Categories
News/Blog

Odie’s his old self again

The McVitie Veterinary Assistance Program has been helping pets of low-income caregivers get assistance for many years, ensuring guardians are not forced to surrender the animals they love and are bonded with. During this time, other caring individuals have provided some of their own money towards the program to keep people and their pets together. Sandra Todd is one of those individuals, always working to assist those in need to ensure their pets have care. 

When Sandra was partially laid off due to COVID-19, she faced a difficult decision herself for the first time. Sandra cares for a few aging rescued animals, and her 17-year-old dog Odie was showing signs of sickness. Odie lived a rough early life, abused by his first owners and treated roughly by his second owners. He came into Sandra’s care with wounds on his neck and a broken leg. 

Since then, Sandra has worked to give him a good life. At the end of March, Odie started sleeping too much, he became too weak to walk and gastro problems were evident. Sandra knew the bill would be high for the veterinarian to diagnose the cause and hopefully heal Odie and that she would fall short with her own available funds. She reached out to the Vancouver Humane Society for help with covering the cost of a blood panel, fluids, and antibiotics to get 17-year-old Odie feeling well again. 

Please consider contributing a gift today to support the McVitie low-income veterinary assistance program.  

Categories
News/Blog

Poisoned owl rescued by VHS supporter

Update: District of North Vancouver votes to ban rodenticides!

District of North Vancouver Council has voted to ban anticoagulant rodenticides on district-owned properties. The unanimous vote on June 15 approved Councillor Megan Curren’s proposal for a ban. 

Thank you to everyone who wrote to the council and signed the petition by VHS supporter Yasmin Abidi. Yasmin raised the issue with Councillor Curren after rescuing an owl poisoned by rodenticide in the district. (Full story below.)

The vote also means that the council will petition the provincial government to ban anticoagulant rodenticides in B.C. and will communicate their harmful impacts to all residents and businesses in the district.

Update: Speak up to save owls like Lucky

Lucky the owl was lucky to survive being poisoned, twice. Most raptors aren’t so lucky.

Councillor Megan Curren of the District of North Vancouver has proposed the following recommendation, to be voted on June 15, 2020:

  • Recommendation:
  •  THAT a complete ban of anticoagulant rodenticides on all District of North Vancouver owned properties is supported;
  •  AND THAT staff is directed to petition the Province to ban anticoagulant rodenticides;
  •  AND THAT staff is directed to communicate the harmful impacts of anticoagulant rodenticides to all residents and businesses in the District of North Vancouver and to share findings about alternatives.

How you can help

  • You can sign this petition created by Lucky’s rescuer, Yasmin: Save the Owls

Original story:

Birds and other wildlife are often the unintended victims of rodent poison

VHS supporter Yasmin Abidi helped rescue what appeared to be an injured owl last week in North Vancouver. It later emerged that the owl had been poisoned, most likely by rodent poison.

Yasmin and several other Good Samaritans found the owl in a tree near a main road, bleeding and being attacked by crows. They contacted the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) in Delta and protected the bird until OWL staff arrived to take it back to their clinic for examination.

The examination found that the owl had ingested rodent poison and needed immediate treatment. Nicknamed “Lucky” by Yasmin, the owl is expected to recover, thanks to her quick actions. 

It also emerged that the owl had been poisoned three weeks earlier (and treated by OWL), indicating such poisonings are not uncommon.

Wildlife are often the victims of poisons used by businesses, landlords, municipalities and homeowners to control rodent populations.These “secondary poisonings” happen when birds of prey or other predators eat poisoned rodents and can cause a slow and painful death.

The BC SPCA has more information on how you can help wildlife by decreasing the amount of rat poison in the environment. If you find sick or injured wildlife you can contact one of the organizations listed by the Wildlife Rehabilitators’ Network.

Categories
Opinion Editorial

COVID-19 exposes another dark side of Canada’s meat industry

Article originally published on Daily Hive.

COVID-19 has created a crisis for the meat industry, with workers falling ill, slaughterhouses shutting down, and fears of meat shortages emerging. The virus has also exposed the industry’s deep flaws, including an ethical vacuum at its core.

Disturbing reports that meat companies failed to protect employees and allowed them to work while sick with the virus offer the most likely explanation for COVID-19 outbreaks in meat plants across North America.

In BC, Vancouver Coastal Health was critical of one Vancouver plant’s safety measures after 28 workers tested positive for the virus, finding that “the plans that were in place were inadequate or were not appropriately executed.” Outbreaks have since occurred in three more local poultry operations.

In Alberta, a slaughterhouse operated by meat giant Cargill is now the largest single-site outbreak of coronavirus in Canada, with more than 900 cases. The company is facing criticism that it failed to put in place appropriate physical distancing measures and provide personal protective equipment to its employees. Meat industry workers in several US states have protested against slaughterhouses staying open over safety fears. There have also been outbreaks in meat plants in Ontario and Quebec.

The meat and livestock industry’s apparent lack of concern for the welfare of its employees is no surprise to animal advocates who have long decried the appalling treatment of animals in intensive agriculture. Despite an endless parade of undercover investigations and media exposés revealing cruel practices and animal suffering, the industry has resisted change. Instead, it has lobbied for “Ag-gag” laws to keep its operations hidden from public view.

The industry’s exploitation of animals and workers has been ruthlessly efficient, providing cheap meat while squeezing every last penny of profit from its industrialized feeding, confining, transporting and slaughtering of billions of cows, pigs and chickens. That same concentration on profit and efficiency has also squeezed the humanity out of the industry. It is no wonder that renowned historian and author Yuval Noah Harari has described industrial animal agriculture as one of the worst crimes in history.

But it doesn’t end there. Beyond the cruelty of factory farming are the equally well-documented harms it inflicts on the environment and our health.

The United Nations Environment Agency has said “meat production is known to be a major contributor to climate change and environmental destruction…” and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) continues to call for a reduction in global meat consumption to protect the planet. A 2019 study by the World Resources Institute found that: “For every food calorie generated, animal-based foods — and ruminant meats in particular — require many times more feed and land inputs, and emit far more greenhouse gases, than plant-based foods.”  And, in the irony of ironies, factory farming risks causing future pandemics — just like the one currently shutting down its slaughterhouses — by confining thousands of stressed, genetically-uniform animals into crowded barns.

Despite endless debates in the media about meat consumption and health, major studies continue to show links between meat consumption and higher risks of heart diseasecancer, and diabetes.

With modern animal agriculture clearly unsustainable, it is no accident that the plant-based protein industry has grown in recent years.  Now, the coronavirus crisis may have provided it with an opportunity to demonstrate its advantages, with US sales of plant-based meat substitutes recently jumping 200%.

Those advantages are significant. There is strong evidence that a plant-based diet is healthy, beneficial to the environment, and, of course, good for animals. And, because it is more automated and less reliant on labour, the plant-based protein industry is less vulnerable to staff shortages caused by the pandemic.

The development of plant-based protein offers the world a chance to turn away from an industry that has demonstrated little concern for the welfare of animals, the planet or the people it employs. With the coronavirus exposing the vulnerability of this unsustainable sector, it calls into question our individual food choices. If we can eat well without cruelty, slaughter, environmental degradation and needless risks to our health, why wouldn’t we?

Categories
Media Release

Invite elephants and gorillas into your living room

Vancouver – Finding things to do for kids can be a challenge for parents in these days of social distancing. The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is offering help with a new wildlife resource guide that allows families to visit gorillas in the jungle and whales at the bottom of the sea with just a click of a mouse.

The guide, available on the society’s website, offers kids a chance to see and learn about wild animals in their natural habitats through live webcams, phone apps, quizzes and lesson plans – all without going to a zoo or aquarium.

“We’ve put the best wildlife viewing and learning resources we could find in one easy-to-use guide,” says VHS executive director Amy Morris. “Kids can learn much more about animals by seeing them in the wild instead of in cages or tanks, where their ability to engage in natural behaviours is severely limited.”

The guide has links to Canadian and international wildlife resources, allowing kids to see baby eagles hatch, orcas rub along the bottom of the sea or elephants being cared for in a sanctuary.

“We hope families using the guide will see that it’s a better and more ethical way to learn about wildlife than visiting zoos and aquariums where wild animals are bred into captivity and never released,” says Morris. “The best part of these resources is that the animals get all the enrichment they need – social time, foraging for food and so much more.”

-ends-

Categories
Opinion Editorial

We can’t afford to ignore the deadly wildlife trade

Article originally published on Daily Hive.

While the world is understandably preoccupied with the disastrous consequences of COVID-19, the global wildlife trade – the likely cause of the pandemic – is getting less attention. Scientists have raised concerns about the issue for years, but they were ignored. It’s an inescapable fact: we were warned.

Back in 2004, the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) published a report titled A Disaster Ignored? The report, a review of scientific studies concerning the risks of disease from the wildlife trade, concluded: “There is a strong consensus of scientific opinion that the international movement of animals through the global trade in wild and exotic species poses a significant threat of spreading infectious disease to humans and other animals, both domestic and wild.”

Sixteen years later that scientific consensus is even stronger. It is estimated that at least 70% of emerging infectious diseases originate in wildlife. Yet, as COVID-19 has tragically proven, the opportunities to prevent a disaster have indeed been ignored.

While the precise source of COVID-19 has yet to be established, scientists who study zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans) believe it originated from wildlife sold at a wet market in Wuhan, where the pandemic began.

Unregulated wet markets, where wild and domestic animals are slaughtered and sold on the spot in unsanitary conditions, are common in Asia and much of the developing world. They are supplied by the global wildlife trade (both legal and illegal), which also involves the sale of exotic pets and animal parts for use in so-called traditional medicines or in-fashion items (skins, ivory).

Scientists, conservationists and animal welfare groups have long called for the wildlife trade to be banned or at least restricted and for stronger enforcement of legislation against the trade. Their reasons are clear: the trade spreads zoonotic disease, drives species toward extinction, and is extremely cruel.

VHS, which has long campaigned against the sale and keeping of exotic pets, recently launched a petition calling on the BC government to strengthen regulation of the trade and ownership of wild animals in the province. The petition urges the government to review its regulations to ensure species that could pose a risk of spreading zoonotic disease be prohibited. VHS has also joined with more than 200 conservation and animal welfare organizations in signing an open letter to the World Health Organization, urging action against the wildlife trade.

Action to curtail the wildlife trade is needed at every level – globally, locally, and nationally. There have been calls for Canada to do more on the issue, including a suggestion by former federal minister James Moore that “Canada should table a resolution at the UN General Assembly calling for the immediate closure of the deadly and irresponsible wild animal and wet markets in China; enforced by international inspections and economic sanctions for non-compliance.”

The federal government can take this critical opportunity to work with the international community to curtail the wildlife trade, devote more enforcement resources to stopping the illegal import of wildlife into Canada, and develop a coordinated plan among relevant federal agencies and the provinces to eliminate or restrict the sale and ownership of exotic and wild animals. The Vancouver Humane Society is working alongside World Animal Protection Canada and other groups to press the government to do just that.

The scientific evidence is clear: unless we end the wildlife trade, we will see species disappear, millions of animals will suffer, and there will be more pandemics in the future. These are all disasters we cannot afford to ignore.

Categories
animal welfare Captivity compassion cruelty ethics News/Blog Promoted wildlife

Ask the BC government to do more to combat the cruel and dangerous wildlife trade

UPDATE: This campaign petition gained more that 3300 signatures, which VHS forwarded to officials at the B.C. Wildlife and Habitat Branch. We are now asking the federal government to take action against the wildlife trade. Please support our new petition!

Original post:

VHS is shifting the focus of our campaigns and communications to include the wildlife and exotic pet trade, which has been implicated in the emergence of COVID-19.

The emergence of new zoonotic diseases (diseases that spread from animals to humans) has been ignored for far too long, especially its connection to the international wildlife trade (explained in our recent op-ed). It’s time the international community and all levels of government in Canada took action to put and end to the illegal wildlife trade, which is not only inhumane but also is a threat to biodiversity and public health.

Here in B.C., the provincial government’s Controlled Alien Species Regulation governs “the possession, breeding, shipping, and releasing of alien animals that pose a risk to the health or safety of people, property, wildlife, or wildlife habitat.”

We’re calling on the government to review the regulation to ensure it addresses the threat of zoonotic disease from the trade in wild and exotic animals.

Please send a message to the provincial government’s Wildlife and Habitat Branch, asking them to take action to address this important issue.

 

Categories
Opinion Editorial

GM Canada should stop sponsoring the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon race

Article originally published on Daily Hive.

The death of six horses in last year’s Calgary Stampede chuckwagon race may have marked a turning point in public support for the event, with even die-hard chuckwagon fans calling for change.

The key question, however, is whether corporate sponsors of the race will continue to support an event that attracts negative headlines and public outrage virtually every year.

More than 70 horses have died in the event since 1986 and none of the much-publicized safety initiatives, rule changes, and reforms announced by the Stampede has made any difference.

The horses keep on dying.

Yet, on March 19, Calgary will again host the annual GMC Rangeland Derby canvas auction, in which companies will bid to advertise on the tarps covering the chuckwagons that will compete in July’s races at the Stampede.

The bidding companies tend to be local, with many involved in construction or the oil and gas industry. With relatively strong local support for chuckwagon racing, the companies are unlikely to face consumer pressure to distance themselves from the event, despite the annual horse carnage.

But General Motors Canada, which is the title sponsor for the chuckwagon race, is a national and international brand. While associating that brand with the macho “half-mile of hell” might have made sense 30 year ago, does it still?

There have been clear signs that society is growing uncomfortable with the use of animals in entertainment: Ringling Bros. Circus has gone out of business, SeaWorld no longer features orca whale shows, and Canada has banned whale and dolphin captivity. And, according to a 2019 poll by Research Co., a majority of Canadians (59%) are opposed to rodeos.

Meanwhile, General Motors seems to be adopting a more progressive brand. In 2017, the company announced that “General Motors believes the future is all-electric,” ending its century-long relationship with gasoline and diesel. In addition, GM has launched a major “diversity and inclusion” initiative to increase the number of women and minorities it employs. If that’s a brand that’s looking to the future and aiming to broaden its appeal, where do chuckwagon races and dead horses fit?

Yet GM Canada continues to sponsor not only the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon race, but also a number of other races organized by the World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA). Although media attention has focused on horse deaths at the Stampede, horses have also been killed at WPCA races in several prairie towns, including one in Medicine Hat in 2017, two in Bonnyville in 2012, and four in Grand Prairie in 2009.

Perhaps GM Canada believes the rugged machismo of chuckwagon racing will still resonate with some of its customers, making it worth associating with the event. But, brand values aside, there remains an ethical question: How can the company support an event that every year puts animals at undue risk of injury and death just to amuse a crowd?

While the Calgary Stampede and its supporters have ignored the arguments made by animal advocates against the chuckwagon race for decades, it is harder to ignore independent academic research that examines animal welfare in the race.

A 2017 study of the Stampede’s chuckwagon race by Professor Kevin Young at the University of Calgary concluded that “there are obvious and acknowledged examples of harm/abuse toward the animals involved.”

Professor Young also addressed the Stampede’s program of safety and rule changes, describing it as being “as much about marketing and public image as it is about animal safety, especially in the face of ongoing harm to horses.”

The study simply confirms what facts and common sense tells us: The chuckwagon race kills and injures horses for the sake of entertainment and the Stampede has failed to stop it.

There are good branding and marketing reasons for GM Canada to reconsider its sponsorship of chuckwagon racing, but the ethical case is even stronger.

They should do the right thing and stop supporting this gruesome spectacle.

Categories
animal welfare compassion News/Blog Promoted

Emergency plans must include animals

VHS letter calls for legislation to require local authorities to include animals in emergency plans

VHS has submitted a letter to a provincial government consultation on modernizing B.C.’s Emergency Program Act (EPA), calling for the Act to ensure animals are not forgotten in emergency planning.

Current legislation does not require local officials to include domestic animals as part of their plans, which we believe puts not only animals at risk but also their guardians.

Our letter also points out that animals held in establishments such as zoos, aquariums, kennels, sanctuaries and breeding facilities are also at risk during emergencies. The letter states: “The EPA should ensure local authorities include these facilities in their emergency plans and provide them with guidance and support in implementing them.”

The consultation ends January 31st, but there is still time to submit your views.

Categories
animal welfare Captivity Cruelty-free News/Blog Promoted wildlife zoo

Give your views on bird welfare at the Bloedel Conservatory

The City of Vancouver is asking for public comment on the future of the Bloedel Conservatory, which houses more than 120 exotic birds. The Talk Vancouver survey (for which you need to register) provides an opportunity to ask the conservatory to ensure that the birds’ welfare is a priority in future plans. (The Vancouver Park Board and the Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association are collaborating to develop a joint strategic plan for VanDusen Garden and Bloedel Conservatory.) The survey closes February 10.

Specifically, you can ask that when birds are caged (as some birds are when introduced to the conservatory) they are provided with an enriched environment that meets their species-specific needs (e.g toys, puzzles, novel items, opportunity to bathe) to enhance their psychological welfare during this stressful transition time. Your views can help make sure exotic bird welfare is not forgotten in the Bloedel Conservatory’s strategic plan.

It’s important to note that the Conservatory’s website states that all the birds there “have either been directly donated to the Conservatory from homes that can no longer keep them or have been adopted from the GreyHaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary.”

Categories
animal welfare Captivity compassion cruelty ethics News/Blog Promoted wildlife zoo

Challenging captivity

VHS has a long history of opposition to animal captivity. Most recently, we published a report, commissioned from Zoocheck, that drew attention to a number of issues at the Greater Vancouver Zoo.

The report found that animals at the zoo were suffering from boredom and frustration caused by the lack of activity and stimulation that comes with captivity.

In addition, the report identified animal enclosures that were too small, including cages for raptors (owls, hawks, kestrels) that provided no opportunity for flight. Tanks in the zoo’s reptile house were also found to be under-sized, preventing animals from engaging in natural behaviours.

A key finding was that a number of the zoo’s exotic animals are not suited to B.C.’s climate and should be moved to more appropriate facilities. In the longer term, the report recommended, the zoo should transition toward becoming a sanctuary for native species.

The report has received widespread media attention and many people joined our e-campaign calling on the zoo to address the issues it raises. Our opinion editorial in the Georgia Straight gives an overview of the psychological suffering experienced by captive animals at the Greater Vancouver Zoo and other zoos around the world.

The management of the Greater Vancouver Zoo has not responded directly to VHS or Zoocheck, but has told news media that it has plans to make changes and improvements over the next few years. It remains to be seen whether these changes will make a positive difference to the lives of the animals, but VHS will continue to monitor the zoo and draw public attention to their conditions and welfare.