See what the Toronto Vegetarian Association’s Letter Writing Team has to say!

What is the TVA Letter Writing Team?

The Letter Writing Team responds to alerts of articles in the newspaper that discuss issues surrounding vegetarianism and animal rights by submitting letters to the editor. Sometimes they’re published and sometimes they’re not, but they’re always brilliant and regardless of whether they get printed, they let the editors know that readers care about the issues.

If you have a persuasive way with the written word then join our Letter Writing Team and help demonstrate to the public that people do care about animals, and that support for vegetarianism is on the rise. Simply send an email to Barbi with the subject “Letter Writing Team” to be added to the mailing list. Please note: As a member of the letter writing team, you agree that you will be sending in letters to the editor on your own behalf, and NOT as a representative of TVA.

What has the team written about?

Click below to read letters that have been submitted by team members.

Delicious and Healthy Veganism: March 2012

Fur Promotion: Toronto Star January 2012

PJ Pet Stores: Toronto Star August 2011

Chicken Barn Fire: National Post June 2011

Animals and Language: National Post May 2011

World Hunger: Toronto Star April 2011

Legal Rights for Animals: National Post February 2011

“Humane” Butchers: Globe and Mail January 2011

Foie Gras Ban at Winterlude: National Post January 2011 

Two Medical Schools End Use of Live Pigs in Research: National Post January 2011

Going Hard-Core Vegan: Globe and Mail March 2012

March 2012 in the Globe and Mail: Leslie Beck wrote a relatively positive article about veganism, but she did make it sound a bit difficult, bland and boring. TVA’s letter writers wrote in to tell the truth: that veganism is not only healthy, but also exciting and delicous!

Submitted by Bonnie Shulman **Published in the Globe and Mail March 22nd!**

I really wish foodies would stay away from stereotypes about veganism (Going Hard-Core Vegan: Rules For Health – Life, March 21). There’s nothing bland about a vegan lifestyle.

I went hard-core vegan five years ago, out of compassion for animals. Overnight, I stopped eating all animal products. Since I had been a fast-food junkie, the only vegetable I knew was a potato. So I had to go on a steep learning curve.

Today, I create simple and delicious meals out of things I never even knew existed: barley, tempeh, quinoa, all manner of greens and every single kind of vegetable in the produce section.

Bland? Oh my dear Globe and Mail, if you ever tried any vegan recipes, you’d know.

Fur Pelts Command High Prices : Toronto Star January 2012

January 2012 in the Toronto Star: TVA Letter Writers responded to claims from the Fur Council of Canada that fur clothing is more ecologically-friendly than faux. Click here to read the article and see the responses from our team below.

Submitted by Shannon Kornelson

The recent interview with Alan Herscovici (VP of the Fur Council of Canada), would actually be funny if it weren’t so sad. He argues that Canada has “some of the world’s best regulated, best managed, ecologically sustainable, humane trapping and farming practices”. His unfounded claims require a great deal of correcting:

“Best regulated” Fur farms have only ‘Recommended Codes of Practice’, they are not legally enforceable. Also, Canada’s Competition Act does not restrict the use of terms such as “natural” or “eco-friendly”.

“Best managed” The eastern population of the wolverine is listed as “endangered” and their western population is listed as a species of “special concern”. Despite this, western wolverines are still trapped for their fur. And how exactly does a trap discriminate between endangered and non-endangered species?

“Ecologically sustainable” ‘Green’ fur is an oxymoron. The animals often come from commercial farms that generate industrial amounts of animal waste and offal, not to mention the chemicals used in processing. Despite the unregulated “biodegradable” claim, these chemicals (acid, peroxide, chromates, formaldehyde, bleaching agents, dyes) leech into the environment and water supply.

“Humane trapping/farming” Industry often refers to the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS), but this agreement merely redefined the term ‘humane’ so trappers could continue to use leg-hold traps, an infamously cruel trap many Canadians don’t realize is still being used. Most fur animals are killed for their first winter coat, at about eight months of age. High quality fur products do not say anything about the animal’s health or wellbeing– only that the animal shed their dirty, matted infant fur just before being killed.

I hope in the future the Star will present an accurate picture of the environmental and ethical crises associated with the fur industry.

Submitted by Barbi Lazarus

You call that journalism? A one-sided interview with a rep from the Fur Council of Canada? Readers deserve to be informed truthfully. 85% of furs sold in the fashion industry come from factory farmed animals, designed to maximize profit at the expense of environmental and animal welfare concerns. These farms produce millions of pounds of feces that pollute waterways and contaminate the air.

Furthermore, before being offered to consumers fur is processed with a cocktail of toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde. Even if someone isn’t convinced that fur is not in fact ecologically-friendly as Herscovici called it, does it really matter when animals skinned for fur are subject to unthinkable cruelty that we would never consider acceptable for our pet dogs and cats?

PJ’s Pet Stores Ends Sales of Puppies in Canada: Toronto Star August 2011

August 2011 in the Toronto Star: Chain pet store, PJ’s, finally announced they will stop selling live puppies and instead focus on encouraging people to adopt. This welcome news was praised by the TVA letter writing team. Click here to read the article and see the responses from our team below.

Submitted by Anna Pippus **Published in the Toronto Star August 23rd!**

Kudos to PJ’s Pets for ending the sale of bred puppies in their stores, and instead working with shelters to facilitate adoptions. There are so many unwanted animals that need homes — and who are killed when homes can’t be found — that it doesn’t make sense to breed even more.  And replacing purchases from breeders with adoptions has a measurable impact. For example, since Albuquerque, N.M. banned the sale of cats and dogs in 2006, animal adoptions have increased by 23 per cent, and the rate of animals killed at shelters has decreased by 35 per cent.  Let’s hope more pet stores will follow PJ’s Pet’s lead.

Submitted by Shannon Kornelson

A big congratulations to PJ’s Pet Stores who recently announced they will no longer sell puppies from their store and instead encourage people to adopt from shelters. They have joined the ranks of many others in the companion animal industry who understand the importance of providing forever homes to animals who are no less deserving than those bred for profit. May this decision resonate with other pet stores and encourage them to take the necessary, progressive step of focusing their fondness for companion animals on the individuals who already exist, instead of supporting an industry that is as unnecessary as it is profit-driven.

Chickens Die in Barn Fire: National Post June 2011

June 2011 in the National Post: The post reported that 30,000 chickens were burned to death in a barn fire in Calgary, yet moments later in the same article stated that “no one was injured in the fire.” Click here to read the article and see the responses from our team below.

Submitted by Nigel Osborne **Published in the National Post June 10th!**

I was appalled to read the story regarding the massive fire at Spark Eggs in Calgary that killed 30,000 chickens. Not only did these poor, unfortunate creatures have their beaks cut-off early in life so they wouldn’t peck one another as a result of being unnaturally confined in urine and feces soaked battery cages, but they were burned to death in an unimaginably painful and horrible way.

And yet this article stated, “no one was injured” and “it looks like there’s going to be an egg shortage in Alberta.” Wow!

Submitted by Jana Crawford **Published in the National Post June 10th!**

I’d like to issue a correction. In your report of the fire that broke out at a Calgary factory egg farm, it was reported that “no one was injured in the fire” even though up to 30,000 chickens may have perished. Human lives aren’t the only lives that ‘count’; please be more accurate and considerate.

Submitted by Bonnie Shulman

I’m saddened that the National Post feels obliged to dismiss the lives of 30,000 chickens in a Calgary egg farm fire. You refer to the chickens as having been “wiped out”. How about burned alive, more like. Honestly, National Post, your disdain for all forms of non-human animal life is sick and twisted.

Animals and Terminology: Toronto Star April 2011

May 2011 in the National Post: Click here to read the article about the Journal of Animal Ethicists’ proposal to change the terminology we use to describe non-human animals.

Submitted by Nigel Osborne **Published in the National Post May 11th!**

Derogatory words often come in to being and evolve to reflect society’s general antipathy or contempt for someone or something different than ourselves.

The term “non-human animal,” for example, simply provides a contextual reference in hopes of creating a paradigm shift in how we view ourselves relative to the natural world of which we are undeniably linked.

Thus, when we begin to confront the arrogant concept of “dominionism” regards non-human animals, we start to employ the same rational thought processes that brought about changes regarding the issues of slavery and women’s suffrage.

Ending World Hunger: Toronto Star April 2011

Submitted by Shivangi Trivedi **Published in the Toronto Star April 26th!**

I read with great interest this editorial. I, however, disagree with your single-minded focus on biofuel production as the major responsible party in the world food crisis. There is a bigger and more dangerous culprit at play here: intensive livestock production.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” intensive livestock production and the intensive agricultural practices that are required to support it are not only destroying biodiversity and fresh water, but also the arable land in developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America.

Moreover, livestock production is also consuming an estimated one-third of the world’s crops production by the way of feed crop. Anywhere between 2 and 7 kilograms of feed go toward making one kg of meat. This is a real problem since the total meat consumption of the world has only increased during the past 30 years.

Clearly, the crisis is not one of food production, it is of food distribution. Biofuels may well be a contributing party in driving this food crisis. However, I was disappointed to see that the wastage of food in the forms of feed crops for intensive livestock production was completely ignored.

Extending Legal Rights to All Animals: National Post February 2011

February 2011 in the National Post: Click here to read the article about the need to extend legal rights to animals (including farm animals) in Canada.

Submitted by Jana C **Published in the National Post February 8th!**

It’s unfortunate Joe O’Connor conducted his interview with Professor Maneesha Deckha with a sarcastic tone. It would be nice if those who care about the welfare of non-human animals could be taken seriously for once. We should ask ourselves: If it’s not crazy for all humans to have rights, including those who are more mentally deficient than some non-human animals, why is it crazy to consider conferring rights on the latter as well? Expanding the circle of compassion and justice is something we should all more seriously consider.

“Humane” Butchers: Globe and Mail January 2011

January 2011 in the Globe and Mail: Click here to read the article about the rise of so-called “humane” butchers.

Submitted by Nigel O **Published in the Globe and Mail January 27th!**

I agree there might be improved sustainability by sourcing meat locally vs. industrialized agricultural operations. You’d support local farmers vs. the Con-Agra’s and Tyson Chicken’s of the world who employ illegal immigrants who work in poor conditions and experience the highest rate of workplace injuries of anyone. And you’d be transporting meat much shorter distances thus mitigating the energy-intensive nature of animal agriculture.

But just because you pet the cow on the head occasionally, let it graze naturally as evolution selected it to do and transport it shorter distances, you still have to slit it’s throat or slam a pressurized steel-bolt into its brain before dismembering it. Animal agriculture in itself is the antithesis of environmental sustainability due to: run-off of feces and urine pooling into slurry ponds and seeping into ground water, streams and wetlands; methane from livestock contributing to global warming; and the diversion of land use from crops or natural foliage that would otherwise remove CO2 and carbon from the atmosphere.

Eating meat means ingesting HCA’s (a carcinogen produced from cooking muscle meats). It dangerously increases levels of IGF-1 in the human body (a hormone that regulates cell growth). And it increases the risk of heart disease and obesity due to the naturally occurring cholesterol and fat. None of these facts change just because the meat is dissected by some ‘nouveau’ butcher vs. an underpaid menial labourer in a foreign country.

Submitted by Jana C

The owners of Sanagan’s Meat Locker and other more ethically inclined butcher shops (New Breed of Butchers Cater to Appetite for Sustainability – Jan. 25) proclaim that they aim to sell meat from animals who have been “humanely raised.” Yet nowhere in the article does the author specify just what this process entails. Perhaps the Globe and Mail should do an investigation into the fraud behind “humane slaughter.” Anyone seriously concerned about animal welfare would do much better to put their concern into practice by forgoing animal products altogether.

Submitted by Kasia M

While there is much mention of sustainability and humane treatment in Sarah Elton’s story on the so-called “new breed” of butchers, the article leaves out the nasty truth which links the altruistic organic farmer to the hipster former-vegetarian butcher: slaughterhouses.
Who slaughters these animals? Where and in what manner? The vast majority of abbatoirs are not only large-scale commercial operations, but many in Canada are owned by large American companies Tyson and Cargill, who supply the low-grade meat that makes up 99% of the meat industry. (source: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0005190)
There is no mention of slaughtering in this article, but isn’t that the most important step to look at if you’re going to deem meat “humane”? It’s all well and good for a butcher to move his block to the shop window- the animal’s already dead; let’s watch him bleed a live pig at street-level, or nail-gun a cow in the forehead, and see how Elton- and eco-conscious yuppies- convince themselves that meat is humane.

Foie Gras Ban at Winterlude: National Post January 2011

January 2011 in the National Post: Click here to read the article about the ban of Foie Gras from Winterlude’s Gala dinner.

Submitted by Kasia M **Published in the National Post January 14th!**

I wanted to inform the National Post and Graeme Hamilton of a wonderful new development in How the World Works; now, one can care about both starving children and animal cruelty! It’s true, the powers that be changed the ban on having compassion for more than one group at any given time.
Now bleeding hearts like me can find both the idea of foie gras- meaning fat liver, because the animal is force-fed with a metal rod until its liver is so engorged it cannot walk- absolutely repulsive and agree that with the several countries and jurisdictions that have banned it sale, as well as do meaningful work to prevent child poverty.
This summer, I built a school in Tanzania, working as a fundraiser and communications director gratis. My partner, incidentally, also finds foie gras repugnant, and- gasp!- worked in Niger this year, coordinating food distributions to malnourished infants with an international aid organization.
At once, you propose that those against the production and consumption of foie gras have too much compassion (for ducks) and too little (for children); but often the case is that a compassionate person has enough to go around.
I’d like to see a few more foie gras afficianados, like Jacques Cerf, on the frontlines helping these starving children he so single-mindedly prioritizes. Considering the cost of the stuff, we’d probably have better funding.

Submitted by Barbi L **Published in the National Post January 14th!**

The National Capital Commission should be congratulated for objecting to serving foie gras at their Winterlude gala. This decision should not be seen as just a reaction to “animal-rights activists”, it is a logical decision for anyone with even an inkling of a conscious, which is why Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland and Turkey have all banned the sale of foie gras. California is the latest state in the U.S to announce a ban on the cruel practice, taking effect in 2012, Prince Charles has removed it from the menu at the royal residence, and prominent veterinarians oppose its production.

Why is that? Contrary to Cerf’s claim that it is no more cruel than other forms of factory farming, it is inherently more cruel than other forms of meat production as it is produced specifically from animals suffering a disease (hepatic steatosis, a form of liver disease). Ducks are force fed with more food than they can naturally ingest, creating enlarged livers. Tubes are shoved down their throats several times daily, and food is pumped in. This process ruptures their throats and internal organs and causes many to bleed to death. Their swollen livers impair their ability to walk and breathe.

It’s about time Canada joined the rest of the world in stepping up to banning this cruelty.

Submitted by Bonnie S

I’m thrilled that foie gras is off the menu at Winterlude. What shocks me is that the National Post didn’t have the guts to run a photo depicting the condition of ducks and geese on a foie gras “farm”. What are you scared of? The truth?  Instead you give us the tirades of chefs who don’t care that farmers shove a metal rod down the necks of ducks and geese and pump their stomach full to bursting.  The birds choke on their own vomit, die in their cages, and are left to rot. The ducks and geese still alive scream with terror when they see the farmer coming with their metal rods.  National Post, visit one of the foie gras torture chambers in Quebec and write about that. Bon appetit!

Submitted by Jana C

I’m glad we’re seeing articles in the Globe and Mail and elsewhere   that focus on the controversy surrounding eating meat and/or animal   welfare (see, for e.g. “Duck-liver flap ruffles feathers of Ottawa   restauranteurs” – Jan. 12). The use and abuse of animals for arbitrary   and unnecessary purposes by humans is a topic that’s usually dismissed   outright by those who simply insist (often without argument) that such   practices are acceptable. It’s time we seriously question whether we   have good justification for using animals, most notably for food. Even   if one thinks that meat eating is ok in principle and resists taking a   strong animal rights perspective, it’s simply incredible to advocate   the way animals are treated on factory farms. What I and others in the   ‘minority’ ask from those in the majority is that they at least question whether they might be mistaken in holding fast to the ideology that animals are nothing but things intended for our consumption.

Two Medical Schools End Use of Live Pigs in Research: National Post January 2011

January 2011 in the National Post: Click here to read the article about the success of a PCRM campaign to end the use of live pigs in research.

Submitted by Barbi L

How ridiculous for people to claim that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has no place commenting on Canada’s outdated practices of using live pigs in trauma-treatment courses. When we witness atrocities in Rwanda or Darfur, do we not feel Canada is obligated to step in and urge their governments to take action and end the suffering?

PCRM is not just a bunch of “vegan doctors”, or left-wing animal activists as Blackwell’s article depicts. They are a well-established, respected group of medical doctors. They are among the widespread opposition coming from the scientific and medical community against the use of animals in medical research and teaching due to the fact that animals are poor surrogates for human anatomy.

For the people who claim that alternative methods aren’t as good as animal testing or training, why don’t they go and tell that to the 10,000 people born with birth defects thanks to thalidomide, for which animal tests had revealed it was “safe” for humans, or the 139,000 that suffered heart attacks (30-40% of them fatal) after taking Vioxx, another drug deemed safe for humans after animal testing.

This decision is a cause for celebration as we move towards better and more reliable, safe alternatives to animal testing in medical research and training.