Wolf Song of Alaska News

Animals Rights Group Launches Campaign

The Associated Press / March 13, 2006

Anchorage, Alaska (AP) -- An animal rights group is taking aim again at the state's aerial wolf control plan and tourism dollars with an ad slamming the program.

"If you shoot wolves to save moose and then you shoot the moose you're either out of your mind or in Alaska," the ad says above a pack of wolves in a snowfield.

Connecticut-based Friends of Animals ran the ad Monday in the nation's largest newspaper, USA Today. It will also run in several magazines this spring.

The bottom of the ad asks for contributions. It also asks travelers to boycott Alaska because it says tourist dollars condone the slaughtering of wolves.

Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral said the ad will stem tourism in Alaska.

However, Alaska visitor industry representatives questioned whether the campaign would work.

More than 500 wolves have been killed by aerial gunners since the state started the predator-control program, intended to produce more moose.

Feral said she hopes the campaign will capitalize on Alaska's image problem, made worse by the so-called bridges to nowhere debate.

"The state is going to have to spend and spend and spend to overcome an image problem that comes from mean-spiritedness and primitive ideas," Feral said.

The campaign started just days after Gov. Frank Murkowski announced the state will pay up to $150,000 for a marketing study to improve the nation's view of Alaska. The governor said criticism of the bridges, for instance, shows people don't understand Alaskans.

Feral said Friends of Animals will lose money from the high cost of the ad.

The USA Today ad cost $40,000 even with a discount for the nonprofit organization. It will reach more than 2 million people, Feral said. Millions more will see the ad in magazines like Harper's Weekly, The Nation and Vegetarian Times.

Ron Peck, president and chief operating officer of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, predicted the campaign's effect will be negligible. The group ran similar ads in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times two years ago. Those had no measurable impact on tourism here, Peck said.

He said a new campaign by Friends of Animals asking wolf advocates to send in digital photographs taken outside the state also is having no impact. In the photographs, posted on the group's Web site, people from around the world hoist signs saying, "I'd rather be here than in Alaska."

Peck said Alaska tourism is expected to grow from 3 percent to 5 percent this summer - well above the anticipated national average. He said the only sector that might be affected is the eco-tourism industry. Clients who prefer those types of tours, such as guided wildlife viewing, are also likely to oppose the state's wolf-kill program.

"It's like they're eating their own," he said of the Friends of Animals campaign.

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