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I received very little money from my parents while growing up and used steel traps to catch animals to earn a little money, never dwelling on the horrible pain and suffering the traps did to animals caught in them. I'd get up at 4 or 5 a.m. to run the trap line before school; any animal still alive was either drowned or finished off with a blow to the head.

Since I saw farm animals slaughtered every day, I was indifferent to their suffering and deaths. A butcher knife dispatched chickens for dinner. Friendly ducks and geese who had trusted me and followed me about the farmyard eventually met the same end.

Yet, somehow there was a disconnect between me, my pets and the animals I killed, as though they hadn't had the emotions, the feelings or thoughts I had. I was never admonished to be kind or considerate to animals.

It's been 65 years since the morning I found a broad-striped skunk caught by my trap. It had snapped shut on her last good paw. She had been hobbling around on three stumps, all nicely healed, if one can describe them so, and her sole forepaw. Animals, you see, will chew or twist their paws off to escape. I had lost many traps by animals who desperately pulled trap stakes to escape. Some I later found dead, some hanging by their entangled traps and chain high up in a tree where they had died.

The cold indifference trappers still display today, as do the so-called "sportsmen" who hunt these creatures of God is deplorable.

I've regretted to this day having been so cruel - having tormented and destroyed those animals so long ago. But I can never undo that. Not ever.

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We shouldn't allow steel traps anywhere in the wild.

Leonard Stastny, Missoula

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