Species control:
Pragmatism versus compassion

Officials must open public discussions to all concerned

By Georges R. Dupras

January 11, 2024

Over the past few years, the province of British Columbia has captured the attention of environmentalists worldwide. Issues such as the trophy hunting of grizzly bears, currently illegal in BC ¹, wolf culls via areal shootings, the eradication of Fallow deer and the felling of old-growth forests have drawn the ire of caring people from all walks of life.

Recognizing just how sensitive these issues were, officials should have made a greater effort to open public discussions with those who stood in opposition, and this well before any vote or action was taken ². Discussions ranging from carrying capacities, invasive species, overpopulation, climate change, native rights and a host of other related subjects are of equal importance to a growing segment of our societies. Restricting these discussions to a select demographic ² alienates many constituents who now feel disenfranchised and without recourse.

Fallow deer eradication

The current disagreement surfaced when Parks Canada tabled a plan to eradicate an entire species of deer that hunters had introduced to Sidney Island. This can best be described as a knee-jerk reaction and unworthy of the professional status Parks Canada seeks in the eyes of the public.

A basic tenet for reducing numbers

For such a plan to be considered, the proposal must include at least part of a proper science-based count of the species to be culled or eradicated. ³

As for the decision to eradicate the species from Sidney Island, this move has met with criticism from all quarters. No one is denying the impact the Fallow deer have on the vegetation, nor that by eliminating the Fallow deer, the vegetation important to the natives will regenerate. The arguments against this draconian approach include the following:

  1. The use of helicopters to shoot the Fallow deer from the air at night (Fallow deer being active mostly from dusk until dawn) and dogs to aid shooters on the ground.
  2. The hunters’ lack of responsibility for introducing the Fallow deer to a foreign habitat. 4
  3. The apparent failure by hunters to finance at least part of the recovery and relocation costs of the Fallow deer.
  4. Greater consideration should have been given to the Mule Deer sterilization and translocation program in various areas of British Columbia. It was far less costly, with fewer losses. It is to be noted that the Fallow deer eradication program on Sidney Island costs 10K per deer killed.
  5. Little mention of the cost to the taxpayers, 84% of whom oppose Parks Canada’s approach.
  6. The accuracy in conducting such a kill at night.
  7. Shooting from a helicopter
  8. If females are shot, how many fawns do officials expect to lose? How many recovered? If not recovered, how many will be left to perish a brutal death under hedges by coyotes, etc.?

Critics claim opposition is not pragmatic

Whenever there is a consorted effort to stop or change dated animal use practices, those of us who support change or abolition are accused of anthropomorphism, emotionalism, or lack of pragmatic thought.

Granted that a world lacking in pragmatic standards could not possibly function. There are times when we are obliged to dismiss how we really feel to accommodate others and where compassion is politicized in the interest of pragmatism.

That said, any world where empathy is lacking or sensitivity mocked as a weakness is a world I would not wish to be a part of. Pragmatism may rule the working, political and economic worlds but there is far more to people than profit and loss ledgers. Compassion, kindness, sensitivity and love are traits that define who we really are.

  1. In 2024, British Columbia will review its grizzly bear management plan.
  2. If the process is anything like in Quebec, only the animal industries are invited to comment on management plans. Frequently, the general public is asked, as an afterthought, to submit their views in an unrealistic timeframe.
  3. No professional census of the Fallow deer has ever been undertaken.
  4. Finding a humane method of correcting a situation of their own making.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of WestmountMag.ca, its publishers or editors.

Feature image: Fallow deer and fawn by Jos, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Read also: other articles by Georges Dupras

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Georges Dupras

Georges R. Dupras has advocated for animals for over fifty years. A member of the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA), a Director of the Animal Alliance of Canada (AAC), a Quebec Representative of Zoocheck Canada and a past Board member of the Canadian SPCA, he worked on the original Save the Seal campaign in 1966 that culminated in the founding of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 1969. Georges Dupras has published two books, Values in Conflict and the eBook Ethics, a Human Condition, and currently lives in Montreal, Canada.

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  1. Jean Le Marquand

    The last paragraph in the article by Georges Dupras says it all! More than ever, we are challenged to meet economic needs versus more spiritual needs, e.g. enjoyment of Nature. This article demonstrates what happens when political/economic interests trump what it is to be human.

  2. Sinikka Crosland

    What an excellent, thought-provoking article. We recognize the importance of species, of course – but what of the individuals who make up the whole? More consideration should be given to the unique qualities of every living being. Shouldn’t more effort be made to protect individual lives from harm? Whether human or non-human, all who have been granted a place on this earth share a common trait – a strong desire to live.

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