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Yes, rodeos ARE cruel

Despite what rodeo promoters say, the evidence is clear that the animals suffer




Early on, the controversy over the Luxton Pro Rodeo in Langford, B.C. revolved around Pamela Anderson’s Twitter intervention, dubious allegations about harassment of rodeo sponsors and how the upkeep of the Luxton Fairgrounds can best be funded. Finally, the media focus is now on the animals.

The central question is, or should be, do rodeo animals suffer or don’t they? Rodeo organizers generally avoid the question by referring to the importance of our Western heritage, or by repeating stock phrases like: “We treat these animals like family.”

Unless cowboys routinely chase, rope, pick up and slam their aunts or grandmothers to the ground, it’s hard to see the treatment of rodeo animals as comparable to familial relationships.

Another standard defence is that rodeo is a sport and the animals are athletes that want to compete. But unlike human athletes the animals have no choice in the matter.

calf face largeDoes anyone really believe that an animal would choose to be goaded into an arena to be roped and tied or wrestled to the ground in front of a baying crowd? Are horses and bulls bucking because being spurred by an unwanted rider on their backs and having a cinch strap tightened around their flanks feels good?

It is self-evident that a three-month-old calf being chased across an arena, roped to a jarring halt and thrown to the ground will feel fear, stress and pain. Common sense should make this obvious, but expert opinion also supports the contention.

Dr. Bernard Rollin, a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University, has written: “Even ranchers are uncomfortable with such an event because the immature animal surely experiences fear and physical pain when jerked at the end of a rope.” (There is a big difference between calf-roping as genuine ranch practice and the sensationalized, high-pressure rodeo event. No one ever timed a real cowboy’s work with a stop-watch and handed out huge sums of money for being the fastest.)

The renowned animal behaviourist, Temple Grandin, who has led the scientific research into the effect of fear on livestock has stated: “The single worst thing you can do to an animal emotionally is to make it feel afraid. Fear is so bad for animals I think it’s worse than pain.” If she’s right, imagine the torment experienced by calves and other rodeo animals.

Perhaps the easiest way to judge whether rodeo is cruel is to look at the ample photographic and video evidence available online. Animal welfare groups, especially in the United States, have recorded numerous animal injuries and deaths at rodeos but just looking at the terrified faces of calves, steers and horses should convince anyone that they are suffering.


One tell-tale sign, if confirmation were needed, is the whitescalf ropingcrop of animals’ eyes often showing in close-up photos. Grandin has written: “When eye white is visible, the animal is agitated and frightened. Two scientific studies have verified the correlation between visible eye white and fear.”
It is worth remembering that all this fear, stress, pain – and sometimes injury and death – is for the sake of entertainment. This is not cattle ranching. No food is produced. Rodeo is just a cruel circus using farm animals.

Some will still say that this is all propaganda by animal rights activists or overly-sentimental animal lovers. If so, then why are virtually all mainstream animal welfare organizations in the developed world opposed to rodeo? This includes our own BC SPCA, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the Humane Society of Canada and the national SPCAs of the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

These are the agencies we entrust with the prevention of cruelty to animals and they have determined that many rodeo events are cruel.

So, do rodeo animals suffer? Yes they do. And the only remaining question is why do we allow their suffering to continue? Or, more pertinently, why does a sophisticated and civilized city like Victoria allow this to happen on its doorstep at the Luxton Pro Rodeo in Langford?

Take action against animal cruelty at the Luxton rodeo.

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Wolf kill contest should be cancelled

                             Photo: Ian McAllister,

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

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

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

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

The contest sponsors include (click for contact info):

Rich Petersen, Remax realtor

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

Raven Oilfield Rentals

Backcountry (hunting & fishing store)

Mr. Green-Up Envirotech Ltd.

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

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Pipeline threat to precious wildlife

Grizzly in the Great Bear Rainforest. Photo by Ian McAllister, Pacific Wild

Why VHS opposes the Northern Gateway pipeline 

British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest is home to an abundance of wildlife.  Kermode bears (spirit bears), Grizzly bears, wolves, whales, salmon and many other species depend on the forest and its pristine waterways and coastline for their survival.

The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline will deliver oil to giant tankers plying the rugged coastal waters of the Rainforest, putting the welfare wildlife at risk.  For that reason, VHS supports the efforts of environmental groups opposed to the pipeline.  We urge our supporters, other animal welfare groups and animal lovers everywhere to do the same.

Photographs and video footage of the Great Bear Rainforest and its wildlife show just what is at stake in the fight to stop the pipeline.  They show just how unique the forest is and how precious the animals are.

Below are some links to more videos

Spirit bears of the Rainforest (Pacific Wild video)

Wolves in the Rainforest (Pacific Wild video)

This is not an Enbridge animation (Shortt and Epic video for Dogwood Initiative)

Some organizations opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline (each with recommended actions):

Pacific Wild

The Dogwood Initiative

Greenpeace Canada

Raincoast Conservation Foundation

Living Oceans

Sierra Club BC

West Coast Environmental Law

Forest Ethics

Nature Canada

Pipe Up Against Enbridge

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VHS responds to Tim Hortons announcement on animal welfare

VHS issued the following news release in response to Tim Hortons’ announcement of an animal welfare initiative:

May 4, 2012

Tim Hortons responds to customer demands for more humane eggs and pork

Under mounting pressure from animal welfare organizations and consumers, Tim Hortons announced today it will call on its pork suppliers to eliminate the gestation confinement breeding sows and that it plans to purchase at least 10 per cent of its eggs from enriched caging systems by the end of 2013.

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) still feels Tim Hortons’ initiative falls short of making necessary improvements to animal welfare, particularly in regards to egg-laying hens. Through VHSs online petition* on Change.Org, more than 30,000 people have urged Tim Hortons to stop the use of cages and crates for hens and sows.

VHS is pleased that Tim Hortons is sending a strong message to the pork industry that change is needed to get animals out of tiny crates,” said Leanne McConnachie, Director of the Vancouver Humane Societys Farm Animal Programs. “Like many consumers nationwide, we are disappointed that the company still refuses to use any cage-free eggs though.”

Approximately 26 million hens produce Canada’s egg supply, and Tim Hortons 10 per cent commitment will only affect about 35,000 hens – the equivalent size of the average battery cage barn. In B.C. alone, more than 300,000 hens are raised in cage-free systems such as free-run, free-range and organic free-range.  Most of Tim Hortons’ competitors have opted to purchase eggs from farms using cage-free systems.

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Please sign petition before Tim Hortons AGM

Conventional battery hens

UPDATE:  Tim Hortons has announced an animal welfare initiative. Details here.  Stay tuned for VHS reaction.

On May 10th, Tim Hortons will hold its annual general meeting in Toronto. A shareholder resolution will be proposed asking Tim Hortons to stop buying eggs and pork from hens and pigs confined in cramped metal cages.

Add YOUR voice to the discussion. Sign our petition here and TELL TIM HORTONS TO STOP SUPPORTING FARM ANIMAL CRUELTY. We have collected more than 23,000 signatures so far – AT LEAST 10,000 is even better.

Please sign and share today. We have only A FEW DAYS LEFT!

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Canada’s factory farms exposed

VHS’s contribution to the report concerns Canada’s supply management system and cruelty to caged hens like these ones on an Ontario battery farm.

Report is a must read

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has released some alarming findings about the impacts of Canada’s animal agriculture practices.

What’s On Your Plate? The Hidden Costs of Industrial Animal Agriculture exposes the destructive impacts of intensive livestock operations on our health, the environment, animal welfare and rural Canada.

The report also exposes the real costs of our food, including tax-funded subsidies to agriculture, and the costs borne by our health care system for public safety and food borne illnesses. Our “cheap” food isn’t so cheap after all!

VHS co-wrote a section on supply management and Canada’s egg industry (pages 101-105). Read the report here and take action to help address the issue.

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Ask Mayor Nenshi to speak up for compassion

Compassionate Canadians must write to Calgary’s mayor.  Here’s why:

It’s time to end cruel calf-roping at the Calgary Stampede and there’s one man who could make it happen:  Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary.

Since his election in 2010, Mayor Nenshi has done much to enhance Calgary’s image as a progressive city with a heart.  But the city’s image remains tarnished by the cruelty inflicted on animals during the annual Calgary Stampede rodeo.  And calf-roping is perhaps the cruellest rodeo event of all.

Three-month old calves are goaded out of the chute at full speed (up to 27 miles per hour). The terrified animal is then chased by a mounted rider who ropes the calf to a sudden, bone-jarring halt, picks him up and slams him to the ground. The event is timed and the rider who does it fastest wins.

The time pressure of the event and the prize money at stake can lead to poor roping, harsh handling and mistakes by riders – all of which put the calf at risk of injury. But it is not just the risk of injury that is the problem with calf-roping. It’s the fear.

All cattle are “prey” animals and research has shown they are particularly sensitive to fear. Dr. Temple Grandin, the distinguished animal behaviourist, has written that fear is “so bad” for animals it can be worse than pain.

There can be no doubt that a three-month-old calf, goaded and chased into an arena with a shouting crowd is suffering even before the rope pulls him off his feet.  How can tormenting an animal in this way be acceptable as entertainment?  Treating a dog this way would result in cruelty charges.

Mayor Nenshi, as a member of the Stampede’s board of directors, could be a voice for compassion by urging the board to stop the unconscionable cruelty of calf-roping.  By taking this step, the Stampede could begin evolving into an acceptable form of entertainment – one that doesn’t rely on the abuse of animals.

Please tell Mayor Nenshi to speak up for the innocent calves who suffer for the sake of human amusement by emailing him this letter.

More information on the Calgary Stampede rodeo here.





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Hear great new music and help farm animals!

We’re excited to launch our newest and most musical endeavour today!

With the help of Vancouver Film School students we’ve created a great new music album featuring 10 up-and-coming alternative-indie artists, both local and international. There is even a forward by renowned animal advocate Bob Barker of “The Price is Right” fame.

The album, titled Alternative for Animals, can be downloaded from for only $7.99, and 100% of the proceeds will go to VHS’s farm animal programs. Preview the tracks and purchase the album here.

The album is meant to raise awareness about the animal cruelty issues in the farming industry and give you a chance to help. See for more details.

Alternative for Animals will serve as a powerful reminder to people of how our choices and actions can either contribute to or alleviate animal suffering.  We are certain that when consumers are informed about the facts, they will be encouraged to reduce or eliminate their consumption of meat, dairy and eggs or at least choose products from certified organic farms. These options offer higher welfare for the animals and are better for the environment and human health.

Please spread the word about this fantastic project and support the movement towards improving farm animal welfare.

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Hens to end miserable lives as glue

The sticky problem of making money from old hens finally has a solution. They’re going to be turned into glue.

According to a story in the Western Producer, researchers at the University of Alberta say spent hens, which are seen as waste in the industry, can be used to produce wood glue. There’s a “big market” say the researchers.

In Canada at any given time, there are approximately 28 million egg-laying hens. Most of them spend their short lives of 12 to 24 months in wire cages (called battery cages), with each hen having less room than a sheet of paper. The hens are crammed five to seven to a cage with no room to express any natural behaviours such as nesting, wing-flapping, dust-bathing or foraging. The frustration from such extreme crowding causes the birds to cannibalize each other. Industry’s answer to this problem is to cut off the hens’ beaks with a hot blade or a laser, which has been scientifically proven to cause extreme pain.

Until now, the bodies of hens that are no longer considered productive (spent hens) have been worthless, so much so that even transporting them to slaughter was uneconomical. On-farm killing and composting has been encouraged, using methods such as gassing, macerating and electrocution.

There are significant welfare problems with both transport and on-farm slaughter. Transportation of farm animals is poorly regulated in Canada for any species, and the vulnerability of spent hens means they are particularly at risk. Their bones are fragile due to excessive egg production and lack of exercise – between 24% and 29% of laying hens have broken bones by the time they reach the processing plant, according to a 1989 study. The battery cages in which they spend their lives are poorly designed, so even removing them from the cages can cause painful injuries, including fractures. Because of their low economic value, each bird is not treated with care and ‘catchers’ can be extremely rough when removing hens from cages and cramming them into transport drawers.

The trip to the slaughterhouse is fraught with yet more misery, including inclement weather, long transport distances, vehicle vibration, etc. Once there, stressed and suffering, they are again pulled from the containers and hung upside down to have their heads dragged through an electrified water bath (called stunning). Too many birds survive the stunning and are fully conscious as their throats are slit.

While on-farm slaughter addresses the problems with transport, welfare is still a serious issue. Because farms are away from the city, the public, including authorities tasked with oversight of animal welfare, does not see what’s happening. All of the killing methods, including gassing, maceration, and electrocution, can cause terrible suffering.

An improvement in economic value is not likely to result in increased welfare. Spent hens will continue to suffer until the public accepts the painful reality of their lives and deaths.  Their suffering can be reduced by purchasing only cage-free eggs or by cutting out eggs altogether.