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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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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.

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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.”

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Animal rescue standards of practice – have your say!

The Animal Welfare Network of British Columbia (AWANBC) is currently seeking public feedback on draft standards for rescues. Follow this link for more information and to submit comments – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9G8NSQ7

The AWANBC, of which the Vancouver Humane Society is a member, aims to enable animal welfare organizations to work together and to support strategies around specific projects and initiatives associated with companion animal welfare.

One such AWANBC project is focused on creating rescue standards of practice. To date, there are no criteria required for groups to be involved in animal welfare or rescue and there is no accountability for these organizations. Meanwhile, the number of animal rescues and shelters across the province continues to grow. While many have high standards of care, others may have practices that put animals and the public at risk.

Without standards of practice, any group can self-identify as a rescue and it can be difficult for the public to determine if a rescue group is reputable or not. AWANBC has identified this as a pressing animal welfare and public safety issue and has worked to develop Animal Rescue Standards of Practice.

Follow this link for more information on the standards and to submit comments – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9G8NSQ7

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B.C.’s Hunting & Trapping Regulations – Have Your Say!

The provincial government is currently seeking public feedback on a long list of proposed hunting and trapping regulations. This is an opportunity to weigh in on wildlife conservation and welfare issues in your area and throughout the province.

Weapons for Big Game Hunting

There are currently no regulations in place preventing big game hunters from using alternative or primitive weapons such as slingshots, spears and airguns. Citing concerns surrounding a higher likelihood of unnecessary suffering, a proposed regulation seeks to prohibit the use of any weapon other than a firearm or bow.

No Hunting/Shooting Zone along Sea to Sky Highway

Another regulation proposes a new no hunting and no shooting zone along the Sea to Sky highway. Unlike many other highways in the province, the stretch of highway 99 between Squamish and Pemberton or the Callaghan Road near Whistler currently has no restrictions on hunting or shooting within 400m of the highway. The area is a popular spot for locals, hikers and tourists. Tragically, in 2017 a hunter in the area fatally shot a dog that he mistook for a wolf (despite the area being closed to wolf hunting), prompting calls by the dog’s owner and the public for a no shooting and no hunting zone along the route.

Use of Technology to Locate Wildlife 

Several proposals also seek to prohibit the use of technology to assist hunters, including banning infrared optics (or thermal imaging) which enable hunters to see the heat signature of animal that is otherwise invisible to the naked eye; wireless trail cameras that when triggered send images of wildlife to a remote device and provide a hunter with the location of wildlife; and the sharing of location of wildlife from an aircraft to a hunter on the ground. The rationale behind banning this type of equipment for hunting purposes is that the use of it fails to meet the principles of fair chase, giving hunters an unfair advantage over wildlife. VHS is concerned that the use of such technology for hunting is turning B.C.’s backcountry into a canned hunt scenario, where the ability for wildlife to avoid human detection is increasingly diminished.

Pursuit-only Season for Cougars

Another proposed regulation aims to ban the pursuit-only season for cougars in the Kootenay region, where existing regulations allow hunters who have killed their allotment of cougars to continue chasing and treeing the animals with their hounds. The rationale behind permitting a pursuit-only season was to allow houndsmen to train and exercise their dogs, but the cruel practice not only causes unnecessary stress to the animals, but can lead to injury for the cougar and the hounds, as well as the separation of mothers and kittens.

Numerous other regulations focused on motorized vehicle and firearm restrictions and changes to specific hunting seasons are also being proposed. For example, a proposal to end wolverine trapping in the Kootenays; implement a mule deer bow only season on Gulf, Denman and Hornby Islands; prohibit the use of precision-guided firearms and scopes on bows during bow-only seasons; and changes to black bear hunting seasons within the traditional territory of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation in the Great Bear Rainforest in order to support bear viewing tourism efforts by the Nation.

How to Submit Comments

For the full list of proposed regulations, click here. The public comment period ends January 19, 2020 at midnight. To participate through the government’s engagement website, you’ll need to register for a “Basic BCeID” account. Once you’ve created a BCeID, return to the main hunting/trapping regulation page and click login. Once you’ve logged in, it will return you to the main page and you can scroll through the list of proposals. On each proposal page, you’ll be able to scroll to the bottom and select “support”, “neutral” or “oppose”. You’ll also be able to leave a comment, if you’d like to elaborate on your position.

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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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VHS has a new Executive Director!

VHS is pleased to announce that Amy Morris has been appointed as Executive Director.

Amy joins VHS from the BC SPCA, where she most recently served as Public Policy and Outreach Manager/Policy and Companion Animals Manager. Amy has wide experience in the animal protection movement, campaigning for policy changes at the municipal, provincial and federal levels to curtail animal exploitation.

Successes include updating municipal bylaws to restrict chaining dogs and the sale of animals in pet stores, along with introducing a framework to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to regulate cat and dog breeding. She has also worked on improving access to housing for people with companion animals and managed a team to produce a strategy for reducing the suffering of unwanted cats in B.C.

Amy has considerable knowledge of farmed animal welfare issues, having worked for five months on four farms to gain first hand understanding of the animals’ experience and welfare.

Holding a Master of Public Policy from Simon Fraser University (focusing on policies to regulate dog breeding), Amy has used her knowledge and skills to bring about real and positive change in animal protection. Having started as a volunteer with the Montreal SPCA, where she helped to care for animals from puppy mill seizures and hoarding situations, Amy has had a lifelong commitment to improving the lives of animals.

Amy lives in Vancouver with her family, including Clover, a communicative and assertive three-year-old collie shepherd. She will take up her post in mid-January.

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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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Larry’s Market: the new vegetarian grocery store with a mission to provide “Healthy Food Conveniently”

Larry’s Market owner Ryan Dennis has brought in chef Haley Parrent to prepare menus for specific dietary needs. Photo by Mike Wakefield/North Shore News 

Since opening it’s doors this July, vegetarian grocery store Larry’s Market, located at North Vancouver Shipyards, has been a big hit with Vancouverites looking to buy healthy food, conveniently!  VHS asked Ryan Dennis, the owner of Larry’s Market, what inspired his new venture, after spending the past 25 years in the grocery industry, before deciding to open his own store. 

What inspired the opening of Larry’s Market?

My wife was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2017.  We had to make some decisions on what healthy eating looked like for our family after this health scare.  After researching, we decided that a plant-based diet was the way to go.  We weren’t able to find a lot of options in grocery stores, so we decided we would create an option.  We are happy we did and now we successfully serve North Vancouver’s Shipyards District with Vegetarian groceries, coffee and grab and go restaurant food.  My wife is now healthy and is helping me run Larry’s Market.

Why do you think it’s a good time to open a plant-based business?  

We feel that communities are shifting to more plant-based diets.  People are eating less meat and seafood.  The timing is great because people are being educated by the many documentaries and reports that are continually being released that support plant-based diets.

What demographics will you be targeting? 

The demographic is all across the board.  We are seeing young people that are educating themselves and retired folks that are looking for “food as thy medicine”.  The professionals that are on the go and looking for a convenient meal are returning for their favourite salad, sandwich or pizza daily.

What has the response been so far from Vancouver consumers?

Vancouver has accepted us very well.  We are seeing people from all over the Lower Mainland that are making us a destination.  People are always asking us to expand to their neighbourhood so they don’t have to drive over to the North Shore.

Everything in your store is vegetarian or vegan, how will you win over carnivores?

Our store is all vegetarian and our menu is over 75% vegan.  We are accepting of all people.  We want to be the bridge between the vegan and the carnivore.  More people are looking to decrease the amount of meat they eat and we want them at Larry’s. 

What challenges do you think you will face?

Most commonly asked question at Larry’s Market.  How do I get enough protein?  We answer with the solutions that we have in store that have been designed to increase the amount of protein that a person gets in their diet.

What has been the biggest challenge in launching your business?

The biggest challenge in launching is providing the customer with different products than they can get in a regular supermarket.  The product range that we are building is very unique and we continuously get people telling us our products are very cool and unique.

Do you think the market for plant-based food will continue to grow?

We know that the market will continue to grow.  We know that this isn’t a trend it is a way of life that more and more people are taking on.  On the daily we have people coming in saying that they have just started their new plant-based way of life.

What’s on the menu in your store? 

Our store is famous for our salads.  We have teamed up with Brian Skinner, famous for the Acorn Restaurant and now in Kelowna for Frankie we Salute you, to get recipes that are amazing and taste great.  Vegetarian Pizza’s are unique and our best seller is our Spicy Cauliflower pizza.  Sandwiches are led by our Chickpea Tuna which outsells our other sandwiches by quite a bit.

If Larry’s Market North Vancouver is a success would you consider expanding to more locations?

We will be expanding Larry’s in the near future.  Stay tuned.

Larry’s Market is located at: 140-125 Victoria Ship Way, BC V7L 0G5
(604) 999-0998  https://www.larrysmarket.ca