Severe warning on this video: Wolves are shown dead and being killed. Do not watch it if you are sensitive to seeing animals being killed.
Ashley Judd stars in a new video for the Defenders Action Fund, in which she speaks out against the brutal practice of “aerial killing” advocated by Alaskan governor and former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Aerial killing is a practice in which private citizens are issued permits to shoot wolves and even bears from planes and helicopters, with the justification that they’re controlling the predator wolf population and helping save the elk, moose, and caribou that wolves feed on. Animal rights advocates say that the elk, moose and caribou numbers are underestimated and that it is cruel and unnecessary to kill wild animals like this.
Judd’s video is understandably sensational. This story in Salon is a little more measured account of the controversy over aerial killing:
The controversy over Palin’s promotion of predator control goes beyond animal rights activists recoiling at the thought of picking off wolves from airplanes. A raft of scientists has argued that Palin has provided little evidence that the current program of systematically killing wolves, estimated at a population of 7,000 to 11,000, will result in more moose for hunters. State estimates of moose populations have come under scrutiny. Some wildlife biologists say predator control advocates don’t even understand what wolves eat.
it is not hard to find Alaskans who say Palin’s enthusiasm for predator control fits a broader narrative of how she edits science to suit her personal views. She endorses the teaching of creationism in public schools and has questioned whether humans are responsible for global warming.
In 2007, she approved $400,000 to educate the public about the ecological success of shooting wolves and bears from the air. Some of the money went to create a pamphlet distributed in local newspapers, three weeks before the public was to vote on an initiative that would have curtailed aerial killing of wolves by private citizens. “The timing of the state’s propaganda on wolf control was terrible,” wrote the Anchorage Daily News on its editorial page.
“Across the board, Sarah Palin puts on a masquerade, claiming she is using sound management and science,” says Nick Jans, an Alaskan writer who co-sponsored the initiative. “In reality she uses ideology and ignores science when it is in her way.” The initiative was defeated last month.
Gordon Haber is a wildlife scientist who has studied wolves in Alaska for 43 years. “On wildlife-related issues, whether it is polar bears or predator controls, she has shown no inclination to be objective,” he says of Palin. “I cannot find credible scientific data to support their arguments,” he adds about the state’s rationale for gunning down wolves. “In most cases, there is evidence to the contrary.”
Last year, 172 scientists signed a letter to Palin, expressing concern about the lack of science behind the state’s wolf-killing operation. According to the scientists, state officials set population objectives for moose and caribou based on “unattainable, unsustainable historically high populations.” As a result, the “inadequately designed predator control programs” threatened the long-term health of both the ungulate and wolf populations. The scientists concluded with a plea to Palin to consider the conservation of wolves and bears “on an equal basis with the goal of producing more ungulates for hunters.”
Apparently Palin wasn’t fazed. Earlier this year she introduced state legislation that would further divorce the predator-control program from science. The legislation would transfer authority over the program from the state Department of Fish and Game to Alaska’s Board of Game, whose members are appointed by, well, Palin. Even some hunters were astounded by her power play.
The legislation would give Palin’s board “more leeway without any scientific input to do whatever the hell they basically wanted,” Mark Richards, co-chair of Alaska Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, wrote in an e-mail. The legislation is currently stalled in the Alaska state Senate.
The Defenders Action Fund has launched EyeOnPalin.com, a website to focus on Palin’s voting record and what they call her “extreme anti-conservation agenda.” Now that Palin is out of the spotlight, they want to continue to highlight the way she’s hurting Alaska’s wildlife with her policies.
This is not the first time vegetarian Judd has spoken out against Palin. Last September, she said that “A woman voting for McCain and Palin is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders” due to McCain’s poor voting recording in the Senate on reproductive rights.