Speak out to end the inhumane live export of horses

Please support the call to the federal government to ban the live export of horses for human consumption.

This inhumane trade involves draft horses, known as “gentle giants”, being shipped live in wooden crates to Japan and for slaughter for human consumption. Since 2014, more than 27,000 draft horses have been live exported by air, primarily to Japan, for slaughter.

VHS has signed a joint letter to the federal Minister of Agriculture, calling for the Canadian government to stop the inhumane shipments of draft horses to other countries for slaughter.

You can help by signing the House of Commons E-petition, which calls for an end to “air shipments of horses exported for human consumption, due to ongoing animal welfare concerns inherent in this practice.”


Support a ban on cruel wildlife poisons

Show your support for banning inhumane and indiscriminate wildlife poisons

Wildlife poisons have become a growing animal welfare, environmental and public safety concern in recent years. The baited poisons, used to address conflicts with unwanted wildlife, cause a slow and painful death for the animals that consume them. They also have a wider ecosystem impact and can contribute to secondary or non-target poisoning of countless other animals, including birds of prey, scavengers and even domestic pets.

Every year, stories of poisoned wildlife and domestic animals make news headlines, and those stories are just a small glimpse of a much more widespread problem. In fact, B.C.-based Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) noted that a few years ago a blood test study found that more than half of the animals in their care had poison residue in their system.

Growing public awareness surrounding this issue has led to increased calls for a ban of these poisons. A recent federal House of Commons e-petition is calling on the Canadian government to ban three common poisons used to control predators. In B.C., close to 20 municipalities have passed motions to address rodent poisons on municipal property and the provincial government is being encouraged to ban rodenticides across B.C.

Take Action

1. Join VHS, other organizations, and advocates in calling on the B.C. government and municipalities to ban rodenticides. Take the pledge below to show your support! For more information about this issue please see the rodenticide fact sheet and shared briefing note.

2. The official federal House of Commons e-petition is calling for a ban on three common predator poisons (strychnine, compound 1080, and sodium cyanide). The e-petition is now closed. Stay tuned for updates!


VHS to present research at the National Animal Welfare Conference

We are excited to announce that we are a part of this year’s virtual National Animal Welfare Conference (NAWC) hosted by Humane Canada!

On April 8th, 2021, VHS’s Lead Researcher Celeste Morales will present alongside our research partner from Thompson Rivers University Dr. Rochelle Stevenson. The interactive session is titled Program Design and Staff Training for Decolonized &  Trauma-Informed Service Delivery

Celeste and Dr. Stevenson will discuss our current research project. This project explores how animal seizure, surrender, and outreach practices can be updated to reflect a One Welfare, decolonized, and trauma-informed approach. 

Unfortunately, under current service structures structurally vulnerable persons may be re-traumatized by common service delivery practices. Animal welfare is at risk when new animals are acquired with the same neglect issues occurring as the ones experienced by the surrendered or seized animals. The aim of this project is to establish a knowledge base for avoiding the re-traumatization of structurally vulnerable persons, and provide tools to support animal service agencies in combatting this cycle

This presentation will discuss the results of our research and offer  four key takeaways for animal service providers:

 1) How to implement a trauma-informed approach when assisting structurally vulnerable folks (e.g. focusing on pet retention through intake diversion rather than rehoming);

2) How to build an outreach-first and prevention-based model (e.g. through community engagement/collaboration);

3) How to update the practices and processes of addressing animal neglect to ensure cultural awareness, sensitivity, and safety  (e.g. best practices and suggested policies);

 4) How to better address staff experiences of compassion fatigue and burnout, which in the absence of a trauma-informed approach to service provision, can contribute to the re-traumatization of clients (e.g. by updating mental health policies and resources available to staff). 

The presentation will also allow participants to jump start the process of an organization transformation plan by engaging in active exercises. Workshop participants will also gain early access to the pilot training program for their organizations. 

We hope to see you there!


Giving Tuesday raises $10,645 for farmed animals

We are delighted to announce that our joint Giving Tuesday campaign with the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary raised a grand total of $10,645. These funds will help with Happy Herd’s veterinary expenses and VHS’s programs, including Plant-Based Plates and GoVeg, to improve the lives of farmed animals.

Thank you so much to everyone who donated towards our campaign. We’d also like to thank the following businesses that participated in our campaign:

BRED, Chickpea, Down 2 Earth, Ergogenics, Kayefleur, Kind Café, Kula Kitchen, Lita’s Mexican Foods, Lotus Seed Vegan, Modern Meat, Nice Shoes, Panago, Plant Veda, Sprouted Oven by Silver Hills Bakery,         Sy’s Vegan Bistro, The Pie Hole, Vegan Supply, Vegan Yarn Studio, Veronica’s Gourmet Perogies, Westpoint Naturals, Willow’s Wax Bar.


Author and VHS McVitie Fund founder is an animal champion

Nicholas Read has been supporting the Vancouver Humane Society for more than 20 years.

As a journalist with the Vancouver Sun in the 1980s through to the early 2000s, Nicholas had a popular animal rights column and wrote many stories about animal issues. This included coverage of some of VHS’s campaigns. Nicholas was the reporter who broke the story of the Greater Vancouver Zoo’s plan to sell long-suffering Tina the Elephant to another zoo in 2003, which sparked a successful VHS campaign to have her sent to a sanctuary.

Nicholas also founded VHS’s McVitie Fund, named after his cat McVitie, who he rescued while on holiday in Portugal. When McVitie died in 2003, Nicholas realized that not every animal guardian has the financial security to provide for their animal when they get sick or injured. “People have enough to worry about when their animal gets sick, without having to think about using their rent money to pay for veterinary bills.” The McVitie Fund offers a safety net for vulnerable individuals on low income.

As well as working as a journalist, Nicholas is a prolific writer, having authored 11 books ranging from novels for young adults that address farmed animal issues, to exploratory books on the Great Bear Rainforest.

Nicholas’s most recent book, A Home Away from Home, details true stories of wild and exotic animals that were once kept as pets or used for entertainment and have since been rehomed in wild animal sanctuaries. This book is an eye-opening read for us all.

“There is no defence for wild animals being kept as pets or in captivity. My hope from this book is that people will think twice about adopting an exotic as a pet, going to the circus, or going to SeaWorld.” A Home Away from Home is available to purchase through the Greyhaven Bird Sanctuary website.

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Nicholas for his ongoing generous support of VHS.


Still no action from Canada on global wildlife trade

Last year, VHS drew attention to the trade in wild and exotic animals with two campaigns, one urging the federal government to ban the international trade and the other asking the B.C. government to strengthen regulation of exotic animal ownership in the province. Nearly 7000 people signed our petitions and we had four opinion editorials published in the media on the issue.

Despite calls from experts to take action against the global wildlife trade, which scientists believe is a likely source of COVID-19, there has been no response from Canada. You can still sign the petition urging the federal government to take action.


Big plant-based plans for 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of changes in food production and consumption toward fewer animal-based products and more plant-based food production and consumption. Experts have warned that the unnatural and unhealthy conditions of intensive animal farming could lead to the rise of new diseases that threaten public health.

VHS’s work to support diet and food system change that benefits animals, people and the planet has continued in the midst of the pandemic. We’ve participated in two important food-related government consultations recently – the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s proposed changes to guidelines for meat alternative products and the Vancouver Park Board’s Local Food Action Plan. In our submissions to both consultations, we reiterated the importance of government support in improving public education and access to plant-based food.

We’ve also been hard at work on a cost-benefit analysis that demonstrates the impact of enacting a food purchasing policy for municipalities that replaces 20 percent of animal-based products with plant-based foods. This report allows us to engage with municipal decision-makers and encourage a transition toward policies in favour of more plant-based foods.

Over the holidays, we compiled an animal-free shopping guide to share humane gift ideas and promote local products and businesses in a time when many are struggling due to the pandemic. The list includes restaurants, food, beverage and dessert companies, as well as pet, beauty, cleaning, bedding and clothing products.

2021 got off to an exciting start for our farmed animal programming, with the addition of a new staff person joining the VHS team! Julia McCann joins us as a Program Coordinator for the Go Veg and Plant-Based Plates programs. From Ontario, Julia moved to B.C in 2019 and is thrilled to be living on the West Coast. She completed a Masters of Environmental Studies from Queen’s University and is passionate about developing sustainable food systems. Her background includes work and volunteering with non-profits in food security/justice, emergency food distribution, community gardens, sustainable and local agriculture and community development. We look forward to Julia’s help in expanding the reach of our farmed animal programs.


Stop cruel and dangerous mink farming

VHS has been taking action against the cruel and dangerous mink farming industry.

Mink farming not only compromises animal welfare, but also creates potential risks to public health, as the spread of COVID-19 on B.C. mink farms has shown. Mink are confined in small, wire cages for the duration of their lives, denying them the opportunity to engage in the natural behaviours that they would exhibit in the wild. This can cause stress, leading to stereotypic behaviour and self-mutilation.

The transmission of COVID-19 to mink has caused mutation of the virus in other countries. This has raised concern about risks of increased transmissibility, vaccine efficacy and the potential for farmed mink to infect wild populations, leading to virus reservoirs outside of direct human control.

We have written to B.C.’s minister of agriculture to call for an end to fur farming in the province and made a submission to the National Farm Animal Care Council’s review of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Mink.


VHS speaks out against proposed delay to pig housing transition

In November, proposed changes to Canada’s pig farming standards prompted VHS to launch a new advocacy campaign focused on pig welfare. The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), composed mostly of representatives from the animal agriculture industry, creates ‘codes of practice’ that serve as standards for the industry.

In 2014, NFACC’s update to the pig code of practice included a commitment to end the continuous use of gestation stalls for pregnant pigs and to transition to open housing by 2024. Gestation stalls are individual stalls that are so small that pigs are unable to turn around or engage in any natural behaviours. Animal welfare scientists, veterinarians and other experts have described gestation stalls as one of the cruelest forms of animal confinement and the equivalent to living in an airline seat. Meanwhile, the Retail Council of Canada, which represents grocery retailers, promised a similar move, through product sourcing, away from gestation stalls and toward alternative housing by the end of 2022.

Now, NFACC is attempting to extend their gestation stall deadline until 2029, leaving thousands of pregnant pigs to continue suffering in gestation stalls. VHS’s campaign called on the industry and Retail Council to keep their original housing transition commitments. To date, more than 4100 VHS supporters have joined us in speaking up for pigs. VHS will continue to monitor this important welfare issue moving forward.


Report highlights best practices for providing low-cost veterinary services

What’s the best way to support people and their pets in need? Grateful for funding we received from the Vancouver Foundation, we explored this question from a few different perspectives. The outcome? A report and a webinar (both available here).

This new report, which has been translated into French and was sent to nearly 1000 animal service agencies across the country, highlights how important it is to provide care from a trauma-informed and ‘One Welfare’ perspective. This means providing services that recognize the experiences of marginalized people and giving them time and space to tell their story and express their needs. It also includes, at times, serving as a translator between the veterinarian and the client. We all know that in a time of stress it can be difficult to remember the instructions from a veterinarian. This can be even more intense for low-income individuals who are experiencing other stressors in their lives.

Do pets experience trauma? Research suggests that they do, particularly from grief around the loss of a loved one. We knew that people suffered when they had to give up their loyal animal companions because they couldn’t afford to pay for veterinary care. Now, we’ve learned that we must consider the experience of the animal, too.

We also learned about the importance of building trusting relationships with the clients we serve and finding out all of the barriers they experience to accessing care. Some marginalized folks have been discriminated against, such as being asked to pay for a veterinary visit up front while privileged folks at the same clinic are invoiced at the end of the visit. We learned about people being told that they couldn’t have their pet back until they paid in full (which is not a legal practice, but they weren’t aware of their rights).

We know this is just the beginning of this work. By the end of 2021, we aim to have a training program launched for animal service agencies across the country to apply a trauma-informed lens when they are serving marginalized clients. It will mean better outcomes for both people and animals.