"Payback is hell."
That is the message that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wants to send with a new billboard the group plans to erect near Vernal. The words accompany a picture of an elk with bloodied antlers, along with the more direct anti-hunting message to "Leave animals alone."
The billboard offers no explanation for the imagery, but a post on a PETA blog references a hunter who earlier this month nearly died after he accidentally punctured his neck on the antler of an elk he had just killed in Uintah County.
"PETA is bringing attention to the fact that hunting draws blood on both sides," the organization posted on its blog.
Bradley Greenwood, 51, killed a large bull elk the morning of Sept. 7 in the Davenport Draw area of Diamond Mountain, east of Vernal. Greenwood, of Lehi, tried to roll the elk, but the elk was bigger than he thought about 600 to 700 pounds, Undersheriff John Laursen estimated at the time. One of the antlers plunged into his face behind his jaw, stabbing downward into his neck.
Greenwood called 911 for help, saying his neck was swelling and he was struggling to breathe. Laursen said the wound likely had become inflamed.
Rescuers found Greenwood and flew him to Ashley Regional Medical Center to be stabilized. Medics placed a tube into his trachea to keep it open, Laursen said; nurses have reported the procedure likely saved Greenwood's life.
Greenwood later was flown to Utah Valley Medical Center for surgery. As of the afternoon of Sept. 9, he was able to speak and was expected to make a full recovery, Laursen said.
"I'm about as ethical a hunter there is," said Greenwood, who learned of the proposed ad when contacted by The Salt Lake Tribune Monday afternoon. He pointed out that he does not make bad shots, uses the elk meat through the winter and that particular elk was a "clean kill" and did not suffer long. "There is a difference between hunting and the mistreatment of animals."
PETA is still negotiating the billboard with advertising companies, including where to place it and for how long. PETA hopes to have it placed as soon as possible, said Matt Bruce, a PETA campaigner.
This is at least the second time the group has used the "Payback is hell" slogan. After a shark bit a Florida fisherman in 2011, PETA created a similar ad accompanied with the image of a shark with a severed leg in its mouth, Bruce said. That ad was accompanied with the advice to "Go vegan."
If Greenwood had shot a dog, he would be facing serious animal cruelty charges, Bruce said. The campaigner, echoing PETA's stance against hunting, said that people have no reason to hunt or maim animals for sport. Wildlife populations are self-regulating, responding to disease, food and habitat availability and prey-predator relationships, PETA wrote in its blog post about the billboard.
"Now that a recovering Greenwood knows what it feels like to gasp what you believe to be your last breaths, maybe he'll stop killing animals and agree with PETA that compassion feels better than (bad) karma," the group added in the blog post.
Greenwood contended that hunting plays an important role in nature management, brings in a lot of revenue for the state and that there is nothing wrong with hunting if it is done ethically and respectfully.
Greenwood's incident was actually the second time an elk injured a human that week. On Sept. 5, a bull elk gored Hugo Macha, a 31-year-old Peruvian shepherd, in the La Sal Mountains east of Moab.