Animal Rights

Like Shooting Sheep From a Helicopter

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Federal prosecutors are mulling felony charges against Houston billionaire Dan Duncan after he freely admitted to shooting a moose and a sheep from a helicopter during a 2002 hunting trip to Siberia. Duncan says he did not realize shooting game from helicopters is illegal in Russia, relying on his local hunting guide to inform him of any relevant laws or regulations. Duncan's attorney, Rusty Hardin, notes that the guide is now a top official in the Russian agency that issues hunting licenses. Although Russian officials have raised no objection to Duncan's hunting trip, U.S. prosecutors are thinking about charging him under the Lacey Act, which is aimed at trafficking in rare plants and animals. Duncan says neither of the animals he shot was rare. "What the hell is the U.S.' interest in bringing felony charges here for hunting on Russian soil, where not one single person has complained?" Hardin asked in an interview with the Houston Chronicle. "Is this really the best use of our prosecutorial resources?"

[Thanks to Roy Reynolds for the tip.]

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  1. Why are they spending precious time on this that they could be using to prosecute doctors and professional athletes?

    Priorities, man!

  2. Up next: urine tests and possession charges for people coming back from Amsterdam. (or are they doing that already?)

  3. They should legalizing the hunting of Federal prosecutors from helicopters to help keep the population down.

  4. Great Viva!, Just great….now I have nothing to contribute to the discussion!

  5. Did he shoot any water buffalo? Any VC? Any well-disciplined VC?

  6. fish,

    Don’t worry; maybe the vegan fundies will stop by. Keep your chin up, lil trooper!

  7. de stijl,

    “YOU JUST DON’T LEAD ‘EM SO MUCH!”

  8. I was reading in Cigar Aficionado that you can be prosecuted for breaking American laws on foreign soil. They were talking about Cuban cigars, but I assume that it could pot or hunting too.

  9. “What the hell is the U.S.’ interest in bringing felony charges here for hunting on Russian soil, where not one single person has complained?”

    Is this a serious question?

  10. “…you can be prosecuted for breaking American laws on foreign soil.”

    And if there is no law which currently prohibits your depravities, we’ll write one.

  11. Obviously, this Dan Duncan guy isn’t really hunting, but training for an eventual Russian insurrection in Texas.

    You know how much the Ruskies have been eying the Lone Star State recently

  12. Interestingly, Dan Duncan is a big-time Republican donor.

  13. In theory, I agree that it’s none of the business of the United States as to what crimes a person may or may not have committed in some other jurisdiction.

    In reality, however, I am totally in favor of giving a billionaire who shoots animals from a helicopter any sort of unfair treatment we can think up.

  14. In reality, however, I am totally in favor of giving a billionaire who shoots animals from a helicopter any sort of unfair treatment we can think up.

    Yes, because rich people are evil (and therefore do not deserve equal protection under the law), and shooting animals from helicopters makes them even more deader than shooting them from the ground!

  15. We obviously have more prosecutors than we really need.

  16. “I was reading in Cigar Aficionado that you can be prosecuted for breaking American laws on foreign soil.”

    This is generally true, but there are laws that are extraterritorial.

  17. DanT: that makes me think of the beginning of the movie “Brewster’s Millions”…

    (or he could go hunting for tranquilized animals at the zoo)

  18. I initially read it as “mouse” and was really impressed with his marksmanship.

    Hopefully, the moose was not a Viking.

  19. DanT: that makes me think of the beginning of the movie “Brewster’s Millions”…

    (or he could go hunting for tranquilized animals at the zoo)

    Not to mention Dick Cheney driving up to a cage and having somebody release a few domesticated quail* for him to shoot.

    *by quail I mean “old man”

  20. Yes, because rich people are evil (and therefore do not deserve equal protection under the law), and shooting animals from helicopters makes them even more deader than shooting them from the ground!

    I don’t know if all rich people are evil (some of them are probably just the descendants of evil), but this guy sounds like he really could stand to be oppressed a little.

  21. I was scrolling to the end of this thread to post the most inane justification of the govt’s behavior under the name “Dan T Emulator”, just for laughs.

    But it appears the emulated has beaten the emulator to the punch.

  22. Wouldn’t it be great
    To see the african plains
    Before they lay them to waste
    And only the bones remain
    Wouldn’t it be poetry
    To shoot holes in the poachers we see
    With an elephant gun

    Men in helicopters fly
    Shooting rhinos from out of the sky
    Why do we always assume
    The planet is ours to ruin?
    What a legacy we’re leaving behind
    What a legacy

    Wouldn’t it be something
    For the men killing dolphin
    To be caught up by their necks
    In their greedy fishing nets
    Wouldn’t it be irony
    If the tuna fish canneries
    Were to fall into the sea

    The dolphins and the whales still left alive
    Cry to the stars in the deep blue night
    “there’s nowhere to hide,
    The people on earth will not be denied”
    What a legacy we’re leaving behind
    What a legacy

    Wouldn’t it be odd
    If there really was a god
    And he looked down on earth
    And saw what we’ve done to her
    Wouldn’t it be just
    If he pulled the plug on us,
    And took away the sun

    Adrian Belew

  23. “What the hell is the U.S.’ interest in bringing felony charges here for hunting on Russian soil, where not one single person has complained?”

    Because we CAN, comrade Duncan. Your papers, please.

  24. “Not to mention Dick Cheney driving up to a cage and having somebody release a few domesticated quail* for him to shoot.

    *by quail I mean “old man””

    omg. dammit man. have to mop up the h2o I spilled from laughing so damn hard.

    and don’t ferget – he had to shewt, cuz he missed him with the car!

  25. All of this talk about shootin’ critters has me thinking about murdering bambi in cold blood this fall. MMMMMMMMM……fresh venison tenderloins.

    I wonder if I can scrape together enough cash to rent a chopper with a pilot?

  26. I guess Ted Nugent wasn’t available for comments.

  27. I hope he was shooting at bighorn sheep or something like that, because my initial mental picture was some nutjob in a helicopter opening fire on this.

  28. If he pulled the plug on us,
    And took away the sun

    Et, voila! no more global warming; try to take the optimistic view, once in a while.

  29. but this guy sounds like he really could stand to be oppressed a little

    You know, Dan, I think we should just make you imperator and then you could oppress anyone you felt should be oppressed, and you wouldn’t have the government doing it for you. Then at least you’d be honest, since right now you’d like to see people oppressed but the government does it for you so you can keep your hands clean.

    But you would have to refuse the title at least 2 times first to pretend you don’t want it, and also have an episode of the “falling sickness” (epileptic seizure) to really be legit.

  30. The US has no extraterritorial jurisdiction over this man’s hunting activities in Siberia. That said, may his first born become a vegan and join PETA and Greenpeace.

  31. I would think that’d be a difficult shot.

  32. Then at least you’d be honest, since right now you’d like to see people oppressed but the government does it for you so you can keep your hands clean.

    Me and the rest of the world, huh?

    Anyway, I don’t seriously want to see people of any stripe being prosecuted unjustly. I’m just saying that there are some people to whom I’d not want to see it happen a little less than others.

    In other words, let’s address every other injustice in world and then get back to the billionaire moose sniper.

  33. omg. dammit man. have to mop up the h2o I spilled from laughing so damn hard.

    Thank you, and as you’re aware that is just a taste of the hilarity that can be found daily at the Center for Advanced Sarcasm.

  34. Baaaaa

  35. I’m just saying that there are some people to whom I’d not want to see it happen a little less than others.

    How delightfully Orwellian/Animal Farm of you, Imperator Dan. Way to be intellectually consistent with your previous sentence.

  36. Come on…this is a billionaire oil guy who not only shoots animals for fun, but does it from a friggin helicoptor. Tell me that the US government does not have a duty to at least harass him a little bit on general principle. I mean, the guy is already destined for a personal hell where he runs from animals in helicopters attempting to splatter him with fecal bombs.

  37. My husband and I are going on safari in October. Joking around, I asked him if we could hunt while there. He missed that I was joking and asked if I could really kill a lion or zebra. It was too good to let go of easily so I said yes, I could kill them but I would have to waste most of the meat. I started talking about how the waste wouldn’t matter because zebra and lion pelts would look great in the gameroom. I let him flip out for a sec before I let go of the joke.

    (I grew up where hunting is normal and learned to shoot early- he thinks hunting is getting meat on Sunday at Central Market.)

  38. I’ve always wanted to shoot something from a helicopter.

  39. I believe in a free market solution where sheep could pay not to be shot by billionaires in helicopters.

  40. Lost – like zees, hier?

  41. OK, let me explain how it works. It is unfashionable to blatently oppress people for their political beliefs. However, Americans new found mania for laws and regulation mean just about anyone can be prosecuted for something, as it is impossible to do anything and not arguably break some sort of U.S. law.

    So if you have a rich guy Dan Duncan, donating an aweful lot of money to support tort reform in Texas. Obviously, the powers that be don’t like someone threatening the lifeblood of the single largest and most powerful lobbying group in the U.S. (the ATLA, or nowadays the AAJ). But Dan Duncan hasn’t really done anything illegal. “Don’t worry boys, we can always get him on something!”.

    Come on…this is a billionaire oil guy who not only shoots animals for fun, but does it from a friggin helicoptor. Tell me that the US government does not have a duty to at least harass him a little bit on general principle.

    The U.S. government pays private companies to shoot Americans from a friggin helicoptor (Blackwater, anyone). They could care less about the principle of some guy shooting moose from a helicopter in Russia.

    What they do care about is punishing Dan Duncan for his political beliefs. They would do the same thing to you, if you actually had any influence or power to be a threat to anyone.

  42. ClubMedSux said: “I hope he was shooting at bighorn sheep or something like that, because my initial mental picture was some nutjob in a helicopter opening fire on this [pic of domestic sheep].”

    That was my first thought, too. When I was a kid we used to joke about the morons from the city that would occasionally shoot livestock during deer season because they didn’t know what the hell they were doing.

  43. Dan T. said: “Come on…this is a billionaire oil guy who not only shoots animals for fun, but does it from a friggin helicoptor. Tell me that the US government does not have a duty to at least harass him a little bit on general principle. I mean, the guy is already destined for a personal hell where he runs from animals in helicopters attempting to splatter him with fecal bombs.”

    First of all, if this was illegal that is the concern of the Russian government, not that of the US; but lets put that aside for a second.

    If it is legal, I have no moral objection to it. If this guy has legally purchased a permit to harvest (insert favorite critter here), who gives a shit how he does it? I might prefer to sit in a tree stand and wait for one. You might prefer to stalk one with dogs. Dan Duncan may choose to shoot one from a chopper. The end result is one dead animal that would have been no less dead if killed by some other method. As long as the resource is not being over harvested, what is the problem?

  44. What they do care about is punishing Dan Duncan for his political beliefs. They would do the same thing to you, if you actually had any influence or power to be a threat to anyone.

    Reminds me of a boxer complaining that the other guy keeps throwing punches at him.

  45. So now the commerce clause extends congress’s jurisdiction to all of planet Earth. The number of convictions will probably snowball over the next few years.

  46. Come on…this is a billionaire oil guy who not only shoots animals for fun, but does it from a friggin helicoptor. Tell me that the US government does not have a duty to at least harass him a little bit on general principle.

    the 14th amendment provides equal protection under the law…and we also have a thing called due process..

    So here is me telling you that “Under general principle” the US government definitively should not harass him.

  47. The commerce clause is so screwy that they can bring federal charges if you break a law while using an item made in another country.

  48. “””What the hell is the U.S.’ interest in bringing felony charges here for hunting on Russian soil, “”””

    The whole world is our jurisdiction!

  49. I’m with Dan T. on this one (OMFG!!!), but only so far as I think the guy is a cheater and a coward and should be harrassed.

    Just not by our government.

    I’d rather heap scorn on him in person.

    From a helicopter.

  50. What the hell is the U.S.’ interest in bringing felony charges here for hunting on Russian soil, where not one single person has complained?

    Well, obviously the U.S. Attorney has complained.

    Once upon a time, it was a principle of criminal law that a state could criminalize conduct that occured within its borders or than had effects within its borders. Thus, if I stand on the Virginia side of Key Bridge and fire a high-powered rifle that kills a pedestrian walking on K Street in the District of Columbia, then both Virginia and DC can indict me for murder. Extend this a little, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia can hand down a murder indictment, not only against Michael Townley for setting the car bomb that killed Orlando Letelier on Sheridan Circle, but also for the folks in the Chilean DINA who never left Chile but who gave Townley instructions on carrying out the hit in D.C.

    Further, antitrust prosecutors now bring actions against widget executives in Switzerland, or Japan, or wherever, for their actions that have the effect of fixing the prices for widgets in the U.S. (OPEC gets a pass because of an exception for government action.)

    But you will note that what all these things have in common is an *effect* in the state bringing the prosecution. In recent years, though, the federal government has gotten the idea that there are certain actions that are so unseemly that any American who does them, anywhere in the world, needs to be punished. Sex tourism in Thailand is one of them, and, apparently, so is hunting big game from helicopters in Russia. The idea seems to be that if our government has the physical power to throw people like Duncan and the sex tourists in jail and fails to do so, then our government is somehow complicit in their unseemly actions.

    Next step will be to prosecute *non-Americans* for actions done outside the United States, the way Spain tried to do with Pinochet, and Belgium threatened to do with Rumsfeld.

  51. Hunting from a helicopter is lame. No, it’s not illegal, or immoral, or even cruel. It’s just lazy. Who would even admit publicly that this is something they do?

    Plus, it’s about as manly as getting a facial.

    There has to be some backstory here that we aren’t hearing about. Pursuing charges against him for this seems blatantly malicious.

  52. I’m a little disappointed. When I saw the headline I assumed he was seen _launching_ the sheep and moose (shooting them) from the helicopter with a catapult or something. Now THAT would be entertaining.

    “With God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

  53. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

    Amendment VI, U.S. Constitution.

  54. Oh, the humanity!

  55. ? 3373 of the Lacey Act requires knowing the underlying act was illegal for criminal penalties, and it doesn’t sound like Duncan knew that. There is a provision for civil penalties up to $10,000. At worst, Duncan can claim ignorance, pay his 10 grand, and be done with this.

    It would be an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars to pursue a criminal conviction, because any lawyer can prove the ignorance provision. And especially billionaire-funded lawyers. So they’d never get a conviction.

    There’s something political going on here. But what concerns me most about this story is the fact that Russia might have more freedom than the U.S.

  56. The reason this prosecution is truly necessary is because the US government has decided that the laws of other nations are no longer operative, and that they can prosecute you for obeying the law in another nation, whether you’re an American citizen or not.

    You can obey the banking laws in another country, but be arrested by the US government.

    You can operate a gambling website that is legal in another country, but be dragged off your plane if it stops over at JFK.

    In order to keep up the pretense that US writ runs everywhere, the feds need to prosecute Americans for as many overseas actions as posible.

  57. “Hunting from a helicopter is lame. No, it’s not illegal, or immoral, or even cruel. It’s just lazy.”

    I don’t understand how so many in this thread apparently think so. I think it’d be much more difficult to shoot from a helicopter than from, say, a tree, let alone level ground. Given the sound a helicopter makes, it’s probably got to be from high up to avoid spooking the animal. Then you have to aim a gun downward out a window or door without falling out — surely not a trivial feat!

  58. As I’ve always said, if you’re going to do an awful thing, at least do it creatively.

    /Actually, that’s the first time I’ve ever said that.

  59. “I think it’d be much more difficult to shoot from a helicopter than from, say, a tree, let alone level ground.”

    I think it has something to do with the “not walking” aspect. And the part about not packing your 926 lb moose out on foot or even horseback after you’ve shot and field dressed it. Not to mention the advantage provided by an unobstructed view of hundreds of acres.

  60. So now the commerce clause extends congress’s jurisdiction to all of planet Earth.

    and

    Next step will be to prosecute *non-Americans* for actions done outside the United States

    Already been done kids. Internet gambling ring a bell?

  61. “Tell me that the US government does not have a duty to at least harass him a little bit on general principle.”

    Do I have to repeat it word for word?

    Actually, I find hunting for sport repugnant – especially when the prey is an animal that I admire. Seeing the stuffed lion in the photo made me cringe. I also think wearing fur is gross and vain.

    But there is no legitimate justification for prosecuting this man. Morally I have no problem with this particular incident because the animals were not endangered species, and the meat was eaten (at least the moose was).

    It is shameful that the US government is even considering prosecuting him. I can see the justification for making it illegal, because hunting from helicopters would make it easier to make a kill and lead to overhunting. But that doesn’t mean that shooting an animal from a helicopter per se is immoral. It is only a problem in the aggregate.

    Since they were not protected species and he was not aware his actions were illegal (and by using a guide demonstrated intent to comply with the law) I can see nothing about this case that makes it serious enough for the U.S. to prosecute. There has to be an ulterior motive, unless they’re trying to improve the nation’s reputation with environmentalists – which is not a legitimate reason.

    “Thank you, and as you’re aware that is just a taste of the hilarity that can be found daily at the Center for Advanced Sarcasm.”

    Ah, so that is why your comments rarely are funny or make much sense. Sarcastic humor can be a lot of fun when it’s spontaneous, but people who make a fetish of it fail to be funny more often than they succeed.

  62. “And the part about not packing your 926 lb moose out on foot or even horseback after you’ve shot and field dressed it.”

    How about riding the moose back home before killing it? Especially chocolate moose.

  63. Duncan’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, notes that the guide is now a top official in the Russian agency that issues hunting licenses.

    One hand washes the other.

    Bringing felony charges against this guy would not be a good use of prosecutorial resources. Mulling the bringing of federal charges is a good use of those resources, though. The guy is scum, and shining a light on his scuminess is a useful thing. Typical tort reformer.

  64. The National Park Service hired professional hunters to shoot pigs and sheep from helicopters on Santa Cruz Island, one of the CA channel islands. I think they killed something like 20,000 feral pigs, and many thousands of sheep too. I met some of the hunters. They were from New Zealand, and were quite pleasant people.

    The justification for this sporting bloodshed was to eliminate “non-native species” from the island.

    Personally, I like the island better when there pigs and sheep all over the place, but that is coming from a non-native writer…

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