Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Good deeds stained with animal blood

Countless worthy causes are based on the grilling and eating of animals

The St. Catharines Standard - Tuesday, December 23, 2008


"So while you're home today eating your sweet, sweet holiday turkey, I hope you'll all choke ... just a little bit." - Kent Brockman, Channel 6 News

That charming little quote is from The Simpson's, and while I consider it to be one of the funniest shows on television, I honestly have no desire to see anyone suffer ... not even a little bit.

I would, however, like people to think about the choices they make and why they do the things they do, especially when it comes to the way we treat others in the pursuit of own individual interests.

Christmas easily comes to mind. It's a time of sharing, family gatherings and being thankful for what we have.

We spend the days and weeks leading up to Christmas looking for just the right gifts for family and friends, feeling all good inside about how nice and thoughtful we are.

Perhaps we even do some volunteer work to ease the suffering of those less fortunate.

Then on Christmas Day, after all the presents are exchanged and the smell of homecooking fills the house, we take our places at the dinner table, say a little prayer, and feast on the slaughtered remains of some defenceless turkey, goose or pig.

In the name of peace, love and goodwill towards others we cause or sanction the unnecessary suffering and violent deaths of other animals, and think nothing of it.

Either we don't consider the consequences of our actions or we simply don't care.

Maybe it's just that the taste of another animal's flesh is more important to us than the life of that animal.

Consider all the organizations that collect and distribute turkeys around Christmas (and Thanksgiving) to give to those in need.

Sure it's great to give food to those who can't afford it, but what's wrong with giving rice, pasta, potatoes or canned vegetables instead?

Why does a good deed have to be stained with the blood of an innocent animal?

But that's the way we are, and not just around the holidays. All year long, and for countless worthy causes, we'll cook up, barbecue or grill other animals to help our own kind -- your friendly community rib-fest, wing-fling, fish-fry or beef-on-a-bun.

This type of prejudice is called speciesism, meaning when one species (ours) puts its own interests above the interests of all other species so it can do whatever it wants to those other species.

We defend our discrimination in many ways, like saying animals aren't capable of complex thinking, using language or contemplating death the way we are, as if these reasons justify cruelty and exploitation.

Did you know that turkeys are clever, cunning and extremely friendly creatures? Did you know they blush? They also become extremely stressed just before slaughter, which apparently makes their "meat" tougher because of all the adrenaline that's released into their bodies.

And did you know that a few years ago a pig, someone's pet, saved the life of a woman who was having a heart attack? It's true. LuLu, sensing her owner was in trouble, risked her own life by leaving the house, running into the street and lying down in front of traffic until someone finally stopped, followed LuLu into the house and called 911.

Some eight million pigs and another three million turkeys are slaughtered for food each and every day around the world. Maybe if they were more like LuLu, we'd think twice about eating them.

And maybe if we got to know a few cows, chickens and turkeys the way we know cats or dogs, we'd treat them better, too.

It's as if we suffer from some sort of moral multiple personality disorder -- nice to some animals, even creating laws to protect them from abuse, and cruel and indifferent to the rest.

We need to start practising what we preach. If it's wrong to make one kind of animal suffer, it's wrong to make any animal suffer.

So in the spirit of Christmas and with a new year just around the corner, may I offer a suggestion: If you feel bad for the animals that are killed to be your food, or a little guilty for causing so much pain and suffering, then do something about it.

Make it your New Year's resolution to stop eating animals. It's not only good for your health; it's good for theirs too. If you truly want peace in the world, take the first step: go vegetarian.

Or as Bart might say, don't have a cow, man!

Dan Wilson is a vegan, environmentalist, animal rights activist and public education director for the Niagara Centre for Animal Rights Awareness. He is a member of The Standard's community editorial board. Contact him at dkw1@sympatico.ca.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Our laws are too lenient to deter cruelty to animals

The St. Catharines Standard - Wednesday December 17, 2008

Re: 'Who could do this?' The Standard, Dec. 10.

I am a cat lover and I was absolutely horrified and appalled when reading this article.

How someone could possibly dream up torture of this nature and then carry it out on a defenceless animal is beyond my comprehension.

This truly takes a very sick person. My heart goes out to Carrie Hawkes and her son, Devon. I know what it's like to lose an animal, after all, they become part of your family. My only hope is that they catch this person or persons and that justice will be carried out.

Unfortunately, our laws are far too lenient and don't really deter this type of behaviour.

It's about time that something was done to send a message out to the persons who carry out these horrendous acts -- maybe an eye-for-an-eye approach. A hand slap just isn't going to do it.

Roberta Librock
St. Catharines

Blogger's Note - What happened to this cat, as bad and sick as it was, is really no different than what happens to millions of other defenceless animals - cows, chickens, pigs, etc. - each and every day. Unfortunately, there are no laws preventing this. Indeed, it's an accepted, even honourable part of our culture. It's also big business (not to mention the killing of animals for fashion, scientific research and recreation) but not too many people are calling for an end to this. It's too bad all the self-proclaimed "animal lovers" don't speak up for these animals as well.

"If one person is unkind to an animal, it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people." - Ruth Harrison, Animal Machines, 1964

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New faces surface at Marineland

Wildlife group opposes addition of eight Russian belugas to roster of animals

The St. Catharines Standard - Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Arctic Cove at Marineland had a few new residents move in over the weekend.

Eight Russian belugas - all females - landed in Hamilton Saturday morning after a 13-hour flight aboard a specially modified Aeroflot IL-76 jumbo jet.

From the airport, they made the trip down the QEW to Marineland inside water-filled tanks hauled by tractor-trailers.

"There are two in each tank; they keep each other company," said John Holer, owner and founder of Marineland.

The new additions bring the total number of the belugas at the aquarium to 30.

"We have a large demand of people who want to feed and pet the belugas," Holer said.

Belugas are the friendliest of whales, he said, particularly when dealing with humans.

So far, only one of the eight has shed its youthful grey colour and turned the milky, white colour for which belugas are known.

Belugas are native to Arctic areas. This latest batch of two-and three-year-olds originally came from the Pacific Ocean off the east coast of Russia. They have been housed in a beluga aquarium in the Black Sea since being taken into captivity a couple of years ago.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature last year downgraded the threat of extinction for belugas and estimates the global population at 150,000.

Rob Laidlaw, executive director of Zoocheck, a national wildlife protection charity, says he is "astounded" by the arrival of the belugas.

"Most aquariums have two, three or maximum five belugas. To have 30, that's unheard of," the biologist said. "They're basically floating marshmallows when in captivity."

Holer said it's more realistic for a child to be able to see and learn about the wildlife by viewing it up close and in person.

"This is the best education you could have."

Laidlaw said people don't want to learn about animals, "rather they want to be entertained."

Although the majority of the belugas at Marineland were born in the wild,

Marineland has been managed to breed a number of the whales, with Eve and Gemini born this past summer.

Over the next few months, the eight new whales will be closely monitored by Marineland's team of veterinarians. For now, they will remain in an isolated area of the Arctic Cove playground while they get accustomed to their new habitat.

None of the belugas have names yet, a task Holer leaves to the individual trainers.

But by the time he opens for business next May, Holer expects the belugas will be ready to entertain the multitude of visitors that flock to the park throughout the summer.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Police looking for cow killer in cold case

The St. Catharines Standard - Tuesday, December 9, 2008


It’s been two years since the last crime, but Niagara police are hoping the public will help them track down a serial cow killer from their cold files.

Four cows - including one that was pregnant with twin calves - were killed by someone who used a crossbow to fire arrows into them.

“It’s a real weird one,” Niagara Regional Police Det. Sgt. Brian Smith said.

The killings took place over a period of five days from Dec. 10 to 15, 2006, at a farm on Effingham Street near the border of Welland and Pelham.

The animals would have suffered painful deaths in the gruesome attacks, Smith said.

“Some of them didn’t die right away. They died as a result of their injuries, but it took a little while,” he said.

A similar cow killing also involving a crossbow two or three years before the latest incident remains unsolved, Smith said.

The first crossbow attack happened on a farm in nearby Wainfleet, where a single cow was killed.

It’s possible the killings are linked, Smith said.

“Personally, I would say yes, because there hasn’t been anything else even similar.

The chances of those two being completely independent of each other would be hard to believe,” he said.

The property where the four cows were killed two years ago is owned by an 80-year-old man who runs a hobby farm, Smith said.

“We don’t believe this guy was targeted in a revenge thing.... He just happens to have this isolated farm in the middle of nowhere,” he said.

Based on where the arrows hit the cows, police don’t believe a skilled hunter was responsible for the kills.

“They were pretty well random,” Smith said.

Investigators have very little information to go on, but are hoping a large knife found near the dead cows may lead them to the killer.

They believe the knife was brought to the scene by the crossbow attacker.

The knife - made by the J.A. Henckel company - has a 20-centimetre blade and distinctive markings on its black handle.

Engraved in the handle are the initials “PR,” followed by the numeral 2, indicating it may have come from a restaurant or butcher shop, Smith said.

“I think that’s going to crack the case if somebody can tell us where that knife came from,” he said.

The disturbing case has troubled Smith since it landed on his desk two years ago.

“We thought we’d throw something out there and give it one last-ditch effort to solve it,” he said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Smith at 905-688-4111, ext. 3345, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. Anonymous tipsters can also reach Crime Stoppers online at http://www.crimestoppersofniagara.com/ or by texting a message to CRIMES (274637) with the text reading:tip309 and the message.

"If one person is unkind to an animal, it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people." - Ruth Harrison

Thursday, October 30, 2008

An Introduction to Bunny-hugging

We are kind to a select few animals, and horribly cruel to many others

The Standard - Thursday, October 30, 2008


“All the arguments to prove man’s superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals.” – Peter Singer

When little Claudio died in his mother’s arms a few months ago, his mother behaved like any mother would upon losing her baby: she grieved. For several days, Gana, a gorilla at Germany’s Muenster Zoo, carried and stroked her dead son, trying to revive him.

Dr. Bill Sellers, a primatologist at Manchester University, says gorillas can experience pain and loss similar to humans, “but of course it’s extremely difficult to prove scientifically.”

Still, a growing number of scientists are recognizing what pet owners have known all along, that animals have feelings - perhaps not exactly like us - but they have them nonetheless.

Some animals have demonstrated a wide range of emotions, including grief, guilt, revenge and even altruism. Elephants have risked their own lives to help other animals. People have witnessed buffaloes sliding across the ice, apparently for the sheer pleasure of it. Captive dolphins have been known to “get even” with abusive trainers and farmers tell of cows calling for days when their calves are taken away.

Dogs are even prescribed anti-depressants these days; further evidence that animals have emotions.

According to Marc Bekoff, a biology professor at the University of Colorado, “If we feel jealousy, then dogs and wolves and elephants and chimpanzees feel jealousy. Animal emotions are not necessarily identical to ours but there’s no reason to think they should be. Their hearts and stomachs and brains also differ from ours, but this doesn’t stop us from saying they have hearts, stomachs and brains. There’s dog joy and chimpanzee joy and pig joy, and dog grief, chimpanzee grief and pig grief.”

So why aren’t we nicer to animals? If they share many of the same feelings that we do, wouldn’t they want to avoid pain, suffering and death, like we do?

Of course most people will say they love animals. But our actions speak louder than our words. We’re really only kind to a select few, and unspeakably cruel towards others.

We hunt and kill animals for “sport”, lock them in cages for our amusement and torture them for scientific curiosity. We even consume their flesh and wear their skins.

If such atrocities were committed against our own kind, we would be repulsed and outraged, yet we have no problem doing these things to other sentient animals, provided we don’t have to think too much about it.

Enter the animal rights activists, those annoying bunny-huggers whose mission in life is to remind us of how barbaric and nasty we are to animals; always trying to make us feel guilty for enjoying our steaks, wearing our leather jackets and going to the circus.

As you may know I’m one of those bunny-huggers, but my goal is not to make anyone feel bad. It’s simply to try and end the suffering that we humans have created.

My hope is that by educating the public about how we treat animals, people will choose compassion over cruelty; that just because we can exploit and kill others doesn’t mean we should. Live and let live.

But discussing animal rights is a touchy subject. Some people get offended, even belligerent, when it’s suggested that the animals we use suffer as we do. Others argue that if you’re defending animals, you’ve turned your back on your own kind.

I don’t see why we can’t do both. A lot of animal rights people, including myself, support organizations aimed at reducing human suffering too. My circle of compassion is big enough to include humans AND animals. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. A mother doesn’t tell her children, “Sorry kids, but I can only love one of you,” and neither should we.

And it’s not that I love animals more than people; I just don’t want to see anyone suffer. A parent who stops his child from kicking the family cat doesn’t love the cat more than the child, he just wants his child to grow up to be a kind, caring and compassionate human being.

That’s what I want too. I want us to be kinder than we currently are.

Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation, and its moral progress, can be judged by the way it treats its animals.”

The advances we've made as a species don't mean much if we still enslave, exploit and murder those that are weaker than us. I know we are better than this. I believe we can, and should, extend our circle of compassion to include the animals.

Dan Wilson is a vegan, environmentalist, animal rights activist and public education director for the Niagara Centre for Animal Rights Awareness. He is a member of The Standard's community editorial board. Contact him at dkw1@sympatico.ca.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Missed the point

Niagara This Week - Friday, October 17, 2008

Re: The breast of intentions (Oct. 3).


I'm afraid Mr. Williscraft missed the point PETA was trying to make with their latest publicity stunt, asking Ben and Jerry's to use human milk instead of cow's milk to make their ice cream.

Granted, PETA's campaigns can be wacky and confusing to some, but there's a method behind their madness and it's not about what's in cow's milk.

It's about how the cows are treated. Most dairy products in our grocery stores come from animals in intensive confinement facilities - factory farms.

These animals never see the light of day, feel grass beneath their feet or breathe fresh air.

In Canada alone, approximately one million cows are kept in enclosures so small they can barely lie down or turn around.

Their horns are cut off and their tails are "docked" without anesthetic and the calves are removed from their mothers days after birth - the females to replace older cows destined for slaughter, the males to be turned into veal.

That's why PETA is against dairy products. Perhaps they should've recommended soy, rice or almond milk to Ben and Jerry's, but then again PETA loves to be controversial.

If Mr. Williscraft had written about the reasons behind PETA's request to have Ben and Jerry's discontinue their use of cow's milk, his column might not have been as funny, but the misery and suffering the cows endure so people can have their ice cream is no laughing matter.

Daniel K. Wilson
Niagara Center for Animal Rights Awareness
St. David's

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Circus animals banned from town

yorkregion.com news - Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lions, tigers and elephants aren’t welcome in Newmarket.

Remember the runaway elephants when the circus came to town several years ago?

A proposed bylaw would ban such animals within the town.

Councillors will decide next week on banning exotic animals in the town and its facilities.

“I don’t believe my children or any other children gain anything but a skewed view when animals are poked and prodded to do things that are unnatural,” Councillor Joe Sponga said.

“To me, it’s just not entertaining.”

After reviewing a host of resources, including the Endangered Species Act and the Ontario SPCA, staff advised defining a wild animal would be too vague, leaving the bylaw open for challenge.

Instead, a list of prohibited animals was created and attached to the bylaw. The list includes endangered or protected and venomous or poisonous animals.

Animals are listed under three categories: mammals, reptiles and birds.

Animals that made the list are banned even on a short-term basis, unless an exception is granted.

Events in town will require a booking request to be reviewed by town staff before permission is granted. A policy for appealing the decision is also included.

But this doesn’t mean the town can’t have events.

“There can still be a circus, but with no animals,” Mr. Sponga said.

The idea is to ban the use of exotic animals for entertainment purposes, not to eliminate everything involving animals.

For example, Newmarket could still hold an agricultural fair because there is a clause stating animals will be allowed for educational purposes.

Exceptions are also made for veterinary hospitals, police matters, educational facilities, film or TV productions, wildlife rehabilitation centres and research facilities.

The prohibited list includes:
  • Cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, deer and elk
  • Pandas, wolves, tigers, lions, skunks, mongoose
  • Bats, sloths, armadillos, hares, kangaroos, possums
  • Chimps, gorillas, monkies
  • Elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotamus
  • Alligators, lizards larger than 2 metres, snakes larger than 3 metres
  • Ducks, geese, swans, ostriches, eagles, owls
For a full list, visit www.newmarket.ca

What do you think of the town’s move to eliminate the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes? E-mail your responses to tlatchford@yrmg.com

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Residents bare claws over bylaw

Niagara This Week - Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Lincoln council votes to defer decision on changing rules on feline care

About 100 cat lovers bared their claws to fight the implementation of an animal care and control bylaw at Lincoln council Monday night.

The ruling as it related to felines was eventually deferred to a future meeting.

The bylaw was poised to implement rulings to restrain cats from running at large, similar to the rules applied to dogs.

Tempers flared with residents shouting out "shame on you" at councillors from the chamber seats when Mayor Bill Hodgson said that his council had "probably made a mistake bringing it forward."

Reasons included a "meaty agenda, including the YMCA," that had been on the table Sept. 22. "I can only apologize."

Councillors listens to their constituents, he told the gathered crowd. He said that the bylaw would be referred to staff so all comments received can be reviewed.

"We're going to get this right," he assured residents.

Resident Derrick Morrissey, representing his 19-year-old cat, told council he was "shocked" that portions of the bylaw were going to be deferred.

"I'm here to stop this going forward from here on," he said.

He said committee members were failing their citizens, adding that the whole system was "rot," and full of "ambiguity and corruption." Committee members "broke the trust of the public," he said.

Coun. Peter Randall took exception to his comments, calling what was occurring before everyone's very eyes "democracy in its finest."

"People are passionate about this subject," he said. "That doesn't mean we succumbed to pressure."

Resident and self-described animal-lover Annette Schulz presented her thoughts on potential revisions to the bylaw.

"I see chances for improvement," she told councillors.

Her suggestions included alterations such as: no unaltered cats may roam at large, restricting the Humane Society to collect only fixed cats, and tickets for failure to scoop feces.

Having cats outside serve a valuable function, she added, included the repelling of rodents.

Her comments were met with extended applause from the constituents on hand.

The outpouring of submissions to the Town of Lincoln was unprecedented. Coun. Wayne MacMillan said in the past week he has been called all of "cat hater," "cat murderer" and "a supporter of cat genocide."

He called those comments absolutely false, and said he resented the terms directed at him.

"This may surprise everyone," said Coun. Rob Foster. "But we do listen to the public. Let's be frank. We decided to take this back and have a real good look at it."

"It was mandated by the province to update the bylaw," he reminded constituents.

"We don't just go out and randomly make up bylaws."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I'm sure PETA's ice cream request had the breast of intentions

Niagara This Week - Friday, October 3, 2008


Imagine the look you'd get if you popped into Teddy's Sports Bar and asked the waitress for a breast milk and Kahlua?

Now, as you read that, you may, indeed be having one of several like reactions:

1) You may be looking for a barf bucket;

2) What is the editor smoking?

3) Is that a typo?

4) Is it April Fools?

5) Yeah, you'd do that if you want a punch in the nose.

6) Wow! Teddy's is on the cutting edge of food service trends.

If you're following at home, #6 would be the correct answer.

The good folks at PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have made a request of ice cream manufacturers Ben & Jerry's to make their products with human breast milk, as opposed to that of our four-hooved, traditional milk suppliers.


No, you read it right. You may want to go back and scan again, but it's right. Heck, it was on the Internet, so it must be right, eh?

Actually it got quite bit of press and air time in the last 10 days.

While I think the request is ridiculous, that is not to say it has no merit at all.

There are a lot of concern with the hormone laden end-products in the dairy sector mainly in the United States. Canada has much more stringent guidelines in terms of what cows can be given in order to produce more milk. In the U.S., beef and dairy cattle, as well as poultry can get regular doses of a host of substances not allowed in Canada.

These substances can bolster milk production or make the animals meatier, much faster than traditional methods. One could say they make the food chain more efficient.

The notion of breast milk as an ingredient in day-to-day products met with a variety of comments - many not suitable for this publication - during a family function over the weekend.

I am quite certain our readers are bright enough to conjure their own punchlines.

At any rate, I had to chuckle at the subdued response from a B & J spokesman after the request went public. "The company applauds PETA's creative approach to bring attention to an issue, but believes that a mother's milk is best used by a child."

Now, that quote in the wire story carried across the U.S. was not a direct quote, most likely because it would have included belly laughter as part of the quote if it were to be accurate.

But, there are innovators who will to take a shot at variety and notoriety.

Take Hans Locher. Here is a Swiss born chef who decided to start making recipes in his establishment using human breast milk.

His restaurant, Storchen, in the village of Iberg, Switzerland, near the resort of Winterthur, used the milk in a variety of dishes. He obtained the milk after advertising in German newspapers looking for donors. The initial response was positive.

If you have ever been to Switzerland, or West Lincoln for that matter, dairy farmers take great pride in their vocation. It is hard to believe being usurped by human breast milk would not "sour" them.

Without going too far down the road of sublime and travelling right into the ridiculous, it should suffice to say there is a litany of reasons why this would not be appropriate.

On the health front, any mother knows, what they eat is what their infant eats.

How would donors be screened? Could drug use cause a problem. I would have to think so, but it is almost too silly to think about.

Mr. Locher was paying about $24 CAD per litre of breast milk, so it wasn't cheap.

I think I'll just stick with my good old cookies and moo juice, thanks.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Help Stop Cruelty to Animals

The Huffington Post - Saturday, September 20, 2008


Maybe it's because I'm worn out by the political bickering and the worrisome news about the market being in a tailspin, but I just clicked on a link to a breaking story about pigs being tormented, raped, and beaten in an Iowa slaughterhouse. I normally protect myself from seeing such things, thinking that I don't need to watch graphic videos of animal abuse since I'm already vegetarian and the videos are too upsetting.

This video brought me to tears, but I'm glad I watched it. It reminded me that I should keep prodding myself to stay awake and aware of abuse and injustice. The truth hurts, but it can also heal - if we take it personally and take steps to make a difference.

Workers at the Iowa plant - which supplies pigs to Hormel and other companies - hit pigs with metal rods, kicked them, and ripped across their backs with clothespins. They sprayed paint up pigs' nostrils and in their eyes and slammed piglets onto the concrete floor. The undercover investigator saw a supervisor ram a cane into a pig's vagina and shove a metal rod up pigs' anuses. Workers bragged about hurting animals and urged the investigator to abuse pigs. One worker told the investigator, "You gotta beat on the bitch. Make her cry." The investigator was instructed to pretend that a pig scared off a willing, voluptuous 17- or 18-year-old girl, and to beat the pig for it.

No one wants to see and hear such vile things, but we can't ignore them either. This kind of cruelty is a reflection on our country, our sense of pride for being decent people. If you think the video is too disturbing to watch, you'll know why we must not support such abuse. Who are we as a country if we aren't acting - and eating - based on our most basic principles of decency? Who are we if we passively choose to eat bacon or pork chops rather than push ourselves just a little to try new, more humane, foods instead?

Businesses will not do the right thing on their own - they just won't. Profit will trump animal welfare in most every case. It is up to caring people to push for change, and to be the change we want to see in the world.

We can all bring about positive changes by not buying products that harm animals, by eating a more plant based diet. We can reject cruelty simply by eating veggie dogs rather than hot dogs, or substituting tempeh, or Fakin' Bacon, for bacon. If you live in California, you can vote in favor of Proposition 2, the statewide initiative that would make it illegal for farmers to cram pregnant pigs in small gestation crates and calves into veal crates, and to force six or seven hens to live in tiny cages where they can't do anything that is natural to them.

No matter where you are in the world, you can do something to make a difference for animals.

As Edmund Burke once said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Will Stand Trial

Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute (Born Free USA), along with three other animal protection organizations and a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Ringling) employee, is suing Ringling for violating the Endangered Species Act by cruelly mistreating Asian elephants. The trial is set to commence on October 20, 2008.

The Asian elephant is currently listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), meaning that any acts that would “harm, wound, injure, harass, or kill” an Asian elephant in the wild or in captivity are prohibited. The lawsuit alleges that a number of routine practices by Ringling are in violation of the Endangered Species Act, including the forceful use of a bullhook and the chaining of elephants for most of the day and night. We have amassed a wealth of evidence to support these claims.

Bullhook Use

A bullhook, or ankus, is made of wood, metal, or other substantial material. It is approximately 2 to 3 feet long, and at one end is a sharp steel hook and poker. It is used to poke, prod, strike, and hit animals to “train” them - all for a few moments of human amusement.

We have video footage of Ringling employees repeatedly hitting elephants with bullhooks, as well as video footage of the daily hitting and “hooking” of the elephants to make them stay in line, move in a particular direction, or perform on cue.

In addition, we have Ringling’s own internal written documents that discuss the mistreatment of the elephants. For example, Ringling’s animal behaviorist reported “an elephant dripping blood all over the arena floor during the show from being hooked.” In an internal email, a Ringling veterinary assistant reported that “[a]fter this morning’s baths, at least 4 of the elephants came in with multiple abrasions and lacerations from the hooks.” After the release of this information to the public, Ringling moved to prohibit the release of any additional information to the public provided via discovery.


Chaining is one of the most common methods used to confine elephants in captivity. It severely restricts an elephant’s movements, eliminating its ability to lie down, walk, or socialize with other elephants. The severity of these restrictions can result in neurotic psychological behavior, physical injury, and even the death of captive elephants.

Newly obtained evidence based on the circus’s own documents reveals that Ringling keeps elephants virtually immobilized in chains for the majority of their lives. Internal records show that the elephants are chained while confined in boxcars for an average of more than 26 hours at a time, and sometimes for as much as 60–100 hours, as the circus moves across the country.

In addition, former Ringling employees will be testifying about the mistreatment they witnessed while working for the circus, all of which corroborates the claims alleged in this case.

* The lawsuit is before the Honorable Emmet J. Sullivan in federal district court in the District of Columbia and is being handled by Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, one of the country’s preeminent environmental law firms.

You Can Help

Please donate to the Elephant Defense Fund and help ensure that we win our lawsuit. With your support, we will do everything we can to end the mistreatment of elephants in circuses and traveling shows. We must not fail.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Picture respect for animals

globeandmail.com - Saturday September 6, 2008


Victoria - Showing the photo of the two monkeys in a Chinese zoo dressed as a bride and groom, and writing as part of the caption that they are "tak[ing] part" in the ceremony, implies that it's fun, voluntary and acceptable (Day In Photos: Best From The Past 24 - online, Sept. 5).

These are wild creatures in captivity that are not only dressed in costume, but tethered with chains around their necks. It's sickening.

Sure, use the photo, but use it to draw attention to the fact that animals continue to be mistreated and objectified for our amusement.

When people start to view animals who are dressed up and crudely tethered as unhappy victims of the zoo and entertainment industries, then we'll make great strides in what we loosely term "civilized society."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Circus animal question

The Eureka Reporter - Saturday September 6, 2008

Dear Editor,

A friend called to invite me to join in on protesting the circus in McKinleyville last Tuesday. I declined. I’d never been to a circus and I wanted to witness the conditions of the animals first-hand.

Before going in, I spent about 20 minutes watching people walk past the picket line. I saw a lot of sadness among the parents and children. I grew up believing the circus is supposed to be a happy event.

I bought a $16 ticket and went through the gate. First, I saw two camels in a pen. They looked depressed. A man was trying to put a harness on one. It became agitated and was drawing attention. The gatekeeper told him this was being watched. The man was able to get the harness on and a few minutes later the camel calmed down and was eating hay.

I went into the big tent for the show. It was dark with flashing colored lights - a party atmosphere. The children had cheered up. Workers moved down the aisles selling light sticks and cotton candy. The acoustics were bad, adding to the hypnotic effect of watching women acrobats in bikinis and a contortionist putting his body through a tennis racket.

I went out in the sun, visiting the burro pen. I spent about five minutes watching the burro repetitively rocking itself against a strap holding up the tent. Lastly, I visited the hippopotamus pen. No human-hippopotamus contact was possible. A lone hippo lay face-down in a pile of hay.

As I was leaving, a little boy, probably sugared up, was having a meltdown. His mother gave him the choice of going back in the tent or home. And if they go home, he’s not going to get to watch any videos because they paid a lot of money to come to the circus.

I think the central disagreement between circus-goers and protestors is around the question: “Are animals here for human entertainment or do they have a right to live their lives in their native habitats?” Everyone will have to answer this question for themselves.

Douglas Tabler

Friday, September 5, 2008

We continue to deny animals their freedom

Animals are deprived of a right we cherish so much we go to war for it

The Standard - Thursday September 4, 2008


captivity, n., the state or period of being held, imprisoned, enslaved or confined; servitude or bondage; imprisonment - Webster’s College Dictionary

Until very recently in our history, a lot of caring, compassionate and fairly intelligent people have enslaved other caring, compassionate and fairly intelligent people for a multitude of reasons.

Not long ago, individuals from other cultures were caged and put on display for entertainment and scientific study. Exploitation and confinement of human beings by other human beings continued into the 20th century as some circuses and carnivals exhibited so-called “freaks of nature” including the lion-faced man, the 602-pound woman, conjoined twins and other people born without various body parts, or perhaps possessing too many. Even little people, or "midgets", were degraded for the amusement of others.

Although remnants of these shows still exist, both around the world and close to home, they are for the most part despised and even considered a violation of human rights by today’s more “enlightened” society.

So when the circus rolled into Niagara Falls this summer, a lot of caring, compassionate and fairly intelligent people went to see the elephants and other animal acts, with little concern about their exploitation and confinement. And while a small number of activists attempted to raise awareness of the plight of animals in circuses, they were mostly dismissed as well-meaning but misguided extremists.

Circus patrons assume the animals are treated humanely. Otherwise, they reason, the circuses wouldn’t be allowed to keep them. The Shriners, who organized the event, also claim they have never witnessed animal abuse while the circus is in town. One Shriner, who asked to remain anonymous, said he didn’t know how the animals are treated. “We don’t see the mistreatment; we’re just trying to make money for the hospitals.”

Indeed, it’s hard for the Shriners to know if the animals are, or have ever been abused, given that the circus is only in town one or two days a year. But animal activists maintain that suffering comes in many forms.

They argue that keeping elephants and other animals chained, tethered or caged for long periods of time, such as when the circus is on the road, is a form of abuse.

Critics also point to undercover videos taken by animal rights groups as evidence of animal cruelty. Footage includes trainers striking the animals repeatedly with various implements, including baseball bats and bull hooks.

But do all circuses abuse their animals? It would seem counter-productive to jeopardize the well being of their star attractions. Or has the unregulated trade in exotic animals made it that much easier to replace them?

According to John Sakars, a local activist trying to educate the public about animal exploitation, “Because the circus is profiting from the animals, they have a vested interest in saying what they have to say to get the people in the doors.” John adds that, “For every act of cruelty caught on camera, how many are not?”

Since the training of elephants, bears, primates and other wild, performing animals takes place behind closed doors, the public may never know which circuses abuse, or don’t abuse their animals.

But as John points out, “Even if they’re not abusing the animals, I’m against animal circuses. Use without consent is slavery.”

And that’s the most compelling argument by those who are against using animals in circuses and other venues. It’s also something that each of us cherish with every fiber of our being: freedom.

We value it more than anything; we even go to war to protect it. Yet we deprive animals of it every day, often claiming they are better off in captivity, where they don’t have to face the daily struggles other wild animals do. But captivity isn’t something that any of us would desire. It’s where we put criminals to punish them.

Whether in circuses, marine parks or zoos, we accept, even support, the captivity of other animals for entertainment. We deny them the very freedom we value so much. We “trust” that they are happy and treated properly and hope there are laws in place to protect them.

But wouldn’t the animals be happier if they were free, as nature intended? And how would we like it if we found ourselves in their place?

For an American soldier who was held hostage during the first Gulf War, he viewed his time in captivity this way. When asked if he had been abused, he responded: “Well, they took me from my home and family and freedom, and there is no greater abuse to anyone.”

Dan Wilson is a vegan, environmentalist, animal rights activist and public education director for the Niagara Centre for Animal Rights Awareness. He is a member of The Standard's community editorial board.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Gana the gorilla: grieving mother?

Scotsman.com News - August 24, 2008


It was a poignant scene which reduced many onlookers to tears. Gana, an 11-year-old gorilla at Germany's Munster zoo, cradled her dead three-month-old son, unable to accept that he had died in her arms. Yet no matter how tenderly she nudged, caressed and cuddled the lifeless form, there was no movement from Claudio.

She carried his corpse everywhere, guarding the little figure so zealously that wardens at the zoo were unable to retrieve the dead baby gorilla for four days. But it wasn't her anger that left a lasting impression; it was the rawness of a mother's pain.

So clearly inconsolable, bewildered and shattered, her face displayed a range of emotions that we once thought of as uniquely human. This week she was a grieving mother first, an ape second.

Gana demonstrated, movingly, just how alike gorillas are to us. They live in sophisticated social groupings with complex, hierarchical structures and are known to mourn the loss of their young. The American anthropologist Dian Fossey, who devoted her life to the study of lowland gorillas, even witnessed them burying their young by shovelling leaves over their corpses.

The DNA of gorillas and humans is 99.9% identical, yet it is one thing to accept in theory the extent to which we are related to the great apes, quite another to witness it. "Many of the visitors were terribly shocked," said the director of Munster zoo, Joerg Adler. "This, perhaps, is one of the greatest gifts that a zoo can bestow: to show that 'animals' are very much like ourselves, and feel elation and pain. Gana lost a child, but I think in that loss, she taught people here so much."

Is this really true? Do we actually believe that gorillas are so similar to us that there's an equivalence in our feelings? Or are we just fooling ourselves? Did Gana simply show us that apes are sentient beings worthy of being treated as such, rather than as dumb animals?

Like virtually all our cultural mores, our attitude towards animals has been defined by faith. Religions differ profoundly in their approach to their relationship with animals: the Hindus believe all animals have the capacity to be reincarnated as a human; while India's Jains go further, believing that all living beings possess a soul so all life is considered worthy of respect, even the life of a fly, which is considered sacred.

Traditionally, Christianity is diametrically opposed to that view: humans are the only beings to enjoy free will, the only beings to possess a soul (even though the Latin for "soul" is "anima", the derivation of animal). "Thomas Aquinas and the scholastic tradition said very clearly that animals have not got souls and this has been used in the past to justify the exploitation of animals on the basis that they are just things," says John Austin Baker, the former Bishop of Salisbury and a prominent animal rights activist. It remains the prevailing view in the West. In one survey, just 19% of British vets agreed that animals have souls.

Yet there has recently been a profound sea change in Christian attitudes to animals. In 2000, Pope John Paul II created uproar in the Catholic church by decreeing that "also the animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity for our smaller brethren." Society's attitude towards animals is also changing, and there is little doubt why. Darwinism was the first scientific challenge to the concept of the dumb animal, but ever since The Origin Of Species holed the creationist myth beneath the waterline, the weight of scientific evidence suggesting animals have a previously unsuspected range of emotions has stacked up.

Instinctively, we know that Greyfriars Bobby possessed sentiments such as loyalty, devotion and the pain of loss, but more quantifiable animal emotions are also being revealed. Just last week came evidence that chimpanzees who have spent time in vivisection laboratories suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder exactly as humans would.

In 2004, researchers at the Babraham Institute at Cambridge University proved that when sheep were isolated from their flock they experienced stress, while showing them pictures of sheep reduced their stress levels. Dr Lynne Sneddon at the University of Liverpool has published research which comes close to proving that fish feel pain, while Prof Kevin Laland of St Andrews University showed that fish have long-term memories and sophisticated social skills."

We are living through an ethical revolution when it comes to animals," says theologian Andrew Linzey, an expert in the ethics of animal welfare at Oxford University. "We are shifting from seeing them as objects, commodities, resources, to seeing them as beings in their own right."

While there are obvious differences, the debate on the degree to which animals are sentient beings is in some ways reminiscent of the process that brought the end of slavery and the emancipation of women. Slavery began to unravel in 1772 when black slave James Somerset successfully argued in a British court that he was a sentient being who should be accorded rights rather than viewed as property. Campaigners seeking female emancipation followed the same tactics, establishing a wife's right to be a being in her own right, equal with her husband when it came to important functions like voting and divorce.

One sure sign that society's attitudes towards animals are changing is the creeping use of a politically correct vocabulary of parity to describe the relationship between man (or "human animals") and animals ("non-human animals"). In American officialdom and at England's DEFRA, the word "pet" has been replaced by "companion animal", suggesting some sort of meeting of equals.

This creeping de facto change of the status of animals is being consolidated by a series of law changes which may have profound long-term consequences. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 doesn't just require pet owners to give their animals a suitable environment, a healthy diet and protection from injury and disease, but also to cater for their pet's emotional needs, including "the desire to exhibit normal behaviour patterns" and be "housed with, or apart from, other animals". Failure to comply can carry a £20,000 fine and/or a custodial sentence.

If attitudes towards animals in particular and great apes in general are changing, as shown by the ban on fox-hunting and medical experiments on gorillas, chimpanzees and orang-utans, we are still lagging behind some nations. The EU accepted as long ago as 1997 that sentient animals are those which can not only suffer physical pain but mental trauma, an important legal precedent. In New Zealand in 1999, a coalition of scientists and lawyers only narrowly failed in its attempt to get parliament to go one step further by extending rights to large primates. In Spain, it will be two months tomorrow since the country's Parliament passed a law giving great apes a whole range of legal rights.

The trend is exacerbating our tendency towards anthropomorphism – the allocation of human traits to animals.

Occasionally this has tragic results. Timothy Treadwell wanted to prove that bears inherently share our values of loyalty and friendship, so went to live among them in Alaska. It was a triumph of hope over expectation that lasted 13 years until Treadwell and his girlfriend were eaten alive, a story that inspired Werner Herzog's award-winning film, Grizzly Man.

This anthropomorphism extends to regarding an animal's death as we would the death of a human being. Researching her book, Goodbye Dear Friend: Coping with the Death of a Pet, author Virginia Ironside discovered endless epitaphs, like this one, published in an 'In Memoriam' column in Dog's Today: "Shayne 1972 – June 90. I can't believe it's two years since you left me, but in my heart you live on for ever. We have 18 wonderful years together. You helped me grow up and taught me so much with your love. We will be together soon, wee man. Wait for me, son, love Mum XXX (Michelle)"

But there are moral problems with the prevailing trend. If we no longer see animals as our property to do with as we wish, then it becomes very difficult to sustain the case for killing and eating them. That is certainly the case for many of the 12.5 million British vegetarians who refuse to eat meat. Inspired by Australian activist Peter Singer and his seminal 1975 tract Animal Liberation, animal welfare organisations have long argued that our level of civilisation is determined by the degree to which we treat animals as equals.

For the silent majority to whom the ideas of animal rights activists such as Singer are anathema, the ending to Nim's story was telling. So, too, is a detail of Gana's story which emerged in Munster this week. Far from being the ideal of the doting mother, last year she rejected her six-week-old daughter Mary Zwo, who is now a star attraction at Stuttgart zoo.

Would most human mothers in similar circumstances do likewise? For the moment, it seems, some animals are still created more equal than others.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Animals removed from closed zoo

The London Free Press - Saturday August 23, 2008


Wildlife authorities and police raided an infamous London roadside zoo yesterday, carting away unknown numbers of animals.

Members of the London Humane Society, Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and police swooped down on the Lickety-Split Ranch and Zoo to search for and rescue native species such as deer or foxes under Ontario's Fish and Conservation Act.

Officials had no power to seize exotic animals under the provincial law, however, and at least one zebra and a donkey were left behind.

The ministry wouldn't disclose what types of animals or the number carted away in a trailer to a safer place.

"We had reason to believe there were some animals that fall under the description of wildlife that were in captivity illegally," said Russell Brandon of the ministry's Aylmer office. "It is our belief there is no licence."

Lickety-Split owner Shirley McElroy had a zoo licence from 1996 to 2006, but failed to renew it in 2007, prompting yesterday's ministry action.

Officials had to tranquilize one deer to remove it from the property.

The zoo has a spotty history.

Earlier this year, McElroy was fined $4,000 for having two lynx captive with no licence.

Lickety-Split grabbed international headlines in 2006 when pictures surfaced of Tyson, a kangaroo cramped in a small cage. Tyson has since disappeared from the property, without explanation.

Lickety-Split has been closed for more than a year.

The zoo owner was nowhere in sight yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

The grass was overgrown on the property, and rusted machinery, strewn wires, truck parts, empty trailers and tires littered the site.

"It's the worst case of animal husbandry I've ever seen," said activist Vicki Van Linden of Friends of Captive Animals. "We need to pass Bill 50 to give greater protection for all animals in Ontario."

The bill, proposed Ontario animal welfare legislation, introduced in April, would allow officers to search a property without a warrant if they have reason to believe an animal is in distress.

Yesterday's raid on Lickety-Split was done with a warrant.

Londoner Florine Morrison remembered taking her daughter to the zoo more than 15 years ago and seeing a black jaguar in a tiny pen with no shade, cowering in the corner to stay cool.

"They squirted him with a hose to make him get up for the visitors. I thought that was so cruel," said Morrison, a member of the London Animal Alliance.

"It's important for the city to make the McElroys follow the same rules as the rest of London."

Because the zoo no longer has a licence, it should be subject to a city bylaw that prevents people from keeping wild animals, Morrison said.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Farmer wants Grimsby to allow coyote hunting

The St. Catharines Standard - Thursday August 7, 2008


West Lincoln farmer Ken Durham keeps his dairy cows in a barn, safe from hungry coyotes.

Still, he’s heard the accounts of coyotes attacking 181-kilogram calves on Mud Street just south of Grimsby.

The 68-year-old has found sheep skulls on his 30 Road property - even though there’s no sheep around.

He hears howling at night.

“We know they’re there,” Durham said.

“We know they’re out taking chickens from piles of chicken manure and chasing wildlife out there whether it’s a skunk or raccoon. There’s just too many.”

Durham wants the Town of Grimsby to do something about it.

Durham recently asked Grimsby town council to consider lifting a ban on discharging firearms from the south boundary (Mud Street) to the top of the escarpment.

He’s able to shoot coyotes in West Lincoln, but once they cross the road into Grimsby, they’re home free, the 68-year-old dairy and cash crop farmer said.

This year, Durham and a group of farmers and hunters shot 63 coyotes in Lincoln and West Lincoln between January and March.

“We know when we hunt they go across the border between Grimsby and West Lincoln. They can turn around the field and look back.... They get to know where they’re safe.”

Currently, the town’s firearm bylaw, which dates back to 1976, prohibits guns from being fired within its boundaries, with a few exemptions.

One is for a property owner or someone he has appointed in writing to act as his agent to “shoot pestiferous birds or animals,” but not within 150 yards of a building.

“That would prevent anybody from the urban area from shooting a firearm, but it would basically allow it up on the escarpment,” said Grimsby town clerk Kathy Vout, who has received one complaint about a coyote this year.

Vout said a public meeting will likely be called to address any possible changes to the bylaw.

The bylaw may have to be clarified, Grimsby Mayor Bob Bentley said.

Bentley said wild dogs, coyotes, foxes and cross-breeds can all be found on the escarpment.

“If we were to go ahead and create a bylaw that it’s fair game to shoot certain things, without really understanding the DNA of the creatures that are stirring up there, I don’t know that we could do that effectively,” Bentley said.

Town staff are looking at the bylaw and consulting with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture, he said.

Bill Murch, a spokesman for the MNR, said it’s up to the town to determine what to do with its bylaw.

Various municipalities in Ontario have different rules when it comes to firing a gun, Murch said.

This isn’t the first time coyotes, or what could be wild dogs or a cross of the two species - has been an issue in Grimsby.

In 2004, council hired a wildlife control company to recommend how to discourage coyotes from wandering into town after 12 to 16 of the animals were spotted roaming town streets.

Bill Dowd of Humane Wildlife Control in Hamilton, who made the recommendations, said there’s several non-lethal ways of handling a coyote problem, such as getting rid of road kill and extra care in cleaning up park areas.

Dowd said people in rural areas, outside urban boundaries, are within their rights to protect their properties.

“I think every situation is unique why they want to shoot their animal. Is it coming around their property? Is it killing livestock?”

Coyotes became a problem in Grimsby, in part, after a surge of development that left behind piles of dirt and cut trees that attracted field mice and brought coyotes into town, Dowd said.

Last year, Niagara farmers made 88 claims to the province for compensation as a result of 123 animals killed or injured by predators like coyotes, according to provincial statistics.

The province handed out about $18,000 in compensation last year, up from $16,000 in 2006 for 63 claims and 103 animals injured or killed.

- with files from Matthew Van Dongen

Saturday, July 26, 2008

No more TEARS for Niagara Region

Niagara This Week - July 25, 2008


Niagara's regional government has closed the file on a proposed animal sanctuary in Thorold, saying it no longer needs to be involved because proponents of the sanctuary known as The Endangered Animals Rescue Society (TEARS) no longer plan to create a public, commercial sanctuary.

At a meeting July 16, regional politicians agreed that the proposal no longer requires an amendment to regional policies and that proponent Chris Morabito should seek permission from the City of Thorold for a private, small-scale sanctuary.

The region appeared poised to turn down the application last fall, with regional staff saying the sanctuary -- which could house animals such as primates, cougars, lions and reptiles - didn't meet regional and provincial planning objectives, and because the City of Thorold had turned down related applications.

Regional staff also said last fall that work had been done on the TEARS property along Highway 406 such as installing animal cages, building an earth berm, removing trees from a woodlot and installing portable buildings without getting necessary approvals or permits.

Plans have now changed so the sanctuary would only be a private one, said regional staff.

Animal Protection Institute - Captive Exotic Animals

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wild Animals in Captivity

Talkback - School Library Journal - July 25, 2008

Zoos seem to be a part of most kids’ lives. But Rob Laidlaw’s book Wild Animals in Captivity (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) uncovers the bleak conditions at so many zoos around the world and forces readers to ask whether they should be there at all.

For the complete interview, please go to:


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

3 Ways to be the Revolution

Vegan Freak - Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World

Posted July 20, 2008

We’re a movement dominated by professional activists - paid by large organizations - to do the bidding of those organizations. This is fine if you think that dressing up in chicken costumes makes sense, or if you believe the latest animal gassing scheme is a good thing, or if you happen to agree that Wayne Pacelle actually deserves a compensation package worth more than $230,000 annually.

But if, like me, you have doubts about highly paid activists, about so-called “victories” that still leave animals as commodities and property, and forms of activism that use one form of exploitation (sexism) to combat another (speciesism), there’s only one solution: be your own activist.

For the full story, please go to:


Activism should not be left as the mere province of paid, professional activists. If we are to have the effect that we’re hoping for, we need to make the movement for veganism a genuine, grassroots social movement, driven by everyday people like you and me, working in our communities and in our lives to help create a base of vegan education and outreach.

Only by working in our lives and in the spaces that we know best can we hope to affect real change and build a genuine movement built of people who genuinely wish to change the essential relationship of domination that humans have over animals. Without a genuine pool of social activists, without people who are willing to put their own talents and skills to use, we are going to be stuck with the so-called “victories” of PETA and HSUS, victories that celebrate killing more gently. Shouldn’t we be celebrating not killing at all? Shouldn’t we be celebrating veganism? In her book The Dispossessed, Ursula LeGuin has a quote that sums up my feelings perfectly about activism. She writes:

"You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere."

The revolution is in your spirit - I know it is. If you’re vegan, something got you to go vegan, to decide that you would not have a part in the human domination of animals. You knew it was wrong, and you decided to have no part of it. Find that original fire and use it! You must be the revolution if it is to mean anything or change anything in the long run. You have to do it; no one will do it for you. Considering that, here are three things that you can do to be the revolution:

1. Use your talents and skills to educate people about veganism We’ve talked about this at length various times on our podcast, but we’ll repeat it again: every single one of you has some kind of talent that you can use to support this cause. You are a unique and special snowflake! We’re so used to beating ourselves down and to accepting that we don’t have much to offer that we often forget how we can be of use. You may think you have no skills to offer, but that’s impossible. We need everyone. We need people who can write and speak and cook and organize. We need people who can hand out literature. We need people who can sew and sing and entertain. In short, we need everyone. Get creative: use your skills to raise awareness or in support of others who are raising awareness or educating others. Which brings me to point two:

2. Work in small, consensus-based affinity groups Find a group of people who share your vision, get together, and make some change. Leverage each other’s strengths to promote veganism and to be vegan educators. For example, one of you may be an excellent public speaker, one of you may be a quiet person but a fantastic cook, and one of you may have excellent organizational skills. Why not get together, get a room at your local library, give a talk on veganism or vegan cooking, and bring some food along to convince people that eating vegan isn’t as horrendously subpar as everyone imagines? There are a million different possibilities here and a million different talents. The point is to use your creativity and your understanding of the world to make the most impact.

3. Start asking questions Why would an organization ostensibly opposed to animal suffering give an award to a slaughterhouse designer? Why would the so-called “father” of the animal rights movement say it was okay to eat animal products? Seems to induce a bit of what the psychologists call “cognitive dissonance,” doesn’t it? It is time that we all start asking questions and stop assuming that because PETA or HSUS or Peter Singer (or anyone, including me) says that something is good, it is. Think. Examine the issues. Ask hard questions. Consider the situation and the context, and think about the issues. I know that thinking is often scorned within this movement as a “luxury,” but you have to stop and think before you can act wisely. Don’t skimp on thinking: it is the most important thing you can do. Effecting change is never easy and is often inglorious, but it doesn’t have to be onerous; you can work little by little to educate others, and you can work with others to deepen your impact. We need to build a vital movement of people doing genuine, abolitionist vegan education. We don’t need another set of stupid stunts, sexist ads full of naked people, or overcompensated suits declaring yet another false victory.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

PETA and KFC: “no differences of opinion about how animals should be treated”

Posted by Gary L. Francione

Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has invoked Mead’s quotation to pat itself and its supporters on their welfarist backs for the agreement by the Canadian division of Kentucky Fried Chicken to “purchase 100 percent of its chickens - through a phase-in program - from suppliers that use ‘controlled-atmosphere killing’ (CAK), the least cruel method of bird slaughter available. CAK works by replacing birds’ oxygen with a mixture of nonpoisonous inert gasses to gently put them ‘to sleep.’”

In addition, KFC Canada has agreed to add what PETA characterizes as a “totally cruelty-free option” to its menu in 65% of its Canadian stores: a faux chicken sandwich that will come in a wrap with non-vegan mayonnaise. Moreover, KFC Canada has agreed to “[i]mprove its animal welfare audit criteria to reduce the number of broken bones and other injuries suffered by birds,” urge (but not require) its suppliers to make other welfare improvements, and to form an animal welfare advisory council. And PETA will be empowered: KFC will allow “PETA to review its animal welfare audit forms every six months.”

PETA, “thrilled to announce” what it characterizes as an “historic new animal welfare plan,” “enormous victory,” and “historic victory!” has officially ended its boycott of KFC Canada. But PETA warns that “the cruelty in other nations continues.”

Poor Margaret Mead must not merely be rolling over in her grave; she must be spinning at high speed.

The PETA/KFC agreement is a textbook example of the failure of animal welfare reform. Consider the following:

First, to call this a “victory” for animals is the height of irony. This agreement is most certainly a “victory.” But it is a victory for the Canadian poultry industry, which will actually enjoy greater production efficiency and profit.

In its its Analysis of Controlled-Atmosphere Killing vs. Electric Immobilization from an Economic Standpoint, PETA argues for the gassing, or “controlled-atmosphere killing (CAK)” of poultry, claiming that the electric stunning method of slaughter “lowers product quality and yield” because birds suffer broken bones and the process results in contamination dangerous to human health. The electric stunning method also “increases labor costs” in various ways. PETA argues that “CAK increases product quality and yield” because broken bones, bruising, and hemorrhaging are supposedly eliminated, contamination is reduced, “shelf-life of meat” is increased, and “‘more tender breast meat’” is produced. PETA also claims that “CAK lowers labor costs” by reducing the need for certain inspections, reducing accidents, and lowering employee turnover. CAK provides “other economic benefits” to the poultry industry by allowing producers to save money on energy costs, and by reducing by-product waste and the need to use water.

This analysis is consistent with that done by the Humane Society of the United States, which analyzed a considerable amount of data and concluded: CAK results in cost savings and increased revenues by decreasing carcass downgrades, contamination, and refrigeration costs; increasing meat yields, quality, and shelf life; and improving worker conditions. Without live shackling and electrical stunning, CAK results in fewer broken bones and less bruising and hemorrhaging. The reduction in carcass defects increases boning yield and deboned meat quality. CAK has been shown to reduce bruising by as much as 94 percent and bone fractures by as much as 80 percent. Conservatively assuming that CAK increases yield only 1 percent, a plant processing 1 million broilers per week with an average dressed carcass weight of 4.5 pounds and wholesale price of $0.80 per pound would increase annual revenue by $1.87 million after adopting CAK. (citations omitted)

And industry agrees. According to PETA’s Poultry Producer CAK Endorsements, the poultry industry widely recognizes that CAK means a better bottom line:
“Brandons haven’t just benefited from better meat quality and welfare improvements. The advantages have been seen right across the plant. … [There has been] a 50% reduction in hang-on-line employee costs. Line speed has increased [by 20%]. … [Y]ield has gone up by up to 1.5% ….” - Case study pertaining to Brandons Plc by Anglia Autoflow

“On the turkey line … each hanger places around 7.66 birds per minute in the shackles … compared to around 5.125 birds per minute in a U.S. plant. This gives a pounds-per-man-hour improvement of almost 50%, because the hangers do not have to remove the birds from the cages by hand, like they do in a traditional U.S. … live-hanging operation.” - Watt Poultry USA article concerning Amadori, February 2006

“Around 140,000 broilers per day are processed at the Flixton plant …. A company official said that the CAS was installed to improve bird welfare [and] worker ergonomics. As a side benefit, the plant now runs the line faster than before. Flixton processed only 110,000 birds per day prior to installing the CAS.” - Watt Poultry USA article, February 2006

“‘There’s less cutting and trimming on the line because there are many fewer … spots and other damage that can come from electrical stunning,’ says Henry Kuypers, production manager for the Pingo Poultry plant …. Gas stunning has allowed [the company] to produce a tender product [in] just three hours … [as opposed to] as long as 12 or even 24 hours. ‘This variable maturation period also affected product uniformity,’ Kuypers explains. - “CAS-ting Call,”Poultry magazine, October 2006

“We are starting to quantify the improvements in yield and labor, but visually we already see the benefits in wings, wing meat, and breast meat.” - Dale Hart, general manager of Cooper Farms

“[T]he CAS system improves the environment for the workers in the live receiving area, improves the ergonomics of hanging live turkeys, and reduces carcass damage.”—Watt Poultry USA article concerning Cooper Farms, November 2006
“Amadori was interested in CAS because the company wanted to improve ergonomics for the live hangers, animal welfare, labor efficiency, and meat quality. [T]he CAS has given them improvements in each of these areas ….” - Watt Poultry USA article, February 2006

“The installation of gas stunning markedly reduced downgrades due to hemorrhages and bone fractures and improved fillet color and texture compared to previous stunning with an AC water-bath unit. As in EU plants, MBA Poultry can justify gas stunning based on the contribution from incremental revenue, which more than offsets the additional capital and operating costs incurred.” - ”Future of Gas Stunning,” Watt Poultry USA, April 2005

“[M]eat quality has improved with use of the CAS, and there is less blood in the breast and thigh meat. [C]arcass bleed-out has not been affected by the switch from electrical stunning to CAS.” - Watt Poultry USA article concerning Le Clezio, February 2006

“[W]hile trying to maximize yield while processing 11,000 birds per hour, we also have to take a lot of care to ensure that the meat is unmarked. CAS has resulted in very high standards in this aspect. . . . There’s [also] better working conditions for the team.” - Richard Wenneker, of Emsland Frischgefluegel

“Meat quality has dramatically improved with no blood spots, and as a result, no trimming is required. This has seen notable benefits in an increase in yield. The cut-up operation now employs less people as a direct result of the benefits of … CAS.” -Case study pertaining to Prior Norge by Anglia Autoflow

So CAK reduces production costs and the slaughterhouses that supply KFC Canada would, in all likelihood, have switched to CAK on economic grounds anyway.

Indeed, this is the modus operandi of the modern animal movement: identify practices that are not economically efficient and that are in the process of being changed by industry anyway. Launch a campaign to bring about what would happen in the natural course of events, declare victory, and fundraise. That is exactly what is happening here.

Second, PETA has handed KFC Canada nothing short of a public relations coup. PETA has ended its boycott of KFC Canada, and is claiming to have won its KFC cruelty campaign in Canada, although “the cruelty in other nations continues,” thus signaling to the public that those concerned about animals can once again eat at KFC Canada with PETA’s blessings. Indeed, PETA and KFC are now engaged in a public love fest. PETA claims that KFC will now “gently put [the chickens] …’to sleep.’”

According to the Toronto Star article, KFC Canada president Steve Langford stated that once he sat down with the PETA people, “‘we found out that we had no differences of opinion about how animals should be treated.’” Matt Prescott of PETA stated he believed “‘that KFC in Canada is genuinely concerned about animal welfare.’” Prescott added that “‘[a]ll we want is for KFC worldwide to do what KFC Canada has done.’”

Langford is reported to be “delighted with the agreement.” I bet he is. If I were he, I would also be delighted. He has lost nothing and he has gained PETA as an unpaid public relations firm.

Third, KFC is expanding its product line, offering a new PETA-approved “totally cruelty-free” KFC faux-chicken sandwich, which will be handled along with KFC’s meat products and will be prepared with non-vegan mayonnaise (unless the customer asks that it be held). So KFC will have a non-vegan option supported by PETA.

People can now be “animal activists” by eating a non-vegan product at KFC and putting more money into the pockets of a corporation that sells death. But there is a tradition of such behavior. In a December 2006 article about Dan Mathews of PETA, Mathews and the writer went to McDonald’s to eat and the writer asked if it was okay to order a cheeseburger. Mathews is reported as saying “‘Order what you want,’. . . .’Half of our members are vegetarian and half think it’s a good idea.’”

Putting aside that Mathews eats at McDonald’s and tells the reporter to order what he wanted, and proclaims without apparent consternation that only half of the PETA membership is “vegetarian” (let alone vegan), Mathews himself ate a product - the “veggie burger” - which not even McDonald’s claims is vegetarian given that it is cooked on the same grill with meat products and handled along with animal products.

And the agreement is a victory for PETA, which long ago abandoned the animal rights approach in favor of pursuing its greater glory and the amount of its contributions. It’s all about PETA. The animals are just incidental.

The KFC/PETA “deal” demonstrates dramatically what is wrong with animal welfare. These campaigns perpetuate the confused idea that “animal rights” means putting a television in a torture chamber and do absolutely nothing to challenge the property paradigm. On the contrary, the welfarist approach reinforces the status of animals as nothing more than economic commodities. And it makes people feel better about animal exploitation. Moreover, these campaigns represent symbiotic relationships between industry and the animal advocacy movement.

To the extent that this situation illustrates the truth of Margaret Mead’s observation, it does so by reminding us that a small group of people can have a profoundly adverse impact on social progress. Many people are concerned about the ethics of animal use. But as long as the major so-called “animal rights” groups are telling them that they can satisfy their moral obligations by eating at KFC and other similar places (remember that PETA has had similar “deals” with McDonald’s and Burger King), the status quo will persist and the only progress that we will see is the increase in PETA’s bank accounts.

Gary L. Francione© 2008 Gary L. Francione

Friday, June 13, 2008

Forcing Beliefs

Vegan Outreach, June 11, 2008

By Anne Green & Matt Ball

In her last, three-team meet (right), lifelong-vegan Ellen Green won the 800m, 1600m, and 3200m events. She also finished the year with straight-As in every advanced class, with the highest score for the year in Honors Geometry.

Vegans often hear from people complaining that we are trying to "force our beliefs" on others. Yesterday, we received an email attacking our parenting, which said, in part: The problem I have is that forcing your child to be a vegan (or a vegetarian for that matter) is bad parenting, you cannot force your own beliefs on a child. Let a child come to its own decision in its teens.

Is "good parenting" simply allowing society to impart the current norms?

Parenting is, by definition, making decisions for the child. Parents decide where the child lives; which school she attends; which religion, if any, she learns; which culture(s) and people she interacts with, and many, many other things.

Like everything else about raising a child, feeding her means making decisions. We aren't forcing our beliefs on our daughter Ellen, we are living our values. We have never forbidden her from eating animals; rather, we have explained (at an age-appropriate level) why we believe it is wrong to support killing and consuming pigs, birds, fish, etc. We would no sooner raise our daughter to view animals as food than we would teach her to hate and discriminate against homosexuals (or, if we lived 150 years ago, to keep other human beings as slaves).

Most children are naturally drawn to and have an affinity for animals; it is frightening and abnormal when a child chooses to torture, rather than befriend, other animals. We believe it is inconsistent, unethical, and yes, bad parenting not to respect and nurture this inherent compassion, but instead feed a child her friends.

When asked, 13-year-old Ellen chimes in: "So what, are you just supposed to not feed the child anything until he or she is capable of making a completely informed decision? Come on! Based on the information I have now, I would choose to be vegan no matter what you had raised me to eat, quite frankly. And I would be mad if you had raised me eating meat and waited until now to let me 'decide.'"

Of course, this discussion ignores the elephant in the room - or, rather, the pigs, chickens, turkeys, etc. The animals who suffer on factory farms and die in industrial slaughterhouses are individuals whose lives are real and complete on their own. Their lives matter to themselves - they are not just hypothetical pawns to be tossed about in the abstract. We have to answer to them for every choice we make, including what we eat, how we raise our children, and how we interact with others.

To learn more about Vegan Outreach, please visit: http://www.veganoutreach.org/ .

Monday, June 2, 2008

Vegan 'chicken' on menu as KFC Canada pledges better animal welfare to end protest

Canadian Press - June 2, 2008

TORONTO - Following a five-year roasting by animal-rights activists, KFC Canada is promising improved welfare for the chickens it buys for its fast-food outlets in exchange for an end to a boycott campaign that will continue in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The Canadian Press has learned that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has agreed to call off its Canadian "Kentucky Fried Cruelty" campaign, which featured high-profile actress Pamela Anderson among others, following a signed agreement with the company.

Among other things, the deal obliges KFC Canada to begin buying from suppliers who use gas to kill their chickens painlessly, considered to be the least cruel method of slaughter.

The company is also promising to insist on other "animal-welfare friendly" measures relating to how the birds are kept, including a maximum on crowding and phasing out non-essential growth-hormones and other drugs.

Customers of the popular restaurant chain will also be able to order a vegan "chicken" item, according to the deal that followed almost seven months of at-times "sticky" closed-door negotiations.

"It's going to drastically reduce the suffering of chickens in slaughterhouses and also . . . improve the living conditions for animals while they're on the farm," Matt Prescott, PETA's assistant director of corporate affairs, said from Norfolk, Va.

KFC Canada President Steve Langford said he was delighted with the agreement.

"It will be nice to put this behind us," Langford said. "Our preference is to have nothing negative attached to our brand."

Langford said the Canadian operations, which are independent of those in the U.S., had chosen to take the situation into its own hands and talk to PETA about animal welfare.

"Once I got involved and we actually met face to face, we found out that we had no differences of opinion about how animals should be treated," Langford said. "We landed in a very good place."

PETA's campaign, which garnered international attention, has included more than 12,000 protests at KFC restaurants and outside the homes of company senior executives.

Demonstrators, who have included former "Playboy" pinup Lauren Anderson, have burned effigies of company icon, Col. Sanders. Other notables such as Paul McCartney, the Dalai Lama, and Chrissie Hynde have participated in the campaign.

KFC Canada was also thrown on the defensive three years ago when PETA released horrific video showing poultry workers torturing chickens in the United States.

The company is owned by Priszm Income Fund, based in Vaughan, Ont., which operates 465 outlets across the country. The fund has been struggling to stem a flow of red ink and shore up falling share values.

Most of the 300 independent franchisees have agreed to abide by the agreement with PETA.

"It appears as though our campaign affected the bottom line to the point where the company finally had enough," Prescott said.

"That said, I also believe that KFC in Canada is genuinely concerned about animal welfare."

While the anti-KFC campaign will now end in this country, PETA said it would continue in the U.S., the U.K. and other countries. However, it is hoping to persuade Yum Brands, which owns KFC outlets in the United States, to follow the Canadian lead.

"With KFC Canada now doing exactly what we want KFC in the U.S. to do, our members and activists will be even more energetic and invigorated about going after KFC in other countries," Prescott said.

"All we want is for KFC worldwide to do what KFC Canada has done."

Sunday, June 1, 2008


Changing the way our society views animals can be a time-consuming and sometimes costly process.

It involves preparing and printing brochures, reports and other educational materials to be distributed amongst the general population, including school boards and municipal councils.

The rental of billboards and other outdoor advertising can also be effective in reaching and motivating large numbers of people to become active. All these initiatives require money.

We need your help to bring these very important issues to the public. Your donation will go directly to raising awareness of both local and national animal protection issues.

However, the NCARA is NOT a registered charity and therefore cannot issue income tax receipts.

If you would like to help, please click the Make a Donation button located on the sidebar.

Thank you for supporting our work.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Upcoming Events

Niagara Action for Animals’ Vegan Potluck

Friday, June 6, 2008, 7:00 pm at the Unitarian Congregation of Niagara, 223 Church Street, St. Catharines (beside Delta Bingo).

Vegan potlucks are a great way of socializing, trying new and delicious foods and participating in a free exchange of ideas while saving the lives of countless animals. The events are free and everyone is welcome.

*This will be the last potluck before our summer hiatus. The potlucks will resume in September.

What to Bring: If you bring a dish of food, make enough to serve 8-10 people. If you’re not sure what to bring, a fruit tray or veggie platter is an easy alternative to cooking or baking. Non-alcoholic beverages are also needed. If you bring a beverage, a large carton or jug of juice or flavoured soymilk will do just fine*. Also, bring a small piece of paper or index card with a list of ingredients and potential allergens (nuts, wheat, etc.) to place beside your dish. A stove and microwave are available if your food needs to be warmed. Non-disposable plates, bowls, glasses, cutlery, and cloth napkins will be provided.

*Out of respect for the church’s ban on bottled water, please refrain from bringing any to the potlucks.

A Word about Vegan Meals: In consideration of all animals, meals should be free of meat (including fish and chicken), and products that come from animals, such as eggs, honey and dairy. Also avoid using soy cheeses with ‘casein’ (a milk protein) listed as an ingredient. Providing a vegan meal will allow everyone to enjoy your food. To help you with meal ideas, there are plenty of great vegan recipe books available or you can go online to any number of vegan websites (keywords: vegan recipes).

Clean Up: Your participation in cleaning up after each event (doing dishes, sweeping, rearranging chairs, etc) would be greatly appreciated. It can take a few people several hours to clean up, or it can take all of us only 30 minutes!

See you there!

For more information, or if you need a ride, please contact Dan at: dkw1@sympatico.ca

"Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends." - George Bernard Shaw


Friday, May 9, 2008

Horse racing is cruel; don't support it

Editorial & Opinion - The Niagara Falls Review - Thursday, May 8, 2008

To read The Review's coverage of the opening of the Fort Erie Race Track, one would assume that winning money, hanging out with friends and drinking beer is what the track is all about. Sounds like a lot of fun - I might consider going myself, if it weren't for all the animal exploitation.

The truth is, horses at racetracks are worked hard - sometimes beaten - to win the race.

If I were to do to a dog what jockeys do to horses, I'd be charged with animal cruelty. But for some reason, this kind of abuse is allowed, even encouraged, by our society.

Some say the horses don't feel the whips. Then why use them? The answer is obvious: To make them go faster. The animals run faster to avoid the pain of the whip. It's not rocket science.

Racing horses can be deadly, too. The fact that you have large, muscular animals running very fast and on very thin legs means there will be injuries. Too often, these injuries are fatal. If an injured animal cannot be rehabilitated, or if the veterinary costs are too high, it is put down.

Supporters have argued that every precaution is taken to ensure the animals' safety but in the end, deaths are inevitable.

These animals don't volunteer. Their bodies are pushed beyond their limits and if injured, their lives are taken from them.

So maybe it's time to stop racing horses. Surely, we can find some other form of entertainment that doesn't exploit or endanger these beautiful and noble animals.

Daniel K. Wilson,
Niagara Center for Animal Rights Awareness,
St. Davids

Friday, May 2, 2008

Don't sugarcoat it: the annual seal hunt is barbaric

Editorial - The St. Catharines Standard - Friday, May 2, 2008

Re: Seal hunt protest lives on propaganda, The Standard, April 25.

It's ironic to read an editorial so full of half-truths accusing others of spreading propaganda. Since when are 12-day-old seals (the age their fur begins to moult) considered adults? For it is at this age that it is legal to shoot and/or club seals.

And while eight out of 10 seals killed for their skins are babies, the sealers that kill the adults leave behind orphans too young to take care of themselves.

It's worth noting that killing seals is not a full-time job, it merely supplements the incomes of those in the fishing industry - a little extra cash if you will.

A little more knowledge on the subject and the author would know that activists also oppose other forms of animal exploitation, including the unnecessary and cruel slaughter of animals for human consumption. That's why a growing number of activists, as well as other people, have become vegetarians.

The author also mentions that harp seals are not endangered. So what? Neither are Homo Sapiens, but no one would endorse the killing of them.

And to call the killing of seals, cows, chickens and other sentient beings a "harvest" is just as misleading as the rest of the article. Apples are harvested, corn is harvested, animals are killed, butchered and slaughtered.

A number of animal welfare groups, including the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Humane Society of the United States, have called the seal slaughter inhumane. I wonder why the author failed to mention this?

Some may consider slaughtering helpless babies an honest living. Our government, which cares more about revenue than anything else, certainly sees nothing wrong with it.

But please don't sugarcoat the truth - the seal slaughter is barbaric and a civilized society would have ended it long ago.

Daniel Wilson
Four Mile Creek,
St. David's