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Liberation BC Film Screening Series: Blackfish

Thursday, June 5th, 2014




Liberation BC screened Blackfish on May 29th at the Vancouver Public Library. Tilikum, an orca captured as a two-year-old off the coast of Iceland in 1983, is the controversial star of the documentary film, Blackfish. Tilikum is one of many whales kept in captivity in parks like SeaWorld around the world. Blackfish explores the effect of captivity on whales, making the case that captive whales endure mental and physical distress, and pose risks to their keepers. After all, Tilikum is associated with the death of three people.

Blackfish is the first film since Grizzly Man to show how nature can get revenge on man when pushed to its limits. From the Blackfish film description.

The first and traumatic contact that captive whales have with humans is of course during their initial capture. SeaWorld once captured whales in Washington State. Diver John Crowe, who SeaWorld hired to assist with the capture, described a capture in Puget Sound as “just like kidnapping a little kid from his mother.” Howard Garrett, a researcher with the Orca Network, described how adults in the pod of whales split the pod in two as a diversionary tactic. Unfortunately, for the whales, the capture team had a plane spotter follow them to ensure none of the whales could escape and SeaWorld was able to capture a baby. Washington State has since banned SeaWorld from the state, and the company now captures whales in other countries, or in the case of Tilikum, purchases whales from other marine animal parks.

‘I was in awe,’ and ‘I could not believe how huge they were.’ Trainers interviewed in the film recalled their initial impressions of whales as beginning trainers.

Tilikum started his marine park life at Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, BC. His trainer, Keltie Byrne, died after she slipped into the pool. According to witnesses, the whales prevented her from escaping, and two people identified Tilikum as the culprit. The film examines how Sealand treated Tilikum and other killer whales. Trainers denied whales fish to help control behaviour, scraped the whales’ skin with rakes as punishment, and kept the whales in a small, dark enclosure overnight because Sealand feared that someone would cut the net and allow the whales to escape. After Byrne’s death, public outcry ensured that Sealand closed. Sealand sold Tilikum to SeaWorld, apparently with the understanding that he would not perform but only be used for breeding.

Instead, Tilikum continued to perform and in 1999, a SeaWorld visitor remained after hours and evaded security to enter Tilikum’s tank. Staff found him dead the next day. In 2010, experienced trainer, Dawn Brancheau, died when Tilikum pulled her into the water following a show.

A whale’s life in captivity is dramatically different from their natural habitat. According to Lori Marino of Emory University’s Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Program, who is interviewed in the film, whales have highly developed emotional lives and even have a part of the brain, the paralimbic region, dedicated to emotion that humans do not. Researchers at Dalhousie note that killer whales possess complex and stable vocal and behavioural cultures.

Research on whales in the wild shows that family ties are strong, and separating whales from their pods is detrimental. When the park took baby Shamu from his mother, trainers recalled the obvious distress that his mother exhibited and the attention that other female whales gave her, evidently in effort to comfort her.

Living in captivity forces whales to live in unnatural circumstances. SeaWorld eventually separated Tilikum from female whales because they were attacking him, so Tilikum spent much of his life in isolation. In the wild, males normally live at the fringe of the pod, unlike in parks where whales live in close confinement with each other and with whales who are not part of their family or cultural groups. Blackfish makes the case that the distress of life in captivity was behind the aggression that Tilkum tragically showed against people.

While Blackfish paints a compelling picture of why whales are completely unsuitable to living in captivity, SeaWorld pushes back with critique of the film and a website dedicated to disputing the Blackfish documentary.

Excellent expose of human brutality to these majestic creatures. Let’s all work to stop this cruelty. Viewer at the Liberation BC screening.



Liberation BC likes to find out a little bit about our film screening audience to see who we are reaching with messages about animal rights. Of the 70 people who turned out for the screening on May 29, 30 responded to our questionnaire about their diet. Seventeen people said they are omnivores, while five said they were vegetarian, seven said they were vegan, and one person indicated ‘other’. Viewers commented that the film is “heartbreaking,” “enlightening and moving,” and one person wrote that “no wild animals should be kept in zoos or tanks.”

Watch for demonstrations at the Night at the Aquarium on June 10th.

Watch the Blackfish trailer.

You may view the trailer or purchase Blackfish on DVD on their website.

Keep an eye out for future film screenings and other events on the Liberation BC Events page.

Are cockfighting roosters doomed?

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

When it comes to coming up with myths about animals to justify their mistreatment, we humans have an endless supply.  Certainly you’ve heard at least a few of these:

(Realistically, even if these things were true, it wouldn’t actually justify any type of cruelty, but it’s still irritating to hear them repeated over and over again when they’re so blatantly wrong.)

And finally, the topic of today’s post:

  • Roosters are naturally bloodthirsty fighters.

It would be silly to pretend that roosters don’t ever fight.  They do, just like many other animals who will engage in combat to defend their territory, secure mates, or protect their families.  But are they really as ruthlessly savage as cockfighting fans would like us to believe?   It’s worth noting that cockfighting usually results in a painful, bloody death for one–or both–of the birds.  As pattrice jones of VINE Sanctuary in Vermont (formerly Eastern Shore Sanctuary, in Maryland) explains, “Here at the Eastern Shore Sanctuary, former fighting cocks coexist peacefully with each other and with hens rescued from egg factories. Both groups of birds are physically and psychologically scarred by the specifically gendered forms of exploitation they have endured.”(Crossing the Mammalian-Avian Line)


These former fighting roosters are good friends. (Photo: VINE Sanctuary)


Many fighting cocks have gaffs--specialized knives measuring up to 3 1/2 inches long--attached to their legs.

Now, it’s true that former fighting cocks are frequently aggressive, so for a long time, many roosters rescued from cockfighting operations were euthanized.  In fact, this is still the rule in most places.  (For example, in 2008, authorities busted a cockfighting ring in Surrey. Federal legislation required that all 1,300 roosters be put to death.) VINE Sanctuary was the first to take these traumatized birds in and rehabilitate them.

Only after some days of spending time in the yards while being held and soothed was [Pietro, former fighting cock] able to see or hear other birds without trying to attack them. Even so, his little heart beat so rapidly with fear whenever another bird came near. He was terrified. Having been fought, with shaved feathers and steel blades attached to his talons, he believed that the only recipe for survival was to attack instantly and incessantly. Having been doped with methamphetamines and testosterone, his endrocrine system responded excessively to any alarm. Having been raised in isolation, he’d never had the chance to learn the social signals by which roosters naturally resolve their conflicts in healthy flocks.(Rooster Rehab)

Cockfighting has been illegal in Canada for some time.  The U.S. caught up in 2008, when it was finally banned in Louisiana (most of the country had banned it decades earlier.)  The entirety of the U.K. had banned it by the end of the 19th century.  It is also illegal in Brazil, France, and most of Spain.  In other countries, it is technically illegal but laws are not consistently enforced.

In Cuba, Mexico, Peru, much of Southeast Asia, and elsewhere, this brutal, vicious bloodsport continues as a part of a celebrated “tradition”.  And as evidenced by the news report I linked to earlier, it still happens with disturbing frequency even in places where it’s technically no longer legal.

Watch this video from the Humane Society of Berks County in Maryland, who were able to save several rescued fighting cocks with the help of VINE:

(In case you haven’t had enough insanity for the day, I’ll add that authorities busted a canary-fighting ring in Connecticut in 2009.)

Help end rodeo cruelty on Vancouver Island!

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

(This is a guest post by Melissa de Meulles of Victoria Citizens Against Rodeo Events)

There is a small suburb just north of Victoria, the City of Langford, where each May long weekend the annual Luxton Pro Rodeo (LPR) takes place. This is the last rodeo operating on Vancouver Island. (Learn more about rodeo cruelty.)

This rodeo is sanctioned by the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association. Most participants travel from Alberta and Saskatchewan to compete for points in the circuit and cash prizes. This weekend long rodeo includes calf roping (also known as tie down roping), team roping, steer wrestling, horse and bull riding, and “mutton bustin’”. There is also a midway, displays and other attractions, such as a dance.

The rodeo animals are provided by Big Stone Rodeo Co. in Cessford, Alberta. These creatures must travel the rodeo circuit and perform again and again throughout the season. These high-speed roping and riding events cause fear and anxiety in the animals. Some animal behaviorists have determined this can be even more damaging than the physical injuries! The animals are in danger of injury and death, all for entertainment.

Luxton Rodeo-Matthew Wolfe-2013 May-2

A frightened calf during a team roping event at the Luxton Pro Rodeo, May 2013 (Photo: Matthew Wolfe)

I have lived in Langford and neighbouring municipalities all my life. In 2012 my urge to speak out about the rodeo intensified. Since then, Victoria Citizens Against Rodeo Events (VCARE) was formed. We have demonstrated outside the fairgrounds for the past two years and received local written media and radio coverage and our numbers are growing.

The City of Langford has been asked to consider a bylaw that will ban:

  • Tie down roping (aka calf roping)
  • Team roping
  • Steer wrestling
  • Flank straps
  • Caustic ointments
  • Electric prods/shocking devices
  • Forcible handling techniques such as tail-twisting, hitting, kicking

For those who have never had the displeasure of viewing the rodeo, here is what a few of these consist of:

  • Tie Down Roping:  in this timed event, a young calf is forced out of a chute into an arena where she or he is chased by a horse and rider at speeds averaging 25 miles per hour. The calf is roped around the neck, jerked to the ground, then lifted and thrown to the ground where the rider then ties three of the calf’s legs.
  • Team Roping: an older calf is used in this timed event where two riders on horseback have to rope the animal and bring it to the ground. One ropes the neck and the other, the back legs. Once this is completed, the animal is pulled in both directions until he or she falls.
  • Steer Wrestling: a rider on horseback chases a steer, jumps onto his head and neck while violently twisting the neck to bring the steer to the ground in the quickest time possible.
  • Flank Strap: a strap which is used in bull and horse riding events to induce bucking in these normally docile creatures. The strap is tightly attached around the rear torso of the animal, which causes the animal to appear wild and buck until it is removed and discomfort/pain subsides.

As you can imagine, these events are traumatizing and can result in broken limbs, necks, and even death as demonstrated at events throughout North America.

The LPR has ignored our correspondence and existence to date and in 2012, Mayor Young of the City of Langford advised us that we would not likely receive support from council as they were not animal safety experts. If events were inhumane, we had to prove it!

In order to do so, a local photographer, Matthew Wolfe, volunteered to attend the rodeo as a spectator and document some of the events with his camera. Currently VCARE is running an ad campaign with these photos taken in May 2013 at the Luxton Pro Rodeo in local papers to inform citizens and ask them to act:

newspaper ad

VCARE needs funds to publish more newspaper ads like this one, which features a young calf being used in a tie-down roping (or calf-roping) event.

Based on the 2013 LPR program, we have also created a list of sponsors to be boycotted, including Cloverdale Paint, Budweiser, and Fountain Tire.  For a complete list, please contact us at

With emails going to the City of Langford and sponsors, the pressure is mounting.

VCARE recently requested to present to Langford council as a delegation. The Deputy Clerk has advised that she has been requested by council to perform “research” and VCARE should contact them in September. We are hopeful that the research is due to a consideration being made to implement a bylaw restricting rodeo events and practices in the City of Langford.

In the meantime, as we prepare to present to council, VCARE is asking all who care about animals to contact Langford and let them know how they feel about the Luxton Pro Rodeo:

And contribute to fund more ads if they are able:

As I say in my replies to those who email us in support of the rodeo:

These events are slowly but surely being banned around the world.
The suffering will end in Langford soon enough.

Compassion is a journey and some people get further than others.

For more information we can be reached at or find us on social media:!/vcare2013

[Note: VCARE has also set up a petition asking the city to enact a ban on the cruelest events at the Luxton Pro Rodeo.  You can sign it here.]

Better than a Zoo: Big Red and Ezra, the Red-tailed Hawks

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Zoos are no substitute for appreciating a wild animal in his or her natural habitat, and they usually mean cruelty, suffering, and death for the animals themselves.

Almost everybody loves watching wild animals, though, and we’re very fortunate to be in the 21st century, where technology is improving to the point that we no longer need to imprison them to do so.

Case in point: Big Red and Ezra.

Big Red and Ez

Ezra sits on the eggs; his mate, Big Red, returns to the light pole upon which they've made their nest, March 2013. (Screenshot: MV on Flickr)

Big Red and Ezra are two wild Red-tailed Hawks who make their home on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York.  For two years now, researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have monitored the nests of these beautiful birds via remote HD cameras, broadcasting them live for all the world to appreciate.  The lens view can be zoomed in, moved out, and adjusted so as to get the best view possible–far closer than you could ever get in a zoo or even in the wild, and all without disturbing the birds.

An interactive chatroom staffed with bird experts and curious hawkwatchers add to the experience, as does the impressive FAQ page.


Handsome Ezra strikes a pose, April 2013. (Screenshot: elly012912 on Flickr)

Thanks to the cam, viewers can watch Big Red and Ezra throughout the entirety of the breeding season.  We see them build their nest, lay eggs, and take turns brooding and warming them, standing periodically to roll them so that the chicks develop properly.  We see Ezra bring prey to Big Red (for she is the one who does the majority of nest-sitting) and we listen to them communicate with each other in a series of chirps and screeches.  When the babies hatch, we are witness to the entire grueling experience.  (Hatching is a very tough process and can take up to 72 hours!)  We watch Big Red and Ezra taking turns feeding them and we see as the hawklets finally figure out how to tear food for themselves.  As they grow, we see them become stronger day by day, going from downy balls of fluff who can’t open their eyes or hold up their heads to fully-grown fledglings who leap off the edge of the nest for their first flight.

BR with eggs

Big Red examines her third egg just after having laid it on March 20, 2013.

An experience like this can simply not be compared to watching a captive animal struggling to live some semblance of a natural life in a cage.

There are also other wonderful nestcams at the Lab of Ornithology, including the Great Blue Heron nest.

You can join the journey of Big Red and Ezra now and as can be guessed from this blog post, I fully recommend it.

fuzzy hawklet

One of last year's hawklets gazes into the camera (Screenshot: KidGos on Flickr)

Get elephants out of zoos!

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

By now we’ve all heard the great news about the elephants at the Toronto Zoo: at the end of November, the Toronto city council voted overwhelmingly in favour of sending Iringa, Toka, and Thika to PAWS, an animal sanctuary in California.  In fact, more and more zoos are closing their elephant exhibits, realizing that we are completely incapable of providing any semblance of a natural life for them in captivity.

Mara the elephant at PAWS

Mara, an elephant living at PAWS, and a friend.

Did you know that elephants in zoos die decades earlier than those living in the wild?

A survey comparing the records of 4,500 African elephants both in the wild and in captivity found that the median lifespan of a wild elephant is 56 years; the median lifespan of a captive elephant, just 16.9.  Asian elephants appeared to fare even worse, suffering higher rates of infant mortality than their African relatives.  The researchers suggested that stress and obesity are the main culprits of these early deaths, concluding that “bringing elephants into zoos profoundly impairs their viability.” (more)

Meanwhile, Lucy continues to languish alone at the Edmonton Valley Zoo despite the fact that activists (including Bob Barker!) have been campaigning for her freedom for years, and at least one zoo is even expanding its elephant exhibit:

 In 2003, the San Diego Zoo captured and imported 11 African elephants from their natural habitat in Swaziland, despite the fact that the species is designated “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, leaving only 36 elephants in the whole country.  Experts working with the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, the longest running study of wild elephants in the world, decried the decision, stating that “Taking elephants from the wild is not only traumatic for them, it is also detrimental to their health. … No matter how well your zoo may treat the elephants, your visitors would not want to know what those tranquil elephants went through to make it possible for them to be viewed in captivity.”(more)

Some zoos which keep elephants mislead the public by claiming that they do so in the name of conservation, but that’s far from the truth:

 …even the zoo industry has stated that they have no intention of returning elephants in North American zoos to the wild;  nor do they believe that doing so would save elephants from extinction. Captive elephants breed very rarely, which is part of the reason that zoos continue to capture wild ones…(more)

Learn more about elephants in zoos–and zoos in general–at our new info page.

Lucy in the snow

Lucy stands in the snow in her tiny enclosure at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, where she has lived alone for years.

Girl bitten at SeaWorld’s Dolphin Cove

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

On November 21st, an 8-year-old girl named Jillian Thomas was feeding dolphins in SeaWorld Orlando’s Dolphin Cove when something went wrong.  The paper carton full of fish she’d been given to feed the animals was empty, so she turned away from the pool momentarily, her arm outstretched:

“…when the dolphin saw that, it leaped at me and bit me, ate the carton.”*

She suffered a swollen hand and three dime-sized bite marks, but she didn’t blame the dolphin:

Jillian held two dolphin stuffed animals as she recounted the ordeal, saying she hoped the dolphin didn’t get sick from eating the paper carton. She’s prayed for the animal at night, she said.*

Jillian is clearly a wonderfully compassionate person and a true dolphin lover, and I don’t blame her one bit for wanting to go to SeaWorld to be around her favourite animals.  When I was her age I had already visited countless dolphin exhibits and been to multiple shows, not realizing that I was supporting a cruel industry that dooms these sociable, intelligent animals to spend their lives in the equivalent of a lonely, barren fishbowl, sometimes tearing them away from their families to do so. I only hope that when Jillian gets older, she realizes that sometimes, the best thing we can do for the animals we love is to leave them alone.

jillian with dolphin

Jillian was nearly pulled into the pool.

This wasn’t the first such incident at SeaWorld’s Dolphin Cove.  In 2006, a 7-year-old boy was bitten while petting a dolphin under the guidance of an aquarium employee.  Three weeks earlier, a 6-year-old boy was bitten as well.  Both resulted in minor injuries.  SeaWorld has made no changes to Dolphin Cove, insisting even now that it is safe for children.

As Jillian’s father recounted:

“They asked if she wanted first aid, and I said ‘she’s bleeding’ so yes, we want first aid.”*

It’s not really a surprise: SeaWorld has an impressively subpar record when it comes to dealing with the safety of their guests and employees.  Everybody remembers Dawn Brancheau, the  trainer who was killed two years ago when Tilikum, a 6-ton orca, pulled her into the water and drowned her. Tilikum had already been involved in two deaths in the past, but he is also incredibly valuable to the aquarium industry, having fathered 10 of the approximately 42 orcas in captivity worldwide.  (Tilikum was back on the job 13 months later, apparently having the time in solitary confinement.) In 2009, trainer Alexis Martinez was killed while training for a Christmas show with another orca named Keto,and in 2006, trainer Kenneth Peters was violently attacked by Kasaka, an orca who had already bitten him severely seven years earlier.  (Fortunately, Peters survived with only puncture wounds and a broken foot, despite having been dragged underwater for a full minute, then released momentarily before Kasaka grabbed him again and held him under until he went limp.) Working with cetaceans is a dangerous job.

A survey commissioned by US Marine Mammal Commission and conducted by UCLA found that half of the people who work with marine mammals have been injured by them, and that of these injuries, one-third are severe: fractures, deep wounds, or wounds requiring stitches.

You can learn more about injuries at SeaWorld and other aquariums at our fact page.

 *All quotes for this post are from The Ottawa Citizen.

Another one??

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Jafira (Photo: Greater Vancouver Zoo)

A third giraffe has died at the famously incompetent Greater Vancouver Zoo in less than one year.  Last November, a female named Eleah and her son, Amryn, died within a week of each other; while ensuing necropsies didn’t reveal the cause, the Vancouver Humane Society noted that as African animals, giraffes are particularly susceptible to cold weather and have been known to die as a result of exposure in the past. (You can read our blog post about it here.)  Jafira, Eleah’s mate and Amryn’s father, was alone in his enclosure until the Greater Vancouver Zoo bought another male giraffe to keep him company.

This Sunday, Jafira died.  He was 12 years old, less than half the lifespan of an average giraffe, captive or wild. Zoo staff, who say that he was “completely healthy”, found him collapsed in his enclosure that morning, and a necropsy is scheduled. I wonder whether if it will be as inconclusive as last years’ were?

In the meantime, what will become of the last giraffe at the Greater Vancouver Zoo?  Will they just buy another one, as they did when Eleah and Amryn died? Ideally, he would be sent to a sanctuary of some sort, assuming there even are sanctuaries that can take giraffes.  (A quick search showed me that there’s at least a couple, but they all seem to be in Kenya.)  And while no zoos are good zoos, some zoos are worse than others: case in point, the Greater Vancouver Zoo.  Perhaps the remaining giraffe could be sent to another facility that has a larger herd of giraffes and a less pathetic track record when it comes to keeping them alive.

I don’t know that there are any easy answers here, but there’s at least one easy solution: don’t support zoos.  They are not the bastions of education and conservation that they claim to be and they do more harm than good.  So if you’re concerned about wild animals–and who isn’t?–skip the zoo and donate the cost of a ticket to a worthy charity that actually works to protect wild animals, rather than just paying lip-service to the idea.  (Be careful not to give your money to groups that claim to care about animals while supporting hunting and trapping and other forms of “wildlife management”, like the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Nature Conservancy.) One particularly great organization that I learned about recently is the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, which protects about 52 wild elephant families, or approximately 1,400 elephants, in Kenya.  They have an annual operating budget of $400,000–some zoos spend that amount to maintain just 4 captive elephants for a year!

Do you have any favourite wildlife charities?  Let us know in the comments!

Update, Nov. 7th: “The BC SPCA says its investigation into the death of a giraffe at the Greater Vancouver Zoo is being hampered because workers refuse to share key information.  SPCA spokeswoman Lorie Chortyk said her organization has been forced to seek a warrant to obtain documents the zoo could simply hand over willingly.” (article)

Way to go, GVZ, we certainly couldn’t expect any more from you.

Aquarium captures endangered sharks for “educational purposes”

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Despite the fact that sand tiger sharks are endangered, hunters working on behalf of Ripley Entertainment, Inc. recently received clearance from the United States government to capture ten of them “for educational purposes”.  (The Toronto Star)  Biologists claim that dozens of trips will be necessary to capture the 13,500 total specimens of fish, rays, and sharks, who will then be transported over the border to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, set to open next year in Toronto.

What do aquariums and zoos have to do with conservation and education?

Surprisingly little.

Despite outwardly confident claims of educational value, even the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums [the American counterpart to the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums] admits that while there “…is some evidence of zoo experiences resulting in changes in visitors’ intention to act, there are few studies demonstrating actual changes in behavior.”  Existing studies, however, indicate that  zoos and aquariums do little to increase the public’s knowledge of animals and of conservation-related issues. (more)

And did you know that…

…fewer than 5% to 10% of zoos, dolphinarium, and aquariums are actually involved in what would qualify as substantial conservation programs either in the wild or in captive settings, and even then, the amount spent on these programs is a “mere fraction” of their overall income.  A study conducted in 1999 showed that parks belonging to the Association of Zoo and Aquariums donated about one-tenth of 1% of their annual operating budgets on conservation efforts.  (more)

Sand tiger sharks are in particular danger from shark finning, which is why the work of groups like Shark Truth and VADL is so important.  (On a very related and positive note, Toronto recently banned the sale and possession of shark fin, as have the cities of Maple Ridge, Nanaimo, and North Vancouver right here in BC!  If you’d like to help, you can sign a petition here.)  Similarly crucial is the protection of our oceans and their inhabitants, the majority of whom are in desperate straits thanks to our avarice for seafood and our continued indifference to pollution.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada claims that it will use the sand tiger sharks as a tool to educate people, especially children.  “Sand tigers look like a mean, nasty shark, which makes them a powerful educational tool,” [vice-president of husbandry with Ripley Entertainment Inc., Joe] Choromanski said. “We get to say, hey, that’s not a man-eater.” (article)

It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s also a pretty empty one.  Sharks are not being killed en masse because we are afraid of them but because we are indifferent to their suffering and to the destruction of their home as long as it continues to benefit us.   Teaching children that sharks exist to swim in circles in big fish tanks does nothing to protect and preserve them; in fact, according to David Hancock, former zoo director, “Zoos have painted themselves as saviors of the wild…I fear this has instilled a false sense of security in the public mind. Many people now believe they don’t have to worry about saving animals, because zoos are doing the job.”

Animals at Stanley Park petting zoo sent to slaughter

Monday, February 13th, 2012

But it’s zoo business as usual.

The news came out today that some of the sheep and goats at the former Stanley Park Children’s Farmyard were sent to slaughter by Trevor French, owner of Golden Grounds Farms, who promised to take them in when the petting zoo closed.  Instead, it appears that the majority may have been sent to auction and slaughtered not long after having been adopted.

The agreement, the park board says, was that the animals would be allowed to live out the rest of their natural lives at their adoptive homes.

“…We followed very stringent, thorough practice to check everybody out,” [Park Board Chair Constance] Barnes told CTV, noting that letters of reference were sought and site inspections carried out. (source)


Gordon Barber, the park board’s manager of revenue operations, told the Sun the park board wouldn’t have allowed French to adopt the retired pets if they had realized he sold meat from his farm. (source)

Somehow, the fact that French runs a farm that specializes in free-range beef, lamb, turkey and eggs slipped past them.

Regardless of intent or negligence on the part of anybody involved, the fact remains that while French may be in trouble for breaking his contract with the city, he didn’t violate any laws.   This sort of thing happens all the time and has been documented over and over again.  Though in this case, the animals were sold because the zoo was closing, it is legal, routine practice for petting zoos to  send their animals to slaughter once they grow past the optimum age for cuddly cuteness.   Animals at zoos (the non-petting kind) frequently suffer the same fate: when babies are born, bringing in legions of new customers, it is the older, less popular animals that pay the price.  They frequently end up in slaughterhouses, in decrepit roadside zoos or travelling circuses, or even on shooting ranges and hunting ranches.  That includes bears, tigers, lions, antelopes, kangaroos, giraffes, hippos, and more.

Liberation BC will be posting a new info page on our website with more facts about zoos soon.  Watch for it!

Two Giraffes Die Within One Week at Greater Vancouver Zoo

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Giraffe at Greater Vancouver Zoo, by flickr user

A second giraffe has now died at the Greater Vancouver Zoo – both within one week.

On Tuesday November 15th, the Zoo’s 3-year-old baby giraffe was found dead in his enclosure. The cause of death is still under investigation. Now his mother has been found dead in her barn on Saturday, November 19th. The zoo has stated that the mother giraffe was considered a senior, at the age of 23.  This is the third giraffe death at the zoo; another baby died in 2006.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo has a very poor track record of taking care of their animals. In 1983, the zoo had two hippos in its care drown after falling through the ice after being given access to a frozen outdoor pond.

In 2004 the zoo lost its accreditation from the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums due to keeping 2 hippos in an unheated barn in severe cold during the winter months. A couple of years later, with no improvements in terms of animal welfare, CAZA reaccredited the zoo.  (Learn more about the shady business of accreditation here.)  Of these 2 hippos, Gertrude died in 2004 at the age of 22 (half the life expectancy of a hippopotamus); Harvey died a year later in 2005 at the age of 20. They both lived their entire lives in the zoo in substandard conditions.

In 2006, the zoo was charged with animal cruelty under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act as they were once again providing inadequate housing to a hippo: this time a baby Hippo named Hazina (you may know her from the very popular TELUS advertising campaign seen on TV and billboards a few years ago.)

The only water she was provided with was a 2 feet deep wading pool, not sufficient to help alleviate the weight of her 1,000 pound body on her joints. She was not permitted to go outside and graze; also, she was not provided with any rubber padding to help alleviate the weight of her body against the concrete in her enclosure.

In April of 2009 five zebras died after zoo caretakers carelessly released two Cape Buffalo into their enclosure, a decision which caused such extreme stress to the animals that they died of strokes.

Zoos are not sanctuaries. Giraffes and other exotic animals do not belong anywhere in Canada. These beautiful animals have to endure long winters trapped indoors, often in isolation; in the wild or on large sanctuaries in warm climates they have hundreds of miles to roam free and can fulfill their need for rich social interaction.

Please show your support for the animals and do not visit the zoo. Every dollar you spend is a vote – please do not support these facilities whose only aim is to profit off of the animals who suffer in their care.