Unprinted Anti-Hunting Column

SUBMITTED TO THE CALGARY SUN WHO CHOSE NOT TO PRINT THIS ANTI-HUNTING COLUMN

There is a responsibility that comes with celebrity and I consider it a privilege to use whatever influence I have to raise awareness of just causes. I often have a lot of fun with these columns and have written about everything from Mexican dog wrestling to Stampede memories, but this week I want to speak out about something serious.

In the pseudo conflicts orchestrated in pro wrestling guys in their underwear tell mythic tales of heroes and villains using only their bodies and a ring. There are no camera angles, retakes or stunt men. I have always had a great deal of respect for the art in that. It’s one on one. The same goes for amateur wrestling and boxing, where combatants face off on equal footing, may the best man win, one on one. The sense of pride and accomplishment in a fairly earned victory fuels champions and fosters role models.

I fail to see the glory in taking a high powered rifle with a targeting scope and blowing away a grizzly bear - often leaving orphan cubs behind to starve, get hit by cars - or to be exterminated themselves by some other jerk so he can mount their little baby heads on his wall.

The only thing animal trophies are a testament to is ignorance. In my view, there is absolutely no sport and nothing in any way admirable about hunting in today’s times, where we do not have the necessity of slaughtering our own food, unless the hunter plans to do battle with his bare hands,one on one, and then - what for? Hunting is just senseless butchering, and too often done inhumanely.

And don’t give me this crap about culling the herd, natural selection has done just fine without our ‘help’ since the beginning of time. If there are too many animals in a given area now it’s because we’ve encroached on too much of their natural habitat and upset the balance. I don’t like the very notion that we go around killing anything that gets in our way or inconveniences us - especially when they were there first!

There is absolutely nothing admirable about swooping down on any creature with helicopters, gliders, small planes, or chasing them with motorized vehicles until they cannot run any more so they collapse, only to have their heads blown off as they hit the ground. Or be skinned alive. Or if you’re an elephant you can look forward to being tangled up in a net so your feet can be cut off to become coffee tables and your tusks can be hacked out of your head - while you bleed to death in agony. Don’t get me started.

I would have thought Albertans are better than that! At least, we like to think we are. And that atrocities committedhoui on animals don’t happen here. They’re confined to some far off part of the world and some distant corner of our minds. Do we not pride ourselves in protecting and conserving our natural resources?

So why do we condone the reckless extermination of grizzly bears in Alberta to the point that they are in serious danger of extinction? Just two hundred years ago there were up to 16,000 grizzlies in Alberta. Now there are only about 600.

This shameful decimation is almost entirely due to human caused mortality. And the biggest problem, it’s no surprise, is the Banff-Bow Valley corridor.

In the past decade visitation to Banff has increased to more than five million annually. If this trend continues as many as nineteen million will be visiting Banff each year.

There is a serious question we need to ask before the grizzlies, and numerous other creatures in the Banff-Bow Valley ecosystem, are just plain gone - forever. I am not addressing this question to those of you who are already doing all you can to raise awareness - the question is for the rest of you. It is with great civic pride that we Albertans brag about preserving our national parks, but underneath it all what are we really more concerned about preserving, tourist revenue or ecosystems?

I am not blind to the economics of this. It’s just that I have no tolerance any more for those who turn a blind eye for a quick buck. It’s no different than poachers in the jungle who exploit or exterminate animals for money - except in our case I think it’s even more unconscionable because we have other means of supporting ourselves.

There are dedicated people much more knowledgeable than me about this issue and I think it’s long past time we all listened attentively to what they have to say. The Grizzly Bear Alliance is a growing collection of organizations, foundations and businesses representing almost 500,000 conservation minded individuals committed to maintaining a viable grizzly bear population in Banff National Park, the Bow Valley watershed and throughout Alberta. They believe that all of these issues can be addressed without harming Banff’s economy by a concerted effort and an effective long-range plan to maintain a healthy grizzly bear population.

Until such a plan is enacted, every time you show the mountains off to a visitor, or enjoy their natural beauty with your family, there is an invisible dark and heavy pall hanging in the air. A secret we don’t want the tourists to know and that we’d be uncomfortable explaining to our kids. Until you stop waiting for someone else to do something about it, just by being there you’re part of the problem instead of the cure. The bears and other wildlife were there first and as we encroach more and more on their habitant and migration routes, always remember, they are not a menace to us, we are a menace to them. To those committed individuals and organizations who have been sounding the alarm, I hope this helps.