New Vancouver Humane Society ad campaign promotes kindness to all animals
Media release July 23, 2020
Vancouver – A striking new billboard in downtown Vancouver is encouraging Vancouverites to treat farmed animals with the same compassion as other animals by transitioning to a plant-based diet. The billboard is part of The Vancouver Humane Society’s (VHS) new Go Veg campaign.
The billboard, which shows the faces of a cow and a dog with near-identical markings, states: “Animals are the same in all the ways that matter” and urges people to “Be kind to every kind.”
“Farmed animals are thinking, feeling beings, with complex emotional lives – just like the pets we open our homes and hearts to,” said VHS campaign director Emily Pickett. “They suffer greatly under today’s industrial animal agriculture system. Our Go Veg billboard calls on society to recognize that animals, regardless of the label they are given – farmed or companion – are the same in all the ways that matter.”
Pickett said that, in 2019, more than 830 million land animals were raised and slaughtered for food in Canada. “Our overconsumption of animal products has led to the rise of the industrial animal agriculture system, characterized by large numbers of animals confined in cramped, barren and unnatural environments and subject to painful procedures, lengthy transport journeys and frightening slaughter conditions.”
The billboard ad will run in select locations in Vancouver throughout the summer. In addition, VHS is running ads in 24 Vancouver condo buildings, also promoting a plant-based diet.
Earlier this year, a tiny community newspaper in Iowa won a Pulitzer Prize for taking on big agriculture companies over factory farm pollution.
The Storm Lake Times, which investigated the effects of nitrogen from farm drainage on drinking water in the state, was praised for its “editorials fuelled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.”
The family that owns the newspaper reportedly lost a few friends and a few advertisers, but never doubted they were doing the right thing.
“We’re here to challenge people’s assumptions and I think that’s what every good newspaper should do,” said one family member.
It’s a great example of a community newspaper showing courage and tenacity in seeking the truth. Some newspapers still uphold the highest standards and values of a free press.
Then there’s the Williams Lake Tribune. In May, VHS tried to book a full-page ad in the Tribune. The ad, as we informed the Tribune’s publisher via email, would express VHS’s opposition to the Williams Lake Stampede rodeo.
After a couple of days of silence from the publisher, we emailed again and received this reply from an executive at Black Press, the Tribune’s corporate owner:
“In consultation with our lawyer we have determined that we are entitled to decline advertising in the circumstances.
“The Williams Lake Tribune is a sponsor of the Stampede because it is a significant community event that the paper supports. We appreciate that your society opposes the event and we respect your right to that opinion. You were wise to check with us before commissioning artwork and design.
“While we cannot say definitively that we will decline all possible advertising, we can say, from experience, that anti-Stampede type display advertising that suggests or argues gratuitous cruelty to animals by image or text is unlikely to be accepted by the Williams Lake Tribune at this time.”
Since the words “unlikely to be accepted” seemed to leave the door slightly open, we sent the executive the planned content of the ad to see if it would be acceptable. This included a photograph of the steer-wrestling event taken at last year’s Williams Lake Stampede, accompanied by text stating: “You know in your heart this is not right. Stop cruel rodeo events at the Williams Lake Stampede.”
The executive replied that this would not be accepted.
This is not the first time a Black Press newspaper has refused one of VHS’s anti-rodeo ads. In 2015, the Abbotsford News rejected a full-page ad opposing the Abbotsford Rodeo (which was ultimately cancelled in 2016). No reason was given for the rejection.
It’s perfectly legal for a newspaper to refuse an ad for any number of reasons. The ad might be libelous or gratuitously offensive or misleading to readers. VHS’s ad did contain a graphic image of a steer being wrestled to ground, but it only showed what a rodeo-goer would typically see at the Stampede – the very activity that the Williams Lake Tribune says it promotes and supports. If the Tribune finds a photo of steer-wrestling offensive and unacceptable, how can it support the event?
It’s also perfectly normal for a newspaper not to agree with an ad it might carry. The Tribune could have made this clear with a disclaimer on the VHS ad or it could have run an editorial explaining its contrary position on rodeo.
But the Tribune chose instead to simply suppress a legitimate point of view on a matter of public interest. It didn’t trust its readers to make up their own minds about rodeo. Unlike the Storm Lake Times, it didn’t challenge assumptions, “like every good newspaper should do.”
The B.C. Community Newspaper Association, of which the Williams Lake Tribune is a member, says part of its mission is to: “Improve standards in the practice of the profession of journalism, and to promote a high standard of conduct and professional ethics in the business of newspaper publishing.”
The Canadian Association of Journalists’ ethics guidelines state that “Defending the public’s interest includes promoting the free flow of information, exposing crime or wrongdoing, protecting public health and safety, and preventing the public from being misled.”
Clearly, ethics matter to journalists and to the public they serve. People still believe that a free press is vital to democracy, that diversity of opinion matters, that newspapers should be courageous defenders of free speech.
What isn’t clear is whether those things matter to the Williams Lake Tribune, which, to our knowledge, has not been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Canadaland reports that in 2011, the Calgary Stampede commissioned a piece to run in prestigious magazine Canadian Geographic. Journalist Curtis Gillespie thoroughly investigated, and ultimately wrote a piece entitled “Rodeo under scrutiny: The debate over animal care at the Calgary Stampede.”
Among other things, the balanced piece explained that horses were bred specifically to buck; horses who didn’t buck wildly enough were slaughtered. Gillespie’s editor called the piece “brilliant” and a “magnum opus.”
However, the publisher decided to pull the story at the last minute and instead ran a piece by someone who had previously published a book called “Celebrating the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede.”
Canadian Geographic ran the Stampede-friendly piece, “Rodeo renewal: How animal-care practices are changing perceptions of the century-old Stampede.” It was not identified as sponsored content.
In spite of its unethical advertising practices disguised as journalism, the Stampede’s attempts to create the illusion that rodeo is positive are failing. Public opinion across Canada is turning firmly against this barbaric spectacle of violence against animals.
Fortunately, the truth about the Stampede sending horses to slaughter did come out in 2012.
Please visit our rodeo campaign page to learn more about this issue and what you can do to help.
Last Friday, the Vancouver Sun ran a story about the refusal of the Abbotsford News to run our anti-rodeo ad, pictured above. The ad shows a photo of the steer-wrestling event at the 2008 Abbotsford Agrifair rodeo.
As the Sun’s story notes, VHS’s lawyers checked the ad. There is no legal or ethical reason not to run it. The ad is just expressing an opinion on a matter of public concern, something that is considered central to our democracy and to freedom of speech.
We are disappointed that the Abbotsford News would not let its readers see our point of view. Newspapers are supposed to be champions of free speech and forums for debate and different opinions. We understand that the Abbotsford News is a “rodeo partner” – as indicated on the Agrifair website – but that shouldn’t mean that advertising is refused just because it expresses a different viewpoint.
We know that many Canadians, including Abbotsford residents, are concerned about inhumane rodeo events. If you are one of them, please sign our e-campaign to ask the Abbotsford Agrifair and its sponsors to stop supporting rodeo cruelty. It’s one way compassionate people can be heard, even if some newspapers would prefer they were kept silent.
Our ad “Food, Friend, Why?” raises an important and provocative moral question: why do we eat one animal and befriend another? Most of us wouldn’t dream of eating a cat or a dog, but when one considers the intelligence and sentience of farmed animals, it doesn’t make sense to consider cows or pigs or chickens as somehow so different.
We certainly don’t expect everyone to become vegetarian. However, it’s simply a fact that reducing or eliminating meat is the most effective way to stop animal suffering. Check out Raising the Barn or Eat Less Meat to see how animals are raised for food and why meat production is not sustainable.
We would like to run this ad again, but we can only do it with your help. The ad company has been very generous – they usually extend the ads an extra week or two without charging us. This means your donation towards this project can accomplish even more!
You are amazing! We are only $778 away from our goal of $7,000. I know there are some of you out there who think the ad is important, but haven’t had time to donate yet. Can you help? It’s easy – just click the ‘donate now’ button. Even a small amount helps – if 105 people gave $10, we’d reach our goal! Thank you for all you do for animals.
Have you ever seen a hen chasing a ball? Check out this video captured by Director of Farm Animal Programs Leanne McConnachie on a recent visit to Rabbit River Farms (a producer of certified organic, free-range eggs).