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The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF), which claims to be Canada's largest protector of wildlife, is run mostly by people who kill animals for sport.

But from the way it publicizes itself, few of its supporters are likely to know this.

The CWF encompasses 650,000 members and supporters, or about one out of every 43 Canadians. Most of these are people who donate money to the organization or buy its merchandise. The CWF itself is made up of 12 provincial and territorial federations of rod and gun clubs and individual hunters and anglers. All of the federations, including the largest, the 74,000-member Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), promote hunting and fishing interests.

Members of the affiliate federations comprise less than one-third of CWF supporters, yet they hold 34 of the board's 40 seats. They also hold all of the executive positions. The executive vice-president is a minister of natural resources in Saskatchewan under Grant Devine. In contrast, people who join CWF because they love animals are considered associate members and have no vote.

These non-voting supporters get their information about the organization mainly from its glossy magazines and catalogues, which avoid any mention of the CWF's connection with hunting. The material features pictures of live bears and wolves but fails to state that federation affiliates support bear-baiting and the wolf kill. In fact, in the mid-1980s the CWF sued celebrated Canadian author and wildlife advocate Farley Mowat for statements about the kill in his book Sea of Slaughter.

No policies that conflict with hunting appear in the CWF policy manual, and the organization maintains silence on hunting issues. Meanwhile, its affiliates actively oppose gun control and promote practices such as "harvesting" black bears, which often means shooting unsuspecting females with cubs who have emerged "hungry from hibernation, follow the smell of bait and [are] shot from close range with a cross bow or a high-powered rifle," explains author Helen Forsey.

The CWF publicly supports its affiliates when it can conceal its status as their umbrella organization. For example, echoing an OFAH stand, the CWF wrote a position paper opposing aboriginal land claims, saying wildlife rights should "be applied equally to all Canadians." The OFAH opposes land claims because they infringe on hunting areas.

Only neutral causes, such as research projects on non-game species such as bald eagles, get the CWF's support, or causes that both hunters and environmentalists can support. For example, the CWF opposes game farming, which hunters and non-hunters dislike for its health risks to wildlife.

Although the CWF purports to promote conservation, only 12 percent of its expenditures are devoted to research, education and advocacy. Most of the CWF's money goes into merchandising, administration and fundraising. The merchandising rakes in $5 million a year. Most of it comes through the CWF catalogue, "which states every purchase helps wildlife." Thousands of animal lovers who help fund the organization would probably disagree with that statement - if only they knew the CWF's real priorities.

Author: Helen Forsey
Title: 'Gunning for Conservation'
Canadian Forum
Date: Jan/Feb 1994

PCC researchers: Elizabeth Rains, Cindy Rozeboom

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