Magazine article New Internationalist

Bad Medicine: Ross Crockford Tells the Story of a Man Who Has Stepped on Toes from Campbell River to Hong Kong to Stop a Pernicious Trade

Magazine article New Internationalist

Bad Medicine: Ross Crockford Tells the Story of a Man Who Has Stepped on Toes from Campbell River to Hong Kong to Stop a Pernicious Trade

Article excerpt

Bad medicine

Ross Crockford tells the story of a man who has stepped on toes from Campbell River to Hong Kong to stop a pernicious trade.

ANTHONY Marr knows what it feels like to be endangered. Last summer the Vancouver environmentalist was touring small towns in British Columbia, gathering signatures to force a referendum outlawing the hunting of bears in this Canadian province. Often the reception he got was downright hostile. Many people in the countryside claimed he was trying to destroy their livelihood and their heritage. 'In Campbell River,' recalls Marr, 'a hunter pointed at me and said: "I saw you on TV this morning. The price on your head just went up $10,000."'

Pretty frightening, but Marr has heard similar threats before, and often made in defence of a culture that is much, much older. Marr's referendum drive was part of a larger, ongoing campaign (acronymed as BET'R) he has been running since November 1995 to stop the worldwide slaughter of bears, elephants, tigers and rhinos - big - game animals whose body parts are frequently used in traditional Chinese medicine. Marr is convinced that as Asia prospers and trade becomes further deregulated the demand for these animal parts will skyrocket.

Fortunately he's in a position to do something about it. Since he was born in China and raised in Hong Kong, Marr figures he's entitled to criticize things he grew up with that strike him as mere superstition. One is the belief that consuming part of a powerful animal gives strength to a corresponding part of your body. 'When I was a kid my parents would give me things like bear gall and tiger bone as if it was aspirin,' says Marr, who's now 52. 'Endangered species wasn't part of my vocabulary at all.'

Consequently Marr spends much of his time speaking at Vancouver schools with large numbers of Chinese students, many of whom are hearing about the problem for the first time. He also speaks on Chinese - language radio talk shows. Sometimes listeners accuse him of defaming the Chinese reputation. Marr replies that, on the contrary, he is trying to save it: if we drive a species to extinction, he says, we can never regain respect in the eyes of the world.

A white person saying these kinds of things might be called a racist,' says Marr. 'But when a Chinese person is pointing the finger at Chinese culture, it's more like self - examination.'

If public education is the long - term 'yin' of the BET'R campaign, the aggressive 'yang' is law enforcement. Until recently it was common to find rhino - hide and tiger - bone pills on the shelves of apothecaries in Vancouver's Chinatown, and many did a brisk trade in gall bladders taken from bears poached in British Columbia and smuggled by individuals to Asia to sell for as much as $18,000 apiece. …

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