Dozens of protesters lined a northeast street on Saturday morning during a demonstration planned to coincide with the African Hunting Expo Calgary at a nearby hotel.

Protest organizer Mike Donovan says the group wants Canada to join other nations in banning animal parts, especially those obtained through hunting, from entering the country.

“We’re vehemently opposed to trophy hunting in Africa in particular,” said Donovan. “We went to send a message to the Canadian government to enact laws to prevent the importation of animal parts into Canada for trophy.”

Donavon says Australia, France and the United States have laws preventing trophy hunters from bringing the spoils of their safaris home and Britain is in the process of adopting similar legislation.

The coordinator of the Ban African Trophy Hunting (BATH) protest says he’s not opposed to hunting as long as it’s done in an ethical manner, where meat not sport is the focus, and the entire carcass of the animal is utilized.

“It’s trophy hunting that we’re vehemently opposed to where typically wealthy, fly-in hunters go to Africa, pay a lot of money, hunt animals under very inhumane conditions, cut their heads off, bring them back to Canada and hang it on their wall,” said Donovan.

“We say that’s immoral, unethical and we want to see it stopped."

Inside the African Hunting Expo in the Coast Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre, hunters and tour operators believe the concerns of BATH are off target.

Anneke van der Merwe and her husband Casper are professional hunters who operate Jenobli Safaris in their homeland of South Africa. Their company offers visitors an opportunity to hunt buffalo, crocodile, lions, sable and other plains game near the Botswana border.

Van der Merwe says people outside of Africa may not fully comprehend her business and the role hunting plays in conservation.

“In Africa, if an animal doesn’t have an economical value than it doesn’t have a value to the people,” explains van der Merwe. “If we don’t have private owners that have their own ranches, and can make money out of it, then nobody’s going to look after those animals.”

The professional hunter says the public outrage and media scrutiny that followed an American dentist’s shooting of a lion named Cecil shows a lack of understanding for the current situation in Africa.

“If that hunter didn’t go there and give that money to hunt one lion, ten more would have lost their lives because no one would have wanted to look after them anymore.”

Doug Dolan of D & D Safaris, an Ontario based booking agent, says that, thanks to hunting (he takes exception with the term trophy hunting because all parts of the animal are utilized) there is more wild game now than ever before.

“There’s been tens of thousands of acres in South Africa alone turned back to wild, natural fauna where before it was sheep and cattle ranches,” said Dolan. “Before, when it was sheep and cattle farmed, these natural animals were competition for food and water.”

Dolan says property owners have learned the value of wild game and locals no longer view the animals as a nuisance.

“They realize now the benefits of the hunters coming,” explains Dolan, “that they’re getting the benefits from the meat (provided by the outfitters), from jobs and the money back into their economy.”

Donovan disagrees with Dolan’s assessment on the economic trickledown.

“Less than three per cent of the money from trophy hunting ends up in the communities which is a pittance,” said the protest organizer. “Communities make a lot more money off of ecotourism or photo safaris where people go there, they spend a lot more money, they create better paying jobs over the whole entire year.”

An animal advocacy group, armed with more than 2,500 signatures attempted to cancel this weekend's hunting expo but the show continue as planned.

Representatives of the Coast Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre said the existing contract with the expo was honoured but the event will not be welcomed back.