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Why are some animals celebrated as individuals while millions more are treated as commodities?

Most pigs are confined on factory farms and sent to slaughter


On a recent Saturday in Cloverdale, B.C., an Alzheimer centre held a birthday party.  The party was not for one of the residents, but for a one-year-old “therapy pig” called Rosie. 

Local press covered the celebration, quoting centre staff on the effect Rosie has on residents and their relatives who come to visit. “Not only has Rosie been hugely beneficial to the residents, but our staff, volunteers, families, they’ve all blended together to become a part of her life as well,” the centre’s program coordinator told the reporter.

The next day, local and national media were reporting on another story just a few miles away in Abbotsford. Animal activists were protesting at a hog farm in response to an undercover video allegedly showing neglected, sick and suffering pigs kept in filthy conditions. 

The contrasting stories, one about a pig bringing joy to humans, the other about humans bringing misery to pigs, could not illustrate our collective cognitive dissonance about pigs more clearly. Are they just meat (cue the “Mmm, bacon” trolls) or are they more akin to our fabled best friend, the dog?

Scientific studies have suggested that pigs are as intelligent as dogs, although it has been argued that such comparisons are not very meaningful, especially in determining how an animal should be treated. If  my border collie is smarter than your bulldog is he entitled to be treated with more kindness?

What really matters is sentience – the ability to experience sensations such as pain, pleasure or comfort. Neuroscientist Lori Marino, who appeared as an expert witness at the 2017 trial of an animal activist charged with mischief for giving water to pigs in transport trucks, testified that pigs are sentient beings and that “They have self-awareness, self-agency and have a sense of themselves within the social community… Each one is a unique individual.”

The suggestion that pigs feel emotion and have unique personalities would come as no surprise to anyone visiting a farm animal sanctuary. Diane Marsh, a co-founder of the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary in B.C. tells the story of Betty the pig, who befriended a donkey who had mourned the loss of his horse buddy for two years, rejecting the company of other animals.  She says they had an “instantaneous friendship” and now share food, graze together and sleep next to each other. 

Imagine getting to know Rosie at the Alzheimer centre or Betty at the sanctuary.  It would be heartbreaking for most people if the two were trucked away to a factory farm and sent for slaughter. Yet that is what happens to millions of pigs, each with a unique personality, every day. The only difference is that those nameless millions are unknown to us.

As people become more ethically uncomfortable with industrialized animal agriculture, some have sought so-called “happy meat” from more traditional farms offering better conditions for animals.  Others, recognizing that this still leaves animals facing an unwanted, premature death, are turning away from meat altogether.  And, as most meat in Canada comes from industrialized farms, this is the only realistic ethical choice.

The phenomenal rise of plant-based alternatives to meat has made it easier than ever to avoid animal consumption.  The new products, competing on taste, price and convenience, are attracting considerable investment and proving popular with consumers around the world.

The environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet have been major drivers of the demand for meat alternatives, boosting the efforts of animal advocates and bolstering their ethical arguments against animal consumption. 

But for those who see pigs and other animals as fellow sentient beings and not mere commodities, the ethical arguments are enough. For them, a simple question provides its own answer: If one can eat well without the need for suffering and slaughter, why not?  For them, every pig is a Rosie or a Betty – someone, not something.










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Abbotsford pig farm cruelty: Another example of why animal agriculture can’t be trusted

Photo: PETA


Yesterday’s release of an undercover video showing sick and dying pigs living in filthy conditions at the Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford is just the latest example of why the animal agriculture industry cannot be trusted to raise animals humanely.

Pigs at the farm, which is owned by a director of the BC Pork Producers Association, are shown in the video unable to stand, some with large untreated growths on their bodies. Dead piglets and an adult dead pig can also be seen.

In 2014, animal activists released video that exposed horrific cruelty inflicted on cows at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, Canada’s largest dairy farm.  At the time, Jeff Kooyman, one of the owners of the farm, said he was “shocked” and claimed he had no idea his staff were allegedly abusing the cows. In 2016, Kooyman and five members of his family were charged with causing or permitting animals to be, or to continue to be, in distress – a violation of B.C.’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Several company employees were also charged under the act and later jailed.  The company was fined $300,000.

In June 2017, video footage released by animal activists showed chickens at a Chilliwack poultry operation being mangled, stomped on, thrown against a wall, and smashed into transport crates. The BC SPCA, which described the abuse as “absolutely sickening,” recommended charges, but nearly two years later Crown Counsel has still not prosecuted anyone. (In December 2018, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) laid charges under federal Health of Animals Regulation against Sofina Foods, Elite Farm Services and Elite’s president, Dwayne Dueck, for allegedly beating chickens and loading them in a way “likely to cause injury or undue suffering.”)

In 2018, the BC SPCA announced it was again investigating Elite Farm Services and a chicken farm called Jaedel Enterprises in what it said was “another situation where chickens have allegedly suffered as a result of what appears to be a blatant disregard to adherence of the industry’s own agreed-upon standards of care and a failure to either comply with or put in place processes to ensure this type of suffering does not occur.”

The poultry, dairy and pork industries responsible for the care of these animals routinely deny that these horrific cases of abuse are “the norm.” It’s always just a few “bad apples” they say, while expecting the public to believe that all the other animals on Canadian farms are living happy lives in wonderful conditions. 

But these undercover animal cruelty cases, and the many others that have exposed similar abuse across Canada, the United States and elsewhere, should make clear that modern industrial agriculture can never provide humane conditions for animals.

Many Canadians do not realize that animal farmers in Canada largely police themselves. There are Codes of Practice to protect animal welfare on Canadian farms but there are no government inspections to enforce the codes in terms of conditions on farms. Government oversight only extends to animal transportation and slaughter practices, not the living conditions or overall well-being of animals farmed for food.

Vancouver Humane believes that it is impossible to give animals a good life on modern, industrialized farms. The system is designed to provide cheap meat, dairy and eggs, not to ensure good animal welfare.

Animals are sentient beings that deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. That’s not going to happen on factory farms, where more than 90 per cent of Canada’s farm animals are raised.

That’s why we encourage people to switch to a plant-based diet and refrain from consuming animal-based products. That’s why we support the rise of plant-based businesses and call on governments at all levels to do the same. 

Modern animal agriculture will never be good for animals and it has been shown to be bad for the environment and for our health.  It’s time to build a food system that is healthy, sustainable and compassionate.





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Students lead the effort to create a better world

Students are saving the world. Just skim the news lately and you’ll come across headlines about 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s compelling call to action at the recent UN Climate Change talks, or about the growing #FridaysForFuture youth movement and the recent Youth Climate Strike. Globally, youth are mobilizing a mass movement focused on creating a better world.

Locally, we at the Vancouver Humane Society are also inspired by the youth who have led the effort to bring more humane, healthy and sustainable plant-based foods to their school menus and who have worked to educate and empower their peers, and are proud to support amazing young people in Metro Vancouver.

Shiqi Xu and Naiara Peruchena are two of those local students who have been inspiring change in their community. Our Program Coordinator, Emily Pickett, first met Shiqi and Naiara in 2016 and supported them in co-founding a Meatless Monday Club at their school, Sutherland Secondary, helping to promote plant-based menu changes in order to help animals. Since 2016, their club has led a highly successful Meatless Monday campaign, with the growing demand for plant-based menu items leading to their school’s food service provider to commit to transitioning 20 percent of the daily menu to plant-based foods!

Shiqi and Naiara also presented their Meatless Monday work to the North Vancouver School Board, asking for a letter of support, which the board enthusiastically provided. They were also successful in getting a student choice policy for animal dissection implemented in the school district, with support from the Animals in Science Policy Institute. The student choice policy allows students to opt out of animal dissection and participate in alternative learning methods.

Sutherland Secondary students Naiara Peruchena (on left) and Shiqi Xu (on right)

All that said, it came as no surprise to us that Shiqi was recently awarded the prestigious Loran scholarship of $100,000 to go toward her undergraduate studies. She intends to study bioengineering and wants to help develop biotechnology that will save lives while replacing animals used in testing.

“I am proud of the work Naiara and I have done in promoting healthy, sustainable eating in our school and school district, with VHS’ support,” says Shiqi. “Not only has this experience allowed me to build my leadership skills, but it also played a central role in igniting my passion for sustainability and animal rights. In my bioengineering endeavours in the future, my goal is to help improve the lives of both people and animals.”

We have no doubt that Shiqi and Naiara will go on to do great things for animals, people and the planet after they graduate this year, and that they will leave an inspiring legacy for the next generation of students set to take over the Meatless Monday Club, who we too look forward to working with!

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Matching grant will double your donations to TWO great campaigns!

Grant will help campaigns to fight rodeo cruelty and factory farming

A generous anonymous donor is offering to match donations to support our fight against rodeo cruelty and to help our Go Veg campaign. The matching grants mean your donation will be doubled, up to $10,000 for each program!

Our campaign against cruelty at the Chilliwack Fair rodeo, the Calgary Stampede and other rodeos will continue this year and your contributions, aided by the matching grant, will allow us to draw greater attention to the plight of rodeo animals. 

Last year, Vancouver Humane exposed the use of electric shock devices at the Chilliwack Fair rodeo, which received considerable media coverage.  We’ll put the spotlight on the rodeo again this year and keep up the pressure on sponsors.

Your doubled donation will also help our Go Veg campaign, allowing us to educate the public about the suffering of farmed animals, promote a plant-based diet and reduce the overall consumption of animal-based foods. We’re also supporting a growing number of institutions, from food service providers, schools and hospitals to corporate cafeterias, in reducing their offering of animal products on menus in favour of more plant-based foods. 

Your gift will allow us to expand this important campaign and go even further to help farmed animals. The funds raised will help us run more Go Veg bus ads, attend more public events and distribute more Go Veg leaflets. We will be able to offer additional culinary support for institutions looking to transition more of their menus to plant-based and we will advocate for policies that prioritize plant-based foods, as well as stronger regulations to protect animal welfare.

Together we can create a kinder and more humane society for all animals!

To donate just click here.  From the drop-down menu choose the Rodeo or Go Veg funds to ensure your donation is doubled.

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Let’s make more animals happy in 2019!

At Vancouver Humane we think every animal deserves to be happy. In 2018, with your support, we helped sick and injured animals to get better; spoke out against animal cruelty and urged people to see animals as friends, not food.

Generous donors ensured our McVitie fund helped 130 animals get emergency medical help or be spayed/neutered. Their families, many on low incomes, appreciated that someone was there to help in a crisis and that their companions would come home safe and healthy.We hope to help even more animals in the new year – with more happy endings!


We continued to expose cruelty at rodeos, including the use of an electric shock device at the Chilliwack Fair rodeoand the abuse of bulls at local bull-riding events.

We’re determined to keep fighting for these animals and put an end to rodeo cruelty.


We also worked on the root causes of animal suffering, especially factory farming and the demand for the animal products that fuel this cruel industry.

During the year, we took a number of actions to promote a plant-based diet, reduce meat and dairy consumption and educate the public about the suffering of farmed animals, including:



  • Supported more schools (now 16!) in increasing their offering of plant-based options through initiatives like Meatless Monday. 
  • Held our first plant-based culinary workshop at the secondary school level, training food service staff on new recipes, cooking skills and techniques. 
  • Ran a new Go Veg bus ad, aimed at reminding viewers that when we were children we instinctively saw animals as friends and not food. 
  • Sponsored and participated in the Capilano University Veg Fest, the first of its kind in Metro Vancouver. 
  • Helped spread the Go Veg message by distributing over 19,000 of our Live Well booklets to local advocates, at events and through our Outreach Team.

We also:

  • Launched a new speakers series called Animals & Ethics in the 21st Century to engage the community in animal issues (Our first speaker of 2019 will be registered dietitian Desiree Nielson on Jan. 10th.) 
  • Called on candidates to declare their positions on animal welfare issues in a local election survey. 
  • Advocated for stronger farmed animal transport regulations. 
  • Called for action on delayed farm animal cruelty charges

With your help, we’ll do even more to help animals in 2019.  Please donate to ensure this work continues. Your support means more animals will be helped, giving them the chance to live the happy lives they deserve.


Thank you and Happy New Year
from all of us at the Vancouver Humane Society!


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On Giving Tuesday you can fight factory farm cruelty and help rescued animals

The Vancouver Humane Society and The Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary are partnering to raise funds to help animals now and in the future

Every year in Canada, more than 800 million animals are raised on cruel factory farms before they are sent for slaughter. They suffer from confinement and from being denied the chance to live and behave naturally.  Yet science has shown that each animal, just like your pet cat or dog, has his or her own unique personality. That’s why we say every animal is someone, not something.

This year, on Giving Tuesday, November 27th, we are again partnering with The Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary to make life better for farmed animals.  Giving Tuesday is the annual opportunity to put your dollars toward a cause that’s near and dear to your heart – this year, we hope you’ll make it the plight of animals on factory farms.  All donations will be split between both charities.

At VHS, we work year-round to draw public and media attention to the treatment of farmed animals. Our Go Veg campaign encourages people to try a plant-based diet, which reduces the demand that drives factory farming. We’ve launched our Meatless Monday initiative in 17 Metro Vancouver secondary and post-secondary schools, helping to introduce a compassionate, healthy and sustainable diet to the next generation.  And our rodeo campaign is exposing cruelty and showing that “livestock” are not just commodities to be brutalized for entertainment, but sentient animals capable of feeling physical and emotional pain.

Our partners at The Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary have shown how rescued farmed animals, free of cruelty and confinement, can flourish as individuals. The sanctuary provides a forever home for all types of animals where they can live out their entire lives in a beautiful, natural setting where they are treated with kindness and respect. Visiting Happy Herd and meeting the animals can be a life-changing experience. You will quickly see them as “friends, not food.”

On November 27th, you can donate directly to our joint appeal, but you can also help by supporting the generous (and cruelty-free) local businesses who are partnering with VHS and Happy Herd. On Giving Tuesday, they will be launching a variety of special offers and promotions, all raising funds to help us help animals.  Watch our website and social media channels for updates as we get closer to November 27th – or sign up for our action alerts.

Giving Tuesday is your chance to make life better for farmed animals.  Don’t miss it!



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This year, have a compassionate, plant-based Thanksgiving

Try these plant-based ideas for Thanksgiving Dinner

Every year in Canada, 20 million turkeys are slaughtered, with many ending up on dinner tables for Thanksgiving.

Most turkeys are bred for fast growth, which causes them to be top-heavy, leading to painful bone deformities and lameness. Most are raised in cramped conditions on factory farms, where they suffer boredom and frustration because they lack the space to express natural behaviours. They are also subjected to painful beak trimming and toe trimming without pain medication.

A plant-based Thanksgiving is a compassionate alternative to eating turkeys or other animals for the celebration. The good news is that there are plenty of  cruelty-free options and resources for a meat-free holiday.  Here are our suggestions on how to enjoy a compassionate Thanksgiving dinner in Vancouver.

A great option is the Annual Compassionate Thanksgiving Potluck Celebration on October 8th, which this year is being hosted by Vancouver’s Meatless Meetup and Vegans of UBC. Proceeds from this family-friendly event will go to cover costs and to support Earthsave Canada’s school talks program.

If your budget allows some fine dining, Vancouver’s upscale plant-based restaurant, The Acorn, is offering an ‘Everything but the Bird Thanksgiving Feast’ on October 7th and 8th, which it says will be an “indulgent, wildly seasonal” three-course dinner for $45 per person with optional wine pairings.

But if, like most people, you plan to prepare your own holiday dinner, there’s no shortage of alternatives to turkey.  There are a number of great meatless roasts available from Vancouver’s Vegan Supply, including offerings from Gardein, Field Roast and Tofurky.

And, of course, there are plenty of online recipes and suggestions for a plant-based Thanksgiving.  The Oh She Glows recipe website offers lots of ideas, as does The Food Network and even this Toronto yoga centre’s site.

Plant-based choices for special celebrations are increasingly common, making it easy to enjoy a cruelty-free holiday feast. 

Have a happy – and compassionate – Thanksgiving!







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Best way to improve chicken welfare? Don’t eat chicken.

The meat and livestock industry has been under sustained pressure to improve animal welfare but sometimes their responses to that pressure, even when genuine, can create complicated new problems.

Recently, the Globe & Mail published an article on the challenges of producing “slow growth” chickens. It described the efforts by producers to address the consequences of selective breeding in the poultry industry, which has led to fast-growing chickens with horrific health problems.

Chickens raised in the 1950s weighed about two pounds when full grown. Now chickens weigh more than nine pounds.  Breeding for unnatural fast growth and more breast meat has created birds that suffer from painful broken bones, lameness, and heart disease.

The Globe piece details how industry, agricultural scientists and animal welfare experts are trying to produce a “better bird” that will appeal to consumers, have better health, be profitable to raise and be environmentally sustainable.  This is proving to be challenging, as slower-growth birds require substantially more water and feed (because they live longer), which means more impact on the environment and higher production costs.  Considerable resources are now being devoted to solving this conundrum.

While any effort to improve animal welfare is laudable, it’s hard to avoid the obvious question: Why not just stop eating chicken?  The advantages of switching to a plant-based diet are clear and well-documented.  For animals, lower demand for meat means less factory farming and slaughter. For the environment it means less deforestation, lower greenhouse gas emissions and less demand for land, water and other resources.  For human health, it means fewer chronic health problems linked to meat consumption.

The resources currently being devoted to producing “better” factory-farmed animals could be devoted to developing a new, plant-based food system.  Science funding could be applied to research into alternatives to animal protein, improvements to protein crops such as pulses and ways to use these crops in new food products.  Government could support public information campaigns to promote a plant-based diet, help plant-based start-ups and invest in research and development to underpin a new agricultural economy that no longer depends on inhumanely incarcerating and slaughtering billions of animals.

To a small degree, this is already happening.  The new Canada Food Guide is expected to put more emphasis on the benefits of a plant-based diet.  The federal government has started to fund major initiatives to develop plant-based foods.  And polls show many Canadians are open to reducing meat consumption.  The opportunity is there, but is the political will?

While a transition to a plant-based food system faces many barriers and will take time, it is the simplest and most effective way to address the unacceptable consequences of our current cruel, unhealthy and environmentally disastrous food system. 

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Wild Trails Coffee in North Vancouver goes vegan

Wild Trails Coffee is a family-run coffee shop based in North Vancouver. VHS spoke with this mother-daughter team about their decision to make the coffee shop fully vegan and their commitment to helping protect animal welfare, the environment and public health. 

What inspired you to open Wild Trails Coffee and what do you think sets you apart from other coffee shops? 

We’re a mother-daughter team and my mom opened this shop about 30 years ago. It used to be called Mothers Herbs. When I became involved about five years ago I wanted to focus on coffees and a lot of inspiration came from my love of hiking. I spent a year working on our coffee syrups, perfecting them using real organic ingredients and no chemicals or fake added sugars.

As a business owner I didn’t want to cut corners and care only about profit. You can be a business that does well while caring about the Earth, animals and people, and that’s what we do at Wild Trails Coffee and what we’re about. We are a business that cares about doing our part to make the world a better place and will go the extra mile for people, animals and the planet.

You recently posted online about the shop’s decision to ditch dairy and go fully vegan – can you tell us about the motivation behind that decision?

I’ve been vegan for a long time now and it just never felt right using dairy, so my mom and I decided to replace it with dairy-free alternatives in the shop and now our shop is 100% vegan! We didn’t think so many people would care, but we were blown away by the support and we knew we made the right choice.

You also talk about the shop’s commitment to sustainability on your website – can you tell us about that?

We work hard to reduce our environmental footprint. All of our cups, straws and lids are compostable and we also compost everything we can within the shop. We work with a company to recycle the rest and even go through our garbage at the end of the day to make sure everything that can be recycled is.

What are your most popular items?

Our specialty coffee drinks, like our Wedgemount Lake Vanilla Latte and Elsay Lake Pumpkin Spice Latte are among our most popular items. We use real pumpkin and vanilla bean for our syrups. Our smoothies are very popular as well and we don’t use any ice, just frozen organic fruit. We also use water kefir as the base for our smoothies, which is a dairy-free probiotic that’s made in-house with spring water collected weekly from a local spring.

Elsay Lake Pumpkin Spice Latte
Wedgemount Lake Vanilla Latte










Do you have any helpful advice for other restaurants and businesses who might be considering going vegan?

Go for it! We need more businesses to stand up for animals and as business owners who care about these issues we recognized we were in a position to do more. There’s growing support and more people are embracing veganism every day! It’s also a great way to educate people about the impact of our food choices and to lead by example.

Wild Trails Coffee is located at 134 East 14th Street, North Vancouver. You can reach them at 604-988-4372 or follow them on facebook and instagram

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Handsworth student wins award for Meatless Monday efforts

Handsworth Secondary student, Meghan Little, was recently presented with a Student Recognition Award for her efforts to bring Meatless Monday to her school. Meghan’s peers and teachers nominated her for the award and even put together a video highlighting her work. The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) was honoured to be in attendance at the awards ceremony to celebrate Meghan’s success.

VHS Program Coordinator, Emily Pickett, first met Meghan at Handsworth’s Be Aware Fair, where VHS was tabling and talking to students about our Meatless Monday program. Meghan was keen to bring the initiative to Handsworth and so she worked with VHS, the school’s Environmental Club (of which she was a member) and the food service provider to get more veg options on the menu.

Handsworth’s Meatless Monday initiative was successfully launched on November 20, 2017 and Meghan and fellow Environmental Club members have been raising awareness of the benefits of going meatless and encouraging students and staff to opt for the Meatless Monday special ever since!

Meghan’s leadership and dedication to protecting animal welfare, the environment and public health were instrumental in improving student access to plant-based foods at multiple North Vancouver secondary schools. Meghan’s efforts inspired students at other schools to get involved and ultimately helped contribute to the recent commitment by local food service provider, Amaga Food, to expand on Meatless Monday by transitioning 20 per cent of the regular menu to plant-based at five North Vancouver secondary schools (Handsworth, Sutherland, Argyle, Windsor and Seycove secondary), starting this fall. This means students and staff will have access to humane, healthy and sustainable plant-based options every day!

“It’s exciting to see all the positive changes at Handsworth,” said Meghan. “The 20 per cent increase in plant-based options shows how open our community is to change and progress. I’m hoping our efforts for Meatless Monday will inspire other students to follow their passions and to make positive changes as well.”

This achievement would not have been possible without the help of Meghan, Handsworth’s Environmental Club and the incredibly dedicated students involved at the other participating North Vancouver secondary schools. As a grade 12 graduate, Meghan leaves behind a meaningful and inspirational legacy at Handsworth and is excited to attend the University of British Columbia in the fall, where we look forward to continuing to support her efforts to spread the “go veg” message!

Learn more about Meatless Monday and donate today to help us improve access to plant-based options at more schools and institutions.

You can also check out a recent feature on Meghan’s efforts in the North Shore News!