CANADA’S NOT THE THIRD WORLD, EH?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1997:
VANCOUVER––Animal advocates in Canada often
liken the Canadian animal protection situation to that of the
Third World, noting scarce funding, weak laws, low public
awareness, and heavy government involvement in animal use
industries such as fur, sealing, and the production of Premarin,
based on pregnant mares’ urine.
Yet the Canadian humane dilemma is distinctly First
World, in that disagreements as to definitions of “humane” are
more often at issue than the basic idea that animals should be
treated humanely–– whatever that is.
Long-established humane societies exist in most
Canadian cities; animal control units resemble U.S. counterparts;
and given that Canada has only 10% of the U.S. human
population, the size, number, and diversity of the national
organizations is proportionate.
The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has a
role analagous to that of the animal protection division of the
American Humane Association. As in the U.S., there are two
generations of animal rights advoacy groups. Among the elder
rank are the Animal Defense League of Canada, founded circa
1977, and ARK II, begun circa 1981. The younger generation
includes the Animal Alliance of Canada and People Allied for
Animal Liberation, both formed circa 1991.
The constellation also includes two generations of
specialized organizations, sometimes divided by philosophy as
much as chronological age. On farm animal issues, veteran
humane investigator Tom Hughes heads the conservative
Canadian Farm Animal Concerns Trust, founded in 1988; Tina
Harrison heads the radical Canadians for Ethical Treatment of
Food Animals, begun about one year later.
On fur issues, the Association for the Protection of
Fur-Bearing Animals, begun in 1953 and led since 1957 by
George and Bunty Clements, opposes “cruel trapping,” but not
trapping per se; the Canadian Coalition Against the Fur Trade,
started circa 1990, opposes the whole fur industry.
Zoocheck Canada, begun by Rob Laidlaw about a
decade ago, and Bearwatch, recently formed in British
Columbia, are single-issue organizations addressing animals in
captivity and bear-hunting.
Canada even has a home-grown “Animal Liberation
Front,” whose actions emulate those of the U.S. and British
activists using the same name; one, calling itself The Justice
Department, in early 1996 escalated animal rights-related violence
by distributing nearly 70 razor-blade-filled letterbombs.
The Justice Department is suspected of having been just one
individual, who was eventually taken into police custody.
International organizations significant in Canada––if
scarcely always on the same side––include the World Wildlife
Fund and Ducks Unlimited, representing hunter/conservationists;
Greenpeace, whose early marine mammal protection and
anti-fur campaigns were led by Canadians, including New
Brunswick native Paul Watson, but which dropped anti-fur
work in 1984 and has retreated from categorical opposition to
whaling; the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which
Watson founded after leaving Greenpeace in 1978; the
International Fund for Animal Welfare, the largest of several
groups begun in response to the annual Atlantic Canada seal
hunts; the International Wildlife Coalition, formed circa 1982
by ex-IFAW staff, including many Canadians; the World
Society for the Protection of Animals, which maintains a
Toronto office; and the Humane Society of Canada, begun in
1991 as an affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States
but now suing HSUSfor alleged money-laundering.
If the HSC allegations stand up, an irony of the case
will be that while IFAW and IWC have long used funds raised
in the U.S. to subsidize Canadian work, HSUS has taken about
$1 million out of Canada. HSC court filings indicate that the
HSC/HSUS operation was perhaps the most successful to date
in raising funds from Canadian sources.
Canadian national politics virtually insure that sealing
will always be the hottest Canadian animal issue, through
linkage to fishing and the fur trade, the industries upon which
the six easternmost provinces were founded, as well as sport
hunting, a strong lobby across Canada. Indeed, directly challenging
the hunting industry, the Western Canada Wilderness
Committee only got 90,000 of the 220,000 petition signatures it
needed during a fall petition drive to place a proposed bear
hunting ban on the next British Columbia ballot––and that was
in the province where activists recently won bans on circus performances
in almost every Lower Peninsula community.
But unlike in the Third World, where often the only
animal issues to get attention are those involving international
groups, local issues are ubiquitous:
• Nova Scotia on December 2 adopted a new Animal
Cruelty Prevention Act, replacing an 1877 statute and giving
the Nova Scotia SPCA the lead authority in probing and prosecuting
animal abuse. First or second-time offenders may be
fined $2,000 or go to jail for three months. For the third
offense, the fine may rise to $5,000, or six months in jail.
Since the NS/SPCA reportedly kills dogs by electrocution, and
since the new law apparently does not apply to sealing, trapping,
fur farming, or other abuses associated with traditional
industries, observers are skeptical––but at request of the
NS/SPCA, three counties have recently adopted circus bans
similar to those passed in B.C.
• Hit for $195,000 in unpaid back taxes dating to
1991, after losing a court judgement as to whether the taxes
were owed, the Humane Society of Ottawa-Carleton faced possible
collapse until on December 4 the Ottawa city council
reduced the amount due to $82,000, cut the assessment rate to
42% of the humane society property value, and gave the society
until New Year’s Eve, 1999, to make up the deficit.
• Animal control cat pickups soared in Toronto during
1996. Toronto Humane Society spokesperson Amy White
fingered as a factor the THS practice of charging pet owners
$50 and up for euthanasia service. Hoping to deal with the
influx without killing more animals, THS experimented with
halving adoption fees of $90 per cat and $130 per dog.
• Kevin Hiscock, 39, of Whitby, Ontario, was
charged with cruelty and assault on December 9 for allegedly
attacking Constable Chris Winn, who responded to a complaint
that Hiscock was beating a dog.
• Calgary Humane Society director Cathy Thomas
reported in late November that CHS was handling at least 15
neglect cases per day associated with an unusually harsh and
early winter, including frequent instances of frozen ears.
• A $2,000 reward posted for the arrest and conviction
of a serial dog-poisoner in Lynnwood, a Calgary suburb,
is still unclaimed, with no known suspects. Of 14 dogs poisoned
in late October, three died.
• The Alberta SPCA and Alberta Veterinary Medical
Association in November criticized the use of carbon monoxide
to kill animals at the Red Deer pound; inspections and licensing
manager Ryan Strader said other methods cost too much.