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

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 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

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

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.