In November 29, the Scientific Review Group (SRG) of the European Union (EU) rendered a "negative opinion for import" of hunting trophies of grizzly bear taken in British Colombia (BC), Canada. The United Kingdom placed the matter on the SRG Agenda and the committee members present felt that, based upon the information available, they "could not be sure" that the trophy trade was not detrimental. Consequently, they formed a "negative opinion" of those imports.
The opinion has not yet been reviewed or adopted by the European Commission, so it is not binding on the member states of the European Union. The European Union will write to the Canadian Wildlife Service to outline the problems identified by the SRG before it takes any action that might be binding on all member states of the EU. The SRG did not extend Canada such a courtesy before it rendered its opinion. It appears to have relied upon misinformation provided by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) provided through the United Kingdom (UK) and Germany.
Though the opinion is not binding on member states, the member states of the EU customarily follow the opinion issued by the SRG unless there is evidence to the contrary. The scientific authorities of the respective member states (countries) do consider the SRG opinions when making their own non-detriment determination about a particular import. Of course, in this case, only one side was fully presented to the SRG. There is favorable evidence that probably was not presented to or considered by the SRG.
The EIA is notorious for making misleading half truths and innuendo, and its grizzly campaign has been no exception. Although we don't yet know what the EIA presented to the UK for presentation to the SRG (it was a closed meeting, and BC had no notice or participation), we know that the EIA's press release is false and misleading. The EIA press release falsely states "[h]unters from the European Union were today banned from bringing grizzly bear trophies home from the Canadian province of British Colombia...." In fact, the SRG does not have that authority or responsibility. It only makes an opinion, which is one step in the process within the EU. The European Commission that represents the Union itself has not yet begun to act.
The EIA press release falsely states that "the EU" has "concluded that the hunt is harming BC's grizzly population...." Not true. The SRG is not the EU, and it made a negative opinion because it did not have sufficient information from its limited sources to determine if the hunting was detrimental, not that, in fact, it is harming the species. The opinion rendered was due to an insufficiency of information before the SRG, not proof of harm to the species.
The EIA press release states that "the EU was obligated under international and domestic regulations to ban further imports because the species is listed under CITES." That too is completely false. The SRG opinion is not a ban. It is only one step in the process. CITES itself does not require that non-detriment findings be made by importing countries for Appendix II species, which is how all British Columbia grizzly are listed under CITES.
The EIA press release also states that 35 percent of the foreign hunters hunting BC are from the EU, when, in fact, it was closer to nine percent last year. The press release states that an average of 300 bears are taken each year by hunters, when in recent years the harvest has been less than 200 each year and is expected to be even lower due to the number of areas that remain closed to hunting. The EIA knowingly confuses the US's and BC's bear population status in its press release, then goes on to state that the BC grizzly "is officially classed as at risk throughout its dwindling range in Canada," implying that it is listed by Canadian or BC authorities as endangered or threatened "officially" in British Columbia. It is not! Even the EIA in its publication "Trigger Happy" (see page 3) admits that "Grizzlies are listed on Appendix II (of CITES) for look-alike reasons," not because of the biological status of the bear.
The EIA press release states that "this ban is an even stronger signal that this hunt is both unsustainable and unwanted." Of course, the SRG's finding is not a "ban." It is only a preliminary step in the process. The SRG does not make political decisions whether or not the hunt is "wanted" for socio-political reasons. Moreover, its opinion was based upon the absence of information presented in a closed meeting in which the country and province with the information and greatest interest and responsibility were not informed or even invited.
The European Commission has responded to an inquiry made for Conservation Force and said that from the information available that was examined, the SRG "could NOT be sure that this finding (non-detriment) was met." That means the "negative opinion" arose from an absence of information.
The concluding statement in the EIA press release is that the Canadian Federal Government itself should stop the export of BC's grizzly trophies to save its "reputation around the world." This demonstrates what the EIA is really up to. It is exaggerating for effect in the press release and provided distorted evidence of its choosing. It is using every trick and device to manipulate either the BC Ministry to again close all grizzly hunting or to compel the Canadian Wildlife Service (national government) to stop issuing CITES Appendix II export permits for the trophies. The Canadian Wildlife Service does have to make a non-detriment finding before permitting export of grizzly from British Columbia since the grizzly is on Appendix II of CITES.
It is a grave disappointment that the SRG has rendered a "negative opinion" under the stricter domestic procedures adopted by the EU, i.e. stricter than CITES. It will be a far greater disappointment if the Canadian Wildlife Service begins denying export permits, or the BC Ministry again closes the hunting.
The EIA press release can be seen on the EIA's website at www.eia-international.org under Bear Campaign. All too often local wildlife managers don't understand how the antis work internationally from the top down. Those few of us that monitor the international arena know that the antis have at times wielded great influence because of the clear playing field. The EIA is exerting pressure on numerous fronts that wildlife managers seldom consider in their day-to-day tasks.
The EIA has been at the forefront of the effort to stop all grizzly bear hunting in BC from September 1998 when it circulated a petition for closure. Over 114 organizations signed a petition threatening to boycott all BC wood products unless "all" grizzly hunting was closed. The EIA persuaded the last British Columbia Administration to close the hunting last Spring with an EIA billboard in the UK that was perceived to be a threat to BC's tourism. The EIA has been pressing BC to close it again. Perhaps, a review of the EIA is timely….
The EIA has two bases of operation. The first is a for-profit commercial organization with all stock held by three shareholders in the UK where it was formed, and the second is a new separately registered EIA, Inc. in Washington, D.C. There is also an EIA Charitable Trust, which is a registered charity in London in which the same individuals are the trustees. The EIA was formed for campaigning and literally seems to be for-hire as a paid advocacy group. Raymond Bonner in his book, At the Hand of Man, about the campaign that listed the African Elephant on Appendix 1 of CITES in 1989, aptly describes the EIA. Bonner cites the EIA as "a small outfit of militant environmentalists." He credits the EIA as having played a large part in initiating the elephant listing decision. "Because it was small and had no membership base, EIA needed money for its elephant campaign." It received $165,000 in 1989 and 1990 from the Animal Welfare Institute located in the USA that largely funded its campaign to list the elephant, according to Bonners.
Alan Thornton founded the EIA in 1984 and chairs it. Thornton has been a Director of Greenpeace, Ltd. on and off since 1979. He once headed the London office of Greenpeace. He is of "Canadian" nationality though he lives in London. Like in the current grizzly campaign, Bonner states that Thornton "warned African officials that if they did not go along with an (ivory) ban, he would step up the public relations assaults on their country abroad. . . . For Thornton, almost anything was justified to stop the ivory trade."
We wonder who has hired the EIA for its BC grizzly bear campaign. The Raincoast Conservation Society of British Columbia signed the initial petition, and it issued a press release remarkably similar to that of EIA. Like the EIA, its press release was issued on the same date as the SRG meeting November 29 before anyone else knew of the opinion. The Raincoast Conservation Society also leaves no doubt about the purpose behind the campaign in Europe and the reason for the attack through the SRG. It is clear in the following excerpt from the society's press release: "The BC government has proven incapable of managing the province's grizzly bears. It is time for the Canadian federal government to intervene and ban the export of grizzly bear trophies from BC. The plight of BC's grizzly bears is being held up to international scrutiny, and the world is watching how the Canadian federal government is going to react," said Chris Genovali of Raincoast Conservation Society. "The EU deserves high praise for banning the import of grizzly hunt trophies from BC." "We tried to warn the liberals before they lifted the grizzly bear moratorium that BC could be the subject of international condemnation for allowing the sport hunting of a species they know virtually nothing about," said Ian McAllister of Raincoast. "Gordon Campbell is learning that British Columbia and its environmental policies do not exist in a provincial vacuum."
"This also comes at an especially embarrassing time for the Liberal government, due to the fact that Vancouver is hosting a large German delegation of tourism operators. BC could be spending its resources promoting the province as an international bear-viewing destination instead of hopelessly defending it's policy to sporthunt a species federally listed at risk," said Raincoast's Ian McAllister.
"We commend the EU for taking this step under CITES to protect grizzly bears in BC. We also commend our conservation colleagues in the UK (Environmental Investigation Agency) and in Germany (Pro Wildlife) for their diligent work in bringing this critical issue to the attention of the EU Scientific Review Group. We now hope that Canadian CITES authorities will complete their own review and implement a ban on the export of grizzly hunt trophies from BC," said Raincoast's Chris Genovali. www.raincoast.org.
In its campaign to list all African elephants on Appendix I of CITES, the EIA constantly attacked Zimbabwe, which had one of the best elephant management programs in Africa and an elephant population that was increasing in numbers like BC's grizzly. The EIA accused Zimbabwe of "double-counting" its elephant population to make its CITES Appendix II non-detriment export permit finding and argued that double-counting was the only possible explanation for such a large increase in elephant in the country. The EIA is making the exact same misrepresentation in British Columbia. It is arguing that the grizzly population estimate is an exaggeration twice the real number. It claims the population is 4,000 to 6,000, not the BC authority's estimate of 12,000 to 13,000. Of course, the elephant in Zimbabwe have since been downlisted at a CITES Conference of the Parties that now accepts the elephant population estimates of the country, over protest of the EIA. We believe the same will be true in BC.
In British Columbia, the grizzly population is believed to have increased over the past decade. The indicators such as the increase in problem-animal incidents supports this, but the interpretation is twisted by the EIA as it did with Zimbabwe's elephants. The Canadian Wildlife Service should know well what the EIA is about, having witnessed it firsthand in Zimbabwe. Ironically, the Director of the Canadian Wildlife Service presided over the CITES Conference in Harare, Zimbabwe, at which Zimbabwe's elephants were downlisted over the EIA's protest. Perhaps it is EIA's idea of payback.
In its literature, the EIA states that "many of our enemies, the traders and killers we have exposed - don't appreciate that EIA is also a tiny organization. . . . . Volunteers donate their time in order to save us money. . . . They epitomize the EIA philosophy - that the commitment and dedication of a few people can save a lot of lives" (animals). The EIA brags about having "mobilized international public opinion behind our campaigns. . . ." They take credit for what they describe as "the biggest wildlife conservation success in recent history: the CITES Appendix 1 listing - a world-wide ban on the ivory trade introduced in January 1990...." They also claim that "[t]he US government has passed legislation, partly framed by EIA, which has practically shut down the import of wild-caught birds for the pet trade." It also claims to have "alerted the world to the hundreds of thousands of small whales, dolphins and porpoises that are killed every year. Before our campaign, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) would not even look at the problem." (The same three owners/stockholders of EIA also own and operate Eco-Detectives, a for-profit company, which produced a notorious animal detective film on pilot whaling in the Faroe Islands).
The EIA also lead the misinformation campaign against Eugene Lapointe the Secretary General of CITES that caused him to be fired. He was ultimately cleared and exonerated. UNEP held that the allegations made by the EIA were ""unfounded" and proof of the EIA allegations never materialized. It was one more case of spreading misleading information using the British press to achieve their agenda.
On a number of occasions, EIA Chairman Alan Thornton has personally told me that the EIA is not an anti-hunting organization. Don't believe it. He has done this when he wanted some information or collaboration. For example, he circulated among everyone at CITES COP 11 in Kenya last year, searching for information on elephant poaching to get the elephant in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia uplisted to Appendix 1 again. Some hunting interests opposed to any and all ivory trade cooperated with the EIA. At that time, I asked Alan Thornton about the BC grizzly when he claimed the EIA was not against hunting "like all the others." His approach was very warm and personable, and my question was very polite and sincere. He froze, became speechless and finally walked off without a response when I repeated the question.
The EIA is a member of the protectionist Species Survival Committee formed by the antis. The EIA also wrote a pointed comment letter to the US Fish & Wildlife Service opposing the hunting of cheetah and the issuance of cheetah trophy import permits from Namibia that we have on file. Organizations like the Wildlife Protection Institute that have provided large sums for the EIA to do its work are most definitely anti-hunting. Finally, the EIA's publication "Trigger Happy," attacking BC grizzly hunting, portrays hunting generally as an undesirable activity.
Many North American hunters do not relate to the elephant listing fight that is now continuing over a decade. Many even believed the misinformation they heard about the status of elephant. Now the same techniques are being used by them closer to home. It is time to wake up!
For more information on Conservation Force and/or the services available through Jackson’s alliance with The Hunting Report, write:
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Tel. 504-837-1233. Fax 504-837-1145.