There are images that hit the Internet that break our hearts. And there are those that make us furious. A new video making the rounds on social media is managing to do both – and the B.C. government should be alive to the backlash it is creating.
The video opens with a grizzly bear wandering nonchalantly on a remote hillside. A shot rings out that kicks up dust beside the bear, with no evident impact on him. An off-camera voice urges the shooter to fire again. And then the carnage begins: For the next 90 seconds, you can only watch in disgust and horror as the bear is peppered with bullets from a rifle that seems to have only enough power to torture this poor creature to death, rather than end its life in anything resembling a humane way.
Warning: The video below is extremely graphic. Viewer discretion is advised.
There are two parts of the video that are particularly disturbing: the bear running in a tight circle in reaction to the bullets hitting him; and then its final, crushing, end-over-end death tumble down a snow-covered hillside, a trail of deep red blood covering his fall line. Soon, the hunters can be heard laughing and celebrating, elated that the bear's cartwheel to the bottom of the hill means less work lugging the carcass out of the bush.
The Wildlife Defence League, which posted the video to its Facebook page on Monday, doesn't know the identity of the shooters or the precise location of the killing, although it's believed to have taken place in northern British Columbia. B.C., you see, still allows well-financed hunters to come in and kill grizzlies for sport; to walk away with a head that can be mounted on some wall in their home, or a bear's coat that can be used as a tacky rug in some cabin.
Alberta shut down trophy hunting in 2006, over fears that the grizzly population was on the verge of extinction. The population has since come back, and with its re-emergence there have been calls for the trophy hunt to be resumed. That is unlikely, as the Alberta public is decidedly on the side of the grizzly, just as the B.C. public is.
But while the vast majority of people in B.C. find the notion of sport-hunting grizzlies despicable, the government continues to allow it.
This is the same government that continues to preface almost any policy announcement with the words: "We have listened to the public and …" Except when it comes to the senseless slaughter of grizzly bears. That, somehow, is different.
Perhaps not all grizzlies are killed in the same merciless, appalling manner that the one in this video was. But we know that many likely are because while sport hunters may have the big bucks to pay for such "hunting" opportunities, they don't always have the skill to match. There are grizzlies that have likely walked around for days wounded by a bullet or two, much as Cecil the lion wandered the jungles of Zimbabwe after being maimed by an arrow pulled by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. Mr. Palmer, as the world knows, eventually finished poor Cecil off.
It seems bizarre that we can be so rightly outraged by the trophy hunting we witness in Africa, but allow the same thing to happen in our own country. Grizzlies in B.C. are being killed for no other reason than for pure pleasure and enjoyment; to provide some testosterone-fuelled "sports hunter" the thrill of killing a defenceless animal that is doing nothing more than innocently ambling about in its home environment.
Why? In terms of any commerce that might be lost by ending this archaic pursuit, it's been demonstrated by study after study that there is far more money to be made by giving people the thrill of seeing a grizzly in the wild than there is giving people the chance to kill them. Eco-tourism can and does provide plenty of jobs in remote parts of B.C., far more than guide outfitting does or ever will.
First Nations are adamantly against the sport-killing of grizzlies as well. Yes, the same First Nations communities whose support the B.C. government needs on so many levels these days. But call off this trophy hunt? Are you kidding, that would make a handful of guide outfitters unhappy and they support the Liberal Party.
I challenge Premier Christy Clark to watch the shooting of that grizzly bear and allow this practice to continue. It is not like B.C. is being overrun by these creatures. And most people accept that grizzlies can and will continue to be hunted by First Nations, but only as a form of sustenance. The notion that some bozo can pay a guide to point him in the direction of a poor defenceless animal and be allowed to brutalize it to death is infuriating. And it has to end.
In 2012, bands along B.C.'s north and central coasts declared a ban on trophy bear hunting – one that was ignored by the Liberal government. Now they are promising to go to even greater lengths to see this antediluvian tradition end. For many First Nations groups in B.C., this has become their hill to die on.