Jailed bear hunt protester studying Thoreau, able to go residence

Bill Crain’s 15-day sentence is almost up.

Crain, an anti-hunt activist jailed for an act of civil disobedience, is doing his time reading Henry David Thoreau, trying to maintain his vegan diet and chatting with other inmates who know about his widely-publicized advocacy against the bear hunt.

“They don’t agree, all of them, but they say they respect what I’m doing,” Crain said in a 10-minute telephone interview Friday from the Sussex County jail in Newton.

The 74-year-old City College of New York psychology professor has been convicted eight times since 2005 for engaging in civil disobedience during the hunt. 

He pleaded guilty Dec. 20 to obstructing the administration of law, two months after exiting the designated protest area in Fredon and walking across the street to a hunters’ check station, and reported to the jail Jan. 2.

Crain spent just over a week in the same jail in January 2017. His attorney said Crain is scheduled to be released on Sunday after serving 12 days.

He will be getting out two days before Phil Murphy, who has said he will halt the hunt pending additional research, is sworn in as governor.

Asked about a report, released Thursday, from state wildlife officials asserting that the bear population will double by 2022 without a hunt, Crain said that argument is irrelevant to his contention that the hunt simply is wrong.

“I think each bear’s life is precious,” Crain said.

“If the human population would increase dramatically in that time, nobody would think of thinning the human population, killing humans. Fundamentally, the bears want to live as much as we do,” Crain said.

Crain said he has a cell to himself. He was unable to see or hear a rally held by his supporters outside the jail on Sunday but was allowed three visitors.

He said he is being treated well in jail, complaining only that it is a little cold.

“They try their best to do a vegan diet,” Crain said.

Crain, as he did during his first jail stint, has been doing a lot of reading.

His wife of 50 years, Ellen Crain, sent him a book, “Thoreau’s Animals,” in which the 19th century essayist and philosopher detailed his encounters with animals by his Massachusetts home.

“I’ve been working on a book on the value of retaining our childhood outlook — our first outlook as as child, sensitivity to nature,” said Crain, explaining that he is using Thoreau’s work as inspiration.

On Sunday, Ellen Crain will again be making the two-hour drive to the jail from their animal sanctuary farm in Dutchess County, N.Y. She joined him in court Dec. 20 for his guilty plea.

In addition to his 15-day jail sentence, Crain was fined $2,500. His first six convictions were resolved with fines.

If the hunt stops, as Murphy has said, so too will the recurring arrests that have brought Crain so much attention — and also resulted in him spending time in jail, a long way from home.

In court, Crain alluded to Murphy’s opposition to the hunt, telling the judge — the same judge who…

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