CLEWISTON, Fla. --- John Jones and Tom Smith were arrested on Lake Okeechobee Friday. Their boat was impounded and their children placed in foster care.
Jack McCoy, a court-appointed attorney for fish found in the livewell, said that he intends to prosecute both to the full extent of the law, under the new federal Animal Protection Act. "Fish have rights, legal rights, and we intend to make an example of these two for the cruel and inhumane way that they were behaving," McCoy said.
"Their fishing tackle, which is now illegal to possess, will be burned. We hope that our actions will send a message nationwide that fishing not only is cruel, but those who participate will suffer the consequences of their barbaric actions."
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Think that can't happen here? Think again.
As anglers, we share this planet with a growing number of people who are divorced from nature and, as a consequence, reality. In addition, they are relentless in pursuit of what they believe is a kinder, gentler, and more enlightened world.
Our side, meanwhile, is populated by millions who just want to be left alone to fish; to idle into a flat cove at dawn, certain that a trophy lies waiting to explode on a topwater; to introduce their children to a peaceful and contemplative pastime that has been passed down from generation to generation; to feel the adrenaline surge as they step up to the weigh-in stand with a heavy bag.
They have no interest in the "issues" that sadly have become so much a part of recreational angling. In fact, a substantial number of subscribers to B.A.S.S. Times likely won't even bother to read this column. Instead, they'll focus on the techniques articles and tournament news, ignoring this topic in much the same way the grasshopper in an Aesop's fable continued to play instead of storing food as winter approached, and, as a result, found itself dying of hunger.
A bill that could lead to a scenario described above already has been introduced in the Canada Parliament. It follows in the wake of similar seemingly surreal, but all too real, legislation in European countries, where sport fishing as we know it no longer exists. And should such a bill ever become law in Canada, its proponents quickly would focus their collective efforts on the United States.
Keep Canada Fishing says this about the Modernizing Animal Protections Act: "Provisions in Bill C-246 clearly make it possible for someone who catches a fish to face criminal prosecution for cruelty to animals. Even the act of baiting a hook with a worm would be considered an act of cruelty according to the bill."
Ostensibly, the bill addresses the deplorable practice of catching and killing sharks for their fins to be sold in Asian food markets. It would prevent the import of fins and prevent finning in Canadian waters.
But a long-time observer of the animal rights movement in Canada and the United States says that's camouflage.
"Bills like this are brought forward under the pretense of protecting puppies and cats, or, in this case, preventing shark finning. These are things any reasonable people would oppose," says Phil Morlock, government affairs chair of the Canada Sportfishing Industry and director of environmental affairs for Shimano.
"But the devil is in the details. If this was only about shark finning, it would say that. But it goes far beyond that."
For example, it would mandate that anyone who kills an animal "brutally" or "viciously" is guilty of an offense, "regardless of whether the animal dies immediately." But it doesn't define those terms.
"For years, animal rights people have tried to portray fishing, hunting and trapping as brutal and vicious," says Morlock, who adds that, if an angler or hunter is charged under this bill, "you never know what a court will decide. Someone could face jail time for taking a fish home or shooting a duck."
Additionally, C-246 would move animals from the "certain property" classification to the Criminal Code dealing with offenses against persons. And there lies the ultimate agenda of the radical animal rights movement.
While they purport to advocate for animal welfare, they really are about giving legal rights to animals, an action that would threaten not only recreational angling and hunting, but commercial fishing, agriculture, and medical research. In other words, they want court-appointed attorneys for bass to prosecute those millions and millions of us who now fish for them.
Whether we live in Canada or the United States, it's time for anglers to accept this new reality, that many people out there don't want us to fish, and they are not going to stop trying to make their dream our nightmarish reality. Occasionally, we must be willing to put our rods down to use the political process to oppose them. Otherwise, they will be taken from us.
(This column appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)