Accompanied by a howling wind and pulsing with a life all their own, the colourful, shimmering lights of the aurora borealis flicker across the night sky. Each vibrant colour of the rainbow merges seamlessly with the next, reminding us of the intricate patterns in the rich tapestry of life that we share with others across the vast wilderness we call Canada.
However, as we look around us eyes filled with wonder, that wonder must be tempered by the knowledge that nature and the animals, both domestic and wild, which we cherish so greatly, are facing more clear and present dangers than ever before.
In the desolate windswept ice fields off the coast of Canada more than 335,000 seals were killed this year.
Progress in finding alternatives to the use of animals in research is proceeding slowly, and hundreds of thousands of laboratory animals still endure avoidable pain and suffering.
In the Pacific Northwest, the roar of chainsaws shatters the serenity of some of the last old-growth forests left standing in the world. Several thousand miles away, the next phase of construction on a hydro dam will flood a pristine wilderness, endangering the lives of countless numbers of wild animals.
In the St. Lawrence River, the lifeless body of a beluga whale washes ashore, so riddled with pollutants that it's corpse must be disposed of using guidelines for the handling of toxic waste.
Under cruel conditions tens of thousands of horses, many of whom have been discarded by the racing industry and are destined for slaughter, are imported each year from the United States.
As many as 20,000 young dogs have been imported from US puppy mills, adding to Canada's problem of pet overpopulation.
The situation facing us is serious; the problems, intimidating; the challenges, immense.
However, now there is a new symbol of hope for the protection of animals and the environment. A bold initiative was launched with the formation of The Humane Society of Canada (HSC).The Humane Society of Canada has been able to work across Canada and in many parts of the world, coming into contact with many dedicated men, women, and children who are striving to create and sustain a truly humane society.
If you believe as I do, that one person can truly make a difference by force of his or her belief, we will draw inspiration from one another to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Our concerted efforts will represent a powerful moving force for social change. We will add our voice to those of the many other concerned individuals and organizations battling the cruelty, suffering and indifference that at times threaten to overwhelm our efforts on behalf of animals and the environment.
Despite the best efforts of committed organizations and individuals, both in Canada and around the world, there is still much work to be done. For now, the questions are more urgent than ever before, and their answers do not come quickly enough.
In addition to the problems mentioned earlier, here are just a few examples of the projects The HSC has worked on:
- countering the efforts of the Canadian fur trade industry to wreck a European Union import ban on furs from wildlife caught in leghold traps.
- promoting alternatives to the use of animals in research
- moving forward with an educational campaign to alert parents and children about the physical and psychological cruelty inflicted upon captive whales and dolphins
- formulating a comprehensive strategy for carrying out effective relief operations in the case of natural and human-caused disasters
- addressing the problems of pet overpopulation through vigorous public campaigns aimed at instilling the principles of responsible pet ownership
- encouraging safeguards to slow down the headlong rush toward the use of biotechnology
- expanding the delivery of effective humane education programs in concert with other groups and individuals
- mounting specialized undercover investigations to expose animal abuse
- examining strategies to overcome the negative impact of international trade negotiations upon animals and the environment
- battling harsh conditions in faraway places: joining the staff of other humane organizations in the fight against cruelty and abuse, we will lend our strength to struggling organizations in developing nations
- in this way we can properly reflect Canada’s tremendous multicultural diversity which is the backbone of our country (my own family were immigrants from Ireland and Scotland, and the families of our staff and volunteers have come from countries such as Wales, the Ukraine, Peru, China, Korea, India, Portugal, Greece, Latvia and the Caribbean)
- at the same time we can protect Canadian interests, learn from the experiences of others and lend Canadian expertise to such international issues as:
- Working to stop the import of slaughter horses from the United States
- Campaign against foreign trophy hunters killing Canadian wildlife
- Expanding the European Union ban on the import of seal pelts from Canada
- Working to stop the import of dog and cat fur from China
- Shutting down puppy mills which export to Canada
- Protecting bears from being killed in Canada so their bear galls and parts can be exported to Asia
- Promoting carefully structured ecotourism to watch wildlife instead of slaughtering them
- Working to expose the effects of overfishing by both Canadian and foreign vessels around the world
- Protecting tropical rainforests and coral reefs
- Promoting solutions and the establisment of laws to combat the problems of climate change and pollution which have a direct impact on our disaster relief efforts and on the health of living thing on earth)
- Stopping Portugeuse-style bull fights
- Breaking up international dog fighting rings
- Lobbying at international treaties like the WTO (World Trade Organization), CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species), IWC (International Whaling Commission), NAFTA Environment Council on Co-operation
- Undercover investigations and liaison with Interpol and the World Customs Organization and other law enforcement agencies to combat wildlife traffickers
- Preventing the inhumane rearing/transport/slaughter of farm animals exported to Canada
- Fighting the influence of Japan in encouraging Canadian whale hunts
- encouraging farm-animal reforms and exploring the linkages between intensive-farming operations, predator-control programs; and environmental damage
- working to stem the terrible loss of habitat and wildlife species caused by commercial operations aimed at the "sustainable" use of living natural resources
We will make real and significant progress in dealing with these issues, although progress may often appear overshadowed by reports of crises or disaster. Progress may well be less rapid or more unevenly distributed than we might hope for, but that will in no way diminish the importance of our achievements.
For each setback and each obstacle in our path, there will be a moment of triumph and success. I would like to share with you just such a great adventure.
In September 1991, following a careful period of rehabilitation, and after a combined fifty-six years of captivity, three dolphins, "Rocky", "Missie", and "Silver", were released into the sparkling turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
I was fortunate enough to be in the water with these dolphins when they were returned to the wild. I have never had such an uplifting experience as the sight of those three dolphins, still bearing the scars of their years of confinement, streaking out into the open sea.
Post-release monitoring has confirmed the dolphins are thriving in their ocean environment. For Rocky, Missie, and Silver, the "ocean" no longer has walls.
Many people have asked if the dolphins displayed any signs of gratitude for their newfound freedom. In fact, as they swam circles around me, I had the distinct impression that they were asking me to get out of their way!
If they were trying to deliver any "message", I believe it was simply this: "What took you so long?"
--Michael O'Sullivan, Executive Director, HSC