Activists and Lush Cosmetics team up to make film about ending B.C.'s trophy hunt of grizzly bears

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      David Suzuki, Miley Cyrus, and Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver have all added their voices to the call to end the B.C. trophy hunt of grizzly bears.

      Now, a cosmetics company and a Vancouver filmmaker have joined forces with activists to pressure Premier Christy Clark to bring an end to the controversial practice sanctioned by the British Columbian government.

      On November 1, Lush Cosmetics (which campaigns for animal rights, human rights, and environmental issues, and sells vegetarian products which aren't tested on animals and are 85 percent vegan) released a short documentary entitled "Trophy", directed by Vancouver documentarian Inder Nirwan. It was filmed in British Columbia and the Greater Yellowstone region in the U.S.

      Vancouver filmmaker Inder Nirwan directed the short documentary "Trophy", about B.C.'s trophy hunt and grizzly bears.

      The 35-minute film, which can be viewed online, takes a look at the ecological, social, and economic impact the hunt is having on bears, the ecosystem, and people. Interviewees include naturalist Charlie Russell, Yellowstone National Park conservationist and educator Meredith Taylor, Kitasoo/Xai'xais First Nation chief councillor Doug Neasloss, scientist Christina Service, and more.

      Naturalist Charlie Russell

      A screening of the film on November 1 at the Vancity Theatre was accompanied by a panel comprised of Nirwan and representatives from organizations involved in ending the hunt.

      "It's not just about the bears. What we're doing up there, what's happening, we're ultimately doing unto ourselves," Nirwan said. "So when we start discovering these stories about the people who have been living in the fields with the bears whose livelihoods are being affected, communities that are being affected, that to me became the story."

      As the film points out, grizzly bears are an apex species, or a species at the top of the food chain that plays an important role in ecosystem management. The death of bears affects population numbers of other species, which in turn affect the environment as well.

      While the hunt affects First Nations, who have banned the hunt, there's also an economic impact upon British Columbia.

      As shown in the film, hunting also affects ecotourism, which attracts photographers to watch and photograph bears in the natural habitat. While hunting brings in $2 million per year into the B.C. economy, the film argues that bear viewing brings in up to 10 times that amount.

      However, due to bear hunting, one company featured in the film had to shut down.

      "Given the incidents we've had—the clashes with hunters—we have closed our business in the spring," Grizzly Bear Ranch owner Julius Strauss says in the film.

      Rosie Child, Wildlife Defence League campaign director Tommy Knowles, marine operations program coordinator Brian Falconer, and "Trophy" director Inder Nirwan.">
      A panel at the Vancity Theatre screening of "Tropy" consisted of Spirit Bear Research Foundation field technician and operations manager Rosie Child, Wildlife Defence League campaign director Tommy Knowles, marine operations program coordinator Brian Falconer, and "Trophy" director Inder Nirwan.

      Spirit Bear Research Foundation field technician and operations manager Rosie Child said, as part of the panel, her organization believes ending the trophy hunt will require a coordinated effort with widespread support.

      "We believe that an important piece of the solution is collecting and sharing widely information about these individual bears," she said. "Despite the fact that over 90 percent of British Columbians support a ban on trophy hunting, the province is still allowing between 250 and 300 bears to be killed in the province every year."

      In a March 2015 interview, Stephen MacIver, a policy and regulations analyst with the province’s fish and wildlife branch, told the Georgia Straight that the numbers of issued licences take into account estimates for animal populations and sustainable mortality rates.

      “Conservation is our number one priority,” he said. “We don’t have hunting seasons on a population that can’t sustain a harvest.”

      MacIver noted that while the number of hunting licences has increased in recent years, it remains lower than the highs of the 1980s and 1990s.

      According to B.C. government statistics, the number of bears killed has been stable for two decades, despite the increase in the number of licenses issued.

      Scientist and PhD candidate Christina Service

      However, Child questioned the accuracy of such numbers.

      "When a hunt is legally sanctioned, like this one is, what we expect from our decision-makers is that they understand how many animals there are and how those populations are doing," she said. "For the vast majority of the province, there are no on-the-ground population estimates, much less a reliable way to tell how these populations are doing over time."

      Child argued that their findings contradict the statistics provided by the government.

      "The government has consistently allowed total annual allowable mortality of grizzly bears to exceed their own upper thresholds, which even their most optimistic models suggest will drive populations to decline," she said.

      Chief Councillor and Resource Stewardship Director of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation Doug Neasloss

      Marine operations program coordinator Brian Falconer explained that his organization, the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, is hoping to end the hunt by raising millions of dollars to buy trophy hunting territories.

      "We have taken the initiative to try and buy out, and we are succeeding in buying out—we own three of the commercial trophy hunting territories. We're now raising funds to buy three more, and eventually three more yet," he said. "We will end the trophy hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest without any question, and I believe that probably this is how it will happen."

      However, he added that he would much rather see one of the political parties take on this issue and bring an end to the hunt.

      Wildlife Defence League campaign director Tommy Knowles, who appears in the film, echoed that sentiment.

      "We need to make this an election issue. We need one of our political parties to come on and take stand against the hunt…. Ninety-one percent of British Columbians are against the hunt and if we do live in a true democracy, that means this hunt should be banned."

      The "Trophy" website includes more information about and downloadable versions of the film as well as petition that people can sign to ask Premier Christy Clark to end the trophy hunt.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.