Killing wild animals for sport and trophy display was popularized in the mid 1800s by predominantly male hunters. It glamorized killing as a way to demonstrate virility, dominance and prowess. Things have changed since 1850. For one thing, we know a great deal more about the intelligence and emotional life of Grizzly Bears. They experience pain and suffering just as we do. We also recognize the barrage of overlapping pressures they face from human development and ecological changes. And no science can predict where thresholds lay, beyond which recovery for grizzlies in the wild may be impossible, particularly given their very slow rates of reproduction.
For another thing, the internet now alerts us to all forms of abuse that go against the grain of contemporary social values. Killing a grizzly for sport qualifies as an abuse of power – the power of sport hunters who use highly sophisticated weapons to take the life of an unsuspecting wild animal; and the power of governments to treat wild animals as “surplus resources” that can be killed for human entertainment.
The BC grizzly hunt is “politicized” and “scientized”, but not fully examined for the social values that it exposes. On its own, science cannot offer moral guidance about the right actions to take. For that, we must look to ethics and in the case of killing grizzlies for sport (trophy), the majority of BC residents have already reached a consensus. 88% of Canadians and 91% of British Columbians agree that there is no justification for killing a sentient species for sport.
Few places in the world are able to support a full range of healthy, intact ecosystems. British Columbia is replete with such natural abundance – and ecotourism now features strongly in the provincial image. Ending the twice-annual sport killing of grizzlies is an ethical responsibility. It is the one burden that can most easily be lifted off the backs of grizzlies to help them cope a little better with the multiple stressors that continue to erode and fragment their home ranges. It’s just the right thing to do.
What can be done to help BC grizzlies right now
Make the BC grizzly hunt an election issue that all candidates must address before May 9 2017. End the hunt.
Stop using numbers to justify sport killing.
Properly fund wildlife corridors so grizzlies can move safely across ranges to find suitable food, mating and denning opportunities.
Properly fund training programs for wildlife stewards who are educated to help BC communities coexist peacefully with Grizzly Bears.
Where conflict between grizzlies and humans is unavoidable, hold respect as the guiding principle and act with humane treatment from that starting point.