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  • Writer's pictureDurham Pro Bono Blog

Bear Hunting: A Global Issue?

Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes below.


The concept of hunting for sport and trade is steeped in history and in the last century, when environmental and animal protections have increased, a question has arisen on whether we as humans (a species at the top of the food chain) should hunt animals; not for food but for sport and financial gain.




This article will focus on The Russian Federation who has been an avid fan of bear hunting as far back as we can remember and one only needs to look to the news coverage of the current President shirtless and on horseback to infer that hunting is regarded as a sport and not for species control or meat. The law reflects such views in allowing the hunting of wild animals “for a fee”; however since the licensing requirements provide some regulation of the activity[1] can we really judge participants of this ‘sport’ when they comply with regional regulations? ­

Moreover, a new law was passed in 2009 to provide a stronger basis for implementing and regulating the hunting of wild animals[2] and so this means it is more expensive and harder (in terms of obtaining a license) to hunt wild animals. As a result, the increased legal protections of wild animals can be commended as effectively regulating hunting as a whole.


However, it is also evident that these legal protections have not prevented or discouraged the hunting of bears, as one only needs to complete a simple Google search to discover numerous bear hunting outlets offering their services for the experience of hunting and killing these wild animals. IConsequently, this has a significant impact on trade, as it is wholly evident that bear hunting is an economy of its own with numerous outlets advertising their services to guide hunts of several types of bears,, with prices ranging from $1500 for the European Brown Bear to $9000 for the Kamchatka and Himalayan Bears[3]. Prices such as these show that hunting generates an enormous amount of financial gain for ‘professional hunters’ willing to advertise their services in order to provide foreign tourists with an unforgettable experience. The website Book Your Hunt boasts that Russia is the 3rd most popular destination to hunt bears[4].


However, a lack of official statistics means that the numbers of foreign tourists travelling to Russia to trophy hunt is unknown and the economy generated from this immersive retail experience is unidentified and likely absorbed into official tourism figures.


The question then posed is whether the world should be concerned about trophy hunting and this largely depends on individual ethical custom and opinion. Hunting, as I have described above, is legal in Russia provided all procedural requirements are fulfilled. Brown bears (the subjects of the hunt) are not an endangered species and around 70,000 are estimated to reside in the former Soviet Union, with global numbers estimated to be around 130,000-140,000[5]. An absence of the numbers of brown bears lost to hunt tourism is unknown so we cannot know whether this trophy hunting is adversely impacting on species numbers.


Whilst not currently endangered, brown bears are a high priority in conservation due to their habitat dependence on large natural areas[6] that are being encroached upon by human development. Therefore, it is a simple fact that unless we preserve a large natural habitat and begin gathering statistics on the numbers of bears captured and killed by hunts, to observe the impact on species numbers, there is a real risk of a decline in their numbers.


Furthermore, is the legalisation of hunting these species in Russia facilitating the trade, cruel farming, and captivation of bears worldwide? Bear fur, paws, teeth, organs and claws gain a high price in Asian countries[7], particularly China, and questionable numbers of bears killed legally in countries such as Russia, are sold for a significantly higher price in the Far East.

China has farms that contain more than 10,000 bears, where their bile is drained daily for medicinal purposes despite herbal and man-made alternatives. Vietnam and South Korea also have an estimated 6000 bears in bear farms[8].


However, in recent years the decline of value in bear bile has meant that it is too costly to keep the captive bears alive and they have been starved to death or killed and sold for their parts. This is especially the case in Vietnam and since the government banned bear farms in 2005 the numbers of captive bears has decreased from 4000 in 2006 to 1300 in 2015, usually due to their death in captivity as a result of a lack of value in keeping the bears alive[9]. This issue has also affected South Korea, where in 2014 it was estimated around 50 farms were raising 1000 bears and the government was offering money to sterilize or kill the captive bears[10] to discourage bear farming. Whilst bear farming is beginning to decrease, there are still numerous bears in captivity who are killed for no reason other than a decrease in their value and therefore, bear hunting for killing or captivity is a worldwide issue, not only in regard to species numbers but also cruel treatment due to human desires rather than needs..


In conclusion, the tourism of the trophy hunt contains ethical considerations and more needs to be done in terms of statistical evidence of the numbers of bears lost to these hunts, with the aim of discouraging the economy of hunting if brown bear number are adversely affected. Also, investigations should be conducted into the number of bears hunted legally for the financial benefit gained from the sales of bear parts to Asia and the impact of legal hunting globally. In any case, even if trophy hunting has a minimal impact, we should question whether hunting for sport should be legal given it’s purpose is not for population control, meat or basic survival but for an ‘experience’ that the majority of the world population can live their whole lives without.


Layla Moan (Asia)


SOURCES

[1] Law No 145 on territorial Hunting Management 1999, Article 2


[2] ‘New Hunting Law Passed in Russia’ (Traffic, 21st July 2009) <https://www.traffic.org/news/new-hunting-law-passed-in-russia/ > accessed 24th November 2019


[3] ‘From Europe to Kamchatka: Seven Options for Bear Hunting in Russia’ (Book Your Hunt Blog, 11th May 2017) < https://blog.bookyourhunt.com/2017/05/11/from-europe-to-kamchatka-seven-options-for-bear-hunting-in-russia/ > accessed 24th November 2019


[4] ‘Will Soccer Kick Up Hunting Tourism in Russia?’ (Book Your Hunt Blog, 9th August 2018) < https://blog.bookyourhunt.com/2018/08/09/will-soccer-kick-up-hunting-tourism-in-russia/ > accessed 24th November 2019


[5] ‘A Truly International Species’ (WWF) <http://wwf.panda.org/our_work/wildlife/profiles/mammals/brown_bear2/brownbear_population_distribution/ > accessed 24th November 2019


[6] ‘Brown Bear’ (WWF) <http://wwf.panda.org/our_work/wildlife/profiles/mammals/brown_bear2/ > accessed 24th November 2019


[7] Andrew Linzey, The Global Guide to Animal Protection (University of Illinois Press, 2013) 83


[8] Ibid


[9] Annie Roth, ‘As Bear Bile Farm Close Captive Animals at Risk’ (National Geographic) <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2018/07/bile-bears-killed-vietnam/ >(accessed 1st December 2019)


[10] Tara Brady, ‘Too Weak to Move and Left to Die in Rusty Cages, The Bears Born and Bred to be Killed for Their Bile…But It’s the Cruel Industry That is Closer to Death’ (Daily Mail) <https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2552841/Too-weak-left-die-rusty-cages-bears-born-bred-killed-BILE-cruel-industry-closer-death.html > (accessed 1st December 2019)

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