The recent announcement by the British Columbia government to “end trophy hunting” of grizzly bears in the province wasn’t unexpected, but it was remarkably lacking in both detail and pragmatism.
It is indisputable that there are many people in BC who are against the notion of “trophy hunting.” Public opinion surveys tell us this is the case, and the BC NDP seized on that sentiment when making their election promise to ban the trophy hunt for grizzlies if elected. Democracy rules in Canada, and if a hunting ban is the will of the people, so be it. We as hunters and outfitters have to accept that, even if we don’t like it. But the main problem with this policy – and with the public opinion that guided it – is that “trophy hunting” isn’t a definable thing, and really mostly exists in the imaginations of non-hunters.
Allow us to explain.
The BC government has already said it will allow the continued hunting of grizzlies “for meat,” but that hunters would not be allowed to possess the head, hide or claws of a hunted grizzly. Only the meat could be kept, but it remains unclear whether keeping the meat would become mandatory (currently it’s not). This could leave BC hunters with an almost non-sensical situation where they could keep the meat of a hunted grizzly (as some do already) but be forced to leave the head and hide in the bush to rot, alongside the spine and the gut pile.
Is that somehow better? We would humbly suggest as hunters that taxidermy is at the very least as dignified as that, if not quite a bit moreso. And is the taxidermy really the problem? Do those who support a ban on trophy hunting care so much about denying hunters a “trophy” that they would rather see the hide rot in the bush than be made into a rug? If the bear has already been hunted and killed, how does preventing its hide from being used help the bear?
That is the key flaw in this policy. The BC government plans not to ban grizzly hunting outright, but to continue allowing hunting and simply regulate it by motivation. Or try to, anyway. They believe they can tap into the motivations of hunters based on what parts of the animal they can and cannot take out of the bush, reasoning that the “trophy hunters” will not come if they can’t keep the hide, and that the “meat hunters” can continue to do their thing because they never wanted the hide to begin with (neither of which are true, of course).
If you want to ban grizzly bear hunting, then ban it. Or, preferably, don’t. But there is no halfway, because there are no different “kinds” of hunting that can readily be identified, put onto paper, and codified into regulation. We think it’s a terrible idea to ban grizzly hunting, because the movement in BC is being driven not by biology (the bear population is fine) but by personal ethics. The BC government has admitted as much, and that would be fine, except that basing hunting policy on the opinions of non-hunters leads to the type of flawed and incomplete public policy that we see here. The grizzlies are no better off; hunters are confused about the rules and it would seem, even more misunderstood than ever; and the economy may suffer as a result. Seems like the only win here goes to the campaign strategists from the BC NDP.
by Paul Turenne
Executive Director, Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Association