Wildlife Killing Contests: Sadism Towards Any Species Is Not Acceptable

By John Di Leonardo 

The New York State legislature recently passed a bill that will end wildlife killing contests, in which participants compete to kill the most, the heaviest and the smallest animals for cash and prizes. As I read about this bill, I couldn’t help but imagine what kind of monster takes pleasure in killing innocent creatures and bringing home a trophy for being the most violent killer of all. Then I began reading articles about how Rex Heuermann, the accused Long Island serial killer who was arrested in Midtown Manhattan last month, didn’t just hunt women but used his arsenal of more than 200 guns to hunt ducks, deer, bears, and any other animals he could set his sights on.   

Mary Shell, who worked with the suspect for several years, told the New York Post about how Hauermann “gushed about his bear-hunting trips in particular: baiting an area and lying in wait … More than once, [she said] he gleefully described the process of dressing the game [a euphemism for butchering an animal].” A former NYPD inspector also told Fox News how duck hunting could have been the perfect cover for hiding the bodies of his victims, found only a short boat ride from Hauermann’s home. Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney has also commented that the victims were wrapped in a camouflage burlap that is consistent with the kind used in duck blinds and was “obviously” intended to conceal the bodies.  

The Gilgo Beach serial killings were a series of killings between 1996 and 2011 in which the remains of up to two dozen people were found in Gilgo Beach on Long Island. Most of the known victims were sex workers who advertised on Craigslist. The remains of four victims designated “The Gilgo Four” were found within a quarter of a mile of each other near Gilgo Beach in December 2010. Rex Heuermann, a resident of Massapequa Park, has been charged with the murders of three of “the Gilgo Four” victims: Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy, and Amber Costello. He has also been named the prime suspect in the murder of the fourth: Maureen Brainard-Barnes.  

Acharya Tulsi Ji

But Rex Hauermann is far from the first accused serial killer who apparently got his start stalking animals. The link between animal abuse and violence toward other people is undeniable, and has been well-documented by medical experts, police officials and the FBI. One convicted killer, Robert Hansen, even went as far as hunting many of his victims (also sex workers) in the Alaskan wilderness with a gun and a knife.  

Jain Sutras have documented it even longer:  

All living beings desire happiness and have revulsion from pain and suffering. They are fond of life, they love to live, long to live…Hence no living being should be hurt, injured, or killed…All things breathing, all things existing, all things living, all things whatsoever, should not be slain, or treated with violence, or insulted, or tortured, or driven away…[Anyone] who hurts living beings…, or gets them hurt by others, or approves of hurt caused by others, augments the world’s hostility towards [themselves].    

As Suffolk County investigators continue to search for “trophies” amongst the evidence collected at Rex Hauermann’s home, I urge you to make a small vow, or Anuvrat, to help stop others from ever escalating to hunting “the most dangerous game.”  

Vow never to hunt any animal and contact New York State Governor Kathy Hochul to urge her to sign A.2917/S.4099 into law. New York must send a clear message that sadism toward any species is not acceptable by banning the next most extreme form of trophy hunting: wildlife killing contests.  


John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Humane Long Island. He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].

Images courtesy of pelican.com and Provided

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