Trophy hunting has a storied history in British Columbia and in 2016, it was legal to kill grizzly bears for sport. Poll after poll demonstrated that the public was overwhelming against this practice but the government of the day refused to take action. Lush Cosmetics joined conservation and animal rights organizations, Indigenous communities, community leaders, scientists and coastal First Nations to rally the public and demand an outright ban on trophy hunting throughout the province.
In 2017, following a concentrated campaign launched just before a provincial election, grizzly bear trophy hunting was banned in B.C. One of the tactics used in this amazing campaign is a documentary film that served as a tool for education and public discussion about the issue.
It’s no secret that Lush is a seasoned champion for animals. Since it began in 1996 (’97 in North America), Lush has been the leader of corporate activism for protecting animals. In fact, one of the core values for this soap making biz is to never purchase or use ingredients that could have any trace of animal testing.
Today that doesn’t seem so unique, but back in the 90’s animal testing was just business as usual for most cosmetics manufacturers.
Lush’s stance gave it’s customers an ethical alternative and it’s now becoming a standard in the cosmetics industry. The business has since put a tremendous effort into protecting animals knowing that customers have their back.
So Lush is no stranger to making headlines for animals; whether it’s to save sharks, demanding bans on fur, or stopping cruel and outdated practices like trophy hunting.
I began working at Lush in September 2012 as a fledgling filmmaker on the company’s film and photo team. It was a new era for content marketing, especially involving video, and so experimentation was encouraged.
I’m very thankful for that.
Open minds gave our team permission to try things that other businesses weren’t doing; like telling stories that veered far away from selling products and services. We created short form documentaries, PSAs, and public installations to help and raise awareness to critical ethical issues.
As Lush embarked upon the campaign, one thing heard from the campaigners was the need for a visual tool which would help show the majesty of grizzly bears, hear from experts and tell the complete story of the need for a ban. Within our work as the film and photo team, the successes and failures of our experimentation led us to have the confidence to pitch an idea to create a 30-minute documentary that, in its storytelling, would have nothing to do with Lush at all.
Trophy took six months to film edit and deliver. All of which was done by a very small team consisting of myself as the lead filmmaker, a handful of story producers and graphic designers in consultation with experts on the issue.
The film premiered in November 2016 to an audience of 150 people including lawmakers and media. When the credits rolled, and it was time for the Q/A there wasn’t a single empty seat in the house.
It was toured around B.C. by affiliates Wildlife Defence League and it was screened in over a dozen film festivals throughout North America.
During its festival tour the film won Gold at the Hollywood Independent Documentary Film Festival, Spotlight Awards, and the Clements Award for Outstanding Artist from the Fur Bearer Defenders.
To date, the current amount of times it's been streamed online
And that was only part of the campaign. Lush also collected signed postcards from customers to demand action throughout the country that targeted the then Premier Christy Clark. The postcards were hand delivered to B.C.’s Legislature and images of the 50,000 postcards were used as part of the online campaign.
In partnership with a limited time Lush promotional campaign
During the week long campaign in shops, Lush sold a limited-edition bath bomb, raising $200,000 and 100% of the sale price was given to support the on-going work of wildlife advocacy groups and also used to conduct an independent poll in B.C. - the results of which proved again that a staggering 91% of British Columbians wanted to see an end to grizzly bear trophy hunting. With the current and up to date number, Lush was able to target key ridings for additional advocacy in the lead up to the provincial election.
This work added to the great efforts by many local organizations and coastal First Nations, altogether influencing the newly elected government to announce a ban trophy hunting in August 2017.
Charlie Russell was a renown bear enthusiast and expert in grizzly bear behaviour. He had spent his life studying grizzly bears, living amongst them, rehabilitating abandoned cubs and trying to convince wildlife management to treat bears more respectfully.
One of the great honours of my career has been to work with and to learn from Charlie while making this film. I’ll never forget when Bent Ear, a thousand pound alpha male grizzly with a battle-scarred face, approached our boat with thundering swagger. I looked back at Charlie and he looked back at me with a smile. Any and all fear washed right through me because I knew that Charlie looked at this bear as a friend. Bent-Ear looked at us, said hello, and hung out with us for over an hour.
This is what Charlie meant when he said that we can live with bears “in a beautiful way”.
Charlie is no longer with us, but I take comfort in the thought that he’s still smiling down at us and the bears.