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Animal Protection League of New Jersey Press Release – Bear hunt civil disobedience case

The Animal Protection League of New Jersey put out this press release yesterday concerning the Civil Disobedience arrest of a Bear Hunt protestor. If you’d like to contribute to APLNJ’s legal defense fund, you can mail it to them at the address listed on their website or donate electronically

News Release
December 16, 2010

Bear hunt Civil Disobedience Adjudicated
Professor Crain’s Day in Court
 

Andover, NJ – Bear hunt protestor, Bill Crain appeared in Green Township Municipal Court, December 15, 2010, with Judge Craig U. Dana presiding.
 
Professor Bill Crain was arrested in a civil disobedience action on December 6, 2010, resulting from the state’s restriction of protesters from entering the weigh station. Crain was charged with Obstruction of the Administration of Law or Other Governmental Function, NJSA 2C:29-1 (maximum penalty $500.00 and/or 1 year incarceration).
 
Professor Crain, currently a New Yorker, lived in Teaneck, NJ, for 23 years. Crain started testifying against NJ bear hunts in the 1990s. Bill has been a professor of psychology at The City College of New York since 1970.
 
In court on December 15, 2010, Mr. Crain was represented by veteran civil rights attorney, Walter D. Nealy. Nealy’s firm, located in Englewood, NJ is a multi-service law firm specializing in criminal defense, matrimonial and family law, and real estate. Mr. Nealy negotiation a plea agreement that downgraded the charge to Disorderly Conduct, Improper Behavior, NJSA 2C:33-2 (maximum penalty $500 and/or 180 days incarceration).
 
Judge Dana sentenced Crain to a $350 fine, plus court costs. Professor Crain read the following statement prior to sentencing:

I would like to provide some context for my actions.

I am a professor of psychology at The City College of New York, where I have taught for 40 years. My family and I lived in Teaneck, New Jersey, for 23 years, where I served 9 years on the Teaneck Board of Education. In the 1990s, I became concerned about the possibility of a State-authorized bear hunt in New Jersey. I testified against a hunt on several occasions, and when the State held bear hunts in 2003 and 2005, I joined the protestors. This year’s hunt was the first since 2005.

I was arrested on the first day of this year’s hunt. I walked into a weigh-in area where hunters brought the bears they had killed. Police officers told me to leave the area, and when I refused, I was placed under arrest. I was the only person arrested during the hunt.

I considered my refusal to leave the weigh-in area to be an act of civil disobedience. I believe citizens should almost always obey laws and comply with government operations.  At the same time, government laws and operations should ultimately serve higher moral principles, such as the pursuit of justice and a respect for the inherent worth of all whom the government represents. When a government’s laws or operations flagrantly violate moral principles, we may feel a moral obligation to refuse to comply, to engage in civil disobedience. In my case, I refused to comply with a State Wildlife operation that blatantly and cruelly violated a respect for other living beings. I believe that civil disobedience should always be peaceful.

True, our own country’s guiding moral principles do not yet include a respect for other living beings. On this account, there is much work to be done. Just as people have historically struggled to gain full respect for people of color and for women, many of us are now working hard to achieve full respect for our animal relatives. 

The bear hunts have basically been massacres of highly intelligent, sensitive animals. The bears intend us no harm; no bear has ever killed a human in New Jersey. The State reports that 589 bears, including many mothers and cubs, were killed during this year’s 6-day hunt. Other bears, not included in the count, were wounded and will die slow, painful deaths in the woods. Many cubs will die because their mothers have been killed and cannot care for them. The bears did nothing deserve this.

I am technically guilty of violating a state law. But I did so to call attention to the State’s violation of a much more fundamental moral principle: Our obligation to respect all living beings who share the planet with us. Thank you for listening.

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