On Wednesday, Oct. 28 Pond Inlet housed the Wildlife in Crisis event, a forum to discuss the often overlooked and underestimated issues concerning the welfare and treatment of animals in our society. The event was coordinated with Brock Students for Animal Liberation, as well as the Sociology of Wildlife course and Dr. John Sorenson, who also hosted the event. The students of the course displayed their projects concerning animal welfare in the second half of the event.
Wildlife in Crisis featured two guest speakers, Rob Laidlaw from Zoocheck Canada, an expert and author on the matter of animal treatment in zoos and captivity and Camille Labchuk, an
animal rights lawyer and board member of Mercy For Animals Canada who discussed the policy changes required to achieve adequate legal rights for animals.
Dr. Sorenson opened up the afternoon by discussing the concept of the Anthropocene, the designation for our current geological age that says humankind operates as the most dominant force in global climatic and environmental changes. He also discussed how this is not just a crisis for wildlife, but for ourselves as well, due to the interconnectedness of our planet with the well being of our people and the functionality of our society.
Laidlaw followed with a discussion on animal welfare and the needs of animals being held in captivity, as well as pointing out the problem with what people think the animal needs and what the animal actually needs. Many animals in zoos are faced with cramped enclosures that barely give them room to move and maintain a healthy lifestyle. When these basic freedoms are infringed upon, the animals are subject to mental and physical distress, which can ultimately lead to untimely death and overall poor qualities of life, such as the animals at Marineland. Laidlaw went on to articulate the importance of conservation areas and sanctuaries, where the number one concern is animal welfare, not financial gain or public accessibility.
The legal rights of animals were then discussed by Labchuk, who revealed to the room the deplorable representation of animals in Canadian law policies as well as how to translate our concern for animals into something tangible where we can see the change.
“Let me ask you a question. What’s the difference between a puppy dog and my Ikea table?” asked Labchuk. “Not a whole lot. The puppy dog is approximately equal in rights to an Ikea table in the eyes of the law. They are both pieces of property.”
She described the importance of grass roots organizations and starting small and local and working your way up to bigger issues on global scales. Using local politicians, media coverage and social media will help give you a larger platform for your voice to be heard by more people.
After thorough discussion and a question period, the students went to the upper area of the room to display their poster board projects having to do with the welfare of a variety of different animals and the way our society has interacted with that particular species. Laidlaw and Labchuk were invited to mill around the displays, conversing with the students and providing knowledge and insight into the professional side of environmental advocacy.