I’m always amazed how easy it is for a politician to deal away many of the things we hold sacred for some short-term gain. And that’s exactly what is happening with our crippled Alberta government and Bill 11, the Livestock Industry Diversification Amendment Act, 2011. The bill will allow some misguided minister to allow the shooting of domesticated wildlife behind a fence—or what has often been called “canned hunting.”
As a hunter and wildlife biologist, I find canned hunting a massive affront to North America’s long-standing wildlife management heritage, as first verbalized by Aldo Leopold. It represents the further commoditization of our wildlife that started here in Alberta with the original wildlife diversification act. That act allowed ranchers to purchase domesticated elk and deer to raise for antler velvet and meat. It was opposed by hunters and environmentalists alike, but the Getty government pushed it through because of powerful interests in the Progressive Conservative (PC) party. As a result, many of the consequences predicted by the opponents to the act came true, including cervid tuberculosis (causing a mass cull of affected elk herds) and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The latter is now a present in Alberta and will affect our wild deer herds for decades to come.
The game ranches were never profitable and soon the ranchers were pushing the government to allow them to establish “cervid harvest preserves (CHPs)” where they could sell hunts to people who were unable or unwilling to go hunt trophy animals in the wild. After a concerted campaign against CHPs waged by a coalition of conservation and environmental groups, the push was defeated in 2002 when Premier Ralph Klein said publicly that shooting animals behind a fence was a abhorrent activity that would not be allowed in Alberta.
Yet, here we are again as the present PC government is trying to sneak hunt farms (CHPs, canned hunting) through a seemingly innocuous bill to amend the original act. The bill will allow the minister of the day to authorize any activity on game ranches that otherwise would contravene the original act. Guess what that will allow? It’s sneaky, it’s underhanded, and it has no place in a province that once regaled its wildlife heritage as unique in North America if not the world. If this bill passes as is, that heritage will be for sale to the highest bidder.
If you are an Albertan and are concerned about this issue, contact your Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA)
Jack Hayden, Minister of Agriculture: email@example.com
Mel Knight, Minister of SRD: firstname.lastname@example.org
and your Premier- Ed Stelmach: email@example.com
As well, contact the opposition leaders:
Dr. David Swann: firstname.lastname@example.org
and Brain Mason: email@example.com
Tell them our Alberta heritage is not for sale!