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Biologist lashes out at Sask. hunting practices

February 22, 2002 The Leader-Post (Regina)
SASKATOON -- Many of Saskatchewan's hunting practices came under heavy fire at a wildlife conference Thursday when the keynote speaker lashed out at penned hunts, game farms and the upcoming gopher derby.

Penned hunting, the controversial practice of hunting animals in an enclosed area has been a touchy subject of late with the Manitoba government banning.

It is also forbidden in British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with several restrictions in other provinces. Only Saskatchewan and Quebec fully approve of it right now.

Kevin Van Tighem, an Alberta biologist and hunter who spoke to at Thursday's opening of the 73rd annual Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation (SWF) convention in Saskatoon called it "a despicable practice" that has tainted "legitimate hunting" through association.

"An animal in a cage is barely an animal at all because it has no environment to give it any meaning," he said. "Enclosure hunting is cold-bloodedly killing captive animals. It is morally bankrupt."

Van Tighem, also an author and naturalist, said the once-revered practice of hunting has lost its luster because of corrupt methods and disrespect for the environment and animal.

He encouraged the several hundred SWF members to restore that respect through noble means of animal pursuit and avoid.

He urged hunters to avoid electronic technologies that destroy fair chase.

"It becomes increasingly difficult to say that hunting connects us with nature when we rely upon the paraphernalia of war to overpower it," he said. "Ask outfitters if they're selling the hunt or just the kill."

He said bait piles diminish the integrity of the hunt by addicting animals so they come to the hunter and not vice-versa.

Another corruption of the hunt is game farms, said Van Tighem. Though they are valuable to the Saskatchewan economy, hunting will never gain more acceptance if game farms are defended as legitimate hunting, he said, accusing such farms as being responsible for spreading diseases like tuberculosis and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

"When I see more class of the elk and deer that were never meant to be captive, I worry about what kind of future there is for hunting," he said.

"It's never been so urgent for hunters to revitalize and reconnect to our proud heritage as conservationists."

Hunters founded the Audobon Society, the first environmental group in the United States. They also formed the U.S. Wilderness Society.

"Those visionary hunter-conservationists knew that wilderness was our natural and best habitat and that wellness was the defining characteristic.

"I know it's not Ted Nugent-style guy-talk, but I consistently use words like love, beauty and connection when talking about hunting.

"Nags like (rocker and aggressive hunting advocate) Ted Nugent are not our friends. They help anti-hunters prove their point (that) hunters are aggressive, hostile and self-serving."

To win over adversaries hunters "must be seen as people with a passion for nature and wellness, not merely for hunting," he added.

"Good hunting forces us to become better humans (by using critical thinking and strategizing).

"Bad hunting exploits shortcuts that enable us to become less than fully human, by avoiding the need to understand the habitat and prey."

Hunting "is a way of becoming truly human," he said. "The act of exploring landscape intimately, on foot, gives us direct, meaningful knowledge and bonds with the land. And when we eat our prey, our chemical make-up becomes one with that eco-system."


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