Animal News Desk / Cathy Kangas
In 1972, Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act which prohibits the killing of, and trade in, all marine mammals, including the hunting or importation of sport-hunted polar bears.
Today, polar bears are threatened by the loss of sea ice due to climate change. They desperately need ice for their survival. Currently, fewer than 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears remain in the wild.
Why then would Congress even consider a bill that would give American hunters permission to import trophies of polar bears killed in Canada?
The bill, H.R. 991, sponsored by Alaska Congressman Don Young (R), would carve out an exemption in the Marine Mammal Protection Act that would allow 41 American hunters to import their polar bear trophies. It would also overturn a ban on killing polar bears issued in 2008 when the species was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Once it became evident to hunters that polar bears would be protected under the law, they raced to bring in 112 trophies before the ban was enacted.
This is blatant outrage! Alaskan natives are allowed to hunt polar bears for subsistence, but the law specifically prevents them from killing them for sport. Americans who want to bring their polar bear trophies to the United States killed the polar bears in Canada, the only country that allows commercial trophy hunts.
It is not at all surprising that Canada, a country that underwrites the massacre of thousands of baby seals annually for their fur, would also support hunting polar bears.
These American hunters were fully aware that they would not be able to bring the trophies home if the United States government listed the polar bear as threatened or endangered species. Now they are crying out that it is unfair for our government not to recognize their rights as hunters to kill polar bears for sport. The new bill in Congress would virtually nullify those provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act that protect polar bears. It would also send a clear message to hunters that polar bears are fair game.
I am asking everyone I know to call Louisiana Congressman John Fleming (R-4th) the chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife to reject H.R. 991. His number is 202-225-2777. You can also visit his website www.fleming.house.gov and send him an email.
We have civilized laws protecting polar bears. No one should be allowed to circumvent these laws simply because they want to kill a defenseless animal for sport.
We need to speak for those who have no voice.
New Canaan resident Cathy Kangas is a member of the Humane Society of the United States' National Council. As the owner of PRAI, an international cosmetic corporation, she started Beauty with a Cause, and commits a percentage of her company's profits to help animal welfare organizations around the world.