From Indigenous Hunting Rights to Transnational Trophy Hunters: Killing Polar Bears in Canada
Jane Desmond (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines transnational polar bear trophy hunting by U.S. hunters who purchase Indigenous Canadian hunters' rights to kill the endangered bears, through a frame of necropolitics. Who has the right to kill? Should it be for sale? Under what conditions is this right transferred?
Paper long abstract:
Transnational Hunters, Indigenous Hunting Rights, and Killing Polar Bears in Canada "Big Game" hunters fly around the world from "first world" nations to elsewhere, to kill mega-fauna to put on their walls: caribou, elephants, rhinoceros, polar bears and many other rare or endangered species are the targets. In the U.S., Trump's recent backpeddling on a ban on imports of such "trophies" has caused outrage among animal protectionists, but that is just a symptom of a wider global phenomenon of the sale of the right to kill. This paper takes as its case study the sale by some Indigenous Canadians of their right to hunt polar bears, a right sold to non-indigenous, non-Canadian hunters from the U.S. who pay up to $40,000 to kill a polar bear, and then put it on their wall as a trophy--articulating a complex moral economy of wildlife life, death and commodification--a mobile necropolitics. How can we understand this phenomenon? We can reconfigure the competing notions of rights and conservation by reframing them in the language of bioethics. Who has the right to kill whom? Under what conditions is this right transferred? Should the right to kill be for sale? Why? Why not? This paper will examine treaty rights, the opinions of Indigenous hunters, competing claims by international animal activists, and the rhetoric of the big game hunting outfitters themselves to chart the concepts of ethics, rights, identity, and the value of animals that underpin this complex phenomenon of border crossings.