An African hunting expo needs to find a new home after an online petition prompted a Saskatoon hotel to pull the trade show from its calendar.
“I think hunting animals for sport is completely unethical and unsustainable,” said Lana Stark, a Saskatoon woman who started the petition on Change.org. “These hunters target rhinos, lions, elephants, giraffes, and hippos.”
Stark said she found a Facebook group organizing a protest for January 23 and 24, the length of the two-day trade show. She also got wind that a petition started in Toronto came to a head when a Holiday Inn in the city announced it was pulling the event there.
“That petition had over 2,000 signatures and did well so I thought I would start one here and see what we could do for Saskatoon,” Stark said.
What Stark learned was that the response in Saskatoon has been greater than the response in Toronto as she’s collected 3,500 signatures.
On the argument that trophy hunting is a big tourism driver for Africa and that it helps control animal populations, Stark said there’s a lot more hunters and tourism groups can do rather than pay a lot of money to mount wild animals head in your living room.
“Trophy hunters say they are conservationists helping local communities. I don’t think you are if you pay money to shoot an animal, and there must be less destructive ways to save a species,” Stark said. “If you’re putting a price tag on their heads, make it about eco-tourism, have safaris, tours and photography. People want to see these majestic animals.”
Stark admits the support she’s seeing across Canada is likely a result of the outcry resulting from the death of Cecil the lion at the hands of an American dentist. Stark said that story opened the world’s eyes and likely shocked many people who didn’t know trophy-hunting tours existed.
While the Saskatoon Inn has confirmed the event has been cancelled, the show can still find another venue to host the trade show, but it can expect peaceful protests wherever it hosts the event.
The cancellation hasn’t come without its fair share of criticism either.
One caller into Gormley on Tuesday said the Saskatoon Inn is doing a disservice to Saskatchewan hunters.
“They need to realize this is a hit on hunting, period. All of us need to stand together on this because all the anti-hunters can go ahead with a petition like this, get 3,500 hundred signatures from who knows where, and stop something like this from happening,” she said. “The Saskatoon Inn should be ashamed of themselves because I know personally hundreds of hunters who have been staying there, and I hope not one of them graces their doorstep again.”
Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation disappointed by decision
Since the hotel’s decision to pull the hunting expo, the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation (SWF) says they’re shocked to hear the Saskatoon Inn has caved to public pressure.
In a release, Darrell Crabbe, executive director with the SWF said the Saskatoon Inn was misled by an uniformed petition, fueled by the anti-hunting movement in Saskatchewan.
“I spoke to some of their management yesterday and tried to impress upon them that a lot of meetings happen in Saskatoon at the Saskatoon Inn,” Crabbe said on Gormley. “But we had to cancel and find another venue.”
Every year the SWF hosts a two-day convention and the last time it was held in Saskatoon (2013) more than 350 delegates filled the Saskatoon Inn. Crabbe said they were looking to bring the convention back to the Saskatoon Inn in 2018; however the hotel’s decision on the African hunting expo has prompted the SWF to take their business elsewhere.
“We’re not going to change that, but we will be looking at other venues,” Crabbe said, adding the organization on average spends around $300,000 for each convention.
The SWF also invites all Saskatchewan resident hunters and anglers and conservationists to do the same as well on top of asking its members to contact the Saskatoon Inn to voice their disappointment.