animal welfare compassion ethics News/Blog Promoted Uncategorized wildlife

Coalition calls on government to end wildlife-killing contests in British Columbia

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) has joined a coalition of 54 environmental and animal protection groups, conservationists and scientists in calling on the government of British Columbia to put a stop to wildlife-killing contests, after learning about three such events currently taking place in the province.

In an open letter sent to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Doug Donaldson, our coalition expressed significant concern about the existence of contests throughout the province that are encouraging the indiscriminate killing of animals including wolves, coyotes, cougars and raccoons.

In some of these events, participants receive points for the type of animal killed and compete for a cash prize. The coalition is currently aware of three separate events, the first is a “wolf-whacking contest” hosted by Chilcotin Guns in Williams Lake; the second is a “predator tournament” hosted by the Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club; and the third is a wolf bounty being offered by the West Kootenay Outdoorsmen Club.

VHS opposes wildlife-killing contests on the grounds that they are unethical, inhumane and are not supported by science. Contest organizers claim they are protecting ungulate populations (deer, caribou, elk, etc.) by killing predators, but research shows that predator killing contests are ineffective and fail to address any root causes of decline. Instead, wildlife professionals suggest efforts should be invested in habitat protection and restoration.

These contests not only teach disrespect for wildlife through the indiscriminate killing of as many predators as possible, but they also disregard the value of individual animals, both intrinsically and as a part of the larger ecosystem.

We’re encouraging our supporters to contact their MLA and the appropriate government officials and respectfully ask that predator-killing contests be banned. Contact information can be found below. Feel free to use our coalition letter as a template for your own, but be sure to personalize your email!

Find contact information for your MLA

Hon. Doug Donaldson – Minster of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development
Telephone: (250) 387-6240

Hon. George Heyman – Minister of Environment & Climate Change Strategy
Telephone: (250) 387-1187

Fish and Wildlife – Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development
Telephone: 1-877-855-3222

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.

Opinion Editorial

Glue traps a cruel way to control rodents

Article originally published in the Vancouver Sun.

Aneurin Bevan, a minister in the Britain’s postwar Labour government, once described his Conservative party opponents as “lower than vermin.”  It was perhaps the ultimate insult, considering that vermin are, as one dictionary puts it, “noxious, objectionable, or disgusting animals collectively, especially those of small size that appear commonly and are difficult to control.”

But vermin is just a label for wildlife, usually rats and mice, whose efforts to survive and thrive conflict with human efforts to do the same. Rodents don’t aim to cause us trouble but sometimes they do. Of course, being humans, we have employed science and our industrialized might to create an array of weapons, including traps, electrocution and various poisons, to keep them at bay.

Even animal lovers see little alternative to using lethal methods to keep their homes free from rodent infestation. Coexisting with rats in your kitchen is a bit of stretch for even the most compassionate among us. Preserving public health and safety and protecting food in homes, restaurants, warehouses, etc. are paramount.

But must our conflict with rodents be the cold, pitiless, all-out war on “vermin” that it seems to be? Should lethal methods always be the first choice and, if they are, shouldn’t they be as humane as possible? Consider one of the main products sold by major Canadian retailers to deal with rodents: glue traps.  These are boards made of wood, plastic or stiff cardboard coated with an adhesive on which rodents become stuck by their feet or fur.  They are anything but humane.

A 2003 Oxford University study found that rodents caught in glue traps “are likely to experience pain and distress” and “forceful hair removal, torn skin and broken limbs.” The study states that when boards are collected, the rodents are often squealing.  A pest control operative interviewed for the study described the animals to the researchers as “screaming their heads off.”

According to the study, the pest control industry recommends glue traps be checked every eight or 12 hours but, when used by the public, the length of time may be several days.

New Zealand and Ireland have banned glue traps and, after a campaign by animal advocates, a number of big wholesalers in the U.K. agreed to stop selling them. The Vancouver Humane Society has asked Walmart Canada, Canadian Tire, Rona and Home Depot to stop carrying the traps, but none of the companies has responded.

There are alternatives to glue traps, but none of the options is ideal.  Rodenticides, for example, are known to poison hawks, owls and other animals that eat rodents. The least inhumane lethal method is the snap trap, which is best purchased from specialty pest control companies.  Live traps can be used, with the rodent released elsewhere, but animals may return if released nearby or may suffer if relocated to areas without adequate food.  There is also the risk of animals being left for long periods in unchecked live traps.

The need for these methods can be greatly reduced through prevention and exclusion measures such as keeping garbage and compost secure, ensuring bird feeders don’t spill and sealing gaps where rodents can enter the home.

The B.C. SPCA has published a wealth of information on such measures on its website and also recently launched AnimalKind, a wildlife and rodent control accreditation program for pest control companies. The program accredits companies committed to using animal welfare-based standards approved by the B.C. SPCA.  To date, two companies, AAA Wildlife Control in the Lower Mainland and Alternative Wildlife Solutions on Vancouver Island, have been accredited. The accreditation standard prohibits the use of glue traps except under certain extreme circumstances and with a list of other conditions that companies must meet.

There are no easy answers when it comes to dealing with human/wildlife conflicts but we can take steps to minimize animal suffering and use the most humane methods possible.  Glue traps are certainly not one of these methods and consumers should avoid them.  In addition, they should urge retailers to stop selling them.

animal welfare News/Blog Promoted zoo

A Whale Sanctuary in BC?

Renowned neuroscientist Dr. Lori Marino spoke to the public about the Whale Sanctuary Project at an event presented by the Vancouver Humane Society and the BC SPCA on July 11th. She and the executive director of the project, Charles Vinick, were in British Columbia looking at possible sites for the sanctuary.

The theme of the evening at the Roundhouse in Vancouver was “Reconciliation”, which was introduced by Bob Chamberlin, Chief Councilor of the Kwicksutaineuk Ah-kwa-mish First Nation. Chief Chamberlin discussed the reconciliation between Canada and its First Nations people, and how this should expand towards a reconciliation between all humans and the natural world. Recognition of this planet as a living being, and respecting the animals and nature, is a necessary step towards this reconciliation.

Dr. Marino continued on this theme by describing the Whale Sanctuary Project, which aims to create a seaside sanctuary for formerly captive cetaceans (whales and dolphins) that maximizes the well-being and autonomy of its residents. It will create an environment as close as possible to their natural habitat.

Other sites under consideration are along the coasts of Washington State and Nova Scotia.  There is a thorough list of requirements that a site must meet and Dr. Marino and her team have been working closely with First Nations communities to ensure that the project is adopted rather than tolerated. They hope to complete the site selection portion of this project by the end of the year. 

Once the sanctuary site has been selected they will begin a three-phase process to ensure it is ready for its first resident by 2019. They will first focus on development of infrastructure and veterinary facilities, followed by administration and housing. The final phase will develop educational and visitor programs. The sanctuary will allow the public to see cetaceans in a natural setting and will focus on education and conservation, not entertainment. Dr. Marino and her team believe a sanctuary is about the animals, not about the people, and they will work to create a better life for these highly intelligent animals.

Learn More!


animal welfare News/Blog Promoted

Canadian Wildlife Federation obscures its hunting affiliations

elk-hunter-istockA recent story in the Vancouver Sun raised an important question for animal lovers: Why does the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) continue to obscure the fact that it is deeply rooted in the hunting and fishing community, and  is actually made up of twelve ‘affiliate’ organizations, most of which have a major focus on hunting and fishing? If you have any doubt, check out the website of one affiliate – the Alberta Fish and Game Association.

Or, have a look at this: Brad Leyte, CWF executive committee member and secretary, is a hunter, as a photo and story in Atlantic Outdoors Magazine (pg. 6) shows.

In its most recent Christmas fundraising mailing (coincidentally received by a VHS staff member) you’d be hard-pressed to find any evidence of this, as all the material in the package depicts beautiful photographs of wildlife and lots of talk about conservation, but nary a mention of hunting.

This is not to say that the organization and its affiliates have not contributed significantly to the conservation of wildlife. However, the public, and most especially donors, have a right to know the policies of the organization they are supporting. It should be clearly stated in their written materials and on their website that they support hunting and fishing – in their words, the ‘wise use’ of wildlife.

Why don’t you call them up and ask for their policy on hunting? You can reach them at: 1.800.563.9453. We’d love to hear what they tell you! Just email us at

animal welfare cruelty News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Why is a convicted wildlife poacher on the board of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association?

dead steer1 040523Rodeo046
Rodeo isn’t known for its kindness to animals but its board members should be held to some standard of ethical behaviour.

VHS calls for removal of rodeo association board member



The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association’s Animal Welfare Guide states that it “supports the responsible and humane use of animals and believes that all animals utilized in entertainment, industry and sport should be afforded proper care and management.”

Presumably, this includes the “sport” of hunting but one of the CPRA’s board directors, Cody Cassidy, doesn’t seem to afford wildlife “proper care and management.”  In fact, Mr. Cassidy pleaded guilty to several poaching-related charges in July of last year, according to the Red Deer Advocate. The charges included hunting without a licence, possession of wildlife and controlled animals, and providing false or misleading information. Mr. Cassidy received a $16,000 fine and a one-year judicial order preventing him from obtaining an outfitting-guide permit.

The presiding judge at Red Deer Provincial Court cited Mr. Cassidy’s history of these types of offences, including guiding on private property without permission, failing to post signs in an area of black bear bait, unauthorized hunting and discharging a firearm on private property without permission.

Mr. Cassidy’s father Greg, a champion steer-wrestler also pleaded guilty to poaching charges in the same case. He was inducted into the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame just months later.

Cody Cassidy operates Big Knife outfitters, which takes clients on moose hunts. His father Greg volunteers with the company. The Red Deer Advocate’s account of the court case includes a description of the hunt, which aside from the poaching offences, raises concerns about the hunt itself. It states: “Greg and the client were hunting at one of the Central Alberta locations when they spotted a moose.The client shot the moose with one arrow, which did not kill the moose. Cody joined the hunt and they tracked the moose for three hours. When they caught up with the moose, they shot it with a few more arrows, killing it.” It is difficult to see how this animal could not have suffered during the three hours after it was wounded.

VHS has written to CPRA president Murry Milan, calling for Mr. Cassidy to be removed from the board. The letter states: “Clearly, these are serious offences for someone in a position of responsibility at the CPRA, who should be held to the highest ethical standards.  We find it unacceptable that Mr. Cassidy remains as director on the CPRA board.”

The CPRA can be contacted at




News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Tormenting animals is always outrageous

The harassment of a moose has rightly provoked shock and anger but rodeo animals face routine abuse and it’s considered entertainment.


text2 mooseVideo of several men tormenting a moose in northern B.C. has gone viral and caused outrage around the world. Conservation officers have launched an investigation and the perpetrators could face heavy fines if caught and charged.










textdead-steer1-040523Rodeo0461Meanwhile, rodeos routinely torment animals and hand out prize money to reward the abuse. Just because an animal is “livestock” doesn’t mean it can’t feel the same fear and stress that other animals do.  Cruelty is cruelty.





Please sign our petition asking CBC Sports to stop broadcasting animal cruelty at the Calgary Stampede.












News/Blog Uncategorized

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.

News/Blog Uncategorized

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

News/Blog Uncategorized

The truth behind the Canadian Wildlife Federation


The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) is categorized as an animal protection charity by the Canada Revenue Agency. But just what is the CWF protecting animals from when the organization is deeply rooted in the hunting and fishing community?

In fact, the CWF comprises twelve provincial organizations, most of which have a major focus on protecting and promoting hunting and fishing. The Alberta Fish and Game Association (a CWF founding member) states “Our passion is to promote…the conservation and utilization of fish and wildlife…” The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters advocates for “the protection of our hunting traditions” and offers such goodies as a ‘buck fillet knife’ and “hunting Christmas ornaments.”

The Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation states in its bylaws that “The purpose of the Federation shall be to promote, foster and protect the interests of the sportsmen of this province.” The B.C. Wildlife Federation states it is ‘a province-wide voluntary conservation organization of hunters, anglers and recreational shooters..”.

Even CWF president Dave Powell has served as vice-chairman of an organization called the Hunting for Tomorrow Foundation and is past-president of the aforementioned Alberta Fish and Game Association.

But unsuspecting animal lovers visiting the CWF website would find it difficult to make this connection to the hunting community. The website screams warm and fuzzy with wildlife photo contests and other motherhood-and-apple-pie activities. Rather than camouflage clothing and floating gun cases, their shopping section offers opportunities to adopt animals, including black bears and beluga whales, and Robert Bateman tote bags. Conservation is the operative word. But the question arises; for what purpose?

The only reference to the affiliates and their primary purpose is found in an obscure part of the website featuring Annual Reports. And unless one follows the links to these websites, there is no way to know that the conservation effort is about preserving animals so that they can continue to be hunted. It’s ironic that a donor can adopt a black bear, which is one of the animals hunted by the many ‘sportsmen’ who are behind the CWF and its affiliates. Most animal lovers would find this repugnant and feel duped to know that their donations were being used in this fashion.

This is not to say that the organization and its affiliates have not contributed significantly to the conservation of wildlife. However, the public, and most especially donors, have a right to know the policies of the organization they are supporting. It should be clearly stated in their written materials and on their website that they support hunting, fishing and trapping – in their words, the ‘wise use’ of wildlife.