Friday, October 31, 2008

Michael Markarian: Animals & Politics

Michael Markarian: Animals & Politics

Link to Michael Markarian: Animals & Politics

Two Different Men, Two Different Districts—Too Bad NRA

Posted: 31 Oct 2008 11:50 AM CDT

We haven't heard a lot from the fright-mongers of the NRA this election. On the national stage, the stakes are just too high for their kind of shrill scare tactics to attract much interest. Besides, they're on the wane anyway. Increasingly, Americans recognize the NRA's radical agenda for what it is—the spent politics of the fringe.

But the NRA is still plugging away. In down-ballot races, its operatives and apologists are still trying to bully the brave. Two legislative races in the swing state of Pennsylvania illustrate the absurd actions of the NRA.

Pa_pigeon_shoots Despite common sense, and more importantly despite common decency, the NRA continues to defend Pennsylvania's practice of allowing live pigeons to be used as targets in gory exhibitions of killing—even though the animals are not consumed, the killing has nothing to do with wildlife management, and it is essentially just a killing exhibition. As you would expect, the NRA would like to frighten any policymaker who would try to bring Pennsylvania back into the family of civilized states and abolish such wanton carnage.

One of those willing to stand up to the NRA in Pennsylvania is Rep. Frank Andrews Shimkus (D-113, Lackawanna). He arrived in the legislature in 2007 as a freshman from the state's hard-coal country. Hunting is deeply rooted in his district. Schools routinely close on the first Monday after Thanksgiving to allow their older students to participate on the first day of Pennsylvania's annual deer hunting season.

Not so long ago, it would have been unthinkable for a legislator representing this part of the state to speak out against any kind of animal shooting. But Rep. Shimkus, who describes himself as a conservative, went even further. He introduced legislation to ban these events where hundreds of pigeons are released, one by one, to be killed. Let me add, by way of aside, that one of the most appalling things in these bloody spectacles is when wounded birds drop to the ground and are set upon by children who learn from adults to twist the neck and pull the heads off these animals.

That kind of scene doesn't go down well at all in another part of the state, the affluent suburbs of Philadelphia represented by third-term Rep. Daylin Leach (D-149, Montgomery). He joined in co-sponsoring the Shimkus bill. He also took a leading role in pushing legislative leaders toward a vote to outlaw these Neanderthal pigeon shoots—and it now appears, finally, the legislature will face the issue head-on next session.

Pigeon Live pigeon shoots are so inhumane and unsporting that the call to relegate them to Pennsylvania's history books is broad and widespread—from liberals and conservatives, from rural and suburban districts, from animal advocates and hunting advocates. Everyone seems to agree except the rabid extremists at the NRA.

Rep. Leach, who describes himself as liberal and is now campaigning for a seat in the state Senate, was so proud that his work for pigeons earned him the NRA's opposition that he posted the organization's letter against him on his own campaign website. 

"If the NRA is working against me, I must be doing something right!" the lawmaker wrote.

You said it, brother.

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