Arkansas Sportsman

Monkey business, surveys stir up commissioners

Since March, a curious dustup has occurred among members of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission over an outfit called Survey Monkey.

The Game and Commission has used Survey Monkey to conduct online surveys to gather public opinion about proposed hunting and fishing regulations and other topics.

At the commission's March meeting, commissioner Emon Mahony said that Survey Monkey contributes large sums of money to the Humane Society of the United States, an aggressive and successful anti-hunting organization. Mahony said that Survey Monkey donates a portion of its fee from every online survey that sportsmen conduct to the HSUS. In this way Arkansas sportsmen unwittingly contribute to an organization that is dedicated to eliminating sport hunting.

According to Survey Monkey's Web site, the company has raised nearly $1.6 million for HSUS through about 482,000 contributors. Survey Monkey's "charities" page invites donors to "Help Humane Society of the U.S. by taking surveys."

Mahony said the commission shouldn't do business with a company whose activities conflict with the AGFC's mission and threaten the interests of the AGFC's constituents.

Most of the other commissioners dismissed Mahony's concerns by saying they contribute to their local humane societies, and that they applaud the good works of their local animal shelters. Members of the AGFC's staff assured Mahony that Survey Monkey is prohibited from donating money from the commission's surveys to HSUS.

Astonished, Mahony argued that there is no connection between the HSUS and local animal shelters, and it wouldn't matter to Arkansas hunters whether their money went to the HSUS or not. Mahony brought it up again at the commission's April meeting and got an equally dismissive response. Several members said the commission doesn't have the time or resources to analyze every company or individual with whom it does business.

HSUS fundraising powers are formidable. According to a recent article in Outdoor Life, HSUS has vast financial resources to wage legal and public relations battles to ban hunting bears with hounds in Maine, to ban wolf hunting in Michigan, to ban mountain lion hunting in California, and to ban lead hunting ammunition. It has also worked to defeat public initiatives to open dove hunting in Michigan, Iowa and elsewhere.

According to the Outdoor Life article, HSUS reported $195 million in net assets to the Internal Revenue Service in 2012, including $178 million invested in publicly traded securities. HSUS can quickly convert these assets to cash when needed.

The article added, "HSUS capitalizes on its ability to suck up dollars from animal lovers who think they are donating to local pet shelters, and it pours those donations into anti-hunting crusades."

No doubt the HSUS has long benefited from its mistaken identity with the spay-and-neuter people, and others have likewise suffered. Last summer, for example, the Muck Boot Company posted on its Facebook page that it had raised $2,000 for the Humane Society of the United States. Muck's main customers -- hunters, farmers and ranchers -- were infuriated.

The Facebook post was wrong. The company actually had donated the money to a local animal shelter, but by the time the correction was issued, the company was fighting a crown fire.

Radio host Rush Limbaugh cut two public service ads against animal cruelty for HSUS in 2008. Some of the most right-weighted people I know refuse to listen to his program because of it.

Granted, the HSUS has been successful in states whose wildlife management departments are subordinate to their respective legislatures. In states like Michigan and Maine, HSUS has battled hunters and state wildlife management agencies in court and at the ballot box.

Amendment 35 to the Arkansas Constitution largely shields the AGFC from HSUS-funded litigation and ballot initiatives that have derailed hunting activities in other states. However, anti-hunters followed the HSUS blueprint in 2011 to demonize hunters and intimidate the City of North Little Rock into canceling a controlled goose hunt at Burns Park.

Amendment 88 of the Arkansas Constitution, passed by nearly 83 percent of voters in 2010, names public hunting as a preferred means for managing wildlife. Mahony said that Arkansas hunters would disapprove of the AGFC contributing to the HSUS, even indirectly, through its association with businesses like Survey Monkey. He proposed a motion to discontinue the AGFC's association with Survey Monkey, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Mahony said later that the AGFC's administration assured him privately that the matter was no longer an issue.

Presumably, he said, the commission will find another vendor to do its surveys.


Sports on 04/26/2015