Comment: Green MLA’s grizzly bill poorly thought out

Raincoast takes issue with MLA Andrew Weaver's re-labelling of the trophy hunt as a "food hunt"

A grizzly bear eats a salmon during the making of Groundswell

By Chris Genovali and Brian Falconer, Raincoast Conservation Foundation

Special to the Times Colonist, March 19, 2015

Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver has introduced a poorly thought out private member’s bill requiring trophy hunters to pack out the “edible meat” from any grizzly bear they kill. In an interview, Weaver triumphantly claimed: “If this bill were to pass, it puts an end to [the] trophy killing of grizzly bears.”

But as Shannon McPhail, executive director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, aptly summed up, Weaver’s bill would not affect the B.C. grizzly hunt “one bit.” Not only would Weaver’s bill do nothing to stop, or even reduce, the recreational killing of grizzlies, it would end up providing cover for grizzly killers who would like nothing more than to be able to mischaracterize their trophy hunting of bears as a food hunt.

Weaver apparently does not grasp that the motivation and desire of trophy hunters to bag a grizzly bear will certainly prevail over the relatively minor expense and annoyance of having to “pack the meat out.”

In her forceful and pointed essay on trophy hunting, The Killing Game, Joy Williams writes: “Hunters like big animals, trophy animals. A trophy usually means that the hunter doesn’t design to eat it. Maybe he skins it or mounts it. Maybe he takes a picture. Maybe he just looks at it for a while … The fact is, the chief attraction of hunting is the pursuit and murder of animals — the meat-eating aspect of it is trivial.”

Not surprisingly, the two most prominent trophy-hunting lobby groups in the province, the Guide Outfitting Association of B.C. and the B.C. Wildlife Federation, enthusiastically support Weaver’s bill. Despite decades of strong opposition to this very policy, the GOABC and the BCWF now clearly see the benefit of camouflaging their recreational killing of grizzlies as something other than the gratuitous slaying of a trophy animal.

In fact, the GOABC, preceding Weaver’s bill, introduced the concept months ago during a radio debate with Raincoast, stating they would be petitioning the province to enact similar “packing the meat out” regulations. In what can only be described as a macabre act of charity, the GOABC had the gall to further state they intend to donate the grizzly remains to food banks, never mind the potential for contracting trichinosis and other pathogens, thank you.

Unfortunately, this is not Weaver’s first misstep with regard to the grizzly hunt of late. During the recent debate over Forests Minister Steve Thomson’s decision on wildlife allocation, he echoed the BCWF’s talking points that gave the impression the policy gives more wildlife to foreign hunters than resident hunters. The reality is that resident hunters have always, and will continue, to receive the great majority of allocated wildlife in B.C.

Complaining about not getting enough wildlife to kill, as compared to non-resident hunters, was prominent in the BCWF’s calculated messaging. In contrast, provincial mortality statistics show that from 1978 through 2011, resident hunters killed 5,900 grizzlies while non-resident hunters killed 4,100. To those 10,000 bears, it was no consolation whether the bullets ripping through their bodies, causing immeasurable pain and suffering, were fired from the guns of resident or non-resident hunters.

It remains confounding that Weaver would choose to hitch his wagon to the BCWF’s misleading wildlife allocation campaign, and subsequently introduce a bill that would enable grizzly killers to adopt the façade of a food hunt, especially given the B.C. Green Party’s official policy goal to “eliminate sport and trophy hunting of grizzly bears.”

In another few weeks, resident and non-resident trophy hunters will fan out over the B.C. landscape in search of grizzlies to kill, while the bears in their sights are preoccupied with the greenery that will sustain them until the salmon and berries they seek are ready in the fall.

In the fall, these hunters will repeat the process, this time focusing on the salmon streams and berry patches where the bears must be in order to secure the nutrition they need. By the end of November, 300 to 350 grizzlies will be dead. More than 100 of them will be females.

If Weaver’s bill is somehow approved, most of the muscles of the bears will be transported out of the bush and dumped into landfills in B.C. and beyond, while their heads and hides will continue to be transformed into rugs for living rooms and prizes for trophy rooms.

In other words, the killing will continue and the trophies will still be mounted, despite misguided attempts to proclaim the end of the grizzly trophy hunt by doing nothing more than renaming it.

Chris Genovali is executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Brian Falconer is Raincoast’s guide outfitter co-ordinator.


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