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animal welfare Captivity compassion cruelty Cruelty-free ethics News/Blog Promoted wildlife zoo

The Vancouver Aquarium needs a new vision

News that the Vancouver Aquarium is suing the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Park Board over the 2017 cetacean ban is a sad reminder that the aquarium remains out of step with changes in public attitudes and has no vision for the future that could reflect those changes.

With federal legislation banning cetacean captivity now the law of the land, the aquariums’s lawsuit seems particularly ill-timed and contrary to the spirit of the times.  It’s even more peculiar given that the aquarium itself said in 2018 that it would no longer keep whales and dolphins.

Still in the business of cetacean captivity

While the issue of cetacean captivity is largely settled, there remains much to be concerned about regarding the aquarium and its future direction.

First, the revelation that Ontario’s controversial Marineland amusement park is transferring two beluga whales owned by the Vancouver Aquarium to a facility in Valencia, Spain (which the aquarium manages), clearly demonstrates that it is still in the businesses of cetacean captivity.  They’re just not doing it in Stanley Park. The aquarium is also believed to own belugas kept at other facilities in the U.S. (Two belugas owned by the aquarium died at the notorious SeaWorld in 2015.)

The Valencia facility, L’Oceanogràfic, is the largest complex of its type in Europe and reportedly keeps 45,000 animals of 500 different species including fish, mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates. Its dolphinarium features two shows a day, with trained dolphins performing tricks for a large crowd. It’s clearly a place of entertainment.  While L’Oceanogràfic is a popular attraction it is not hard to find visitor reviews that are critical of animal welfare at the complex.

Facilities like Marineland, SeaWorld and L’Oceanogràfic represent everything that the Vancouver Aquarium should be moving away from. While the aquarium has done some rebranding, calling itself part of Ocean Wise, a “worldwide conservation organization” it remains primarily a place of entertainment, not conservation.

Restraints on speaking out against threats to marine life 

One of the most pressing marine conservation issues in B.C. is the potential extinction of B.C.’s Southern Resident killer whales.  The National Energy Board has admitted that the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline project will likely “cause significant adverse environmental effects on the Southern resident killer whale and on Indigenous cultural use associated with the Southern Resident killer whale.”  Conservation groups like the Raincoast Conservation Foundation have opposed the pipeline for this reason.  Yet, the Vancouver Aquarium’s voice is rarely heard in the pipeline debate.

Some fear that the aquarium’s reticence on such issues may be due to its links to business, especially to resource extraction industries. Mining company Teck donated $12.5 million to the aquarium in 2012 and one of its galleries is named for the company.  The Vancouver Board of Trade supported the aquarium in its fight to keep cetaceans in captivity, obviously cognizant of the tourist dollars the aquarium brings in. There is clearly a potential for a conflict of interest that would keep the aquarium out of important debates that are relevant to a genuine conservation role.

A drift toward becoming a zoo?

Another concern is the aquarium’s apparent “mission creep” toward becoming a zoo. It’s collection of 58,000 animals includes sloths, penguins, monkeys, snakes and macaws, which are hardly aquatic species. It would be unfortunate if this trend continued and the menagerie grew just to provide an additional attraction.

The Vancouver Aquarium, like all zoos and aquariums, justifies putting animals on display by claiming that they serve to educate and inspire people to value wildlife.  Yet there is little evidence to show that is the case.  There is, however, research to the contrary, as Zoocheck executive director Rob Laidlaw has stated: “There have been a number of studies examining how long zoo visitors look at animals. The results show that for some animals, particularly if they are not active, observation times can vary from about eight seconds to 90 seconds. There’s not much that can be learned about an animal in that length of time.”

Need for transparency

There is also a need for the aquarium to show greater transparency in its operations if it seeks to build public trust, especially as a conservation organization.  Its website states:

“Aquarium animals come to us from many places and in many different ways. Many animals arrive at the Aquarium as part of an exchange program with other large aquariums, zoos and universities. Most of the tropical fish are flown to the Aquarium from dealers around the world. The Aquarium tries to buy fish from sustainable fisheries and conservation-based associations, and only purchases from dealers who collect fish with nets, and not chemicals or explosives.

“Aquarium divers have permits to collect marine invertebrates including octopuses, sea stars, sea anemones and species of fish. Other collectors walk out from the beach with seine nets to gather local invertebrates and fishes. Many animals are also born into our care. Once in the Aquarium, animals normally live for many years.”

Who are these “dealers”?  How reputable are they and are they also involved in the exotic pet trade, which has damaged wildlife populations.  And there is the basic ethical question about removing animals from their natural habitat just to put them on public display. Who benefits? Certainly not the animals.

The aquarium should be transparent about where all its animals come from and how they are obtained. It should also be open about what happens to them after they become part of the collection. How many die prematurely?  Does the aquarium keep data on survival rates?

Opportunity for genuine change and new vision

The Vancouver Aquarium has an opportunity to do more than rebrand itself with name changes and new websites. But it needs to resolve the conflict between being a tourist attraction and a genuine conservation organization. 

There are ways forward. Some aquariums are moving away from making captive wildlife their star attractions. The Aquarium of the Pacific in California is opening a multi-million dollar “immersive theatre” that features “wind, fog, scent and vibrating seats to storms playing out on a massive, two-story-tall screen.” The theatre is part of a new “Pacific Visions” wing designed to “explore pressing environmental issues and suggest alternative pathways to a sustainable future.”

Hawaii’s Maui Ocean Centre, which has no captive cetaceans recently launched a digital “Humpbacks of Hawaii” exhibit using the integration of 4k imagery, 3D active glasses and a 7.1 surround sound system. The centre says the exhibit “transports guests deep into the ocean, giving them an inside look into the complex and vibrant lives of Maui’s humpback whales, and allowing them to forge new connections with one of nature’s greatest marvels.”

The aquarium could develop a vision for the future that is based on genuine education and conservation. It could employ the latest technology to make learning about marine life exciting and compelling.  It could use its voice to contribute to debates about real threats to B.C.’s coastal waters.

It could also invest in research about some of the big questions surrounding marine life. One of most recent and most profound of these has been the question of fish sentience.  The latest research shows that, contrary to previous perceptions, fish feel pain.  What are the implications of this?  The Vancouver Aquarium could be at the forefront of discussions about such big issues.

And why doesn’t the aquarium explore cooperation with the U.S.-based Whale Sanctuary Project, which has considered the B.C. coast as a possible a site for a sanctuary? There would be huge public support for the aquarium’s involvement.

It’s time the Vancouver Aquarium left the entertainment industry behind and became something much more valuable: A beacon to help guide us through the challenges that face our seas and a champion of the precious marine life they contain.  That is what Vancouver – and the world – needs, not just another place to see captive animals living out their lives in tanks.

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Opinion Editorial

What the internet weeping over death of NASA robot tells us about empathy

Article originally published on Daily Hive.

On February 13th, 2019 NASA confirmed the death of the Opportunity rover. Its last image a dark static greyscape, the last view of the sandstorm that destroyed the rover, and its last message “my battery is low and it is getting dark.”

And the Internet wept.

There has been an outpouring of sympathy at “the loss of Opportunity” (the most 2019 phrase thus far), but it’s not hard to see why. Designed for a 90-day mission, the rover explored for 15 years, outliving its sibling rover, Spirit, by years.

It was programmed to know its own birthday and it sang to itself every year to commemorate the occasion. It was basically a real life Wall-E. And it lived its life like many of us, terribly online. On Twitter, Opportunity and Spirit shared the @MarsRovers handle, and have amassed over 475k followers. Opportunity had an identity.

“This is a hard day,” said project manager John Callas. “Even though it’s a machine and we’re saying goodbye, it’s still very hard and very poignant, but we had to do that… It comes time to say goodbye.”

NASA lost communication with the rover after a sandstorm, declaring the mission, which has indicated that Mars once had water capable of sustaining microbial life, complete.

The online response to the “death” of Opportunity shows clearly if nothing else how essential compassion is to the human condition. We know that a robot in outer space isn’t actually celebrating its birthday, or even really dying. But it’s sad. We feel for the robot.

That isn’t to say sympathy for a dying robot is a bad thing. I used to research and teach political and ethical theory (among other things), and as an ethicist, I take compassion to be a moral virtue and one of the best qualities a human being can have. The philosopher in me is excited for the ethical considerations that will have to come about as a result of more and more complex artificial intelligences as machines and AI continue to become more and more a part of our lives. Our capacity to care, for other humans, for non-human animals, even for fictional characters and objects with identities, tells us something incredible about human beings.

The entertainment industry has played on this for years — robots, mutants, animal-human hybrids, and aliens can all be protagonists or love interests and no one bats an eye. You only have to name a pencil in front of a group of students and suddenly if you snap it you’re destroying an individual, not a mere object.

Animals are individuals. Not exactly like us, but they are individuated in similar ways. Depending on the species, some individuals will be more curious, social, food-motivated, dominant, playful, or any number of other “personality” (animality?) traits that mark individuals within that species.

It makes sense that people sympathize more with an individual like Opportunity, just as they did with Tilikum, the orca profiled in the film Blackfish which highlighted the keeping of cetaceans at Sea World and other marine parks. The film brought to light the ethical issue of keeping highly intelligent, social creatures in environments that the best science tells us is inadequate.

I had the fortune of seeing a similarly eye-opening film in Ottawa a few years ago. Sled Dogs examines some of the issues surrounding the Iditarod dog sled race and the use of sled dogs in tourism and entertainment, including a large scale cull of dogs that took place in British Columbia. It is heartbreaking to see the lives of these creatures. In this year’s Yukon Quest, considered by many to be more difficult and dangerous than the more famous Iditarod, a dog named Joker has died. Last year a dog named Boppy died when he asphyxiated on his own vomit which froze in his throat. A dog has died or had to be euthanized every year for the last ten years of the Yukon Quest. Boppy’s owner had a dog die in a previous race, and was once disqualified based on the condition of his dog team.

The environmental conditions these dogs were in at the time of their death, white, grey, getting darker, if we could capture that image, it may not be unlike the last photo from Opportunity.

Dogs are not meant to run 1600km in some of the most dangerous conditions on the planet, and they certainly don’t *want* to. They are not capable of the kinds of complex decision making required for that. Dogs, regardless of breed, want to be happy and like us, that comes in a variety of ways. Exercise is definitely one of them, and all dogs need some level of physical activity to be healthy and happy.

Certainly some dogs enjoy the snow and the cold, I can remember vividly trying to bring a Malamute mix in at the shelter I managed in St. John’s. It was a literal blizzard and he had curled up and gone to sleep outside. I had to pick him up to get him in for the night.

But no dog wants to die, and since they aren’t capable of making complex choices in their own best interests, we owe it to them to advocate on their behalf. If we can empathize with a robot dying alone on Mars, we have to be able to empathize with Joker dying in the cold, in pain and confused.

Non-human animals do not experience time the same way we do since they don’t plan for the future or construct a narrative identity through memories of the past. What they “know” in any meaningful sense of the term is what they are immediately and directly experiencing through their senses. They react based on previous experience as well as individual disposition, something like what we experience as memory and identity. The complexity of this basic experience varies depending on the animal, but remains essentially the same.

This means that in moments of trauma and stress, dogs, cats, cows, pigs, and a lot of other animals, “know” only that trauma. A dog can’t rationalize its final moments by telling itself it’s a hero. It doesn’t grasp the concept of death in the way we do, it may not “know” it’s dying in the same way we do, but in that moment that’s all it thinks it will ever experience. Every moment is forever.

We care a lot about our pets. Some care passionately about wildlife, and others care tremendously for the animals who suffer as part of our agriculture system. We even care about cartoons and brands and robots on Mars. In a world where we have rules around infrastructure to preserve the dignity and integrity of views and scenery, let’s try to empathize more with those who depend on our care the most, and always strive to do them justice. Like most things, we can always do better.

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Opinion Editorial

Let’s put an end to events that torment animals

Article originally published in the Vancouver Sun.

Most people care about how kittens and puppies are treated, but how many people have empathy for a 2,000-pound bucking bull?

The rodeo and bull-riding industries say bulls are mean and “ornery” and, of course, dangerous. They also call the bulls “athletes” — as though bulls have chosen a career in sports in the same way a football player might. They say bulls are just doing what they love to do.

The truth, however, is a different story. Bull-riding events depend on unnatural, coercive and inhumane treatment of bulls.

First, the bulls are bred to buck — a fact bull-riding promoters commonly use to defend the “sport.” But this only means that bulls are bred to have a genetic predisposition to buck. And it doesn’t mean the animal will enjoy bucking. It’s equivalent to breeding dogs for aggression or fear or to have a sensitivity to some form of negative stimulus.

In bull-riding there’s plenty of negative stimulus to make the animal buck. It has an unwanted rider on its back, who is wearing spurs that grip the bull’s hide. Just before the bull is released into the arena a “flank strap” is tightened around its hindquarters, which further induces bucking.

The flank strap is much debated, with rodeo supporters arguing that it’s just a “signal” to the bull to start bucking or that it just makes the bull buck harder. At most, they say, it’s a mild irritant. In fact, just like the unwanted rider and the spurs, the flank strap is causing the bull distress. Consequently, it enters the arena bucking wildly. It wouldn’t behave so otherwise.

The B.C. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act states that: “A person responsible for an animal must not cause or permit the animal to be, or to continue to be, in distress.” However, livestock are effectively exempted from the act, if “the distress results from an activity that is carried out in accordance with reasonable and generally accepted practices of animal management that apply to the activity in which the person is engaged … ” 

The drafters of the act presumably had in mind agricultural practices such as branding cattle, which would be illegal if applied to dogs or cats. Until challenged in court, it seems rodeo events like bull-riding will qualify for the same exemption, despite having no agricultural purpose. Sadly, this means the bulls, calves and steers in rodeos don’t get the same legal protection from abuse as other animals.

Again, many will say: why care about bulls? They’re just livestock. Contrast this lack of public empathy with, say, captive whales or dolphins. For years, animal advocates and thousands of concerned citizens have rightly fought to end the keeping of cetaceans in marine parks and aquariums because it’s inhumane to hold them in tanks. The debate between pro and anti-captivity supporters has been fierce, with intense media attention about the issue.

But imagine if dolphin trainers applied deliberately stressful, physical methods — the equivalent of spurs and flank straps — to make the dolphins perform. There would be no debate. No civilized person would stand for it.

Some will argue: yes, but cetaceans are intelligent, beautiful and graceful, bulls not so much. But should we deny compassion and empathy to animals that are not as charismatic as others? As Jeremy Bentham reminded us, the only question that should matter is “can they suffer?”

On Sept. 15, Abbotsford’s Exhibition Park will host what has been billed as an “extreme-rodeo” event, featuring bull-riding, “extreme freestyle bullfighting” and “Mexican bull poker,” all of which involve stressing bulls to make them perform. Animal advocates are calling on Abbotsford city council, which owns the venue, to cancel the event.

The Chilliwack Fair rodeo (Aug. 10-12) also features bull-riding, along with controversial events such as calf-roping and steer-wrestling, which animal advocates are campaigning against.

All animals deserve our empathy and respect, even the strong and powerful.  Isn’t it time we abolished events that depend on the taunting and tormenting of animals to entertain us? The cities of Abbotsford and Chilliwack could make a bold stand for compassion and kindness toward animals by doing just that.

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Opinion Editorial

Animals used in TV and film production need protection

Article originally published in The Province.

The shocking video of a terrified dog being forced into a pool of churning water on the set for the Hollywood movie A Dog’s Purpose has put the spotlight on the use of animals in film and television production. It’s an issue acutely relevant in B.C., as the provincial government appears willing to allow local productions to use animals from suppliers facing animal cruelty allegations.

In 2016, the producers of the CBS television show Zoo, which was being filmed in Vancouver, was reportedly planning to use animals from Ontario’s controversial Bowmanville Zoo until pressure from the animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) convinced CBS to cancel the plan.

PETA had confronted CBS with a shocking viral video showing the zoo’s owner, Michael Hackenberger, allegedly whipping a tiger. Bowmanville Zoo has since closed down and Hackenberger is currently facing animal cruelty charges.

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request have revealed that the B.C. government granted a permit to Hackenberger to supply animals to be used in the making of Zoo, despite strong objections from the BC SPCA, which pointed out that Hackenberger was the subject of an animal cruelty investigation by Ontario SPCA.

The B.C. SPCA also informed government officials that the facility where the animals were to be housed on arrival in B.C. had also been the subject of animal cruelty investigations. (The name of the facility has been redacted from the FOI documents.)

Despite these objections and widespread media coverage of the tiger-whipping video, the B.C. government granted Hackenberger a permit to supply 18 animals, including tigers, lions, leopards and baboons to Zoo’s producers. While CBS was shamed by PETA into cancelling the shipment, the provincial government, oblivious to the ethical alarm bells, was happy to see the animals shipped across the country from one captive animal facility facing cruelty allegations to another.

CBS is currently filming another season of Zoo in Vancouver. It is not known if they are using live animals in the production.

These revelations hardly inspire confidence in the provincial government when it comes to protecting animals used in B.C. film and television productions. The same could be said of the industry itself, which took no role in determining whether the animals from Bowmanville should be used or not.

The industry has relied in the past on the presence of representatives of the American Humane Association (AHA) on production sets. But as the BC SPCA pointed out in its objections to Zoo’s plans, the AHA has no legal jurisdiction for animal welfare in Canada.

It’s worth noting that the AHA had a staff member on the set of A Dog’s Purpose, when the dog was thrown in the pool. Perhaps more troubling, the AHA was the subject of a damning 2013 exposé by the Hollywood Reporter, which alleged that the association underreported incidents of animal abuse on television and movie sets. Similar allegations were made in a Los Angeles Times story in 2001. Can the AHA really be relied on to ensure “no animals were harmed” in the productions it monitors?

Even if the safety and welfare of animals can be effectively monitored during production, what happens when the cameras are turned off? Too often, it means that lions, tigers and other exotic animals are returned to their cages at the animal rental agencies to languish until the next job. B.C. is home to several such agencies, which are not subject to regular inspection.

While no one is suggesting banning domestic animals such as cats, dogs and horses from our screens, the entertainment industry needs to guarantee their safety and well-being. But with advances in Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) it is no longer necessary to use captive wild or exotic animals to make movies and television shows. They should be retired to sanctuaries along with any other captive exotic animal that is not part of a genuine conservation program.

When it comes to compromising animal welfare for the sake of entertainment, it’s time to say “cut.”

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Media Release

Report challenges claims that keeping whales and dolphins captive is justifiable

Media Release

For Immediate Release

December 14, 2016

REPORT CHALLENGES CLAIMS THAT KEEPING WHALES AND DOLPHINS CAPTIVE IS JUSTIFIABLE

The recent deaths of beluga whales Qila and Aurora have thrust the issue of captive display of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) in Vancouver back into the spotlight. The Vancouver Humane Society and Zoocheck Canada are holding a media conference to discuss captive cetacean issues and release a new report, A Crumbling Case for Cetacean Captivity? that specifically examines the kind of cetacean information provided to the general public and the impact of captive cetacean-associated research, and challenges some of the industry’s claims.

“Whale advocates, experts and members of the public have long been skeptical of the industry’s publicly-stated reasons for keeping cetaceans captive,” states Debra Probert, Executive Director of the Vancouver Humane Society. “Many of those arguments are now being vigorously challenged. We decided to look into a couple of key aspects of education and research at two captive cetacean facilities to see if they are really making a difference in the lives of wild cetaceans.”

“Given that the biological and behavioural needs of whales and dolphins cannot be met in an aquarium and there is little, if any, value in the education or conservation programs associated with keeping cetaceans on exhibition, it is time to empty the tanks,” said Zoocheck Campaigns Director Julie Woodyer.

According to marine mammal scientist Dr. Naomi Rose, “Society’s attitude toward whale and dolphin captivity is changing rapidly. Recently, Ontario banned the possession of orcas, the National Aquarium announced plans to retire its dolphins to a seaside sanctuary, SeaWorld pledged to end the breeding of its captive orcas, the State of California codified this corporate policy in law, the Whale Sanctuary Project was formed to establish the first cold water cetacean sanctuary in the world and the US government designated the Sakhalin-Amur population of belugas in Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk as depleted, meaning the import of these animals is prohibited. The times they are a’changin’ and Vancouver needs to evolve and change as well.”

Speakers include Debra Probert, Executive Director, Vancouver Humane Society; Julie Woodyer, Campaigns Director, Zoocheck Inc.; Dr. Rebecca Ledger, animal behaviourist; Dr. Sara Dubois, Chief Science Officer, British Columbia SPCA, and; Dr. Naomi Rose, Marine Mammal Scientist, Animal Welfare Institute.

When: Wednesday, December 14, 2016, 11:00 AM

Where: 1430 Segal Centre, SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings St.,Vancouver

Contact: Julie Woodyer, Zoocheck, 416-451-5976 Debra Probert, Vancouver Humane Society, 778-994-9744

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animal welfare compassion cruelty News/Blog Promoted Uncategorized

CBS: End the exploitation of wild animals on show “Zoo”

tigerVHS is joining the call for CBS to end the use of wild animals in the filming of its show “Zoo”. The Vancouver-shot series is based on James Patterson’s 2012 novel by the same name and is a thriller about a zoologist’s investigation into a wave of violent animal attacks against humans around the world.

For a series that’s based on the story-line that captive and exploited animals are fighting back against their oppressors, it’s disturbing that CBS itself fails to see the lesson and contributes to such exploitation through their use of wild animals, including bears, wolves and big cats, who have been forced to perform in the series. These animals are denied any semblance of a natural life and are transported around, caged, chained and forced to perform for mere entertainment.

Computer-generated imagery (CGI) has come a long way and has been used in other films to create realistic looking animals without the use and abuse of live ones, a popular example of this being Disney’s “The Jungle Book”.

Please join us in calling on CBS to follow the lead of others in the film industry by ending their use of wild animals and instead utilizing CGI technology in their productions. You can submit your request by visiting CBS’s website and selecting “Zoo” under the category drop-down of the feedback form.

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animal welfare compassion News/Blog Promoted Uncategorized

SeaWorld’s historic decision is lost on Vancouver Aquarium

beluga whales iStock_000005049794MediumLast week, SeaWorld announced that, effective immediately, it is ending its orca breeding program and will be phasing out its theatrical shows involving orcas.

While this is certainly welcome news for the future generations of these whales who would have been born into a life of captivity, sadly, it amounts to little for the existing generation in SeaWorld parks, who will remain captive “for as long as they live.” Nor does it extend the same compassion to SeaWorld’s other captive cetaceans, including belugas and dolphins, who can continue to be bred in captivity and perform for audiences.

What does it mean for cetaceans in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium? “It doesn’t change anything,” according to the aquarium’s general manager, who commented on SeaWorld’s announcement while in Spain, where the Vancouver aquarium has taken over operations of the L’Oceanografic aquarium. The marine park is the largest in Europe and has 13 bottlenose dolphins, 10 of which were caught in the wild. It also has a pair of belugas caught in Russian waters.

Despite growing criticism and a recent documentary on the subject, the Vancouver Aquarium defends its breeding programs and the keeping of cetaceans in captivity. Even Dr. Jane Goodall has voiced her opposition, calling captive breeding “no longer defensible by science.” She went on to argue that “the idea that certain cetaceans ‘do better’ in captivity than others is also misleading, as belugas, dolphins and porpoises are highly social animals which can travel in large pods and migrate long distances.”

Goodall is not alone in her opposition to the breeding and keeping of cetaceans in captivity. Senator Wilfred Moore has introduced a federal bill that, if passed, would prohibit the acquisition and captive breeding of cetaceans in Canada. We encourage you to sign and help circulate this potentially historic bill.

There is still much work to do in order to afford other animals the same freedom from exploitation, but we must recognize the SeaWorld announcement for the historical moment that it is. It serves as a testament to the power of compassionate people over corporations. Together, we can build on this momentum and work toward the inevitable day when the captivity industry is a thing of the past. Join the annual Empty the Tanks worldwide rally, taking place at the Vancouver Aquarium on Saturday, May 7th, 11am and voice your opposition to the captivity industry.

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animal welfare News/Blog Promoted zoo

The truth behind animal businesses

tiger iStock_000003062690Medium (2)

In recent weeks, two news stories have emerged that illustrate how businesses that exploit animals cultivate images of legitimacy while hiding a dark reality.

In B.C., the case of Mike Hopcraft, who has promoted himself as the “Reptile Guy”, made headlines when his facility in Mission was raided by the BC SPCA and a number of animals were seized.  Hopcraft claims to rescue and rehabilitate animals and is often featured on morning news shows as a reptile rescue expert.  Yet court documents obtained by Animal Justice tell a different story.

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In a blog post, Animal Justice says the documents describe what was found in the BC SPCA raid:  “Investigators repeatedly found dead animals, animals in such severe distress that they needed to be euthanized, infected and injured animals, emaciated and underweight animals, unsanitary tanks, overcrowding, cramped conditions, mouldy feces in tanks with live animals, animals with no water or undrinkable water, exposed wires, and broken lights.”   The post says the court documents also stated: “When Hopcraft was informed [two emaciated animals, one with four broken legs] were going to be seized he kicked a chair across the office and was escorted outside by the RCMP.”

 

In another revealing case, Michael Hackenberger, owner of Ontario’s Bowmanville Zoo was exposed allegedly abusing a tiger.  In an undercover video taken by PETA, Hackenberger uses a whip to motivate a male Siberian tiger called Uno.  In a so-called rebuttal to the video, Hackenberger admits to striking him twice, as quoted in the Toronto Star: “Maybe I viciously whipped the ground. Maybe I viciously whipped the air, but I did not viciously whip that tiger,” he said. “I didn’t strike the tiger except twice to get him turned around.”  In another undercover video, Hackenberger talks about training wolves, stating: “You smack ’em and they generally fold like a house of cards.”

Yet the Bowmanville Zoo, which is accredited by CAZA (Canada’s Accredited Zoos & Aquariums), attracts thousands of visitors and even praise in the media.  Positive PR and marketing by the zoo has convinced many people that it really cares about animals.  But when the veil slips, a disturbing reality is revealed.

iStock_000000747069LargeOver the years, VHS has seen a number of animal businesses exposed for what they really are.  In 2010, Cinemazoo, an animal rental agency based in Surrey, was investigated for animal cruelty by the BC SPCA.  The agency was forced to transfer a number of animals to more appropriate facilities.  It is still in operation, renting out animals for advertising, birthday parties and corporate events.

In 2009, VHS was instrumental in exposing animal abuse at the Mountain View Conservation and Breeding Centre in Langley, leading to cruelty charges being recommended by the BC SPCA.  Crown Counsel declined to proceed with charges but the centre divested itself of most of its exotic species. Prior to the revelations, the centre was said to have a “superb” record and was also CAZA accredited.

And who can forget the 2010 massacre of 56 sled dogs in Whistler, B.C.? Robert Fawcett, an employee of Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc. was sentenced to three years’ probation in 2012 for causing unnecessary pain and suffering to nine of the dogs. Fawcett claimed he had been ordered to cull the company’s herd of dogs when tourist demand dropped off after the 2010 Winter Olympics.  Until the incident, the sled dog tour industry retained a rosy image of dogs pulling sleds of happy tourists through a winter wonderland.  But the attention brought by the case revealed the industry practice of culling unwanted sled dogs and the outdoor tethering of dogs for long periods.

sled dog iStock_000015556155Medium

 

While Mr. Fawcett was portrayed as a “bad apple” by the industry, in fact 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.

These revealing incidents should serve as a reminder to the public that businesses that use animals for profit need to be constantly scrutinized and their claims should be treated with extreme scepticism.  Anyone who patronizes zoos, aquariums, circuses, rodeos, sled dog tours or races, horse races and other animal entertainment businesses should realize that the positive images they are sold are unlikely to match the harsh reality the animals experience.

When animals are treated as commodities their welfare will always be compromised.

 

 

 

 

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animal welfare cruelty News/Blog Promoted

Please support the bill to end cetacean captivity

 

belugaiStock_000012952067Smallsmall

Senator Wilfred Moore is urging Canadians to sign a petition supporting a bill he introduced in the Senate to end the captivity of whales and dolphins in Canada.

The Senator will present all the petitions together with his Bill to “End The Captivity Of Whales And Dolphins In Canada” to the Senate on January 25th. The bill would end the live capture, breeding, and acquisition of cetaceans in Canada.

Unfortunately, the Senate does not accept any reproductions, so the
petition has to be hand-signed and mailed. No internet petitions accepted.

Please download the petition here.  It can be printed off and circulated to friends, family and colleagues for signatures.  It must then be mailed to the address at the bottom of the petition form by January 14, 2016.

Thank you.

More information on the bill.

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Uncategorized

VHS statement on chuckwagon incident – July 8, 2014

July 8, 2014

Vancouver Humane Society says chuckwagon race fundamentally unsafe

Man injured, horse dead in separate incidents at Calgary Stampede

Vancouver – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) says the Calgary Stampede should suspend its chuckwagon races after a man was injured and a horse was killed in separate incidents at the Stampede chuckwagon track today.

“We are extremely sad to hear about these incidents,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker. “We hope the injured man makes a full recovery.”

VHS is calling on the Stampede to establish an independent panel of equine and veterinary experts to review the chuckwagon race to see if it can be made safer. “It’s clear that right now this event is fundamentally unsafe and should be suspended until a thorough review can take place,” Fricker said.

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