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For Immediate Release: 03/15/11

Born Free USA Releases Details of Trapping Investigation

Unprecedented Video and Photographs Show Brutality and Illegal Practices by U.S. Trappers, Including Images of Trapped Animals in New Mexico

Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, has released information about a groundbreaking undercover investigation (www.bornfreeusa.org/victimsofvanity) inside the world of recreational and professional wildlife trapping. This is the first known undercover investigation of trapping in the United States and includes shocking images of bobcats and mountain lions cubs caught in New Mexico traps.

The investigation was brought to the attention of Mary Katherine Ray, volunteer wildlife chair and an outings leader of The Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, who said, “Most trapping takes place out of view and the traps are hidden with no warnings. The photos obtained by Born Free USA during their investigation were taken in New Mexico and are hard to look at, especially when so many of us here cherish even catching a glimpse of a bobcat, mountain lion or fox in the wild. These photos are devastating. But the public needs to see them and the ugly truth must be told. These animals deserve better from us than to look away. We are grateful to Born Free USA for helping expose the truth here in New Mexico and around the United States.”

Furthermore, Ray explained, this is a matter of public safety. “As pelt prices have escalated, and more traps are being set, there has been an increase in non-targeted victims being caught. It is a public safety issue. I have seen wildlife injured and killed by the powerful grip of a trap. Dogs and people have been harmed too.”

Born Free USA’s investigation also captured video footage in Pennsylvania, revealing shocking cruelty and brutality including: the prolonged drowning of a raccoon by a trapper with a stick; the chest-crushing suffocating of foxes; the capture and killing of non-targeted animals such as a domestic cat; and the use of illegal snare traps. (Editor’s note: Video b-roll, interview sound bites and photographs are available at www.bornfreeusa.org/c3_trapping_investigation.php.)

According to Adam Roberts, Born Free USA’s executive vice president, “Born Free USA launched this investigation to shed light on a horrific, highly unregulated, inhumane and dangerous industry. Commercial fur trapping dates back to the early 1600s and has hardly changed. It remains barbaric and many people are not even aware that this is going on in most of the U.S.

“More than 80 countries have banned the leghold trap, which is still legal here,” Roberts continues. “Our aim is to educate the public, policymakers and the fashion industry, and put pressure on state agencies for more regulations. In most states wild animals are allowed to be trapped for commercialized fur use and recreation. People value wildlife and the humane treatment of animals and will be sickened to see them suffering mercilessly in body crushing traps or strangulation snares, or under the weight of a trapper’s boot.”

Traps are prohibited or severely restricted in many states, including neighboring Colorado and Arizona. In Arizona, they are illegal on public land and Ray believes at a minimum that should be the case in New Mexico. At the urging of Ray and representatives from other groups such as WildEarth Guardians and Animal Protection of New Mexico, the state Game Commission agreed to review state trapping rules. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is accepting comments at nmdept.ofgameandfish@state.nm.us.

“Methods used to kill trapped animals would violate anti-cruelty laws in most states if inflicted intentionally upon domestic cats or dogs,” says wildlife biologist Monica Engebretson, a senior program associate at Born Free USA. “This investigation demonstrates that despite years of research, there are no significant advances in reducing collateral damage — the non-targeted animals captured in traps set for other species.”

Most states, including New Mexico, do not require trappers to report non-targeted animals who are trapped or killed. Born Free USA estimates that one in three victims trapped are non-targeted animals — often family cats and dogs. The organization receives numerous calls from families who have seen their pet suffer in the jaws of a trap in their neighborhood. The organization has an online database of non-target incidents at www.bornfreeusa.org/database.

Born Free USA works to expose the truth and eliminate cruel traps by encouraging policymakers to enact stronger laws, ensuring state agencies are enforcing existing protections, and championing humane alternatives of mitigating conflicts with wildlife.

Born Free USA (BFUSA) is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, BFUSA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and destructive international wildlife trade. BFUSA’s Primate Sanctuary in Texas is home to more than 500 primates rescued from laboratories, roadside zoos and private possession. BFUSA brings to America the message of “compassionate conservation,” the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will, now CEO of both organizations. BFUSA’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

More at www.bornfreeusa.org; on twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

Media Contact: Rodi Rosensweig, (203) 270-8929; rodicompany@earthlink.net.

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