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Anthony Marr: My Gratitudes | #4 – to the 1800 volunteers of the Bear Referendum campaign

January 30, 2011

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A Series, By Anthony Marr

Gratitude #4: to the 1800 volunteers of the Bear Referendum campaign

This is the 4th dedication of my Gratitude series, and the first one posted in the Global Anti-Hunting Coalition site. The entire series is being posted in my personal site as it is being written.

WCWC’s Bear Referendum campaign in full swing

Today is Christmas Day, 2010, a day of gratitude. In the 55 days since the successful conclusion of my 40-states-in-7-months Compassion for Animals Road Expedition #7 (CARE-7), I’ve been informing the members of the Global Anti-Hunting Coalition about the power and potential of the social-political mechanism called the “Referendum Initiative” as a constitution-amending and law-changing tool. I’ve compared the Referendum to a sledgehammer, versus a non-binding petition being a handful of sand. I have also written that for the activists of a certain state with referendum legislation to not use the Referendum as a campaigning tool is like going to war, leaving the most potent weapon behind.

First, why do we need constitutional amendments and law changing?

Consider one example each. In terms of constitutional amendments, let me use as an example the state of New Jersey. Only 0.8% of New Jersey’s population hunt, but the state constitution of New Jersey dictates that of the 11 voting members of the Fish and Game Commission which determines wildlife management policy, 6 must be hunters and another 3 must be farmers, who are usually also hunters. Last time I checked, all 11 were hunters. In other words, the 99.2% of New Jerseyans who don’t hunt, be they hikers, campers, photographers, bird-watchers, naturalists, independent biologists (i.e. not government biologists), ecologists… have no say in the matter whatsoever. Pseudo-democracy and ingrained corruption at their bluntest. As long as this constitutional provision holds sway, it will be wildlife management policy by hunters, for hunters. Injustice and bloodshed will stalk every New Jerseyan autumn, year after year, until this constitution has been amended.

Wisconsin has about the same problem, and Wisconsinians are clamoring for a constitutional change towards proportional representation of hunters and non-hunters in its own Fish and Game Commission.

In terms of changes in statute, I could use Pennsylvania as an example, where Jan Haagensen was convicted on nine counts of violations against the Hunter Harassment Statue for asking trespassing hunters to leave her property.

Unfortunately for the activists of NJ, WI, and PA, none of these states has Referendum legislation, so their fight would be frustrating to say the least.

Two things to note at this point:

1. Most states have a state constitution with prohunting clauses as the one of New Jersey, and

2. there are 26 states with referendum legislation for constitutional amendment and statute alteration purposes.


And, pardon my repetition, for the activists of a state with referendum legislation to not use it is tantamount to going to war while leaving the most potent weapon behind.

But there is legislation and there is legislation. Where in one state the rules of engagement are fair and square, to give both the proponents and the opponents a level playing field, another state may have rules that are heavily biased for one or the other. So, it pays for the activists to do some preliminary investigation before undertaking a referendum campaign. I’ve learned the hard way, believe me.

Following is my first hand account of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee’s “Bear Referendum” campaign of 1996, which, though it did not succeed due to unworkable regulations, nonetheless merited the description of “the highest-profile animal protection campaign of the year in Canada” by Canada’s national newspaper the Globe and Mail, and forced a moratorium of Grizzly bear hunting in British Columbia by the ruling New Democratic Party (NDP), until it was overturned by the succeeding Liberal Party (LP, which strangely was considered right-wing in relation to the NDP).

Since the success of the Chinatown campaign in forcing the WAPPRIITA law in 1996 (see Gratitude #3), a new thought emerged in my mind: So, it is now unlawful to hunt bears in Canada for gall bladder and paw, why is it not only legal, but condoned and promoted for trophy hunters, to hunt bears for head and hide? Aren’t gall bladder, paw, head and hide ALL bear parts? Do bears suffer less being killed for head and hide than for gall and paw? Isn’t this a clear double standard in favor of recreational hunting and trophy hunting over medicinal hunting?

Thus, my anti-hunting passion was born.

In April 1996, around the time of the enactment of the new WAPPRIITA law (see Gratitude #3) the thought came to me that since only about 5% of the population hunt, if we put it to a referendum vote on, say, banning bear hunting in BC, we stood a good chance of winning the ballot, and if we do, then it would likely become law that bear hunting in BC is banned. Paul George either independently thought of it, or liked the idea, as did executive directors Adriane Carr and Joy Foy. It was not a small commitment, in fact one of the greatest commitments made by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, but we made it, and stuck by it all the way.

Basically, it is a 2-part process:

1. To perform an Initiative Petition on the issue to collect so many thousands of signatures from registered voters throughout BC within a certain Petition Period, and, if the terms of the petition are satisfied, then

2. the question “Should bear-hunting be banned in British Columbia?” would be put to public vote – yay or nay.

If the referendum vote says, “Yay, ban bear hunting in BC,” then bear hunting would be banned in BC.

#1 turned out to be much more complicated than it looks. In order to collect so many signatures within such an amount of time, we needed a huge volunteer force of thousands. This necessitated me, the lead campaigner, to travel from city to city, by car, for 60 days (June 1 – July 31, 1996) covering 50 cities, giving presentations to the local animal advocacy groups, signing up volunteers.

This may look like a “paid vacation tour” ;), but reality is far different. After the first couple of presentations, it had become clear that I had but two alternatives: covert and overt. The Covert alternative was to keep the meetings secret, attendees by invitation only; the Overt alternative was to publicly pre-announce the meeting by all means available including newspaper articles and radio announcements. The former was reasonably secure, but it did not bring enough people to the meeting to fill my volunteer quota. The latter brought forth large numbers of hunters, though it did bring enough volunteers.

I adopted the Overt method. The result was that I was confronted by 30-130 hunters at a time over 40 times in the 2 month period. But I also signed up well over 1,000 volunteers on the spot, and a total of 1,800 volunteers in the end. Plus, it generated over 150 newspaper articles and hours of TV and radio interviews and debates, including a 1.5 hour televised debate on a Kamloops radio talk-show program between John Holdstock, president of the BC Wildlife Federation (I called it the BC Wildlife-Killing Federation) and myself, which fielded 30 incoming calls, 25 from hunters. As you can see, they were very well-organized – by the BCWF and other hunting and prohunting groups.

Following is a series of excerpts from the media coverage garnered during that time period and the few years that followed as the campaign kept on make waves. Among the excerpts you will find accounts of how some of the volunteers were themselves harassed by hunters, and some of their display booths were canceled by and evicted from those shopping centers intimidated by the hunters. One hunter even grabbed a bunch of signed petition forms and tore them up in front of the volunteers. I myself was eventually assaulted (1998-01-21) by a hunter, resulting in three facial bone fractures and a buckled eye socket floor. But the campaign kept on rolling, resulting in the Grizzly bear hunting moratorium in 1999.

One of the pieces towards the end is titled Making BC’s Referendum Act Workable. In the nut shell, BC’s referendum Act stipulates that the Initiative Petition must contain certified signatures from at least 10% of the registered voters in each and every one of the 75 Electoral Districts. If one of the 75 electoral districts falls short by even 1%, the entire Initiative Petition would be deemed a failure. Plus, we were given only 3 months to collect all these signatures. In contrast, the rules in WA and OR are more workable by far, or workable, period, since BC’s is unworkable. They need the signatures of only 5% of the registered voters, and these signatures could be collected anywhere within in the state, in WA all from Seattle if the proponents so please, and a time period of 5 months is allowed. This is why those referendum campaigns in WA and OR succeeded.

Anthony Marr

1996-06-14 (Alberni Valley Times article on AM debating 65 hunters)
Anti Trophy Hunting | Bear hunters confront bare-faced petition to put them into permanent hibernation

June 14, 1996
Alberni Valley Times
By Diane Morrison

Bears, whether Black, Brown, Grizzly or Polar, are not endangered species in North America. Anthony Marr wants to keep it that way.

The campaigner for Western Canada Wilderness Committee was in Port Alberni Thursday night with his effort to ban sport and trophy hunting of Grizzly and Black bears.

It was a very hard sell to the audience of about 70 dominated by hunters and hunting guides that packed into a into small, hot room at the Friendship Centre, made even hotter by the temper flaring up from wall to wall.

The hunters say they are the endangered species. They wanted the distinction between legal hunting and poaching to be clearly recognized. “Go ask the bears, to see if they can,” said Marr. He also said that some hunters and guides make this impossible, because they are themselves poachers.

Marr believes that, with both legal hunting, poaching and conservation officer kills, about 8% of the Grizzly bear population and more than 10% of the Black bear population are being killed each year. He said the province’s Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy clearly states that the species can sustain no more than a 4% annual mortality before going into decline, and even this, according to Marr, is too high.

Members of the audience disputed Marr’s numbers saying that, on Vancouver Island at least, the Black bear population has been increasing by 15% for the last 10 years. Marr countered that the Black bear populations on southern Vancouver Island, and some in Mid-Island, have been decimated in various locales, citing the Cowichan Lake area as an example, and challenged the hunters to produce written documentation to support their claim, which they did not.

A number of people asked why Marr’s main thrust was to shut down legal hunting when the problem is poaching. Marr replied that both in combination is the problem, and that he has another sub-campaign targeting poachers and traffickers of bear parts. A Chinese Canadian, Marr has taken on both Canadian hunters and the Chinese demand for the body parts of these animals.

After about an hour of cross firing, WCWC campaign assistant Erica Denison finally stood up and said that until poaching can be brought under control, they want to buy time for the bears to recover. One of the hunters pointed at her and said, “Young lady, you are not old enough to teach us anything. Sit down!” Marr pointed at a middle-aged woman in the audience who had been quite outspoken in favour of hunting, saying, “I’ve been listening to this young lady for the last hour. Erica, please continue.”

Marr needs to get hunters on his side, the woman said, not slam them, because hunters also want to stop poaching.

Some audience members said it is organizations such as WCWC, advertising the fact that bear parts are worth so much on the black market, that is increasing poaching. Marr scoffed at this as an “ostrich attitude”.

They objected to being told that they can’t legally hunt bears, but bears that get into garbage and smash bee hives can be killed for being a nuisance. Marr said, “The bears you kill are not nuisance bears, and that killing nuisance bears is not your job.”

When shown a picture of a bear shut in a small cage with a tube leading out from its gall bladder to extract bile, one man said that countries that treat animals like that are not democratic and so they have no conscience. Marr countered that lots of capitalists have no conscience either.

Another man was convinced that if WCWC is successful in shutting down bear hunting, it will try to shut down all hunting. Marr said, “If another hunted species becomes threatened or endangered, I would champion its cause as well.”

Back to poaching, Marr said that when an animal such as the tiger and the rhino is declared endangered, the demand and price, and so the poaching, skyrocket, hastening its slide into oblivion. “It is a very vicious cycle, and the purpose of this campaign is to try to keep our own bears out of it.” . . .

Anthony Marr debating 100 hunters at a time over 40 times in 60 days in his 1996 50-cities road tour.

1996-07-05 (Prince George Citizen article on AM debating 130 hunters)
Anti Trophy Hunting | Fur flies at meeting to ban bear hunts

The Prince George Citizen
By Gordon Hoekstra

It was barely civil and sometimes downright ugly. In the end, it took a representative of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee close to two hours to deliver a plea for help to ban bear hunting in BC. Anthony Marr was interrupted, shouted down, and generally abused by hunters in an audience of more than 100 that spilled out of the conference room at the Civic Centre Thursday evening…Marr had barely begun…before he was attacked…

1996 – One of the Bear Referendum’s 1800 volunteers hard at work.

1996-07-09 (Kamloops Daily News article on AM debating 50 hunters)
Anti Trophy Hunting | Activist calls for bear-hunt ban

The Daily News, Kamloops, BC
by Michelle Young

With calm and respect, Anthony Marr faced rapid-fire questioning from hunters and threw back a plea for them to stop hunting bears…

1996 – the BEAR-CARE-a-van in action

1996-08 (Georgia Straight article Hunters Target Marr)

1996 – Anthony Marr with Western Canadian Wilderness Committee’s founder Paul George on the day the Initiative Petition signatures were presented to the BC government.

1996-08-17 (Vancouver Sun, Westcoast People, article on AM and his work)

Anthony Marr debating hunters 100 at a time over 40 times in 1996

1996-10-12 (Parksville News article on AM’s  “speaking tour from hell”)
Anti Trophy Hunting | Bear Crusader takes man on the speaking tour from hell

The News, Parksville, BC
By Bruce Whitehead

No matter how open-minded you are, you likely wouldn’t pick Anthony Marr out to be an environmental activist – let alone one that some have called “the most hated man in BC”. But the Chinese-Canadian physicist has almost single-handedly managed to fire up emotions in every corner of the province…

PhotobucketAnthony Marr on so-called-anti-Hunting defeatists

1996-10-18 (Victoria News article Anthony Marr targeted by angry hunters in the north)

1996 – Anthony Marr with Paul George on the day when WCWC turned in over 100,000 bona fide Initiative Petition signatures to Election BC.

1996-Fall (AM in WCWC paper on bears)
1996-Fall (Western Canada Wilderness Committee educational report – AM debates a typical hunter)

Here is a typical hunter.

1997-2001 (AM’s educational outreach – numerous newspaper articles)

From 1995-2010, Anthony Marr spoke to over 200,000 students on 3 continents in wildlife matters.

1997-03 (New Internationalist article Bad Medicine on AM’s Chinatown work)
Bad Medicine
New Internationalist
By Ross Crockford

Bad Medicine – Ross Crockford tells the story of a man who has stepped on toes from Campbell River to Hong Kong to stop a pernicious trade…

Anthony Marr knows what it feels like to be endangered. Last summer the Vancouver environmentalist was touring small towns in British Columbia… Often the reception he got was downright hostile. Many people in the countryside claimed he was trying to destroy their livelihood and their heritage…

Now, Marr is taking his campaign around the world… He knows there will be some risk; organized crime is directly involved in the endangered species trade… But after tangling with British Columbia’s hunters, he should be ready…

1997 cover picture of the New Internationalist magazine article


1997-04-27 (AM in Bloody Superstition by Shawn Blore) | Bloody Superstition and New Cosmology

Night of The Notables | Little Willow Gilbert chose Anthony Marr to be her notable. She has pinned the Bloody Superstition article on bottom right of board

1997-05 (AM’s article: Making BC’s Referendum Act workable – in government Gazette and Common Ground magazine.) | Making BC’s Referendum Act Workable

Anthony Marr testifying in Council

1998-01-21 (Vancouver Sun article Bear hunting foe attacked in city)

The Vancouver Sun
By Stephen Hume

BC environmentalist Anthony Marr is recovering after being beaten by a burly man who said, “Let this be a lesson to you.”

An environmentalist known for his opposition to bear hunting and the black market for animal parts was recovering Tuesday after being attacked in Vancouver’s West End.

Anthony Marr said he was waylaid about 7:30 p.m. Monday in the 1600 block of Haro Street as he made his way to his car after a dinner with his parents at their home.

Environmental groups have been complaining about a sharp increase in threats of physical violence directed at their members…

“I was parked in the lane”, Marr said. “There was this guy waiting for me by my car. He advanced a few steps and said, ‘Are you Anthony Marr?’ I said yes and he immediately attacked me.”

Marr… said his assailant was “over six feet and around 200 pounds” and rained blows upon his head and face, fracturing facial bones and damaging his eye socket.

“Then he said, ‘Let this be a lesson to you,’ and walked off,” Marr said.

The University of British Columbia Hospital confirmed that Marr was admitted and treated in the emergency ward shortly after 7:30 p.m.. Vancouver city police confirmed receiving his report of the attack about 8:40 p.m..

Marr recently led a controversial and widely publicized Western Canada Wilderness Committee campaign to have bear hunting banned in BC.

He has also been active in successfully pressuring government for controls in the black market on endangered species parts in the Asian community…

Marr’s silver 1993 Mazda sports car and its license plate became well-known during the anti-hunting campaign, he says.

Marr drove 12,000 kilometers and visited almost every significant community in BC during the summer of 1996, holding public and private meetings that laid the groundwork for a province-wide initiative petition towards driving a referendum vote on banning bear hunting.

Campaigners obtained 93,000 signatures in a 90-day blitz that mobilized 1,800 volunteers, but fell well short of the 250,000 or 10 percent of the electorate – needed to force government action under recall and initiative legislation.

The petition campaign, however, gave Marr a high media profile.

He said he was constantly harassed by pro-hunting (forces). Pickup trucks tailgated his car and he received anonymous threats of violence by phone.

“My reaction is that it merely strengthens my resolve to continue with this campaign…”

Paul George, a director of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, described the attack on Marr as “deplorable” and said it was time for police and government to take seriously the “threats of violence and all the rhetoric that our people are subjected to.”

“I think this [violent rhetoric] unleashes hate against environmentalists just as much as it does against Jews or people of a different sexual persuasion or anything like that,” George said.

Newspaper Photo | Caption: Beaten but unbowed – Anthony Marr says he is undeterred in his campaign despite beating


1998-01-21 (Ming Pao (Chinese) article “Ma Seeu-Sung assaulted”) |  (Canadian Firearms Digest post – subject Anthony Marr)

1998-05-13 Vancouver Courier article Beating no bar to bear pal – Anthony Marr back on the road

1998-10-05 (Alberta ReportAnti-Whaling – the tradition is welfare AM honored)

1998-10-09 (Vancouver SunWhale Rights Come First by Anthony Marr | (“Animal rights before cultural rights,” says Anthony Marr.)

Anthony Marr, Founder and President,
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)

Also by Anthony Marr …

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