Monday, Jan. 17, 2000
Animal rights group calls for end to 'pen hunting'
By IDELLA STURINO -- Canadian Press
TORONTO -- Across the country, hunters with an eye for the exotic are taking aim at animals such as wild boar and African addax in small, fenced compounds that allow their prey no chance of escape.
While enthusiasts insist the hobby causes minimal suffering to the animals, the International Fund for Animal Welfare calls it cruel and unethical.
The group, known for wading into thorny debates such as Newfoundland's seal hunt, wants penned hunting outlawed.
"I cannot imagine a more depraved practice," Rick Smith, the group's national director, said Monday. "We're literally talking about a pen the size of a baseball diamond ... and animals are being shot.
"It's the mammal equivalent to shooting a fish in a barrel."
Often small set-ups, the facilities offer thrill-seekers the rush of hunting big game not found in the Canadian wild. Web pages for such operations across Canada feature satisfied customers in hunting garb holding their trophy kills.
Smith estimated there are about 75 enclosed-hunting operations across the country, most in Saskatchewan and Quebec. In Ontario, between 100 and 200 exotic animals are killed each year at six penned-hunting operations, he said.
"In all fairness to the animal, it's probably going to experience much less suffering in an enclosed area than it would if it was hunted in the wild," said Earl Hagman, whose Hogwild Specialties west of Edmonton breeds wild boar and offers hunts in an eight-hectare area.
"The suffering is very limited here, if any, and there's no transport to a slaughtering facility, which is probably more stressful on the animal than receiving a quick bullet in the hunting area."
But the animal welfare fund disagrees, and is calling on the Ontario government to outlaw the practice.
In 1998, Ontario's Conservative government banned the hunting of native wildlife in fenced compounds when it passed the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.
But the act does not cover many exotic species that can be obtained as surplus zoo stock or from breeders in North America.
Last month, Manitoba conservation minister introduced legislation to ban all penned hunting, and the animal fund wants Ontario to follow suit.
"This is a very good opportunity for the Ontario government to nip something in the bud," Smith told reporters Monday.
Public opinion -- among hunters and non-hunters alike -- supports the belief that animals should only be felled in the wild, the fund says.
Ironically, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters agrees penned hunting of exotic animals should be stopped -- but not for ethical reasons.
"Our perspective is based on conservation and biology," said the federation's Rick Morgan. "The rearing of those kinds of animals can create problems for our native wildlife."
Animals that escape from their pens can breed with native species, spreading diseases, or prey on indigenous wildlife, Morgan said.