The radio ad says over 100 million animals are killed by poachers each year. That number comes from the Humane Society of the United States and it can't be true.
Here it is, directly from the HSUS website: "In the United States, wildlife officials estimate that for every animal killed legally by hunters, another is killed illegally, amounting to perhaps more than 100 million wild animals poached each year."
These days, we hear so many big numbers that many people tend to accept them without question. But I have a few questions.
The first one is simple - really?
Think about it.
If the HSUS is correct, and if those 100 million poached animals are averaged equally among the 50 states, Pennsylvania would lose about two million animals to poachers each year.
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No one knows exactly how many animals are poached in Pennsylvania, but it's far less than two million. Jerry Feaser, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, says that "on average, about 1,000 individuals are added to Pennsylvania's revocation list for hunting and trapping license privileges annually."
If all 1,000 are poachers, and if each poached 10 animals, that's only a tiny fraction of two million - one half of one percent.
That leaves 1,990,000 unsolved poaching cases in Pennsylvania. I have more confidence in our wildlife conservation officers - and the general public - than that.
My second question - where does the HSUS get its outlandish poaching estimate? Feaser said even he wonders about that.
Answer: I think it comes almost totally from thin air.
Somewhere in the 50 states, there is probably a jurisdiction where a wildlife official believes that as many animals are illegally poached as legally killed. Or maybe it's a limited locale where, in a limited time frame, a busy poaching ring was busted.
It's a simple thing - but a very wrong thing - to extrapolate any such numbers to every jurisdiction in the United States. If it could be true, then there are, on average, roughly 30,000 poached animals in each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties.
Every hunter, every wildlife conservation officer, anyone who knows anything about it can tell you that doesn't happen - even if you include notorious outlaw 10-year-olds with BB guns.
The Humane Society of the United States can't back up its estimate of 100 million poached animals. And they won't try because it's not true. No scientific, legal, mathematical or environmental evidence can show that it's true. No indication of any kind exists that poaching happens on such a massive scale.
My third question - If it's not true, then why does the HSUS say it? The "why" question is always more difficult, but I have an opinion.
When the HSUS says two million animals are legally killed each year by licensed hunters and two million more are illegally killed by poachers each year, you'll notice an equivalence in the language.
The equivalence between the numbers can, by the unthinking, be extended to an equivalence between hunting and poaching. The HSUS, an organization that opposes even legal hunting, would like people to think that poachers are hunters and hunters are poachers, even though no equivalence exists between hunting and poaching.
Poaching is not hunting and poachers are not hunters.
Hunters oppose poachers and the actions of poachers are contrary to hunting. Poachers rob hunters and everyone else. Poaching and hunting are totally different. And hunters are happy when poachers get caught.
Why would the HSUS say anything to imply an equivalence between hunting and poaching?
It's because they'd like to end both. Here's the HSUS policy statement against hunting: "As a matter of principle, The HSUS opposes the hunting of any living creature for fun, trophy or sport because of the animal trauma, suffering and death that result."
Isn't it interesting that the HSUS has a policy statement against hunting, but no statement against poaching? To the HSUS, hunting and poaching are the same.
Why do I say that?
Because if they had a policy against poaching, they'd have to differentiate poaching from hunting and they don't want to do that.
I'm like comedian Dennis Miller on this one - "I could be wrong, but I doubt it."