In the grizzly hunting debate, the B.C. legislature appears to be the last stronghold protecting the trophy hunting industry in our province.
Economic, scientific, and social justifications for the practice don’t add up. Ecotourism and bear viewing companies generate more revenue than their trigger-happy counterparts, and they are far more sustainable over the long term. There is considerable uncertainty within the scientific community about grizzly bear population numbers and notable concerns about how they will adapt to the challenges climate change will bring. Polls repeatedly put public opposition for trophy hunting in British Columbia in the 90 percent range, for both urban and rural populations and resident hunters who overwhelmingly oppose the practice.
This is where we must draw an important difference between trophy hunting and hunting.
Trophy hunting is the killing of an animal for the sake of the kill, the sake of collecting a trophy, often a severed head. It is a cruel, selfish, and barbaric practice that is packaged and sold as a sport. Trophy killing has little to do with the thousands of British Columbians who hunt because they enjoy spending time outdoors, respect the animals they harvest, and take great pride in sharing the meat they harvest with their loved ones.
If we are going to end trophy hunting in British Columbia, we must first understand that it has nothing to do with hunting. As the legislation currently stands, it is illegal to waste meat when hunting in British Columbia, unless the animal you have killed is a cougar, wolf, lynx, bobcat, wolverine, or grizzly bear. The edible parts of big game must be removed from the animal and packed out to one's home, or importantly for non-resident hunters, to a meat cutter or a cold storage plant. These last two options provide trophy hunters with legal meat laundering opportunities, meaning that they could still hunt for the trophy but give away the meat.
In March, I brought forward a bill, supported by First Nations Summit, that would close this loophole, forcing the packing out of all meat from all animals (not just grizzly bears) hunted in British Columbia to a person’s home, whether that be in British Columbia, Texas, Australia, or Germany. This was carefully written to protect the rights of First Nations and resident hunters in British Columbia, while going after the practice of trophy killing.
As you might imagine, the guide outfitting industry did not support this legislation. I suspect many a trophy hunter would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pack out several hundred pounds of trichinosis-laden grizzly bear meat across international borders. As with all legislation, its success or failure relies on proper implementation and a commitment to enforcing it.
When legislating the practices of non-resident hunters, the rights and interests of First Nations and British Columbians should still be first and foremost. We need legislation that says in this province we hunt for food, not for the sake of killing—it is not okay to come here to kill our animals for a prize. Hunting should not be a corporate endeavour. Furthermore our government needs to acknowledge and act upon calls from First Nations who have enacted bans on trophy hunting in their traditional territories.
What has surprised me about this debate is how little our elected officials have had to say about it, given the almost unanimous opposition to the practice amongst British Columbians.
Both the B.C. Liberals and the B.C. NDP have refused to have an honest discussion about this issue in the legislature. The B.C. Liberals point to the studies that justify their inaction, all the while ignoring the growing body of academic literature that suggest action is needed.
The B.C. NDP, on the other hand, have yet to state any firm position on the issue. One hopes that this isn't simply avoiding taking a position on an important issue for fear that it will help their electoral prospects.
While this is certainly an emotive issue, it’s one that most British Columbians agree on. Trophy killing debases the very legitimate reasons that many British Columbians choose to hunt. It’s time we enact policy that understands the difference between the two, and finally puts an end to trophy hunting in British Columbia.