My first exposure to a ‘seal bomb’, or ‘bear banger’, may have happened while checking for messages on my home answering machine. I had been engaged in rallying opposition to a proposed seal cull on the Puntledge River, so assumed that the anonymous caller had recorded a gunshot. Having also found a discarded balaclava with an unidentified animal body part in my yard, I thought it might be a good idea to file a police report. I never found out whether or not these incidents were directly related, but to my complete surprise the RCMP managed to trace that call to a fishing boat.
Two decades later, the use of incendiary devices by fisherfolk determined to discourage other species from predating on the fish they want for themselves appear to be as popular as ever. In spite of the public outrage generated by a video intentionally showing a bear banger being tossed into a raft of seals and sea lions just prior to the herring fishery near Hornby Island last month, the perpetrator and his supporters remain completely unrepentant. Claims that such actions are not meant to cause harm are difficult to believe. According to UBC marine mammal researcher Andrew Trites, an explosion from one of these devices near an animal’s head can easily destroy an eye or blow out eardrums. Thanks to social media, it’s no secret that many regional fishers advocating for a large scale commercial ‘harvest’ of pinnipeds (which they say would be conducted ‘humanely’), refer to seals and sea lions as ‘vermin’ deserving nothing more than eradication. While harassment of marine mammals is indeed illegal, Leri Davies, a spokesperson for DFO, was only able to confirm for me today that the bear banger incident mentioned remains “under investigation,” along with the discovery of a seal that washed up on Hornby Island with a gunshot wound to the head.
The propensity to scapegoat and then aim to eliminate wild animals perceived as a threat to existing commercial enterprise is nothing new of course. Whales, too, have been blamed for the decline in mean trophic levels of fisheries catch – conveniently distracting debate from human causation. But changing social mores that recognize other species as having fundamental rights of their own to survive and thrive are gaining momentum. Kudos to the 54 animal and environmental protection groups that recently banded together to ask the BC government to put an end to ‘wildlife killing‘ contests. Promoted by various hunting groups offering prize money in return for the slaughter of predators (from raccoons and coyotes to cougars and wolves) these tournaments are typically promoted as ‘conservation’ related in spite of the fact that their competitive nature fosters irreverence and blood lust.
Protection of livestock is one justification employed, although the introduction of what are essentially invasive species to a BC ecosystem (cattle, sheep, chickens, etc.) is akin to ‘baiting’ indigenous fauna that have evolved in place over millennia. Even in the shadow
of so-called ‘wolf whacking’ contests, however, the BC government is itself committed to continuing the slaughter of wolves as part of its endangered caribou recovery strategy – and there are hunters who lean heavily on that excuse to keep killing them too.
It would be a mistake to think that our government’s use of cruel aerial hunting and strychnine poisoning to reduce wolf numbers isn’t tied indirectly to protecting commercial interests. Last year a leaked audit of oil and gas practices in northeastern BC revealed that rules intended “to reduce the impact of industry on caribou habitat are being routinely ignored.” More recently, independent biologist and consultant Jonah Keim has suggested that reducing encounters between wolves and caribou can be done “without reducing the number of wolves.” He has studied the effect of making it difficult for wolves, deer and moose to follow cutline and forestry roads into caribou habitat and found a 70% drop in the use of pathways intentionally blocked with tree debris…. corridors that wouldn’t exist in the first place if the environment hadn’t been so heavily altered by human activity. Unfortunately, restoring damaged habitat and protecting what’s left is not the priority our current government would have us believe it is. According to Wilderness Committee campaigner Charlotte Dawe, 314 new cut blocks in the critical habitat of southern mountain caribou have been approved across the province since November.
Neither wolves nor seals are the real problem here in BC. The sooner we come to terms with the fact that it is our own species who are ‘out of control’, the better. As Canada continues to heat up twice as fast as the rest of the world (thanks to human caused climate breakdown), survival for all species is only going to get a whole lot more complicated.
Meanwhile, thank you month of April for your forest violets – perfect for decorating my chocolate cake. This is still a recipe column, after all (with food for though) –bon appetit!
Fireweed’s Vegan Fair Trade Chocolate Cake Supreme
2 C. all purpose unbleached organic flour
1 C. organic whole wheat pastry flour (or you could just use 3 cups all purpose flour)
2 and 3/4 cups organic coconut sugar (or Sucanat)
3/4 C. Cocoa Camino fair trade organic cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 C. sunflower oil
2 C. water
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 medium (or 1 large), ripe banana
Lightly oil two round cake pans and flour the sides to avoid sticking. Turn oven on to 350 degrees F. Mix all dry ingredients well (making sure to break up any sugar lumps). Combine your bananas, water, oil, vinegar and vanilla in a blender. Secure lid and blend until smooth. Add this mixture to your dry ingredients and fold all together gently with a spatula, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Avoid over mixing. Divide the batter between your two prepared cake pans, and place both on the same rack in your pre-heated oven. Bake for thirty minutes before testing with a toothpick (or a sharp knife.) If it doesn’t come out clean, give the cake another 5 minutes and test again. It should spring back to the touch. Cool before decorating with chocolate frosting. I make mine with unbleached organic sugar ground to a fine powder in my Vitamix. Add organic coconut butter, a dash of vanilla and melted Cocoa Camino unsweetened chocolate in your food processor, and thin with a little almond or soy milk as needed. Delicious!