A Jan. 15 Maine Voices column titled “Pick science over sensationalism for managing Maine’s bear population” misrepresents at least two very important points.

First, the Humane Society of the United States is one of the most effective organizations in the nation and has been very successful in opposing cruel treatment of animals.

As its mission statement explains, the group “seeks to eliminate the most inhumane and unfair sport hunting practices.” It does not oppose hunting as such, nor does it oppose the use of hunters as a “tool for managing bears,” as the writers of the commentary would have us believe.

The column’s authors also want us to think that since the HSUS is headquartered in Washington, the moving force behind the referendum must be a bunch of meddling treehuggers from away.

In fact, a broad coalition of veterinarians, animal shelters, responsible hunters and animal protection groups called Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting spearheads the proposed referendum, including the HSUS and the ASPCA, the country’s oldest and most prestigious animal protection and welfare organization.

Secondly, it’s odd that the writers don’t describe the practices they defend. Then again, when bears are killed over bait, hounded to exhaustion and then shot out of trees or held in a trap until they’re executed, some words certainly spring to mind, but “humane” and “sporting” are not among them.

Finally, let’s not forget that more people come to our state to watch wildlife rather than kill it, and that adds to the state’s economy far more than does the relatively small number of hunters.

Let’s also not forget that the bears of Maine belong to us all, and the way they are treated is a powerful statement about the kind of people we are and the values we hold.

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