Punish poachers, not hunters: continue to allow hunting in Cowichan Bay
Hunting has been going on in Cowichan Bay and in the Cowichan Valley for generations. Hunters from all over the Valley venture to Cowichan Bay on early mornings and late evenings to participate in a lifestyle that promotes healthy eating, conservation, and often family bonding. Unfortunately, the hunter lifestyle is becoming increasingly under attack from those who do not understand the life of a hunter. While there is no immediate threat to shut it down, it is time hunters have their voices heard for a change.
Many people in society paint the picture of a hunter as a person who gets off on violence and enjoys the “murdering of innocent wildlife”, but that could not be further from the truth. Real hunters hunt because they choose to enter themselves directly into the food chain. They do not want to rely on corporate giants like Walmart and Thrifty Foods for their meat. They want to obtain their meat themselves, just like their many ancestors before them have done for generations.
A frequent argument from opponents to hunting, and hunting in Cowichan Bay, is that “people no longer need to hunt anymore”, and that “it is no longer a necessity”. While this is partially true; this is not the point. Hunters make the active choice to hunt because foraging for one’s own food is a basic human right. We should not need to rely on other sources for our nourishment. Many of us refer to it as dipping our toe in the natural world. We choose to eat a wild duck that has had a full and healthy life, that was harvested quickly and ethically, rather than a chicken that was raised in a cage that has never seen sunlight. It is our active choice.
People make arguments about the noise that hunting creates in Cowichan Bay, and that it is dangerous for those who choose to walk in the bay during hunting season. Regarding the noise, Cowichan Bay has been a working harbour for hundreds of years. Industry has existed within the bay long before any current living person has taken up residence in the bay. Moving to Cowichan Bay and complaining about the noise from shotgun shots is like moving next door to a chicken farm and complaining about the smell. The hunting industry has existed lawfully in the bay for years. Regarding the safety of others, B.C. hunting regulations have laws in place that prohibit shooting within close distances to public walking trails. Those who break these laws and put others in danger should be reported and prosecuted. Legal and ethical hunters should not be punished for the ignorance of others who hunt in Cowichan Bay. The typical area in which hunters hunt Cowichan Bay fall into those particular safety requirements.
The most recent argument from the opponents to hunting in Cowichan Bay comes in the form of outcry from an individual killing a trumpeter swan. Recent posts online have described the perpetrator as a “hunter”, which again could not be further from the truth. Hunters hunt to obtain meat that they intend to eat. Those who shoot animals and leave them to die with no intention of harvesting meat are poachers, not hunters. Those who shoot animals strictly for the purpose of shooting animals are poachers, not hunters. Those who kill animals that are protected species are poachers, not hunters. The definition of a poacher is someone who hunts or catches game illegally. Trumpeter swans are a protected species in B.C., and therefore the killing of them is illegal. Hunters do not intentionally partake in illegal acts. The death of this particular swan is sad and unfortunate and was orchestrated by someone who has no respect for the ecosystem in which the swan lived or the laws that protected it. This was not done by a hunter.
This is why hunting for waterfowl should continue to be allowed in Cowichan Bay. Humans deserve to have the opportunity to forage for their food, and the Cowichan Bay estuary is a prime ecosystem that houses habitats that hunters enter to ethically harvest animals. Ethical hunters should not be subjected to punishment for the ignorance of poachers, and the unfair attacks made to shut out access to prime hunting lands that follow. When poaching is committed anywhere in the province, hunters are just as outraged as anyone who does not hunt. We hate to see laws broken and animal lives taken without a care. Poaching brings hate from the general public onto many ethical hunters, and more importantly poaching results in the unjust death of often protected animals. Support those hunters who hunt lawfully and responsibly, and fine and kick out those who do not. Hunters, bird watchers, and dog walkers can all coexist and share Cowichan Bay, just as we have done for years. Punish the poachers, not the hunters.