Scientology Crime Syndicate

Published Tuesday, July 18, 2000, in the Miami Herald

Canned Hunts Draw Fire

Brady Ranch, which calls itself a "trophy hunter's paradise," could jolt the sensibilities on a normal weekend, when less than great white hunters "stalk" -- skulk might be a better word -- unwild animals within a fenced enclosure.

It's one sorry safari.

But last weekend the "canned hunt" descended to another level. Seven children with disabilities, some in wheelchairs, were brought to the game ranch in the scrubby western reaches of Martin County on Saturday to blast away at trapped exotic Asian deer and "enjoy God's great outdoors."

The kids were trucked to the sure-kill ranch by an evangelical group from Georgia, the Special Youth Challenge Ministries. "We use the hunting as bait to tell these kids about Jesus Christ and what he has done,"

organizer Charles Walthour told the Palm Beach Post.

Walthour dismissed those who failed to grasp the relationship between evangelical Christian philosophy and killing fenced-in deer as "people who have not been raised hunting and fishing or on a farm or in a church, and they just don't understand."

The lack of understanding was particularly evident Saturday. A couple dozen demonstrators from the Pembroke Pines-based Animal Rights Foundation of Florida protested outside the game ranch.

"We're going to fight canned hunts until they're gone," said Brett Wyker. Among the protesters were a rabbi and a child psychologist, who was bothered by the notion of teaching kids about guns as much as the unseemly hunting charade.

But the loathing of canned hunts transcends both the animal rights crowd and anti-gun activists. Folks who find nothing wrong with hunting through an actual wilderness for game -- wild game, anyway -- find these canned nonhunts ghastly antitheses of America's sporting tradition.

A half-dozen states have outlawed or severely restricted canned hunts. Even Texas, where it's barely against the law to hunt down your neighbor, has passed legislation aimed at shutting down game ranches that specialize in the killing of aged, tame or retired circus and zoo animals.

You can no longer gun down Dumbo in the Lone Star State.

And residents in Montana, led by actual, as opposed to pretend, hunters, are pushing a referendum to outlaw game ranches. Their cause has been helped by cattle ranchers who have been alarmed by reports of mad-cow disease showing up in privately owned elk herds, maintained for mere bloodsport.

Legislation has been stymied, however, in Florida, where Wyker believes at least five game ranches entertain paying "hunters."

Judging by the prices, canned hunt operations must be lucrative. The Brady Ranch, outside Indiantown, charges hunters $100 to kill a "meat hog," $350 to shoot a "trophy boar" and from $740 to $6,000 to kill various sheep and deer from "one of the largest herds of axis deer in North America."

Axis deer are found in Sri Lanka when they're not raised to satisfy Freudian fantasies in Central Florida.

"The hunts are conducted by Frank Brady Jr., who knows the animals and the property like the back of his hand," the ranch brochure boasts. In such an intimate setting, Frank Jr. might know all the animals by their first names.

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