ANIMAL ADVOCACY / FEBRUARY 8, 2021
January 2021: Social Change During a Disturbing Time
January, 2021 was an eventful and disturbing month, leaving us much to consider.
Martin Luther King Day is celebrated each January in the United States to honour the civil rights leader who fought for racial equality more than half a century ago.
Yet, on January 6, 2021, we witnessed the Confederate flag being carried through the seat of America’s government by rioters. Nearly 53 years after Dr. King’s assassination, it’s disturbingly clear that the social progress he struggled for has not yet been won. We are painfully reminded of how difficult it is to achieve social justice when injustice is deeply embedded in cultural norms and governmental policies.
Social Change Does Not Come Easy
On our Facebook page we shared this statement from Dr. King:
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.
We who fight for animals know something about that.
None of us can ever doubt that the kind of change that Dr. King fought for requires great effort – continuous struggle. None could claim that the goals of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s have been achieved. Across the globe we still witness politicians willing to pander to the worst in humanity if doing so helps them to gain and hold power. Canadians are not immune. Our own justice system remains unfair in how people of colour, including Indigenous peoples, are treated when compared to white Canadians. Equality has not come for all. Change is clearly not inevitable. Continuous struggle indeed.
The rioters in America’s capitol showed how profoundly destructive the attitudes of entitlement and prejudice still are. They reminded us how angry some become when asked to relinquish the privilege and power they’ve come to see as their birthright. When asked to share their privilege they push back hard, claiming that they are the oppressed, outraged that they are being asked to step back from their place of entitlement. They rage and they howl. It’s as if they don’t believe their lives will be worth living if they cannot be “free”, meaning free to oppress others, free to maintain unfair advantage, free to profit from an unfair system.
What We Can Learn
We see that same kind of anger when we fight for animals. When Canadians considered Bill C-246, a bill to update our woefully outdated animal protection laws, some Members of Parliament who represent ridings where animal agriculture, hunting, and angling are prevalent expressed their outrage in our House of Commons. Their constituents were being victimized, they said, and they’d be unable to feed their children if slightly stronger laws were adopted. They raged and they howled, using exaggerations to defend their case, claiming victimhood when it’s clear that animals are the real victims. It was shameful to witness – an overly emotional demonstration of entitlement.
We did not see riots. Because they got their way. Canada’s two most powerful political parties, the reigning Liberals and the Conservative Party of Canada both signaled to their members that the bill should die. And die it did. A few, brave MPs in both parties voted to at least consider better laws, but not enough. The status quo held. The animals, and those of us who care for them, lost. But we did not riot. Because that is not who we are.
The Struggle for Animal Protection
Let’s consider what might happen if a future government were brave enough to address the truth about animal agriculture: that it’s inhumane, contributes to global climate change, and is unnecessary for human health. Imagine if animal-using industries that have been subsidized, propped up, protected, and pandered to lost their privilege. What anger would result? Would we see riots? We can’t say for sure. But we are reminded of how angry people can be when privileges that they have come to see as rights are threatened, even just a little.
The struggle for the change for animals that we are working for will surely last far beyond our own lifetimes, just as the struggle against poverty and racial injustice has lasted beyond Martin Luther King Jr.’s own lifetime. Nevertheless, we struggle – continuously – and we do move the bar.
Together, we are part of a worldwide movement that pushes against the forces of oppression, forces that exploit and harm animals. We push forward, knowing that without us those who oppress would go unchecked and unchallenged. In the same way that dams push against the sea – holding back the constant pressure of the water – if we were not ever pushing things would surely be much worse.
We struggle on, winning some races while knowing that the larger struggle is a marathon that will engage the courage and energies of those who will come after us. This struggle will last past our own lifetimes. We play our part. Just as you do.
Continuous struggle. That’s our destiny. The civil rights leaders of every past era knew that. And we animal advocates know it too.
From Animal Alliance of Canada:
Cormorant Hunt Is the Single Worst Wild Game Management Decision in Canadian History
by Barry Kent MacKay / Born Free USA.
Ontario’s newly elected premier, Doug Ford, in many ways as Trumpian as the Donald himself, has just proposed what is, I believe, the worst single wild game management decision in Canadian history. Did I say “game”? “Gamey” barely describes the essentially inedible double-crested cormorant, a species that was twice nearly wiped out in Ontario, and is not “game” by any traditional definition. And yet, so it is to be called, except that for the first time since game laws came into being, it will be legal to leave the carcasses of birds who have been shot as “game” to rot. The bag limit is 50 per day with no limit to possession. The season will be from March 15, the start of the cormorant nesting season, to December 31, when all but a few stragglers have migrated south.
Ford’s government is a majority (which is like having control of both the House and Senate in U.S. politics), so there can be no effective opposition, and Ford’s term is four years. I doubt he’ll be re-elected, but it will take further years to undo damage he’s doing in this and other similarly Draconian legislation. I hate to think what’s to come.
This move is a response to lobbying by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), who must now abandon any pretense that hunting isn’t cruel and wasteful. “Hunting” has to be redefined, literally, with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act being amended so hunters can allow the meat of “game” to spoil. The birds are easily shot and highly vulnerable. There is no “fair chase” or “sustainable use” involved.
Cormorants nest in colonies of mixed bird species. Both parents need to tend the young, born naked. Would it not be deemed cruel to put a baby bird in the oven, turn the temperature to 90 or more Fahrenheit and leave it to die? That degree of abuse will be the fate of who knows how many hundreds, or thousands of baby cormorants, whose parents tend them with such great care – feeding them, shading them, warming them, and even bringing them water to cool them in the heat of the day.
Ford is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and probably bought into the much-debunked belief that fish consumed by cormorants would otherwise be available to commercial and sport fishing interests. A search of peer-reviewed scientific literature by ornithologists showed otherwise, but facts don’t matter to authoritarian right-wingers. Natural predation is usually “compensatory,” taking individual prey that would otherwise not survive, and only under exceptional circumstances is predation “additive,” meaning that it is above the number needed for the prey species numbers to continue. If this were not the case, all predators would wipe out their prey and go extinct. As The Department of Natural Resources for Minnesota puts it, compensatory mortality “…is common in all animal populations and this type of mortality [by cormorants] does not decrease fish populations.”
This is all too technical for Ford and OFAH, but even if they did understand such basic ecology, I doubt they would care. Numbers of hunters are in free fall decline, if “hunting” is defined in terms of science-based regulation, “fair chase” and utilization. The term has shifted to simply mean killing. The fact that cormorant guano, rich in nutriments, can kill off trees, plus the absurd belief that fish eaten by cormorants would otherwise wind up on hooks, in nets and creels, or glued to wooden plaques hung on walls, is all the excuses needed. With slob hunters now legitimized by Mr. Ford, watch, too, for killing of loons and other birds that dare to eat fish and are easily mistaken for cormorants.
Keep Wildlife in the Wild,
Barry Kent MacKay
Director of Canadian & Special Programs
Canadian Office:(905) 472-9731