Written for Daily Hive by Rebeka Breder, an animal rights and pet lawyer in Vancouver, who founded the first exclusive animal law firm in Western Canada.
At this time of year, I usually reflect on the past 12 months to see if animal law has improved. I think about my cases defending dogs, pet custody, condominium disputes involving pets, keeping the government accountable regarding how it treats animals, etc.
However, now, more than ever, I cannot stop thinking about the hypocrisy in the way we have been dealing with COVID-19 and our relationship with animals.
We wear masks, wash our hands, and we have drastically changed the way we socialize and do business to adhere to social distancing rules. Which are all very important to follow.
Then, we sit down to have chicken or other meat for dinner, wear down in, or have fur-trim on, our jackets, and stick fake eyelashes made of mink fur on our eyes.
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What does the global pandemic have to do with the way we use or treat animals?
We know that the coronavirus originated in China last year. We may never know the exact origin of it, but scientists and researchers generally agree that the virus likely jumped from an animal to humans in a “zoonotic spillover” event.
Let’s not get caught up in criticizing China. Instead, we should take a much closer look at our own country.
Canada kills over 800 million farmed animals a year. We also have “wet markets” (where some believe Covid-19 originated from in China), although we call them “fish markets” or “farmers’ markets”.
There are less than 100 fur farms in Canada, many of which are in British Columbia. Yet about 2.5 million animals, mainly mink and foxes, are killed annually on fur farms. That is an alarming high number, given the relatively few farms.
The vast majority of all these farmed animals – whether they are raised for food or fur – are kept in horrible conditions, where they crammed together in small and high density (often concrete) spaces, and they are physically close to the people who handle them – ground zero for the making of a future pandemic.
In fact, just recently, eight workers on a Fraser Valley mink farm contracted the coronavirus and over 200 mink died, likely because of the virus. An infectious disease doctor and animal protection organizations such as the BC SPCA, Furbearers and the Vancouver Humane Society are calling for a ban on fur farms due to the risk of coronavirus transmission from animals to people.
Every time we eat meat, or use or consume an animal product, we are literally contributing to the making of another global pandemic. I am an animal lawyer by profession and by personal passion. I believe that judges and legislation can improve animal protection.
I also believe that there is unbelievable power in what we, as consumers, demand and refrain from buying – that is also what will lead to the eventual drastic decline in the use and mistreatment of animals.
We can make better choices in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the products we purchase by avoiding animal products altogether.
I do not expect everyone to go vegan tomorrow. I also recognize that there are people who cannot go vegan in some parts of the world, while others will not eliminate animal products from their diets for various reasons. However, for many of us who live in Western, urban environments, there is no reason we cannot – at least – reduce the amount of animal products in our daily lifestyle, including diet.
You can follow the Vancouver Humane Society’s Go Veg campaign for easy and productive ideas on how to incorporate more plants in your diet.
I do not believe in shaming people or making them feel bad about their lifestyle choices. That is not the point of my comments. Some of the closest people to me are not vegetarian nor vegan, and I love them because they are good, genuine, people.
This also isn’t about perfection, or beating ourselves, or others, up for “breaking” a vegan “rule.” I am not perfect, nor do I profess that my own vegan journey has been perfect.
This is about creating a more humane and healthy future.
Going into 2021, I whole-heartedly hope that we will all reflect on our own plates and lifestyle in order to take active steps to reduce the number of animals we consume and use. If not for the sake of animal protection, then for the sake of avoiding another global pandemic.