A trophy hunt by any other name

Raincoast's Chris Genovali and Brian Falconer confront the reality of Andrew Weaver's bill that stop's trophy hunting in name only.

Chris Genovali and Brian Falconer

Good intentions aside, 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 British Columbia. In an interview with the Vancouver Observer, 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 impact the B.C. grizzly hunt “one bit.” Not only would the 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.

Doug Neasloss, elected councillor and stewardship director for the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation, states: “Weaver’s bill is not in alignment with the position of Coastal First Nations who have unanimously banned the trophy hunting of bears in our traditional territories under tribal law. It does not matter what the end use of the bear is, killing them is prohibited in our territories. The Kitasoo/Xai’xais have made a significant investment in tourism centred around bear viewing and it is the second largest employer in our community; we need these bears alive.”

Weaver seems not to recognize 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.”

A renowned large carnivore expert and former member of the B.C. government’s grizzly bear scientific advisory committee, Raincoast Conservation Foundation senior scientist Dr. Paul Paquet states, “I have struggled to understand the logic underlying the unequivocal and resolute claims that, if enacted, this proposed legislation would end the hunting of grizzlies for trophies. Simply, Weaver’s assertions and declared facts sound authoritative but are dead wrong. The supposed effectiveness of this proposed legislation is scientifically naïve and irrelevant to the facts.”

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 the “pack the meat out” concept.

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 on CFAX 1070, stating they would be petitioning the province to enact similar “pack 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 and large carnivores of late. During the recent debate over 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 the province. Parenthetically, Weaver has also endorsed the unscientific and unethical B.C. wolf cull, mirroring the BCWF once again.

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.

Why 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, remains confounding, especially given the B.C. Green Party’s official policy goal to “eliminate sport and trophy hunting of grizzly bears.”

April’s arrival will see resident and non-resident trophy hunters fan out across 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 hides and heads 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.

This article was co-authored by Raincoast Conservation Foundation guide outfitter coordinator Brian Falconer. A version of this article previously ran in the Victoria Times Colonist.

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