SMITHVILLE, Tennessee––The DeKalb County Young Farmers & Ranchers annual frog-gigging contest, arguably the most bizarre of the hundreds of wildlife killing contests held in the U.S. each year, has elicited one of the most bizarre defenses of the mayhem, as well.
Frog-gigging consists of spotting frogs at night with a flashlight, then spearing them with instruments which may include gardening tridents, fireplace pokers, barbeque forks, and pitchforks.
Commenced in July 2013 to raise funds for an “agricultural” scholarship, the DeKalb County Young Farmers & Ranchers frog-gigging contest rewards the contestants who bring back the most weight in dead frogs, with a bag limit of 20. The third annual contest is to be held at an as yet undisclosed location in July 2015.
Backward even by Appalachian standards
This passes for entertainment in a remote Appalachian county with a high school graduation rate 13% below the U.S. national average, per capita income of 25% below the U.S. national average, and only 20,000 human residents, of whom about 100 actually participate in the frog-gigging contest.
Coming to the notice of the outside world via USA Today, the frog-gigging contest has drawn opposition from PETA, Nashville Animal Advocacy, and Friends of Animals, among other animal advocacy organizations. Friends of Animals has offered a $500 donation to the Young Farmers & Ranchers scholarship fund “if the students cancel the horrific contest,” said an FoA media release. “Another non-profit, Running for Rescues, has also offered $500 to a student who donates 20 hours of their time to a certified, local animal-oriented non-profit in the community if the event is cancelled,” the FoA media release added.
Pettus L. Read
But the Young Farmers & Ranchers found a defender in Pettus L. Read, 66, the recently retired longtime editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News, a weekly columnist for the State Gazette, and self-styled local humorist.
Read did not sound as if he was joking when he extensively praised the frog-giggers for resisting outside pressure to join the civilized world. Concluded Read, “If they had been around a few years back, our grandchildren might still be saying the pledge and praying in school.”
Praising “the harvesting of a product served on the tables of Nashville’s very own finest restaurants,” Read also did not sound as if he had read either Leviticus 11:3–8 or Deuteronomy 14:3–21, both of which forbid eating frogs.
Strange arguments for killing contests also surfaced recently in Florida, where the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plans to revive a month-long Python Challenge that in early 2013 encouraged about 1,600 participants to kill 68 of the estimated 300,000 pythons at large in the Everglades. The next Python Challenge is tentatively scheduled for early 2016.
Recent U.S. Geological Survey research, published in April 2015 by the journal Animal Biotelemetry, established that feral Burmese pythons in Florida behave much like wild Burmese pythons in Southeast Asia. The pythons most likely to disperse from safe, swampy home ranges are young males. The females meanwhile lay clutches of anywhere from eight to more than 100 eggs apiece, meaning that hunting relatively small numbers of males has little value in reducing the python population.
“It’s not our job & not doable”
Another odd argument for a killing contest was apparently persuasive to the Nevada Wildlife Commission, which on March 20, 2015 voted 7-1 to reject a petition to ban coyote killing contests.
Wrote Jeff DeLong of the Reno Gazette-Journal, “Commissioner Bill Young, former sheriff of Clark County, compared the issue to controversy surrounding his call in 2006 to ban casino rap music performances that he said promoted violence in Las Vegas. ‘You’re wasting your time when you try to regulate a social activity,’ Young said. ‘It’s not our job and it’s not doable.’”
In reality almost the entire spectrum of public social activity is regulated; the oldest known legal codes, including Leviticus and Deuteronomy, regulate both social and economic behavior.
Legislation to stop coyote killing contests cleared the New Mexico state senate in February 2015, 27-13, but was killed two weeks later by an 8-2 vote of the state House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committtee.
The California Fish & Game Commission, however, on December 3, 2014 voted 4-1 to ban killing contests.
“The vote marks the first prohibition in the country against the practice of giving out prizes for gunning down coyotes and other predators,” reported San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Peter Fimrite, “which wildlife advocates say happens almost every month in California and nearby states. The ruling makes it illegal to offer a prize, inducement or reward for killing predators, including coyotes, foxes and bobcats.”
Agreed Project Coyote executive director Camilla Fox, “This ruling sets a trend for the nation. Our hope is that other states will follow suit and ban wildlife killing contests. Such barbaric cruelty should not be accepted or tolerated in the 21st century or in a nation that has banned such practices as dogfighting and cockfighting.”