[ON MY WAR PATH – 008 – Hottest Anti-vs-Hunter showdown 04]
July 5, 1996, Fri.
The Prince George Citizen
by Gordon Hoekstra
Fur flies at meeting to ban bear hunts
It was barely civil, and sometimes downright ugly.
In the end, it took a campaigner of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee close to two hours to deliver a plea for help to ban bear hunting in BC.
Anthony Marr was interrupted, shouted down and generally abused by hunters that dominated an audience of more than 100 that spilled out of a conference room at the Civic Centre Thursday evening.
The information meeting – sponsored by the Nechako Environmental Coalition – at one point deteriorated into a shouting match between two members in the audience.
Marr had barely begun to explain that the WCWC wants to start a citizen referendum to ban sport and trophy hunting before he was attacked.
“Who’s going to make this decision? The Lower Mainland?” challenged a member of the audience.
When Marr finally finished his slide presentation that began with a history of poaching and hunting of elephants, rhinoceroses and tigers, he had explained that the dwindling population of bears in Asia and escalating demand for bear parts there was putting increasing pressure on bear populations in Canada.
His analysis was that since it was difficult to stop poacher in BC – who by his estimates accounted for at least once if not twice as many kills as licensed hunters – a moratorium on licensed bear hunting was needed to ease pressures on bear populations.
“I plead with you to make a personal sacrifice and stop hunting Grizzly bears,” he said, adding little about Black bears in his presentation.
Marr’s population number were similar to the BC wildlife department’s estimates of 100,000 to 140,000 Black bears, one quarter of Canada’s population, and 10,000 to 13,000 Grizzlies, although he also quoted certain independent biologists’ estimates, which are lower than the governments’.
The annual kill from licensed hunters of Black bears in the recent past averaged about 4,000, and for Grizzlies, from 237 to 368, averaging 323.
Hunters in the audience said Marr should be targeting the Asian countries that buy bear parts and helping those already attempting to stop poachers.
But some in the audience went even further, questioning Marr’s credentials (he’s a geophysicist), his motivation (he started his campaign after he read a TIME article on the decimation of tigers), where he lived (Vancouver), his knowledge of the bush (his geophysical exploration work took him there), and his links to Bear Watch – a radical anti-bear-hunting group (he says he is not a member of the group).
“If you want to ban bear hunting,” exclaimed one audience member, “you’re barking up the wrong tree.”
Marr said, “If you don’t like me barking up your tree, you should get off it.”
July 4, 1996, Thursday, cloudy, with showers en route form Fort St. John to Prince George.
From Anthony Marr’s field journal
[00:35 (960705/5) @ the Lynden residence]
– the Fort St. John Northerner (08:45 in person interview by Wendy Coomber at her office, SWN 4,000),
– the Dawson Creek Mirror (11:20 in person interview at the Dawson Creek Dinner & Deli by Diana Stephenson, CIRC 5,300),
– the Chetwynd Echo (13:00 in person interview by Rick Daison at his office, VCP 1,412).
Back to Prince George by 17:45.
19:00-22:15 – Prince George, the “Northern Capital of BC” sports 77,000 inhabitants, mostly hunters. From my perspective, it is the biggest pro-hunting city in BC, north or south, bar none.
Tonight’s open presentation at the Prince George Civic Centre on 855 Dominion Street, MCed by Carolyn Lynden, is pre-announced via media by design. I want page A-1 newspaper coverage. Gordon Hoekstra of the Prince George Citizen (dist. 23,000) will be there, guaranteed. It will be Port Alberni all over again, only, twice as big crowd-wise, and 10X as big media-wise.
As it worked out, there were about 10 environmentalists and AR people, mostly seated in the first two rows, and easily 130 hunters and guide-outfitters huffing behind their backs. They stuffed the room to standing-room-only, and spilled out into the hallway.
Carolyn’s friends Susan and Julie who were there said that they were sickened almost right from the start by the atmosphere of hostility and hatred. Julie, an elementary school teacher, said to me after the event, with tears in her eyes, “Now I know how some of my kids get to be so screwed up. How can they not be with parents like these?” Susan said that she would have left had it not been for her friend Carolyn.
This time, they didn’t even wait for me to begin before hammering me with whatever abuse they pleased. Some of them were from Port Alberni, and the guy who chased me on the Port Alberni highway was probably there as well. I know this because they were quoting what I said in that “presentation” – misquoted, rather – and someone remarked about me speeding. Some blatantly said, “This is not what I heard you say in Port Alberni.” So, they’re stalking me, and will continue to do so for the rest of the road tour. I wonder who among them were the ones chasing me on the Port Alberni highway. Have they switched to a Corvette for the next pursuit? One thing I haven’t noted in this journal up to this point, and that is the almost continuous presence of video cameras aimed at me wherever I speak, with their red eyes staring at me. Tonight is the same. We should do the same back to them, if only to serve as a deterrent against overly murderous behaviour. Also, it would help me recognize those who have been tracking me. The next big presentation will be in Kamloops July 8. I’ll see if any by-now familiar faces will show up there. One thing is familiar – their mob behavior. Sometimes I deliberately tested their patience, and there wasn’t much of it there – a veritable powder keg with a short fuse.
Some maintained that WCWC and Bear Watch were one and the same, and that WCWC had unlimited funding, and that the Rear Referendum was nothing but another fund-raiser.
In the crowd was also a conservation officer who operates in the Prince George Omineca region. He differed sharply from the hunters on one point. The hunters always argue that poaching is insignificant, to support their contention that the bear are under little or no pressure and could therefore tolerate the extent of legal hunting they themselves exert upon them.
In contrast, international experts, e.g. Doggett, estimate that for every bear legally killed by hunters, at least one is killed by a poacher – 1:1. Slobodian estimated even 2:1 illegally killed to legally killed. The hunters, on the other hand, and collaborated by the BC Environment Ministry, say only one bear poached for every three to four bears legally hunted – 1:3 to 1:4. This, combined with what environmentalists and preservationists believes to be an inflated official Grizzly bear population estimate of 10,000-13,000 (versus independent biologists’ much more conservative estimate of 4,000-7,000), would give the general public that there are so many bears in the province that not only can they be hunted, but they should be.
The Omineca conservation officer, on the other hand, reported that in his region of Prince George Omineca, the poaching-to-hunting ratio could be as high as 10 to 1! He himself found 14 bear carcasses with just the gall bladders and paws removed over the last few weeks alone. There are only 140 conservation officers to patrol the entire province. A larger force will find more carcasses.
In the end, he came to shake my hand. I pledged to him that I will do all I can to persuade government to hire more conservation officers.
One or two of the hunters also came to shake hands and tried to make peace somehow, in spite of which I was far from being reassured that some post-presentation harassment a la Port Alberni wouldn’t happen. I didn’t tell Carolyn about the highway chase, but on her own accord she suggested that a few of us go to a nearby Tim Horton’s for a night snack. This sounded like a reasonable deterrent, so we went. We were joined by Susan, another of Carolyn’s friends, and a couple who were at the presentation named Dr. Peter Carter and Julie Johnson, both of Prince George.
Julie said, “You must have taken logic and philosophy courses.”
Peter remarked that he perceived the audience undergoing a subtle change, from flat out hostility to a low keyed respect even though they remained sternly in opposition, “having seen that you remained calm and respectful and were obviously genuine. You didn’t change any minds, Anthony, but you converted a few hearts.”
After the night snack, we said good night and God speed, and Carolyn drove me back in her car to her place. I check behind us several times without Carolyn noticing, and saw no one tailing us.
Tomorrow, the real boomies – Dunster. I am currently skirting the far reaches of the province, the outback, in Aussie lingo. The highway I’ll be driving tomorrow is the back road parallel to the BC/Alberta border. I don’t have to be reminded yet again, which the audience tonight again did, and that I’m a hated outsider coming into their communities to tell them what to do, worse, what they can’t do. The confrontation this evening is about as close to a mass lynching as a civilization like Canada would allow.
July 5, 1996, Fri.
The Daily News
Environmentalist calls for bear-hunting ban
A controversial environmentalist will talk Monday about why he wants to see bear-hunting banned in BC.
Anthony Marr from the Western Canada Wilderness Committee will give a speech at the PPWC hall, 427 Lansdown St., at 7:30 p.m.
WCWC founding director Paul George said Marr is a Chinese Canadian campaigner protecting endangered and threatened species, particularly the bears, elephants, tigers and rhinos, first and foremost to curb the Asian demand for their body parts. He’ll discuss the plight of these animals and the group’s proposed Bear Protection Act that calls for a hunting ban in BC.
“In some areas, they’ve been heavily poached or hunted,” George said.
“It’s also a moral issue,” and the WCWC feels killing an animal for entertainment or trophy is wrong. . . .
The ban proposal has raised the hackles of the BC Wildlife Federation.
BCWF president John Holdstock said bear hunting is strictly controlled by the province and most hunters use the meat. “It’s really good meat. It’s much like pork,” he said.
Bears are not endangered in BC, as WCWC has implied, he added.
“I think they are liars. That’s my personal opinion.”
And he feels the bear-hunt ban will lead to other bans.
“If you argue that Black bear hunting is wrong, you have to argue that all hunting is wrong.
He expected Marr would talk about the endangered Asian bears; the BC situation is different, he said.
Ray Demarchi, BC Environment’s chief of wildlife management, agreed.
“They mix endangered species with Grizzly and Black bears, which are not endangered,” he said.
Last year, hunters killed about 4,000 of the provinces 110,000 to 130,000 Black bears. They also hunted about 300 of BC’s 10,000 to 13,000 Grizzlies.
Conservation officers in 1996 had to move or kill another 900 Black bears and 90 Grizzlies. Poachers are a small problem, taking probably less than 10% of bears, Demarchi said.
July 8, 1996, Monday, sunny, 30+oC
[14:51 @ Ruth Madsen’s house in Kamloops]
I called Darlene at 08:45 and arranged to meet her for lunch at the Chapter View Point restaurant, where we met back in 1992 for the first and only time while I was on a business trip, and at that fleetingly. I happened to be having breakfast at a window table of this same restaurant on the top of a hill with a panoramic river view. I was about done when the maitre-d’ led an attractive 30-ish woman to the table next to mine. After she had made her order and was waiting for her breakfast to arrive, we exchanged a couple of glances – partly due to us both being alone. By then, I had finished my breakfast, and was waiting for the waiter to bring me my check. We exchange another glance, and this one contained a smile. The waiter arrived with the check and I got up to leave. “You dropped this,” she said, handing me a slip of paper. It was a Future Shop receipt. I thanked her, but surprised myself by saying, “It’s only a receipt, but you can make it very valuable by putting your name and phone number on it.” And she did. Since then, we have kept up a warm though sporadic phone communication, though we never did meet again. She has a boyfriend, so our interaction has always been in the context of a caring friendship.
I received a call from a woman called Bronwin, who is helping Ruth organize tonight’s presentation, and who is also a media person. She told me that she would mobilize all the Kamloops media to the event, and sure enough, CBC-TV called me at the restaurant for a live interview at 13:10, while I was having lunch with Darlene.
I arrived at the restaurant a few minutes late, since I had some trouble relocating the place. By the time I pulled into the parking lot, Darlene was there waiting for me, and as soon as I got out of the car, she gave me a warm hug. Having seen her only once, and at that more than four years ago, I wouldn’t instantly recognize her in the street. But there she was, “as if it were just yesterday”. Now, having gazed at her face for two hours, I’ll recognize her next time, anywhere.
While I was phone-interviewed at 10:00 by Clair of CHNL, Darlene read some of the press clippings. After that, she said, “Now I really want to come to your presentation. But tonight, as last night, I have to work.” We hugged a long good-bye.
After the breakfast, I went to exchange the cell phone, then to the Mazda dealership to pick up the set of spark-plug cables I ordered from Prince George. The car is running smooth as butter again. Now, I notice she is encrusted in an inch of road dirt.
The TV interview by Gary Aldus of CFJC (CBC/CTV) went just as smoothly. After that, I called Bronwin who told me that all media have been contacted, and many would attend the presentation tonight, and that she saw the TV interview (which I missed), and thought I did an “excellent job”.
[22:48] This evening’s presentation was a success. About 40 people showed up, with hunters outnumbering anti-hunters more than 3 to 1, some of them again looking familiar. Again I experienced the initial apprehension when I saw the number of 4X4s with gun racks in the parking lot as we (Ruth and I) arrived. But once I walked in and looked them in the eye, the apprehension disappeared, as in times before, replaced by a sense of moral fortitude that felt invincible.
Bronwin was another kind of MC – strong, dynamic, hardline, no BS, straight-shooting and fair. Right from the start, she set down rules: one speaker at a time, and if you want to speak, raise your hand first, and no interrupting Anthony Marr, and when called upon to speak, first stated you name and the organization you represent. If you don’t like these rules, challenge them now, or abide . No one challenged them. The hunters were kept on the straight and narrow, not that they didn’t try. So the proceedings were relatively civil, relative, that is, to Prince George. In the end, I was applauded by 50% of the audience, when the hunters numbered at least 75%. That means something.
We signed up about a dozen people.
One woman remarked to me when I was packing up, “Seeing you dispel their challenges one by one, it’s like intellectual magic.” I didn’t know what to say, which seems to contradict this compliment.
In the audience were at least three media people: a young woman called Michele Young of Kamloops Daily News, another young woman from Kamloops This Week, and Clair, yet another young woman, of CHNL-AM, whom I talked to by phone this morning. All three were quite openly sympathetic. Before Clair began our interview, she shielded her mike and said, “Off the record, I’m with you.”
After the media people had left, however, there was a little drama in the parking lot. When emerged from the building, slide projector in hand, I was confronted by a line of about a dozen hunters about 50′ away, blocking my way to my car about 100′ away. I had 5 options: to turn back into the building and wait it out, to stand there and do nothing, to walk away aimlessly, to slink around them to get to the car, or to walk right through them. Since the shortest distance between points A and B is a straight line, and since I was a little tire, I decided on Option #4. I picked out the ring-leader and walked straight towards him, while extending my hand cordially, saying, “Thank you for coming to this event. Without you guys, this event wouldn’t be as successful as it was.” He did not take my hand. “Excuse me.” And with that, I aimed for a narrow gap, which parted like the Red Sea.
July 9, 1996, Tue.
The Kamloops Daily News
by Michele Young
Activist pleads for bear-hunt ban
With calm and respect, Anthony Marr faced rapid-fire questioning from hunters and threw back a plea for them to stop hunting bears.
The Western Canada Wilderness Committee’s bear campaigner stopped in Kamloops Monday night on his province-wide road tour to get awareness and supporters for his bear-hunt ban referendum project.
Marr, a Chinese Canadian, went after Asians for their use of bear and other animal parts in medicine. While he talks to high school kids in Vancouver, especially at schools with high Asian numbers, and tries to get information back to China and Hong Kong, changing centuries of tradition isn’t fast or easy.
Canadian Grizzlies are threatened – one step from being endangered, Black bears are not. But Marr is afraid legal hunting and poaching will take its toll on both.
Hunter Gordon Chamberlain asked Marr why he didn’t work with hunters, guide-outfitters, trappers, conservation staff and others who are against poaching. “Can’t we work together to achieve the same end?” he question Marr.
Marr said the problem is hunting and poaching combined, and both have to stop.
Another hunter noted that most conservation funding comes from hunting. If hunters are alienated, that money will disappear, he said.
Marr said that the funding comes from hunting license fees, not donations from hunters out of the goodness of their hearts. “If hunters really do care for wildlife, they would donate funds as WCWC members do, whether they could continue to hunt or not. As a result of WCWC members’ donations, WCWC has succeeded in working with government to preserve South Moresby, Carmanah, Clayoquot, the Stein, the Kutzeymateen, among other wildlife habitat.”
… And he challenged the hunters listening, “If you believe that the public is on your side, you could hold your own referendum to reinstate hunting the bears once their security has been assured.”…
July 9, 1996, Tue.
by Rick Davison
WCWC wants bear hunting banned
It will be a tough fight, particularly in these parts, but Anthony Marr of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee is determined to stop the killing of bears in BC.
Marr is spearheading the WCWC’s Bear Referendum project . . .
His first step will be to find the people willing to register themselves with Elections BC as “volunteer canvassers” to help collect some 220,000 signatures required to force a public vote on the issue.
He hopes to have those canvassers ready to start the 90-day signature-drive starting September 10. . . .
Marr opposes what he calls the European-Canadian tradition of recreational/trophy hunting that he says is really killing for pleasure, as well as the Asian-Canadian tradition of killing bears for medicinal purposes.
“Most people in BC and Canada, including hunters, are not aware of the extent of poaching,” said Marr, who added that while there are about 120,000 Black bears and some 10,000 Grizzlies in BC, there is, according to international experts, at least one illegal kill for every legal one.
He said the Grizzly bear population is declining at a rate of several per cent a year, and while poaching is difficult to stop, the number of legal licenses issued can be reduced or eliminated. . . .
His stand has won him the admiration of some and the scorn of others. . . .
The president of the Chetwynd Rod and Gun Club was unavailable for reaction on the proposed anti-bear-hunting law.
July 10, 1996, Wed.
The Daily News
by Robert Koopmans
Bear ban sets bad precedent
The thought of dead bears in the bush, minus their gall bladders and paws, makes me cringe. But there is something in Anthony Marr’s message that ripples my spine just as much.
A campaigner with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Marr was in town Monday night, promoting the idea the ending bear hunting in BC can stop poaching and save bears from the endangered list.
It’s not the specifics of Marr’s anti-bear-hunting speech that are troubling, but what his campaign represents. Marr is the thin edge of a bigger wedge, an axe aimed at the heart of sport hunting in general.
He knows how to cloak the anti-hunting message. First, he hides it in the evils of poaching, then attaches it to a species that almost everyone identifies as the king of wildlife in BC. His concerns aren’t based in fact.
Poaching may be a problem, but hunters aren’t poachers. End bear hunting in BC and animals will still fall victim to criminals’ bullets.
And there is nothing to suggest numbers are even decreasing. According to wildlife officials, Black bears number around 120,000 in BC while Grizzly bear populations have stabilized.
Marr’s request for an end to bear seasons isn’t about shrinking populations or poaching. Ultimately, the WCWC is spearheading the start of an attempt to end all hunting in BC.
As the WCWC works to get the more than 200,000 signatures needed to send the bear-hunting issue to a BC-wide vote, people should be aware of the real question.
Do people have the right to hunt?
The question is very emotional for some, and the topic evokes strong debate in many circles. Like many issues – politics, religion and abortion to name a few – there are no easy answers.
If you believe subjective arguments are best dealt with by provincial referendum and statute of law, this vote is for you. If WCWC gets bear hunting to a vote, it will be special interest groups that win, not wildlife. Criminals will still kill animals in the bright glare of lights, but activists will have found a new voice, a new tool to use whenever they find an activity contrary to their personal beliefs.
Issues and concerns born of pure emotion should not be dealt with by law. If WCWC wants to end hunting – it should seek to educate, not legislate.
Make people want to stop shooting bears. Should some weigh the facts and continue to hunt, keep in mind, this is a free country.
Marr said WCWC isn’t interested in stopping all hunting – just bear hunting. But if his bid for a referendum is successful, others will pick up where WCWC left off.
Bear Watch, the Tofino-based quasi-terrorist that chases hunters with air horns and video cameras, could turn into Deer Watch. Perhaps they will suggest all poaching will stop when hunters are prevented from entering the bush.
Expect the next decade or two to be filled with a constant search for referenda, on every aspect of hunting and fishing. This is the first volley in a long fight. not over hunt for bears, but over the legal right to pursue wildlife.
July 10, 1996, Wed.
The Daily News
by Heather Colpitts
Bear petition circulated
The Western Canada Wilderness Committee seeks to stop bear hunting in the province as a way to safeguard their long term security.
Claiming 25,000 members and 2.5 times that many donors, the environmental group held a meeting recently in Prince Rupert to garner support for a referendum that would ban the trophy hunting of bears in BC.
“Of the eight species of bears in the world, five have been driven to the brink of extinction,” WCWC campaigner Anthony Marr said. “If the trend continues, which it definitely does, and escalating, the Grizzly bear will be next to be put on the endangered list, followed by the Polar bear, and finally the Maerican Black bear,” he said.
Black bear kills are not required to be reported in BC and in most provinces in Canada, so the actual kill numbers are likely much higher than the reported 22,000 Black and Grizzly bears legally killed annually in Canada. Even by conservation estimates there is one bear poached for every one legally killed, and BC and Alberta are estimated to be more heavily poached than other provinces. Add this to the legal kill number and we could be losing 44,000 to 60,000 bears per year due to direct killing, or 10% to 14% of the bear population per annum, which is far from sustainable.
Hunters elsewhere during the WCWC Bear Referendum road tour have been critical of the numbers used and question whether the decline of the bear in Asia has anything to do with the bears in BC.
. . . . Northern BC increasingly will be viewed as a bear warehouse with the decimation of the Asiatic and southern BC bear populations, Marr warned.
“More than two decades ago India outlawed tiger hunting and Kenya, among other African countries, has banned lion hunting in spite of the lion’s not even being considered endangered.
“Canada as an environmentally awareness nation has a moral obligation to lead the world, not straggle behind two Third World countries,” said Marr.
In spite of this moral high ground, WCWC and Marr admits they have an uphill battle ahead with hunters. . . .
July 10, 1996, Wed.
The Terrace Standard
by Dave Taylor
Crusade makes bid for bear hunting ban
At underground Oriental bear banquets, live bears in cages are lowered onto hot coals until their paws are cooked.
In Chinese “bear farms”, workers extract gall bladder bile from live bears in tiny cages to process into patent medicines.
In North America, bears are being poached for galls and paws, and trophy hunted, with firearms, bow and arrow, over bait and by means of dogs, for head and hide.
These are some of the atrocities that Anthony Marr of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee say he is out to stop.
He is on an eight-week road tour to drum up support for a province-wide referendum to end bear hunting in BC, and raise penalties against poachers and traffickers.
While Grizzly bears and Black bears are not endangered in BC, Marr says that could soon change. . . .
According to Marr, when a species becomes endangered, it’s probably too late.
“It’s a catch-22 situation,” he says. “Once a species is classified as endangered, the black market value goes up, poaching escalates, and the species spirals down. It’s a very vicious cycle that is almost impossible to break.” . . .
Marr says that he has to go after legal hunting besides higher penalties for poachers because “trying to catch poachers in a province the size of BC is like Paul Watson trying to locate pirate whalers in the high seas back in the 1970s.”. . .
If there is a referendum vote, Marr thinks it will win big, citing a 1995 Angus Reid poll that indicated 85% of British Columbians were opposed to bear trophy-hunting.
One person in the other 15% is Bobby Ball, a hear-hunting guide for over 40 years. He disagrees with Marr.
“There is no danger to the bear population,” he says. “There are more bears out here than you can shake a stick at.”
Ball is not happy with people like Marr, who he says are misinformed.
“Those Bear Watch yahoos really do more harm than good,” he says. “What those armchair conservationists don’t realize is that trophy hunters go after the old boars that rarely reproduce and can be a nuisance.” . . .
Ball also says he doesn’t understand the reasoning behind the referendum bid, which goes after hunters, and poachers.
“Isn’t that stupid?” he says. “Stop and think about it – isn’t that stupid? Hunting brings lots of good, clean dollars to the region. If this guy wants to help, he should go after the poachers, not the hunters.”
But Marr sees a trophy hunting ban as invaluable in safe-guarding the health of bear populations before things get out of control.
“We have to do something now, whether or not the hunters agree,” he says. “If we wait till they see the light, it could be too late.”
July 11, 1996, Thur.
The Daily News
by Mel Rothenburger
Culture greatest threat to wildlife
Culture and the environment seem to be coming into conflict a lot lately. Culture is a word for saying that because something has been done a certain way in the past, it should continue to be done.
There are many good attributes to culture. It defines collections of people, teaches them, gives them pride. But it can also be a tremendous barrier to positive change. That’s the case with endangered wildlife.
Earlier this week, Anthony Marr spoke to a few dozen people in Kamloops about his so-called BET’R Campaign. BET’R stands for bear, elephant, tiger and rhinoceros – four groups of species he fears are fighting a losing battle against mankind.
The prime reason is culture. All four species groups are being slaughtered because their parts are highly valued in Far Eastern countries for alleged medicinal benefits. Thus, poaching is rampant. Marr, who grew up in Hong Kong, understands the culture behind the insatiable appetite for rare animal parts, but devotes his life to fighting it.
He realizes the difficulty in asking people to reverse a thousand-year-old tradition, but it’s the only way the target animals can be saved. Unfortunately, several species – including some sub-species of rhinos and tigers – are doomed to extinction within years.
Dan Stobbe, a guide-outfitter, asked Marr a pertinent question. Pointing out that the Nisga’s treaty allows for the killing of Grizzly bears for ceremonial purposes, he asked if that wasn’t a parallel to the Asian appetite for animal parts. Culture is culture.
Marr had to acknowledge the similarity, and could say only that aboriginal treaties are almost impossible to challenge, though he does lobby against aboriginal trade in bear parts.
Meanwhile, it was reported this week that Ottawa is ready to give the green light to Inuit hunters who want to kill rare bowhead whales because their ancestors used to hunt bowhead. The culture word again.
Even though bowhead numbers are estimated at as low as 3% of what they were in the early 1800s, which means only 450-500 are still alive, the federal government appears to be more concerned about political correctness than saving species.
There comes a time, surely, when culture has to take second place to the survival of species. What good will tiger bone and bear galls do Asian culture when there are no more tigers and bears? What good will killing bowhead whales do the Inuit when the last bowhead has died?
The politicians and bureaucrats who make these decisions have to consider the greater good over immediate political consequences. Lest Canadians get a little pious about the atrocities against wildlife committed in the name of culture in other countries, they should pay close attention to what’s happening in their own backyard.
July 13, 1996, Sat.
The Daily News
by Mel Rothenburger
Impossible to get issue to a vote
Nobody ever promised democracy would be easy. Anthony Marr, who grew up in Hong Kong, is learning all about that in Canada.
Marr was in town this week as part of a tour of BC cities setting the stage for what he hopes will be a provincial referendum on bear hunting. Asidse from the cogency of his argument. what struck me most about his objective is the near-impossibility of success.
The hurdles are staggering. First Marr, of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, had to submit the proposed wording for the plebiscite to the government, then wait for it to be accepted.
Now, he must wait for the official petition period, which starts Sept. 9. Within 90 days of that date, he must hope government-sanctioned volunteers can collect the signatures of 10% of eligible voters in each riding of the province.
In a riding like Kamloops, with 31,000 voters, that’s 3,100 signatures. That’s a lot of signatures. He must repeat that 75 times.
If, by some miracle, he can do it in 90 days, he will submit the petitions to government, which has 42 days to look them over. The government can put it to a House vote, turn it down, or approve going to referendum.
But, if the referendum (more properly called a plebiscite) is approved, it doesn’t just need a simple majority of voters. It requires support from a majority of the total of eligible voters to pass. Supposing an average turnout of around 70%, the plebiscite will have to go about 70% of that 70% to achieve the 50%-plus-one of registered voters. If the turn out is only 49%, the vote is lost, no matter what.
“It is designed for proponents lose,” said Marr.
No wonder the hunters aren’t worried. That didn’t stop a handful of them from showing up at the meeting with the obvious intent of disrupting Marr’s presentation to the maximum extent possible.
Marr has faced this tactic at several other meetings and handles it well. My only quarrel with his approach is that he’s too soft on recreational hunting. He states very clearly he isn’t out to stop hunting per se.
Marr points out that in Asia, bears are being poached to near extinction for Oriental medicines, and that this will put tremendous pressure on North American bears, which are a comparatively untapped market.
He urges hunters to put aside their own interests in favour of giving BC’s bear population a breather until things are brought under control.
Hunters will have none of it. They don’t believe Marr’s figures or his intentions. They believe he wants to take away their “right” to go into the bush and shoot things.
Back to my main point. The future of wildlife species is important to everyone, hunters and non-hunters alike.
Given the importance of the issue, one would think a democratic society would try to make it easy to reach a democratic resolution. One would think a good way to handle it would be to provide a means for all sides to talk it out, gather their support, go to the polls and make a rational and informed decision.
It’s not going to happen. Marr and the WCWC simply won’t be able to get it to a provincial vote. So the hunters will win. If you are on their side, you should still be disappointed, because it will be by default and that’s no way to decide on the survival of species, including our own.
July 13, 1996, Sat.
The Times Colonist, Victoria
The Globe and Mail, Toronto
from the Canadian Press
Ban bear-hunt petition set
The Western Canada Wilderness Committee has cleared another hurdle in its bid to end sport and trophy hunting of bears in BC.
Chief Electoral Officer Robert Patterson has announced in the BC Gazette that approval in principle has been given to the group’s initiative petition.
The 90-day signature campaign is et to begin Sept. 9.
Committee director Paul George said an estimated 5,000 volunteer canvassers are needed to collect a minimum of 207,000 signatures.
At least 10% of registered voters in each of BC’s 75 electoral districts must sign up during the period.
If successful, the anti-bear-hunting petition would be submitted to the BC legislature to consider a new law or call a province-wide referendum on the issue.
July 16, 1996, Tue.
The Elk Valley Miner
Group seeks to ban all BC bear hunting
The Western Canada Wilderness Committee is kicking off a campaign to collect enough signatures to have a provincial referendum abolishing bear hunting in BC.
Anthony Marr, the Committee’s referendum organizer, who is traveling though BC to enlist volunteers . . . was in the Elk Valley last Thursday to meet with local supporters.
He declined to name local supporters, saying that they wished to remain anonymous due to conflicting agendas . . .
The Sierra Legal Defence Fund drafted a proposed Bear Protection Act for the WCWC which they hope to have passed and adopted. It amends the Wildlife Act by prohibiting bear hunting and making it an offence to hunt bears except as provided to specific sections of the act. For conviction of a first offence, offenders would be liable to a maximum fine of $250,000, and minimum fine of $25,000 and term of imprisonment not exceeding six months.
These penalties would of course be applied to poaching, since all bear hunting would have become illegal. . . .
July 17, 1996, Wed.
by Jennifer Lang
A vote for the bears
There are plenty of bears in BC, right? Here in the northwest, they wander into gardens or backyards during the summer, and are frequently seen by the side of the road; hardly the behaviour expected from an animal that needs more protection.
“Just wait,” warns Anthony Marr, head of the BET’R (bear, elephant, tiger & rhino) Campaign for Western Canada Wilderness Committee. “The poachers are coming. They already are here. They’ve already pillaged parts of BC, and those who can say ‘There are plenty of bears’ are the lucky ones. But they won’t stay lucky for too long if we don’t do something about it.”
Marr is spearheading a campaign to stop all recreational and trophy hunting of bears in BC. . . . He stopped in Terrace recently during an 8-week tour of the province . . .
July 18, 1996, Thur.
The Daily News, Nelson
July 19, 1996, Fri.
Alberni Valley Times, Port Alberni
The Trail Times, Trail
by Jolanda Waskito
Crusader for bear-hunting ban has tough sell
If wildlife crusader Anthony Marr has his way, British Columbia will vote in a referendum on whether or not to ban bear hunting in the province.
. . . . But, he’s facing a tough task, especially as he tours the East Kootenays and comes up against local hunters.
Ray Wilson, a member of the East Kootenay Hunters Association, questioned whether the bears are in trouble at all.
“I think they’re more than holding their own. In fact, I think they’re doing better than they were 15 years ago,” said Wilson, adding that environmentalists who want to ban hunting are choosing the wrong target.
“If you end hunting, then you lose some valuable allies in the forefront of conservation in North America for more than a century.
“Because they want to hunt bears, they have an interest in preserving them. They’ve been working at it for a long time.”
Wilson said it would be more fruitful to focus on the major threat to bear populations – habitat loss. For example, a broad range of hunting groups supported creation of the Kutzeymateen Grizzly sanctuary, a successful conservation campaign involving WCWC.
Preserving habitat in the face of urban expansion or resource extraction is a far more difficult and meaningful challenge than banning hunters, who make easy targets, Wilson said.
July 19, 1996, Fri.
Comox Valley Echo
Ursine good fortune on Denman
Rumour has it that the Black bear my neighbour spotted strolling along our driveway a couple of weeks ago is still roaming freely from one end of Denman Island to the other. It is, in fact, the same animal sighted repeatedly since last fall, he or she has been unknowingly subject to some exceptional good fortune. I’m sure the majority of folks living in the Comox Valley region are well aware by now that such close proximity to human interests often spell dire consequences for Black bears throughout our province. But they may not know of the proposed referendum plan to spare this species the fate of the Grizzly (which, at its current rate of eradication, is headed for the endangered species list within the next decades), or understand the validity of such foresight.
On the evening of June 16, Western Canada Wilderness Committee’s BET’R Campaign director Anthony Marr shared an enlightening audio visual presentation in the Denman Hall, exposing the crisis faced by tigers, rhinos, elephants and bears around the world. . . .
. . . . In Port Alberni, just before his Denman engagement, a room full of hunting advocates showed up to protest Marr’s presentation before they themselves could witness the disturbing footage of bears being slaughtered tortuously and pictures of carcasses left to rot by the side of logging roads almost intact – minus gall bladder and paws. . . .
uly 20, 1996
by Maurice Smith
Hunters bear down on meeting
Sportsmen say Committee presenting inaccurate information against bear hunting
The head organizer of a campaign to force a referendum on the province’s annual bear hunt was forced to change venues when a group of hunters crashed his meeting.
Anthony Marr of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee was in Penticton as part of a province-wide organizational tour to put volunteers in place to canvass for signatures. He had intended the meeting to be private, but when word got out, up to 50 prohunting advocates turned up to show their opposition to the plan.
“I was there to discuss my future and present some rebuttal,” said Ross Everatt of Keremeos, a director of BC Wildlife Federation.
He said he called a number of people when he found out about the meeting..
Everatt said that the Committee is presenting inaccurate information in what he describes as an emotion-packed, but unscientific position against bear hunting. . . .
Everatt, a bear hunter, calls Marr’s poaching numbers a gross overestimation . . .
“We are getting pretty fed up with the propaganda we are hearing,” said Everatt. . . .
July 21, 1996, Sun.
The Morning Star
by Richard Rolke
Bear ban shot down
North Okanagan hunters are afraid that a ban on killing bears in BC could actually increase the slaughter of bruins and put more people at risk.
“If we stop hunting, conservation officers will have to kill more bears, because there will be more bears coming down into the valley,” said Hoss Short, president of the Vernon Fish and Game Club.
Short is upset with a campaign by the Vancouver-based Western Canada Wilderness Committee to hold a province-wide referendum to prohibit the shooting of bears.
“It’s a misdirected idea,” said Short, adding that a ban could lead to a surge in the bear population, which means they would visit urban areas more and put human life and property in danger.
He also believes a ban on bear hunting could cripple the economic viability of many small communities, especially those in the Interior and northern BC.
“Hunters spend big money hunting game and they spend a lot on licenses. The money from licenses goes towards helping our game,” said Short.
“There are a lot of hunters who go out and never harvest an animal, but they spend a lot of money. A lot of towns survive on hunting.”
Short is concerned that voters in BC’s urban areas, such as Vancouver, could back the idea and allow a referendum to pass although the impact wouldn’t affect them.
WCWC’s referendum campaign is also being watched closely by conservation officers based in the North Okanagan.
“My main message to them is to have those groups direct more of their activities towards reducing the problem (between bears and people),” said officer Murray Vatamaniuck.
According to Vatamaniuck, most conservation officers across the province are swamped with calls from people who see bears in yards. The bears are often attracted by the smell of garbage, barbecues and pet food.”
“Enforcement time of legislation is almost zero because of wildlife calls. They’re time-consuming.”
Vatamaniuck believes there has been a slowdown in sport hunting in the North Okanagan and that may reflect in an upswing in the number of bears being spotted.
“We’ve noticed an increase in the bear population because of logging, which helps improve bear habitat, and a decrease in hunting.” . . .
“Although bears are not yet considered endangered, at today’s rate of hunting, poaching and habitat loss, they soon will be,” said Anthony Marr, WCWC spokesman. . . .
July 24, 1996, Wed.
by Jean Russell
WCWC loaded for bear
Petition drive launched
Western Canada Wilderness Committee campaigner Anthony Marr was in Kelowna on Friday rallying volunteers to collect more than 220,000 signatures on a petition supporting the total ban of bear hunting in BC. . . .
Marr made it clear on Friday that he is not interested in talking to hunters. He candidly stated that the Committee’s proposed legislation banning hunting has been written without consulting them.
However, about 15 pro-hunters turned out at the meeting in Kelowna on Friday.
Don Guild, secretary treasurer of the Okanagan branch of WCWC, said Monday the hunting supporters made it difficult to make progress. “They want to dispute Marr’s figures even before he gave them, but it was not just a shouting match.”
Guild said an equal number of ban supporters were at the meeting and he expects many more will volunteer to collect signatures.
The figures the prohunters dispute is Marr’s contention that one or two bears are poached for every bear legally killed.
Matt Austin, large carnivore specialist at the Wildlife Branch of the Environment Ministry, said the provinces official figure is more like one bear poached for every four killed legally.
Austin said bear poaching is big in some parts of the province and virtually non-existent in others.
Kelowna conservation officer Ed Seitz hasn’t heard of any bears being poached in this area in the three years he’s worked here.
Marr . . . says bear poaching is destined for a sharp increase because the Asiatic bear population has been nearly wiped out by hunting, while the demand is constantly on the increase.
. . . Austin said he hasn’t observed a significant increase in poaching in BC in recent years.
Poaching “is there but there’s been no dramatic increase”. Austin suggested the province’s 1994 legislation banning trade in bear parts may be keeping the number in check. And hunting for trophy is discouraged by the requirement that hunters take all the meat off the bear’s carcass, not just the hind-quarters as was previously required.
A special investigation unit of the Wildlife Branch that goes undercover to route out poaching has laid 500 illegal hunting charges since it was founded in 1993.
John Holdstock, provincial president of the prohunting BC Wildlife Federation, called Marr’s plan for a total ban “ridiculous”.
“There is always a level of poaching everywhere,” Holdstock said. “It’s certainly something we have to keep an eye open on.” He suggested the WCWC would do better by helping control poaching in the field.
The BCWF is expanding its Wilderness Watch program, Austin said. Under the program, hunters in the field keep an eye on what’s going on and report any suspicious activities to their local conservation officers. Signs are posted in the wilderness, advertising a 1-800 number to report poaching.
Holdstock said the Federation will register its opposition to the hunting ban with the provincial government by August 12.
July 24, 1996, Wed.
The Morning Sun
by Valerie Baker
Taking aim at hunting and poaching
. . . Last week, the WCWC was granted approval in principle for an Initiative Petition to force a province-wide referendum to ban bear hunting in BC.
. . . “During the next 60 days, we will be scrambling to get as many official canvassers to gather signatures as we can,” says Paul George, WCWC’s founding director. . . .
WCWC BET’R campaign director Anthony Marr is currently on an 8-week provincial tour garnering support for the project.
Since his presentation in Qualicum Beach on June 17, around 30 local people have volunteered to be canvassers.
Not all ridings welcome Marr’s crusade, particularly Prince George and Kamloops, which he visited recently. Hunters there challenged him on his statistics regarding bear population, and some said he should be targeting the Asian countries who buy bear parts.
Rodney Wiebe, president of the Parksville-Qualicum Fish and Game Association, maintains BC has a healthy population of both Black and Grizzly bears, and criticizes WCWC for “discrediting hunters, when it’s the huge development corporations who could affect their habitat.”
BC Wildlife Federation immediate past president Bob Morris disagrees with the number of illegal bear poaching quoted by WCWC. “They are pulling numbers out of hats . . . saying that for every bear taken legally, one or two are taken illegally . . . It’s a misconception; in fact, the population has increased,” he says. Morris plans to visit with environment minister Paul Ramsey to dispute the facts WCWC is quoting.
“I agree with WCWC’s stand on illegal bear trading, but if we start to manage wildlife based on emotion, we may as well do away with the professional biologists.” . . .
Opponents of the proposal to ban legal sport hunting who plan to conduct initiative advertising are required to register with the Chief Electoral Officer by August 12.
Meanwhile, WCWC director Paul George is calling the initiative petition “a bureaucratic nightmare” and says the procedure to sign up canvassers is “a cynical act by the government.” . . .
“It’s going to require a massive effort and we are counting on the ‘Silent Majority’ to speak out,” says Marr.
July 31, 1996, Wed.
The Salmon Arm Observer
by Gordon Priestman
Seeking support for bear referendum
Anthony Marr brought his one-man crusade to Salmon Arm Thursday night. . . .
In what seems close to Mission Impossible, Marr has been touring the province since the beginning of June, holding one meeting a day and sometimes more, seven days a week. . . .
Along the way he’s run into a lot of opposition from organized hunter groups but that doesn’t deter Marr . . .
Of course, Marr is not turning his back on the poaching problem. . . .
Marr is also spending tremendous amounts of time with BC’s Asian communities trying to educate people . . .
But its a slow struggle against centuries of tradition. . . .
August 1, 1996, Thur.
The Daily News
Save the bears
Anthony Marr from the Western Canada Wilderness Committee is not alone in his quest to have bear hunting banned in BC.
Organizations and an ever-growing number of individuals are supporting his endeavour. However, a huge hunting, guiding and gun lobby will use all the firepower in their possession to defeat the proposal.
Although a ban on bear hunting would challenge old traditions, the core of the issue is financial. Millions of dollars are brought in by foreign clients of guide-outfitters, and this is only one link in a long chain of bear hunting profit spin-offs. Participants in the bear-killing business are not about to give up their lucrative enterprise without a battle.
Even if WCWC’s efforts to stop bear hunting by plebiscite fails, the issue will be moved into the political arena. In time, that will be where the fate of the bears, as well as all wildlife will be decided. That is, if the democratic system we are so proud of is not undermined by private enterprise.
The question of culture serves well as a smoke screen. In reality, what drives the Asian market for bear parts is greed. Again, profits in the trade of bear parts outweigh the risks. Asian bear populations are decimated, and BC has bears and enough unscrupulous people to sell their parts illegally. Not all of those are poachers; the bear parts trade is a complicated network that is spun well out of the public’s eye.
The concession to First Nations of allowing Grizzly bears to be killed for ceremonial purposes is ludicrous. Culture, as all things in life, undergoes changes. As noted in recorded history, indigenous tribes of the Americas practiced human sacrifices as part of their culture. Those ceremonies have evolved to something less murderous as reverence for life increased in human populations. It is hoped that respect for living creatures will override political correctness before BC’s Grizzly populations suffer more serious reductions.
by E. Kohnert
Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)