The BC SPCA is opposed to hunting, trapping and fishing any animal for recreation, sport, pleasure and/or trophy. Where these activities are practiced for consumptive or subsistence purposes, they must be carried out in an ethical, humane, responsible and sustainable manner by qualified and experienced individuals (or under the supervision of experienced individuals), abiding by applicable laws and regulations.
Hunting, trapping and fishing are traditional practices of Indigenous people for cultural, ceremonial, livelihood and other subsistence purposes, and are an integral aspect of Indigenous Title, Rights, and laws.
In all instances, harvesting should come from abundant populations that do not impact ecological integrity.
Approved by the Board of Directors – September 2022
(replaces Hunting, 2017; Trapping, 2009)
The BC SPCA acknowledges that hunting, trapping and fishing have been part of Indigenous people’s way of life for millennia, and that these activities are essential for fostering cultural identity, connection with their community and the land, and for food security and economic life.1,2,3 These traditional practices have endured despite the continual harms of colonization.1
Harvesting refers to hunting, trapping and fishing methods for both the capture and killing of wildlife, whether by firearms or other tools, or by use of traps that either kill or restrain animals. Harvesting activities should minimize the infliction of pain and suffering to animals by using techniques that cause instant death. Harvesting should come from abundant populations, which can sustain harvest without compromising the integrity of the ecosystem. Overharvesting, particularly by commercial interests, has detrimental impacts on subsistence communities – for example, abalone are considered both an ecological and cultural keystone species to the Gitga’at people, but are no longer available due to commercial overfishing.2 Harvesting activities should respect the laws and customs of the Indigenous Nation in which the activities are occurring.
Additionally, harvesting tools and techniques should consider any potential negative impacts to the environment. For example, lead shot and lead sinkers are highly toxic environmental pollutants that cause unnecessary animal suffering and death through ingestion or secondary lead poisoning.
The BC SPCA does not condone the introduction of species to increase opportunities for harvesting purposes (e.g., feral pigs, fallow deer, rainbow trout). Such activities provide incentive to maintain a population of introduced species, often with negative consequences for the ecosystems they are introduced to.
Subsistence hunting should be carried out in a manner that respects the dignity of the animals, only from abundant populations to avoid harm to ecological integrity.2 Hunters should be experienced and have thorough knowledge of an animal’s natural history and their environment, or be supervised by mentors who have this knowledge.4 Hunting methods should achieve rapid death, using the best available technologies and techniques to achieve this. For example, rates of injured deer evading capture are substantially higher for bow hunting than for rifles.5,6 Hunters should not attempt to kill unless they can reasonably expect a successful lethal shot, and should limit the shot distance to within their individual marksmanship.5
In addition, hunters should aim to minimize disturbances to hunted populations, and limit the number of animals killed to only those required to meet the needs of the hunter, their family and their community.4 Ethical hunting includes the principles of fair chase (e.g., no canned hunts, no baiting or pit lamping) and does not cause hunted animals unnecessary harm or stress (e.g., using hunting dogs).
Many types of traps currently used in Canada – both lethal and non-lethal – cause severe injuries, distress, or death for target and non-target species.7,8,9 For example, non-lethal snares cause significant physical injuries to a large majority of animals trapped, and should not be condoned.10 Traps should be checked frequently or fitted with monitoring tools to ensure animals are not left to suffer in traps for long periods of time, dependent on the context of the species, environmental factors, trap mechanism and regulations. Any animals found injured and alive in traps should be quickly and humanely killed to prevent further suffering.
Trapping carried out for subsistence purposes should target abundant species to ensure ecological integrity and only use species-selective traps that cause instant death.2 Trappers should be knowledgeable about the local ecosystem and biology of the animals targeted to minimize harms to them and limit potential captures of non-target animals.4 Where trapping is used for urban wildlife control, only live traps that do not cause pain or injury should be used for relocation or exclusion purposes. When relocation is not an option for legal or biological reasons, either lethal traps that cause instant death or live traps directly followed by humane killing should be used.
Trapping standards should focus on continual improvement, and be improved as developments in trapping technology allow.9 The BC SPCA encourages the development of new trapping standards, or the amendment of existing standards to address shortcomings in current documentation, in addition to the regulation of traps to ensure continued improvement in humaneness.9,11
The BC SPCA acknowledges that like other animals, fish can perceive pain and have cognitive abilities that match or exceed other vertebrates, and should be granted similar considerations for their welfare.12,13 The available scientific research suggests that all recreational fishing results in some level of injury and stress, and these effects should be minimized through changes in equipment and angling practices.14 See also: BC SPCA position statement on Fish and Aquatic Invertebrate Welfare.
Fishing techniques should aim to minimize animal harms by minimizing angling duration and air exposure, improving handling, choosing tackle less likely to cause injury, avoiding fishing in extreme weather conditions or sensitive habitats, and avoiding fishing during the reproductive period.14 Caught fish should be rendered immediately and permanently unconscious using a specially designed club or stunning device – fish should not be left to die from asphyxiation in air.12,14
The BC SPCA does not condone catch-and-release fishing, even from abundant populations, as hooking and handling causes unnecessary animal suffering, without the benefit of subsistence use.12,15,16 Although catch-and-release techniques may be justified for conservation purposes (e.g., tagging of a threatened species), researchers should still carefully consider the welfare of the fish and make responsible decisions whether or not to return fish to the water based on stress, injuries and mortality potential.14
Background updated – September 2022
1 Kumar, M.B., Furgal, C., Hutchinson, P., Roseborough, W., & Kootoo-Chiarello, S. (2019). Harvesting activities among First Nations people living off reserve, Metis and Inuit: Time trends, barriers and associated factors (Catalogue no. 89-653-X2019001). Statistics Canada.
2 Anthony, R., & Varner, G. (2019). Subsistence hunting. In B. Fischer (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Animal Ethics (pp. 211–222). Routledge.
3 Hessami, M.A., Bowles, E., Popp, J.N., & Ford, A.T. (2021). Indigenizing the North American model of wildlife conservation. Facets, 6, 1285–1306. https://doi.org/10.1139/FACETS-2020-0088/ASSET/IMAGES/MEDIUM/FACETS-2020-0088F2.GIF
4 Daoust, P-Y. (2020). Navigating social norms and animal welfare in hunted animals. In C. Stephen (Ed.), Animals, Health, and Society (1st ed., pp. 255–262). CRC Press.
5 Gregory, N.G. (2005). Bowhunting deer. Animal Welfare, 14(2), 111–116.
6 RSPCA Australia. (2020). Why do some hunters use a bow and arrow and is this type of hunting humane? RSPCA Australia. http://kb.rspca.org.au/Why-do-some-hunters-use-a-bow-and-arrow-and-is-this-type-of-hunting-humane_541.html
7 Cattet, M., Stenhouse, G., & Bollinger, T. (2008). Extertional myopathy in a grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) captured by a leghold snare. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 44, 973–978. https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.089763
8 AVMA. (2015). Trapping and steel-jawed leghold traps. American Veterinary Medical Association. https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/Trapping-and-Steel-jawed-Leghold-Traps.aspx
9 Proulx, G., Cattet, M., Serfass, T.L., & Baker, S.E. (2020). Updating the AIHTS trapping standards to improve animal welfare and capture efficiency and selectivity. Animals, 10(8), 1262. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081262
10 Powell, R.A., & Proulx, G. (2003). Trapping and Marking Terrestrial Mammals for Research: Integrating Ethics, Performance Criteria, Techniques, and Common Sense. ILAR Journal, 44(4), 259–276. https://doi.org/10.1093/ilar.44.4.259
11 Talling, J., & Inglis, I. (2009). Improvements to trapping standards. DG ENV European Commision.
12 Broom, D.M. (2007). Cognitive ability and sentience: which aquatic animals should be protected? Diseases of aquatic organisms, 75(2), 99–108. https://doi.org/10.3354/DAO075099
13 Brown, C. (2014). Fish intelligence, sentience and ethics. Animal Cognition, 18(1), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1007/S10071-014-0761-0
14 Cooke, S.J., & Sneddon, L.U. (2007). Animal welfare perspectives on recreational angling. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 104(3), 176–198. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.APPLANIM.2006.09.002
15 UBCIC. (2019). Sport fishing monitoring and catch-and-release. Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
16 Browman, H.I., Cooke, S.J., Cowx, I.G., Derbyshire, S.W.G., Kasumyan, A., Key, B., Rose, J.D., Schwab, A., Skiftesvik, A.B., Don Stevens, E., Watson, C.A., & Arlinghaus, R. (2019). Welfare of aquatic animals: Where things are, where they are going, and what it means for research, aquaculture, recreational angling, and commercial fishing. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 76(1), 82–92. https://doi.org/10.1093/ICESJMS/FSY067
Baiting: Using meat, cereals, cultivated crops, restrained animal, or any manufactured product or material that may attract wildlife, and includes plastic or other imitation foods, to lure wildlife closer to the person intending to kill it.
Canned hunt: A practice that involves the hunting of a contained animal, thereby preventing fair chase (e.g., fencing), or animals who have been bred, raised in captivity and released specifically to be hunted.
Cultural keystone species: species that form the contextual underpinnings of a culture, as reflected in their fundamental roles in diet, as materials, in medicine, or in spiritual practices, and key to both the identity and survival of a people (Garibaldi & Turner 2004).
Ecological keystone species: species essential to the integrity of an ecosystem by virtue of the key roles they play in its overall structure and function (Garibaldi & Turner 2004).
Ecosystem: A dynamic set of living organisms (plants, animals and microorganisms) all interacting amongst themselves and with the environment in which they live (soil, climate, water and light).
Hunting: The capture and killing of wildlife, whether by firearms or other weapon, or by use of traps that either kill or restrain.
Pit lamping: A practice that involves the use of lights to hunt at night, making use of animals’ reflective eyes.
Sport hunting: The hunting of wildlife for recreational purposes that includes stalking, pursuing or otherwise seeking the wild animal, followed by killing or attempting to kill it, and may include removal of select meat cuts from the animal.
Subsistence use: The intent of animal use for only personal consumption to meet the basic food and clothing needs of an individual and/or their family. For Indigenous peoples, this includes for cultural, ceremonial, consumptive, livelihood and other traditional purposes.
Trapping: The capture of wild or domestic animals in traps that either kill or restrain them.
Trophy hunting: The selective hunting of wild animals for human recreation, regardless if meat is removed from the animal. The trophy is the animal or part of the animal that is kept, and usually displayed, to represent the success of the hunt.