Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Trappers’ video is misleading

For those of you who may know me, you know how non-confrontational I am. I like to focus on honest education only. I have been biting my tongue out of fear of confrontation, but we are way past that now. A recent video put out by the trapper’s association, spearheaded by a paid trapping lobbyist, touts themselves as “stewards of our wildlife.” It prompted me to respond publicly. Sure, I’m not a trapper, and I could just choose to not watch; however, the video is a pure propaganda stunt and grossly misleads the public. 

Despite the fact that VT Fish and Wildlife criticized the video for various overstatements and scare tactics, they still chose to star in it! I wonder if Fish and Wildlife would star in a wildlife protection group’s video? Probably not and that’s a problem.

Trappers seem to always be playing the victim, including in this video, but it rings hollow. Trappers themselves have threatened, demeaned and engaged in defamation against the public who disagrees with them. The animal advocates I know are compassionate people who are tired of being kicked to the curb. I’ve personally had trappers, including a trapper in this video, try to sabotage my work partnering with towns to solve beaver conflicts humanely and non-lethally. This trapper has been served with cease-and-desist letters for his continued defamation toward animal advocates. 

My beaver work consists of reaching out to communities and road crews and educating them on the benefits of beaver flow devices vs. trapping. I didn’t realize saving communities’ roads and taxpayer’s money was such a horrible thing to do. I come prepared with proof of knowledge via bills from recent trapping sites (can’t fake those), and I have a small army of experts who stand with me. I have never met an aggressive animal advocate. I have worked with wonderful groups, some even offering grant assistance for communities. I was one of those people who thought animal advocates threw red paint on people who wear fur. Nothing could be farther from the truth! I can’t say that about the trappers I have encountered. Every project I have started has been met with interference. One trapper that I spoke to told me “Beavers were nothing but rodents.” Really? Guess the term “keystone species” means nothing to him. I’m flabbergasted by these types of responses. None of these trappers are seeking compromise and they are letting their fear and disdain towards these groups cloud their judgement and reactions to recent legislation.

As far as hounding goes, I’m just floored that the state of Vermont allows this kind of recreational “sport.” It is inhumane and it also puts the public in danger. In a recent interview, a trapping and hounding lobbyist stated that Vermont needed a leash law for the general public. Well, that’s confusing to me. Vermonters need to leash their dogs while the hounders’ dogs get to run loose causing “havoc” makes no sense. Laws are for all Vermonters, not just ones getting in your way. 

So, what have I learned over the last few years? Vermonters need a safe forum to start talking about wildlife challenges where all voices are heard because wildlife belongs to no one group, but only one group has been making all the laws! Bill S.258 gives everyone a seat at the table. It also bans the dangerous and cruel recreation of coyote hounding that is not even grounded in sound science, and also baiting, which is prohibited for most other hunting practices. I’m not stopping advocating for wildlife and trying to work together for the future of conservation. I have my constitutional right to fight for my beliefs, too, and I will continue to do that with honesty, facts and education. I know I have fought a clean fight. I want Vermonters like me to be able to join a group and see what’s going on without fear of retaliation. 

I’m going to face a lot of backlash for my comments. I didn’t want to fan the flames and start another op ed response. So much false information ends up getting thrown at us and it’s so destructive and confusing to Vermonters. I’m just using my constitutional right to speak my truth. I just could not sit back and let the false information go unchallenged. 

Let’s debate with facts, not fear mongering, and let’s come from a place of compromise, not defensive rhetoric. That’s what’s best for Vermonters and our wonderful wildlife that everyone enjoys. Equal educated representation! 

Bev Soychak

Monkton 

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