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PETA targets Poplar school's hunting photo display

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has taken aim at the Hunter's Wall at Northwestern Middle School in Poplar. The animal rights organization sent middle school Principal Ken Bartelt a letter last week asking him to take down the Hunter'...

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has taken aim at the Hunter's Wall at Northwestern Middle School in Poplar.

The animal rights organization sent middle school Principal Ken Bartelt a letter last week asking him to take down the Hunter's Wall, a collection of photographs featuring students' kills, because it "sets a precedent for a dangerous mind set that glorifies -- and even rewards -- violence," the letter said.

In addition to sending the letter to Bartelt, the organization sent the letter to local media and posted it online.

The Hunter's Wall is in Russ Bailey's classroom -- a science teacher who also teaches a hunter safety course in the classroom after hours. The wall isn't a trophy case; it's a wall of pictures, and it isn't about promoting violence, Bartelt said.

For years, the wall has been a spot where students can display their pictures and celebrates the region's hunting culture in the same way it is celebrated in local newspapers, which often run photos of hunters and anglers with their trophy kills, he said.

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This year the wall features 52 pictures of animals students have shot throughout the year, a variety of game including partridge, bear, deer, pheasants, geese and squirrel.

Since PETA posted the letter online, the school has received mail from people who support the wall and its celebration of the hunting tradition, Bartelt said.

Other than the PETA letter, the school has not received any complaints about the wall, he said.

The organization learned of the wall from a newsletter from Northwestern Middle School containing information about the Hunter's Wall. Several PETA members from the Maple school district sent copies of the newsletter to PETA asking the organization to do something about the wall, said Sangeeta Kumar, PETA member and letter writer.

PETA often contacts schools when it discovers they are promoting activities that are cruel to animals or when a student has gotten in trouble for cruelty to animals, she said.

The organization's members believe hunting is a cruel and unnecessary practice and that supporting hunting in school gives kids the idea that killing is OK. The organization would like to see the school remove its Hunter's Wall and replace it with pictures that promote students who do good work for the community and their fellow students, she said.

"Instead of glorifying killing, [it would glorify] students who have done good in their community," she said.

But Bartelt said PETA is misunderstanding the purpose of the Hunter's Wall.

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Bailey teaches in his hunter safety course that hunting is for consumption, not fun. He invites people into his class to show his students how to prepare carcasses to be used as food, Bartelt said.

"I feel our hunting wall is something positive for our students and our community and in no way has negatively affected how well-run this school is or how well-behaved our students are," Bartelt said in his response to PETA.

Bartelt added that he supports PETA in many of its causes against cruelty to animals, but hunting shouldn't be included under that label.

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