Category Archives: Wild Animals

The American Humane Association Will Not Give “No Animals Were Harmed®” Warranty To Alberta Film After Bison Killing

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Solutrean Prop_tonemappedWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

In recent years, the American Humane Association has come under fire over a number of films that received the “No Animals Were Harmed®” sign-off despite the deaths of numerous animals during film productions overseen or approved by the group.   An article by Ryan Rumboldt for the Calgary Herald on December 31, 2016, finally gives closure to the incident where bison in Alberta were killed for the use of movie props in the film “The Solutrean.” Set to release in the summer of 2017, the movie is an ice age period film which came under investigation from the American Humane Association after questions were raised about the killing of the animals used to depict a buffalo hunt.  While it was concluded by the AHA and the SPCA that the bison were not inhumanely destroyed,  the killing of an animal for the direct purpose of a movie scene is strictly forbidden by the AHA.  After their investigation, American Humane has decided not to give their No Animals Were Harmed®approval as is generally customary in the industry when animals are used.

“This is an egregious violation of our guidelines as under no circumstances does American Humane tolerate the killing of animals for the purpose of film production,” said spokesman Mark Stubis. “Our policies specifically prohibit any animal to be injured or killed for use in a movie.”

The Alberta movie animal supply industry has been subjected to criticism since  “an incident on the set of the 1999 film The Thirteenth Warrior where a horse had to be destroyed, and again after horses used on the TV series Heartland were sold to Bouvry Exports, North America’s largest slaughterhouse.”

Please read more here from the Calgary Herald.

Read more on my original blog post on the killing of the bison here.

 

In 2017 – Speak Up For Those Who Have No Voice

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The holiday season has never been kind to animals. Indeed, 2016 has been characterized by many high-profile court proceedings and political issues for animals, many of them quite unfavourable. While we’ve experienced numerous profound losses in 2016, no doubt animal advocates will continue to mobilize in 2017 to raise the status of animals and strive to improve standards all over the world.

Throughout history, social justice movements have always been a major vehicle for ordinary people’s participation in politics and the facilitation of reform.  To that end, there are many platforms upon which we can create awareness of the plight of all animals.  Before I started this exercise, I was only aware of some of the main recognition events around the world for animals and through a variety of resources, I gathered together every grassroots and branded event I could find that would allow every animal lover and advocate, without regard for nationality or politics, to find a way to generate awareness and progress.

This list features education and awareness events,  shelter pet adoption days, opportunities for fundraising, school events and workshops, spay/neuter days and peaceful protest marches to raise awareness of either specific animal welfare issues or to encourage governments to heighten animal protection legislation.

Let’s move forward into 2017 and beyond and create a world where animals are recognized as sentient beings and full regard is accorded to their welfare and rights.

 

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January

  • National Bird Day  (January 5)
  • Save the Eagles Day (January 10)
  • Appreciate a Dragon Day  (January 16)
  • Winnie the Pooh Day (January 18)
  • Penguin Awareness Day (January 20)
  • Squirrel Appreciation Day  (January 21)
  • Bald Eagle Appreciation Days (January 21-22)
  • International Hoof Care Week (January 24-27)

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February

  • Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month
  • International Hoof Care Month
  • National Wild Bird-Feeding Month
  • Responsible Animal Guardian Month
  • National Serpent Day (February 1)
  • World Wetlands Day (February 2)
  • Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 12-18)
  • National Nestbox Week (February 14-21)
  • National Hippo Day (February 15)
  • Great Backyard Bird Count  (February 17-20)
  • Homes for Birds Week (Second Week of February)
  • World Pangolin Day (February 18 – Third Saturday in February)
  • World Whale Day (February 18)
  • National Invasive Species Awareness Week (February 19-26)
  • National Justice for Animals Week (February 19-26)
  • National Love Your Pet Day (February 20)
  • National Dog Biscuit Day (February 23)
  • International Polar Bear Day (February 27)
  • Spay Day (February 28 – or last day in February)

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March

  • Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month
  • Dolphin Awareness Month
  • National Horse Protection Day  (March 1)
  • National Pig Day (March 1)
  • World Wildlife Day (March 3)
  • International Festival of Owls (March 3-5)
  • National Aardvark Week (Second Week of March)
  • Termite Awareness  Week (March 12-18)
  • Learn About Butterflies Day (March 14)
  • National Wildlife Week (March 14-18)
  • Save a Spider Day  (March 14)
  • Buzzard Day  (March 15)
  • National Panda Day  (March 16)
  • National Animal Poison Prevention Week (March 19-25 – Third Full Week of March)
  • World Frog Day (March 20)
  • World Sparrow Day (March 20)
  • International Day of the Seal  (March 22)
  • National Puppy Day (March 23)
  • Manatee Appreciation Day  (March 29 -Last Wednesday in March)

 

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April

  • National Frog Month
  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month
  • National Birding Day  (April 1 -First Saturday of April)
  • National Ferret Day  (April 2)
  • Bat Appreciation Week (April 2-8 – First Full Week of April)
  • World Rat Day  (April 4)
  • International Beaver Day  (April 7)
  • Draw a Picture of a Bird Day  (April 8)
  • Canadian Federation of Humane Societies National Animal Welfare Conference  (April 8-11)
  • Zoo Lovers Day  (April 8)
  • National Animal Control Appreciation Week (April 9-15)
  • National Farm Animals Day (April 10)
  • National Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week (April 10-16)
  • National Pet Day (April 11) 
  • National Dolphin Day  (April 14)
  • Animal Cruelty / Human Violence Awareness Week (April 16-22 -Third Week in April)
  • World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week (April 16-24 – Week that surrounds April 24th each year)
  • Save the Elephant Day (April 16)
  • Animal Cruelty/Human Violence Awareness Week (April 16-22)
  • National Pet ID Week (April 16-22)
  • International Bat Appreciation Day (April 17)
  • Earth Day (April 22)
  • National Lost Dogs Awareness Day (April 23)
  • World Day for Animals in Laboratories  (April 24)
  • World Penguin Day (April 25)
  • National Help a Horse Day  (April 26)
  • National Audubon Day (April 26)
  • National Kids and Pets Day (April 26)
  • National Hairball Awareness Day (April 28)
  • National Go Birding Day  (April 29 – Last Saturday of April)
  • Save the Frogs Day (April 29 – Last Saturday in April)
  • National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day (April 30)
  • National Pet Parents Day (Last Sunday in April)
  • National Animal Advocacy Day – April 30

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May

  • International Respect for Chickens Month
  • Save the Rhino Day ( May 1)
  • Bird Day  (May 4)
  • International Respect for Chickens Day (May 4)
  • Be Kind to Animals Week (May 7-13 – First Full Week in May)
  • National Pet Week (May 7-13)
  • National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day  (May 8)
  • International Migratory Bird Day (May 10)
  • World Migratory Bird Day (May 12-13)
  • Frog Jumping Day  (May 13)
  • Dinosaur Day  (May 15)
  • International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day (May 15)
  • National Sea Monkey Day  (May 16)
  • National Endangered Species Day  (May 19 – Third Friday in May)
  • National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 21-27)
  • National Heritage Breeds Week (May 21-27)
  • International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22)
  • World Turtle Day (May 23)
  • International Turtle Day (May 23)
  • Slugs Return to Capistrano Day  (May 28)
  • Whooping Crane Day  (May 28)
  • Pink Flamingo Day (May 29)
  • International Hug Your Cat Day  (May 30)

 

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June

  • Zoo and Aquarium Month
  • National Adopt-A-Cat Month
  • National Animal Rights Day (NARD) (June 4)
  • Pet Appreciation Week (June 4-10)
  • World Environment Day (June 5)
  • World Oceans Day (June 8)
  • International Day of Action for Elephants in Zoos (June 8)
  • National Black Cow Day  (June 10)
  • World Sea Turtle Day (June 14)
  • Animal Rights Awareness Week (June 18-24)
  • Fish Are Friends Not Food Week (June 18-24)
  • American Eagle Day (June 20)
  • National Take Your Dog To Work Day (June 24)
  • National Catfish Day (June 25)

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July

  • Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month
  • National Bison Month
  • Wild About Wildlife Month
  • American Zoo Day (July 1)
  • National Farriers Week (July 2-8)
  • National Farriers Week (July 9-15)
  • Don’t Step on a Bee Day  (July 10)
  • Cow Appreciation Day  (July 12)
  • Shark Awareness Day (July 15)
  • National I Love Horses Day (July 15)
  • National  Zookeeper Week (July 16-22)
  • World Snake Day  (July 16)
  • Coral Reef Awareness Week  (Third Week of July)
  • Monkey Day (July 21)
  • International Tiger Day (July 29)
  • National Mutt Day (July 31)

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August

  • Animal Rights National Conference (August 3-6 Washington DC)
  • International Assistance Dog Week (August 6-12)
  • World Elephant Day   (August 12)
  • World Lizard Day (August 14)
  • International Homeless Animals Day (August 19)
  • World Humanitarian Day (August 19)
  • National Homeless Animals Day (August 19 – Third Saturday of August)
  • National Honey Bee Day (August 19 -Third Saturday of August)
  • World Orangutan Day (August 19)
  • National Dog Day (August 26)
  • International Whale Shark Day (August 30)

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September

  • Save the Koala Month
  • World Animal Remembrance Month
  • National Hummingbird Day  (September 2)
  • National Wildlife Day  (September 4)
  • International Day of Charity (September 5)
  • National Iguana Awareness Day  (September 8)
  • National Pet Memorial Day (Second Sunday in September)
  • National Hug Your Hound Day (Second Sunday in September)
  • Greenpeace Day (September 14)
  • Puppy Mill Awareness Day (September 16)
  • International Red Panda Day  (September 16 -Third Saturday of September)
  • National Farm Animals Awareness Week (September 16-23 -Third week of September)
  • National Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Week (September 17-23)
  • Elephant Appreciation Day  (September 22)
  • World Rhino Day  (September 22)
  • Responsible Dog Ownership Day (Third Saturday in September)
  • Fish Amnesty Day  (September 23 – Fourth Saturday in September)
  • International Rabbit Day  (September 23 – Fourth Saturday or Sunday in September)
  • National Bluebird of Happiness Day  (September 24)
  • National Dog Week (Sepember 24-30)
  • Deaf Dog Awareness Week (September 24-30)
  • Sea Otter Awareness Week  (September 24-30 -Last Week of September)
  • Shamu the Whale Day  (September 26)
  • Happy Goose Day  (September 29)
  • Save the Koala Day  (September 29 -Last Friday in September)

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October

  • Bat Appreciation Month
  • National Animal Safety and Protection Month
  • World Animal Month
  • Adopt A Shelter Dog Month
  • Cut-Out Dissection Month
  • Raptor Month
  • Squirrel Awareness Month
  • Vegetarian Month
  • World Vegetarian Day (October 1)
  • International Raccoon Appreciation Day (October 1)
  • Butterfly and Hummingbird Day (October 3)
  • World Animal Day (October 4)
  • Veterinary Technicians Week (October 8-14)
  • National Wolf Awareness Week (October 8-16 – Second Full Week of October)
  • International Migratory Bird Day (October 14 – Second Saturday in October)
  • Wishbones For Pets Month (October 15-November 30)
  • National Feral Cat Day (October 16)
  • International Sloth Day  (October 20)
  • Reptile Awareness Day (October 21)
  • National Mole Day (October 23)
  • Swallows Depart From San Juan Capistrano Day (October 23)
  • National Mule Day (October 26)
  • National Cat Day (October 29)

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November

  • Manatee Awareness Month
  • Adopt A Senior Pet Month
  • National Pet Cancer Awareness Month
  • Vegan Month
  • World Vegan Day (November 1)
  • National Cook For Your Pets Day (November 1)
  • Jellyfish Day (November 3)
  • National Animal Shelter and Rescue Appreciation Week (November 5-11 -First Full Week of November)
  • National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day (November 7)
  • World Kindness Week (November 12-18)
  • Turkey-Free Thanksgiving (November 24 – Fourth Thursday in November)

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December

  • Operation Santa Paws (December 1-24)
  • Faux Fur Friday (December 1 – First Friday in December)
  • National Mutt Day (December 2)
  • International Cheetah Day (December 4)
  • World Wildlife Conservation Day (December 4)
  • National Day of the Horse (December 13)
  • International Monkey Day (December 14)
  • Christmas Bird Count Week (December 14-January 5)
  • Cat Herders Day (December 15)
  • Visit the Zoo Day (December 27)
  • Universal Hour of Peace (December 31)

 

Sources – Track Maven and Holidays and Observance

 

We All Matter – A Sermon About The Moral Value of Animals

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This is a sermon delivered by Earthsave Canada president David Steele at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, July 31st, 2016.  It was originally published on Earthsave Canada`s website.

dreamstime_s_54024506Six years ago today, on July 31st 2010, one of the closest friends I’ve ever known died. Her name was Tasty. Tasty the Sky. She was a canine person. An Australian Shepherd.

Tasty was born in early September 1993 in a research facility at the University of Virginia. She was bred to be deaf. It turns out that a common mutation in Australian Shepherds is an analog to similar mutations in humans – these mutations are behind the most common genetic cause of deafness in our species.

Once the study of her deafness was done, she was sent to another lab where the nerves to her heart were cut. The idea was to mimic one of the effects of a heart transplant. Her heart rate from then on was very low. Didn’t interfere with her health overall, though.

But the next event planned for her very definitely would have. Because she was no longer of any use to the institution, she was slated to be killed. Fortunately for her – and, as it turned out, for me – a brave veterinary student named Jessica Levy couldn’t let that happened. She spirited Tasty out of that place. After a short chain of events, Tasty found her new home with me.

I tell you about this because I think that it is through our pets that we often get insight into the internal lives of animals. We can learn from them how similar they often are to us – in their basic wants and desires; in their curiosity; in their problem solving, even.

Tasty would hug people she loved. She would remember how to navigate complex paths in places she once lived – years before – to find old friends or to get a treat that she expected would be at the end of the line. She was very bright. There’s no doubt about it. But really, she was unexceptional. The vast majority of creatures on this planet have amazing capabilities.

That’s in very large measure because, like you and me, they share a very basic and mysterious trait. They are conscious.

And wow is consciousness amazing!

To me, consciousness is the essence of what it is to be a person. It is awareness, the ability to experience. We all know we’ve got it, but we don’t really understand what it is. Physicians assess it by simple test, ranking humans’ consciousness on a scale ranging from full alertness and responsiveness, through states of delirium, and all the way to what they consider a complete lack of consciousness, defined by a complete lack of responsiveness to painful stimulation. Still, this is just a practical definition. It doesn’t get to what consciousness really is.

It’s a question that has eluded the greatest of minds for millennia. Philosophers have puzzled over it and scientists, too, haven’t been able to figure it out. Some claim consciousness is an illusion. The vast majority of us would disagree with that, I think – and with good reason. I include myself on that one. But still, try and tell me just what it is.

Some say that mind and body are separate; others say mind and body are the same. “Consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe”; “it’s a side-effect of how our brains are organized”; “it works like a machine”; “it works because of the spooky properties of quantum mechanics.” The list goes on and on. Put the theories together and what do you get? An unintelligible mess that still doesn’t explain what consciousness is.

Me, even though I don’t understand it, I think it’s physically based. We know that we can modify it by drugs – even eliminate it, e.g., for surgery, then bring it back at will. It disappears every night, too, as we sleep. That, to me, says that it arises as a property of our brains.

And again, looking around, as my experience with Tasty showed me so very well, we humans are obviously nothing like the only creatures on this planet who experience it.

Dogs and cats, cows and pigs, chickens and crows all clearly share the basic experience of life that we do. Fish, too, show clear signs of conscious awareness. Charles Darwin saw it even in the lowly earthworm. I’m not so sure that he was right about that, but I do know that they can be trained to solve very simple mazes. Fruit flies are much better at solving mazes, though; and they can even learn from each other.

We humans have our biases, so most of what we know about animal consciousness comes either from tests of animal intelligence or studies on a trait that is medically useful to humans: pain. We look into intelligence because we value that in others; we look into pain mostly because we want to use the understanding we get from pain in animals to figure out how to alleviate pain in us.

On intelligence, know, for example, that orangutans are relative geniuses. They have been known to steal canoes and paddle them away and even to put on humans’ clothing, if given the chance. Returning to dogs for a second, we have good evidence they can recognize the emotions in other dogs’ faces and in our faces, too.

That animals feel pain is obvious.

We use rats in experiments on pain because we know that they will react to it like we do and that drugs that blunt pain in them almost always do the same in us. They recognize pain in each other as well, and will try to help when they see another rat in distress. Lots of studies have shown this! We’ve even learned that fish feel pain and react similarly to us when confronted with it.

Some scientists claim that fish are not actually feeling pain; their brains are too different from ours, they say. That, to me, speaks of irrational arrogance. One doesn’t need a similar brain to have fundamentally the same experience and ability. Different structures may well take on different roles in different species. Just look at the intelligence of a crow or a parrot! Or even a chicken!

Birds’ brains are very different from those of humans and other mammals. They lack the neocortex that so many scientists tell us is necessary for intelligence. Yet, they are clearly intelligent. Crows make tools – both in the lab and in the wild. Just last week, scientists reported observing New Caledonian crows make long hooks so that they could carry more than one item away from a scene at once. Clearly ‘bird brain’ doesn’t mean what we once thought it did!

I speak of this not only because consciousness is such an amazing mystery, but also because of its moral dimension.

Beings with consciousness feel joy and pain; excitement and disappointment. They have wants and desires. What we call good can befall them; so can ill.

In short, animals – like us! – have moral value.

I am not saying that there are not differences in the ways the we and dogs and sharks and elephants experience consciousness. I’m not saying that the vast majority of other animals we share this earth with are anything like as aware as we are of their place in the world, or of the consequences of their actions.

What I am saying is that they are very much worthy of our moral consideration. That their experiences of life are sufficiently similar to our own that we should do our best to avoid causing harm to them.

We love our dogs and cats and do our very best to ensure that their lives are pleasant. Other animals are similarly deserving.

And those animals may be more aware of us and our abilities than you may think.

Many sure are aware that we are not beings to be trusted. We hunt them, pave over their habitats and otherwise disrupt their lives.

One study that I read about this week highlights this reality very well.

Scientists at the University of Western Ontario studied the fear responses of small predators. I confess that I haven’t read the study yet, so I don’t know the details. What I do know – reported in New Scientist Magazine – is that that badgers, foxes and raccoons evidently fear humans much more than they fear bears, wolves and dogs.

In one experiment, the scientists played badgers, in the wild, the sounds of bears, wolves, dogs and humans over hidden speakers. While hearing bears and dogs had some effect – reducing the likelihood that the badgers would feed, simply hearing the sound of people conversing or reading passages from books completely prevented the badgers from feeding.

A lot of animals, I would guess, if they think about it – think of we humans as terrible threats.

Clearly, from the animals’ points of view, we are perpetrators of horrors. We can’t say just how aware any specific animal is of the dangers we pose, but clearly they avoid us to the extent that they can.

There is one major way that we differ big time from at least the vast majority of the other animal species on earth.

We have highly developed abstract language. We can learn from others over great distances; we can learn from ancestors long dead.

What a huge advantage that is!

And with that advantage comes great opportunity for improvement – and in my view, great responsibility as well.

We have developed thoughtful, sophisticated theories of ethics and morality. We understand the world to a degree unimaginable in the rest of the animal kingdom. We know dreamstime_xs_7168047that others feel pain and fear when we do harm to them, just as we know that they can feel joy and belonging when we treat them well.

So let’s live according to the better angels of our nature. Let’s look objectively both at the good we do in the world and at the ill. Let’s strive to enhance the good and eliminate the bad.

To do that well at that, we need to look carefully at our own actions in our own lives. We need to consider their effects, even whether our actions are warranted at all.

I’m going to focus now on one part of the moral universe that we should be considering. It’s one of the easiest for us – in this rich Western world – to deal with. And it is one with among the greatest consequences.

For the last few minutes of this homily, I’m going to focus on animal agriculture.

From just a human point of view, this is an extremely important issue.

Animal agriculture is a huge contributor to global warming. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization pegs it as responsible for between 15 and 18% of global warming. That’s more than the 14% associated with all of the cars and planes and trains and ships in the world, combined.

Animal agriculture is responsible also for other egregious environmental effects.

The vast majority of corn and soy grown in North America is grown for animal feed. The corn, especially, requires enormous amounts of fertilizer. One result of the use of so much fertilizer is that it runs off into our waterways. This results in massive algal blooms and dead zones. One of the worst examples is the dead zone that forms at the mouth of the Mississippi every year. Every year, about 20,000 square kilometers of the Caribbean becomes an oxygen-depleted zone where all of the fish and lobsters and other sea life go belly up for lack of oxygen.

Animal agriculture is responsible for most of the ammonia pollution in North America. The majority of our fresh water goes into raising animals – mostly to grow the feed corn, soy and alfalfa.

It’s even a major contributor to the antibiotic crisis that the World Health Organization is now warning us about. Over 80% of the antibiotics we use in North America aren’t used to treat humans. No, they’re added to the feed of factory farmed animals. In such tight quarters, they’re necessary to prevent the rapid spread of disease and – to boot – they somehow speed up the growth of the animals.

And that’s not all.

Modern animal agriculture steals food from the poor.

As Vaclav Smil at the University of Manitoba has well documented, animal agriculture is outrageously inefficient. The way we raise animals today, it takes some 14 lbs of corn and soy, etc., to get back one pound of edible pork. Over 30 lbs of corn and soy and alfalfa go into a pound of beef that we actually eat.

In terms of protein, we are similarly careless. Whereas we could get all of the protein in the corn and soy if we just to eat the corn and soy itself, we instead throw most of it away, mostly in animal feces, urine and bones.

Again, referring to Vaclav Smil’s work, we throw away 60% of the plant protein we fed to the cows when we drink a glass of milk. We throw away three quarters of what we could have gotten when we eat chicken or eggs. And we throw away a whopping 87 to 95% of the protein we could have had when we eat pork or beef. It’s outrageous, really!

Throwing away that much corn and soy – and wasting the land on which other forage is grown – necessarily raises the price of grain. That wastage limits the supply of grains, often pricing them out of the reach of the world’s poor. These days biofuels, too, are contributing to that injustice.

Even more outrageous is the way we treat the animals we are so wastefully using.

When we think of farmed animals, we tend to think of animals in pasture; chicken coops; pigs wallowing in the mud. But that is not the reality for the vast majority of animals raised for food today.

Today, the vast majority of our animal foods come from factory farms. Some 98% of eggs come from hens packed 6 to 8 to a cage – each chicken with the equivalent of an 8 ½ x 11” sheet of paper to her – but it’s a wire mesh floor on which she lives. Her brothers, perhaps luckier than her, were ground up alive or suffocated in giant garbage bags on the day they hatched.

Broiler chickens live their 7 week lives on the floors of giant barns. Their badly manipulated bodies growing all out of proportion to the ability of their legs to support them.

60 years ago, it took broiler chickens almost twice as long to reach ‘market weight.’ And ‘market weight’ in those days was one quarter of what it is today. To satisfy our desire for white meat and to meet the financial demand for more meat per bird, the chickens have been bred to grow into near-Frankenstein monsters. They can’t be rescued. Their bodies will soon do them in.

Female pigs are confined to so-called gestation crates. They can stand up and lie down. That’s all. There is not enough room to turn around. Every few months they are forcibly impregnated.

Dairy cows, too, are forcibly impregnated. Like humans, cows give milk only after they give birth. So, they are are artificially impregnated once a year. Her calf will either become another dairy calf or, if male, either be immediately killed or raised for veal. Neither will be allowed to suckle from his or her mother. That milk is for us; the calf gets an artificial formula.

None of this is necessary. Humans do not need to eat meat and other animal products. In fact, there is lots of evidence that avoiding them does us good. Study after study finds dramatically lower rates of heart disease and type II diabetes in vegetarians and especially vegans. Rates of colon cancer and some other cancers are lower, too.

And it’s easier and easier to forgo the stuff. There are plant-based meat substitutes galore. One recently developed burger even has heme in it – evidently the secret ingredient for making beef taste like beef. Plant-based milks are easy to find, too.

We humans are conscious, just like the other animals around us. We have a huge advantage, though. We can learn from others via our abstract language. We can reflect on our actions with the benefit of knowledge no other species that we know of could even dream of – or even imagine exists.

Let’s use our amazing gift for good. We’ll be better off as individuals. We’ll improve our health. Poor people will eat better. Animals will not have to suffer so.

If We Could Eliminate All Animal Suffering, Should We Do It?

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In the animal kingdom, predators in search of a meal rarely seek to cause suffering – they seek a quick and efficient kill.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

I’ve always enjoyed reading futurists such as Ray Kurzweil and crossover sci-fi writers like David Brin who are inspired by imagination. Savvy futurists envision how society could function differently and better, but prediction also helps make us aware of futures we might wish to avoid.  One futurist vision that would theoretically have a very high pay-off is that proposed by one of the world’s most notable transhumanists, philosopher David Pearce. Pearce has advocated for an end to all animal suffering caused by carnivorous predators eating herbivorous animals, whom he describes as being “trapped in the never-ending cycle of blind Darwinian processes.

Pearce’s abolitionist manifesto, the Hedonistic Imperative, proposes that a combination of pharmacology, reprogramming, GPS monitoring, neurochips, and pushing gene-edits through entire populations of animals are the methods by which we could eliminating the suffering caused by predation.   To that end, transhumanists,  philosophers,  and other followers including some vegans,  have created overarching plans to bio-engineer carnivores and omnivores (and presumably other taxonomies such as parasitoids, insects, and possibly viroids too) down to the most granular level of detail. This plan amounts to nothing less than a complete micromanagement of the planet’s ecosystem, staggering in proportion, and one that would essentially turn the wild regions of the planet into zoos.  While such a utopian dream could,  in theory at least, eliminate animal suffering in the wild, it would also have a high risk of irreversibility — and unintended or hard-to-calculate consequences for other species.

 

Retro-Engineering the Evolved Characteristics of Animals

The sum total of all the bodily parts and biological functions that an animal’s genotype creates to propagate itself is its phenotype.  Millions of years of evolution made

Of these species that have been described and catalogued, about 200 have had their genome sequenced. The pace of sequencing is affected by the cost and speed of modern methods.

Of these species that have been described and catalogued, about 200 have had their genome sequenced. The pace of sequencing is affected by the cost and speed of modern methods.

carnivorous animals into what they are today.  Not only would it be necessary to “ re-engineer an animal’s consciousness” as Pearce has described,  but going forward, physically modify their very phenotype so that they would be equipped to consume plant matter rather than animal flesh.  Being a carnivore is part of that animals’ phenotype – they are uniquely equipped with  tools to kill, consume, and digest their prey.  A herbivore, on the other hand, has evolved to evade predators and derive as much energy from vegetable matter as possible. Omnivores meanwhile, have evolved to process both meat and vegetable matter. In fact, since herbivores, omnivores, and some predators also exhibit behaviours that co-evolved in the presence of top level/apex predators, many of those behaviours and biological functions would also be redundant.

The micromanagement challenge required to innovate and maintain a cruelty-free biopsphere is astonishing in its complexity.  To begin, we would need to acquire and map the entire biocode for about 8 million species of animals, many of whom haven’t yet been discovered.  It is assumed that CRISP-R gene editing would be required to manipulate genes that control the development of teeth, the processes by which various species break down carbohydrates/protein/fats and lipids, and even the variation in the animals’ gut microbiome needs to be considered.

Teeth:

Herbivores are much better suited to grinding up plants with flat teeth.  Herbivores and omnivores have enzymes in their saliva to help break down the plant and other food that they eat while carnivores do not.

Some different adaptations for omnivores include sharp teeth in front and flat teeth in back, which enable them to eat a larger variety of food. Birds have specialized beaks for insect, seed, and flesh eating.  Obviously birds of prey are not well suited to transitioning to a cruelty-free diet without some modifications.

A carnivore’s mouth is full of sharp teeth so than can shred the meat that they eat. Their tongues are usually serrated which aids in pulling flesh off bones.  A carnivore’s taste buds have long ago ceased to recognize certain carbohydrates.  Another adaptation is that some carnivores’ digestive tract enables them to go days even months without eating anything, because catching wild animals isn’t always easy. These are all evolutionary advantages conferred on carnivores that are problematic for wild animal “zoo keepers” in Pearce’s utopia.

Digestion  by Diet:

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Nature – red in tooth and claw

Herbivores only consume plant material which is very difficult to digest. Since their diet includes large amounts of fibre and cellulose, the digestive tract of herbivores is much longer than carnivores. To overcome this herbivores have developed a symbiotic relationship with a population of microflora that inhabit the rumen (of ruminants) where it undergoes fermentation. The microbiome of the gut is able to break down cellulose and use the glucose for metabolic needs. Not only do the micro-organisms break down the cellulose but they also produce the vitamins E, B and K for use by the herbivorous animal.

Omnivores consume both meat and plant matter; they have a digestive system very similar to carnivores but also they also possess a working cecum that is not as well adapted as in herbivores. Due to this flexibility they are able to consume a wide diet, which has also prevented them losing the ability to synthesise certain products in the body as with carnivores. Since they are not as efficient processors of plant material as herbivores, as a group the genes that control for the break down of meat and plant material would need to be turned off/enhanced.  In birds, the crop is primarily a storage area for food consumed by the bird; certain adaptions in some species allow it to produce a mixture that can be fed to newly hatched birds.  Carnivorous bird species usually feed their offspring directly from the carcass of an animal so obviously this is problematic for those hoping to eliminate carnivorous species – they need alternate ways to feed young if they cannot consume meat.  The same vitamins that gut flora produce in the herbivore are not necessarily bioavailable in the carnivore, who must source them from their diet directly.

biological communities include the "functional groupings" shown above. A functional group is a biological category composed of organisms that perform mostly the same kind of function in the system. Ecosystems maintain themselves by cycling energy and nutrients through trophic levels. Green plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by photosynthesis. The carbon becomes part of complex molecules such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates in the plants. Humans like to think of ourselves as living at the top of the food chain - doing so implies we have dominion over all the other plants and animals living on this planet. That perspective is not correct when looked at in its truest biological sense. Organisms at the very top (apex) of the food chain eat only meat—the meat of other predators, that is.

Trophic levels in a marine ecosystem are shown above. They are organized into functional levels because they perform mostly the same kind of function in the system.
Ecosystems maintain themselves by cycling energy and nutrients through trophic levels. Green plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by photosynthesis. The carbon becomes part of complex molecules such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates in the plants. Dead tissue and waste products are produced at all levels. Scavengers and decomposers consume this “waste” and ultimately it is the microbes that finish the job of decomposition. Humans like to think of ourselves as living at the top of the food chain – doing so implies we have dominion over all the other plants and animals living on this planet. That perspective is not correct when looked at in its truest biological sense. Organisms at the very top (apex) of the food chain eat only meat—the meat of other predators, that is.

 

Clearly, it would be an oversimplification if transhumanists believed they could easily reprogram or use pharmacology to put an end to the suffering carnivores cause other species.  As Pearce acknowledges, fertility regulation would also be necessary particularly for animals that were previously part of the food chain for animals at higher trophic levels of the food web.  Animals would have to be classified according to their survivorship curve so that those who reproduce the quickest and produce the most offspring due to high predation (such as marine invertebrates) would survive longer but with fewer offspring.  It’s not about only the apex predators – every single species would have to have their reproduction levels altered to prevent starvation,  because all animals would now be consuming only plant food which is available in finite quantities.

What Would The Loss Of Predators Mean To The World Ecology?

The phrase “balance of nature” accurately describes the equilibrium (homeostasis) which exists between populations in natural ecosystems. Because plants are at the base of all food chains they are integral to maintaining the balance essential to prevent the destruction of habitats. Only plants absorb CO2 and give off life giving oxygen. We’ve already discovered that the elimination of just one link in the food chain by either exploitation, hunting, or competition from pests or disease will have a major effect on plants and/or animals above or below it in the food web.  So when considering how to re-engineer carnivorous animals in this experiment, considerable thought would also need to be given to how it could be carried out in such a way that the ecosystem is not disrupted.

Eliminating the carnivore populations could result in existing and new herbivorous species driving

The co-evolution of predator/prey species has driven natural selection. The Lotka-Volterra equation shows that in the presence of predators, the prey population is prevented from increasing exponentially.

The co-evolution of predator/prey species has driven natural selection. The Lotka-Volterra equation shows that in the presence of predators, the prey population is prevented from increasing exponentially  The presence of predators (black line) is responsible for the sudden drop in population level of the prey population (in red). Shortly after the decline in prey populations,  the predator population also experiences a decline,  and then the cycle begins anew.

losses in plant and tree biodiversity by virtue of their numbers.  Additionally, emboldened herbivores no longer have to hide from predators, so their consumption may increase.  Plants also evolved in the presence of predators as well – in areas where carnivores preyed on animals, plants had little need for elaborate defenses such as toxins or thorns because plant eater population levels were controlled by predation on the herbivores.  Unlike phytoplankton which grows rapidly can support vast numbers of marine life, land plants may take years to reach maturity.  In order that the anticipated increase in the number of herbivores and their associated plant requirements be accommodated, the nutrient status of grassland soils would probably need to be improved to increase productivity.  Unfortunately, we can`t make the sun shine longer in order to produce more energy at the bottom of the pyramid either.

So it’s very likely that plant material on earth would not have time to evolve defences against millions of new herbivores voraciously consuming them before they were decimated, rendering the experiment a complete failure when all organisms on the planet died as a result.

Dynamics Of Ecosystems and Biogeochemistry

Thus far we have focused the genetics, phenotypes, behaviours of individual animals when considering the feasibility of eliminating animal suffering.  An ecosystem consists of the biological community of plants and animals interacting with each other and sharing resources, as well as physical and chemical factors that make up its non-living or abiotic environment. The functional concerns with eliminating predators include such potential problems as how energy flows along the steps in a food web, whether there is enough energy (sunlight) to drive photosynthesis by plants, and the rate at which nutrients are recycled in the new, cruelty-free ecosystem.

Illustration of the carbon cycle in a forest ecosystem. Carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth

Illustration of the carbon cycle in a forest ecosystem. Carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth.

Energy enters the biological system as energy from the sun, captured by plant photosynthesis, which then flows upwards through the trophic levels. A trophic level is composed of organisms that make a living in the same way, that is, they are all primary producers (plants), primary consumers (herbivores) or secondary consumers (carnivores). Without the continued input of solar energy, biological systems would quickly shut down.

Biogeochemical cycles can be broken down into two types:

  1. Local cycles such as the phosphorus cycle, which involve elements with no mechanisms for long distance transfer.
  2. Global cycles (carbon, hydrogen, mercury, nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur, rock, and water) which involve an interchange between the atmosphere and the ecosystem. It is these global nutrient cycles that perpetuate life for all organisms. Of all these cycles – the carbon cycle is most likely to be affected by this abolitionist project.

When an animal eats a plant, carbon from the plant becomes part of the fats and proteins in the animal. Microorganisms and some animals feed on waste material from

Photo by Anand Varma - National Geographic. Ladybug parasitized and converted in to a zombie bodyguard by Dinocampus coccinellae. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/11/mindsuckers/zimmer-text

Photo by Anand Varma – National Geographic.
Ladybug parasitized and converted in to a zombie bodyguard by Dinocampus coccinellae. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/11/mindsuckers/zimmer-text

animals, and the remains of dead animals and plants. The carbon then becomes part of these microorganisms and detritus feeders. Quite simply, if we have numerically more animals, or they live longer, or more energy is required to enter the system to support the increased number of herbivores, the number of trophic levels would be changed (because predators would be eliminated) and  these cycles will be affected.  The risk of irreversibility – and unintended or hard-to-calculate consequences for other species really becomes apparent with this analysis.

How few trophic levels can an ecosystem support? The answer depends on the amount of energy entering the ecosystem, energy loss between trophic levels, and physiology of organisms at each level.  The loss, or even reduction in numbers, of predators in an ecosystem can set off something caused a “trophic cascade” in which the change in predator population has effects across the food web and ecosystem.  We’ve already seen this happen when wolves have been decimated – the end result is that there were changes in the type of vegetation that elk ate.  Humans have already disrupted many biogeochemical cycles and in the process have threatened many ecosystems. Climate change through the use of fossil fuels and animal agriculture are two such examples that have directly affected the carbon cycle.

Conclusion

While Pearce’s ideas are compelling from an ethical and welfare perspective, the suggestion that we can rebuild a Garden of Eden from the ground up after millions of years of evolution is hardly feasible, nor may I add, is it desirable.  It’s so difficult to fathom from a technical standpoint that I can’t quite get engaged by it,  even though the concept itself is appealing. While Pearce’s main focus is on ending the suffering caused by predation, that’s hardly the only source of pain.  Humans would also need to eliminate parasitism and disease, vaccinate animals, provide painkiller at birth, and prevent infanticide and detrimental mating competitions by male animals. What fatally undermines the thought experiment is that it positions humans as a parochial superintelligence over animals.  Besides that, what would be the point of eliminating carnivores while humans still raise, kill, and consume animals? We’re but a brief novelty on the evolutionary timeline; humans will probably be extinct long before we get close to having this much power. Either climate change or disease are likely to wipe us out, or at the very least knock the few survivors back to hunter gatherers.  If any predator needs CRISP-R, it’s us.

As we’ve learned with antibiotic resistant microbes and pesticide-resistant pests, nature can evolve faster than we can innovate.  We would have no idea what would happen when natural selection took over once this utopian abolitionist project had been finished.  Attempting to control population levels is incompatible with life, because the ultimate goal for any living being (from an evolutionary biology perspective) is to make as many copies of your DNA as possible, and have those progeny make as many copies and proliferate,  to survive while pitted against other similarly evolving animals in a changing environment.  This is the “Red Queen hypothesis.”

Human facilitated animal suffering can and should be stopped.  And it’s much more realizable. It’s ethical, has a high pay-off for humans as well as animals, and it must happen.

 

Three Concepts: The Five Freedoms (FF), Five Domains (FD) And Quality Of Life (QoL) As Tools For The Analysis Of Animal Welfare

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Three Concepts: The Five Freedoms (FF), Five Domains (FD) And Quality Of Life (QoL) As Tools For The Analysis Of Animal Welfare

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Most of our animal welfare audits and Codes of Practice developed for implementation on farms and in slaughterhouses arose from the core concept of “The Five Freedoms,” a set of internationally recognized animal welfare standards.  The Five Freedoms, or FF, came to be when the British public demanded that the government appoint a committee to look into the welfare of farm animals.  In 1965, the committee, chaired by Professor Roger Brambell presented the “Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals Kept under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems” which became known as “The Brambell Report.

While the FF utilized the problem-solving methods of that era and allowed us to measure welfare, they were still focused on the superiority of mankind, which provided the context. Anything was permitted except for what was expressly forbidden.

5 freedoms chart

In common with other scientific disciplines during the last 50 years, ideas in animal welfare science have evolved from these basic concepts.

 

Mennonite Percheron Horses

Percheron horses at the St. Jacob’s Market in Waterloo, Ontario. The welfare of these horses, used to pull this trolley around Mennonite farms, has improved slightly in that they now have a shaded structure under which to stand to avoid the hot summer sun.

We now understand that the Five Freedoms are insufficiently complex and therefore not tremendously helpful to animals since their focus was primarily concerned with the avoidance of negative experiences such as pain and hunger. Now, animal welfare is generally defined as the state of an animal in relation to its ability to cope with its own environment.

The knowledge that animals are conscious and capable of experiencing negative emotions is at the core of most people’s concern about them.  So as we progress in a linear fashion to an increasingly sophisticated understanding of animal welfare concepts, the focus of legislative instruments should follow with a shift from cruelty to welfare.

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was publicly proclaimed on July 7, 2012 at the University. The group of scientists wrote, “Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary

Photo Credit: Dog Tales Rescue and Horse Sanctuary

True animal welfare is now considered to result both from an absence of negative experiences and from the presence of positive experiences or sensations, so that animals’ mental states are now a legitimate focus, along with preferences and aversions. The welfare significance of positive experiences has been promoted in discussion of the value of providing animals with “lives worth living’ or “good lives,” as opposed to “lives worth avoiding.” Laws and codes of practice must evolve to acknowledge the strong neurobiological drives in animals that are necessary for QoL to exist, even if physical needs are met.

In his recent and comprehensive essay, “Updating Animal Welfare Thinking: Moving beyond the “Five Freedoms” towards “A Life Worth Living, Dr. David Mellor (Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre – Massey University,  New Zealand) has presented the Five Domains as the successor model to the Five Freedoms, developed “in the light of new scientific knowledge and understanding of animal welfare.”  Like Temple Grandin,  Dr. Mellor is also an iconic animal welfarist who recognizes that animals have emotional lives, that they can suffer deeply, and that if we continue to use them for food and in research we need to recognize this well-supported fact and do as much as possible to alleviate their pain and suffering. Dr. Mellor also delivered the plenary at the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies annual conference on April 18, 2016.

Five Freedoms vs. Five Domains

“Both have utility. The Five Domains are clearly of use to animal behaviour and welfare scientists because they can embrace new knowledge and understanding, and provide pointers for new study. They can also be used for in-depth analysis of the impact of specific management practices (human actions) on animal welfare. For example, the FD approach has recently been used to evaluate the negative (adverse) welfare impacts of a range of procedures to which domestic horses may be subject, across a broad range of different contexts of equine care and training. This has been a valuable exercise. In the case of procedures that may be deemed necessary, such as castration, it encourages us to think carefully as to what constitutes both best practice and minimally acceptable practice. For other procedures, such as the use of the whip in horse racing, it addresses the question as to whether the alleged “benefits” can ever justify the cost. In this and many other examples, the FD approach provides a highly effective foundation for research and evidence-based conclusions as to the impact of the things we do on the mental state of the animals in our care.”

A Life Worth Living

“The concept of Quality of Life (QoL), recognises that animals have both positive and negative experiences and focuses on the balance between the two. 

2015_Five_Domains_Final_Poster_David_Mellor copy

The Five Domains of Potential Welfare. The first four Domains are predominantly physical/functional, and the last, mental state, represents the overall experience of the animal, i.e. its welfare status.

 

cows in pastureWhile the shift to QoL represents a much needed and long overdue transition from welfarism to a more compassionate moral framework, we can still do better.  Most veterinarians and influencers remain focused on FF. Food animals still cannot have a “life worth living” even though we may be improving housing conditions that supposedly are more humane and allow for more movement/natural behaviours/socialization.  It still fosters a paradigm in which billions of other animals are kept “comfortable and happy” after which we slaughter them for consumption.

 

FD and QoL initiatives are capable of lessening many of the priority welfare challenges for zoo and lab animals, pets and other companion animals:

 

  • Unresolved stress/pain behaviour and pain management
  • Inappropriate nutrition
  • Inappropriate stabling /turnout 
  • Delayed death (animals may be kept alive inappropriately, prolonging welfare problems)
  • Wild animals kept as pets or in poorly designed zoo enclosures
  • Adoption
  • Training
  • Enclosures in shelters and zoos – light, substrate flooring, drainage, heating, ventilation, air quality, cleaning and disinfection.
  • Drop boxes at shelters
  • Lessening the negative effects of No Kill while promoting population management
  • Methods of euthanasia
  • Vaccinations
  • Emergency medical care
  • Parasite control
  • Behaviour Modification
  • Anaesthesia and improved surgical techniques and recovery
  • Declawing of cats
  • Neutering and spaying
  • Improving lives for feral cats
  • Position statements from veterinary groups and advisory councils 
  • Transportation to slaughter
  • Shelter reference guides
  • Codes of practice
  • Lab animal QoL

 

 

The Devastating Effects of Hunting and Poaching In Short Hills Provincial Park

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George Catlin - National Museum of Wildlife Art

George Catlin – National Museum of Wildlife Art

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

In the hierarchy of public lands, parks are the most special places, where nature and all its associated diversions – quiet streams, the scents of the forest after a rain, and the occasional sightings of deer and other animals – are sacrosanct.

George Catlin, a painter of native American art, experienced  the western Great Plains when it was untouched by extensive American development. While witnessing the beauty of this land, he wrote, “…what a beautiful and thrilling specimen….. to preserve and hold up to the view of her refined citizens and the world in future ages!  A nation’s park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature’s beauty.”

Hunting methods have changed a lot since Catlin painted his scenes of bison hunts.  No longer are many  parks primarily left relatively undisturbed  to preserve and protect natural resources but now they must be the venue for a vast array of harmful activities.

The Short Hills Park in the Niagara Peninsula is being destroyed not only by the sanctioned Haudenosaunee native deer hunt each year, but also by illegal and off-Shorthills1seasoned hunting. Poaching and the fear and disruption it causes compromises animals’ normal eating habits, making it harder for them to store the fat and energy they need to survive the winter. The hunt has also devastated the entire community and left residents constantly on edge,  long after the official hunt is over.  Horses live on the outskirts of the park as well, making the park perimeter a dangerous place due to the continual presence of poachers.

Disinterested indentured public servants in the Ministry of Natural Resources have no apparent interest in overseeing the parks. With budgets for maintenance exhausted on the private exploitation of the park, Short Hills is essentially abandoned without oversight. When vegetation is destroyed by 4WD vehicles, plant vigor and regeneration is reduced, ground cover is deteriorated, and there can be a change in species composition.  Inappropriate behaviours such as littering and other depreciative uses add to the degradation of the park.

Shorthills2While the MNR is busy circulating social memes to discourage the use of bird feeders by private citizens, they have no comment on the garbage accumulating in the park.  If bird feeders can attract bears, why is nothing done about garbage in the environmentally significant Fonthill Kame Moraine?  Not only that, gut piles and the remainders of deer carcasses can attract bears,  and are disturbing reminders of this cruel hunt.  Even if one is not in the park to poach deer, the condition of some trails and presence of trash do not inspire visitors to pack out all their garbage.  Perhaps the MNR will have to find space in their budget now to promote the seven principles of the “Leave No Trace” program?

Hunt supporters’ critique of the anti-hunt protesters at Short Hills has often focused on what they claim is the “unacknowledged racism” of nearby “NIMBY do-gooders” as the motivating factors in our protests.  Acrimonious counter-campaigns by hunt supporters seem to have at their core the presumption that protected public lands are there for individual use however they see fit and it is racist to suggest otherwise.   The reality is that vigilant neighbours  are good indicators of a great community.  A population of people like the anti-hunt demonstrators is actually among the most valuable resources a neighbourhood can have.

And it’s always “someone’s backyard” isn’t it?

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Yes, Some Animals Were Harmed…

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Solutrean Prop_tonemapped

One of several bison killed for props for the movie, The Solutrean.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Most of us believe animals in movies are protected from abuse, injury, and death.  The Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) requires that any motion picture which engages SAG actors also must engage the American Humane Association, the group that allows producers to use the “No Animals Were Harmed”® end-credit certification to productions that meet its standard of care for animal actors.  The AHA protection is supposed to cover large animals, as well as fish, birds, and reptiles. On the set, AHA’s Certified Animal Safety Representatives are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the guidelines are upheld.  AHA’s oversight includes film, television, commercials, music videos, and Internet productions.

No Animals Were Harmed® Certification Program

American Humane Association monitors animals in filmed media and holds the exclusive right to award its “No Animals Were Harmed”® end-credit certification to productions that meet its rigorous standard of care for animal actors. American Humane Association works with production personnel and trainers in the pre-production planning stage, monitors the animals on set during production, and enforces American Humane Association’s Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media. It also investigates allegations of mistreatment and cruelty and sanctions productions that do not meet its standards of humane animal treatment. American Humane Association currently monitors 70 percent of known animal action in film and television productions. This amounts to approximately 2,000 productions annually, where Certified Animal Safety Representatives™ combine animal welfare and behavioral expertise to care for animal actors and protect their interests.

The AHA provides the following ratings for films under their oversight.

Outstanding – AHA determined the film met or exceeded  their  Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media and is awarded the end credit disclaimer “No Animals Were Harmed®.”

Acceptable – Significant compliance with their protocols and filmmakers who cooperated with the process.

Special Circumstances – Production followed the guidelines and cooperated, however an accident, injury, or death occurred which involved an animal.

Unacceptable – Filmmakers failed to adhere to AHA protocols and disregarded safety protocols leading to injury or death of an animal.

Not Monitored: Production Compliant – The production was not monitored however a script and relevant animal scheduling information and pre-release screening of the film were provided to the AHA.

Not Monitored – Filmmakers did not request monitoring, therefore the AHA was unaware whether guidelines were followed.

The AHA Film Unit is not without controversy, as it has been claimed that they are slow to criticize cases of animal mistreatment, yet quick to defend the big-budget studios it is supposed to police, and that an examination of the association also raises questions about the association’s effectiveness. Audiences who are reassured by the organization’s famous disclaimer should not necessarily assume it is true. In actuality, the presence of the AHA provides us with a false sense of comfort and a very different reality. In fact, the AHA has awarded its “No Animals Were Harmed®” credit to films and TV shows on which animals were injured or even killed during production. It justifies this on the grounds that the animals weren’t intentionally harmed or the incidents occurred while cameras weren’t rolling. For instance, the AHA does not monitor living conditions of animals off set, during hiatus, or during pre-production, which means there may never be any justice for any animal frivolously killed off-set for, of all things, a movie prop. And if animals were killed elsewhere to become props in a film, does that mean the film can still receive the accreditation that “No Animals Were Harmed®?”  Regardless, how can it possibly be ethical to kill animals in an attempt to capture reality for a film?

The Solutrean,” an ice age survival story set in the upper Paleolithic period, is currently in production in Alberta, and Vancouver as well as Iceland.  Recently, at least 3 bison AltamiraBisonwere allegedly killed with high-powered rifles, their hides were partially stripped, and they were shipped to the set so that the actors could appear to be skinning them.  One might think that the re-creation of actors killing an animal for a pre-historic scene would be a project that is easily replicated by  Hollywood special effects craftspersons.  But since Alberta is a province that revels in a ready supply of animals for the movie industry, I suspect this will simply be another example whereby entertainment trumps ethics.

Will the AHA do with this film what they did for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, where almost 30 animals died, including sheep and goats that died from dehydration and exhaustion or from drowning during a hiatus in filming at an unmonitored New Zealand farm where they were being housed and trained, and bestow a carefully worded credit noting that it “monitored all of the significant animal action. No animals were harmed during such action?”

So who are the stalwart defenders of animals in movies – who, unlike their human counterparts, didn’t themselves sign up for such work? As nebulous as they are, the AHA guidelines are not in force in Canada, even though a production may be filmed in Canada with actors from the SAG.  Canadian producers who use animals in their films have a variety of different legal obligations with which they must contend, ranging from contractual to regulatory to criminal. In Canada, we need to look to the Criminal Code and the Health of Animals Act for a legal framework.  After that, the issue of animal treatment tends to be addressed by provincial and municipal-level laws and voluntary guidelines.

What happened to these bison was not a tragic, unpreventable accident.  As long as there is an organization purporting to protect animals that’s intimidated by powerful filmmakers, the animals are always going to lose.  IMO, the ratings system is bogus – either animals were harmed or they were not.

 

American Humane Association
www.americanhumane.org
Film & Television Office
11530 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
818-501-0123

Bill Kit – C-246: The Modernizing Animal Protections Act

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BeynateWritten by:

Heather Clemenceau

By now,  many of us have read the details of Bill C-246 itself.  So what exactly is a “Bill Kit?”

The primary purpose of the Bill Kit is to inform other parliamentarians about the Bill in greater detail, and address some anticipated objections. This Bill Kit provides a detailed explanation of its actual effects, and includes data showing that across the country, Canadians support the three measures in the Bill – banning the importation of shark fins,  strengthening and modernizing the Criminal Code’s existing animal cruelty offences, and banning the sale of dog and cat fur in Canada.  There are several different versions of the kit; one for members of the Liberal caucus, one for opposition MPs, and one for the public,  which is presented here.

MP Erskine-Smith (@beynate) and his parliamentary assistants break the document into several sections:

  1. Background
  2. What the Bill Does Versus What the  Bill Doesn’t Do
  3. Political Support: Polls, Petitions, and Endorsements
  4. History of the Criminal Code Amendments

Canadians have been signing animal welfare petitions for decades now, demanding that the values of fairness and justice that we’re known for are applied to the protection of animals and to the punishment of animal abusers. Laws are essential to both codify and enforce positive changes for animals.  Our society is opposed to animal cruelty – our  laws need to be brought up to date to be made consistent with our shared values and this Bill will certainly accomplish that goal.  Please ask your MP to support this Bill!

Grumpy Old Men – The Orchestrated Attack On Bill C-246

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31642869_lWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Since 1999, the Liberals have made numerous attempts to pass a much-needed update to the antiquated and inadequate animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada. There was Bill C-17, resurrected as Bill C-15 and then re-introduced as Bill C-15B, followed by Bill C-10, Bill C-10B, Bill C-22, Bill C-50, Bill C-274, Bill C-277 and, finally, Bill C-610. While the House of Commons has passed new animal cruelty legislation three times, those Bills were either prorogued by the government or blocked by the Senate before they made it past the finish line. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies provides an excellent overview of the Bills here.

M2Toronto-area Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, recently introduced a Private Members Bill (C-246)  – the Modernizing Animal Protections Act, to reinforce Canada’s public policy and legislative commitments to animal welfare (World Animal Protection ranks Canada’s animal welfare laws a “D” on a scale of A-G).  Only the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, and New Zealand scored “A” grades on the index.  The Bill will be debated in the House of Commons on May 9th.

Despite rampant paranoia, the law is focused on eliminating the loopholes that allow chronic hoarders, repeat abusers, puppy mill operators and dog fighting perpetrators to get off with a slap on the wrist. It would create a new offence for individuals who cause unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal through gross negligence of the animal’s welfare. The Bill also sets out to achieve several key measures that are entirely reasonable and should win broad support:

  • Prohibition of dog and cat fur importation
  • Banning of shark-finning
  • Prohibitition the use of live animals in target shooting
  • Establishment of penalties for the killing and injuring a police dog
  • Prohibition of the training or breeding of animals for the purpose of fighting, as well as making it illegal to profit from dog fighting.

Enter Robert Sopuck, the Conservative MP for Dauphin-Swan River-Neepaw. Sopuck and his cabal of trigger-happy, pre-Darwinian animal killers are so paranoid that hunting Brian_Skerry_Mako_Finning(1)and fishing activities will result in cruelty charges, (I wish!) they have created numerous websites and Facebook pages to spread false information and extol the mythical virtues of hunting while proclaiming their services as absolutely necessary for controlling wildlife populations and preserving the environment. These pages feature Sopuck and others dressed up in a variety of machismo fashions, exhibiting unusual levels of arousal while carrying an arsenal of weaponry as they blast into the forests and streams to conduct their primitive rituals.

Sopuck himself proceeded to write a preposterous Toronto Sun article claiming that Erskine-Smith’s Bill will give animals human rights. Clearly channelling former Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, he writes that “Canada already has adequate measures to protect animals and prevent cruelty. Furthermore, all animal uses are covered by veterinary-approved Codes of Practise that guide what you can do with your animals.”  Those “guides” are just that.  They are meaningless because they are not laws.  And they are not “veterinary approved” either – they are the result of inputs from the agriculture industry.  How is it that Sopuck believes we have adequate protections when there are hundreds of entries in the caselaw database of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, with many of those not prosecuted successfully.  Very few animal cruelty cases are prosecuted each year in comparison to the number of cases that are investigated. It is estimated that less than 10% of cases that warrant prosecution are successfully prosecuted.

Lawyer Peter Sankoff lobs a nuclear strike at Sopuck in this deconstruction of Sopuck’s Toronto Sun article.  In the end,  Sankoff finds that virtually all of Sopuck’s claims range from the merely overstated to the downright preposterous – finding none of his claims to be accurate:

 

 

Despite the hunting propaganda which I have read on the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters website, the reality is that most modern families do not embrace hunting as either a pleasurable pastime or a family adventure. In 2010, almost 3.3 million adult anglers participated in a variety of recreational fishing activities in Canada, the majority of whom fall into the 45-64 year age range (If the downward trend in hunting continues, by the year 2050, hunters will only comprise 1% of the population).   Depending on what source you read, about 2-7% of the population are hunters; of course this doesn’t include poachers or treaty hunters who don’t require licenses.  In any case both numbers represent a significant minority of Canadians.  So you have your acknowledged 2-10% of the population righteously informing everyone else that it is only they who are picking up the tab for wildlife conservation – part time at that.

That dog doesn’t hunt, sorry.

pigeonsdeadbirdCanadians have been signing animal welfare petitions for decades now, demanding that the values of fairness and justice that we’re known for are applied to the protection of animals and to the punishment of animal abusers. Laws are essential to both codify and enforce positive changes for animals. Why should we be one of the only countries that does not yet prohibit the importation of dog and cat fur, because self-serving groups and a few old conservative politicians, who are clearly a product of Stephen Harper, are arguing against reasonable updates to an ancient law.  The fact that Sopuck and the hunting/fishing groups believe that Bill C-246 seeks the “complete elimination of animal use in Canada” indicates that none of them can read. If the Conservatives feel the Bill is “fundamentally flawed,” why don’t they draft their own Bill as they frequently threaten to do?  Their objection is based on the desire to kill animals for the sheer delight it brings them – the rest of the world will move on into the next century without them. Compassion for the natural world is the new order.

You can read the details of Nate Erskine-Smith’s Bill below:

 

Alberta Wildies: Aerial Surveys Used To Substantiate Culls Are Prone To Extreme Inaccuracy

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Spirit of the Basin by Melody Perez

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Artwork by:  Melody Perez

Whether it’s conducted for horses, bison, wolf, or deer, aerial surveys usually precede a savage end for our free-roaming,wild, and migratory animals. It usually becomes apparent that a cull is being considered whenever an aerial survey is conducted.  But the process of conducting aerial counts to justify a cull is profoundly flawed.  The scientific evidence to support arguments against the horses just isn’t there.  Counts require low flying and intensive and systematic coverage of the landscape that are more likely to motivate, and less likely to detect, horse escape behaviour.  The anti-predator behaviour of the horse (and other prey animals such as deer) is characterized by grouping together and running to escape, which compounds observers’ ability to make accurate counts, as does aircraft altitude, weather conditions, season, vegetation, and animal mobility. At least one study of wild horse behaviour in New Zealand’s Kaimanawa Mountains has shown that aerial sampling, which is then extrapolated to the entire population, can be highly inaccurate and imprecise: 

“Comparisons between the records of the counters and two observers show that, of the 136 marked horses located immediately prior to the helicopter count, 34 (25%) were counted more than once, a further 23 (17%) may have been counted more than once, and 13 horses (9.6%) were not counted. The helicopter count yielded 228 horses and was 16.9% larger than the estimate of 195.

Untamed Longing by Melody PerezIn addition, counts that are made only once a year for 2-3 days are not generally considered to be a robust form of wildlife management when compared to counts done 3 times a year, such as in the spring after what is often a harsh winter, after the foals are born, and before a capture is being considered.   Reliable methods to estimate wild horse populations should be important to Alberta Environment & Parks (formerly  Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development – ESRD)  because otherwise they will continue to make programmatic decisions that aren’t supported by science.  A single aerial census is not terribly useful since the horses are pretty scarce and elusive when spread out over 6 million acres, which results in a weak inference about horses that are neither abundant nor widespread in the Equine Zones. Not only is the aerial count slipshod because it is only one sample, E&P doesn’t know how many horses are too many.    E&P allow the “Feral Horse Advisory Committee,” with representation from several stakeholder groups, such as oil and gas, forestry, cattle ranchers, capture permit holders and hunters, (groups with a vested interest in removing wild horses) input into culls.

By most accounts there are somewhere between 850-980 wild horses currently grazing a vast area close to six million acres in 6 Cimmaron stallion of the Sand Wash Basin in Colorado by Melody Perezequine zones in Alberta Canada.  The cattle being grazed consist in numbers about 10 times the number of equids in the 6 zones.

It is falsely claimed by E&D that wild horses have no predators.  These wild horses, like all other ungulates, do have natural predators.  If not, why then would the E&P (ESRD) advertise on their website hunting and trapping licence for cougars, wolves and bears?  It’s also falsely claimed by the Feral Horse Advisory Committee that horses compete with wildlife and cattle for forage.  If so,  how many skinny cattle come off the range each year?  The government’s own study by R.E. Salter, who has a master’s degree in zoology – did not document forage or behavioural competition with either wildlife or domestic cattle.  Studies in British Columbia showed that overgrazing and erosion were caused by too many cattle and not horses.

The New Zealand Study On Aerial Surveillance:

Burro Baby Blues by Melody PerezBy the grace of (insert the deity of your choice), a cull was not held this year. The decision to cull any of these horses should not lie in the interpretation that they are feral rather than wild; feral is a human construct that serves only to stigmatize the horses.

You only have to look at these horses to see that they are almost evolving into a distinct breed, rather like the Canadian horse.  They deserve heritage status and advocates should demand that “managing” these unique and iconic herds be conducted using a biological basis which should never include inputs from groups that seek to eliminate them.

There should be a ban on selling captured horses to slaughterhouses (in part because there is not six months worth of drug history on any of them) therefore those doing so should be heavily fined.

 

 

 

 

Contact:

Minister Shannon Phillips
323 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-2391
Email: AEP.Minister@gov.ab.ca