Wednesday, October 7, 2009

An Open Letter to PeTA

Dear People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,

I’ve received a number of letters from you over the past year, asking for my financial support for one campaign or another, along with many pleas to renew my membership.

One particular letter asked me why I hadn’t renewed my membership thus far. In June, your boss, Ingrid Newkirk wrote:

“Is there something that I should know about why PETA hasn’t received your renewed support this year? If you have recently sent your 2009 renewal gift, please forgive me. If not, please let me know why.”

Well, my answer is in the form of another quote from your organization in a letter I received in September. This is from a petition you want me to sign and send to my local McDonald’s Franchise Owner:

“I urge you to make your voice heard and call on the executives at McDonald’s corporate headquarters to institute [Controlled-Atmosphere Killing] as quickly as possible. CAK would reduce suffering for the hundreds of millions of individual chickens slaughtered cruelly each year, and you’d once again be viewed as a leader in animal welfare reform – a win-win for animals and for McDonald’s.”

So you want me, a vegan, who is opposed to the exploitation and slaughter of animals for any reason, to send a letter to McDonald’s, asking them to continue killing hundreds of millions of chickens, but by using a less cruel method of slaughter?

I thought you were against the slaughter of animals, period? I even have a PeTA button that says ANIMALS ARE NOT OURS TO EAT, WEAR OR EXPERIMENT ON. When did you change from animal rights to animal welfare?

I’m not really interested in making McDonald’s look good or making them more profitable. And I’m not interested in making it easier for animal killers to do their jobs or making people feel good about eating animals because they’re “killed with kindness”.

I’m only interested in one thing: saving the animal’s lives, so I’ll continue to educate people about veganism and you can continue to make deals with the devil, but you’ll be doing it WITHOUT my financial support.

And that is why I can’t renew my PeTA membership.


Daniel K. Wilson

Animal RIGHTS activist and vegan

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Exotic animal owner busted for grow op

Chris Morabito may find out what it's like to be one of his animals if convicted of possession and drug production after his arrest on Sunday.

Police found over 385 marijuana plants, along with a number of exotic animals, at the site of his proposed animal refuge.

Full story:

Marijuana bust was walk on the wild side

Photo of Sharon Morabito and Oliver, Niagara This Week

Morabito, along with his wife Sharon and two daughters, sought the City of Thorold's approval in 2005 to open an "exotic animal sanctuary" under the name TEARS (The Exotic Animal Rescue Society) for "Canadian travelers, school groups, special interest groups, special need associations, senior tours as well as several charity fundraisers."

The Morabito's had been known to take their rescued animals, often dressed in costumes, to air shows, parades, birthday parties and local businesses to raise money for their zoo (registered as The Exotic Animal Refuge Sanctuary until they lost their charitable status in 2007).

The animals were also used for "TV commercials, movies and special promotions," according to documents distributed by the Morabitos at the council meeting. Prior to starting TEARS, the Morabitos owned an exotic animal pet shop called Kris' Reptiles, where they sold constrictors, prairie dogs and primates, among others.

In 2007, Thorold City council, after hearing deputations from Morabito's family and friends, and a number of animal protection groups (including myself), agreed with the recommendation of the Regional Municipality of Niagara Planning Department and rejected the Morabito's application.

It is not known what will happen to the animals.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Are animals entitled to the same respect and rights as humans?

Vancouver Sun - Friday, September 25, 2009

By Daphne Bramham

Photo by Vancouver Sun

I have never doubted Darwin’s theory. But when an adolescent, female orangutan swings down from a tree in the Malaysian rainforest, landing only a few metres away from me, I look into her dark face rimmed with fiery red-orange hair and am certain.

Arms’ length apart, the urge to touch her is almost overwhelming. But it’s forbidden at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

She and several dozen others were there to be rehabilitated to the forest and to have her reliance on humans broken. Since I saw her last fall, Kara has been released into the wild.

Orangutan means “people of the forest” in Bahasa, the official language in Malaysia and Indonesia. Unique to Borneo, they are endangered because their habitat is being replaced by palm oil plantations.

Before I left Sepilok, I “adopted” two babies - Sen and Sogo Sogo. I get updates on them and can follow their progress at

At times, I’m slightly repelled by the anthropomorphizing that seems necessary to stave off extinction - the naming, the “adopting” and photos of the babies in diapers (which to be fair is a perfectly understandable thing with the “orphans” in the centre’s “nursery” where humans are their “surrogate mothers.”)

But they are not human. They are animals, albeit one of four species of great apes which share 99 per cent of our genes.

Yet determining our relationship with them - as with all species whether polar bears, cocker spaniels or cockroaches - requires an honest assessment of what we perceive them to be.

Are they our property as Canadian laws seem to presuppose, allowing us to kill baby seals, destroy the environment to the point that polar bears are at risk, raise chickens in cages so small they can’t turn around and use animals as spectacle even if it means that every year some die at rodeos and in zoos?

Or, as sentient beings, are animals entitled to the same respect and rights as humans?

Mid-spectrum are animal welfare advocates such as the humane societies, which support the responsible care of animals whether they are pets or used for food or work.

But calls for an Animal Bill of Rights are growing. While Canada fiddled with the Criminal Code provisions on animal cruelty only enough to modestly raise the penalties, Britain and Spain signed on to declarations giving great apes the rights to life, liberty and protection from torture.

Animal rights is a relatively new idea in the West that has gained traction largely because of increased concerns about the environment. But it’s an ancient idea in Asia where pacificism for Jains and Buddhists has long translated into strict vegetarianism.

“Non-violence applies not just to human beings, but to all sentient beings — any living thing that has a mind,” the Dalai Lama wrote in My Tibet. “Where there is a mind, there are feelings such as pain, pleasure and joy. No sentient being wants pain: All want happiness instead.”

While the Great Ape Project focuses only on extending human rights to orangutans, gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees, other groups such as the American Legal Defense Fund propose basic rights for all animals that mirror those included in declarations of women’s, children’s and human rights that include freedom from exploitation, cruelty, neglect and abuse.

But that’s not all. The American Legal Defense Fund wants the right of wild animals to natural habitat and a self-sustaining population enshrined as well as the right of farm animals to an environment that “satisfies their basic physical and psychological needs” and, the right of all animals to “have their interests represented in court and safeguarded by the law of the land.”

There is much that I agree with in the various animal bills of rights. It seems inarguable that torturing or being willfully cruel should be illegal. But after that it’s tricky for anyone who eats meat, eggs and even dairy products.

It seems inarguable that we, humans, should not destroy the very planet that sustains us and so many other living things.

Yet, without a massive, disruptive and even painful reorganization of our economy and society, we’re barrelling down that road in our SUVs.

Palm oil is a good example. A sought-after industrial lubricant, it’s also in huge demand for soaps, face creams and cooking oil.

Increasing demand for it means that in Africa, palm plantations now provide desperately needed money to women’s co-operatives and direct financing for hospitals.

But in Malaysia and Indonesia, increasing demand is gobbling through the tropical rainforests without which orangutans, the Asian rhinoceros, so-called pygmy elephants and Sumatran tigers will become extinct.

Sogo Sogo’s little face smiles out at me from the photo on my desk.

Us or them?

With our bigger brains, we bear a greater responsibility to animals than declaring them equal and providing them with a bill of rights. As women and children around the world can attest, it’s often not worth the paper it’s written on.

We need to find ways to share the planet, doing the least harm possible for all of the children -human and animal.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Human rights & Non-human rights

By Daniel K. Wilson

District 9 is an interesting little film in regards to how we understand, view and treat non-humans. I’ve often wondered what would happen if extraterrestrials just showed up at the White House or the Kremlin one day. Would we kill them on sight out of fear? Would we cage them and experiment on them to learn what makes them tick? Would we enslave them and exploit them for their technology?

This film addresses all these questions. Even though the aliens are technologically superior to us and are able to communicate with us in a language we can understand, they are not biologically superior. And since they’re not human, they don’t deserve human rights. In this film, intelligence, language and superior technology are not enough to warrant equal consideration.

It’s the same way we treat non-humans right now. We do all the above-mentioned atrocities and even more, to non-human animals that have always shared this planet with us. Animals that maybe aren’t as smart as we are (although some are many times stronger than us and possess senses and abilities that we don’t), yet deserve compassion and respect all the same.

But people don’t see animals this way; at least not all animals. Without giving anything away, there’s a scene in the movie where a pig gets blown away during a shoot out between the good guys and the bad guys. Almost everyone in the audience laughed. If it had been a dog, those same people would’ve been sad and upset but because it’s a pig - an animal not very high on our list of favourites - they think it’s funny.

This is called cognitive dissonance, when people hold two contradictory views about something, like when it’s okay to kill and eat a pig but wrong to kill and eat a cat, or when it’s wrong to kill an alien, like in the movie, but okay to kill a cow or pig.

I’d like to think that if an alien species landed on Earth tomorrow we’d extend our hand in peace and fellowship, but knowing how we’ve treated others that are different from us in the past and how we continue to treat other animals, I’m doubtful.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wolf killer to loons: stop picking on me!

By Daniel K. Wilson

A story out of Idaho the other day caught my eye about a hunter who’s been harassed for killing one of the area’s wolves, after they were taken off the endangered species list back in May.

You can read the whole story here:

“People are loons,” said wolf killer Robert Millage. “If they want to call up and have a discussion, I'm all about having a discussion. But they call me a fat redneck and a wolf killer and compare me to Michael Vick.”

Imagine that, people calling a man who just killed a wolf a “wolf killer”. Oh the cruelty!

But I feel sorry for this wolf killer, I really do. All he did was go out one beautiful summer day with the intention of killing a wolf that had never done any harm to him, and other people - probably city folk - are upset by it.

I mean, this guy, whose full time occupation is selling real estate, was well within his right to blow away this wolf and now he wants the police to watch over him and his business because he’s scared of what people might do.

I don’t know what kind of real estate hunters they’re raising in the land of potatoes these days but it seems to me that if a person is able to point a gun at a defenceless, innocent animal and pull the trigger, that person should be able to take a little criticism.

But still, I feel his anguish. Never mind about the wolf he killed for no other reason than the desire to end someone else’s life (and it was legal remember) or prove his “manhood”, and never mind about the mate left behind (most wolves are monogamous and typically mate for life) or the pups that have to grow up without their mother.

No, let’s feel sorry for this great white hunter because his feelings have been hurt. It’s so unfair.

After all, he only did what the government said he could do – kill animals for the fun of it.

By the way, I’m being sarcastic.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

No animal cruelty in pampering a race horse

Niagara This Week - Wednesday, June 24, 2009


In any industry, there are complete idiots.

Based on a straight percentage, look around you, you know if there are 20 people in a room, somebody will be a rule breaker. Maybe there'll be an alcoholic, a compulsive gambler, or, perhaps, a criminal.

It happens.

For those who follow horse racing, or even those who don't, you may have seen some coverage from a serious accident at Woodbine Racetrack last week. One horse died and two jockeys were hurt, one seriously.

Afterwards, comments started being kicked around about horse racing being animal cruelty. Some horribly ill-informed, if not totally ignorant, people are calling for an outright ban of horse racing.

An overreaction? Ya think?

Now, this accident was on the Thoroughbred side. I have been involved on the Standardbred side of horse racing for more than 30 years.

I've know hundreds of owners and trainers in that span and I can guarantee you, 99.9 per cent of those animals are fussed over like nobody's business, and that is on the harness racing side, which is generally looked at as the poor country cousin to the Thoroughbred side, known as the sport of kings.

More recently, it might be better characterized as the sport of Arab sheiks, with the tens of millions of dollars they have poured into the industry.

Thoroughbred lifestyles are, generally, more posh, but on both sides of the ledger, horses are pampered more than anything else.

And that would be because it is in the best interest of the owners and trainers to have their trusty steeds in prime physical and mental condition.

There would be no benefit, because it is also an intensely competitive business, to abusing a horse to a state where it was malnourished, or lacked even a shred of confidence.

And don't think psychology does not play a part in horse racing, either. Yes, physical ability means a lot, but I have trained fast horses who just didn't want to win. I had to teach a competitive nature and draw it out.

One pacing filly, she was fast and crazy – only horse to drag me over a hubrail – and was lightning quick, but she liked to have horses in front of her for company. If she hit the lead too soon, the show would slow until horses came along side, then speed up to stay with them.

For a whole summer, I trained her with a retired stud, slowly, just to get her used to tucking in behind him and then pulling out in the stretch and blowing by. After a couple hundred of those scenarios, she seemed to wake up and went on to have a pretty good career ... but I digress.

The only thing that I would ban from horse racing are the idiots who are ruining the game and some horses as they seek a competitive edge via steroids, hormones and just about anything else that can give a living animal more endurance or speed.

I have no tolerance for it, and those overseeing the game don't either. The only problem is the technology to detect what a handful of trainers are using is not keeping up, but it's close.

Penalties are also catching up, whereas, in the past, they have been mere tokens.

It’s unfortunate that the sweeping characterization of an entire sport (industry) can be made merely to fan flames of concern at a tragic time. It is odd to see how much print and broadcast attention the sport gets when something like that accident happens, or when Eight Bells met her fate after the Kentucky Derby a couple of years ago, while super horses like Somebeachsomewhere last year and others before him are lucky to see one headline for a whole summer's work.

Blogger's Note:

The reason I took so long to post this column was that I was waiting for the paper to print my letter. They never did, not that I'm surprised. For anyone interested, this is what I wrote:

Dear Mike,
When you’re wrong, you’re really wrong. But considering your newspaper promotes other forms of animal exploitation (barbecuing animals for various fundraisers, Poultry Fest Niagara, the Rotary Ribfest, farm-to-table pork workshops), and includes Marineland as one of its advertisers, it’s not surprising.

What’s cruel is the entire horse racing industry. Like the animals in a circus, race horses don’t volunteer – they’re forced to race (the reason for the whip) and many of them end up at the slaughterhouse when they’re no longer profitable. A Colorado State University study found that of 1,348 horses sent to slaughter, 58 were known to be former race horses.

In fact, horses aren’t even designed for racing. They’re made to run too fast, their frames are too large, and their legs are too small, resulting in injury and death. It’s estimated that one horse in every 22 races suffers an injury that prevents the animal from finishing the race, and approximately 800 race horses die or are euthanized in Canada and the U.S. each year because of racetrack injuries.

If the owners really cared about their animals, they wouldn’t force them to behave unnaturally, give them drugs to keep them racing when they shouldn’t be, or put their lives at risk. But horse racing is a business, and profits will always come before animal welfare.

Your bias is understandable, given your history with horse owners and trainers, but to eliminate unnecessary suffering and death, horse racing needs to be retired.

Daniel K. Wilson

Friday, July 17, 2009

4th animal dies at Stampede - Saturday, July 11, 2009

An outrider horse at the Calgary Stampede has died of an apparent heart attack, becoming the fourth animal to perish at the event this year.

Doug Fraser, a spokesperson for the Stampede, said the horse was cooling down after a race Friday night when it collapsed and died.

A veterinarian determined that the horse, from the Ray Mitsuing chuckwagon team, died of a heart attack.

It's the fourth animal to die this year at the Stampede, and the third chuckwagon horse.

On Thursday, a steer had to be put down after it suffered a spinal injury during the steer-wrestling competition.

Death sparks protest

Animal rights activists from Calgary held a protest Saturday, saying the death highlights how the Stampede is a "cruel spectacle of animal abuse."

The Calgary Animal Rights Meetup Group staged a demonstration outside the Stampede grounds at the Victoria Park C-Train station.

In a written statement, the group said the death toll at this year's Stampede is evidence that all rodeo events need to go.

The group said it would continue to stage protests in order to let the world know "what an embarrassment this spectacle is to our city."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Is a perfect world one without people?

The St. Catharines Standard - Saturday, June 27, 2009

Re: Abolish violence, don't regulate it (June 16).

I read with great interest Daniel Wilson's column in which he found the organization known as PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to be not committed (or extreme) enough for his liking. Remember folks, PeTA is the group that advocates making ice cream out of human breast milk in order to ease the suffering of cows.

The scary thing about people who take animal rights to the extreme is that their vision of an ideal world is one in which there are no humans, only other animals. In Wilson's paradise, wolves don't eat deer. Instead, they frolic happily together under a rainbow. Get a grip.

Derek Witlib, Fonthill

And my response:

Dear Derek,

Don't you know it's not nice to put words in other people's mouths? I never said PeTA wasn't extreme enough for me; I simply wrote that they're heading down the wrong road, as your human breast milk ice-cream example illustrates.

If you'd read my earlier columns, you'd know that I'm not advocating for a world without humans, but for a world where humans don't exploit and kill those that are weaker than them.

And although your description of my "paradise" sounds exactly like Isaiah's vision of heaven, I wouldn't expect a wolf to become vegetarian. What makes us different from other animals is that we have a choice - they don't.

If you don't have to cause an animal to suffer and die, then you shouldn't. I'm sorry you consider this extreme.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Abolish violence, don't regulate it

The St. Catharines Standard - June 16, 2009

By Daniel K. Wilson,

Two recent news stories illustrate the problem with some of today’s animal “protection” groups.

The first is about the efforts of animal-rights activists to ban foie gras, a French delicacy made from geese that are force-fed a corn-and-fat mixture before they’re killed, from restaurants that serve it.

The other is in response to the Ontario government’s announcement that it won’t extend the annual deer-hunting season, to which one anti-sport hunting group applauded the Ministry of Natural Resources’ sensitivity and concerns about wildlife welfare.

Unfortunately, actions and reactions such as these threaten to undermine what the animal-rights movement is all about - that it’s unacceptable for humans to exploit or kill animals for any reason.

The MNR didn’t outlaw deer hunting; it only changed its mind about extending the season (for now). So why is a group opposed to the hunting of deer for sport congratulating a pro-hunting group?

And why are the animal-rights people only calling for a boycott of foie gras and not of all the steaks, pork chops, chicken wings and turkey sandwiches also served at these restaurants?

The production of foie gras is no worse than what happens to millions of other animals on today’s factory farms before they’re trucked off to slaughter.

But instead of educating the public that all creatures are worthy of respect and compassion, some groups are sending the message that it’s okay to kill certain animals, or spending vast amounts of money and resources to regulate animal exploitation.

The World Wildlife Fund works hard to save the polar bear while it supports the annual seal hunt (both the WWF Canada president and the Prince of Wales, a WWF spokesperson, are devoted sport hunters).

Last year PeTA, the largest animal-rights organization in the world, ended its boycott of, and became the unofficial spokesgroup for KFC Canada, when the chicken giant agreed to gas its birds before slitting their throats. According to one PeTA rep, “It’s okay to eat at KFC Canada; they’re good now.”

Even our local humane societies, whose sworn duty is to protect those who “cannot speak for themselves”, have no problem barbecuing and serving animals at fundraisers to help other, more popular animals.

As one supporter said, “…let PeTA battle [what’s happening to pigs and chickens] right now, and let us focus on the pups.”

But it’s hypocrisy to defend some animals while causing the suffering and death of others. And expecting someone else to stop your own animal exploitation is irresponsible.

Some animal-rights activists believe that if they push for stronger animal welfare laws it will someday lead to animal liberation. This however is simply not the case. Baby steps don’t work.

According to Gary Francione, a professor of law and philosophy at Rutgers University, after 200 years of animal welfare legislation, more animals are killed for food today than ever before.

The latest figures out of the U.K. also show animal experimentation and sport hunting is on the rise, despite that country’s progressive animal welfare laws.

That’s because animal welfare reinforces the ideology that animals are property and here for us to use. It says it’s okay to exploit, kill and torture animals (with good reason) as long as they have food, water and shelter.

In truth, animal welfare actually leads to more, not less animals being killed because people feel less guilty about it, thinking (or hoping) the animals aren’t suffering as much; the idea behind today’s “happy meat” and “conscientious carnivore” movements.

Choosing which animals you’ll be kind to and which animals you won’t isn’t true kindness. Pushing for more “humane” methods of killing animals really isn’t humane. And cozying up to those who profit from killing animals won’t stop the killing.

The only way to end animal suffering is to abolish all forms of animal exploitation. Those who claim to speak for the animals should bear this in mind.

Dan Wilson is a vegan, environmentalist, animal rights activist and public education director for the Vegan Party of Canada. He is also a member of The Standard's community editorial board. You can contact him at: .

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gov. Gen's show of solidarity for seal hunt offensive: animal rights group

The Canadian Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2009

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean's public gutting of a seal in an Inuit community was a repugnant attempt to legitimize the sealing trade, an opponent of Canada's commercial hunt said Tuesday.

"I found it very offensive," said Rebecca Aldworth, a Canadian spokeswoman for Humane Society International.

"Obviously there is a tremendous public understanding of subsistence hunting in Inuit communities and nobody's opposing that, but to try to benefit from an Inuit ceremony in terms of defending the broader commercial seal hunt is simply unacceptable."

While visiting Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, on Monday, Jean gutted and ate a piece of the bleeding, raw heart of a freshly slaughtered seal.

Jean then wiped her fingers and expressed dismay that anyone would characterize the Inuit seal hunt as inhumane.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament voted to ban seal products, a move that was seen by aboriginals and Atlantic Canadian fishermen as an attack on their trade.
Asked Tuesday whether her actions were a message to Europe, Jean replied, "Take from that what you will."

Newfoundland sealer Jack Troake chuckled after hearing of Jean's actions.

"That's great stuff," Troake said.

"I hope the lady realizes that she's got herself into a hell of a mess. ... You've got some of these environmentalists that are going to jump on her, but I think she's strong enough. She can take that, I think."

For years, animal rights groups have intensely lobbied European politicians to implement a ban. At times they enlisted the support of celebrities like rock legend Paul McCartney in their cause.

The European legislation still needs the backing of European Union governments, which could be a mere formality since national envoys have already endorsed it.

Expected to take effect in October, the ban would apply to all products derived from seals, including fur, meat, oil, blubber and even omega-3 pills made from seal oil. But it would offer narrow exemptions for Inuit communities, though it bars them from a large-scale trading of their pelts and other seal goods in Europe.

Products derived from non-commercial and small-scale hunts to manage seal populations would also not be allowed to enter the EU.

Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Do small victories affect big picture in animal rights debate?

The Gazette - Sunday, May 10, 2009

By Richard Foot, Canwest News Service

It was a satisfying week for animal rights activists in Canada. The European Parliament endorsed a long-awaited ban on seal products, and one of Ottawa's most celebrated restaurateurs removed foie gras from his menu, after months of harassment by protesters.

"We're quite happy about the ban. I've been working for 40 years on the seal issue," says Paul Watson, the Canadian founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, one of the most vociferous opponents of the annual seal harvest.

Meanwhile, Jason Halvorson, a leader of the Ottawa Animal Defense League's campaign to rid the city's restaurants of the controversial culinary treat foie gras, said he was thrilled by the group's most recent victory.

Do such successes mean the animal rights movement is winning its long, controversial campaigns to gain the same legal protections for animals as those ascribed to humans?

Certainly the sealers of Newfoundland, or Ottawa businessman Stephen Beckta, might think so.

Beckta is the owner of two popular dining rooms, who succumbed to months of nasty, anonymous phone calls, insulting e-mails, and noisy demonstrations outside his restaurants by animal rights activists protesting the consumption of foie gras, a traditional French delicacy made from the enlarged livers of force-fed ducks or geese.

Beckta said he gave in to the group's demands not because of any moral choice over foie gras but because he couldn't take any more threats, intimidation or sleepless nights caused by the tactics.

And he's not alone. Last year in Nanaimo, B.C., specialty food store owner Eric McLean capitulated to animal rights activists protesting outside his business by removing cans of foie gras from his shelves.

Yet over the long history of animal rights activism in Canada, it's hard to find evidence that the larger aims of such protests are ever achieved. Notwithstanding their local tactical victories, are animal rights protesters really as effective as they appear?

Consider the Canadian seal hunt, one of the longest-running animal rights campaigns in the world. For nearly half a century, protesters from Watson to Brigitte Bardot, and more recently Paul McCartney, have been trying to shut down the hunt.

They came close in the 1970s when Europe banned the import of products from the youngest seals, known as whitecoats and bluebacks. The commercial hunt nearly collapsed, but 20 years later rebounded as worldwide demand emerged for the oil and the spotted fur of older seals. About 300,000 seals are now harvested in Canada every year.

David Barry, the seal network co-ordinator for the Fur Institute of Canada, says the latest EU ban, while problematic for the industry, doesn't mean it's over. For one thing Canada can still export seal products to China, Russia and other nations outside the EU; there are also exemptions in the ban that allow the culling of seals for conservation purposes.

"This won't bring sealing to an end," he says. "The activists could have had an influence on the manner in which sealing is conducted - and they still could - if they want to talk and work with the people in the industry. But if they continue to just take a fundamentalist position against people who live in the same ecosystem as the seals, then they'll never achieve an end to this activity, because these people rely on this for their living."

In other campaigns, foie gras may be off the shelf of Eric McLean's food store in B.C., and off the menu of Beckta's restaurants in Ottawa, but it remains in supermarkets and restaurants elsewhere in Canada and the around the world.

For decades animal rights activists have protested the use of animals in laboratory experiments. Most recently in California, a scientist at UCLA had his car firebombed for the same reason. Only a year after 9/11, the FBI even labelled animal-rights militants one of that country's most serious domestic terrorist threats. Yet in spite of such concerns, laboratory mice continue to be used by scientists at university campuses across North America.

In 1989, activists destroyed two meat markets in Vancouver to protest World Laboratory Animals Day. Two years later, animal rights protesters set fire to a fish-importing company in Edmonton - ironically killing many of the live lobsters and crabs inside - and causing $46,000 in damage. But Canadians didn't stop eating meat or fish as a result.

In one of their greatest achievements, animal rights groups succeeded in convincing the government of former prime minister Tony Blair to ban England's traditional fox hunts. But now, several years later, public opinion is changing on the subject, according to a recent BBC report, and the Conservative opposition is considering revoking the ban if it wins the next election.

Even the whaling campaigns waged by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and others have not produced a complete end to the whale harvest. Whalers from Japan and Norway each still harvest about 1,000 whales a year. That's a big change from the 20,000 whales killed annually during the 1970s, but also proof that eradicating even the most controversial animal industries is a tough, if not impossible, challenge.

"We are fighting an uphill battle," says Watson. "But we just have to keep pushing on."

Barry says one of the shortcomings of the animal rights movement is its propensity to extremism and fundamentalism. If anti-sealing groups were genuinely interested in the welfare of seals, they would have accepted invitations from the sealing industry and the federal government in 2005 to iron out a set of "best practices" for the harvest.

Instead they sought an outright end to seal markets in Europe and the ban there now includes the loophole allowing Canada to cull its seal population without any cruelty restrictions on how those animals are killed.

But Watson says principles are principles, and the ultimate goal of his campaigns is not negotiation, compromise, or even victory.

"We do what we can with the resources that are available to us," he says. "We don't focus on whether we're going to win or we're going to lose. We do what we think is right, because it's the right thing to do. If we don't succeed, well, then it's going to affect all of humanity.

"The goal is the protection of our oceans, and if the oceans die, we die. It's that simple."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Seal the deal and this annual hunt

The St. Catharines Standard - Thursday, May 7, 2009


While federal politicians are publicly turning the air blue over the European ban on Canadian seal products, it's a safe bet most would be just as happy if the boycott finally killed the controversial annual slaughter on the ice floes.

They may well get their wish.

While the 27 member countries of the European Union long ago ceased to be prime markets for Canadian sealskin, they are nonetheless home to the world's leading fashion houses.

If seal fur is taboo on the runways of Paris and Rome, you can bet it won't be in big demand elsewhere in the western world, either.

Even without the European ban, the two largest remaining international markets -- Russia and China - have been drying up to the point of threatening the viability of the entire industry.

Like virtually all federal politicians, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised to go to the wall to help the Newfoundland sealers, and fight the European ban.

Why bother? The issue certainly isn't to save the Newfoundland economy, which, last time we checked, is now awash in oil revenues.

Nor is to protect the livelihoods of the sealers, most of whom are fishermen trying to make a bit of spare cash in off-season. We are not talking the difference between prosperity and starvation here.

Various official reports on the industry indicate that at its peak, seal pelts were selling for around $100, up to 6,000 sealers were taking their quota, and total sales were over $15 million.

The St. John's Telegram reported this week that pelts are now selling for only $15, "the lowest it has been in years."

As a result, over 70% of all the usual sealing crews decided this year's seal slaughter wasn't worth the effort and stayed home.

Not surprisingly, the big winners have been thousands of young seals.

The Telegram reports that a full month into this year's hunt for a government-imposed quota of about 240,000 seals in the region, fewer than 40,000 have been killed.

Do the math, and ending the seal hunt altogether would cost a few thousand sealers roughly the equivalent of less than two weeks of unemployment insurance payments.

None of this is to dismiss the financial worth of the sealing industry to mainly low-income off-season fishermen. Every dollar is important.

Indeed, if the seal hunt were just another harvest, the Canadian government would be remiss if it didn't try to protect the industry from the European Union boycott.

But as every Canadian politician knows only too well, the annual carnage of cute on the ice floes off Newfoundland is hardly ordinary.

For over 100 years, the clubbing and gutting of seals has provoked raging debate in this country -- some of it factual; a lot of it emotional.

For instance, killing those cuddly white baby seals is already banned.

Yet, anti-sealing campaigns almost invariably feature white pups being clubbed to death and skinned, their carcasses dragged across the bloodied ice on the end of a pick.

Reality is, even if it could be proved conclusively that slaughtering seals of any age is perfectly humane and ecologically necessary to control their numbers, a picture of the kill will always be worth more than a thousand words of rationalization.

That's why the Harper government is wasting time and money fighting the European ban as an international trade issue.

Even if Canada wins, so what? Anti-sealing organizations are already using the Internet to promote an international boycott of Canadian seafood exports, and even tourism to this country.

With any luck, a dying market will kill sealing before it seriously bloodies the whole country.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't use the Bible to justify cruelty

The St. Catharines Standard - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

By Daniel K. Wilson, NIAGARA VOICES

“‘Do not kill’: These words refer not just to the killing of a person, but to the killing of anything which is alive. This commandment was written in the people’s hearts even before it was heard on Mt. Sinai.” - Leo Tolstoy

It seems that whenever I’m leafleting, tabling at some event or speaking about animal rights or vegetarianism, there’s always someone who will use the Bible to justify our mistreatment of animals.

They usually say something like, “Well, that’s what the animals are here for,” but occasionally it’s a little more to the point: “That’s why God put them here.”

Although I find it hard to believe that an all-loving Creator condones animal cruelty, I do know where this particular view comes from:

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” - Genesis 1:26

Now to some people, including many animal-rights activists, having dominion means that we are stewards of the earth, and that we’re responsible for the animals in the same way a leader is responsible for the people he or she governs.

We have no more right to hunt, kill or experiment on animals than Stephen Harper has the right to hunt, kill or experiment on Canadians, or so they argue.

But a lot of other folks interpret dominion as exploitation: that we can use animals in whatever way we see fit, and why not? The Bible isn’t exactly the most animal-friendly book around.

Sure, God commanded the Israelites to let their animals rest on the Sabbath but aside from that, there really isn’t much about being nice to them.

The Bible does however, describe in graphic detail, how animals are to be killed for peace offerings, sin offerings, burnt offerings and other sacrifices “to make a sweet savour unto the Lord,” and although the Hebrews were instructed not to eat certain kinds of animals like pigs, vultures and mice (because they were considered unclean), the book of Leviticus lists a multitude of animals that could be eaten.

In the story of the flood, every living creature not in the ark was destroyed and when God told the children of Israel to attack their enemies, He insisted that all the animals of their enemies be killed as well, along with every man, woman and child.

Some animal activists, along with some Christians, have even suggested that Jesus was a vegetarian, although there’s no evidence of this, and if Jesus was concerned about the well-being of animals, nobody bothered to record it. Nowhere in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount does it say, “Blessed are they who protect the animals from unnecessary suffering.”

And while life in the Garden of Eden was apparently meant to be a vegetarian one,

“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” - Genesis 1:29,

I think it’s a mistake for activists to try and use the Bible to promote animal rights, as most references to animals have to do with how they are to serve us, alive or dead.

But just because the Bible isn’t compassionate towards animals doesn’t mean that we can’t be. The good book also sanctions war, slavery, polygamy, the killing of homosexuals and the oppression of women, all of which are quite unpopular today.

If we stop using the Bible to justify animal exploitation, and started promoting kindness and respect for all of God's creation, we might just acheive something most of us thought was impossible - peace on Earth.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sanctuaries don't use their animals for profit

The St. Catharines Standard - Saturday, April 18, 2009

It has recently come to my attention that The Exotic Animal Rescue Society is back soliciting donations from the public at local Canadian Tire stores.

Be careful before you consider a donation. Sanctuaries do not breed animals, use animals in television/video, demand "public performance" for donations, nor do they keep animals housed in unnatural environments or displayed for public viewing.

This approach is an impediment to education about positive human and non-human relationships. These animals should be removed to recognized sanctuaries where they can live out the remainder of their lives free from exploitation.

Dylan Powell,
St. Catharines

How You Can Help

Call or write Canadian Tire on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines and let them know that you won't shop there as long as they allow exotic animals to be kept on display in the store. You can also call Canadian Tire's Head Office and tell them how you feel too.

Canadian Tire:
459 Welland Avenue
St. Catharines, ON
L2M 5V2
(905) 688-0488

Canadian Tire Head Office:
1 800 387-8803

Thursday, April 16, 2009

'You might as well not even have the legislation'

The Canadian Press - Monday, April 13, 2009


Horrific incidents of animal cruelty that have essentially gone unpunished or resulted only in slaps on the wrist demonstrate the weakness of federal legislation enacted one year ago, animal-rights activists say.

In one notorious case, a New Brunswick man was acquitted in February of charges for killing five pomeranians he didn't want with a hammer.

Since the animals were considered his property, the court decided he had the right to dispose of them as he saw fit, although he was ordered to pay $50 for injuring a dog that survived the hammer blow.

"Most Canadians do not view animals the same way that people did in the Victorian era," said Melissa Tkachyk of the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

"They do not agree that killing an animal with a hammer is the same as vandalizing a person's car."

In another case, a St. Catharines man dropped a kitten from a fifth floor balcony, then ran her over with his car. Charges were dropped because the kitten was considered marital property in a domestic dispute and his wife couldn't testify against him.

Critics complain that Bill S-203, which received Royal Assent last April 17, has done little to protect animals and say such incidents underline a crying need to put teeth into the law.

The legislation enacted last year, essentially the same as property-offences law enacted in 1892, beefed up penalties for animal cruelty.

However, it contains no standards of care for how animals are fed or housed and securing a convictions is difficult because of the need to prove "wilful intent" to cause suffering to an animal.

Simply proving an animal suffered is almost impossible.

Liberal MP Mark Holland called the updated law "placebo" policy.

"Those that are committing animal-abuse offences are essentially able to do so with impunity," Holland said.

"I've just been really exhausted with talking to SPCA officers who go into homes and situations where they see animals that have been tortured and abused and can do nothing."

Holland has introduced a private member's bill that would create a separate offence for killing an animal without lawful excuse regardless of whether it could be proven the animal suffered.

Across Canada, fewer than one-quarter of one per cent of charges under the animal-cruelty provisions of the code result in convictions.

"You might as well not even have the legislation," said Sean Kelly, chairman of the investigations committee for the Nova Scotia SPCA, who called the law useless.

He said he had heard of only a single conviction under the Criminal Code, and that one involved an extreme case of a man who abused 129 animals.

"When it comes to companion animals, it's just not heard of," Kelly said.

In another case last June, an Ontario man abandoned a two-year-old dog on a bush road after blinding her with a gunshot to the head but was acquitted of intent to unlawfully injure a dog.

Last month, a Nova Scotia woman was fined $5 for drowning a pair of newborn kittens in a bucket of water.

"The Criminal Code should recognize that animals experience pain and suffering," Tkachyk said.

"Animals are sentient - it's time to reflect this basic fact in our legislation that is supposed to protect them."

Ontario politician Mike Colle, who pushed the province to beef up its animal-welfare act last month, called the federal legislation a "paper tiger" that didn't give humane officials or inspectors better tools.

The legislation does not even outlaw breeding, training or selling animals to fight each other, he said.
- - -
Animal cruelty law called useless. Some recent cases:

Nova Scotia woman drowns two newborn kittens -- fined $5.

Northwest Territories man leaves dogs outdoors to freeze and starve to death -- no charges laid.

St. Catharines man drops kitten from a 5th floor balcony, then runs it over with car -- charges dropped.

New Brunswick man kills five pomeranians with a hammer -- absolute discharge.

Ontario man shoots, blinds and abandons dog on bush road -- acquitted.

Quebec man found with more than 100 dogs crammed in tiny, filthy cages -- 180 hours community service and $3,200 fine.

Monday, March 2, 2009

European Union vote could lead to tight ban on Canadian seal products

The Canadian Press - Monday, March 2, 2009

The European Union took another step toward a ban on Canadian seal products Monday as a parliamentary committee rejected a proposal to label the products instead.

A vote by the EU parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee endorsed a bill that would impose a ban on the import of all seal products to the 27-member union. It voted 25-7 in favour of the ban.

The same bill granted an exemption to Canada's Inuit to continue to trade seal products "for cultural, educational or ceremonial purposes."

The decision drew immediate reaction from those for and against Canada's East Coast hunt, which is the largest in the world. Over the last three years the total allowable catch has been set at between 270,000 and 335,000 seals annually.

"I'm very disappointed that elected officials in Europe are going against World Trade Organization rulings and legal opinions," said Rob Cahill of the Canadian Fur Institute. "It's not over, but I think this is a real setback."

Cahill said it was clear that years of lobbying by anti-sealing and animal rights groups in North America and Europe had gained traction with a number of politicians.

"Those campaigns are very strong in Europe ... and I think it's just the culmination of many years of that movement coming into place," he said.

Meanwhile, those opposed to the hunt were heralding the news as a strong indication the battle is being won.

"It's a fantastic step forward in the campaign to stop commercial seal slaughters around the world," said Rebecca Aldworth, director of Humane Society International Canada.

She said the committee vote "will carry a lot of weight" when the EU assembly votes on a bill, which could come as early as April.

In order to become law, the bill must be approved by the entire EU assembly and EU governments.

The committee decision follows an intense lobbying effort in recent weeks by Canadian politicians looking to convince the European body that the commercial harp seal hunt is humane.

The committee endorsed plan brands seal hunting as "inherently inhumane" and calls for the EU to heed public calls for a ban.

"It's clear they haven't taken into account information from Canada to the contrary of some of the things that they (opponents) continue to say as being facts about the hunting of seals," said Cahill.

Federal officials have estimated an EU ban would chop half the annual value of the hunt, which currently stands at $13 million.

Nordic EU countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Finland have opposed such a ban, and legal experts say it could violate world trade rules. Seals are also hunted in Namibia, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

British lawmaker Diana Wallis, who is drafting the EU assembly bill, had recommended the tough labelling rules - instead of a ban - as the way to ensure sealing countries adhere to EU animal welfare rules. But lawmakers in her committee rejected her compromise and opted for the ban instead.

She warned such a ban could lead to legal problems under world trade rules.

"My fear is that a ban will just leave the European public still seeing the same pictures on their TV screens of the Canadian seal cull next year as they see this year," Wallis said after the vote.

The EU has banned the import of white pelts from baby seals since 1983.

Several European Union nations, such as the Netherlands and Belgium, also have their own bans on all seal products. The United States has banned Canadian seal products since 1972.

Cahill said he hoped many of the countries who hunt seals would come forward during the next step in the EU's process to help keep the bill from passing.

In fact, EU members including Denmark, Sweden and Finland have opposed a ban.
But Aldworth contends Monday's vote was a "positive indication" that the end to Canada's commercial seal hunt is in the offing.

"I think this is a very historic moment in the campaign to stop commercial sealing in Canada," she said.

- With files from The Associated Press

Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Anglers net fish and funds for charity

The St. Catharines Standard - Saturday, February 28, 2009


It’s the kind of wound that has the makings of good fishing hole lore.

Especially if it leaves a scar.

As Lindsay Smith pressed a bloody kleenex to his thumb to soothe the bite marks from a fish he caught Saturday morning, he imagined the potential his injured finger held.

He could really get people hook, line and sinker, if he wanted to.

“It was a huge pike, a 10-pounder, and it had my whole hand in his mouth,” Smith said with a grin while an equally proud-looking pike lied in a yellow bucket at his feet.

But that’s not exactly what happened.

The St. Catharines man headed onto a frozen Martindale Pond Saturday morning to reel in the big one at a charity ice-fishing derby.

Nearly three hours later, he netted a three-pound, 23-inch pike. But when the avid angler went to take the hook out of its mouth, the feisty fish got revenge.

“He kind of flopped and clamped,” onto Smith’s thumb.

It took the help of a fishing buddy to pry the pesky pike off his finger.

“Their teeth are so sharp, once they clamp on you, you need help opening their mouth. I should know better but I thought I could get the hook out,” Smith said.

Smith was one of nearly 50 people who participated in the derby with the hopes of snagging prize-winning pike or perch.

Organized by 17-year-old Bowen Sandercock, the annual event served as fundraiser for The Heart and Stroke Foundation.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake teen started the derby three years ago in honour of Bradley Perzul, a Niagara Falls man who died two years ago after a heart transplant.

Blogger's Note:

My problem with this story isn't that people are trying to raise money for charity, it's that in doing so, they're harming others. Why can't people come up with ways of helping people without causing suffering and death to other animals?

The reporter also makes it sound as if the fish, after enduring the pain of having a hook stuck through its face and struggling to survive inside a plastic pail, was having as much fun as the kid who caught it.

The other thing is that when a newspaper runs a story like this, they never cover the other side of it. In not doing so, it reinforces the belief that this is okay, because no opposing voices are heard.

If they ran a story about a group of women who decided to go topless at a street corner to raise money for charity, the newspaper would also report that certain people were opposed to this kind of exploitation and objectification of women. If they didn't, there would no doubt be letters from members of the public accusing the newspaper of sexism.

But when it comes to animal exploitation, as in the fishing story above, this never happens. Newspapers need to be more objective when covering such issues.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"How smart does a chimp have to be...?"

The Weston Town Crier - Thursday, January 15, 2009

By Elizabeth K. Daly

WESTON - You have the right, dear reader, to ignore this article, along with a lot of other rights you may never have thought about, like the right not to be held captive in a laboratory, not to be experimented on, not to have cosmetics and household cleaners tested on you, and not to be killed.

You never had to earn these rights; to enjoy them you never had to prove a thing. All you needed was the good fortune to be born a human being.

If you were, these rights were automatically yours, even if you were born disabled, handicapped, diseased or mentally deficient. In the midst of whatever complaints or grievances you may have in life, never cease to be grateful for those rights.

What are rights anyway, and how does anybody come by them? Whatever they are, they are deemed to be absolute and "inalienable," as Thomas Jefferson put it. But in fact they vary so much from one era to another and from one society to another that they have to be regarded as culturally agreed upon privileges.

The same Thomas Jefferson who asserted man’s "inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" was a slave owner, whose slaves were deemed to be mere property with no rights at all. From the inception of our country to the Emancipation Proclamation, that viewpoint was commonly held by well-bred ladies and gentlemen and ordinary citizens alike.

From today’s vantage point, it is clear that slaves were people, who in fact had rights, but whose rights were violated by the society of the day. We look similarly on the victims of the Holocaust, of Stalinist Russia, of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, of contemporary Africa’s genocidal wars, and of dictatorial regimes in general.

We don’t see those victims as people without rights, but rather, as people whose rights were violated and denied, and we see that violation and denial as a heinous crime. If and when the victims’ status changes and their rights are accorded, they are not granted new rights; rather, their society finally comes to recognize the rights that were theirs all along.

Cultural evolution of this kind does occur, and that is what gives hope for the future to those who can see, even now, that animals have rights. Why are animal rights at present so ubiquitously violated?

Two commonly cited rationales for that violation are 1) that animals are inferior to humans and 2) that animals are so different from humans as to be unable to experience acute suffering.

It is entirely unclear why humans, as the kingpins of evolution, have the moral right to abuse creatures presumed to be beneath them in the evolutionary scheme of things, but the very premise of human superiority could use some re-examination. Our superiority is far from total, as we smugly like to think.

Who’s superior to whom?

Think of how many types of animals are superior to humans in their ability to run, climb, swim, burrow, fly, or in some cases, to remember; in their agility, speed, strength, endurance, and capacity to circumnavigate the globe in the air, on land, or on and under the oceans; in their keen senses of sight, hearing, smell, or of echo-location; in their ability to survive and thrive in the harshest environments – deserts, rocky mountain slopes, jungles, the North and South poles, and the depths of the oceans.

In beauty, many are equal if not superior to humans; think of horses, zebras, the golden tamarin monkey, lions, tigers, leopards, ocelots, panda bears, gazelles, birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and many others.

What the animals lack is written language and advanced technology. But even here, much research has shown that they communicate clearly with one another (beyond our ability to comprehend) and with specificity, using not only a large subtle repertoire of vocal sounds, but also complex body language and variable body odors. Some of their constructions, unaided by computers or construction manuals, are marvels of engineering. Think of a birds’ nest, a beehive, a spider’s web, a beavers’ dam, a prairie dogs’ underground town.

Those that live in packs or herds have a social order and a system of hierarchies that rival human societies in their complexity. In some packs and herds, not only parents, but the whole herd, help nurture the young and teach their culture, perpetuating it from one generation to the next, as humans do. Some animal societies – elephants, for example – have rituals for celebrating birth and mourning death. And many have been shown to create and use simple tools.

These similarities to humans are highly significant, because they give the lie to the other commonly cited rationale for denying animal rights, namely that animals are so different from us that they are incapable of feeling pain in the same way or of experiencing true suffering.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Many studies have documented the anxiety, severe depression and terror of laboratory animals, especially primates. Indeed their capacity to suffer is one more of their marked similarities to humans. Some primates have been taught to "speak" a human language through sign language, and these primate "speakers" have been reported to express the full range of "human" emotions – joy, sadness, remorse, fear, anxiety, love, hate, even humor. Some have demonstrated feats of intelligence previously thought to be uniquely human – to count, to do rudimentary calculations, to practice deception, to learn human sign language solely from a primate parent proficient in it.

Thou shalt not kill

All the similarities between humans and animals, and especially between humans and primates, are a two-edged sword for the deniers and supporters of animal rights. For the deniers, the similarities are a supreme convenience, making animals a good stand-in for humans in experimentation. What they conveniently forget is that rights are deemed to be absolute and inalienable, and have nothing at all to do with convenience.

For the supporters of animal rights the similarities place animals, especially primates, under the protection of our own ethical taboo against killing. How can it not apply, they ask, to our own closest relatives, members of our own hominid family? Those of a religious bent might ask the question a little differently – are we not all God’s creatures, all entitled to His mercy?

Other civilized nations are more advanced than the U.S. in acknowledging this ethical taboo. Such "backward" nations as Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and Japan have banned primate research in their countries, and Spain has gone one step further. In June 2008, the Spanish parliament explicitly acknowledged the rights of the great apes to life and freedom; legislation spelling out the practical implications of these rights is expected within a year.

The European Union as a whole is also ahead of us in banning safety testing of cosmetics on animals. The ban takes full effect in 2009, and it applies not only to testing, but also to the sale, within the European Union, of cosmetics tested on animals.

In the U.S. similar measures are pending, but support is needed to make them succeed. A bill before the House of Representatives, called the Great Apes Protection Act, or GAPA (H.R.5852), would ban most primate research in this country and would release primates currently in U.S. labs to sanctuaries.

There is also a petition before the Federal Drug Administration, called the Mandatory Alternatives Petition (MAP), that seeks compulsory non-animal testing for products, wherever non-animal alternatives are available. It was submitted in November 2007 by a coalition of organizations that advocate humane treatment of animals.

Anyone in Weston interested in speeding up these measures should write to Congressman Edward J. Markey, 2108 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20515, urging him to support GAPA, and to the commissioner of the FDA, Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville MD 20857, urging the FDA to comply with the MAP petition.

The title of this article, "How smart does a chimp have to be …?" is a truncated quotation from the famous scientist and writer Carl Sagan. The full question he asked was, "How smart does a chimp have to be before killing him constitutes murder?" While our country is pondering the question, the rights of chimpanzees and of countless other, even more "inferior" animals, are being excruciatingly violated every day. It happens not only in laboratories, but also on factory farms, in puppy mills, circuses, and other venues, too.

Animals are badly in need of our recognition of their rights. We are also in need of it, for the sake of our own consciences.

For a more thorough exposition of the legal concept of animal rights, see "Drawing the Line" and "Rattling the Cage," both by Steven M. Wise. For current news and information on this topic see the Web site of the Animal Legal Defense Fund at ""

Elizabeth K. Daly is a longtime resident of Weston and an activist for animal rights.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Man, what a stupid species

Toronto Sun - Friday, January 2, 2009


Human death is tragic, but the glaring reality is there are plenty of us on the planet. So many, in fact, that we're fighting over the few remaining open spaces, and we're the biggest threat to most other species, and indeed the planet itself.

Disease, wars, natural disasters and stupidity have killed millions of humans, often tragically, but can any of it even compare to the extinction of a species?

In Canada, for example, we've ridded the place of the sea mink, the Dawson caribou, the passenger pigeon, various kinds of wolves, a variety of fish, and a smattering of other creatures big and small.

Many species have been eradicated due to human hunting, for food or simply for sport, or because we seem to need more space to live than any other creature and are unwilling to share it or use it responsibly.

And we're not done yet.

Recently, a group of scientists known as the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada added a variety of species to the growing list of animals and plants in this country that are threatened or endangered. Among them: The snapping turtle, which suffers the same problem as wolves and other animals -- people fear it.

Worldwide, even the cute ones, such as panda bears, are having trouble surviving in a world increasingly populated by humans. Some are simply in the way. Others are out of sight and out of mind, obscured not by our need for survival, but our need for, well, money.

All of them may be doomed by what we're doing to the planet itself. We're not just hunting these animals, chopping down the forests and paving the grasslands -- that's old-fashioned. We've adopted far more insidious methods: Poisoning the air and water.

We continue to try, usually with disastrous results, to manipulate nature. We're changing the climate.

And we may well yet just blow the place up; submit the planet to nuclear Armageddon, from which only a few species might be lucky enough to survive.

It's food for thought during a week of resolutions.