PETA Calls for Cruelty-to-Animals Charges Against Hunter Who Started Rim Fire

Hunter’s Illegal Fire Took Millions of Animals’ Lives, Says Group

For Immediate Release:
September 10, 2013

David Perle 202-483-7382

Sacramento, Calif. — In the wake of reports that the Rim Fire—the third-largest wildfire ever to strike California—was started by a hunter, PETA is calling on the Tuolumne County district attorney and the California attorney general to investigate and, if appropriate, file cruelty-to-animals charges against the perpetrator. As PETA points out in its letter, millions of animals, including birds, foxes, mice, deer, squirrels, coyotes, bears, and even cows and horses, were killed by the fire, and each death could constitute a charge of cruelty-to-animals under state law.

“Two of the three biggest wildfires in California’s history were started by hunters, and their carelessness has cost the state millions of dollars and millions of animals’ lives,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling on Tuolumne County to send a strong message that these deadly—and illegal—fires mean life and death and cannot go unpunished.”

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PETA’s letter to Tuolumne County District Attorney Michael Knowles and California Attorney General Kamala Harris follows.

September 10, 2013

Michael Knowles
District Attorney
Tuolumne County

Dear Mr. Knowles:

I am writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our more than 3 million members and supporters worldwide—including thousands across California—in regard to the recent revelation that the Rim Fire, which has burned nearly 400 square miles, was caused by a hunter’s illegal campfire. In light of the immense suffering that this person has caused, I urge you to prosecute the perpetrator under the state’s cruelty-to-animals statute in addition to other charges related to this incident. That is only fair and would reflect people’s respect for America’s wildlife.

Section 597(b) of the California Penal Code states that “every person who causes or procures any animal to be… tortured, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter … or cruelly killed … is, for every such offense, guilty of a crime.” We believe that the hunter who started the Rim Fire is in violation of this statute, as there have been reports of dozens of cattle who were killed by the flames, and the habitats and food sources of many local species, including some protected animals, have been devastated, leaving those who survived the fire with little chance of survival. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, mammals large and small are susceptible to dying in wildfires, and mortality rates are highest when fires are wide and fast-moving as well as accompanied by thick ground smoke—all characteristics of the Rim Fire.

Hunting is cruel and unnecessary and also breeds insensitivity toward the suffering of others who happen not to be human. In fact, this is not the first time that an irresponsible hunter has caused massive destruction to California’s forests and immeasurable devastation to native wildlife. In 2003, a novice deer hunter set a signal fire after getting lost and, by so doing, sparked the largest wildfire in state history, which scorched nearly 430 square miles and consumed more than 2,200 homes. I hope you will take this opportunity to send a clear message that cruel and reckless behavior by people who choose to maim and kill animals for fun will not be tolerated in California. Please prosecute the person responsible for this devastating fire and all the loss of life it has caused to sentient animals, including by filing cruelty-to-animals charges.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid E. Newkirk

cc:        California Attorney General Kamala Harris; [email protected]

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind