Ruling bears no relevance | AspenTimes.com

Ruling bears no relevance

OK, let’s see if we’ve got this straight:

A Minnesota man comes to the Roaring Fork Valley, baits and kills a black bear before the beginning of hunting season. He pleads guilty to three misdemeanors in connection with the killing, but very well can’t perform any meaningful community service from Minnesota.

So, in lieu of community service, the judge orders him to pay $500 to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

That’s right, PETA.

The organization behind huge advertising campaigns that rage against fur coats, factory farms, laboratory animal-testing and the abuses suffered by circus animals. We have PETA to thank for the campaign that featured superbabes like Kim Basinger and Pamela Anderson telling consumers that “I’d rather go naked than wear fur.”

We aren’t taking issue with PETA here; they stick up for abused critters, and that’s fine. But they don’t do anything for wild black bears, and sending money to PETA is a complete waste of a fine “in lieu of community service.”

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Judge Chuck Buss, a retired Mesa County judge who was pinch-hitting for District Judge James Boyd, clearly failed to think the man’s sentence through. The name People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals must have sounded like a worthy recipient of the money from hunter Craig Miller, who also lost five years of hunting privileges. He apologized for his actions.

But the Roaring Fork Valley has a well-documented bear problem, and this $500 could have been used for any number of worthy local endeavors. It could have bought $500 worth of bearproof garbage cans, or could have helped educate a lot of locals and second-home owners about the need to secure their garbage. This money could have been used to preserve land for wild bears, or sustain a shelter that cares for orphaned cubs.

PETA, based in Norfolk, Va., has nothing to do with Aspen. The last time the organization figured in local affairs was in 2005, when it spoke up against the treatment of sled dogs at Krabloonik kennels in Snowmass Village. As we recall, the group also sent us some angry letters after we published an article about rising sales of fur coats in Aspen.

But PETA is far too busy saving laboratory rats and dairy cows to worry about wild bears. Maybe they’ll have the courtesy to rectify Buss’ mistake and redirect the $500 to a more appropriate recipient.

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