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

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.

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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.

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Thank you for helping us help animals in 2019!

It’s been another amazing year here at the Vancouver Humane Society and we have achieved so much for animals this year, thanks to the generosity of our supporters, like you!

We wanted to take moment to show you some of the highlights and achievements of our work here at VHS throughout 2019, thanks to your support:

 

McVitie Fund emergency veterinary help

During the year, we’ve helped over 45 animals through our McVitie Fund, providing emergency medical help and spay/neuter to the animal companions of people on limited incomes.

Rodeo

Our Calgary Stampede campaign had coverage in 31 media outlets, many quoting our response to the death of six horses in the chuckwagon races when we called it a “national disgrace.”

Nearly 1000 people participated in our email campaign urging the Stampede to suspend the chuckwagon races to see if it can be made safer. The Stampede says it will conduct a review the race. Another 6500 people joined us in emailing the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association to urge the association to explicitly oppose rodeos.

VHS also exposed the use of electric prods on animals at B.C.’s Quesnel Rodeo after exposing the same contractor using prods at the Chilliwack Fair rodeo. 

We drew public attention to the decision by the Canadian Football League to hold a rodeo at the Grey Cup that resulted in more than 3200 people complaining to the CFL via our website.

Go Veg and Plant-based Plates

We know that the sheer number of animals being raised for food every year in Canada makes it a leading animal protection issue. In response, we’re working hard to help individuals and institutions transition towards more humane plant-based diets and to reduce the high demand for animal products that drives factory farming.

In 2019, this included:

  • Continuing to support Meatless Monday campaigns that introduce meatless options at schools throughout Metro Vancouver.
  • Launching our new Plant-Based Plates initiative, which builds on the success of our Meatless Monday work and aims to transition public menus toward offering more humane plant-based options.

We kicked off the new project with a staff culinary training and guest chef pop-up at the BC Children’s & Women’s Hospital.

We’ve been engaging with policy-makers at the municipal and provincial levels in an effort to raise awareness and support for prioritizing plant-based foods in their policies. This includes a proposal, put forward in partnership with a group of students from Sutherland secondary school, to the District of North Vancouver Council that encourages examining municipal food spending and prioritizing plant-based options.

  • VHS is also participating in the City of Vancouver’s Food Solutions Lab, which aims to research equitable ways in which the City and its partners can help shift diets toward those which are better for people and the planet. 

Outreach and events

As part of our Go Veg campaign, we launched a transit ad urging people to consider the ethics of meat consumption. The ad appeared on 13 Vancouver buses and 12 buses on the Burnaby B-Line. We also attended Vancouver’s Veg Expo, promoting our message to the 15,000 attendees. We attended 25 other public events and distributed 5800 leaflets encouraging people to try a plant-based diet. 

 

Carriage horses

We made complaints to the Yaletown, Commercial Drive and Kerrisdale business associations concerning their Christmas promotions, which included carriage horse rides, expressing our concerns about the welfare and safety of the horses. VHS also reached out to the Victoria City Council, calling for an end to horse carriages in the city.

 

Wildlife

VHS joined a local wildlife coalition working on getting wildlife-killing contests banned throughout the province. We signed a coalition letter to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations’ urging a ban.

Communications

VHS published ten opinion editorials in various news media during the year, making the case for better treatment of animals on a number of issues. We had coverage in more than 50 media outlets, published 46 blog posts and used social media to reach thousands of people to change hearts and minds in favour of compassion toward animals. We also engaged with our supporters and the public via action-alert emails and our own newsletter and e-newsletter.

Thank you for helping us achieve all of this for animals and so much more!

Of course there is still so much more to do in our work for animals in 2020 and despite our efforts, animals continue to suffer everyday. Please consider making an end of year donation, to allow us to continue advocating on behalf of all animals today and for the future.

On behalf of all of us here at the Vancouver Humane Society, thank you, Happy Holidays and we wish you a Happy New Year!

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Are women and young people the best hope for fighting animal cruelty?

A recent poll of Canadians about a range of animal issues is cause for optimism in the animal protection movement.

The poll, by respected polling company Research Co., found that majorities of Canadians are opposed to using animals in rodeos (59%); hunting animals for sport (85%); keeping animals in zoos or aquariums (52%) and killing animals for their fur (75%).

These results are encouraging but they may contain even more positive news when the survey sample is broken down by age and gender.

On a number of these issues, higher percentages of women and younger people oppose the exploitation of animals (which is consistent with other polling on animal issues). For example, while 59% of all Canadians oppose using animals in rodeos, 67% of women and 64% of people aged 18-34 take that position. Similarly, while 52% of Canadians oppose keeping animals in zoos and aquariums, 56% of women and 56% of the 18-34 age group are opposed.

Even on the animal-related issue of eating meat, where a significant minority of Canadians (19%) oppose eating animals, the poll found opposition higher among women (22%) and those aged 18-34 (25%).

On a number of animal welfare issues polling shows greater opposition to animal exploitation among younger people.

All this may bode well for animals in the future, as the younger generation moves up the demographic ladder and replaces the older generation.

The same may be true of the support for animal welfare from women, but this could depend on whether women continue to gain more social power and status in fields such as politics and media. Progress in these areas has been slow.

In October 2019, Canada elected 98 women to the federal House of Commons. Women now represent 29% of the 338 elected Members of Parliament, up from 27% in the last parliament.  However, a recent report found that, based on the rate of change over the last five federal elections, it will take 87 years before gender parity is reached in our national elected chamber. There are currently no female provincial premiers.  Another study found that women accounted for just 29% of all people quoted in major Canadian media, compared to 71% for men.

While polls show women tend to be more supportive of animal welfare, the gender gap in politics and media suggests their voices may not be heard in the public discourse on animal issues. This photo of current provincial premiers illustrates why that might be the case.

If women and younger people gain stronger voices in Canada’s public discourse, it’s possible that animal welfare issues will garner more attention, and the opposition to the abuse and exploitation of animals will grow.  If so, the future for animals might be brighter than we think.

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Groups Call For Habitat Protection For Endangered BC Caribou

Photo: Alexandre Buisse

Vancouver Humane joins 21 other animal protection and environmental organizations, along with wildlife biologists, in calling on B.C. Premier John Horgan and federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to protect the province’s endangered caribou herds.

The open letter highlights the groups’ concerns over the lack of habitat protection that the dwindling herds desperately need to avoid extinction. Key caribou habitat is being logged throughout the province, while mining, oil and gas operations, along with high-impact recreational activity (heli-skiing and snowmobiling) are fragmenting the landscape and disrupting caribou.

The provincial and federal governments have known for decades that B.C.’s caribou are in trouble, yet little has been done to address the root causes of habitat destruction. Instead, government has opted to scapegoat other species for the decline in caribou. Since 2015, the provincial government has killed over 700 wolves through its wolf cull program. Now, the province wants to expand the cull and has plans to kill more than 80 per cent of the wolf population in the expanded areas, primarily through a combination of radio collaring and following collared wolves by helicopter to the rest of the pack, who will all be gunned down from helicopter.

Vancouver Humane opposes the misguided and unethical wolf cull program and joins the growing number of organizations and advocates calling for genuine habitat protections for caribou and an end to the cull program.

You can read the groups’ open letter here.

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Vancouver Climate Strike a sign of hope for all of us – including the animals

On September 27th, approximately 100,000 people took the streets of Vancouver for the global Climate Strike.

The Vancouver Humane team joined this inspiring event, which was youth-led and called on governments to take immediate action on climate change.

Organizers had anticipated around 15,000 people would join the strike. Instead, it ended up being the city’s largest protest since the Walk for Peace in 1984, when 115,000 marched in support of nuclear disarmament.

The incredible turnout illustrates the reality that climate change truly impacts all of us and that reality is already being felt across Canada. On average, the country is currently warming at twice the global rate, with Northern Canada warming at almost three times the global average. Across Canada, climate change is leading to increases in precipitation, heat waves, intense forest fires, water supply shortages and an increased risk of coastal flooding. It’s also a major contributor to the planet’s growing biodiversity crisis, which currently threatens over one million species with extinction.

As the widespread support for the Climate Strike reflects, the time for climate action is now and addressing the issue requires that we all do our part. Collectively, we must call on decision-makers for system-level changes that ensure we reduce emissions in order to limit warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius. The upcoming federal election is an important opportunity for calling on candidates to commit to meaningful and science-based measures for tackling climate change. 

At the same time, we can make individual-level changes in our daily lives that can also have a major impact. A growing body of research is calling for a significant reduction in global meat consumption and a transition toward a more sustainable and climate-friendly plant-based diet in order to meet our international climate commitments, avoid the worst impacts of climate change and to help tackle the growing factory farming trend and biodiversity crisis.

So while the climate emergency can seem daunting, there is so much hope in the collective call to action brought forward by the 7.6 million people from around the world who participated in the week of actions surrounding the Global Climate Strike.

Here are a few of our favourite photos from the Climate Strike:

 

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Vancouver Humane Joins Call For A Ban On Horse Carriages in Victoria

It was a May 2018 incident involving Victoria’s horse-drawn carriages that seemed to revive the debate over the controversial practice and has ultimately brought the issue before Victoria City Council.

The traffic incident, in which a horse carriage was bumped by a bus, led to two trolley horses slipping and falling onto the street. Video of the incident, shared by Victoria Horse Alliance, showed the animals struggling to get up for over five minutes, with members of the public attempting to intervene and inadvertently putting themselves at risk of injury. Eventually, the horses’ harnesses were removed and they were able to regain their footing.

The Ogden Point incident made media headlines and led to questions about whether horse-drawn carriages and trolleys should continue to be permitted in increasingly busy and traffic-congested urban environments.

Earlier this year, the debate made its way to Victoria City Council, as Councillor Ben Isitt proposed banning horse carriages by 2023. Council opted to seek further input from the BC SPCA before deciding on any changes to the practice.

As an organization that has advocated for ending the operation of horse-drawn carriages in Vancouver, in particular in Stanley Park and more recently at holiday events in the city, Vancouver Humane has also submitted a letter to Victoria City Council for their consideration. You can read our full letter here.

Vancouver Humane’s primary concerns are for the welfare of the horses, who are subjected to pulling carriages and trollies in urban environments that pose serious safety risks to both the animals and the public. The regular exposure to traffic, noise and pollution; the long hours of standing and walking on hard surfaces; and the hard labour under sometimes extreme weather conditions are not consistent with a horse guardian’s responsibility to provide high-quality, long-term care for horses.

While some suggest increased regulation as a solution, the urban conditions create inherent welfare and public safety issues which cannot be adequately addressed through regulation of the industry.

Vancouver Humane is strongly encouraging Victoria City Council to follow Montreal’s progressive lead in phasing out and banning horse carriages, as well as supporting the industry and workers in transitioning to alternative employment, such as guided bicycle, pedicab or walking tours.

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Montreal SPCA supports call to cancel Grey Cup rodeo

 

Bucking horse at Calgary Stampede. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

 

UPDATE: Since we first published this post, we’ve received another letter of support, this time from the Ottawa Humane Society, backing our call for the CFL to cancel the Grey Cup rodeo.

The Montreal SPCA has joined Vancouver Humane in calling on the Canadian Football League (CFL) to scrap plans to hold a rodeo at this year’s Grey Cup.

In a letter to CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, Montreal SPCA executive director Élise Desaulniers said, “Canadians want family-friendly, cruelty-free entertainment to be part of national celebrations, not out-dated spectacles of animal cruelty.”

Vancouver Humane is grateful for this support from one of the leading animal protection agencies in Canada and will be engaging with other animal groups to build wider opposition to the rodeo, which is to be held on November 23, as part of the Grey Cup Festival in Calgary.

Vancouver Humane has launched an e-campaign that allows concerned members of the public to send a message to the CFL and organizers of the Grey Cup Festival, urging them to cancel the rodeo.  If you haven’t already participated in the campaign, you can do so here.

Vancouver Humane recently had an opinion editorial published on the Daily Hive, which explained why holding a rodeo at the Grey Cup is not only wrong because of the suffering caused to animals, but also because it is a marketing blunder to associate the CFL with inhumane rodeo events.

Your donations help our campaigns against rodeo cruelty.

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Cambridge University Cuts Emissions With Less Meat & More Plant-based Foods

 

Back in 2016, Cambridge University made the decision to remove beef and lamb from its campus menus and offer more plant-based dishes in an effort to reduce its food-related emissions.

Cambridge pointed to the fact that producing beef and lamb emits 250 times more greenhouse gases per gram of protein than legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans) and that one meal with beef or lamb has the same footprint as eight months of chickpea-based meals. They also highlighted that plant-based foods require less water and land than animal-based foods.

The school has since reported that the decision, which was part of its Sustainable Food Policy, has been effective in reducing emissions per kilogram of food purchased by 33 per cent and land use per kilogram of food purchased by 28 per cent. The move cut the school’s overall emissions by 10.5 per cent, while simultaneously increasing sales and profit.

“It is hard to imagine any other interventions that could yield such dramatic benefits in so short a span of time,” said Andrew Balmford, professor of Conservation Science at the University of Cambridge.

In swapping out red meat options for more plant-based dishes, the school focused on making plant-based dishes appealing and accessible. Cambridge’s catering team took part in plant-based cooking classes, visited restaurants with plant-based menus for inspiration and managers received training on marketing for sustainability rather than for profit.

Meanwhile, dishes added to the menu were strategically placed in the cafeteria so as to highlight them specifically and encourage customers to choose them over meat-based options.

When it came to the labelling of dishes, staff focused on the ingredients rather than identifying dishes as specifically “veg” or “vegan”. They hoped this would create universal appeal and that customers would focus on the deliciousness of the dish.

Some of the most popular plant-based dishes include Swedish style vegballs with mash and creamy mustard sauce, smoky Moroccan chickpea stew with saffron infused couscous and a sweet potato burger.

The success of this decision by Cambridge University serves as an inspiring example for other post-secondary schools and institutions that offer food service. It also comes at a crucial time, as a growing body of research concludes that a significant reduction in global meat consumption is essential for addressing climate change, the global biodiversity crisis and the high demand for meat that drives the cruel factory farming system.

Interested in introducing or expanding plant-based menu options at your school, workplace, business or in your community? Get in touch to learn about our Plant-Based Plates program! 

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Nuggets from peas, not chicks, is progress

This week, KFC made headlines around the world when it tested Beyond Meat’s plant-based nuggets and boneless wings at a single KFC restaurant in Atlanta.  The test appeared to be a resounding success, as there were long line-ups to try the new meat-free product and it sold out in five hours.

Less well-known are KFC’s plans to test the nuggets in Canada, which were revealed to the Daily Hive by a KFC Canada spokesperson:

“KFC Canada is cooking up a new plant-based creation of our own in our Canadian kitchen with our world-renowned craveable taste… We plan to test in select restaurants by the end of 2019 with a national launch in 2020.”

Of course, this is just the latest in a stunning number of plant-based product launches in recent years.  Just about everyone has heard of Beyond Burgers and Impossible Burgers, but food companies (including meat companies) have been introducing meatless alternatives to bacon, sausages, ground beef and chicken nuggets at an astonishing pace around the world.

This is good news for anyone seeking to replace these fast-food staples with meat-free products.  (The KFC nuggets and wings, like all Beyond Meat products are derived from plants – in this case, with soy protein, pea protein, rice flour, carrot fiber, yeast extract, vegetable oils, stabilizing agents and seasoning like salt, onion powder and garlic powder.)  However, a healthy, balanced diet is not one based solely on burgers and nuggets.  As dietitians and nutritionists frequently remind us, a whole-foods, plant-based diet, with lots of fresh vegetables, grains and legumes is much healthier. Beyond Burgers, they say, should be an occasional treat.

Nevertheless, the plant-based revolution that appears to be taking place in the fast-food industry should be welcomed.  It’s that industry that is supplied by factory farms, where billions of animals are confined to a life of suffering before going to slaughter. Every plant-based KFC nugget that replaces a meat nugget means fewer chickens will need to be slaughtered.

For more information on switching to a plant-based diet, visit our Plant-Based Plates page.