for fun. Our voices are strong, clear, and effective – join us in urging our lawmakers to ban these destructive thrill-killing competitions In New Mexico.