by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
The tedious trail of animal activism
Make no mistake; I have been part of many successful efforts to stop, or prevent, lethal culling of deer and other wildlife species. From time to time, self-styled animal activists ask, “How did you do it?,” with the “you” being plural. It is always a co-operative, multi-faceted process. But I – we – have had our share of failures, and long ago learned that “being right” is, while essential, not enough. The deck is stacked against us because legal culls of native wildlife are government-sanctioned, and the government—federal, provincial, or municipal—has more power and resources than do we. And, if they don’t play fair, we have to try other tactics, such as garnering media and subsequent public support for our positions.
Canada betrays its international legal obligation to endangered species
Recently, I read an op-ed piece by Michael Byers and Stewart Webb, co-authors of The Worst Procurement in the History of Canada: Solving the Maritime Helicopter Crisis (http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/worst-procurement-history-canada). Okay…that’s got nothing directly to do with our interests at this blog-site: animal protection and environmentalism. It discusses how the current government ordered a batch of patrol ships, budgeting appropriately, but without bothering to consider an essential and expensive component of each ship: a Cyclone helicopter. Without the helicopters, the ships cannot properly function!
Shhh...this is Canada, so it's all a big secret, but not a big deal
Day after day, week after week, they have died…for the last six weeks, in Cold Lake Alberta, oil has been leaking from oil extraction procedures and killing wildlife at a time when it is, in the forests, lakes, beaver ponds and muskeg of that northern region, at its most abundant. This is when loons, mergansers, common goldeneyes, geese and other waterbirds have their young out of their nests, when fish hatch, when young muskrat, mink, otter and beaver first venture forth into what was once a pristine environment.
For at least the last six or seven weeks, according to a Toronto Star investigation, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., has failed to stop an underground oil blowout now contaminating the region. The paper claims to have documents showing that some 26,000 barrels of bitumen mixed with water has been removed. A photo shows what appears to be a dead merganser…hard to tell because it’s coated in oil, but the region is full of them at this time of year, and their broods of downy youngsters. (See: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/07/19/nobody_understands_ongoing_spills_at_alberta_oilsands_operation.html).
A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear; Right?
As I write, an epic battle of long standing has escalated in Minnesota; I’m not going to assume what stage it will be at by the time you read this. And a disclaimer up front: It involves an old friend of mine, Lynn Rogers, a bear researcher who has gained widespread acclaim from both academia and the public for his work at the Wildlife Research Institute with wild American black bears. That said, I certainly hope I would not allow friendship to sway my views. If I thought his work was deleterious to its stated goals, I’d certainly say so.
First take on the Ikea Monkey Trial
I am guessing that Yasmin Nakhuda has never heard of "acquisitive mimetic desire", even though she displayed it to an absurd degree, thus contributing to an odious form of animal abuse: the exotic pet trade. It's the desire to have something because someone else has it, and is often used by advertising agencies and marketers to push products that people don't really need.
A Tale of Just Two Innocent Creatures
My last two blogs dealt with the days spent in a boat anchored just offshore of Middle Island, in the southern end of Lake Erie, the very southernmost land still in Canada, mere yards from where the country ends and the United States begins. I was there with my colleague, Liz White, to monitor and record Parks Canada's deadly assault on nesting double-crested cormorants. Staff armed with small calibre rifles and accompanied by spotters would walk up and down the island's length, usually hidden from our view by thick vegetation, shooting the nesting cormorants, and in the process causing havoc among the great blue herons, black-crowned night-herons, Canada geese and herring and ring-billed gulls also trying to make nests, lay eggs and raise babies on the otherwise uninhabited island. Great egrets were there, too, but the shooting has driven them completely away, even though they are noted for "nest site tenacity", the quality of staying with their nest even under duress.
Parks Canada Shows How Not to Conserve the Natural Environment
This is not the place to go into details, but in April and May I found myself on four occasions living in the 21st century, benefitting from GPS navigation, cellphones and my new digital camera, while viewing the bloody results of early 19th century thinking.
Or How I Spent the Past Few Days
OK. I’ll fill in the details in a later blog, but I here I want to talk about just getting back from Middle Island, a tiny 46-acre island in Lake Erie. I was anchored offshore, meters from the U.S. border, the most southern place one could be and still be in Canada. I was there with colleague Liz White to monitor gunmen as they shot hundreds of double-crested cormorants off their nests.