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Podcast: Who ensures cruelty laws are followed?

We’ve discussed the laws and regulations in place to protect animals, and the gaps in those regulations that cause animals to suffer. This month we learn: what processes are in place to ensure the regulations are being met?

In the final episode of The Informed Animal Ally’s series on animal cruelty, the VHS’s Chantelle Archambault and Amy Morris discuss the processes in place to enfore laws and regulations intended to protect animals from suffering.

Since the time of recording, Animal Justice has released disturbing footage of regulations being violated at a B.C. slaughterhouse called Meadow Valley Meats, which is responsible for brands marketed as “local”, “humane”, and coming from “family farms”. Please take urgent action to call for changes to protect animals from terrible suffering in slaughterhouses in BC and across Canada.

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Note: This written discussion has been edited for length.

The difference between abuse and neglect

Chantelle: As part of our series on animal cruelty, we’ve been going over the laws and regulations that are in place to protect animals from suffering, as well as the gaps in those laws and accepted practices in various areas that humans interact with or exploit non-human animals.

We’ve not yet touched on how those laws and regulations are enforced, and that’s what we’ll be covering today.

So to start out with, I’d like to clarify some of the types of cases we’ll be referring to today. When we talk about animal cruelty enforcement, there are:

  • Cases where the suffering is institutional, such as abuse cases for farmed animals;
  • Cases where there’s been purposeful, sadistic abuse of animals by an individual;
  • Cases classified as animal neglect where the person responsible for the animals often had a lack of knowledge or a lack of resources.

I’ll go through a couple examples for some context, but please mind that the details of these cases are disturbing, and we recommend having a plan in place for self-care.

Institutional animal cruelty

One case of institutional cruelty came up in 2017 when Mercy for Animals obtained undercover footage of spent laying hens being cruelly handled and thrown into crates at a farm in Abbotsford. The two companies responsible, Elite Farms in B.C. and an Ontario poultry processor called Sofina Foods Inc., pled guilty to two charges of animal cruelty.

They were only sentenced to a fine of $300,000 and three years probation. Elite Farms was given 10 years to pay the fine because they hadn’t been caught violating regulations before; Sofina foods was given six months because they were a repeat offender. That fine is a drop in the bucket for these massive corporations. There were no limits on them keeping animals, even though the abuse was horrific and on such a massive scale. They simply needed to update their training policies.

Amy: And something to note, since we’re going to be talking about enforcement, there’s both the observation and the gathering of evidence; and then that’s the point where it gets to the court system.

The reason that all of this even got to the court system is that it was observed through undercover footage recorded by an employee who had to bear witness to a significant amount of animal suffering to capture these clips. Having watched them, I’ll say, it disturbed me for a really long time.

This only happened because someone worked to get employed in a low paying job undercover. I can’t imagine how many farms this is happening on where we just don’t have any recorded footage of it.

Chantelle: Yeah, absolutely.

Unfortunately, what we end up seeing is that the most widespread suffering is in fact caused by institution level abuse, and yet when those cases do come out, they tend to get very light sentences and the corporations involved can continue to keep animals. Typically, there’s a few employees who are blamed and fired to make the issue seem like it was an individual issue rather than part of a larger institutional problem, even when the company was aware of the abuse.

In this case, there were various news sources reporting either five or six employees fired, including one supervisor, and both the whistleblower and the supervisor who was fired say that they reported the treatment of the chickens and nothing was done until the video footage was leaked publicly.

Individual animal abuse

Chantelle: For an example of individual animal abuse, another really upsetting case that was in the media about a decade ago was the case of Captain the dog in Vancouver.

The person who was supposed to be caring for Captain was Brian Whitlock, and he brutally harmed and killed him. Captain’s body was found in a dumpster. He was emaciated and had signs of severe physical abuse. That’s an example of truly sadistic behavior toward an animal.

Brian was sentenced to a lifetime ban on owning animals, but only a 60-day jail term and three years’ probation. I think that’s a testament to how little animals’ lives are valued.

And then when he got out, he eventually went on to murder his mother just a year later.

That’s a really extreme and tragic case, but it does show the violence link – people who harm animals are often the same people who harm humans.

Amy: Certainly these cases of intentional abuse just don’t see the degree of sentencing that connects to that level of violence or the likelihood of violence that’s happening to others in that person’s life.

Individual animal neglect

Amy: Individual animal abuse cases are fairly infrequent. Most of the cases that end up getting reported to enforcement agencies tend to have to do with different types of neglect. Those vary from hoarding to animals in extreme heat and cold, but can also include animals that aren’t being treated for veterinary conditions.

These cases are certainly more nuanced and complex because the people don’t necessarily have intent and they may be facing financial barriers as well as systemic marginalization that’s leading to them not being able to care for the animals in their care. They require a more nuanced kind of approach to enforcement.

Chantelle: Yes, that’s certainly the case. When we see the term animal cruelty in the media related to individuals, the public response tends to advocate for the harshest sentence possible across the board, but different cases need different treatment.

For instance, jail time would be more appropriate for a case of someone who’s deliberately abusing animals, whereas maybe a restorative justice approach would be a better option for someone who had a lack of knowledge or a lack of resources to meet their animals’ needs.

Amy: Two factors that can play a really significant role in those neglect cases are:

  • Normalization: seeing something get gradually worse every day so it seems normal;
  • Minimization: feeling like something isn’t so bad because other factors may be worse in someone’s life.

The way to address that way of thinking is really about providing a person an opportunity to learn and see things differently, rather than punishing them, which just ends up inducing shame and really doesn’t change their behavior when they inevitably have animals in their lives later on.

We can get into seeing a cycle of this situation repeating because it hasn’t been adequately addressed.

Puppy mills, kitten mills, and breeding

Amy: When it comes to enforcement, both the law enforcement piece and the court system, and proactive monitoring, they really differ significantly by species and by province.

I’ll use an example puppy and kitten mills.

  • In New Brunswick, there’s been legislation in place that regulates dog and cat breeding since 2010. These regular inspections are funded by fees that the businesses themselves have to pay. There’s a regulatory system in place for ensuring that the people who are breeding animals are taking good care of those animals.
  • Prince Edward Island has something similar regulating pet establishments.
  • Provinces like Manitoba and British Columbia at one point in time enacted clauses that allow for regulation to happen of this industry, but it was never activated, which means there’s no actual protections for animals beyond the laws that already apply to all animals. Those laws are only enforced based on complaints. The laws are quite broad and that allows for vastly different interpretations

Industry specific regulations that are proactively enforced are meaningful because they have prescriptive requirements for the minimum ways animals should be cared for.

Without those minimum requirements, it’s left up to the interpretation of the individuals who are interpreting the law. That could be the breeder themselves; that could be the law enforcement person looking at a complaint. They interpret the law based on their personal upbringing, their values, maybe the amount of effort required to make an assessment, maybe the amount of resources that the organization has that’s doing the enforcement.

There’s endless examples, but one that I like to use is a standard that requires water be available at all times. A standard like that is easy to identify if it’s being met. You can say, yes, it’s being met, or no, there’s a violation. And then if there’s a violation, you can say, you need to do this specific thing.

But if there’s no standard in place and there’s no water on display for an animal, a person could argue that they provide water once a day and that’s sufficient to meet the animal’s needs. And then if there was a case, it would be left up to the court to decide if it’s okay or not for animals to have water just once a day. This includes really costly endeavors getting to the point of the court system. It involves gathering evidence and producing experts to testify to the minimum accepted amount of water an animal needs, as well as to prove that the animal was in fact dehydrated.

If you think about your average RCMP officer or enforcement officer from an animal welfare organization, they’re not trained medical practitioners. They’re not equipped to gather evidence in the field that would say whether animal is dehydrated or not; aside from giving the animal a bowl of water and seeing what happens.

By the time they leave and come back with a warrant to seize an animal that they believe is dehydrated to bring to a vet to assess for dehydration, the operator would have provided the animal water; because they would have essentially predicted that this was all going to happen.

And then suddenly, the person comes back with a warrant and they go, oh no, I’ve provided water. So this kind of pattern can happen over and over for years where an enforcement officer shows up, no water’s being provided, and then suddenly a week later, the enforcement officer comes back, water’s there.

And that can happen for all species of animals that are kept for profit, where there’s no standards for good animal welfare being proactively audited for. I use this one example of water, but you can think it applies to the housing, it applies to pretty much any way animals are cared for and kept.

Chantelle: Definitely. And ultimately this means that people can breed and sell cats and dogs with no requirements or monitoring. That leads to animals being sold with heritable diseases – diseases that they can pass on to their offspring if they have any – and treatable illnesses. When these types of cases are reported, there’s little that can be done because the person selling the animal often doesn’t provide the purchasers with an address or they provide a false address.

In some states in the United States, there are “lemon laws” that help protect the buyer and ensure that the person selling the animal is looking out for their well-being. But unfortunately, nothing like that has been instituted in Canada.

Amy: It’s pretty frustrating, particularly with the number of calls that come into SPCAs and humane societies about these kinds of cases where someone bought an animal from a rescue or a breeder and then they ended up very sick or they ended up having a disease.

Farmed animals

Amy: In general, when it comes to industries that raise animals for product or sale, including farmed animals and puppy and kitten breeders, if we speak about the province of B.C., the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act does allow for access during ordinary business hours to enter any premises other than a dwelling where animals are kept for sale or exhibition for the purpose of determining whether any animal is in distress on the premises.

The RCMP can enforce the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, but they end up referring people back to the BC SPCA who will only be going to these kinds of facilities if someone calls in and says there’s something wrong there.

Chantelle: That brings us to talk about animals who are farmed for food and clothing.

On-Farm monitoring varies by province. As we alluded to earlier, different provinces have different types of enforcement agencies.

  • In Ontario, animal cruelty investigations are a governmental responsibility, and the inspectors are appointed through the provincial government.
  • In Manitoba, investigations are conducted by one of the province’s animal protection officers, and they include employed and contracted staff.
  • In British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick, protection of farmed animals is enforced by the SPCA.

Amy: In B.C., cruelty investigations are performed by the BC SPCA when a cruelty complaint is made.

There’s no active monitoring programs on farms led by any kind of third party.

Third party monitoring is the idea that an independent entity is responsible for making assessments as to the well-being of animals. It’s tricky to accomplish the idea of an “independent entity” because they have to not have any kind of bias.

So let’s say the government is either conducting inspections or they’re contracting an entity to conduct inspections. The government could give directions to them of how strict or loose to be with the assessments based on the government’s own interest in maintaining public trust of their abilities to enforce the laws.

If farm industry groups themselves try to contract an “independent” entity, that entity is beholden to the desires of those groups.

One way it could work is for an entity like the SPCA, who has no specific interest in public trust and does have a specific interest in animal welfare, to manage an agency that does the monitoring. But the information for the audits wouldn’t be publicly available because they’re a private entity.

The best case scenario is an agreement between industry, government, nonprofit or SPCA, and an independent contractor that would allow audits to occur and the results to be made publicly available. The reason this isn’t happening now is that this kind of system doesn’t work in favor of the farmed animal industry or government.

Chantelle: Absolutely. Just a little background on what’s going on now. Last year, the BC SPCA announced that they would be conducting 12 spot checks of farms per year with a veterinarian and also an SPCA officer and a Ministry of Agriculture staffer as a pilot project. After they announced this, they were met with industry backlash and from the BC Cattleman’s Association in particular.

I think that’s really interesting to note, given that more people are increasingly wanting transparency about what happens to animals on farms, and that includes people who purchase and consume animal products. I believe that should leave those consumers wary about what the industry has to hide.

Amy: And certainly there’s so much opportunity to find a middle ground. And what we’re seeing is an unwillingness to find a middle ground and a solid commitment to having no eyes on farms.

Chantelle: Yeah, definitely.

“Ag gag” laws

Chantelle: Several provinces have what’s known among animal advocates as ag gag laws, which specifically prevent non-approved individuals from going onto farm properties and seeing or documenting what happens; for instance, journalists investigating cruelty claims on a farm.

In other provinces, public awareness of what happens on farms is limited by general trespassing laws, which effectively make it illegal for advocates or journalists to capture footage of cruelty.

Any footage that’s obtained illegally, which is basically all footage, is non-admissible in court, even if there’s blatant evidence of cruelty and animal suffering.

Amy: I find this so wild, that government and industry essentially collude in great length to hide from the public what’s happening on farms.

For example, in B.C., a group of advocates sat in on Excelsior hog farm in Abbotsford and took photos of sick injured and dead pigs, and four of those advocates were put on trial for exposing suffering on that farm.

But because further evidence couldn’t be obtained legally, no action has been taken against the farm at this time. That’s pretty shocking because the footage that was recorded undercover is accessible, and it’s horrific to watch. It’s honestly some of the most disturbing footage that I’ve come across of pigs.

That footage was provided to an enforcement entity and yet when they go on site, they don’t find any violations of the law because their presence is expected and things have been cleaned up. So then they can’t gather evidence to pursue charges, even though it’s obvious from the footage that the animals were suffering in really egregious ways.

Chantelle: Absolutely. That’s why so many animal advocates, including the VHS, have been calling for mandatory video monitoring on farms, which would deter the industry from being able to hide animal suffering.

Help protect farmed animals

Farmed animal transport and auctions

Amy: It’s such a hard topic to talk about, but we can’t talk about farmed animals on farms without thinking about farmed animals in other contexts.

Maybe life on a farm is okay, maybe it’s not. But there’s other aspects like transport, going to auction facilities and slaughter that have really big impacts on farmed animals’ lives.

When it comes to the enforcement of transport and slaughter, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for responding to complaints.

They typically respond with fines, even for egregious suffering, and they don’t refer cases for legal proceedings that would involve any kind of jail penalties. So they just continually use what they call “Administrative Monetary Penalties“.

They do have veterinarians that are attending at slaughter facilities, typically where animals are unloaded or slaughtered; but despite animals, dying and being found dead during the transport process or having limbs torn off, really awful things, no animal cruelty charges are being recommended by these veterinarians.

I’ll also speak a little bit about auctions. Anecdotally, if you talk to anyone who’s been to an auction, they’ll tell you it’s a place where you can observe significant animal distress. And sometimes what’s considered critical distress, where an animal is essentially close to death and really in an acute state. They don’t have any kind of monitoring in place.

We hear these accounts of animals arriving or being sold in really poor states, to the degree that they should never have been transported; but there’s no one who’s attending these events, tracking the sellers, going back to their facilities, checking them out, recommending charges of animal cruelty.

Essentially, no one wants to go to them because they know how bad it is. So it’s this huge gap in the enforcement of animal cruelty, legislation.

Changing attitudes & behaviours

Amy: I want to pause here and say that thinking and talking about animal protection and law enforcement can be pretty depressing. The systems are not set up to protect animals. While legislation does play a role, the most important thing is the volume of the public who are demanding better care for animals.

And so the unfortunate reality we’re seeing is that the average Canadian consumer doesn’t regard for animal welfare when it comes to the products they’re buying.

To change laws and policies, to get this proactive monitoring that we’re talking about with cameras in slaughter facilities, as well as funding for enforcement, big changes are needed in the attitudes of the public to actually push the government to prioritize these issues.

Without public support, politicians tend to see these issues essentially as niche.

And so when we meet with provincial government politicians and bureaucrats about issues that require better laws and proactive monitoring, whether that is sled dogs or animals in captivity or farmed animals, the most common response we get back is that it’s just not a priority. They’re not hearing from enough people and they’re not being swayed. So these issues seem to drop to the bottom of the pile

In their eyes, there’s an opportunity cost; if they keep things the way they are, nothing happens. And so they’re not facing some of those kind of incentives to make a different decision.

Chantelle: And that’s the most challenging part of advocating for animal well-being. The biggest and the most important thing we can do to improve enforcement is really to be active citizens, both with our peers and with politicians at the local, provincial, and federal level. Coming from a place of compassion and understanding, if every person is able to connect with and motivate five others to care about the value of animals and their capacity to suffer, we can really start to see real change.

Amy: Absolutely.

Next episode

This concludes our series on animal cruelty. Join us next week as we begin a new series on animal well-being with the topic “Is my pet happy?”

Categories
News/Blog

Horrific footage from B.C. slaughterhouse prompts new action for farmed animals

Photos: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media

Update

This action has now ended. Thank you to the 4,626 advocates who used the quick action to call for meaningful changes for farmed animals. Please see the Current Campaigns page for more ways you can help farmed animals, including an action calling for widespread changes to protect animals raised and slaughtered for human use in the agriculture system.

B.C. slaughterhouse with connections to previous cruelty case under investigation

Last night, Animal Justice released horrific footage of animal cruelty at Meadow Valley Meats, a slaughterhouse in Pitt Meadows that promotes itself as “local” and its meat products as “ethical”. This footage shows suffering of the worst kind and demonstrates a clear violation of provincial and federal slaughter regulations

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Next step
Learn more

Quick action: Email the B.C. Minister of Agriculture

Use the quick email tool below to call for meaningful changes for farmed animals in B.C., including:

  1. Proactive enforcement of the Meat Inspection Regulation, which governs provincial slaughterhouses, including appropriate deterrents to prevent animal cruelty and including unannounced inspections;
  2. Publicly-available reports of independent, third-party audits, including consistent video surveillance monitoring for real transparency; and
  3. Effective penalties for industry stakeholders who are found guilty of animal cruelty.

Tip: Personalize your message to make it more impactful! The template below is editable, so feel free to share more about why this issue is important to you.

Live outside of Canada? You can email the Minister at: AF.Minister@gov.bc.ca

This action has now ended.

4,626 people used this tool to call for changes in slaughterhouses. Thank you for taking action.

See more campaigns

Next step: Sign the federal action from Animal Justice

Take action to call for improvements to federal regulations around farmed animal care and slaughter in Canada. This quick action from Animal Justice calls on the federal Minister of Agriculture to introduce mandatory video surveillance in slaughterhouses.

Note: This link will take you to the quick action. Scrolling up on the linked page will reveal graphic images of animal suffering.

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Not the first time Meadow Valley Meats has been in trouble

Meadow Valley Meats is a B.C.-based slaughterhouse company. According to their website, they are the largest B.C. processor of beef, veal, lambs and goats. This footage does not show an isolated incident, but further evidence of systemic problems in the animal agriculture industry from a major local company

Media reports that the company, formerly called Pitt Meadows Meats, pled guilty in 2015 to selling E. Coli-tainted meat and after the plant manager knowingly decided not to recall the tainted meat. Meadow Valley Meats also lists Jeff and Ken Kooyman as directors. The two men have connections to the infamous 2014 Chilliwack Cattle Sales dairy cruelty case. That investigation revealed staff repeatedly kicking and punching cows, hitting them with canes and ripping out their tail hair. Video footage also showed a cow being lifted by a chain around her neck using a tractor. The company was fined the maximum amount and had to pay $258,700.

These horrific cases reflect what animal advocates have long argued – that there are serious, systemic animal welfare issues across the animal agriculture industry. It also highlights that court-mandated fines are not enough to change the behaviour of the industry and protect animals.

Meadow Valley Meats is responsible for the following brands, many of which are marketed as local, humane, or family farms.

Image: Meadow Valley Meats website

Regulations around animal slaughter

Meadow Valley Meats is regulated by the Provincial Meat Inspection Regulation, which requires that animals are kept & slaughtered “in accordance with the requirements relating to the humane treatment of animals” set forth by the federal government. 

The animal agriculture industry and regulating bodies tout requirements of “humane slaughter” to build public trust; but sadly, this claim doesn’t translate to good welfare for animals.

Help raise awareness: watch & share the footage

Content warning: This footage released by Animal Justice to CTV News depicts horrific animal suffering in a slaughterhouse.

The investigation highlights numerous issues at the slaughterhouse, including:

  • Cows, sheep and goats being forcefully hit, kicked and thrown to the ground;
  • Frightened animals crowded together in hallways and panicked attempts to escape;
  • Cruel use of an electric prod on the face of cows;
  • Improper slaughter techniques, with animals being improperly stunned to render them unconscious before slaughter;
  • Still conscious animals having their necks cut;
  • A sheep that appears injured or sick and unable to walk is dragged from a pen to the slaughter area.
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Media Release

Animal advocates condemn government funding of inhumane rodeo events 

VANCOUVER, February 21, 2023 – On Thursday, the Government of British Columbia announced new funding for fairs, festivals, and events; but the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is calling out the concerning inclusion of inhumane rodeo events. 

“Eligible events include sporting events, arts and culture events, community celebrations, agricultural fairs and rodeos,” according to a press release from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, which is headed by Minister Lana Popham. 

“It’s incredibly disappointing to see the Province supporting inhumane and outdated rodeo practices that have been proven to cause animal suffering,” says Emily Pickett, Campaign Director for the VHS. 

The announcement comes less than a month after a new study was published on the stress caused by calf roping, a controversial event which takes place annually at rodeos in B.C. It also arrives on the heels of disturbing video footage released by the VHS, which reveals recurring welfare issues at B.C.’s most recent rodeo events including animals being roughly handled and deliberately agitated. 

Pickett points to recent polling which shows only 26% of British Columbians are in favour of using animals in rodeo. “The majority of British Columbians are opposed to this cruel and outdated practice, yet the Province has made the baffling decision to use our tax dollars to support institutionalized animal exploitation. There are positive and family-friendly events to provide funding for that bring communities together while aligning with our society’s collective values of treating animals with care and respect.” 

The VHS is calling on the Province to side with compassion and evidence by removing any funding for, and supporting a shift away from, cruel rodeo events. This would follow the lead of municipal governments in B.C. – including the City of Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver – and of a growing number of nations and regions worldwide. 

– ends –  

SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society 

For more information, contact Emily Pickett: 604-416-2903, emily@vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca 

Related links: 

www.vancouverhumane.ca/rodeos/  

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News/Blog

Podcast: Live horse exports

Every few weeks, shipments of gentle draft horses are packed three or four to a crate and loaded onto planes for the long, stressful journey overseas for slaughter.

Horses shipped for slaughter can go 28 hours without food, water, or rest; they can fall during takeoff or landing; and receiving countries have no obligation to report back to Canada on the conditions of horses once they arrive. Organizations and advocates both here in Canada and abroad have shared opposition to live horse export, import, and slaughter. To tell us more about the live horse export industry, the VHS is honoured to welcome a leader in this advocacy work, Sinikka Crosland.

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Executive Director of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

Sinikka is the Executive Director of The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, a registered non-profit society dedicated to the protection of horses since 2004.

Note: Horse meat is eaten in Canada and various countries in Europe, Asia, and South America. While today’s discussion mentions Japan as the main importer of live horses from Canada, we want to focus on Canada’s role in this issue and share how we can end our contribution to the pain and suffering of animals. This written discussion has been edited for length.

Becoming an advocate for horses

Photo: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

Chantelle: This month we’ll be discussing the live horse export industry and the work being done to stop it. Organizations and advocates both here in Canada and abroad have shared opposition to live horse exports, imports, and slaughter.

To tell us more about this industry and share about the welfare concerns for these horses, we’re honored to welcome leader on the Canadian side of this advocacy work, Sinikka Crosland. Sinikka is the Executive Director of the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition, a registered nonprofit society dedicated to the protection of horses since 2004.

Sinikka, thank you so much for being here today.

Sinikka: Thank you for having me.

Amy: Can you share about your history advocating for horses?

Sinikka: Sure; it can go back a long way, back to childhood. I loved horses and all animals.

I remember being in grade four, and I loved to write. I would write horse stories every day and hand them in to my teacher.

And then finally she said to me, “Can you please not write any horse stories for the whole month of April? Write other things. I love your writing.”

And so it was hard to do, but that’s exactly what I did. I then devoted my month of April to writing about dogs and cats and foxes and cows and pigs and everything else.

So then back to May 1st, I started writing about horses again. I was one of those little kids who just had a fascination for horses. I love all animals. Horses are not my favorite animal by any means because I love them all.

So then from childhood, on it went. When I had started a family already, I got into horse rescue. And this was through a neighborhood group when we lived in West Bank, B.C. We got involved in rescuing horses there and being involved in some other rescues at the time.

And then the PMU (pregnant mare urine) industry came along, where pregnant mares are hooked up to urine collecting devices, collecting estrogen for postmenopausal women.

The foals are the byproduct of that industry. So we discovered that there are a lot of foals out there on the market. We started to go to auctions bid against the meat buyers, and we’d find homes for the foals.

That industry kind of tanked after a while. It’s still out there, but it’s not as prevalent. But there are lots and lots of horses out there needing homes; and I just carried on working on that level.

And so eventually, Canadian Horse Defense Coalition was formed in about 2004. We became a registered nonprofit and things grew to a national level, with even celebrity involvement in recent years.

Amy: That’s amazing.

Chantelle: Yeah. That’s really amazing and we’re really grateful for you to be sharing your expertise today, and I’m sure our audience is as well.

What is the live horse export industry?

Photo: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

Chantelle: When we talk about the live horse export industry, this is a part of the animal use industry that sort of dwells in the shadows. I think a lot of Canadians aren’t aware that this goes on. Could you give a little bit of background for folks who don’t know what the live horse export industry is and how it works?

Sinikka: The live horse export industry is the process of shipping young draft horses, about between one and a half to three years old, to Japan for slaughter for human consumption.

If people don’t know what draft horses are, the Belgians and Percherons are 16 to 17 hands high, which is somewhere around 64 to 68 inches at the shoulder, and they weigh up to 2000 pounds. So these are big horses.

Canada sends these horses for a delicacy called basashi, which is like a horse sushi, sliced thinly, often served with garlic and soy sauce and served in high-end restaurants. These are very expensive dishes for people to buy.

Chantelle: Thanks so much for that background.

Where do horses shipped for slaughter come from?

Photo: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

Chantelle: A lot of people think of horses as companion animals, so hearing that horses are being raised and shipped for food can be confusing when folks first hear about it.

Could you help clear up some of that confusion and talk about how horses come to be in this industry?

Sinikka: The horses are basically purpose bred for this industry. There are only a handful of breeders/feedlot operators who do this business in Canada.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency website says that the horses must originate in Canada. But through access to information, we found out that has changed. So horses from the United States can now cross the border if they have been raised for this purpose and come across to Canada to be shipped from here.

It’s something certainly that our American allies would be interested in hearing about too, that their horses are also coming up to Canada to then be shipped for slaughter.

Amy: I’m curious, does the US have laws about the horses being shipped or is it just a convenience thing that they’re coming into Canada to be shipped?

Sinikka: Right now in the United States, there is no domestic horse slaughter going on. But the feedlot operators down there are quite happy to ship them across the border to Canada and even to Mexico for slaughter elsewhere.

Horses suffer when shipped on long journeys to slaughter

Photo: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

Amy: What are some of the welfare concerns for these horses who are being shipped for slaughter?

Sinikka: The welfare concerns are many.

It starts with the feed lot, the way that they’re born onto the feed lot.

If something goes wrong and a horse needs veterinary care, farrier care with bad hooves and that type of thing, basically in a feedlot, it’s nonexistent. These problems that can happen are often ignored.

There’s no weather protection in many feed lots, so foals that are born in the winter or early spring can freeze to death.

So you have the feedlot problems and you’ve got the transport problems. Now we’re looking at long distance transport from the United States. That’s another problem where horses are crammed into trucks and shipped from the United States.

And then once they get here, they come to a quarantine feedlot in Canada where horses are kept in pre-export isolation for 45 days. The horses from the United States have to be kept an additional six months. The feedlot situation, as I’ve mentioned, is horrible, and that’s extra time that they must be kept in that situation.

So then at the end of that time that they’re the pre-export isolation, they’re taken to be transported to one of three airports in Canada: Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg is where they’re flown out.

There they are put into small wooden crates. They can often stand for a long time on the tarmac waiting for the crates to be ready to be put onto the plane. Three to four large draft horses are crammed into a single crate.

There’s often a problem with headroom because these are tall horses. Their heads can come in contact with the netting at the top. And this is totally a violation of the Health of Animals regulations that their heads come into contact with, with the netting at the top.

So then they have this journey, which can take anywhere from 10 to 13, 14 hours. They can’t lie down, but they do sometimes fall down. And then you have a downed horse in a crate with other horses.

There’s no way of anyone being able to help a horse in distress. You can imagine if you have 30 crates in an aircraft, usually what they send is between 90 and 120 horses per shipment. So there you have them all crammed in there, and how can they be helped?

There have been horses that have been dead on arrival or wounded, injured, that type of thing.

They reach Japan, they’re unloaded at that end, and they still have the journey to the feedlot at that point. Right now in Canada, the regulation is 28 hours they’re allowed to go without food, water, and rest. And that’s from the beginning when they leave the feedlot here to the time that they arrive.

28 hours is a long time, but if there are any delays—which we have seen through access of information that there have been delays—then that period of time can go beyond 30 or more hours.

The other issue is once they arrive, we have no jurisdiction over there anymore. They’re at the mercy of the laws and policies at the other end

Amy: It sounds like there’s a number of aspects of their welfare that get compromised throughout that whole process.

Next steps to end the live horse export industry

Photo: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

Amy: The federal government committed to ending this industry and their campaign platform and the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to the Minister of Agriculture that was sent in December 2021. So what would you like to see as the next steps to end this industry?

Sinikka: I would really like to see the Prime Minister put pressure on the agriculture Minister to do as he ordered. It’s not a case of, “Here, have a look at this and see what you think about it.” It’s, “I want you to end this,” and yet there has been nothing but delay after delay. The excuses just go on and on. It appears to me that this is a low priority for them.

I would like to see more pressure put on the government. This can come a variety of ways, through more public awareness, more media involvement.

Now that we know there’s a connection to the United States horses coming from there, it would be very handy to have American media cover this and put pressure on the Canadian government.

How you can help horses

Photo: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

Chantelle: Something we always ask is what steps the folks listening at home can take to help.

Right now, we know there’s a really important window of opportunity to take action on this issue. Could you share with listeners how folks at home can advocate for an end to the live horse export industry?

Sinikka: There are quite a few things that people can do. Right now there’s an active petition, Petition E-4190, sponsored by MP Alistair MacGregor and initiated by singer, songwriter, animal lover, Jann Arden.

If people go to horseshit.ca, it’s her website and she’s working hard to raise awareness. There are steps that people can take there: they can write to their MP; they can sign that petition.

Horseshit.ca

People can talk to their MPs too, they can make appointments to go in and visit with their MPs, or write them letters, or phone them up. Tell them that this was a promise that this industry should be stopped.

They can write letters to editors of their local papers. This is a way of letting people in the community know who may not even have heard of this industry, and who will hear about it and be quite appalled by it. That would be a way of encouraging other people to go to Jann’s website and find out how to sign the petition.

And with all this pressure being put on the government, we can see that that would really help.

Chantelle: Yeah, absolutely. This is a really important opportunity to make a change right now for animals who are suffering and to advocate directly to your decision makers. So thank you so much for sharing that information Sinikka.

And as we’ve mentioned before, a shift toward plant-based foods is needed worldwide to decrease the demand for industrial animal agriculture. So you can make a difference standing up for animals every time you sit down to choose a meal.

Take the 21-Day Plant-Based Challenge

Take action

Photo: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

Chantelle: As always, we know this is a really heavy topic for folks listening, but it’s so valuable for people to learn and share about it so that we can all work together and make a difference for these animals. Thank you so much for being here with us today, Sinikka.

Sinikka: You’re very welcome. I appreciate being here and spreading the word.

Chantelle: We really appreciate having you, and for those of you listening, we hope you’ll join us next month as we wrap up our series on animal cruelty with a discussion on how all these laws we’ve been talking about are enforced. We’ll see you next time.

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Podcast: Adapting to the holidays as a vegan

It’s the holiday season, and many celebrations at this time of year focus on food!

More and more people are adding compassion to their festive meals by opting out of animal-based products and ingredients. In this special episode of The Informed Animal Ally, the Vancouver Humane Society’s Amy Morris and Chantelle Archambault discuss their experiences adapting to the holidays after going vegan.

Note: This written discussion has been edited for length.

Preparing for a plant-based holiday

Chantelle: It’s the holiday season, so we wanted to talk about our experience adapting to the holidays after going vegan and maybe inspire others who are thinking of trying a plant-based holiday for the first time, or who are thinking of new plant-based ways of celebrating.

Read more: 10 tips for starting a plant-based diet

So let’s jump right in. How was your experience adapting to the holidays after going vegan?

Amy: Making my own food or if I have a holiday where I’m just spending it with vegan friends, that’s easy.

But the times that I first encountered holidays with extended family were pretty tricky to navigate. I really had to think through what my strategy was going to be in advance.

The first thing that I did was to set some clear expectations with my close family to say, it’s important for me to have food available for me at this event, and I really want to appreciate that food. So there’s different ways to do that. Essentially, I’m happy to go to the grocery store and buy things for myself, and this was at someone else’s house, so prepare my own food either before and bring it over or, or if there’s space for me to prepare it at the house.

And by doing that, I think I really set myself up for success because I wasn’t depending on others to accommodate my needs.

It also created the space for them to offer up to prepare some dishes that I could eat.

I’ve seen that play out a few different ways. At one holiday celebration, there was a meal that got provided for me, and it was very interesting because essentially I was expected to eat it and take it home with me because that’s how much my family was not interested in even thinking about a plant-based diet.

I think that speaks to the adaptation that can be required, but also the importance of opening it up to conversation.

Sharing the love

Chantelle: Absolutely.

I was actually really fortunate. I think my experience is a little bit different because I have not spent any holidays with extended family since going vegan, so it’s been pretty insular for me. My immediate family is very accommodating, which I’m really lucky about.

I think the best part for me has been, bringing my baked goods and being able to share them. People were very welcoming about it, even if they were hesitant at first.

Amy: I love that. I definitely have done that as well.

With another family that I spent holidays with, the approach that I took was, I will make dishes to share. I brought all the ingredients over, or in some cases, prepared some things in advance, so there were two types of stuffing.

And what was nice about that is everyone was sort of motivated by the idea of there being like novelty and different things to try, and so everyone was willing to try the dishes that I brought.

I think that was a good testament to the fact that plant-based eating can be a transition for people. Making dishes that you know, you know are going to be tasty and sharing that is a really nice way to have people start to shift the way they think about what plant-based food tastes like.

Read more: Adapting meals to be plant-based

Plant-based holiday favourites

Chantelle: Yeah, absolutely. And plant-based stuffing is delicious.

Amy: Oh yes. In terms of what I put into it, I like to use a good bread, like a vegan sourdough or whole grain, then mix that up with sweet potato and some potato and carrots, lots of herbs and rosemary, you can put cranberries in it and things like that.

It almost comes out like a roast.

Chantelle: That sounds so lovely. It has that holiday feel and it speaks to how much our celebrations tend to revolve around food and how much this is an opportunity to share our own plant-based recipes with others who are vegan and are also not vegan and thinking of adding more plant-based foods into their diets.

What’s your favorite plant-based holiday treat?

Amy: I’ve experimented so much with a lot of different things. I think the foods that I have a lot of fun making are things that maybe you would traditionally put dairy in.

Making something like a pumpkin pie is so much tastier than even a store-bought one that would maybe have dairy, and serving it with coconut whipped cream made with a whipped cream dispenser. The novelty of the experience as well of having really fresh coconut whipped cream makes the pumpkin pie that much more delicious.

Chantelle: That sounds fantastic. Coconut whipped cream is also amazing.

Amy: How about yourself?

Chantelle: I really liked adapting my childhood recipes to be plant-based.

When I was younger, we used to make Sweet Marie bars, which are rice crisp cereal, peanut butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and I’ve now replaced the butter with vegan margarine and put a plant-based chocolate on top. And that is so delicious.

I also make chocolate coconut macaroons. They’re so good.

For me it’s about finding those nostalgic flavors, and adapting them has been actually super easy. I wrote an article for our PlantUniversity platform about replacing animal-based ingredients with plant-based ingredients in a way that is very simple and sustainable.

Read more: Tips for vegan baking

Tips for a first-time vegan holiday

Amy: What advice would you give to someone having their first vegan holiday?

Chantelle: I would say find plant-based versions of the foods you already love.

There are more and more products available to find those plant-based versions of foods you love.

If you’re cooking homemade, it’s so much easier. So for instance, that stuffing you made sounds incredible. You can make roast veggies. There’s so many versions of a seitan roast online that you can find and incorporate those nostalgic flavors.

I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I think the best part is that you can also celebrate what you’re gaining; you’re adding all this love and care and compassion into your meal.

Read more: Tips for a plant-based holiday

What advice would you give?

Amy: I think there’s so much that gets complicated around holidays. I know that when we talk about holiday, it looks very different for every person. You might be spending it alone. You might be spending it with a huge group of people.

I would say overall, be kind to yourself, set reasonable expectations so that you don’t get stressed out or frustrated.

Focus on what experience you want to have. If you want to be spending time making food and en enjoying making food, do that. And you know, whether it’s you eating it or you sharing it, have it be that the experience itself is part of the joy. Maybe trying a new recipe or adapting one.

On the other hand, if it’s stressful to try to think about all of that, and maybe even like, you know, you feel you’re missing some of the dishes that you’re going to be surrounded by, find some kind of treat or something like that, that makes you feel good. That way you can still have that feeling of celebration in your own way.

Read more: Vegan winter desserts
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News/Blog

Podcast: Animals used in research, teaching, and testing

What do you picture when you think of animals in science?

Perhaps you picture a researcher in the field studying the migratory patterns of wildlife. Perhaps you see a veterinary student learning to administer vaccines to a dog. Perhaps you picture a rabbit in a lab, eyes reddened and irritated from toxicity testing. In Canada there are many different uses of animals in research, teaching, and testing, ranging from noninvasive methods to some of the worst suffering animals endure. In this month’s episode of The Informed Animal Ally’s series on animal cruelty, the Vancouver Humane Society’s Amy Morris and Chantelle Archambault discuss the various ways animals are used in science, protections in place for these animals, and how you can help.

Note: This written discussion has been edited for length.

Overview of animals used in research, teaching, and testing

A pig leaning against the bars of a cage in a research facility.
Roger Kingbird / We Animals Media

Chantelle: To start out, Amy, could you give us an overview of some of the uses of animals in science in Canada?

Amy: Animals are used in research, teaching and testing. Usually we talk about these as a group. I’ll start by talking about the ways animals are used in research. I want to preface this discussion recognizing that people come from a variety of backgrounds. We know there’s been human medical innovation that has involved animals in the process of how we’ve gotten to where we are today.

But we at Vancouver Humane Society are of the mind, based on all the available information we have, that we’re at a place now in society where innovation can move past animal use and research, teaching, and testing, and really be even more effective.

For a long time, we’ve had the three R’s, which have been advocated for for many years, which are replacement, refinement and reduction, as it relates to this area of research, teaching, and testing. But although these are spoken about, it still seems to be common practice for institutions and people involved in them to do what’s always been done rather than to consider innovation. The sad reality of this is that it’s costing billions of dollars, and more importantly, millions of animal lives unnecessarily.

Categories of animal-based science

A purpose-bred beagle leaning against the bars of a kennel at a veterinary school
Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media

Amy: We’ll highlight alternatives later on in the podcast, but I just want to start off with some facts about where things are right now. We know animal use can range from research with the intent to improve animal wellbeing to medical research for human benefit.

Universities have research divisions that include animals. These range from mild experiments, sometimes for the benefit of the animals, to extremely invasive experiments. And this research is managed through what are called animal care committees, where a group of individuals meet to decide whether and how the research can proceed. All these universities report their research data to an entity called the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC).

We’ll talk more about them later, but essentially, more than three and a half million animals were used by institutions that were accredited by the CCAC in 2021. It’s a huge number of animals.

That breaks down into five different categories.

We have studies of a fundamental nature in science relating to essential structures or functions, which is kind of a, a broad category that’s more than 50% of all animals used by CCAC accredited institutions.

Chantelle: This is also called basic research and it’s designed to find out more about the fundamentals about things like animals’ behavior, biology, and physiology. It can range from studying migratory patterns of wild animals, to studying the heart rate of Steller sea lions in captivity, to studying the effects of caffeine consumption on the brains of mice.

So it’s really a wide range of experiments and research.

Amy: Absolutely. Then the other 50% break down into:

  • Studies for medical purposes, including veterinary medicine that relate to human or animal diseases or disorders;
  • Studies for regulatory testing of products for the protection of humans, animals, or the environment;
  • Studies for the development of products or appliances for human or veterinary medicine and education;
  • Training of individuals in post-secondary institutions and facilities. That could be something like training a veterinary student to administer a vaccine.

So it’s quite broad, the many uses of animals.

Categories of invasiveness in animal experiments

A rabbit poking their nose through the bars of a cage in a laboratory

And one other way that they can be categorized is the categories of invasiveness. The CCAC has broken these down into five categories, typically labeled A, B, C, D, E.

The first one is experiments on invertebrates or on live isolates. They just don’t track these animals at all. We have no idea how many invertebrates are being tested on, and what kinds of experiments are being done from there.
The next is experiments which cause little or no discomfort or stress to animals. These are broad terms and there’s different opinions on what little or no discomfort or stress looks like. 36% of animals used in 2021 fall into that category.
And then it gets more invasive where it’s minor stress or pain of a short duration. That’s 28% of animals used in 2021.
And then it goes towards animals who are experiencing moderate to severe distress or discomfort. That’s 33% of animals used in 2021. So when we’re looking at that 3 million number, that means at least a million animals are in that category.
The next one is procedures which cause severe pain near at or above the pain tolerance threshold of unanesthetized conscious animals. And that number’s fairly low, 3% of animals. But that actually represents 115,000 animals in 2021 that had to endure that level of suffering.

Chantelle: It’s already so concerning to hear that research is allowed to cause such a severe level of pain in animals, and again, I want to emphasize when we think about those types of testing, research, and teaching, we’re talking about huge numbers of animals being used and reported to the CCAC. It’s really enormous amounts of suffering going on.

In the most invasive experiments, the animals used most frequently were fishes, mice, and rats. Other animals used for testing include dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs; the same species many people consider to be part of their families who we know to be capable of love and complex social bonds, fear and pain.

Canadian Council on Animal Care

A breeder rat for a medical research and testing facility
Roger Kingbird / We Animals Media

Chantelle: Now that we have that context for how animals are used in science, Amy, could you run us through a little bit more about what the CCAC is? What are some of the processes and laws in place to protect the animals used in science? And what are the limitations on protections for animals?

Amy: The CCAC, as I mentioned, is the Canadian Council on Animal Care. This is essentially an entity that is a non-governmental, non-profit type organization.

They don’t have any regulatory authority. All the institutions that are working with them are doing it out of a desire to be accredited.

They provide minimum ethical standards and required guidelines for the use and care of animals. In science, it is a requirement to get a Certificate of GAP (Good Animal Practice) in Canada. If an institution is going to receive federal funding for animal based products, they’ll have to get that certification.

Institutions that import animals to a lab environment also need to be in good standing with the CCAC.

I spoke a little bit about animal care committees before. To provide more context about what those are, universities have these in place and the CCAC guidelines dictate who needs to be on those animal care committees. They’re made up of researchers, chair and members of the public. They don’t dictate how the member of the public needs to be identified.

And that’s such a broad term, right? Because a member of the public could have a variety of thoughts and opinions on how animals could and should be used.

Every university does it differently. Some might post the position publicly. A more common route is that the existing committee members be asked to reach out to their networks and try to find someone who might be willing to be involved. They can’t have a conflict of interest, so it can’t be a spouse; that needs to be arm’s length.

There is a time commitment to it and it is an unpaid volunteer position. The role is pretty extensive; they’re reviewing protocols, renewals for protocols, of how and when animals can be used. There’s also amendments sometimes to protocols; you get maybe one to three projects a month to review. People will do maybe a few years of this kind of role and then move on, and they need to find more people to get involved.

At UBC for example, there’s one committee for all animal care projects, and then they distribute different protocols out depending on the number of members that there are. The members of the public are one of several committee members. It’s a great way to get involved in advocating for animals in a meaningful way.

People can reach out to universities directly to find out more about their selection process. It’s also a way to really deeply get an understanding of what it looks like to have different research and teaching and testing in universities.

Chantelle: Absolutely.

And that being said about all those requirements, it’s not a legal requirement to have CCAC accreditation. So there’s private institutions that are not CCAC accredited that also conduct research.

That’s unregulated in Canada outside of the Criminal Code and provincial animal protection laws. I don’t know of any cases that have been put forward for animal cruelty charges in Canada related to animal use in research. Employees are typically in an uncomfortable power hierarchy, so they wouldn’t be likely to report poor conditions, even if they aren’t happy with the way animals are cared for or are treated. There’s also agreements about nondisclosure and confidentiality that would make it more difficult to advocate for animals that are being kept in research and testing institutions.

You can take a look at the list of CCAC institutions on their website, and you can see that most of those are universities.

Toxicity testing

Two rabbits in a lab
Roger Kingbird / We Animals Media

So now that we have a little bit of background on oversight and laws, we can delve a little deeper into what progress is being made to change the laws. One change on the table right now has to do with toxicity testing.

Amy: Yeah, this is a really interesting one because several years ago in 2015, Bill S-214 was introduced in parliament to legally phase out toxicity testing on cosmetic ingredients in Canada, so testing on animals for essentially cosmetic purposes.

It made it through Senate and then to the second reading of the House, which is very far along. It just needed one more reading to pass; and Parliament ended before it could receive that third reading. The reason that was even worse timing is that the bill already had support from all parties and from the cosmetics industry.

A letter that was submitted by Cosmetics Alliance Canada to the Senate and and to the House shared that animal testing to support the sale of cosmetics is no longer common in Canada.

This is for all intents and purposes something that just could easily pass and would prevent future uptake of testing on animals. We know now that this process is being restarted with a new bill, Bill S-5, that’s currently underway. Chantelle, could you share more about what’s happening with that?

Chantelle: Absolutely. It is really frustrating to see that that died during the election cycle. A little bit more background on toxicity testing. Toxicity testing tests the degree to which a substance affects an organism.

So for instance, the length of exposure of a substance like a new chemical, the route of exposure—whether it’s toxic through contact to the skin, inhalation, injection—and the concentration of a substance.

As you can imagine, it results in pretty severe suffering. It’s considered the most harmful use of animals in science. It commonly causes the most severe level of suffering and it impacts about 90,000 animals per year in Canada.

Testing the substances involves forced ingestion, forced inhalation, and skin and eye irritation. If animals don’t die as a result of the experiments, they’re typically killed afterwards. This is pretty horrific.

The US and the EU have already made commitments to phase out toxicity testing. The federal government in Canada made phasing out toxicity testing a campaign promise in the last election.

It is something that it makes sense as the next step in progress for animals in this area. Bill S-5 is an amendment to the Canadian Environmental Production Act (CEPA). That’s the law that governs how we assess chemicals and processes by which we test that substances won’t harm the environment and human health. Part of that process is toxicity testing, the testing to determine toxic effects of a certain substance; for instance, if a new ingredient was going to be used in a product.

Part of Bill S-5 aims to address toxicity testing on animals.

The previous bill died before being passed when the election cycle happened. This bill was reintroduced to Senate, and Senate made a lot of amendments that actually strengthened the protections.

Now it’s gone back to Parliament again where the standing Committee on Environment is going to review it. Animal Justice has been working with government officials to make amendments to the bill, working within the bounds of the law that’s on the table to make as much impact as possible for animals.

The goal right now is to make animal testing the very last resort when absolutely no alternatives are possible.

Amy: Something I think is really interesting about this is some other countries that have passed laws in this area are not allowing products that are made of components that are tested in other countries. That’s sort of the gold standard for a law like this, where you’re not just outsourcing the problem of testing on animals to another country. I’m really curious to see whether this bill ends up including some elements of that; whether it’s an end to that practice altogether or whether it allows for loopholes where the testing can just happen in another country.

Chantelle: That’s a good point. And there are a lot of alternatives that are available now that would make that unnecessary in most cases.

Alternatives to the use of animals in science

A researcher examining a slide under a microscope

Amy: Something that’s really important to consider when talking about alternatives; it’s not just the animal testing piece, but it’s also just thinking about the types of animals that are used.

There are live animals that are used. There are also animals that are purposely bred to be used for dissection in education.

There are a number of technological innovations that make it possible to learn about biology without intentionally producing animals to be killed for dissection or used for various forms of research, including testing.

The Society for Humane Science shares that although 79% of science teachers in British Columbia still do dissection with their students, non-animal alternatives to dissection have been shown to be just as effective or more effective in terms of how well they help students meet their learning goals, and they even save time and money. They have a great blog post with so many non-animal model alternatives that cover a wide variety of species.

Any teacher anywhere can use those resources and move to a place where dissection isn’t costing animal lives.

Chantelle: I can see how requiring dissection in some schools would actually be a deterrent for people who would be more prone to using animal-free methods. Anecdotally in my own life, I’ve seen people who have dropped out of the biology stream of science specifically because dissection was a requirement in their school. So it is interesting to see where the future will go and what kind of individuals that will draw into the field.

Effectiveness of non-animal models

A group of students surrounding laptops in a school library

Chantelle: Jumping back to testing methods, one of the main arguments I’ve heard in favor of animal testing is that it’s necessary for medical progress. There have been life changing medications developed in the past through methods that used animal research, like penicillin.

You’ll still hear people say, “I understand the harms that animal research causes, but I personally have a loved one with a life threatening condition, and we need to find a cure for that.”

In reality, those two perspectives, the one advocating for animal wellbeing and the one in favor of making progress for human medical treatments are becoming more and more aligned.

While there have been developments in the past using animal based methods, they’re few and far between, and now that process might actually be slowing medical progress.

Amy: Yeah, absolutely. The film Medical Illusion, produced by documentary filmmaker Gary Charbonneau, covers how ineffective animal use is and the different alternative technologies that are available.

It’s estimated that around 95% of drugs that are shown to be effective in animals failed to be effective in human clinical trials. That failure rate is enormous. You don’t accept that failure rate in any other area; yet somehow because it’s animal lives our society is discounting that.

In some cases, institutions are testing on animals for diseases that don’t even occur naturally in those non-human animals. They have to be artificially created in the animal creating an unrealistic disease process. And then that results in drug responses that are entirely different than that what would occur in a human.

The scientific experts in this film, Medical Illusion, advocate for investment in technologies such as more personalized medicine, such as tissue engineering, and bioprinting technologies such as 3D organ printing. The one that I think is really interesting is organs on a microchip.

I’m really excited for a future where these technologies are the go-to for all scientists.

Chantelle: Absolutely. And it’s so exciting to see that there’s also medical professionals advocating for the same thing. Dr. Charu Chandrasekera at the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods is doing a lot of great work in this area.

It would really benefit everyone to move away from animal testing. Of course, we know that the animals and those who care for them would benefit by not having testing required on animals, but also the institutions doing this research and the medical community as a whole.

When you consider the investment that goes into trying to make medical progress, each new medication represents a massive investment of time and money—10 years and more than a billion dollars on average that go to waste if a drug fails in a human clinical. That’s a huge investment trying to find necessary cures for life changing conditions and diseases, only to fail at the human clinical trial stage.

One example is more than 400 human trials have failed for Alzheimer’s. But Alzheimer’s has already been cured in mice because their biology is the basis for so much animal based research. Requiring animal testing means that treatments that could be effective for humans might be thrown out because they aren’t effective for animals that they aren’t even intended to be used on. Who knows how many medications that would’ve been life saving for humans have been missed because they weren’t safe for mice?

How you can help

A group of mice in a cage

Chantelle: We always like to talk about what our audience can do to advocate against animal testing. What are some ways that people can advocate against animal testing, research and education?

Purchase products not tested on animals

Amy: An easy thing to do is to purchase products that weren’t tested on animals.

To know for certain that a product’s ingredients were not tested on animals, and that there are no animal ingredients (such as gelatin) used as well, PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program accredits more than 5,900 different companies. Their website is really helpful way to learn more about that program.

Leaping Bunny is another program that accredits companies. They only accredit based on companies that don’t test on animals, which means accredited products might still contain animal based ingredients. When making purchasing decisions, it’s important to review the ingredient list to ensure that no animal products like gelatin or coloring based on animal bodies is included in that product.

There’s some trade offs of these two programs in terms of how they accredit. Ethical Elephant created a graphic to help distinguish the pros and cons of those different programs.

Cruelty-free accreditation programs (image)

Chantelle: Absolutely. That’s a really actionable step that everyone can take every time you’re buying a product.

Support phasing out toxicity testing in Bill S-5

Chantelle: Another step is contacting your MP to support phasing out toxicity testing. Bill S-5 is in consideration at the House of Commons right now, and that could make a huge impact for some of the most severe suffering that happens for animals used in science.

You can visit this Animal Justice Academy video for more details about the bill and about toxicity testing in general. You don’t need to be an expert to speak with your MP; you can call or email them and just let them know that you want to talk about Bill S-5 on CEPA, and you want to ensure that they support reducing the unnecessary suffering of animals. Science is evolving; other countries have already made commitments to phase out toxicity testing. This is a really attainable goal that Canada can make to have a significant impact in the lives of animals.

Advocate for alternatives in education

Amy: Absolutely. And I think another really big way that we can have impacts are at different levels of educational institutions. This could be anywhere ranging from high schools where dissection is happening to universities where you could join an animal care committee.

If you’re someone who has the capacity to volunteer your time, joining an animal care committee is a way to make a tangible impact for animals. You can reach out to your local university, find out if they’re conducting research on animals and ask more about their selection process. Get involved in making sure that research is consistent with guidelines and regulations, and even more, recognizing that there’s a a place for someone to serve as an advocate for animals.

The other role, if you have kids or even if you don’t, is reaching out to high schools and finding out what programs are being used for dissection. See if you know you can meet with a biology teacher and share about the different alternative models and find out what the barriers are to them adopting those models. Certainly every single one of us can become an individual advocate in communities because those decisions are being made on a teacher by teacher basis.

Chantelle: Absolutely, and this is such a rapidly developing field that there’s so much space for impact on the short term and the long term for animals.

Contact your MLA about animals in captivity

Next episode

Now that we’ve gone over all these laws around animal cruelty over the past six months, we’re going to be wrapping up the year next month with a discussion on how the laws and regulations are enforced. Until then, if you’d like to share your thoughts on this topic or any other topics that we’ve discussed already, please reach out to the Vancouver Humane Society on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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Media Release

Panago Pizza selling plant-based pizzas to benefit two animal charities in B.C.

Panago Pizza team members deliver plant-based pizzas to the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary.

VANCOUVER, November 25, 2022 – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) and the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary are teaming up to help animals now and in the future with the generous support of Panago Pizza! On Giving Tuesday, November 29th, customers can get a $10 large plant-based pizza from any Panago location in BC using code: PLANT10. $1 from every plant-based pizza purchased will be donated toward the two charities.

Panago offers 5 plant-based pizza recipes and continues to grow their plant-based choices as part of their long-term commitment to sustainability. Visit panago.com/our-values to learn more.

This year, the support of donations toward animals is needed more than ever. Nonprofits are struggling to meet the needs of the animals they help. Diane Marsh from the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary explains that costs of hay have doubled and vet visits have increased by almost 40%; they “have risen dramatically due to the fires, floods and supply chain issues.”

The Happy Herd will use funds raised this Giving Tuesday to cover essential supplies to keep the animals in their care healthy and safe; animals like Mousse, a goat whom they rescued this year at just one week old. Mousse arrived at the Happy Herd quite ill having been rejected by his mother. He has since flourished and lives his life with Linus the sheep and Pickles the pig.

Mousse the goat at the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary in April 2022.

Funds raised will also help to cover the VHS’s essential programs and advocacy work. This includes helping to decrease the demand for industrial animal agriculture by supporting a shift toward increased plant-based options in municipal concession stands, schools, long-term care homes, and more.

Funds will also help programs such as the VHS’s McVitie Fund, which offers financial assistance for urgent veterinary care to hundreds of animals from low-income households each year, helping animals like Copper the dog to get the care they need while staying with their loving families and preventing surrenders to the already-overburdened shelter and rescue system.

Left: Copper the dog at the veterinarian; Copper needed emergency surgery to remove bladder stones in order to save his life. Right: Copper after receiving assistance through the Vancouver Humane Society’s McVitie Fund and recovering from surgery.

“The rising costs of living mean that the McVitie Fund is assisting a rapidly growing number of people every year,” said VHS Communications Director Chantelle Archambault. “More than 580 animals have already received help through the program in 2022—twice as many as in all of 2021!”

The first $6,000 in donations to support animals in need will be doubled by generous local partners. Members of the community can donate through the Vancouver Humane Society’s website at vancouverhumane.ca.

– ends –

SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society

For more information, contact Chantelle Archambault: 604-416-2903, chantelle@vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca

Related links: https://vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca/

Categories
News/Blog

British Columbia permanently restricts second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides 

A win for wildlife!

B.C. permanently restricts second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides, marking an important first step in protecting wildlife and pets.

Learn more
Take action
Report prohibited poisons

B.C.’s provincial government has announced that it is moving ahead with regulatory changes that will restrict the sale and use of some of the deadliest rodent poisons. As of January 21, 2023, second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) will be prohibited, with exemptions for sectors that have been deemed ‘essential services’. 

The government’s decision follows a temporary, partial ban that has been in place since July 2021, along with a public consultation around proposed permanent changes. During this period, more than 2,500 British Columbians signed the Vancouver Humane Society’s petition in support of a comprehensive rodenticide ban. The VHS and more than 1,300 individuals participated in the public consultation; the VHS also submitted a report in support of a comprehensive rodenticide ban. 

Despite widespread feedback in support of further restrictions and a full ban, the Province announced its decision to move forward with its initially proposed changes. Concerns remain that gaps in the regulations will continue to pose a risk to animals. 

In addition to the exemptions that will allow SGARs to continue being used in many circumstances, many other dangerous poisons will still be allowed under the updated regulations, including first-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (FGARs) and neurotoxins. There are also concerns that enforcement is more difficult without consistent and comprehensive regulations. 

Despite concerns, the decision to significantly restrict the use of SGARs is an important step in the right direction. The VHS and animal allies will continue to advocate for further action to protect animals from encountering these and other inhumane poisons.  

The VHS recommends that the government’s partial ban be a starting point in a much-needed move away from deadly and inhumane rodent poisons and toward humane alternatives and preventative approaches for dealing with human-rodent conflicts.  

A growing number of B.C. communities have gone above and beyond the partial ban. To date, more than 20 B.C. municipalities have banned rodenticides on municipal property, including Whistler, which recently adopted a policy to ban FGARs and SGARs.

Take action: Support going beyond the partial ban

You can help to protect wildlife and pets by encouraging your community, local businesses, strata and others to follow the lead of communities that have banned rodenticides and utilize humane alternatives. 

Use the tips and talking points below to reach out and engage with decision-makers

1. Watch for signs of poisons.

Keep an eye out for bait boxes in and around your community, which indicate a rodent management program is in use. Note: Not every bait box contains rodenticides. Bait boxes can also contain snap traps. Look for a label that indicates the bait box’s contents. 

2. Reach out to property owners or managers.

Reach out to the decision-maker in charge of the building and inquire about what rodent/”pest” control products are in use at the location.

3. Share information and alternatives.

If rodenticides (or other inhumane products like glue traps) are in use, offer to share more information and alternatives:

Rodenticides are highly toxic poisons that cause a slow and painful death for the rodents who consume them and can severely injure or kill any scavengers, predators or pets who encounter the poisoned rodents or the poisons directly. This includes anticoagulant poisons (including first-generation products) and other rodenticides, such as neurotoxins like Bromethalin.  

Effective and sustainable alternative solutions exist to address human-rodent conflicts, including high quality snap traps, captive bolt traps, and rodent contraceptives. The most effective long-term solutions include: 

- Exclusion techniques: rodent-proofing buildings and fixing structural flaws and access points; 

- Preventative measures: addressing attractants such as garbage, compost, fallen bird seed and fruit, leaky plumbing; 

- Habitat modification: making the environment around buildings less hospitable for rodents by cutting back bushes and grasses, storing items away from buildings and off of the ground. 

4. Share contact information for humane wildlife management companies.

Share contact information for humane rodent control companies (e.g. Humane Solutions) or encourage the decision-maker to speak with their current company about replacing rodenticides with humane alternative approaches. 

Suspect SGARs are being used in a prohibited location? 

If you suspect SGARs are being used in prohibited locations, report them to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service’s RAPP line via the “Report All Poachers and Polluters” (RAPP) hotline at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or #7277, or through the online reporting form

Some examples of prohibited and non-prohibited locations include: 

Examples of prohibited locationsExamples of exempt locations
*SGARs are not allowed here 
– Residential buildings such as apartments 
– Office buildings 
– Parks 
– Schools 
– Non-food retail shops 
*SGARs can still be used by licensed “pest control” companies here 
– Hospitals 
– Supportive housing and shelters 
– Agricultural operations 
– Grocery stores 
– Restaurants 
– Landfills and recycling facilities  

See page 12 of this PDF for the full list of exempt locations where SGARs are allowed to continue being used. If a SGAR is being used at a location not on the list, it is not in compliance with the ban. Watch the video below for tips on documenting and reporting prohibited rodenticides.  

How to report banned rodent poisons in British Columbia

The Province of British Columbia recently introduced new restrictions on the use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs). To report the use of prohibited rodenticides (Brodifacoum, Bromadiolone, or Difethialone) in non-exempt locations, go to https://forms.gov.bc.ca/environment/rapp/. For updates on wildlife poison restrictions in B.C., visit https://vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca/.

Categories
Urgent Care

Urgent care for George

Donate toward George’s care

George needs urgent treatment for a concerning mass

Melissa has noticed a mass growing on her sweet 9-year-old cat, George’s, back. After an inconclusive biopsy result, the vet advised that the mass could be cancerous and recommended it be removed to give George the best chance at a healthy and happy future. Melissa told the Vancouver Humane Society that George is her true companion who has helped her through hard times in the past nine years. Because George has had some previous health issues, Melissa feeds him a special diet to maintain his good health. She is doing everything she can to save up for the surgery but as a single mother on a limited income, she is having trouble with the overall cost. That is why she has reached out to the VHS for help with George’s care.

Can you donate today to help George get the care he needs to live a healthy life?

Categories
News/Blog

Open letter: B.C. Ministry of Agriculture to review farmed animal welfare framework

Update

This action has now ended. Thank you to the 4,381 advocates who used the quick action to call for meaningful actions for farmed animals. Please see the Current Campaigns page for more ways you can help farmed animals.

The Ministry of Agriculture will be doing a review of the farmed animal welfare framework between now and spring 2023, confirms a recent article in the Country Life in BC agricultural newspaper. The Vancouver Humane Society reached out to the Ministry calling for true public transparency on farms and changes that would make a meaningful difference in the lives of the millions of sentient animals raised for food in this province.

Read the Vancouver Humane Society’s open letter to the Ministry of Agriculture:

Oct. 26, 2022

Dear Minister Popham and the Ministry of Agriculture,

We are writing in reference to the article published in Country Life in BC (October 2022, vol. 108 no. 10) confirming that the Ministry will be doing a review of the farmed animal welfare framework between now and spring 2023. We are grateful that the Ministry of Agriculture is actively taking action to consider the lives of farmed animals.

The Vancouver Humane Society represents 36,800 supporters who are concerned about the state of animal welfare for farmed animals in British Columbia. Over the past 10 years, undercover footage filmed on farms raising cows for milk, cattle for beef, pigs for meat, chickens for meat, and hens for eggs, has demonstrated that these animals are in a dire state. From being plucked bare, legs being pulled off, animals being actively abused, stereotypical behaviour like bar-biting, untreated wounds, trampled animals, and inhumane euthanasia methods, animals are not given the consideration they deserve as sentient beings.

Since the publishing of Animal Machines by Ruth Harrison in 1964, there have been disturbingly few changes to address the suffering of farmed animals. Minister Popham, you previously advocated for animals and ending their suffering when serving as the opposition party. The Ministry of Agriculture has the unique ability to significantly reduce the suffering of millions of animals each year by introducing measures that ensure true public transparency. A focus on ‘public trust’, while making no measurable changes to the suffering of animals, is unconscionable, and yet has been the primary approach of the Ministry of Agriculture to date.

We ask for the Ministry of Agriculture to conduct a thorough review which considers the importance of transparency, specifically, one that recognizes the importance of conducting consistent farm audits and making publicly available the findings of the audits. This is the only mechanism that could ensure that there is transparency that results in meaningful outcomes for the animals affected. The Vancouver Humane Society also asks to be included in all stakeholder consultation related to the farmed animal review as an animal protection agency with a British Columbia focus that exists outside of the role of enforcement.

Thank you for your serious consideration of the suffering experienced by sentient farmed animals and of our request to be included as a stakeholder in the review process,

Amy Morris
Executive Director

More than 3,000 animal supporters have called on the Ministry of Agriculture to introduce greater protections for farmed animals, including third-party audits and video surveillance on farms. Will you join us? Learn more about the ongoing campaign below.

Help protect farmed animals

In December 2021, the VHS launched a campaign calling for greater protections for farmed animals in B.C. To date, more than 2,200 animal supporters have used the quick action tool to contact the Ministry of Agriculture calling for:

  • Government-mandated and proactively-enforced compliance with the National Farm Animal Care Council Codes of Practice
  • Publicly-available reports of independent, third party audits on farms
  • Consistent video surveillance monitoring on farms
  • Emergency planning to protect farmed animals in disasters
Take quick action

Please join us in calling on B.C.’s Premier and the Minister of Agriculture to take these important actions to better protect farmed animals from cruelty and suffering.

This action has now ended.

4,381 people used this tool to call for meaningful actions for farmed animals. Thank you for taking action.

See more campaigns