Animal rights groups call for probe into Belleville, Ont. coyote hunt contest

Animal rights groups are calling on the MNR to look into a coyote hunting contest in Belleville. Global News

Animal protection groups are trying a new tactic to stop a controversial coyote hunting contest in the Belleville area. They’re now asking for an investigation under the province’s environmental bill of rights. This stems from an annual contest run by a Belleville hunting store.

As the 2023 contest, hosted by Chesher’s outdoor store, ended Thursday, Animal Justice and other groups have filed an application to have the legality of the contest investigated by the ministry of natural resources and forestry.

“The store offers cash and prizes to contest participants who kill coyotes and then enter their bodies at the store’s Belleville location,” said Kaitlyn Mitchell, Animal Justice director of legal advocacy.

This, according to Mitchell, flies in the face of many of the rules set out in the Ontario environmental bill of rights, but the contest has never been shut down, despite many efforts on the part of animal rights groups.

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“This issue has been brought to ministry staff’s attention. A number of staff actually seem to believe that the contest was probably illegal but a decision was made to allow it to take place nonetheless. I can’t speak to why they would make such a decision,” Mitchell said.

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Last year, Animal Justice, along with other groups, filed a lawsuit against the provincial government for allowing the 2022 contest to happen, though the results of the lawsuit have not been released from the courts yet.

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“It seems that the government is treating the interests of hunters and contest participants more seriously than they’re treating the interests of innocent animals,” Mitchell said.

Global News reached out to both the ministry of natural resources and forestry as well as the store that holds the contest but has received no reply.

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According to Mitchell, the groups will wait anxiously for a reply to their application for an investigation and move forward from there.

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