Roger Clarke: Ignoring animal cruelty while fighting for environment is foolish

Here’s a bit of news that really should be more surprising: On March 23, the Dogwood Initiative staged a demonstration at Liberal MLA Ida Chong’s office in Victoria. The environmental group was upset over a provincial government decision to allow private land to be removed from tree-farm licences without compensation. Chong’s silence in regards to this issue inspired the protesters to toss six live chickens into her office to make the point that she was being “chicken” and squawking without actually doing anything.

Several animal-protection groups, including Liberation B.C., the Vancouver Humane Society, and the B.C. SPCA, were outraged, and asked Dogwood to apologize. Two days later, after initially insisting that the chicken stunt was the act of a random University of Victoria student and therefore not their responsibility, Dogwood issued an apology and admitted that the activists involved were, in fact, affiliated with it.

Why should this be surprising? Well, we should expect that environmental and animal-protection groups would be working together closely enough that an incident like this one would be baffling.

It’s not news that animals benefit from environmental protection. One of Dogwood’s major campaigns is against oil tankers—and what evocative image does an oil spill call to mind? A bird or an otter covered in crude oil. In fact, Dogwood’s own No Tankers campaign has a loon as its symbol. When we disturb an ecosystem, when we overfish, and when we pollute, animals suffer. Habitat loss causes animal suffering. Climate change causes animal suffering.

Even if you are unconcerned with animal welfare—even if your only goal is to preserve the environment for future generations—it makes sense to acknowledge that this is a two-way street. True, animals benefit from environmental protection, but what we sometimes forget is the fact that the state of the environment is similarly reliant on our treatment of animals. After all, many of the worst causes of environmental destruction are related to some of the most extreme forms of institutionalized animal cruelty.

Scientists have clearly demonstrated that animal agriculture is a leading—probably the leading—contributor to climate change, more significant even than all the cars, trucks, and airplanes in the world. Livestock farming is a terribly inefficient way to use land. When we raise fewer animals, fewer trees are knocked down for farmland and for grazing. Feeding massive amounts of grain and water to farmed animals and then killing them and processing, transporting, and storing their flesh is extremely energy-intensive. Meanwhile, waterways are polluted with the run-off from lagoons of animal manure.

Those who want to protect the planet should work hand-in-hand with groups focusing on animal advocacy, and vice versa, for maximum benefit. Ignoring humanity’s environmental impact while fighting against animal cruelty is counterproductive. Disrespecting animals in an attempt to benefit the environment is similarly foolish.

The six chickens dumped at Victoria Animal Control could tell you that.

Roger Clarke is a director of Liberation B.C.




Apr 14, 2010 at 8:52pm

I've met several PETA types and animal "liberators" like Mr. Clarke who invariably are not vegetarians and who also own leather products.


Apr 14, 2010 at 11:05pm

Great article, Roger. It's always concerned me when environmentalists don't care about animals but want people to save endangered species. What's the point of saving something only when they are about to be wiped out? Even if enviros are completely incapable of caring about anything other than the environment, they should at least stop eating animal products. Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation combined. Real environmentalists should be concerned about that.

Pat, excellent point about the cruelty of leather and meat. I recommend the movie Earthlings if you are interested in learning how meat and leather are produced. You can watch it for free at


Apr 14, 2010 at 11:36pm

@Pat You don't even address the issue that Mr. Clarke is presenting. It is pretty clear that doing our part to help the environment is very commonly linked to issues of animal welfare. Even if we don't go completely vegetarian, we can reduce our global footprint by cutting down on our meat consumption - it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, for seafood, relieve pressure from the collapsing ocean fisheries. And just as an additional note, the vegetarians that I know in my life are amazing, compassionate, self-aware individuals, who care about the animals but also environmental and human issues.

Excellent article!


Apr 15, 2010 at 4:52am

What a shame they didn't do this in Vancouver, they would have been the first violators of the Chicken Constitution.

"Several animal-protection groups, including Liberation B.C., the Vancouver Humane Society, and the B.C. SPCA, were outraged"

You know over a billion *humans* go hungry on this planet everyday, and even more are living under tyranny, being denied basic rights. The people in these groups might consider growing up and being "outraged" about that instead of chicken crime.

Spent Hen

Apr 15, 2010 at 10:43am

Birdy's comments are typical of those who don't realize that two wrongs don't make a right. I'd like to know what he/she is doing about all those starving people. Probably nothing.

sars bc

Apr 15, 2010 at 12:13pm

Do you know why this happens????

*You know over a billion *humans* go hungry on this planet everyday, and even more are living under tyranny, being denied basic rights.*

It happens because there are so many closed minded SELF-CENTERED people out there who feel nothing for any other living being except themselves. If people were not so quick to dismiss the pain and suffereing of other beings, perhaps there woudl be hope for mankind.

Get out in the real world Birdy!


Apr 15, 2010 at 1:08pm

Liberation BC (ie, Roger Clark and Co: Glenn Gaetz and his wife Joanne Chang) need to turn that critical eye inward and be outraged at their own exploitation.

Yeah...they're the upstanding citizens I want to listen to about animal welfare and the environment.

Liberation BC isn't for 'animal welfare', folks, they're for 'animal rights', and they often use environmental concerns to take the meat off your plate (eg, unsuccessful "campaigns" against foie gras, protesting at KFC) and your dietary choices away from you. The meat on my plate is just fine where it is.

(And Glenn, before you get into the whole usual 'I love it when people resort to personal attacks, it just means they're afraid of the truth', you can see these are actual links and these things actually happened. A personal attack would be if I called you a shithead.)

Alright veganazis, start furiously clicking that 'disagree' button over and over. :)


Apr 15, 2010 at 4:00pm

Nice article Roger. I was astonished that Dogwood allowed chickens to get tossed around at their event - they'd always seemed like such concerned people. I'm glad they stepped up and apologized. I'm also very glad that the chickens were not harmed and that they've found a home.

It's sad to think that even environmentalists are really only interested in saving the environment for us to use as we see fit. We aren't the only ones living on this planet and we need to learn to share the earth with the other residents, without hurting or terrorizing them just for our own pleasure.


Apr 15, 2010 at 7:52pm

Can someone elaborate where/when the animal cruelty appeared? If the chickens were not harmed, why is Dogwood being associated with animal cruelty?
They're domesticated chickens, and not mortified of people. They're not tiny, wild birds that die of stress if picked up by a person.
Making Dogwood appear morally responsible for "ignoring" animal cruelty is a bit of a stretch, unless I spiritually believe chickens are equal to humans.

Yes, we have problems with animal agriculture ! Dogwood did nothing to support it anymore than most non-vegetarians do everyday around 5pm though.

"To acknowledge that this is a two-way street" the author might have to be a bit less whimsical in labeling Dogwood ignorant of animal cruelty, allowing sides to work together-- vegetarian beliefs aside.