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Podcast: Fish cruelty laws

Fishes think, play, form relationships, and feel pain; yet they are often overlooked both in animal cruelty legislation and in public discussions of animal cruelty.

In this month’s episode of The Informed Animal Ally’s series on animal cruelty, Vancouver Humane Society Executive Director Amy Morris and Communications Director Chantelle Archambault discuss cruelty laws and practices related to fishes.

Note: Traditionally, “fishes” plural refers to the animals when there are multiple species. In this episode, the word is used to refer to any instance of multiple fish animals in recognition that each fish is an individual being.

Fish welfare legislation

A wild school of fishes in the ocean.

In general, fishes raised or caught for food are covered under the federal Fisheries Act in Canada. The act has been in place since 1868 to regulate fisheries and fish management, including protecting fishes and their habitats and preventing waterway pollution.

The law has gone through some amendments that weakened protections, but in 2019 it added new provisions that improved on the original Act. However, there is still a notable gap with regard to the welfare of fish.

The consideration for fish protection is mainly concerned with maintaining fish “stocks” as a resource, rather than protecting the welfare of fishes.

Many of the practices in “harvesting” fishes cause immense suffering. In fact, there don’t appear to be any laws that specifically outline the way fishes should be killed, which means there are no penalties for those who are fishing, or kill fishes, inhumanely.

Aquaculture (fish farming)

Aquaculture, or fish farming, is specifically included in amendments to the Fisheries Act.

Fish farms pose a major welfare problem for fishes, both those being farmed and those in surrounding waterways. Carnivorous farmed fishes like salmon, halibut, and tuna are fed diets made with fishmeal and fish oil made from smaller wild-caught fish. Open-net fish farms in particular are a major issue for surrounding fishes because they are placed in the water, allowing waste, disease, and chemicals to seep out into the surrounding ecosystem.

Fishes on farms are in kept in cramped, crowded conditions with no enrichment. According to a 2016 study by Royal Society Open Science, about a quarter of farmed fishes end up floating lifelessly at the top of their tanks, and they exhibit behaviours and brain chemistry that reflect stress and is reminiscent of the signs of depression that can be found in mammals.

Because so many fishes are stressed and in close quarters, they are very vulnerable to disease and parasites. Farms combat this by relying heavily on antibiotics. Not only can those antibiotics lead to drug-resistant infections in humans, but both the antibiotics and the parasites can make their way into surrounding water and impact wild fishes.

According to the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance, the majority of First Nations in B.C. are opposed to open-net fish farms because of the impact of sea lice and viruses on wild fish. The federal government is currently working to phase out open-net fish farms in B.C. Bill C-258 passed the first reading in Parliament in March, which would amend “the Fisheries Act to prohibit finfish aquaculture for commercial purposes in Canadian fisheries waters off the Pacific Coast except when it is carried out in closed containment facilities”; essentially removing open net fish farms.

In BC, fish farms are managed under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations.

Generally, like in B.C. and New Brunswick, specifics like “harvest” (slaughter) and habitat protection can be specified in the specific farm’s license rather than standardized in the regulations.

The National Farm Animal Care Council has a Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Salmonids (salmon, trout, charr) as of 2021. One requirement in the Code is that “Methods of euthanasia, slaughter, and depopulation must be quick, cause minimal stress and pain, and result in rapid loss of consciousness followed by death without the fish regaining consciousness.” Electrical stunning is one of the allowed slaughter methods. The code acknowledges that the use of ice slurry (a combination of freezing and asphyxiation in non-oxygenated water mixed with ice) is not a quick or painless slaughter method, but it is still allowed for the next 2.5 years.

Industrial fishing

An industrial fishing net full of wild-caught fishes

Industrial fishing uses harmful methods that result in the mass deaths of fishes and bycatch (the accidental capture of non-target species like dolphins, sea turtles, and diving birds).

Two of the methods used in commercial fishing are:

Longlining: Boats use lines that can extend for up to 50 miles, with thousands of baited hooks branching off from the main line. In 2018, a fishing magazine reported that the Canadian government was supporting a shift to longlining, but the federal government released an action plan on reducing bycatch from longlining in 2019.

Bottom trawling: A large net with heavy weights is dragged across the seafloor, scooping up everything in its path and damaging sensitive marine habitats. Bottom trawling was banned in 2019 in Marine Protected Areas, which only make up about 6% of Canada’s marine areas.

Recreational fishing

Fish approaching lure in the water

Even when fishes are released after being caught, the use of hooks causes pain and tissue damage. The change in pressure from pulling up some fishes out of the deep water results in barotrauma. For example, rockfish can experience barotrauma. Rockfish have a specialized gas filled sack that they use to control buoyancy. When they are reeled up and brought to the surface, they can’t release the necessary gases and this blows up their eyes, stomach and vent. If the fishes are quickly returned by a descender, they can survive, but in many cases they are just thrown back and continue to suffer or die from their injuries. There are no laws to prevent this, likely because they would be very difficult to enforce.

According to research, 18% of released fishes die of injuries and another 22% of the surviving fishes have their vision permanently impaired.

Recreational fishing and hunting organizations have admitted that they work to block cruelty legislation which would protect animals further.

Are fishes considered “animals” in law?

A wild tropical fish

In law, definitions matter quite a bit. Sometimes terms aren’t defined because they are seen as obvious. B.C.’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act states, “This Act does not apply to wildlife, as defined in the Wildlife Act, that is not in captivity.” However, there is no definition of animal outlined in the act.

If an agency responsible for Prevention of Cruelty to animals received a complaint in regards to a fish in captivity, they would need to use the same criteria as they would with a dog to identify if the fish were in distress.

There are many thousands of animal species, and in some species it can be complicated to prove distress. In cases of fish, it would likely require a biologist who specializes in fish distress, and could require someone who is knowledgeable about a specific species. For example, in 2016, the BC SPCA investigated the death of a sturgeon after the fish was euthanized. The fish had come from a commercial farm and was seen floating along the top of the tank before being euthanized; sturgeon are naturally bottom feeders.

There do not appear to be any cases of animal cruelty to fishes in captivity that have made it to court. A case in the United States was dropped specifically because the definition of animal excluded fishes.

What you can do

The best way you can help decrease the demand for harmful fishing practices is by eating plant-based. Fishes are farmed in higher numbers than any other animal, so shifting away from animal products in your diet can save hundreds of fish lives every year. The greatest impact of cutting out fish-based foods from our diets comes from cutting out farmed fishes, because of the high-stress methods used throughout the fishes’ lives and their impact on wild fishes, followed by fishes caught in commercial fisheries.

Cutting out farmed meat and animal products also decreases the demand for industrial animal agriculture, which is a major source of water pollution from agricultural runoff. Agricultural runoff can lead to the overgrowth of algae, which then decomposes and depletes the water of oxygen. Fish, who cannot survive in oxygen-depleted water, either die or move elsewhere to compete for increasingly scarce territory and resources.

There’s also other small changes that everyone can make to protect fish habitats – fishes are heavily impacted by plastic pollution and rising water temperatures, so reducing your use of single-use plastics and decreasing your carbon emissions are ways you can help every day.

Advocating for an end to fishing subsidies by the government and for climate-friendly and plant-forward policies is a great way to effect systems-level change.

Learn more about fishes

Next episode

On August 30, the Vancouver Humane Society will be joined by animal law lawyer Rebeka Breder for a discussion on dangerous dog laws.

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News/Blog

Podcast: Farmed animal cruelty laws

Industrial animal agriculture has been called the biggest animal welfare crisis on the planet, with more than 70 billion land animals killed for food each year.

The Sentience Institute estimates that 74% of farmed animals are currently on factory farms, which are characterized by large numbers of animals confined in cramped, barren and unnatural conditions. This episode of the Vancouver Humane Society’s podcast, The Informed Animal Ally, explores the practices and laws that impact the suffering of these animals throughout their lives.

Practices on farms

A farmer walks inside a poultry farm

The Canadian Criminal Code may apply to farmed animals—they include an offense for wilfully killing, maiming, wounding, poisoning animals—but only if there is no lawful excuse.

The National Farm Animal Care Council’s Codes of Practice outline the minimum generally accepted practices of animal management; practices within the codes would be considered a “lawful excuse” for causing suffering. In British Columbia, the Codes are incorporated into law as a means of defense for farmers even in cases when there is evidence of animal suffering.

Many practices we would consider essential to the welfare of animals are labelled in the Codes as “recommended practices” and not requirements. Even where there are requirements that help to protect welfare, there is no use of the codes for proactive enforcement by government.

Generally accepted practices can cause acute pain and prolonged suffering. For instance, the chicks of egg-laying hens are met with practices that cause immense suffering or death soon after birth.

  • Male chicks born from egg-laying hens are considered a byproduct because they do not grow as quickly as chickens bred for meat; they can be killed by being sent down a conveyor belt into a macerator, gassed, or suffocated in plastic bags.
  • Female chicks are prepared to be raised for egg-laying by being debeaked; the tip of the top part of their beak is cut off with a hot blade or laser without anesthetic. This mutilation is done to prevent hens from pecking each other and themselves in stressful close quarters rather than giving the hens more space and freedom.

This is just one of many examples of animals receiving a punishment or painful prevention for an undesired behaviour, rather than addressing the poor conditions that cause the behaviour.

You can learn more about generally accepted practices on farms by registering for free at the Animal Justice Academy and watching The State of Animals Used in the Food Industry: In-Depth with Geoff Regier.

Transportation

A pig seen through the bars of a transport truck

The Health of Animals Act regulates animal import and export, including transportation times.

There are very few farms with on-site slaughter facilities, which means most farmed animals must be transported before they are slaughtered.

The transport of animals is regulated federally by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), but the loading of the animals is considered provincial jurisdiction.

Allowed loading practices can cause serious harm to animals, as was evidenced in graphic footage captured on a B.C. egg farm. When animals arrive at the slaughter facility gravely injured or dead, no one is held accountable. Instead, the suffering can be deemed accidental because Codes of Practice were followed and CFIA veterinarians can deem it outside their jurisdiction because the harm happened before transport.

In February 2020, new transport requirements came into effect. Unfortunately, these laws had a negligible impact on the well-being of animals. The new regulations still lag behind other nations. Animals can be transported for long periods without food, water, or rest; they often arrive at slaughter facilities severely dehydrated, unable to stand, and surrounded by their own waste.

Slaughter

Even animals such as dairy cows and egg-laying hens, who are primarily used for the milk and eggs they produce while alive, are slaughtered at the end of their lives.

Slaughter is regulated federally through the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. Though the federal government website claims to require “humane slaughter of food animals”, in reality animals are typically already stressed entering the facility and the slaughterhouse causes further fear and distress.

Laws require that animals are rendered unconscious before being bled. The methods through which this is done have varying degrees of effectiveness and varying degrees of pain. For instance, the gassing often used to render pigs unconscious causes distress. Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and expert in animal behaviour and intelligence, says that “Pigs are at least as cognitively aware as a monkey,” and that their squeals in the slaughterhouse are “distress calls”.

A study published in 2017 found that slaughterhouse workers—often vulnerable migrant workers—experience higher levels of stress than the general population.

Auction of farmed animals

Auctions of farmed animals are typically regulated by the provincial animal cruelty laws; however, there is not usually anyone monitoring them.

Often, there are animals sold at auction who are not in good condition.

Auctions themselves are scary and overwhelming for farmed animals, as they are unfamiliar, loud, and involve a lot of uncomfortable and often cruel handling. Similarly to all other situations with little oversight, animal suffering is the norm.

Labelling of animal products

Very few terms used in the labelling of animal products are actually regulated.

All labels for animal meats where an animal production claim is made such as “organic”, “vegetable grain fed – no animal by-products” or “raised without antibiotics” must be registered with the CFIA.

“Nature” and “natural” are terms often misused on labels and in advertisements and have no meaning for animal well-being. “Organic” means that it follows the Canadian Organic Standards, which still allow painful procedures. However, advertising can be carefully written; is an animal raised by organic methods, or are they only fed an organic feed?

Terms that are not regulated include “grass-fed”, “grass-finished”, “free range”, and “free run”. Hens can be very crowded in barns of 25,000 that are free-range or free-run.

Subliminal messaging and imagery such as the use of the colour green, images of leaves and open pastures, and positive words such as “happy” can also influence the way consumers perceive the welfare of the animals. These are purely marketing tactics and do not reflect the state of the farms.

When it comes to nutrition claims, there are restrictions. However, many of the claims that are on animal products are not on plant products. For example, even though fruits and vegetables can give you much of the nutrition we require in our diets, there are often no labels on them at all because it isn’t legally required.

What you can do

If everyone on earth ate the average Canadian diet, we would need 1.3 earths for agricultural land alone. That huge demand is driving intensive agriculture to try to maximize the food output in the smallest possible space, leading to the most serious welfare concerns.

The best way to reduce the demand for animal agriculture is to start transitioning our consumption to more plant-based foods.

Every level of government and many other institutions like schools and businesses have climate commitments right now, and an important part of meeting those goals would be a shift away from animal agriculture and toward plant-forward policies and legislation.

For instance, the Canadian government currently subsidizes the private animal agriculture industry with millions of taxpayer dollars. Funding that currently props up the animal agriculture industry could be used to invest in sustainable plant-based agriculture and emerging technologies like lab-grown meat.

Governments can also help by improving animal protection laws to immediately address industrial animal agriculture, which produces more greenhouse gas emissions and uses intensive methods with some of the greatest animal welfare concerns.

If you’re interested in spreading the message about eating a plant-based diet, or if you’re thinking of trying more plant-based foods yourself, you can find recipes and tips on Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity platform.

Ag-gag laws

Ag-gag laws are anti-whistlerblower laws that apply within the agriculture industry. They can differ between provinces. They aim to prohibit the taking and sharing of footage of farm animal suffering, under the guise of biosecurity. However, ag-gag laws don’t have to be in place for law enforcement agencies to recommend charges against people who take undercover footage, or go onto farms for the sole purpose of exposing animal cruelty. Charges like “trespassing” and “mischief” are applied even when there are no ag-gag laws in place. A number of cases have been going to court in recent years.

To read industry’s perspective on these laws, check out this article from Canadian Poultry or this article from the Canadian Hog Journal.

To read animal advocates perspectives in more detail, you can read this article from the Animal Protection Party or this article from Animal Justice.

Right now, in B.C., 3 animal activists are facing charges for exposing suffering on a farm in Abbotsford, called the Excelsior 4.

Read op-ed on the Excelsior 4

Next episode

Keep an eye out on July 26 for the next episode of The Informed Animal Ally on fishes. Thank you for listening and thank you for reading.

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News/Blog

Podcast: Companion animal cruelty laws

Millions of pet guardians across Canada consider our furry friends to be part of the family; but what happens when companion animals are the victims of cruelty?

The first episode of the Vancouver Humane Society’s podcast, The Informed Animal Ally, explores companion animal cruelty, laws, and advocacy. Listen as we dive into this topic, from gaps in federal legislation to how laws have harmed animals and their guardians.

Federal laws

A hand scratches a cat's chin

In the Canadian Criminal Code, companion animals are covered under the section “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property“. The designation of companion animals as property in federal law has led to a patchwork of laws in which, for instance, different protections can exist for a domestic cat with a guardian compared to a feral cat. It also fails to address the intrinsic value of animals’ lives and well-being. Humane Canada is currently aiming to work with the Federal Minister of Justice to update the Criminal Code.

Specific animal cruelty cases that have set a precendent in Canada can be found through the NCPAC Case Law Database. Please note that the details in this database can be disturbing.

Canada does not currently recognize animal sentience at the federal level. A list of countries that have formally recognized non-human animal sentience can be found on Wikipedia.

Indigenous laws

A person pats a dog while sitting in the grass

Indigenous laws were applied on the land now known as Canada far before the existence of the colonial system. More about Indigenous law can be learned through the University of Alberta’s Indigenous Canada course.

Generally speaking, Indigenous laws are concerned with maintaining and restoring harmony within and between human and non-human animal relationships. While specific laws differ based on the stories, history, ceremony, and worldview of each individual community, they are guided by the relationship between humans and the environment. They typically use restorative approaches that promote values including respect and consensus.

The interconnectedness of humans, animals, and the environment within the current Western tradition is considered under the One Welfare framework. This framework is not new; in fact, it is very similar to the values that have been held by Indigenous communities for thousands of years.

Historically, federal laws and practices have interfered with the freedoms of Indigenous communities to keep and care for companion animals. For instance, qimmiit (sled dogs) were an integral part of Inuit culture prior to being almost wiped out after the introduction of settlement life. Among the threats to the qimmiit was a cull by colonial authorities; hundreds of qimmiit were shot by the RCMP and other authorities in the 1950s and 1960s. For more information, see the Qikiqtani Truth Commission Final Report (PDF).

Provincial laws

A pit bull lounges on a bed

Each province and territory’s animal cruelty laws attempt to fill in the gaps left by the federal Criminal Code. Written legislation, case law, and interpretation vary between provinces and territories, creating inconsistent protections for animals across the country.

For instance, Quebec is the only province with a Civil Code, which is similar to the federal Criminal Code. Because the Civil Code enables more explicit written legislation, Quebec is the only province that officially recognizes animals as sentient beings in its written laws.

Alberta also set a precedent for recognizing animal sentience in a 2021 case regarding cruelty against a puppy named Cinnamon.

In British Columbia, companion animal protection is covered under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

A person walks a cat on a leash

Municipal laws

Municipal animal cruelty laws can allow for better community relations and animal care, but are often more open to interpretation, again leading to a patchwork approach.

Animal guardians living on a lower income are disproportionately affected by municipal laws and barriers, particularly fine-based systems, registration costs, and a lack of access to pet-friendly housing.

Where pet-friendly housing does exist, there are often further barriers to people living in poverty. For instance, some renters are required to spay and neuter their pets in order to find or keep their home—a procedure that can be prohibitively costly for pet guardians living on a low income.

The Vancouver Humane Society’s Helping Women and Pets in Crisis program aims to break down the barriers and support the pets of women who are seeking housing or maintaining their housing while caring for a pet in crisis.

Next episode

Keep an eye out on June 28 for the next episode of The Informed Animal Ally on farmed animals. Thank you for listening and thank you for reading.

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News/Blog

VHS launches new podcast with series on animal cruelty

The Vancouver Humane Society is excited to announce the upcoming launch of The Informed Animal Ally, an animal ethics podcast sharing the ins and outs of topics like cruelty, legislation, and advocacy here in B.C. and across Canada!

In the first series of the show, Executive Director Amy Morris and Communications Director Chantelle Archambault will discuss the topic of animal cruelty, and in particular animal cruelty laws. The series will delve into how cruelty laws impact animals of different species, including companion animals, farmed animals, fish, wildlife, and more.

You can subscribe to The Informed Animal Ally on your preferred podcast platform to be notified about new episodes. Listen to the first episode on May 31, then keep an eye out on the final Tuesday of each month for more episodes discussing animal cruelty, ethics, and protection.

Thank you for being an animal ally!

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News/Blog

Big wins for animals in 2021

Here are some of the ways you helped make our world a better place for animals this year! Click the links below to scroll to a section.

Working to protect wildlife

Habitat protection for owls and bears

Late last year, VHS launched a petition calling on the provincial government to stop planned logging in two important wildlife habitats: the Sunshine Coast and in the Fraser Canyon. The Dakota Ridge area on the Sunshine Coast is home to a concentration of black bear dens, while the Fraser Canyon is the last known habitat of wild spotted owls in Canada. More than 2,300 people signed the petition!

In early March, the B.C. government agreed to permanently halt logging in the Dakota Ridge area. Meanwhile, the Spô’zêm Nation and environmental groups leading the campaign against planned logging in the Fraser Canyon announced that the government has put the plan on hold.

B.C. implements a partial ban on rodenticides

This year, VHS worked with a strong team of animal advocates to call for a ban on inhumane and indiscriminate rodent poisons, also known as rodenticides. These baited poisons cause a slow and painful death for the animals that consume them, and can harm or even kill the animals that eat poisoned mice or rats. VHS’s petition to end rodenticide use in B.C. received more than 3,000 signatures!

Following a meeting between VHS, other animal advocacy groups, and B.C. decision-makers, the provincial government announced a temporary restriction on second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides—the most toxic type of rodent poisons.

While the partial ban is a welcome first step, further action is needed to address the continued deaths of wildlife. You can support a permanent ban on all rodenticides by contacting the Ministry of Environment through our simple 30-second email tool.

Speaking up for animals in entertainment

New Westminster moves to repurpose the Queen’s Park petting farm

VHS shared a briefing note with the City of New Westminster about the Queen’s Park Petting Farm. The note highlighted evidence-based concerns related to animal welfare, public health and safety, and public education; we recommended a closure of the petting farm.

In July, the City launched a public consultation seeking ideas from residents for an alternative space at Queen’s Park. They have since recognized that the space is not suitable for housing large animals. We are pleased to see city programming moving in an animal-friendly direction.

Fairmont Hotels agrees to stop promoting and offering sled dog rides

In September, Fairmont Hotels announced it would no longer promote or offer sled dog rides! The announcement followed efforts by animal advocates to draw attention to the harms of commercial sled dog tourism, including a letter from VHS to Fairmont Whistler and an incredibly successful petition and campaign by advocates.

Chilliwack Fair Rodeo cancelled for a second year

The Chilliwack Fair’s rodeo event was again cancelled due to COVID-19, sparing animals from the suffering endured at rodeos. VHS plans to engage Chilliwack City Council next year, pointing to the fact that the Fair was able to go ahead as a more family-friendly event without the cruel rodeo.

Keeping companion animals with their loving guardians

More than 400 animals helped through veterinary assistance

Generous donors to VHS’s McVitie Fund and Helping Women and Pets program assisted more than 400 companion animals this year! These donations helped animals to access needed veterinary care while staying with their loving families. Learn more about how veterinary assistance helps animals and their guardians.

Because They Matter participants connect with animal guardians in the DTES

In July, volunteers gathered in Vancouvers Downtown Eastside neighbourhood to hand out harnesses, leashes, dog treats, and blankets. More than 60 people and their animals who spend their days on the streets visited VHS’s booth in Pigeon Park. The team also shared vital information about veterinary assistance with about 350 people!

Check out the photos of some of the happy recipients.

Community rallies to support animals impacted by flooding

As flooding in B.C. forced many residents out of their homes, the people impacted are doing their best to make sure their loved ones are healthy and safe—including their animal family members. VHS’s Flood Evacuee Veterinary Support fund has ensured that flood-impacted people can access care for their companion animals.

To date, VHS has assisted 37 individual companion animals and partnered with 6 veterinarians to support flood-affected farmed animals. We continue to receive applications as flood-impacted people recover and rebuild. Learn more about some of the flood-impacted animals who have been helped so far.

While this has been a very difficult time, it has also been a demonstration of the amazing power of community. We are grateful for the outpouring of support to help people and animals impacted by the floods.

Protecting farmed animals

City of Vancouver moves to decrease animal-based food purchasing by 20%

This year, VHS launched a new report, “Increasing Plant-Based Purchasing at the Municipal Level”. The report examines food purchasing for the City of Vancouver; it found that by replacing 20% of animal-based foods with plant-based alternatives, the City of Vancouver could save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save animal lives.

This shift would include all direct or indirect food purchasing at the City of Vancouver level; for instance, at catered city events, meetings, concessions, and through food-related funding that the city offers.

The report led to a motion that was unanimously passed by City Council! We look forward to working alongside the City of Vancouver to build a more animal-friendly future.

PlantUniversity supports people in transitioning to a plant-based diet

In August, VHS launched the PlantUniversity platform. This free online resource helps people find tasty recipes and handy resources at any stage of their plant-based journey. PlantUniversity also offers resources to institutions (like schools, hospitals, long-term care homes, and restaurants) that are looking to add plant-based options to their menu.

Adding more plant-based foods to our diets decreases the demand for industrial animal agriculture and reduces animal suffering. Even small changes like switching out a few meals each week for plant-based options can add up to a huge impact as we all work toward a more humane society for animals.

B.C. announces phase-out of cruel mink fur farms

Animal advocates and supporters across the province, including the Vancouver Humane Society, the BC SPCA, The Fur-Bearers, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and Ban Fur Farms BC, have been pushing for an end to unnecessary and inhumane fur farms for years. This year saw a public push for change after a COVID-19 outbreak was discovered at a third B.C. mink farm.

In November, the B.C. government announced that mink farms will be phased out completely by 2025.

While the announcement is a huge win, there is still more to be done. VHS will continue to monitor this situation and call for an end to all fur farms in B.C.

Animal champions surpass Giving Tuesday goal for VHS & The Happy Herd

On Giving Tuesday, November 30, VHS partnered with The Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary to make life better for animals. With your help, we surpassed our $15,000 goal with an incredibe $18,277 raised! These funds will go toward providing a loving home for rescued farmed animals and working to prevent animal suffering in all forms.

Animal protection recognized in federal platforms

Animal protection was recognized as an election issue this year! Issues related to the wildlife trade, farmed animals, companion animals, and more were included in the main party platforms. This year also marked the first-ever federal debate dedicated to animal protection, featuring representatives from the Green Party, Liberal Party, and New Democratic Party.

Thousands of voters across Canada tuned in to watch the debate hosted by the Vancouver Humane Society, Animal Justice, Montreal SPCA, Nation Rising, and World Animal Protection.

A cruelty-free future

Thank you for helping make so much progress for animals this year. Let’s celebrate the changes made in 2021 and turn this progress into momentum for 2022 and beyond. Stay tuned for advocacy on animals in captivity as well as continued advocacy and programming to support a cruelty-free future.

You can support continued advocacy on behalf of all animals today and for years to come by making an end-of-year donation. All donations made before midnight on December 31st will receive a tax receipt for the 2021 financial year.

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News/Blog

New allegations of animal cruelty at Abbotsford farm

Animal activists release video of animal cruelty at Abbotsford egg farm

Video has been released by local animal activists which appears to show yet another case of extreme animal cruelty at an egg farm in Abbotsford, B.C.

Similar cases of alleged cruelty to chickens at farms in Abbotsford occurred in 2017 and 2018.

The group, BC Animal Ag Uncovered, released the following video and press release.(Warning: graphic):

ELITE Farm Services Abusing Birds Again (2020) **DISTURBING CONTENT**

July 16, 2020 – Covert citizen footage taken at an egg farm at the 32000 block of Huntingdon Road in Abbotsford, BC shows egg-laying hens being loaded on trucks destined for Superior Poultry Processors slaughterhouse in Coquitlam, BC. One of the workers is seen wearing an ELITE Farm Services safety vest.

MORE ANIMAL ABUSE CAUGHT ON VIDEO AT ABBOTSFORD EGG FARM 

Video taken on July 15, 2020 shows severe animal cruelty at an egg farm on the 32000 block of Huntingdon Road in Abbotsford, B.C. The disturbing footage shows workers callously throwing spent egg-laying hens into crates, grabbing the chickens by a single leg or wing. One of the workers is seen wearing an ELITE Chicken Catching Services shirt. 

Unedited longer video clips can be viewed here and here

The witness who took the new video said, “the chickens were being flung into crates head-first,” “some were thrown in cages by their wings and many thrown in by one leg. I saw workers close the crate lids on the necks and limbs of these poor birds.” 

After reviewing the footage, Veterinarian Dr. Nadine Meyer stated, “improper handling of chickens, as seen here several times, may result in injuries ranging from bruises and head trauma (concussions), to fractured bones or dislocated joints.” 

Sadly, this is not the first time Elite Farm Services Ltd. has been caught abusing animals. In June 2017, Elite was the subject of a video exposé after a whistleblower of animal rights group Mercy For Animals filmed employees stomping on live birds, ripping conscious chickens apart and violently slamming others against crates & walls. CTV coverage can be viewed here

Additionally, Elite was associated with another animal cruelty investigation at a different Abbotsford egg farm in 2018. Media coverage for the story can be found here and here

The company was charged with 38 counts of unlawfully harming chickens related to the 2017 Mercy For Animals investigation. Their pre-trial conference was in New Westminster Thursday August 13, 2020. There will be a preliminary inquiry on September 28 and Elite is scheduled to be tried by Jury in January 2021. 

“In 2017, Mercy For Animals exposed egregious animal abuse by Elite Farm Services, with chickens having their limbs torn off and being tossed around like footballs, slammed into objects and hit and kicked,” said Leah Garcés, president of Mercy For Animals. “It’s very concerning that this new footage suggests the company, which still has charges pending for its beating and loading of chickens in the prior case, apparently has not done enough to stamp out rough handling and callous treatment of animals.”  

According to section 6 of the industry’s own Code of Practice for the Handling of Laying Hens,  

“Hens have weak bones by the end of lay. As a result, there is a high risk of bone fractures when hens are handled prior to transport (2). Care in handling, such as catching end-of-lay hens by both legs rather than one, reduces bone breakage (8). If layer hens are carried by one leg only, there is a greater chance of birds suffering from fractures and hip dislocations.” 

“All parties involved in the catching and transporting process have a responsibility and obligation to ensure catching, transfer, and holding on-farm is undertaken in such a manner that minimizes stress and injury.” 

“Birds must be placed in transport containers gently…” 

-ends-

VHS is monitoring the situation and will comment further as details emerge. Media coverage can be seen here.

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Media Release

Vancouver Humane Society calls for end to cruel rodeo events at Chilliwack Fair

Media release

July 26, 2017

Vancouver Humane Society calls for end to cruel rodeo events at Chilliwack Fair

Society says photos from 2016 fair show rodeo animals suffering

Vancouver – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is calling for an end to calf-roping and steer-wrestling at the upcoming Chilliwack Fair rodeo (August 11-13).

VHS has written to Chilliwack City Council asking for a ban on the two events and has also called on the Chilliwack Agricultural Society, which runs the fair, to voluntarily drop them from the rodeo program. VHS has launched an online campaign to urge the public to contact the council, the fair and its sponsors to ask for an end to the events.

VHS says calf-roping and steer-wrestling subject animals to fear, pain and stress for the sake of mere entertainment. “Terrified calves, only three months old, are chased, roped to a sudden halt, picked up and thrown to the ground before being tied up and steers have their necks twisted until the are literally bent to the ground,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker.  “Tormenting animals to amuse a crowd should be unacceptable in the 21st century.”

VHS obtained photographs taken at the 2016 Chilliwack Fair, which it says show rodeo animals in distress.

A 2015 survey by polling company Insights West found that 66 per cent of B.C. residents are opposed to rodeos.

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Help stop this circus from appearing in Vancouver

VHS is concerned about the welfare of ALL circus animals

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The circus is coming to town.  And we need to stop it.

The Royal Canadian Circus is scheduled to appear at Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver from May 12th to 14th.

This circus is put on by the U.S.-based Tarzan Zerbini Circus, which has a reportedly poor animal welfare record with regard to its treatment of elephants, as detailed in this 2016 article in the Ottawa Citizen and in this report by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). This gives us concerns about the welfare of other animals in its care. 

The article in the Citizen, by the Harvard Law School’s Animal Law & Policy Fellow, reveals that the Zerbini Circus has been cited for animal welfare violations in the U.S. and states that it “has featured elephants who are kept chained and forced to perform under threat of punishment.”

The PETA report says the circus failed to “meet minimum federal standards for the care of animals” used in exhibition, as established in the Animal Welfare Act in the U.S. It states that in 2011 the USDA “cited Tarzan Zerbini for failure to prevent elephants from being exposed to tuberculosis (TB).”

 
While it is VHS’s understanding that the Vancouver performance of the Royal Canadian Circus will feature only domestic animals and not exotic animals (which is prohibited by City of Vancouver bylaw), its parent company’s animal welfare record raises serious concerns.  Consequently, we are urging the public not to attend the Royal Canadian Circus’s performances.

We are also asking the public to complain to Concord Pacific, the company that owns Concord Pacific Place (the circus venue), and to the company that manages the venue, WestPark.

Please email these companies and politely ask them to cancel the performance of the Royal Canadian Circus:

Concord Pacific: marketing@concordpacific.com

WestPark: ritar@westpark.com

Thank you.

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The long war against circus cruelty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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VHS fought long and hard to keep animal circuses out of BC

 

By Debra Probert, VHS Executive Director

Nobody was happier than all of us at VHS to hear that the biggest, most famous circus in the world, Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey, would be holding its last performance later this year.  Cruelty in circuses, at least in this large circus, is no longer profitable. Hooray!!

Fortunately, Ringling Brothers Circus never came to B.C. Activists in other provinces, like Zoocheck in Ontario and smaller, grass roots groups across the country, did everything in their power to stop the behemoth – along with PETA, HSUS and dozens of smaller, grass roots organizations and their supporters in the U.S.  Congratulations to all of you – your work has finally paid off!

Here in B.C., we saw the smaller circuses, under names like the Zerbini Family Circus, Garden Brothers and the Royal Canadian Circus.  Some of them continue to travel around the U.S. and in other provinces in Canada, but they’re attended by ever decreasing audiences.

Over the last two decades, VHS worked tirelessly to have exotic animal bylaws passed across Metro Vancouver to prevent circuses from bringing exotic animals like elephants, monkeys and bears into local arenas and parking lots.

The initial bylaws came into force on Vancouver Island – in Nanaimo, Victoria and Saanich after hard work from dedicated local activists and organizations. VHS took up the torch here on the mainland and after years of picketing, attending council meetings and monitoring circuses, we did what some called impossible – we made it uneconomical for circuses to bring their animals into the province. One by one, with the City of Vancouver in the lead, we worked along with local activists to enable legislation in Surrey, Delta, Coquitlam, Langley, and basically every other region of high density in British Columbia, to stop the cruelty in its tracks.

And cruelty it was. I personally spent hours watching elephants, with their legs chained the entire time they weren’t performing, swaying back and forth, occasionally stretching out their trunks for an unreachable bit of greenery. Their lives were sheer misery, often lived without others of their own kind, and never free to walk or run the miles they would in the wild. They were controlled with bull hooks jabbed into their sensitive skin. When they weren’t performing, they were travelling, often for endless hours in trucks with no ventilation.

The bears, monkeys and tigers fared no better. They were kept in cages so small, they could barely turn around. Again, apart from when they were performing and were under the strict control of their trainers, they spent all of their time eating, sleeping and defecating in the same small space.  Winter quarters were no different – the same small cages, the same chains. Exposés surfaced showing baby elephants, tigers, bears and monkeys being beaten into submission, all in the name of training and simply to entertain an audience. Well, it’s over for Ringling Brothers and the smaller circuses that haven’t already will soon follow suit.

We who care so deeply for animals seldom have something to celebrate. We should use this opportunity to contemplate that successes are possible, even if it seems to take forever.  We are on the side of truth; we know animals suffer; we know it’s not necessary and we know how to stop it.  And we won’t stop trying, however long it takes.

 

 

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Please tell this Vancouver restaurant to take baby seal meat off the menu

 

A Vancouver restaurant, Edible Canada on Granville Island, is featuring meat from the cruel Newfoundland seal hunt on its menu as part of the Dine Out Vancouver Festival. 

VHS is urging Vancouverites to ask Edible Canada to remove the meat from its menu, as the commercial seal hunt is recognized around the world as inhumane.  More than 95 per cent of the seals slaughtered in the hunt are less than three months old and many are less than a month old.  They are killed by clubbing, shooting or hacking with a hakapik.

With more than two million seals killed since 2002, the seal hunt is the largest marine mammal slaughter on earth.  The hunt has been condemned internationally, with 35 countries banning the trade in commercial seal products.  A 2012 study by veterinarians determined that the hunt was inhumane, stating: “There are unacceptable (and unlawful) things being done to animals for profit in this hunt.”

Please contact Edible Canada and politely ask the management to reconsider the decision to put seal meat on their menu:

Eric Pateman, President, Edible Canada
Tel: 604 558 0040
Email: info@ediblecanada.com

Also contact the Dine Out Vancouver Festival to express your concerns about Edible Canada’s decision:

Lucas Pavan, Festival Coordinator
Tel: 604 682 2222
Email: lpavan@tourismvancouver.com