Opinion: Anti-hunting letter filled with 'illogical framing'

I understand Richmond attorney Rebeka Breder is deeply disturbed by hunting and she offered her complaints in a Burnaby Now op-ed column that ran on14 September 2020. (https://www.burnabynow.com/opinion/your-letters/opinion-dear-hunters-you-killing-animals-is-not-fun-1.24202859).  However, she misrepresents the case against hunting with omissions, factual errors and illogical framing.

As a trained lawyer, she must understand such argumentation. I am not a lawyer, rather a professional biologist and I offer some research results and clarifications.  I directly address the underlined quotes from her letter below:

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“. . . ducks, who mate for life, . .  Actually, ducks do not mate for life. Most only mate for five months before the males (drakes) abandon the incubating hens to search for new breeding opportunities. Geese sometimes mate for life but also “divorce” due to low fitness, infertility, or death. Re-pairing occurs quickly. Goose populations of parks, fields and golf courses today are at nuisance levels 1300% higher than 1900. Thousands of young geese slowly starve unseen each year on the arctic tundra as a result of overgrazing there.

“. . . and [ducks] are in the midst of resting and feeding before their thousand-kilometer migration flight. . .”  Most Lower Mainland ducks filter through from Alaska throughout the fall to overwinter in California and Mexico (lucky birds!). They dawdle in agricultural fields between the frontal systems that efficiently propel them southward.

 “Or deer, who are simply trying to live in peace, and forage, in the forests will be killed.”There are currently around 125,000 black-tailed deer in B.C. In 2018 hunters killed about 5% of the population and automobiles killed or injured approximated the same number. Hunter numbers are decreasing too. Only about 2,000 (1.6% of population) reproductive-aged female deer are killed, thus there is no population threat from hunting. 

“I cannot go for walks. . . because duck hunters pose a danger.”This is incorrect.  You can safely walk. According to National Safety Council statistics, you are 40 times more likely to be injured bicycling or cheerleading. Hunting is only slightly riskier than billiards and it is even safer for non-hunters afield. Your drive to the hiking trail is much more dangerous than hiking during hunting season. Every new hunter in Canada is required to pass a rigorous safety exam and practicum before getting a license. There are fewer than 5 accidental shooting deaths by Canadian hunters annually (sometimes none at all in BC) and even more rarely by duck hunters.

“Why do I have to sacrifice my peaceful outdoor experience. . .”By law, and in fairness, we all must accommodate others in sharing the outdoors much like paddlers and anglers, mountain bikers and horse riders, skiers and snowboarders. Hunting largely happens in the three cold wet months falling between hiking and skiing seasons. Furthermore, about half of all hunting efforts occur on two opening weekends. Thus, avoiding about two week per year eliminates most overlap. Hunting is inherently a quiet activity and in many places the occasional gunshot is a short, instantly passing annoyance.

“My heart and mind will never understand how killing – whether by bow and arrow, or rifle – is “fun.”I get that. Running marathons, veganism, parenthood or hunting are personal preferences not enjoyed by all. And furthermore, understanding is a prerequisite to informed disapproval. As in gender, BLM, and political topics, if you truly want to understand, speak honestly with (not at!) and listen openly to other peoples’ opinions.

“. . . using sadistic tactics to trick wildlife into coming closer to you for a closer shot, is fun.”Getting close in hunting (decoys, calls, baits, stalking) is ethical hunter behaviour for reducing risks of losing or just injuring an animal. A quick, close, death is always sought. Similarly, livestock are never killed at long distances.

“Some of the main arguments to justify hunting is for food. . .”An elk, or a few deer for a family food supply represents exceptionally meaningful and delicious meat cuts. Compared to $30/kg for farmed elk meat, a hunter’s take may represent a $3-5,000 household value and replace one beef calf, or two pigs, or four sheep or 300 chickens that would have been raised in small spaces to be killed for the same meat volume.

“The other excuse for sport hunting is that it contributes to conservation.”  Unlike hikers, bikers, boaters, birdwatchers or photographers, hunters must pay license money into government coffers for the specific privilege of hunting. They volunteer millions more in addition to volunteering time for wildlife. This money helps pay for habitat, staffing, poacher patrols, and education, and cover some farm damages.  

“Or that hunting is less cruel than leaving wildlife to die naturally in the wild.” Wildlife deaths are rarely ones humans would choose. All animals eventually die, and a demise from deep snow, starvation, disease, fighting, predators and automobile strikes are slower, and debatably more grueling deaths than by arrow or bullet. Hunters do not deny there is often some pain, yet are comforted it is short-lived. Responsible hunters seek to minimize unnecessary suffering. 

“Nonsense. ‘Conservation’ means to protect and to preserve”Here you confuse “conservation” with “preservation”. Conservation is use-oriented, not hands-off preservation. In North America the word “conservation” was first used to describe withholding and “conserving” springtime floodwaters behind dams for dry season irrigation. “Conserves” are sugar-saturated fruit saved for later use. Conserving species is to steward and manage with intention of some wise use later on. There is room for both but they are different.

“And who really cares what think. I am ‘only’ one person.”I care enough about what you think to seek you out and to reply here. The power of well-intentioned individuals with passion should never be discounted, rather, applauded, respected and engaged with, even if their views may not align exactly with our own. Apathy is far the greater enemy to conservation.

“We are extremely lucky to live in British Columbia, one of the most beautiful places in the world.“ Ms. Breder, all B.C. hunters share your sentiment here and they are among the most active in protecting wildlife habitat, supporting reintroductions, and self-policing against excessive or illegal use. We can disagree on a few key points but instead of opting for the divisive or discrediting approaches of the legal profession, please consider cooperating to build conservation bridges and sharing your legal expertise for the broader collective good of all conservationists. We face some common threats. 

Hunting can be a deeply meaningful and rewarding activity, sometimes called “fun” as a shorthand descriptor. Hunting’s healthy outdoor experiences garner organic, free-range, antibiotic-free, habitat-friendly, humanely killed meat for use, sharing, and community-building. Hunting builds an ethos of valuing wild places for the sustainable goods they produce for all. Through this commitment, hunters add their voices and dollars to the continued existence and social value of many B.C.’s wild hunting lands. Incidentally, this nicely complements the extensive network of preserved parks and refuges where there is no hunting.

Lee Foote, PhD is a forester, a wildlife consultant and a retired Professor of Conservation Biology. He lives in Burnaby.

 

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