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Circus on the run!

The circus is coming to the PNE.  And we need to stop it.

VHS supporters will recall that the Royal Canadian Circus was scheduled to appear at Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver from May 12th to 14th, but after VHS encouraged the public to complain to Concord Pacific about the circus’s questionable animal welfare record, the venue was switched to the PNE.  It’s not too late to let the PNE know how you feel about its decision to host this performance.

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 the PNE about hosting this circus.

Please email the PNE and politely ask them to cancel the performance of the Royal Canadian Circus.

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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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New film exposes sled dog cruelty

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You can help by drawing attention to this important documentary

A new documentary is exposing serious animal welfare problems in the sled dog industry in North America.  The film, Sled Dogs, is being screened at this year’s Whistler Film Festival in British Columbia in December.

VHS, which was interviewed for the film, has always been opposed to sled dog racing and touring.  After the infamous 2010 massacre of surplus sled dogs in Whistler, we called for a ban on the industry but the provincial government chose instead to introduce standards for the treatment of sled dogs (which we believe are inadequate and ineffective).

In a press release, the film’s director, Fern Levitt, says: “This film comes at a critical moment when the public is waking up to the treatment of animals and demanding change. The audience will be outraged when they discover the legal abuse of ‘man’s best friend’ under the guise of sport and entertainment. This is a timely documentary and a definitive call for action.” 

Take action 

Please view the film’s trailer here and comment. You can express opposition to the tethering of sled dogs and “culling” by gunshot. (You can view VHS’s position on the sled dog industry here.)

If you are able to attend the Whistler Film Festival we encourage you to see this film. Tickets will be available through the festival’s website.

Please share this information and let other people know about this important film.

Please donate to VHS to support our work on important issues like this.

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Factory farming: A problem with solutions

A farmer veterinary walks inside a poultry farm

Two recent news stories underscore why factory farming must end and how some powerful interests are working to make that happen.

Last week, A new study found compelling  and disturbing evidence that a novel form of the dangerous superbug Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) can spread to humans through consumption or handling of contaminated poultry.

“We’ve known for several years that people working directly with livestock are at increased risk for MRSA infections, but this is one of the first studies providing compelling evidence that everyday consumers are also potentially at risk,” said one of the authors of the study.

Intensive farming practices, which often involve giving food animals low doses of antibiotics to encourage fast growth and compensate for overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions, has led to the spread of superbugs like MRSA.  Those same conditions, which billions of animals around the world must endure, are the reason animal advocates have called for an end to factory farming on animal welfare grounds.

Animal suffering and dangerous superbugs are, of course, not the only unwanted consequences of industrialized animal agriculture.  Intensive farming also degrades our environment, including contributing 14.5 per cent of all greenhouse gases to global climate change. It uses up huge amounts of land, water and energy.  And, not least, its end product is meat – the overconsumption of which can be damaging to human health.

The other related news story acknowledges these problems and offers solutions.  This week, a group of 40 investors managing $1.25 trillion in assets launched a campaign to encourage 16 global food companies to shift from selling meat to selling plant protein. “The world’s over reliance on factory farmed livestock to feed the growing global demand for protein is a recipe for a financial, social and environmental crisis,” said the investor leading the initiative.

The meat and livestock sector is no longer just the target of grassroots activists and animal advocates.  The world, including the world of finance, is waking up to just how unsustainable this industry is.

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Rodeo on the run?

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Thats entertainment?

According to media reports, the “dysfunctional” Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) is in chaos, with its general manager being fired and several board directors resigning.

This follows the the CPRA’s failure to negotiate a deal to keep its championships, the Canadian Finals Rodeo, in Edmonton.  The CFR will now be held in Saskatoon, starting in 2017.  (You can urge the City of Saskatoon not to host the rodeo here.)

All this may signify a lack of public support for rodeo, which is good news for animal welfare.  VHS has exposed the suffering of rodeo animals with photos from a number of events, most recently at the Williams Lake Stampede.

The CFR’s move from Edmonton to Saskatoon means the rodeo will be in a venue with a seating capacity of 9,550 instead of one with a capacity of more than 18,000.  In short, the move likely means fewer people will see the rodeo and its growth will be limited.

Meanwhile, the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association, which has been organizing rodeos since the 1990s, has announced that it has “ceased all operations, effective immediately”.  This follows the cancellation of two professional rodeos in British Columbia – one in Abbotsford, the other in Victoria – in the last two years, after campaigns by VHS and other animal advocates.

In addition, attendance at this year’s Calgary Stampede was the lowest in 22 years. While this was blamed on bad weather and Alberta’s economic downturn, it suggests that rodeo has a limited appeal.  There is certainly evidence that this is the case, with a December 2015 poll showing that 63 per cent of Canadians are opposed to using animals in rodeo.

As more people learn the truth about rodeo cruelty, the harder it will be for rodeo to attract new fans.  VHS intends to make sure that’s exactly what happens.

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Tell the Prime Minister to support better animal welfare laws

Sad dog iStock_000011589690Small

Earlier this year, Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith introduced Bill C-246, the Modernizing Animal Protections Act, a private member’s bill aimed at updating Canada’s federal animal cruelty legislation. The bill proposes to amend the Criminal Code to consolidate and modernize various offences against animals.

Canada’s animal cruelty laws have not been significantly updated since 1892. It’s time to modernize these archaic laws and more effectively protect animals from abuse and neglect. If you haven’t already done so, please contact your Member of Parliament to encourage them to support this bill. You can find your MP’s email address here. You can copy the text from the sample letter below into the body of the email if you wish.

You can also email the Prime Minister a message. (Click READ THE PETITION to see the message):

[emailpetition id=”10″]

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CBC used false information to defend Calgary Stampede

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Calf-roping at the Calgary Stampede. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

 

The CBC has been using false information in its responses to concerns about animal welfare at the Calgary Stampede and the CBC’s coverage of the Stampede’s rodeo and chuckwagon races.

In emails to members of the public, the CBC falsely stated that the Alberta SPCA works with the Calgary Stampede and is on-site monitoring events.  The Alberta SPCA has denied that this is the case.

People who have emailed the CBC to complain about its Stampede rodeo broadcasts have been receiving an email response from CBC which states that:

“…Stampede organizers are committed to providing the highest standard of animal care and safeguarding animal welfare. To that end, the organization works with the Calgary Humane Society and the Alberta SPCA. Both groups are on-site monitoring events, and all competing animals are under constant veterinary care and attention throughout the Stampede.”

But when one complainant checked with the Alberta SPCA to see if this was true, she received a reply from the society’s communications manager stating:

“Thank you for contacting me about this email. I will be contacting the CBC to correct its public messages, because the Alberta SPCA doesn’t “work with” the Stampede, and we don’t send officers to monitor Stampede events…”

The complainant’s email from the CBC can be seen here and the email from the Alberta SPCA here.

 

Yesterday, the Alberta SPCA tweeted a statement confirming that it does not work with the Stampede or monitor rodeo events:

Capture albera spca

The CBC has tweeted an apology saying “it wasn’t our place to speak for the Alberta SPCA or Calgary Stampede.” But the tweet did not address why the CBC was distributing misinformation about the Alberta SPCA’s animal welfare role at the Stampede.

It is not known how many complainants received CBC emails containing the false information.

VHS has an online petition calling on the CBC to stop broadcasting rodeo cruelty at the Stampede.  Also see our related article in the Huffington Post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Working together for animals

Photo 7 PF Someone not something

VHS would like to thank all the organizations listed below who signed on to the group letter that we sent to A&W asking them to go cage-free. Not only did A&W listen, but they plan to be cage-free within two years, ahead of most other companies. Nicely done, everyone!

 

Animal Justice Canada

“Commercial animal agriculture is essentially an unregulated industry. The absence of government oversight has created a race to the bottom, with animals paying the ultimate price of physical and psychological torment. Companies and consumers have the power to demand better for animals through their purchases and food choices.” Anna Pippus, Director of Farmed Animal Advocacy

 

 

Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals

“We applaud companies like A&W that are showing genuine leadership in animal welfare, not simply by committing to buying cage-free eggs, but also by doing so in a reasonable timeline of two years — millions more hens will live better lives because of it.”  Edana Brown, Director

 

Humane Society International/Canada

“HSI/Canada welcomes another of Canada’s largest restaurants joining the growing list of companies demanding a cage-free future for hens. A&W’s commitment to improve the welfare of hens in its supply chain by moving to 100 percent cage-free eggs sends a clear message to the egg industry that confining chickens in cages simply has no place in our nation’s agricultural future.”  Sayara Thurston, Campaign Manager

 

Mercy for Animals

“We praise A&W for swiftly addressing this important issue on the minds of conscious consumers across Canada. The company’s new cage-free egg policy is a crucial step that will reduce the suffering of countless hens.”  Krista Hiddema, Managing Director

 

Vancouver Humane Society

“A&W thought they were doing the right thing by sourcing eggs from ‘enriched’ cages. Kudos to them for hearing us when we told them that enriched cages severely restrict  key behaviours like running, full wing-flapping and flying and do not permit unrestrained perching and dustbathing. A cage is a cage.” Debra Probert, Executive Director

 

Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Farmed Animals

(no comment available)

 

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Poll: Most Canadians oppose rodeo

Calf roper at 2006 Russian River Rodeo, Duncans Mills, California

So why does CBC keep broadcasting it?

VHS has long criticized CBC Sports for broadcasting the Calgary Stampede rodeo.  The CBC has refused to end its coverage despite the clear evidence that animals suffer in rodeos.  They’ve told us that the Stampede is “a longstanding Canadian tradition and is popular with millions of Canadians across this country.”

Really? The facts show that when you ask Canadians across this country how they feel about rodeo, most of them are opposed to it.

A new national public opinion survey on animal welfare issues shows only three in ten (31%) Canadians are in favour of using animals in rodeos.  The survey, by polling company Insights West, found that a solid majority of Canadians (63%) are opposed to rodeos and that Alberta is the only province with a majority (57%) in favour of rodeo.

calf ropingcropVHS has relayed the results of the poll to management at CBC Sports and is awaiting a response. During the 2015 Calgary Stampede, VHS launched a petition calling on CBC to end its broadcast of the Stampede rodeo.  If you haven’t signed the petition, please do. More than 11,000 people already have.

Let CBC Sports know that you are among millions of Canadians opposed to rodeo – and you are in the majority. Remind them that this is the 21st century and animal abuse has no place in modern Canada. Tell them that causing animals to suffer for the sake of entertainment is immoral.  Tell them to stop putting cruelty on our television screens and calling it a sport.

Please support our continuing campaign against rodeo cruelty. We convinced the City of Vancouver to ban rodeo and we’ve won victories against the Cloverdale Rodeo in Surrey and the Luxton Rodeo on Vancouver Island. Your donation will help us win more!

More information:

Rodeo cruelty
The Calgary Stampede

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VHS marks 30 years of helping animals

VHS reception Rebecca Ledger
Keynote speaker Dr. Rebecca Ledger gave a presentation on science and animal emotions and sentience.

Close to a hundred supporters and animal lovers turned out to celebrate VHS’s 30th anniversary at a reception in Allard Hall at UBC on November 21st.

The event highlighted many of VHS’s achievements over the last 30 years and drew attention to the animal welfare issues we continue to address.

 

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VHS executive director Debra Probert

VHS executive director Debra Probert spoke to the assembled guests about VHS’s history, thanking the many people who contributed to our success, including founder Ingrid Pollak. She also described the need for organizations like VHS:  “I‘d just like to remind you why we’re here. We’re here because we all know and care that every day animals are suffering because of human carelessness, thoughtlessness and greed. It’s up to us to speak for them. Tonight we’re taking a few hours to celebrate what VHS has accomplished. But tomorrow, we have to resume our battle to fight for their basic rights to live the lives they were meant to live, with minimal interference from us.”

VHS staffers Emily Pickett (who organized the event) and Peter Fricker also spoke, giving details on our program work.

The evening ended with a compelling presentation by keynote speaker Dr. Rebecca Ledger, a clinical animal behaviourist and animal welfare scientist. Dr. Ledger spoke about changing scientific attitudes toward animal sentience and emotions.

A silent auction and donations at the reception raised $3443 for VHS’s work.

We would like to thank all the supporters, sponsors and volunteers who helped make this event a great success and a memorable evening.

Photos by Sam Steele of Willow Tree PhotographyTo see a photo album of the reception click here.

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VHS board and staff, L to R: Peter Fricker, Chris Hajek, Frances Kelly, Marjorie Brown, Debra Probert, Liberty Mulkani, Marylee Davies, Rebeka Breder, Aarti Gupta, Emily Pickett, Amy Balcome.