Several animal rights groups criticized Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe on Tuesday for a fundraiser he held earlier this month in his home state of Oklahoma in which live pigeons were thrown into the air for participants to shoot out of the sky.
Illinois-based Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, released video that shows dozens of pigeons being killed by shotgun-wielding participants, including Inhofe, at the Sept. 5 event in Lone Wolf in southwest Oklahoma.
"Hunting is not supposed to be wanton slaughter," said Steve Hindi, the founder and president of SHARK, which is dedicated to ending the practice. "This is the antithesis of hunting. Every hunter, and every gun owner for that matter, should be infuriated by this."
Capt. Tony Woodruff of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's law enforcement division says live pigeon shoots, while not common, are legal in Oklahoma on private property.
"Pigeons are one of the animals that are not really protected by federal law since they're non-migratory," Woodruff said. "We're pretty liberal on our laws. We let people do quite a bit here."
Inhofe campaign spokesman Rusty Appleton confirmed that Inhofe did participate in the live pigeon shoot Sept. 5 at the Quartz Mountain Lodge in Lone Wolf.
"Sen. Inhofe agrees with the (National Rifle Association) that this is a long-standing traditional shooting sport," Appleton said.
Inhofe, 79, who is seeking his fourth term in the U.S. Senate, was not available for comment.
In a brief statement to The Associated Press, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam described live pigeon shoots as a "traditional shooting sport" with many participants in the United States and other countries.
But animal rights groups such as People for Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States condemn the practice.
"We were shocked by the carnage that was shown on the video," said John Goodwin, a spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States. "We truly believe live pigeon shoots are cruel and unnecessary. We were surprised that (Inhofe) engaged in this kind of conduct and hope that he never does so again."
Inhofe's Democratic opponent in the November election, Matt Silverstein of Bixby, said he supports the Second Amendment and the right of Oklahomans to hunt, but that the pigeon shoot didn't appear to be hunting.
"That was more like shooting fish in a barrel," Silverstein said. "Personally for me, I enjoy hunting, but I don't think I would have enjoyed that."
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