By TERRY TOMALIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 18, 2001
The Boy Scouts of America are under attack again, this time by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
"PETA asks Boy Scouts to "de-merit' badges promoting cruelty to animals," reads a recent news release. "Animal rights group says fishing badges promote violence."
According to PETA, fish have a neurochemical system similar to humans. They feel pain, the organization says, and experience fear.
"Desensitizing children to the suffering of others is a dangerous lesson," the release says. "According to FBI profilers, the American Psychiatric Association, law enforcement officials, and child advocacy organizations, cruelty to animals is a warning sign commonly seen in people who eventually direct violence toward humans."
Now, everybody knows Jeffrey Dahmer started off torturing animals, but if you follow PETA's logic, giving a kid a fishing rod is the first step on the road to becoming a serial killer.
"In an era of school shootings and hate crimes, it is a folly to encourage young boys to harm innocent animals," writes PETA's Dawn Carr. "The Boy Scouts are supposed to be compassionate role models, not bloodthirsty fish killers."
Let's stop there. I have a confession to make.
As a youngster, I was a Boy Scout and an enthusiastic "fish killer." In fact, every chance I got, I tried to kill as many fish as possible ... sunnies, bass ... I also caught the occasional pickerel, but my dad said they were too bony to eat, so I threw them back.
After I killed the fish, I scaled them, gutted them, then dipped them in a mixture of egg and milk, rolled them in corn meal, then fried them in corn oil in an iron skillet over an open fire.
Perhaps my parents hoped I would grow out of it. Well, I know for sure my mother did. On more than one occasion, I was chastised for forgetting to take the night crawlers out of my pocket before pumping my jeans in the hamper.
As I grew older, I never lost my bloodlust. I'm sure that was why when I went to college, I drank too much beer, fell in with motley crew and began participating in another barbaric "sport," rugby.
But hold on ... it gets worse.
After college, no longer satisfied with killing fish and slamming full speed into other human beings, I turned my attention to small mammals. My first victim was a duck, a mallard if I remember, and I wrapped its breasts in bacon, cooked them on a grill, then ate them with a fine Chianti. I surely would have killed more had I not been such a lousy shot.
And as the folks at PETA would suspect, I did move on to bigger game, wild pig. This provided lots of meat, but I must confess, it didn't taste nearly as good as the Cerdo Con Mojo that I get at my favorite Cuban restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg.
So I went back to killing fish ... grouper, amberjack, king mackerel, the occasional snook (one in the spring and one in the fall) and my favorite, hogfish, but they are few and far between because I am no better shot with a spear gun than with a shotgun.
There you have it. My sordid story. I was a killer Cub Scout.
And as the PETA folks predicted, the carnage didn't stop.
That is why last week, PETA faxed a letter to Boy Scouts president Milton H. Ward asking that his organization drop the "fishing" and "fish and wildlife management" badges from its curriculum.
PETA asserts fishing is inconsistent with the Boy Scout law: "A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. He does not hurt or kill harmless things without reason."
All I can say is that I am sorry. I was hungry.
- Former Boy Scout Terry Tomalin never applied for a fishing merit badge, but he wishes he had.