Animal Profile

Raio: A Life Lived in the Moment

“Raio was graceful, full of peace and love right to the end. As she lay dying, I wept, and she comforted and consoled me, assuring me that it was alright. Then she was gone.” Many people will recognize Raio and her sister Maia as longtime mascots of Veg Food Fest and ambassadors for compassion and veganism. This is her story. Article care of Kenneth Butland It’s a sunny summer day in Nova Scotia, and Emre Uzun is enjoying a drive in the countryside with his new best friend, a one-year-old Golden Retriever named Raio. The year is 2005, and his heavy fog of depression—after many years of struggle and with Raio’s help—has finally lifted. A song by Nellie McKay comes on the radio: Yeah, it’s just me and my dog Catchin some sun We can’t go wrong “Raio looked out the window, soaking it all in, totally in the moment,” Emre recalls. His eyes well up as he recounts what happened next: “As the song played, I was filled with a profound sense of peace. I felt so alive and connected. It’s difficult to explain.” Emre also credits Raio with inspiring his decision to go vegan and become an animal… Read More


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The Inner Life of Animals

  When Peter Wohlleben released his book The Hidden Life of Trees, it changed what many of us see during a walk in the woods. And in much the same way, his new book, The Inner Life of Animals, will likely change the way many of us look at animals. The Inner Life of Animals is a science book that doesn’t read like a science book, likely due to Wohlleben’s personal anecdotes. And while animal lovers might already know some of the facts presented in this book, there is still much for us to to learn. Did you know, for example, that horses feel shame, rats regret bad choices, and butterflies choose the best places to raise their kids? But make no mistake: The Inner Life of Animals isn’t about giving animals human characteristics or personalities. As the author says: “The goal is not to anthropomorphize animals but to help us understand them better. More importantly, these comparisons serve to point out that animals are not dimwitted creatures clearly stuck a level below us on the evolutionary scale, creatures that experience only pale imitations of our rich range of sensations for pain and other such… Read More


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Animal Profile: Pigs

Care of Bonnie Shulman    Photo care of Bonnie Shulman Nobody respects a pig. Just ask President Barack Obama, who famously tried to reduce rival John McCain by saying, “You know, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” Pigs are far more sophisticated than the President realizes. Watch pigs living in peace and freedom on a sanctuary and you’ll find that pigs are tidy, playful, loving and intelligent, worthy of human compassion and respect. Pigs are far from dirty – they are some of the cleanest animals around. When given the room and freedom to decide, pigs choose to be clean and tidy. The reason they roll around in mud during hot weather is to cool off, as they do not have sweat glands. When the wind blows over them, the water from the mud evaporates, thus cooling the pig and acting as a sunscreen. Talk about smart! But we know that pigs are not given the room and freedom to decide how they live. Today, 63 million pigs live in horrific conditions in factory farms. Factory-farming conditions are no better in Canada, which exports more than 8 million live pigs to the U.S. Read More


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Some Brief Chicken Chat

Care of Bonnie Shulman    A rooster at Riverdale Farm care of Bonnie Shulman The world treats chickens as commodities, their wings to be nibbled with beer, but watch these flightless birds living freely on a farm sanctuary, and you might never want to eat one again. Chickens enjoy living together in small flocks, sunning, dustbathing, and scratching in the soil for food. A mother hen will fiercely protect her young brood, while the rooster proudly keeps watch over the flock. He alerts the hens if he senses danger, and when he finds a tasty morsel for his family to share, he calls them excitedly. Most surprising, perhaps, to the person who has never seen a live chicken, is their intense beauty, their feisty personality and their clear love of life. They are charming and endearing. Once you’ve watched chickens living joyfully and in peace, you will never be able to watch those Swiss Chalet commercials on TV again. You know — where a happy family eagerly anticipates dinner while behind them, bodies of broiler chickens turn on a flaming spit. According to the United Poultry Concerns, www.upc-online.org, a non-profit group promoting the humane treatment of domestic fowl, “every… Read More


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Animal Profile: Glorious Goats

Care of Bonnie Shulman    Photo care of Bonnie Shulman Like other farm animals, goats are terribly understood. Get to know them and you’ll find they are intensely intelligent. Watch how a goat studies your face when he first meets you. You’ll know you’re getting the once-over from a seasoned investigator! A goat is looking for anything new and unfamiliar: a button will do, or a camera (hold on to yours tightly). If a goat eats your jacket, don’t take it personally. It’s just part of the check-up! Goats are willing to eat almost anything. There have been stories of goats nibbling on tin cans and cardboard boxes. It’s not that they are terribly hungry, for the goats don’t actually eat the inedible stuff. It’s just that they are really curious about whatever is in their environment. Goats will chew on and taste just about anything resembling plant matter in order to decide whether it is good to eat. Goats are one of the oldest domesticated species, and as such they go by a lot of different names. Female goats are referred to as does or nannies, while males are called bucks or billies. Goat offspring are kids. Goats… Read More


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Animal Profile: Ducks – A Lot to Quack About

Care of Bonnie Shulman   Pekin duck by Bonnie Shulman. These ducks are farmed for their eggs and meat. But how could you eat a creature so beautiful? It’s hard to know where to begin when I write about ducks, because ducks are my personal obsession. On my flickr site I have thousands of pictures of ducks. Here in Toronto we are blessed to have many types of ducks either living here permanently or dropping by on their travels. Put simply, there are two types of ducks: The first, diving ducks, forage deep underwater for food. The smallest of the ducks, buffleheads, are divers and can be seen in spring and fall in Toronto. Dabbling ducks feed on the surface of water or on land, or by up-ending without completely submerging. The vast mallard population is Toronto’s prime example of a dabbler, and in the fall we are graced with the dabbling Northern Shovelers, easily identified by their massive schnozzes! What I love about ducks is their sheer, incomparable beauty. Their colours and feather patterns provide me with endless fascination. To me, each duck is a work of art. Having… Read More


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Animal Profile: Give Geese a Chance

Photo care of Bonnie Shulman. Even though they bear our country’s name, it has often been suggested in Toronto that Canada Geese be shot and used as food for the poor. I would like to counter suggest that we learn to appreciate our namesake geese and learn to live with them, as they have learned to live with us! Care of Bonnie Shulman You don’t get no respect, being a goose! If you’re not getting pooped on in the press for pooping a lot (well, what’s a goose to do?), you’re getting blamed for causing a plane to go down. As if geese flew into jet engines on purpose! Geese belong to the order Anseriformes, which includes all sorts of waterfowl. Even though they are waterfowl, geese spend most of their time on land. Their life expectancy is about 25 years. Geese are tremendously affectionate. If a goose gets sick or is wounded, a couple of other geese may drop out of their flight formation to help and protect them. They will try to stay with the disabled goose until they die or are able to fly again. Then they will either fly together or join another formation… Read More


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Animal Profile: Lobsters and Us

Care of Bonnie Shulman What do the movies Annie Hall and Julie & Julia have in common? Each features a gruesome scene in which a giggling woman struggles at the idea of putting a live lobster in a pot of boiling water, but does so anyways. Formulaic hilarity ensues. Why do people give in to cruelty, when they know full well it’s the wrong choice? Maybe because, in the case of lobsters, they look so “alien” to humans that it’s hard for the Annie Halls of this world to imagine that they perceive the world at all. But they do. Lobsters are living beings and really aren’t so different from us. For example: Like humans, lobsters have a long childhood and an awkward adolescence. Lobsters carry their young for nine months and can live to be over 100 years old. A 2007 study at Belfast’s Queen’s University suggested that crustaceans do feel pain. Pain helps them avoid behaviours that would cause them damage. But lobsters cannot avoid the damaging behaviour of humans. Lobsters live on the muddy bottom of oceans, where they are caught by lobster fishers using baited, one-way traps. Millions of lobster traps line the North American Atlantic… Read More


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Animal Profile: The Life of a Dairy Cow

Care of Bonnie Shulman   Got milk? Pity. If you’ve ever seen documentaries about farm animals like Peaceable Kingdom you’ll already know that cows are emotional animals with strong family bonds. Mother cows care for their calves and even other cows nearby will come over to meet a new calf and help out where they can. Farm Sanctuary, with shelters in New York and California, have endless stories to tell about the cows on their farms, such as Queenie, who escaped from a factory farm and immediatey began conversing with the other cows at the sanctuary. But for dairy cows, the chances to express themselves amongst others of their own species are virtually non-existent. A dairy cow’s life is a continuous cycle of impregnation, birth, and milking to provide one thing only – a constant supply of milk for human consumption and profit. A dairy cow will be milked for 10 months out of the year, including seven months of each of her consecutive nine-month pregnancies. Two to three times a day, seven days a week, she will be attached to an electric milking machine. In her narrow, concrete stall she can do nothing but await the next milking. When… Read More


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Animal Profile: Let’s Rave About Rabbits

Care of Bonnie Shulman   I first read Richard Adams’ Watership Down in my 30s. It became my life’s best book, defining my thoughts on life and death, war, conflict and friendship, personality and destiny. Watership Down is about rabbits. Each rabbit represents one of us. Read the book again, it’s worth at least 30 reads by my estimation. Which rabbit are you? Which would you rather be? As described in the book, rabbits truly have a hard life. Being prey animals, they are constantly on the watch for hawks, owls, wolves, bobcats and foxes not to mention wild or domesticated dogs. However, as they are considered vermin by farmers and proud owners of vegetable plots, their biggest enemy is humans. Rabbits in Australia and New Zealand are considered to be such a pest that land owners are legally obliged to control them. Rabbits are both hunted and bred for meat, and are most often killed by hitting the back of their heads. I recall a food editor of a major Canadian newspaper buying a rabbit, raising it to adulthood, and then, cuddling it close, killing it with a smash of a rock to the back of the head. “I… Read More


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