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Anti Trophy Hunting
Anti Trophy Hunting
CKNW Editorial

CKNW Editorial
by Rafe Mair for August 3, 2001

There is a collision course in our society and one party to the collision doesn't realize it yet. Any who heard Anthony Marr, the fighter for the Grizzly Bear, on my show a couple of weeks ago may recognize what I'm talking about. This interview was with both Paul Watson and Mr Marr and was really about them as environmental activists ... but during the interview I asked Marr if he was opposed to all hunting. His answer was an unequivocal yes. I then asked if he was against sports fishing and he replied that he supposed that catching a fish for supper was all right but he was against it as a sport and definitely against catch and release. That, he said, was tormenting animals for pleasure. We sports fishers ought to listen very carefully to people like Anthony Marr because we are in the sights of animal activists and the collision that is taking place now in Britain will happen here - it's only a matter of time.

Let me state my own prejudices. I am a lifelong sports fisherman and despite the misgivings I will express in a moment will remain one for the rest of my days. I say that because I have thought long and deeply about the subject and will shock you by saying that Anthony Marr is right ... but that for me he can go to the devil. I don't mean that personally, of course. I have terrific admiration for Anthony. But logically he is right. In fact, one of Britain's best known flyfishermen, the late Hugh Falkus, argued with both logic and typical anger, that catch and release was morally wrong and that he simply wouldn't practice it. When he went fishing it was to catch, kill and eat his quarry. Falkus didn't argue wanton killing of fish - far from it. He simply made the point that catching and releasing was just tormenting an animal much as our forbears, not all that long ago, baited bears and watched cock fights - much as many Latins enjoy bull fighting. The other end of the argument was made 50 years ago by the late Lee Wulff when, extorting people to catch and release, he said that a fish was too valuable to catch only once.

Fish apart, I don't hunt. I could not bring myself to shoot a deer, an elk or a bear. I shot a squirrel when I was a kid and can still see him lying at my feet with me wondering why I did it.

Animal activists in England have already got a ban on fox hunting through Parliament. Was it Wilde or Shaw that called fox hunting "the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable". I had trouble building up sympathy for the fox hunter or the entire sordid exercise until I read my British fly fishing magazines all of which had articles and editorials saying, in essence, if it's the foxhunters now it will soon be the bird hunters then the fishermen. And they're right. For logically you can't make the case that tormenting a fish is any different than tormenting a fox. In fact, the animal rightists have already started hassling fishermen on British rivers, reservoirs and lakes. They go from intentionally disturbing the fish to violent confrontations with fishermen. It's only a matter of time before they come here.

It's started in Britain first because they got rid of their bears centuries ago and deer hunting - indeed most bird hunting - is mostly done in remoter areas of Britain on lands owned by aristocrats. Fox hunting was up close and they could get at it. But they are already here as Anthony Marr demonstrates and will soon be on your favourite stream or fishing hole.

If I'm against killing and tormenting animals how can I continue to fish? Good question. Probably it's no more complicated than I don't want to stop. I have rationalized a difference between cold blooded critters and mammals even though I know that I'm kidding myself. I console myself with my own observations that hooked fish do not seem at all perturbed until you tighten the line and restrict their movement - there doesn't seem to be any pain as we know it. I excuse myself on the grounds that those few fish I do kill are dispatched much more humanely than any fish taken commercially, either from a farm or the wild, is.

I also know that without fishermen there will be no fish. It's a great paradox that the fish rely upon their tormentor's skilful advocacy to survive. Left to government or the marketplace, most fish would become an occasionally encountered phenomenon.

I look at all my rods and reels, my extensive fishing library and my fly tying bench and I can't bring myself to quit. I consider the many hours I have spent in beautiful surroundings, in basically sole pursuit of my quarry, and how much I look forward to future similar times and I know I'm hooked for life.

Sports fishing has never been more popular. Fly fishing, once the preserve of the aristocrat, is now the favoured way of the masses. But the enemy has given us a whiff of the grape ... shots have been fired across our bow ... we will have to face the Anthony Marrs of the world sooner or later.

Much as many of us fishermen hate the thought of gunning things down, perhaps like the fishermen in the UK we will have to recognize that the enemy of our enemy is our friend putting us squarely alongside the man who would shoot a grizzly bear simply for the fun of doing it and getting a bearskin rug. Strange and perhaps unattractive bedfellows but no less bedfellows for that.

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