For years, those who support the archaic and barbaric practice of using leghold, bodygrip and snare traps have argued it’s simply a way of life and livelihood for a segment of New Mexico’s population. They wax nostalgic about simpler times while claiming trappers follow today’s rules and regularly label and check their devices. Those supporters include the New Mexico Game Commission, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn.
And all of them should spend some time today taking a good, long, hard look at the photo accompanying this editorial to see what their support has wrought.
Trapping’s latest poster boy is a 20-pound male bobcat that was euthanized this month after a Placitas resident found him in her barn – with the leghold trap that delivered its fatal injury still attached to a back paw. “He just laid there on the bottom row of hay and looked at me,” Christine Landers says.
Just like the trap that caught a family dog named Cub near a hiking trail in the Sandias before Thanksgiving, this trap lacked the required trapper’s name or customer identification number. So once again there’s no way to track a trapper who is in clear violation of the law as he/she litters the landscape with devices that can and do fatally mutilate anything they catch.
Just as New Mexico lawmakers did when they banned the bloodsport of cockfighting in 2007, they need to once again declare that the practice of maiming to kill is unacceptable to people of any political party. Senate Bill 286, sponsored by Sens. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, and Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, offers them that chance.
More than 80 countries have banned, and eight states have banned or severely restricted, leg-hold traps because they are archaic, cruel and indiscriminate. These countries and states have evolved since the devices were invented in the 1800s. It is time for New Mexico to evolve as well, and once again it will take the Legislature’s leadership to get us there.
Such leadership is sorely lacking in those we entrust with our public lands. The feckless New Mexico Game Commission and Department of Game and Fish expanded trapping onto public lands last year, and Dunn added the public’s state trust lands to those maiming and killing fields. So far, the state has been on the losing end of an anti-trapping lawsuit filed by Animal Protection of New Mexico and the Humane Society of the United States, who correctly argue that the traps are arbitrary in what they catch and put endangered Mexican wolves and jaguars at risk.
The proposed bill includes numerous, clear exemptions and would not affect activities on private land, or hunting or fishing on public land, and would still allow some use of trapping and poisons to protect human health and safety when that’s the only feasible option.
This is a plea to all state lawmakers to take another good, long, hard look at that dead bobcat with the bloody paw and ask if that represents anything New Mexico stands for at all.
And to then vote to finally put trapping in the same dustbin of history as cockfighting.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.