For Immediate Release

Animal and environmental groups call on new Liberal Government to ignore the “Nuisance” Bear Panel Report!

“We have every confidence that Premier McGuinty will keep his word by maintaining the ban on the spring bear hunt.”

Toronto - October 24, 2003 – A coalition of animal protection organizations called on the Premier, the newly appointed Natural Resources Minister David Ramsey and the Ontario Liberal government to ignore the recommendations of the “Nuisance” Bear Panel report and maintain the ban on the spring bear hunt.

The coalition includes Animal Alliance of Canada, Animal Protection Institute, The Bear Alliance, Environment Voters, World Society for the Protection of Animals, Canada, and Zoocheck Canada.

In a CBC radio interview on October 22, 2003, Fort Francis Mayor Glenn Witherspoon one of three Tory appointees to the Panel, jumped the gun and released the recommendations, emphasizing the recommendation to re-introduce the spring hunt.  The report has yet to be released for public comment.  Since his appointment to the panel, Witherspoon has taken every opportunity to promote his bias for the spring bear hunt. 

 “This panel has been biased in favour of the spring bear hunt right from the very beginning,” said Pat Tohill, Campaigns Manager, World Society for the Protection of Animals, Canada.   “Although Mr. Witherspoon is the only member to actively express his views, the other members of the panel have done nothing to distance themselves from his comments.  Mr. Witherspoon has simply reflected the views of the panel members.”

“We have every confidence that Premier McGuinty will be true to his word and maintain the ban on the spring bear hunt,” said Stephen Best, Director of Environment Voters.  “The Premier has made his position clear on a number of occasions, including in a letter to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.”

According to Environment Canada’s wildlife survey, the number of hunters in Ontario is in steep decline and represents less than 5% of Ontario residents.  Bear hunters make up a tiny part of all Ontario hunters.  The number of residents who are non-consumers of wildlife is on the increase.

“As with all of these more controversial wildlife issues, the debate focuses around the interests of the user group, not the broader public interest,” said Barry MacKay of the Animal Protection Institute and Zoocheck. “Surveys have continued to show that over three quarters of the Ontario population are opposed to the spring bear hunt and yet we continue the debate.”

“On September 13, 2002, a coalition of animal protection groups called on then Natural Resources Minister Jerry Ouellette to remove Fort Francis Mayor Glenn Witherspoon from the MNR’s “Nuisance” Bear Panel because of his bias.  The Minister failed to act and now we have a report whose recommendations are highly suspect and lack credibility,” said Liz White, Director of Animal Alliance of Canada.   “The Liberal government ought to acknowledge the extreme bias of this panel’s recommendations and dismiss the report out of hand.”

For more information please contact:

Liz White, Animal Alliance of Canada, 416-462-9541 (w)
Stephen Best, Environment Voters, 519-925-3440 (p)
Barry MacKay, Animal Protection Institute and Zoocheck Canada, 905-472-9731 (w)
Pat Tohill, WSPA Canada, 416-369-0044 (w)