By Stu Chaifetz
I hate fighting hunts in which victory means the
status quo. Hate it. Even when you win these battles all the opposition
has to do is wait you out, then attack again.
One of the few victories of the mid 1990's, which
kept deer hunting out of the South Mountain Reservation, was turned
around just a couple of years ago. In a sense, this is what happened
when we beat the bear hunt in 2000; three years later they are
back again, armed and slobbering for the kill.
But something wonderful has happened in this current
battle for the bears, and it is important that it be known: There
is a rebellion going on in New Jersey, and it is saving lives that
we had not counted on.
Photo courtesy of Stu Chaifetz
Earlier this month, angered at the prospect of the
forthcoming bear hunt, the town of West Milford closed all their
municipal lands to hunting. Tuesday night, the Passaic County Freeholders,
in defiance of the NJ Fish and Game Council, closed off all their
county owned land to hunting.
Notice I didn't say 'bear' hunting. All hunting.
Deer, geese, rabbit, whichever animals were being slaughtered on
those lands is no longer legal. I have to note that it was already
policy not to have hunting on Passaic County lands, but that it
was never enforced, as a great deal of their property is contiguous
with state land and is unmarked. I spoke with one parks official
this morning who told me that because of this, there had been a
tremendous amount of hunting on county property. Now the County
is going to post their land and enforce the edict. The official
told me of one area that consisted of 2,000 acres that was in prime
hunting land. And there were other parcels of land that will be
affected as well.
These actions are unprecedented and completely, utterly
When you take all this into account, along with our
sterilization program which, for the first time, offers a real
alternative to hunting, we are not just fighting to keep the status
quo; we are fighting to forever change the way we deal with our
wild animals. And, though we've already won some important battles,
the war looms ahead of us.
There are just more than five weeks before we lose
500 bears to bloody slaughter. And if we are to stop this, we are
going to need help, much more than has been forthcoming. It is
no longer good enough to limit actions to writing and calling.
Though these have been important, we must now, as time slips quickly
by, take the struggle to the Governor himself.
We did this when the Governor was at an event at
Ringwood State park. 20 of us held banners and large pictures of
dead bears as he spoke, making the point crystal clear that we
would neither sit idly by nor be afraid to make a strong statement
to him personally against this killing. Afterwards, he was bombarded
by pleas from us to stop this hunt. It was an extremely important
action. We need to do it again.
Beyond that, if you have a few vacation days and
want to use them for a good cause please contact me.
I want to share a personal story. A few people had
been trying to get me to go to bear country to see live bears in
their environment. Though I had seen many bears previously, they
all were dead, killed by hunters. For some reason, perhaps because
I felt the hunt should be stopped before I saw them, I had always
declined. Thankfully, this time I did not.
I met Samantha, the 'poster-bear' whose picture you
may have seen in the pro-bear literature. There she was, no more
than a foot in front of me, chowing down on some nuts, while her
two cubs meandered about in the forest not far away.
I couldn't get over how much she reminded me of my
dog, Athena, not only because she was similarly colored and in
size, but in body language as well. In fact, she behaved a lot
better than Athena does (for those few who have met Athena, you
know what I am talking about) which only added to the surreal nature
of the situation.
It was a truly magical event that had absolutely
nothing to do with my proximity to this wild animal; it was when
Samantha left and followed her children into the deep woods that
the magic formed. Here, in New Jersey, the most developed state
in the nation, the state that is literally mocked across the world,
these majestic creatures found a way to live with us, in peace.
And because of people who live in fear, and the greed born in selfish
desires, 6,000 armed men are going to invade northern NJ, slaughter
500 bears, butcher them and keep their corpses as trophies.
On December 8, we risk forever losing the magic of
co-existence. And it is with unfortunate confidence that I state
that first they will kill the bears, then cut down the trees. The
battle lines we draw, therefore, are not only for saving these
500 lives, but for also keeping our state from being completely
paved over and developed.
Do not take comfort in the what others are doing;
each of you has a role to play, and your action, or lack thereof,
could tip the balance to victory or to destruction .
I ask you, all of you, to join the growing rebellion
against the tyrannical rule of the Division of Fish and Game and
the Fish and Game Council. The bears have already saved the lives
of uncountable deer and other hunted animals. With your help, we
can save the bears themselves, and do so much more.
This is neither a drill, nor a repetitive alert -
it's a serious call for immediate action!
So, get on the phone, or better yet, write a short
note and fax it, but do it tonight, tomorrow and into Monday. Overwhelming
force is called for, and we shall provide it.
500 bears will be killed in less than three weeks
- can we get 500 people to write a short letter and send it today?
Governor James McGreevey, Phone: 609-292-6000, Fax:
Stu Chaifetz, www.HonorAndNonViolence.com