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David Suzuki: Cecil the Lion’s Killing Shines Spotlight on Barbaric Trophy Hunting
A beloved animal, tagged for tracking by researchers, crosses the invisible boundary between protected and unprotected area and is killed by a hunter who has paid tens of thousands of dollars for the “experience.” That was the fate of Zimbabwe’s Cecil the lion, whose killing sparked torrents of online and on-air outrage. But it also happens around the world every day, including in my home province of BC.
— Nat Geo WILD (@natgeowild) August 4, 2015
Many people are familiar with Cecil’s story. Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer and his guides, hunting at night with spotlights, are alleged to have tied a dead animal to their car near Hwange National Park to lure the lion. According to reports, Palmer wounded Cecil with an arrow, then tracked and shot the animal with a rifle 40 hours later. The lion’s body was found on the park’s outskirts, skinned and headless, along with the tracking collar.
Killing animals solely for “sport” or “trophies” is an ongoing and worldwide practice and something Palmer had engaged in many times and in many places, including Canada. He was even convicted of charges related to an illegal bear kill in 2008.
Closer to home, a grizzly that was tagged for research in Banff National Park had the misfortune to cross from Alberta, where grizzly hunting is illegal, into BC, where it isn’t and was legally shot and killed. On the BC coast, people were outraged when a photo surfaced of NHL player Clayton Stoner with a grizzly he shot in the Great Bear Rainforest. Coastal First Nations have banned trophy hunting there, but the government doesn’t recognize the ban. The bear, named Cheeky by local residents, was skinned and had his head and paws cut off, with the rest of the carcass left to rot. Reports have also surfaced that the winner of the Guide Outfitters Association of BC’s highest award in 2015 was convicted of illegal grizzly baiting in 2012.
Even though many grizzly populations are vulnerable and close to 90 percent of British Columbians, including many food hunters, oppose trophy hunting, BC’s government refuses to end the hunt, even in parks and areas where First Nations have banned the practice. Conservationists and other experts have challenged government population estimates, claiming they’re based on guesswork and that the real number is likely less than half the 15,000 on which the government justifies the hunt.
Large carnivores like lions, grizzlies and leopards that are targeted by big-game hunters are extremely vulnerable despite their size and ferocity. They range over large areas, which often puts them in conflict with humans and our infrastructure. Parks and protected areas are too small to provide adequate habitat, so bears often wander into areas where they can be killed by hunters or vehicles. They also reproduce later in life, infrequently and their young often have low survival rates, so populations don't recover quickly when over hunted.
Large carnivores are also keystone species that play a crucial role in the food web by helping to regulate prey populations. BC grizzlies also contribute to rainforest growth by dragging salmon carcasses into the woods, where the fish remains and bear scat provide fertilizer. In BC, trophy hunters have slaughtered more than 12,000 grizzlies over the past three decades. Like Palmer, non-resident hunters here pay large amounts of money to “bag” a grizzly because the species is protected in their home country, such as the U.S., or because populations have dwindled to a handful, as in Western Europe, where the species is now protected.
Killing animals purely for the “thrill” is barbaric and wasteful and can’t be justified on economic or conservation grounds. Studies show more money can be made from people who want to view and photograph them. Research also shows very little money paid by trophy hunters benefits the local economy.
We’re at a critical moment in human history: our population, technology, consumptive demand and global economy are overwhelming the planet’s life-support systems—air, water, soil and other species. We’re in a global eco-crisis that demands a redefinition of our relationship with plants and other animals.
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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.