Canada is Awful at Animals

 

Image source: http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/black-bear.html?

Ah, Canada. A country born out of colonialism and the fur trade, we sure know how to legislate animal welfare.

Ahem.

Like any complex issue, there are three sides to this story. There’s our side (the one where we think animals should be respected and left alone for the most part, cared for if anything, and certainly not eaten). Then there’s the government’s side, which is, and we quote, “We have some pretty astounding resource disparity in this vast land mass. Maybe instead of doing the hard and potentially impossible work of fixing that, let’s just bolster the hunting industry. Because easy.”

And then there’s the funny side of the story.

You know, where people invested in the animal exploitation machine say the darnedest things and we get to chuckle at them.

Take, for example, what happened during the arrest and trial of Anita Krajnc of Toronto Pig Save. An organization in our neck of the woods, TPS volunteers stand on a busy and visible street corner with slogans and water, and they bear witness and give drinks to the many pigs driven past that intersection to slaughter. Currently, Krajnc stands trial pleading “not guilty” to a charge of mischief, because she gave a couple of pigs a drink of water.

From this excellent article:

“Veldjesgraaf [the driver] got out of the truck that morning and told Krajnc to stop, saying he didn’t know what she was pouring into the trailer. Krajnc said it was water.

‘These are not humans, you dumb frickin’ broad,’ he said.”

Charming.

And then the farmer dropped this piece of wisdom:

“‘We tell our children not to play in the streets,’ said Van Boekel, who transports 110,000 pigs per year for his contract with Sofina Foods. ‘I think everybody can take it from there.”

Because approaching a transport truck while it’s stopped at an intersection is dangerous. He’s not exactly wrong, he’s just being hilarious about it. It’s clear to basically everyone that no one on the other side of this case is concerned about Krajnc and other activists’ safety, so this patronizing bit of wisdom can easily be seen for what it is. Patronizing. And, like, a veritable bit of actual truth, wrapped up in just endless layers of deliberate obtuseness.

Of course the best part is that when the driver was talking to police, he said “that he thought Toronto Pig Save needed to be stopped because ‘they’re messing with our livelihood.'” As in, not because he was worried about property damaging mischief or safety of the pedestrian. He was just feeling spiteful enough about the protesters that day to call the cops.

The trial resumes in October, and as this other excellent piece explains, putting Krajnc on trial for mischief is probably not going to hurt Toronto Pig Save as Mr. Driver to end all drivers had hoped, but may actually hurt the pig industry itself.

“The case is receiving international media attention — most decent people recognize immediately that causing animal suffering, not relieving it, is what should be the crime. The twisted circumstances of the case illuminate fundamental animal rights issues: animal welfare laws are inherently both weak and under-enforced; animals are used as commodities, the property of owners whose raison d’être is profit; and our legal and political institutions privilege those with money and power, of which animals have neither.”

The piece gives a stunning list of things that Krajnc’s lawyer got the driver to admit under oath: he “acknowledged that pigs go into distress during transport,” he “acknowledged that pigs disperse heat differently (i.e. they can’t sweat, so they become overheated on hot days without water) and that trucks with fans, ventilation, and water misting are available; but he doesn’t have this technology on his truck,” he “acknowledged that he didn’t even look at the pig to see whether they were in distress,” and most stunningly of all, he claims he “doesn’t know about the code of practice guideline to spray pigs with water prior to loading” and claims “trucking companies don’t follow this guideline.”

This is the guy who wanted TPS to be stopped because they threatened his livelihood and now many, many people, many more than who usually pay attention to this stuff, are looking at images of pigs in distress, and if they have the fortitude to read the article, they’ll see through the posturing to what seems like the individual’s cut and dry thoughtlessness and misogyny, as well as the entire industry’s undeniable injustice.

Watching this case unfold has been a pleasure. So often these people get interviewed or they blather on from their own protected platforms and don’t get called out. This time, the dude had to testify in court and eat buckets of crow (please excuse the use of that phrase).

But it really does seem like it’s just this time that the nonsense gets the spotlight shone on it.

One of our favourite perpetrators of the nonsense is OFAH, the Ontario Federation for Anglers and Hunters. We aren’t against this sort of thing in theory, because hunting and fishing is sort of a complicated issue. If people hunt rather than buy at the grocery store, that’s probably a net positive in terms of animal death and suffering. Further complicating the issue is the reality that in many remote Canadian communities, resource disparity makes getting your nutrients harder. We promote veganism, vegetarianism, and simply lessening meat/meat by-product intake, but we do have to admit that this isn’t always possible for people with restricted access to the types and variety of food we take for granted as city slickers. Well. Suburb. Slickers. We have a Whole Foods, is the point. And some cheaper stuff.

But our having a Whole Foods and some cheaper stuff doesn’t mean that we have to pretend that there isn’t a whole other side to hunting and fishing – the commercial, completely unnecessary side. “Completely unnecessary?” you ask. “Surely like any industry, getting rid of it entirely would mean lots of people out of work.”

Yes. That’s true. It’s complicated, but in the end people shouldn’t have to earn a living by exploiting animals, even indirectly. A gradual shrinkage of these industries would probably be fine. It would give the industry time to shift to other forms of making money, like ecotourism. That one’s gaining traction and it seems like something these self-proclaimed “wildlife and conservation enthusiasts” would be good at.

Anyway, we aren’t experts about that sort of thing but we’re willing to bet based on what we’ve seen and heard from OFAH that this organization is more about lobbying on behalf of the top tier of the hunting industry (ie: not the people feeding the family on moose and seal jerky) than it is about conservation, or safety, or promoting responsible and respectful hunting/fishing guidelines.

So let’s talk about the Spring Bear Hunt, in which people shoot black bears in the spring very happily because they haven’t been allowed to do it for more than a decade. During those dark, trying times, bear-murder enthusiasts could only hunt black bears in the fall! The horror! We all know that a tired, fresh-out-of-hibernation bear tastes much better than a fall bear! (Yes. That is how they sometimes justify it.)

The Wynne Liberal government reinstated the hunt, likely to court northern voters, which is a strategy that failed. They all voted for the conservative for reasons we won’t speculate on. But the hunt is here one again, and it was criticized quite fiercely by opponents of hunting. So OFAH created a nice little guide for correcting the “incorrect perception” that “some may have” about the hunt. And it’s full of vague, indirect statements like that last sentence. Come on, OFAH, no need to be so “polite.” We just called you a lobby group for rich, sleazy gun-molesters, and we haven’t really started yet. Take off the gloves, let’s have some real fun.

Here’s their justification for their justification of the Spring Bear Hunt:

“Common concerns raised include the sustainability of an additional hunting season, its ability to reduce human-bear conflicts, wasting of bears, the orphaning of cubs, and undue influence from hunting advocates like the OFAH.

These are topics definitely worthy of discussion. However, a few opponents of the spring bear hunt have been very vocal, reaching bogus conclusions and deliberately spreading misinformation in an attempt to sway public opinion.”

We present this without comment, but with two fond, world-weary smirks.

Like Voldemort’s soul, there are seven parts to this bad boy. But unlike Voldemort’s soul, there isn’t a secret eighth part no one knew about. That’s too bad. Maybe it was attached to an actual good argument.

We begin.

1. Influence

OFAH (we refuse to call it “the OFAH.” It’s just OFAH. Like the sound you make when you fall down some stairs in front of the coolest kids in school and your heavy biology textbook knocks the wind out of you after you land) begins by claiming that those who argue that it has too much influence over policy decisions are wrong because clearly, if they had that much influence, the hunt wouldn’t have been cancelled in the first place.

So you’re bad lobbyists, that doesn’t mean you’re not lobbyists. Also, we don’t know who these “some groups” are that this piece keeps mentioning, but we don’t blame OFAH for the spring bear hunt. Ontariariario’s government is more than capable of making stupid decisions without any help from anyone. Just see, basically any news out of Ontario politics over the last decade or more.

2. Money

OFAH claims that because in 1996 the spring hunt was estimated to have contributed “$40 million” to… the economy, the return of the hunt is clearly “not just defensible, but warranted.”

Who estimated that figure? $40 million is not that much, also. Look at what we spend on power plants we don’t actually build but still have to pay for because OMG this province is as joke.

But, fine, we’ll engage seriously with this one. Could northern communities use an economic boost? Of course. Wynne and the Liberals clearly are trying to “improve” northern Ontario, whatever that means to them. One of two arguments for reinstating the hunt from Cabinet ministers was to improve tourism, so, yes, they were looking for an economic boost.

Our argument is, and will always be, one can get such sweet economic boosts without killing bears. We doubt that means anything to OFAH, but it’s still true. Sometimes you have to fight for the good, and the good doesn’t include trophy hunting.

3. Sustainability

OK but then OFAH says, to explain why adding a spring hunt won’t strain black bear population, that probably more bears won’t be killed because there’s still a limit of one bear per year, so hunters will simply choose between the spring or the fall.

But.

Then.

You can’t have it both ways, can you? Adding the hunt can’t be a “warranted” economic boost if the numbers of bears killed doesn’t rise significantly or dramatically. And if they’re trying to argue that somehow this spring hunt has found exactly the right balance between “not killing too many extra bears” and “being at all in any way an economic boost,” that’s cute, but it probably requires some actual evidence. It seems a little too good to be true, is all.

4. Bears are scary

Here is the paragraph on human-bear conflict in full (the asterisks are ours):

“The government also promoted the spring bear hunt as a means for managing human-bear conflicts. Will the spring hunt eliminate conflicts between humans and bears? Of course not. There is no single tool that can eliminate conflicts. The only metric available to measure human-bear conflict is the number of calls to the Ontario Provincial Police and the BearWise Reporting Line, but research* has demonstrated that the number of reports received is heavily influenced by social bias, which makes it an inaccurate way to gauge the level of conflict. For instance, if black bear conflicts are repeatedly reported in the media, public awareness of bears and reporting options will increase and lead to a spike in reporting, irrespective of changes in the bear population or behaviour. Opponents of the hunt often cite an MNRF research paper** that found hunting had no effect on levels of human-bear conflict. However, this research only analyzed the fall hunt, and therefore it isn’t useful for drawing conclusions about the spring hunt***. Interestingly, that research paper also found that “the BearWise program had no detectable effect on human-bear conflicts”, a conclusion that is conveniently omitted by those who claim that this program will solve all of our bear problems.****”

First of all, what the hell is BearWise and why does OFAH hate it so much?

*What research. Point to your research.

**Link please?

***… come on.

****Who are you talking about? Who are these people who make these claims and huwt your feewings?

Also:

“Not only did nuisance bear occurrences increase in the first two years of the spring bear hunt in most districts where it was allowed in 2014 and 2015, but bear occurrences actually skyrocketed in the Greater Sudbury District after years of decline in the absence of a spring bear hunt.”

Ouch.

5. Hunters control nature

“Regulated hunting (including spring hunting) can help to maintain bear populations within a range that can be supported by the available habitat and within society’s range of tolerance – there is literally no other tool that can do this.”

We can think of a couple. Like better waste management, or being a millennial and having less offspring, or maybe lessening habitat destruction by not building another ten thousand plazas nobody wanted.

Also, the term “regulated hunting” is probably supposed to be a PC version of “culling.” It’s particularly useful too, because culling doesn’t work. Link. Link. Link. Link. Link. Not to mention that OFAH’s point above about keeping black bear population sustainable is rather undercut with this “we’re keeping the population down so that humans don’t have to deal with bears” nonsense.

6. Bear baiting may be pretty heartless and lazy but we believe the guess based on no evidence that it doesn’t actually lead to cub starvation because it suits our interests better

On cub starvation, OFAH claims that the 270 number is an exaggeration. It was a 1999 estimate, now the Ministry says it was probably a very rare occurrence because killing a female with cubs is illegal and obviously a hunter would be able to identify a bear’s sex even if the bear shows up to the bait without her cubs.

Maybe 270 is an exaggeration. We hope that it is! But the convenient backtracking just as the government reopens the hunt makes us question why we should believe the guess now, which isn’t based on any sort of data, over an estimation from 1999 based on some data.

In any case, even one cub starving to death because someone wanted tasty bear meat straight from hibernation is one too many. Sometimes we have to give up the things we want because we need to be conscientious for those in a more vulnerable position than us. Like baby animals.

7. We are hilarious

The final paragraph is called “Perception vs Reality” and, has Christmas come early?

“Anti-hunting groups love to characterize hunters as trigger-happy, blood-thirsty killers that shoot bears for the thrill of it.”

And OFAH characterizes anyone who disagrees with various hunting practices as “big city animal rights extremists” (source) who pressure the government into doing what they want which is obviously not what OFAH ever tries to do.

“Ontario’s bear hunters are motivated by one singular goal – acquiring delicious, free-range, organic protein to supplement or replace commercially-available meat in their diets.”

Those are a lot of buzzwords. Congratulations on all of those buzzwords. You couldn’t fit “non-GMO” in there, though? Come on, go for gold.

“We as a society do not always share the same perspectives and beliefs, so that requires all of us to show tolerance for others. Religious, cultural, racial, gender and other forms of discrimination are not tolerated in Canada today, so why is it acceptable to discriminate against members of the hunting community for pursuing legal and beneficial activities?”

You did not just do that.

YOU DID NOT JUST DO THAT.

We need to take a breather because that was just too good.

OK we’re back, and we’ve come up with a  fun perception-versus-reality game to play with OFAH the next time they’re in town. Make a bunch of cards. Write perception on half of them, and reality on the other half. Then write a legend with these statements on it, and challenge OFAH to beat you at determining which statements are perception, and which are just the sad reality. You will win. Every time. (PS: don’t actually do that, the game wouldn’t be fun and it wouldn’t make sense.)

Perception: Everyone characterizes us as bloodthirsty violent rednecks but also everyone is an ecoterrorist.

Reality: You have a weird and kind of awful pastime that, admittedly, is difficult to characterize as 100% evil, because it isn’t. It is exploitative and violent and unnecessary, though. We like animals. You think we like animals too much. You might be right. You may have a point about our liking of animals getting in the way of understanding the complexities of certain social and political issues. But your hobby is still exploitative, violent, and unnecessary. Maybe together we can mitigate some of that here and some of that there, and for the foreseeable future that’s the best we can hope for. But it requires your cooperation as well as ours, and maybe the Spring Bear Hunt is just a cynical play to voters and not actually a good thing, even for hunters.

Perception: Animal rights extremists have too much control over policy decisions and public opinion but also when policy decisions go our way everyone unfairly accuses us of having too much influence

Reality: The government. Is. A garbage fire. OMG IT’S A GARBAGE FIRE. All any of us can do is try not to get hit by burning garbage but eventually we’re all gonna get some on us.

Perception: Misinformation is a bad thing and so is trying to persuade people now here have a bunch of vague attacks at various unknown groups with literally not one link to back up any of our points – THIS IS NOT WHAT BIAS IS WE SWEAR.

Reality: Can you not do that. It would be less funny to engage in a conversation where you guys were doing your due diligence, but it would probably also be less annoying, insulting, and more beneficial for everyone.

Perception: Being a proponent of the spring bear hunt is like being a member of a religion, being born a certain race, and identifying as a certain gender and facing discrimination based on those things.

Reality: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

One more related to the spring bear hunt:

This piece about last minute restrictions on the hunt makes us think someone at the CBC was having some fun. Maybe not, but, see for yourself. Read it without our commentary, it’s short.

‘Just a bunch of rednecks’

It’s there. In bold! With no context! If you read on, you get the context, but, come on. Someone was having a chuckle.

So from now on the bolding is ours.

“‘We’re getting treated like were just a bunch of rednecks out there who have no idea what the heck we’re doing. It’s quite literally belittling and disgusting the way we’re getting treated,’ he said.”

No it isn’t. You haven’t shrunk.

“Bruce Wilkins had 27 bear hunters booked to come to his Golden Eagle Camp near Matachewan, Ont. this year, but was told that he could only have 16.

‘What are we supposed to call these people and return the deposits and tell them they can’t come and hunt when we’ve never been told that before?’ he said.

Wilkins said he and other outfitters were allowed to bring in anyone they had previously booked, but he is still steamed about a decision he feels is based more on politics than biology.

‘There’s no science behind what’s happening. And that to us is an insult,’ he said.”

This is IMMEDIATELY followed by math and figures that explain the reasoning the government used to decide that they needed to add a couple of restrictions to make sure too many bears weren’t killed.

Someone was chuckling.

Anyway.

THE CONCLUSION OF THIS DIATRIBE

The conclusion is twofold. One, we think everyone could benefit from calling such things out some more. Occasionally this means the hard work of a furious Facebook argument with a distant relative, but hey. If you have a blog, and you hear someone’s utterly nonsensical justification of bad behaviour RE animals, you can use your space to call it out. Maybe it’ll just make you feel better (we always feel smug after making fun of OFAH), but if that’s all it accomplishes then it’s worth it. You do hard work. You care. You try. These people don’t even attempt to intelligently enter the conversation THEY STARTED. Have some fun, pick their arguments apart. And on the occasions where it isn’t fun, and you’re actually worrying about alienating friends and family, hang in there. We feel you. There are days that you can’t do very much without hurting, but that doesn’t mean you’re failing. All we can do is do what we can, when we can, and it’s enough.

Speaking of which, the second part of this conclusion is that as much as it can be fun to mock these statements, and these organizations, and these people, we have to remember that they are people. They do have influence. Because although some of these articles are taking our side, some of them, while chuckling, aren’t doing the actual work of picking the misinformation apart. Sometimes the nonsense is allowed to stand. OFAH, for example, sounds like it’s a government organization if you don’t look at it for too long. It has a certain authority, and look at how nonsensical their Spring Bear Hunt arguments were. We need to take these people at their words. They think, as evidenced by driver and farmer in the Krajnc case, very, very little of those of us who consider animals worth advocating for, but they’re also clearly threatened. We can, and should, mock the first, and engage with the second.

“Ha! You think we’re all ‘dumb fricken’ broads.’ Now let’s talk about why we grind your gears so much. Did you dream about being a pig transporter as a child?”

It would be more important to engage with OFAH. The organization should be called out more for its logical flimsyness. We think OFAH should start actually caring about sustainability, safety, and respect, because we’ve seen no evidence of it thus far. There’s no reason for a hunting and fishing advocacy group to exist if it doesn’t self-police.

And it’s all well and good for us to say that from our condo while eating vegan cupcakes we bought downtown, like three blocks from where those pigs are slaughtered every day, but OFAH and the people listening to them are the ones out there, with the guns, face to face with the animals. The driver, the slaughterhouse workers, they are the ones whose actions or inaction impacts thousands of animals, the ones we have vowed not to eat but who still exist and are eaten anyway.

We need to take these people seriously enough to call out their nonsense and take them seriously enough to acknowledge that they have influence. They have the ability to make small changes that will positively affect many animals. We can condemn their actions without outright refusing to acknowledge that they are the ones that are going to be implementing the small changes that bit by bit improve the lives of animals in factory farms and in the wild.

So that’s it. Solidarity to Krajnc and Toronto Pig Save, Mr. Driver man, get a different job, and OFAH, please cite your sources and such. Now back to the cupcakes.

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