Five years after Born Free USA’s shocking undercover investigation Victims of Vanity, which exposed the vicious truth about the U.S. trapping industry, the wildlife conservation and animal welfare organization announced today the release of Victims of Vanity II. The latest Born Free USA undercover operation began in August 2015 at the Annual National Trappers Association (NTA) Convention, held in Hamburg, New York and continued throughout the 2015-2016 winter trapping season in Adirondack Park in upstate New York and in rural southwest Iowa. The report reveals trappers setting cruel, indiscriminate, and sometimes illegal traps not only on private and public land, but also in local and state parks: land ostensibly set aside for the protection of wildlife.

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, “Our investigator witnessed callous disregard for wildlife, public safety, and the law. This detailed report shows illegal steel-jaw leghold bear traps for sale; the use of Conibear, leghold, and drown-pole traps in the six-million-acre national historic landmark, Adirondack Park; and traps set next to homes, and a trap line for beaver in a park where trapping is prohibited. The footage we obtained is heartbreaking, and the fact that this archaic, barbaric practice is still going on is impossible to comprehend.”

“This investigation reaffirms our commitment to ending this vicious, bloody ‘tradition,’” Roberts added. “Born Free USA will continue efforts to ban all traps from federally protected lands. We are pushing for passage of the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act, which would ban snares, leghold traps, and Conibear body-grip traps within the 150-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System. We also urge Congress to support and pass the Public Safety and Wildlife Protection Act, which bans the interstate commerce of leghold and body-grip traps—the two traps most often used in the U.S. today.”

Victims of Vanity II investigation findings include:

National Trappers Association Annual Convention

  • The selling of steel-jaw leghold bear traps, which are not legal for ‘sport’ trapping in the lower 48 states, and are generally not an accepted or widely-used method for wildlife control.
  • Skinning demonstrations with piles of dead animals strewn on the floor and over the tops of coolers, skinned in front of a live audience, and their carcasses tossed into garbage bags.

New York’s Adirondack Park

  • The trapper took Born Free USA’s investigator to a place he called “a great killing area.” After dismantling a beaver dam—which is illegal to do in New York—the trapper blocked the only entrance to the dam with a row of Conibear traps, condemning the beaver to death when he returned to repair the dam and secure his home.
  • Illegal trapping, including setting large, dangerous Conibear traps on land: something the trapper knew was illegal and asked the Born Free USA investigator not to film. (Born Free USA still obtained footage.)
  • The trapper used a torturous drown pole trap: a leghold trap attached to a pole with a drowning lock. The trap is set in water along a river bank. When the animal is trapped and struggles to swim away, the pole drags him or her to the bottom of the river and slowly drowns him or her—a process that can take up to 20 minutes of a slow and painful death.

Page County, Iowa:

  • Under Iowa state regulation, trapping is included in the definition of hunting. The trapper showed Born Free USA’s undercover investigator three beavers he had trapped in Rapp Park and Recreation Area—a 100-acre park north of Shenandoah, Iowa where hunting, and therefore trapping, is explicitly prohibited.
  • The trapper caught two coyotes using unpadded leghold traps. The anxious, exhausted coyotes were subjected to further vicious treatment from the trapper, who kicked the first coyote and laughed at the second coyote who, stumbling with fatigue, refused to give up struggling. In an effort to spare only the pelt, the trapper—who refused to be filmed at this point—shot both coyotes in the lungs, forcing them to die slowly and painfully as their lungs filled with blood, suffocating them. 
  • The trapper told Born Free USA’s undercover investigator that trapped coyotes are regularly kept alive and sold for blood sport. After already enduring the pain, stress, and injury of being trapped, a coyote is put into an enclosure with dogs and condemned to a horrific, violent death—all to the cheers of excited onlookers who make bets on the outcome.

To view the complete undercover investigation report, Victims of Vanity II, click here.

Roberts adds, “While graphic and extremely disturbing, the report, images, and videos we collected reveal the inherent cruelty of common, everyday trapping practices.” The public can help put an end to this cruel industry by stopping the demand for fur. Born Free USA asks that people never purchase real fur or shop at stores that sell fur. Instead, support the more than 400 retailers that have committed to a no-fur policy by joining the Fur Free Retailer program. Additionally, we urge everyone to write their members of Congress urging an end to cruel trapping in America.

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