January 20, 2014
The Honorable Premier Christy Clark
Box 9041 St Prov Gov, Victoria, B.C. V8W 9E1
Re: Grizzly and Black Bear Trophy Hunt.
Where are the ethical arguments in the ongoing debate on the trophy hunting of grizzly and black bears in B.C.? Pronouncements from your government have dealt with only the technical or “scientific” aspects of the hunt, and have avoided what I believe to be the more important question – that is, should we and not can we continue the hunt?
A previous announcement of a government – appointed scientific panel that there are enough bears in B.C. to sustain trophy hunting addresses only the technical or supply part of the question. I do not want my government to make trophy hunting decisions based only on this factor. I want such decisions to consider the ethical issue of whether we should be killing these icons of our forests at all.
A previous provincial minister stated that the government would make a “…principled decision…”on the hunt, based on “scientific principles and not politics”; that is to say, if there are enough bears, then a hunt can be justified. I don’t agree with this justification. I think there is more than scientific principle here that must be considered. It’s in the political arena where we should be arguing the ethics of the trophy hunt – an argument that is long overdue in this province. Basing a trophy hunt solely on having enough bears to sustain it is like saying slave trading has merit simply because there are enough people to guarantee supply. Of course changing cultural and ethical attitudes have long ago condemned this practice. Trophy hunting has also suffered from a shift in cultural attitude. Polls show a large majority of the public is now opposed to the hunt, including a majority of hunters. The mood of the public is clear. We shouldnot have a bear trophy hunt in B.C. I believe that it is your government’s duty to follow this direction, particularly when there is no biological or management purpose served by a trophy hunt.
Advocates of the trophy hunt will argue that their pursuit has a traditional and economic importance. These arguments can be countered. We cannot forget that what’s being discussed is a trophy hunt, not a food hunt, and there are no traditional sustenance issues at stake. As far as economic issues are concerned, the value of the hunt to the hunting guides and to the province as license revenue can be offset by the economic value of live bears to the ecotourism industry. I’m generally reluctant to commodify resources just to place a value on them, but I can’t resist quoting from a report from the Centre for Responsible Tourism that says that bear watching is more profitable than bear hunting – perhaps 12 times in visitor spending and 11 times in government revenue. Even if there were some validity to the pro-hunting argument, surely in an advanced society such as ours, issues of ethics must trump.
To summarize, it’s time to apply a broader context to the issue of bear trophy hunting in B.C. It’s not just about the number of bears, it’s also about how we feel about these forest icons, their ecological role in the forest ecosystem, and their economic value to ecotourism. Bears are a public resource, and the public must have an opportunity to debate their future. I think that as Premier, you should broaden the discussion on the bear trophy hunt to include the ethics of the hunt and the broader values that the bears offer to our society. It’s clear to me that such a discussion would validate a decision to end the trophy hunt.
In my view, a spring without the annual bear trophy hunt would satisfy most of the B.C. public and protect the broader values of the bears to society.
Please do the right thing and stop the trophy hunting of bears. The pro-hunt lobby will have to adapt. The slave traders did.
Ross Peterson, BC
cc. S. Thompson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
M. Stilwell, MLA