We all know that anti-hunters and animal rightists use any possible angle to attack hunting and hunters. Here’s the latest – the Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting (CASH) says hunting is unsafe – for hunters. They ask the question, “How safe is hunting by young people?” and proceed to answer it with a break down of 333 “documented” hunting accidents including 63 children up to 18 years old in 2004 and 2005. Of these accidents there were 135 fatalities, including 29 children. They go on to list newspaper articles in a database on their web site, “documenting” just how unsafe hunting is, as well as fishing and trapping. Each article reports on sportsmen injured in the field in one manner or another.
So… let’s get this straight. Tromping through the uneven grounds of the woods, climbing tree stands and rocky mountainsides to dizzying heights, traversing swift rivers, wading through soft-bottom swamps and sloughs, or trekking across cactus-covered desert or thornbush-covered savannah in everything from 90-degree heat-stroke-causing heat to 30 below freezing Arctic temperatures, stalking animals that sport pointed horns, antlers and tusks, razor-sharp claws and fangs, often approaching them at close range on foot and carrying … well… implements of death like guns and bows with razor-head arrows and bullets that rip muscle and organs and smash bones --- you mean that is dangerous? Really? As my five-year-old niece would say – Duh! Does CASH also know that fire is hot and will burn you, water wet and will drown you, and ice cold and will freeze you?
OK. Now that I’ve ranted the obvious, let’s take a look at these “documented” statistics they provide. I’ll keep it simple. Let’s stick to the US. According to the incidents reported by state government agencies to the International Hunter Education Association, in 2004 there were 445 Class A incidents, which are hunting-related shooting injuries or fatalities. These reports include all ages. Of those, 42 were fatalities. In 2005, there were 405 incidents of which 41 were fatalities. In 2006, there were 246 incidents with 27 fatalities. In 2007 the incidents totaled 239 with 19 fatalities. So, the number of incidents and fatalities actually came down, according the completed reports for those years. (2008 and 2009 were not posted.)
How many hunters are there in the US? According the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (completed every five years by the U.S. Census Bureau) 43,745,000 persons in the US hunted in 2000 or before. Some argue that when first-time hunters are added in 2001, the real number for the 2001 study is just shy of 45 million hunters. But let’s go with the 13 million who said they actually went hunting in 2001. Keeping with that number, fatalities for 2004 would equate to about .0003% of hunters, if only 13 million hunted that year. About .003% were involved in a Class A incident, which includes falling out of a tree stand for lack of a safety belt. In one sense, all of these incidents, fatal or not, are unacceptable. But the reality of life is that people make mistakes, and these kinds of incidents happen. Considering how many hunters there are carrying loaded weapons, these numbers are not so bad.
Let’s look at some other fascinating numbers. These are from the National Center for Sports Safety. Did you know that more than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under receive medical treatment for sports injuries every year? What kind of sports? Gymnastics, basketball, softball, football, soccer, volleyball, track and field, and hockey, to name a few. Injuries associated with these sports account for 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries in children in the US. And children ages five to 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms. Furthermore, the rate and severity of sports-related injuries increases with a child’s age.
In adults, about 365,000 people ages 35 to 54 went to the hospital emergency room with sports injuries in 1998, according to a 2000 study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 2006, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System reported over half a million injuries just for basketball. Another 2 million injuries were associated with bicycling, football and other sports. Are sports safe? Should we let our children join the little league or their school team?
How about the activity we ALL participate in – driving or riding in a motorized vehicle. How do you like these numbers? According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2006, 38,648 fatal crashes killed 42,708 people; in 2007, 37,435 fatal crashes killed 41,259 people; and in 2008, 34,172 fatal crashes killed 37,423 people. These figures include drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists killed in crashes. They do not include crashes in which there were only injuries or property damage. Those figures soar oh so much higher. Here’s a scary one though; from 1989 to 1999 1,445 people died in school bus-related crashes, an average of 131 fatalities per year. Sixty-five percent of those people were riding the bus. That means about 85 children every year die riding the bus to school. How many did CASH say died over a two-year period while hunting? Drum roll please…. 29.
Driving your child to school or getting yourself to work is dangerous. Shall we ban motorized vehicles? Playing sports is dangerous. Shall we ban football and basketball? CASH isn’t making that suggestion. But driving and sports injuries isn’t what’s on their agenda. Here’s what is, in their own words from their web site:
“The mission of C.A.S.H. - Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting - is to accomplish what its name says in the shortest possible time.
“Understanding that abolishing hunting entails a process, a series of steps taken and not a single action that would effect our goal overnight, a time frame cannot be established. We hope for building a succession of wins, and if not wins immediately then at least a succession of stirrings of consciousness. We hope to encourage those who are still silent to speak out, awakening community after community about the heavy hand of state and federal wildlife management agencies. We hope to alter whatever belief still exists that sport hunters are conservationists and champions of the environment to a realization that they are destroyers of wildlife and ecosystems in the narrow and broad sense. Where the natural feeling for wildlife doesn't exist, we strive to engender among citizens outrage that their own rights are violated by legal hunting and that their quality-of-life diminished.”
So safety isn’t what they’re really concerned about at all. What they’re really trying to do is create a “succession of stirrings of consciousness” that will build a succession of wins. Plant in the consciousness of the public the seed that hunting is not safe for children, that children die when they go hunting. Back it up with a list of newspaper articles that “document” the assertion. Throw in some figures, because figures don’t lie….. People walk away with stories of children dying during a hunt and that “stirring of the consciousness” is either the foundation or another brick in the slow but steady succession of wins that the antis are after.
The CASH website goes on to refer to hunting as “a silent economy that encourages and preys on the passion of a few to kill the wildlife that belongs to all.” Oh, where do I begin to pull the substandard bricks from this tower of babble?
Are we silent? Are we few? And do we understand our passion well enough to communicate it to those whose consciousness has not been clouded with the stirrings of smoke and trampled bull dust? I think I’ll address these in a future blog. Maybe some of my readers would like to share their thoughts on the subject. Email them to me at Barbara@huntingreport.com. – Barbara Crown, Editor.