Scott Lupien insists that he is the ultimate conservationist. According to the article below, Lupien, an American fluent in Chinese, takes wealthy Chinese to Canada where they can see magnificent Polar bears up close . . . and kill them and turn them into rugs. The , Lupien is a professional hunter who is “teaching the Chinese about conservation” by leading trips to shoot down male polar bears. He insists that his customers respect nature: “Each hunter is allowed to kill one male only. We then turn them into rugs.” On his website, however, Lupien says that the story is false raising an interesting question of potential defamation.
Lupien’s website has pictures of a variety of dead large animals, but notably not a polar bear. He posted the following statement:
On March 5th, 2012 I received a phone call from a Daily Mail reporter calling himself Peter. He chatted me up, calling himself a fellow “sportsman” to earn my trust, and wanted to know about my polar bear hunts. I told him that I have never been on a polar bear hunt, and to my knowledge, neither has a single Chinese person. Nevertheless, he wanted to know more and I discussed polar bear hunting in general with him — specifically the history, ecology and management of polar bear hunting.
While he insists that he never discussed “Smuggling rugs” it is not clear if he denies this statement: “Each hunter is allowed to kill one male only. We then turn them into rugs.”
On his site, the owner of “I Love Hunting” (which does cater to wealthy Chinese) does argue for hunting polar bears and contests views that they are endangered:
labeling polar bears as “endangered” is another example of misrepresentation of the facts, unethical reporting and pure bias. A quick study of the most recent listing by IUCN will inform anyone who wants to know the true listing status of the polar bear that it is currently listed as “Vulnerable,” not “Endangered.” Furthermore, the reason for this listing (as opposed to a status of lower concern) is based purely on speculation based on models of what might happen. . . .
In other words, eight years ago they decided, based on climate models at that time, that polar sea ice might shrink, thus potentially leading to a reduction in polar bear numbers. This is speculation and such predictions have not come true in the eight years since this listing.
Mr Lupien’s website, 52safari.com, does remind one of that scene out of Ace Ventura (yes, I have four children under 13) where the pet detective finds himself in a room filled with dead wild animals.
Lupien’s site shows a variety of large game from black bears to lions to elephants that can be shot by wealthy Chinese.
The newspaper article says that an advert also features polar bears, stating “Their weight can reach one ton, and they can grow to more than three meters in length. The huge male bear specimens are the most majestic, most beautiful of hunting prizes!”
The article also quotes Lupien as saying “If you believe the ice caps are melting as some claim, these bears are going to die anyway, so you may as well hunt them.”
Lupien’s allegation that the story is false leads to an interesting defamation lawsuit. Lupien clearly does support hunting polar bears, so the article does not attribute a false position — only a false fact. The question is how it would harm his reputation. Indeed, it may be a situation like the one discussed by the Seventh Circuit in Wilkow v. Forbes, 241 F. 3d 552 (7th Cir. 2001). In the case, an attorney sued for defamation after a Forbes magazine article discussed his work in a bankruptcy case and an exception to the absolute priority rule. The article characterized his arguments as helping “unscrupulous business owners to rob creditors.” Notably, however, Judge Frank Easterbrook not only found the article to be opinion but said that the account of Wilkow’s practice might actually bring business to him:
Although a reader might arch an eyebrow at Wilkow’s strategy, an allegation of greed is not defamatory; sedulous pursuit of self-interest is the engine that propels a market economy. Capitalism certainly does not depend on sharp practices, but neither is an allegation of sharp dealing anything more than an uncharitable opinion. Illinois does not attach damages to name-calling. See Stevens, 855 F.2d at 400-02 (collecting cases, including examples such as “sleazy” and “rip-off”). Wilkow’s current and potential partners would have read this article as an endorsement of Wilkow’s strategy; they want to invest with a general partner who drives the hardest possible bargain with lenders. By observing that Wilkow used every opening the courts allowed, Forbes may well have improved his standing with investors looking for real estate tax shelters (though surely it did not help his standing with lenders). No matter the net effect of the article, however, it was not defamatory under Illinois law, so the judgment of the district court is
Lupien may indeed find that the outcry against his business will produce a positive response with some wealthy Chinese.
Putting this aside, there is a major question that the Daily Mail should answer. He is denying that he does these hunts. That would be a significant error in its reporting if it is true. Presumably, this reporter has notes and a basis for the article, which the paper should make clear to answer this charge.
Source: Daily Mail