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"BC ahead of the pack in AR" + major rodeo victory!!!

Fellow activists:

I have the great pleasure to finally have something exhilarating to announce.

Calf-roping, and a few other cruel rodeo practices, have been banned as of this week in Cloverdale (a Vancouver suburb), BC! This is a rodeo first as far as I know. Not as big as the Calgary Stampede, but the Cloverdale Rodeo is one of the biggest. Credit goes to the Vancouver Humane Society (esp. Ashley Fruno) and Liberation BC (Joanne Chang).

And this is on top of Vancouver's having for some time already banned the use of animals for entertainment, including in circuses, as has Saanich. Vancouver has banned rodeos altogether for more than ten years. And now, the Vancouver suburb of Richmond is stopping the use of eggs from caged hens. And these are just the tips of the iceberg. All in all, they instigated the Vancouver Sun to do the following article, titled "Ahead of the Pack". Vancouver Island (which contains the provincial capital Victoria) is also a hotbed of activism.

In historical perspective, BC, and especially Vancouver, have been a leader in the movement since way back in the late 1960s and early 1970's. Greenpeace was born there, and later the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC, the most prominent regional environmental organization with 25,000 members, of which I was a campaigner 1995-1999), the Raincoast Conservation Society (which focuses on the Great Bear Rainforest), and the Vancouver Humane Society (which is an activist group and not a sanctuary). As early as 1983, Vancouver declared an official Animal Rights Day! In 1996, the WCWC launched the Anti-Bear-Hunting Initiative, spearheaded by myself, which became hailed as "the highest profile Canadian animal rights campaign of 1996". Prominent AR personages include broadcaster Rafe Mair, artist Rober Bateman, BC-interior AR leader Sinikka Crosland, media-scientist Dr. David Suzuki, environmentalist Paul George, marine scientist-activist Alexandra Morton, Greenpeace co-founder Bob Hunter, and of course the heroic Capt. Paul Watson himself. Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE - www.HOPE-CARE.org - 1999) is just a new kid on the block.

Here is the article:

Ahead of the pack

B.C. has a higher awareness of animal rights than anywhere else in Canada. The reasons aren't entirely clear

Nicholas Read, Vancouver Sun

Published Thursday, May 24, 2007

We may take it for granted here, but in the rest of the country the interest we in the Lower Mainland take in animals is regarded as exceptional. Enviable in some circles; weird in others. But certainly, by any standard, exceptional.

"Certainly, Vancouver is ahead of anywhere else in Canada when it comes to animal issues," says Julie Woodyer, campaigns director for Zoocheck Canada, a Toronto-based organization.

"We have discussions about it all the time here. When an issue comes up, and it doesn't matter what it is, we always say 'We wish we were arguing this in B.C.' "

Calf-roping has been banned from the Cloverdale Rodeo after one had to be killed, due to an injury at this year's event.

By that, she really means the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria where animal rights have always had a resonance they haven't had anywhere else in Canada.

The decision by the Cloverdale Rodeo Association on Tuesday to ban roping events from all forthcoming rodeos -- the first major rodeo in Canada to do so -- is only the latest in a long line of examples.

Consider that next Monday, Richmond will vote to become the first city in North America to ban the use of eggs from caged hens in all city facilities. If the law passes, the city will also encourage all residents to buy only organic free-range eggs -- eggs more humanely produced than in other systems.

Derek Dang, one of the Richmond councilors sponsoring the vote, expects the motion to pass six to three and possibly unanimously.

Vancouver is considering a similar policy only months after park board commissioner Spencer Herbert pushed through a motion requiring all city-owned kiosks to sell only sustainably caught seafood.

Meanwhile, Langara College has become the first post-secondary institution in Canada to serve only eggs from free-range hens in its cafeterias. The University of B.C. is working on a similar initiative.

WHY HERE? HARD TO EXPLAIN

In April, the Vancouver Art Gallery was forced to close an exhibit involving live reptiles and amphibians after complaints by the Vancouver Humane Society and the B.C. SPCA.

At Easter, B.C. Petcetera stores announced they'd no longer sell rabbits as pets -- the only Petcetera locations in Canada to do so.

That was a decade after the same stores became the first and only pet-supplies chain in the country to voluntarily end the selling of exotic pets, such as snakes and lizards.

In February, Vancouver city council, which hadn't hosted a rodeo in more than 10 years, made sure it would not do so again by becoming the first city in Canada to ban rodeos altogether.

They did that at the same time they voted to make Vancouver one of more than 20 B.C. communities that regulate the selling and keeping of some exotic animals -- Langley being the first in 1994.

In 1990, the district of Saanich became the first jurisdiction in Canada to pass a bylaw prohibiting exotic animals -- elephants, lions, tigers, and such -- from taking part in circus performances on city property.

Now, there are more than 30 such bylaws around the province, but the vast majority are still in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.

In 1983, Vancouver became the first city in the world under then-mayor Mike Harcourt to declare an official Animal Rights Day. In 1993, it became the first city in Canada to vote to close its zoo, in Stanley Park.

And last year, the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove had the dubious distinction of becoming the first major zoo in Canada charged with cruelty to animals over the treatment of Hazina, its hippo.

But ask people involved in animal issues on both sides of the fence why here and not elsewhere, and they have trouble explaining it.

B.C. SPCA CEO Craig Daniell, who previously worked at the Ontario SPCA for three years, says the situation in Vancouver compared to Toronto "is like night and day."

But ask him why, and he isn't sure.

Vancouver Aquarium president John Nightingale, who's often found himself debating the ethics of keeping marine mammals captive, says it's probably historical, though he can't pinpoint what triggered it.

He also suggests that a strong economy gives people here more leisure time and therefore more hours to give thought to issues outside of putting bread on their tables.

Moreover, "If it hits close to home, there seems to be a lot of resistance to the idea," Nightingale says, citing the controversy around off-leash parks for dogs. "If it has less to do with large numbers of people -- the Cloverdale Rodeo, for example -- people shrug their shoulders and say 'Makes sense, I guess.'

"There's been activism around the rodeo for years, but there was no public groundswell around it."

He believes that it's only when issues don't personally affect people that they're willing to let something pass. And that Vancouver's so-called leadership in this area is more a matter of a loud few getting their way than a reflection of public concern.

Vancouver Coun. Kim Capri, who led the rodeo and exotic animal initiatives, also cites "privilege" as a possible factor. "Is it because we have the lifestyle we have that we're able to look at other species and have more awareness of their vulnerabilities?" Capri asks. "We can consider the choice of paying more for an egg from a free-range hen here. That's a statement about privilege."

She also says part of the reason her initiatives got through was that some members of council saw it as a favour to her at the time, knowing that while these concerns mattered a great deal to her, they were of much less import to others. Almost everyone interviewed cited media interest as a major factor, as well. The media in Vancouver love animal stories, they said, controversial or not.

"When I first came here, one of the first things I was involved in was the seizure of some exotic animals near Kaslo," Daniell says. "It was amazing to see how long that story was covered by the media. Not only was it on the front page, but it ran for a couple of weeks.

"In Ontario, it may have been covered, but it would have been buried and only for one day."

Rob Dykstra, the chair of the journalism department at Langara, says it doesn't surprise him that Vancouver media respond to animal stories because animals live everywhere on our doorsteps.

"We go back into the mountains so we get bears and cougars descending down upon us," Dykstra says. "We've got whales next to us in the ocean. I think the whole idea of wildlife is very prevalent here, and because of that it's very much in our consciousness. And because of our wild image and our frequent contacts and preoccupation, to some extent, with wild animals, whenever an animal is in distress, there's kind of a conflict presented. So when you have that conflict, you have a story."

Mark Miller, a documentary filmmaker for Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, agrees.

"In what other big city in Canada do people live with back fences that back right onto a park?" he says. "We're in the faces of animals all the time. And as a result of that interface and sometimes conflict, they're a major part of the fabric of our community."

Of small communities too, Miller adds, but in those communities the ethos is different. Animals aren't sentimentalized in such places; they're used and, in some cases, abused.

But that doesn't explain the apathy of such places as Toronto. Woodyer offers this explanation: "I think that in Toronto and Montreal, there is such a strong focus on money that that supersedes everything, including the suffering of animals."

SPIRITUALITY

But of everyone interviewed for this piece, it was only Mark Wexler, a professor of ethics at Simon Fraser University, who was prepared to provide anything close to answers.

He explains our fascination and forwardness with animals as an expression of spirituality in an environment where organized religion holds much less sway than it does in other parts of the world.

"Here in Vancouver, for whatever reason, we have less formal religion and more spirituality, particularly around the reverence of nature," he says. "In other words, we're friendly towards nature and we're friendly towards animals.

"This is not to say people who belong to formal religions don't have pets and aren't nice to them. But they have an outlet for that spirituality in their church. That is the way they outlet their spirituality."

Here and in other cities in Cascadia, specifically Seattle and Portland he says, it's in a reverence for nature that we express our spirituality.

"We see in animals and in the way we treat them a perception of our own loving kindness."

And this is particularly true in cities, Wexler says. "The more you're cut off from [animals], the more you see them as an attachment to nature and the land.

"If we were farmers, we wouldn't support cruelty to animals, but we'd have a different tolerance of it. As urban people we have a lower tolerance for cruelty because we beatify nature, and animals become a target of that beatification."

Also, because animals never deserve the ill treatment they receive, they are easy to politicize, Wexler says. "They represent a very clear notion of what's good and what's evil. The evil being that animals don't have control over their destiny, but we do."

Finally, animal issues are fairly easy to resolve legislatively, he says.

nread@png.canwest.com

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