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New shocks follow Europe’s horsemeat scandal!

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The horsemeat scandal that has rocked Europe may be just the tip of the iceberg, as new revelations about the food supply emerge.  European consumers expressed revulsion when it was revealed that frozen lasagne and other products where contaminated with up to 100 per cent horsemeat.

But now a new shock about food products has turned the stomachs of shoppers and diners in Britain and across the continent:  It has emerged that the flesh of other dead animals, not just horses, is rampant throughout the food system.  For example, it has been revealed that dishes such as roast lamb and lamb stew actually contain the flesh of a baby animal of the same name.  Investigators have also discovered that the entrée known as veal is made from another baby animal called a calf.  There are now indications that the entire human diet may be contaminated with the flesh of a range of dead animals.

British consumers interviewed about the revelations were appalled.  “You mean every Sunday I’ve been eating one of the cute little spring lambs I’ve taken my children to see in the countryside?” said one horrified woman.

A man in a pub refused to finish his lunch when told that steak and kidney pie actually contains the organs of a slaughtered animal.  “What, you mean the kidney is actually a kidney?” said the disgusted diner.

Another diner, who said he had been sick to learn about horses being used for food because they were so sensitive and intelligent, was dumbstruck when told that his ham sandwich was made from a sensitive and intelligent animal called a pig.

Government officials have suggested that the contamination may be the work of “organized criminal gangs” who have introduced the flesh into the food chain.  There are dark rumours that this may even have happened on a global scale, with so-called “factory farms” keeping billions of animals in inhumane conditions before killing them and distributing their body parts for huge profits.

However, scientists and bureaucrats have dismissed the rumours, stating that it’s unthinkable for such a cruel system to exist.  “It’s impossible to believe that anyone could organize something so brutal on such a scale,” said one official.  “No civilized society would ever allow such a thing to happen.”

An environmental expert said such a system would also be unsustainable.  “It would use up an enormous amount of resources, pollute our air, land and water and contribute to climate change through massive releases of greenhouse gases,” he said.   “The human race would never be so self-destructive.”

And health officials say that if people were eating a diet heavy in animal flesh we would be seeing high rates of obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  “It just couldn’t happen,” said one medical expert.  “It would be almost suicidal for society to take up such a diet and we’re a lot smarter than that.”

 

 

 

 

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Can you help find Levi?

Levi, a mini Australian Shepherd, went missing on December 18 in the area of 13th Avenue and Clark Drive in Vancouver.  He was last seen on December 23 near Kingsway and Glen.

His guardians are desperate to find him and have advised that he is extremely shy and will run away if called or chased.  So if you see him please call 778-847-7045.  He is also registered with 24 hour pet watch, 866-597-2424. Microchip #0A12206166.  A reward is offered.

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Tonka’s back on her paws

It doesn’t look like it, but this little girl had a lucky break.  Seven-month-old Tonka fell off a deck earlier this year and snapped both her front legs.  Her horrified guardians rushed her to a vet where her legs were set in casts, but they also learned she would need surgery to insert pins and plates that would save the use of Tonka’s legs.  The cost was substantial and despite borrowing and scraping together every cent they could, the amount still came up short.  Fortunately, VHS was able to help out through our McVitie Fund for sick and injured animals.  Tonka got her operation and she’s expected to make a full recovery.

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Holiday potluck dinner

The Vancouver Meatless Meetup Group is teaming up with the Vancouver Humane Society for a fundraising potluck dinner on Saturday, December 15th. There are still a few openings, but they’re going fast! There will be lots of prizes to be raffled off, including two Christmas packages from LUSH (would make a great Christmas gift!), and gift certificates to restaurants and vegan stores. More info here. We hope to see you there!

We’re grateful to these wonderful businesses who have donated gifts to our raffle (please patronize them this holiday season):

LUSH Cosmetics

Karmavore Vegan Specialty Shop and Café

Nice Shoes – specializing in vegan shoes

3G Vegetarian Restaurant

Bandidas Taqueria

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Why we say “eat less meat”

Visitors to the VHS website will note that we have a project called ‘Eat less meat,’ which provides information on the consequences of meat production and consumption.  It explains the animal suffering caused by factory farming and also refers to the negative impacts on the environment and human health. And, obviously, it encourages people to respond to these issues by eating less meat.

For some, especially ethical vegans and vegetarians, eating “less” meat may seem a tepid response to a system responsible for the slaughter and abuse of billions of animals.

It’s absolutely true that veganism, abstaining from all animal products, is the best response to factory farming and other forms of  animal cruelty.  If all human beings were vegan an immense amount of animal suffering would simply disappear.  It’s something worth aiming for, as both a personal goal and as an ideal for human society.

VHS’s position is that any movement toward that goal should be encouraged and that no one who falls short should be demonized.  So a heavy meat-eater who reduces meat consumption or a flexitarian who becomes a vegetarian or a vegetarian who becomes a vegan should all be applauded.  They are all on the same path and they are all making a difference.

Animal advocates, academics and philosophers are currently engaged in complex debates about human responsibilities toward animals and the moral issues surrounding meat consumption. Sadly, these debates can be bitter and divisive, leaving the animal rights movement fractured and fractious.

To outside observers it can sometimes appear that the debate is about competing for moral purity rather than addressing animal suffering.  Negative stereotypes of vegans and vegetarians, often fostered by the media, portray them as intolerant, humourless zealots.  Such misconceptions, though unfair and untrue, do have to be taken into account when encouraging people to address farm animal suffering by moving toward a plant-based diet.  Perceptions matter.

There is some evidence that omnivores resent ethical vegetarians because they perceive (inaccurately) that they are being harshly judged.  It is possible that the very people the animal rights movement wants to engage on this issue are being turned off by this perceived “holier-than-thou” attitude.  They feel demonized as morally inferior before anyone can even begin a discussion with them about the benefits of reducing or eliminating meat consumption.

That’s why VHS advocates eating less meat.  Anyone can do that.  And, once you start, it’s not hard to reduce meat consumption one step at a time.  There has never been a time when cutting out meat was so easy.  There are more meatless options in supermarkets and restaurants than ever.  There are more vegetarian and vegan cookbooks available and a wealth of online information on plant-based diets.

There are also plenty of studies showing why reducing meat consumption is good for human health, the environment and, of course, animals.  More people are becoming aware of these facts.  By becoming one of them and taking whatever steps you can to address the issue, you can make a difference.

 

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No justice for sled dogs

The sentence given to Robert Fawcett for his animal cruelty conviction in the case of the slaughter of 56 sled dogs, shows that our justice system still places a low value on the lives and welfare of animals.

Fawcett received three years probation and a fine of $1500 despite being convicted of “causing unnecessary pain and suffering to animals” in a case that shocked and outraged people around the world.  The maximum penalty for the offence is five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

VHS believes a heavier sentence, including jail time, would have been appropriate and would have sent a signal to the public that animal cruelty is a serious crime that will not be tolerated in our society.

It is equally disappointing that, despite the public outcry over the massacre of the Whistler sled dogs, it is still perfectly legal for sled dog operators to shoot unwanted dogs.  It is also still legal for sled dogs to be tethered or chained outdoors for long periods, a practice that is clearly inhumane.  While new regulations have been applied to  the sled dog industry, no new resources have been made available to the BC SPCA to enforce them.

The B.C. government’s decision to increase the penalties for convictions under the provincial Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (prompted by the case), was welcome.   However, this does nothing to prevent healthy sled dogs from being shot when they are surplus to an operator’s requirements and there are no homes available for them.

The sad truth is that sled dogs will continue to be commodities open to exploitation for profit by an industry that is not known for putting their welfare first.  It should be remembered that Mr. Fawcett was not just some rogue operator or bad apple.  He served as vice-president on the board of Mush with Pride, a leading international sled dog industry group, until he was voted off when the Whistler massacre became public knowledge.  He was a well-known and leading figure in the sled dog world.  Surely, that says something about the industry as a whole.

In our view, dogs should be companions, not commodities.  They should only be euthanised when they are too old or too sick to live comfortably – and euthanasia should be by lethal injection carried out by a vet.  They should not be left tied to posts for long hours or pushed to their physical limits in races just to entertain people.  They should be cherished for their intrinsic value, not their economic value.

 

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Wolf kill contest should be cancelled

                             Photo: Ian McAllister, Pacificwild.org

A report in the Vancouver Sun describes a disturbing contest in Fort St. John, B.C., in which prizes are to be awarded for killing wolves.  The Sun reports says:

“A privately sponsored wolf-kill contest is offering cash and other prize incentives for hunters to shoot the predators this winter in northeast B.C.

Hunters who kill the largest wolves stand to receive $250 to $1,000 and up, with a booby prize of $150 for the smallest wolf and draws for prizes such as a rifle and free taxidermy work.”

The contest has outraged many people in B.C. and VHS believes the contest’s sponsors should cancel the event.

The contest sponsors include (click for contact info):

Rich Petersen, Remax realtor

Guy Lahaye, president of the North Peace Rod & Gun Club

Raven Oilfield Rentals

Backcountry (hunting & fishing store)

Mr. Green-Up Envirotech Ltd.

If you agree that killing wolves for prizes is wrong, please contact the sponsors and politely request that they cancel this contest.

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Not just a chicken

Earlier this year, a rather obscure gathering of scientists took place at the University of Prince Edward Island.  The “Poultry Welfare Conference September 2012” was never going to make big headlines but in its own small way it just might help alleviate the suffering of billions of animals.

As animal advocates will tell you, it’s hard to get the public to care about chickens.  To most people they are good for dinner and not much else.   Cats and dogs, zoo animals and wildlife all attract a degree of human empathy or sympathy, but farm animals, especially poultry just don’t rate. 

Perhaps it’s because people don’t think (or prefer not to think) of their drumsticks or nuggets as having once been a living, breathing animal.  And even if they do, well, it’s just a chicken.

But of course chickens are more than just food.  In fact, as scientists are discovering, they are not only smarter than anyone thought – they’re also capable of feelings such as frustration, distress and even empathy.

Dr. Ian Duncan, Canada’s foremost poultry welfare scientist, told the P.E.I. conference that there is now an acceptance that it is feelings that govern animal welfare and “therefore feelings that should be measured when assessing welfare.”  Duncan has designed experiments that “ask” animals how they feel by measuring how hard they are willing to work to obtain or avoid certain stimuli.

For example, he has shown that hens will work just as hard to find a secluded nesting place as they will to get food, suggesting that the frustration of being denied a nest is as powerful a feeling as hunger.  In Canada, 95 per cent of laying hens are kept in cages that deny them the opportunity to nest.  Science now supports the common sense contention that those caged hens, about 26 million of them, are suffering.

Duncan’s work is underpinned by a broader scientific rethink on animal intelligence and sentience.  In July of this year, a prominent group of neuroscientists gathered at the University of Cambridge to reassess consciousness in human and non-human animals.  The result was the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, which, among other things, declared that “Mammalian and avian emotional networks and cognitive microcircuitries appear to be far more homologous than previously thought.”  In other words, birds think and feel more like us than we had supposed.

The declaration has moral and cultural implications, as Dr. Christof Koch, a renowned neuroscientist and signatory to the declaration made clear: “The belief in human exceptionalism, so strongly rooted in the Judeo-Christian view of the world, flies in the face of all evidence for the structural and behavioural continuity between animals and people.”

Some specific studies on chickens have suggested that they possess “primitive self-consciousness.”  Others have found evidence that chickens have “one of the essential underpinning attributes of ‘empathy’; the ability to be affected by, and share, the emotional state of another.”

Even the social behaviours of chickens (in natural settings) indicate they are perhaps not so different from “higher animals” as previously thought. One Australian study found that roosters who lost out to dominant males when it came to attracting hens found alternative routes to romantic success by “being nice” and finding food for hens.  (Human males who never made the football team but still wanted to get dates will be familiar with such strategies.)

But should chickens’ welfare depend on how intelligent or more “like us” they are?  Philosophical debates rage over granting animals moral consideration based on their levels of sentience, intelligence and self-consciousness.  Some would argue that the capacity of an animal to feel pain should be enough to make inflicting such pain morally wrong.

It could also be argued that having intelligence hasn’t saved millions of pigs suffering in factory farms, or whales who continue to be slaughtered, or dogs and primates still used in laboratory research.

Nevertheless, making science-based arguments when advocating compassion for animals does carry weight with those suspicious of mere sentimentalism (although one wonders why the simple concept of mercy isn’t morally persuasive enough).  Proving animals are more intelligent and emotionally capable will, in the long run, make it harder for industries and authorities to justify making them suffer or killing them for human benefit.

Even changing chickens’ image will help.  Science is showing that they are not “bird-brained” “dumb clucks” but sentient, clever birds with unique personalities and interesting social behaviours.  That’s who is suffering on factory farms.  That’s who is being slaughtered by the millions.  That’s who is on your plate – not “just a chicken.”

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Guest post: The Humanist view of animal rights

By Ian Bushfield, executive director of the B.C. Humanist Association

Religions have traditionally approached the topic of animal rights in one of two ways. The more conservative religions state that God gave dominion to us over all ‘lesser’ species to do with as we please. Alternatively, some say we were charged with stewardship over God’s creation, so we should reduce the harm that comes to God’s creatures.

Yet today, more than one-in-three British Columbians are non-religious. Of this non-religious community, many atheists and agnostics put forward an ethical system called Humanism. Humanism is about being good without God by basing our worldview on reason, compassion, and hope. It gives us the ability to create our own values and ethics, while forcing us to be skeptical of all claims – including our own.

Humanists see evolution by natural selection as the best theory we have to explain the diversity of life on earth. This theory tells us that given enough time, simple self-replicating molecules adapted and reproduced, eventually giving rise to all of the plants, animals, and people alive today. We therefore recognize that we are not superior to other animals and that we are a part of nature itself. We respect the rights of animals because it is a mere extension of the rights that we grant to other human beings.

Furthermore, as we learn more about the different species of life on earth, we are beginning to recognize that animals feel pain, fear, and suffering to different extents. The more an animal is like us, the more we identify with its suffering and seek to alleviate that.

All Humanists oppose torture and cruelty to animals. However, Humanism is a worldview without dogma, so our beliefs form a wide spectrum when applied to the real world. For example, some strongly oppose the existence of zoos and aquariums, believing that the animals would be better off in the wild. Others argue that the scientific and conservation benefits of these institutions outweigh those arguments. Many Humanists support animal research, provided it is done in a humane and ethical way, while others oppose it.

Where many religions have taboos on what foods may or may not be eaten (sometimes depending on the day of the week), Humanists use our own reasoning to decide what we each feel is ethical to consume. Some Humanists strongly oppose the eating of meat, as there are many alternatives to provide our required nutrients and there are many deplorable aspects of modern factory farming; however, many Humanists are not vegetarians, but try to choose more ethical and sustainable food sources whenever possible. Few Humanists support the ritualistic slaughter practices of some religions which involve letting an animal bleed to death.

Humanism is a dynamic and progressive philosophy. What is considered moral and acceptable today will be put under a critical eye and may be rejected as barbaric in the future. By rejecting the authority of dogmatic tradition, we can focus on creating a better future for all life on earth.

Note: VHS is interested in all ethical points of view relating to animal rights and welfare.  We plan to publish more articles from different philosophical and religious standpoints in future blog posts.  

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Visa helps VHS help animals

 

Visa will donate $10 to VHS for each new monthly online donor!

CanadaHelps (VHS’s online donation port) and Visa are teaming up to help charities! Beginning November 1st, 2012 (today!!) Visa will donate $10 to VHS when new donors set up a new monthly donation through CanadaHelps*. Monthly donations not only enable VHS to help animals today; they also enable us to plan for tomorrow. Consider asking a friend or family member to give a monthly donation to VHS in your honour for Christmas!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Set up a new recurring donation to the Vancouver Humane Society through CanadaHelps at this link: www.canadahelps.org/beattherush
  2. Check out with Visa
  3. Visa will add a one-time $10 gift to your donation.

CanadaHelps is a registered charity with a goal to make giving simple. Through CanadaHelps.org, anyone can donate online to any registered Canadian charity.