There are a couple reasons the bill bugs me, the first being that hounding is simply low-hanging fruit for the Humane Society of the United States, which does not approve of any hunting. This organization's MO is to push for bans of the least popular forms of hunting. Bears are charismatic megafauna, so it's pretty easy to convince the non-hunting public that bear hunters are big fat meanies.
Source: "The Future of Hunting and the Shooting Sports,"
Responsive Management, 2008. (Click to enlarge.)
HSUS' strategy on bills like this is to paint a picture that freaks people out: Hounds chase bear, bear takes refuge in a tree, big fat lazy hunters get out of their pickups and go shoot the treed, frightened bear. What I did in my piece for the Bee was point out that most of the animals we eat - and yes, the vast majority of Americans do eat meat - experience fear and are also trapped, with no way out of their impending death.
Of course some people may react to that knowledge by saying, "Dang, I shouldn't eat meat anymore." But most people are avowed omnivores who aren't willing to give up meat.
I know my arguments do nothing to sway vegan and vegetarian animal rights activists - my arguments are precisely why many of them gave up meat in the first place. But I'm not worried about their opinion; I seek only to sway the vast middle, the people who might be moved by HSUS propaganda, but might also be open to thinking about the other side of this debate.
There are actually a ton of reasons this bill shouldn't pass, and the level-headed California Outdoor Heritage Alliance is making all of those points to legislators.
But there's one other point I'd like to make here that wouldn't fit into the op-ed: Notice anything missing from this bill? Yep, you got it: pigs. Houndsmen and -women also hunt pigs with dogs, but this bill won't touch that, for at least two reasons.
1) Landowners with wild boar infestations would howl if any means of eliminating them were taken off the table. With pigs being an invasive species, there is broad support for getting rid of them.
2) While I'm quite fond of pigs, they are not considered charismatic megafauna. They are scraggly, dirty and mean. So you can't really generate much public pity for pigs.
At least not until they become the next low-hanging fruit.
© Holly A. Heyser 2012