Today, British Columbia’s New Democratic Party government delivered on its campaign promise and more by announcing a provincial ban on trophy hunting of grizzly bears, even if the hunters involved claim they eat the meat of the animal. The NDP, in cooperation with the Green Party, ousted the Liberals in elections earlier this year, gaining a one-seat majority and promising to usher in a new series of policies, including some concerning animal protection.
The original declaration from the NDP to ban grizzly bear trophy hunting, but not meat hunting, won widespread praise, but it was viewed as having a questionable and unenforceable loophole. The government opened up a comment period, and the response was overwhelming: ban all grizzly bear hunting, because it’s essentially all for trophy hunting purposes even if someone chokes down some grizzly bear meat on pretense. Ecologist and scientist David Suzuki – along with a number of hunters on hunting forums – panned the idea that anyone hunts grizzly bears for meat, given the abundance of hooved animals in the wilds of British Columbia.
Under the prior Liberal government, B.C. had become the world’s grizzly-bear-hunting hub, with trophy hunters killing 250 of the great bears a year there, even within renowned provincial parks and protected areas and, most brazenly, in the Great Bear Rainforest, where Coastal First Nations have vehemently opposed trophy hunting of bears.
This is a signature win for animal protection groups (including Humane Society International/Canada, which worked for this outcome). Polling revealed that opponents of the practice include an overwhelming majority of residents of rural communities with strong hunting traditions. All of this is an emphatic reminder to the U.S. government and to our northern Rockies states not to proceed with a trophy hunt for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, which may be enabled with the recent delisting of bears there from the ranks of threatened and endangered species.
It’s not just a moral issue, it’s also an economic one. Each year, thousands flock to B.C.’s lush forests to participate in grizzly-bear-viewing expeditions. The bear-viewing industry brings in 12 times more direct revenue to the province than trophy hunting. There are millions of people throughout North America and the world who’d pay handsomely for an opportunity to see grizzlies in the wild, while very few people wish to slay these bears as a head-hunting exercise. The economic potential of an industry built around bear watching is vast, while the killing industry is small and receding and also a threat to the larger wildlife-watching enterprise.