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Time to Stop Canada’s Polar Bear Hunt

Time to Stop Canada’s Polar Bear Hunt

The Center for Biological Diversity, a US conservation group, has filed a formal request with the Department of the Interior, CBC News reports. The group is calling for a ban on all Canadian wildlife product imports. The proposed ban is in protest against the recent decision of the Nunavut territorial government to increase this year’s quota on the polar bear hunt in one of the defined hunting regions.

It’s actually rather shocking that polar bears are still being legally killed for trophy hunts. They’re considered a threatened species; in fact, they’re the first species to be added to the endangered species list due to the threat from global warming. I think few enough people are aware that polar bear hunting is still legally sanctioned. If they were, we might by now have forced government tourism and game departments to get with the program.

We’ve covered this issue at Care2 already. Last year, Russia put a stop to their hunt. Canada, however, is still resisting pressure from conservationists to follow suit. The Arctic is a fragile ecosystem, and each year the environmental pressure of a changing climate is tougher on the polar bear population. Decreased sea ice has a direct effect on the ability of the bears to travel and hunt. And the danger of over-hunting, which is even putting the much larger harp seal populations at risk, are difficult to overstate.

Admittedly, this is somewhat of a sticky issue. The Inuit have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years in a sustainable way, never increasing their populations above what the land could support, and never over-hunting the species they depended on for food. Sustaining themselves on a purely carnivorous diet, they had to carefully manage caribou and seal populations, and never wasted any part of their kills.

The Inuit are one of the few indigenous groups in Canada that have still maintained much of their way of life since the New World was colonized by Europeans. Now, thanks to those of us down south, with our Hummers and Big Macs, Arctic species are at risk. And we’re telling the Inuit we need to step in and tell them what they can and can’t do.

It feels wrong, probably because we have done wrong to get to this state. But I don’t think it’s wrong to try to put on the brakes before these species disappear forever. And when we look a little more closely, the cultural reasons seem to pale before the enormous economic incentives of both hunts. Truthfully, the way these hunts are conducted now is very commercially sound, but not all that traditional. It’s not traditional to slaughter as many seals as can possibly be found, even though they won’t be consumed by the tribe.

The much smaller polar bear hunt, meanwhile, is conducted for trophy purposes. This again is not something that a people in harmony with their environment will sanction. And the money flowing in from these enterprises is not going just to the Inuit, either. Stephen Harper has steadfastly stood behind these hunts, but I feel confident cultural protection is not his real motivation.

If it were, though, just for the sake of argument, a question of preserving Inuit culture versus preserving these species, what then? Even if the direct result of conservation measures would be to impinge heavily on the Inuit way of life, I think we have to do so. The world is changing, and mitigating the damage will continue to require changing everyone’s way of life. Consider the alternative.

One way or another these hunts will stop. The only question is, will we stop them in time, or get a couple extra years out of them at the expense of wiping these species out forever?

Related stories:

Tell Canada It Has No Excuses Left for Seal Hunt

Increased Arctic Shrubbery May Destroy Permafrost

Polar Bear Hunting Banned in Russia This Year

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Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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227 comments

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6:05PM PDT on Aug 5, 2013

R.R......how silly to boycott a whole country for something that most Canadians abhor as well.....Maybe you should worry about your wolf hunts, or your "canned" hunts in some states, or wild horse slaughter or foie gras, or Canada Geese cull..... We ALL have animal atrocities in ALL our countries.... we continue to work towards an end to these things.....a proud Canadian

5:51PM PDT on Aug 5, 2013

R.R., you need to read the other comments here. I'm Canadian and am sick and tired of being slagged for the sins of our corrupt government. You want this stopped? Write to our government. Tell THEM your opinions. Ranting here won't do anything. Our current government is actually not legitimate, since there was so much tampering with the last election.

Do you know that environmental activists in Canada are considered TERRORISTS? Even somebody like me, commenting on blogs and articles, signing petitions and writing letters - even I am a terrorist in the eyes of the ruling party of Canada.

As for boycotting our goods - WHAT goods? Practically everything we have here is either made in China, elsewhere in Asia, or the U.S.!

11:51AM PDT on Aug 5, 2013

Not content at the vile seal pup hunt for a pathetic market share in a vile, if declining fur industry,

But.

The government ( don't know about the degree of public support) of our northern neighbors wants to kill off a wonderful and very endangered species.

I am going to boycott Canadian goods and products:
Thinking about the horrible tar-sands devastation:

Canada's biggest "product" seems to be irresponsible and massive environmental and wildlife destruction.

11:51AM PDT on Aug 5, 2013

Not content at the vile seal pup hunt for a pathetic market share in a vile, if declining fur industry,

But.

The government ( don't know about the degree of public support) of our northern neighbors wants to kill off a wonderful and very endangered species.

I am going to boycott Canadian goods and products:
Thinking about the horrible tar-sands devastation:

Canada's biggest "product" seems to be irresponsible and massive environmental and wildlife destruction.

7:23AM PDT on May 7, 2013

As long as the Harper government is in power and Mr. Kent is our environment Minister, there will always be a seal hunt, and yes even a polar bear hunt...I have been fighting the polar bear hunt for 6 years now, and I find it disgusting, as most Canadian's do. Our hands are tied as long as the Conservative's are in power. They give in always to the Inuit and allow them to hunt, as they get 25000 to 30,000 $$ for each hunt, which goes back into the community, and this is their argument for keeping the hunt on. Regardless it should be stopped, so here are the email addressed to our Mr. Kent - kentp@parl.gc.ca
Please send your emails to him telling him how you feel and that the world is watching!

2:01PM PDT on Mar 12, 2013

EXTINCTION is FOREVER

10:55AM PST on Mar 6, 2013

Guess what, boys and girls!? Those trophy hunters are mostly Americans who fly up for the kill. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Stop lumping all of Canada in with the sleazebags that run the country. They got in by hook or by crook.
Canada is a most beautiful country. We love our polar bears, we love all our animals. Why do you think we in BC are putting up such a fight to stop the pipelines from coming thru? And the tankers.
What is happening up in the Arctic is outrageous! And we are all to blame. Not just Canada. Alaska has good chunk of it. And other nations are involved too.
We need to, on a worldwide scale, stop the insanity. Stop blaming and do something about it. Yeah like that'll ever happen!

8:12PM PST on Jan 7, 2013

I am so saddened by Canada's continued passiveness around stopping the hunt for its Arctic species. Polar bears and seal cubs are the ones that break my heart the most.

I support stopping the hunt of polar bears. The likelihood that they will survive climate change entirely depends upon them being left alone to adapt. Humans have interfered enough with the Arctic already by causing rapid sea ice loss.

2:23PM PST on Dec 7, 2012

Only Innuits should be allowed to hunt. Canada is not at liberal as we would like to think.

1:26PM PST on Dec 4, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

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