Trollers’ Threats Are Hurting Fight To End Animal Cruelty
A Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted September 20th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
This past Saturday, I turned on the radio in my car to a report on CBC that a veterinarian in St. Catharines who was recently suspended for abusing animals in his car was receiving death threats.
And that, on top of the hitting and choking of animals that the vet admitted doing before the College of Veterinarians of Ontario suspended him for 10 months with a chance to return to work in six months if he paid $10,000 for some training on how to properly restrain animals, was bad enough.
Now I pick up one of the daily newspapers in Niagara to a front page headline that now, according to the vet’s lawyer, his children have become targets of threats by people irate over the stories circulating earlier this September about the vet’s cruel treatment of the animals in his care.
This past Friday, September 16th I joined in the anger many people rightfully felt for this vet’s conduct and for the slap on the wrist he received from a College of Veterinarians I’ve already lost a lot of respect for over the years by posting a commentary on this site demanding much tougher penalties, right up to and including jail time for the worst offences, for individuals found guilty of abusing animals.
This Monday, September 19th, I followed up by posting news that Niagara Action for Animals (NAFA), a long-time citizens’ advocacy group for animals, is planning a candlelight vigil for the evening of Monday, September 26th outside the Skyway Animal Hospital in St. Catharines where the vet committed the bad deeds and where he could go back to work again if others at the hospital let him, and depending on what comes out of just commenced investigations of the whole affair by Niagara Regional Police and the local Humane Society.
I posted the piece about planned vigil in spite of the news already out there about the threats against the vets because I have been following the activities of NAFA for years and that group has had a longstanding record of peaceful protest. In fact, its members have taken their share of abuse from people who have cursed them and worse as they stood outside zoos or animal circuses doing nothing more than handing out literature and holding up picket signs.
But there are apparently some people out there who have chosen to turn their anger over what the vet has done and what his association didn’t do by way of punishment into threats against him and young members of his family. And that is where I get off the train.
The trolls who are making these threats are not doing anything to further the cause of preventing animal cruelty. In fact, their behaviour is doing a cause that has been a tough enough one to champion as it is, far more harm than good.
The harm comes, first and foremost, by playing into a narrative that has long been out there that people are mostly “crazies” or “fanatics” who care more about animals than they do about other people.
These threats against the vet and his children also come just days after police and humane society officers agreed to pick up where the College of Veterinarians pathetically left off. And, instead of focusing all their attention on what the vet did to animals and whether or not charges should be laid, they now, quite rightfully, have to focus some of that attention on individuals who might do harm to the vet and his family.
It is bad enough that we have Donald Trump and some of his more fanatical supporters across the border, making all kinds of reckless, ill-advised verbal threats against others. Now we have this issue that – for the sake of animal welfare, if that’s what we really care about – could be handled so much better.
The mishandling of the issue began with the College of Veterinarians that has given a public appearance of not caring all that much about animal welfare by taking it so easy on the vet rather than revoking his license to practice permanently. And it has continued with those who channeled their anger at how lightly the College has treated this case into threats against the vet and his children.
It also hasn’t helped to have the lawyer for the vet, defending the vet’s conduct in a recent newspaper article by saying he is a native of a region of India where animals are treated “differently” than they are here.
Isn’t that nice argument to make at a time when some ‘old stock Canadians’ are already accusing more recent arrivals to the country of engaging in “barbaric cultural practices?” If I were a Canadian of Indian descent, I’d seriously be thinking about trying to slap a gag order on that lawyer!
I’m sorry counselor. I know it is your job to defend your client, but I don’t buy it. I’ve met a good number of people from India and most of them strike me as kind and gentle people, and I do know there is a statement that was made about animal welfare by one of the greatest leaders of that country from the last century, Mahatma Gandhi, that goes like this; “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
So let’s not blame the individual’s country of origin or cultural upbringing or, as the College of Veterinarians might have it, a lack of training in how best to restrain animals, on what a number of videos, secretly recorded by other animal hospital staff, revealed of the vet’s behaviour.
Instead of all that, and particularly instead of threatening the vet and his family, would it not be better for the sake of animal welfare to give the police the room and support they need to carry out their investigation?
And while we are at it, we should call or write our MPPs or provincial members of parliament and demand that policing of veterinarians be taken out of the hands of the College of Veterinarians.
Furthermore, and based on years of anecdotal evidence from pet experts outside of veterinarian circles and on an expose done by CBC’s Marketplace program a few years ago on alleged cases of veterinarians overbilling pet owners and prescribing redundant or unnecessary procedures, we might also ask our provincial government representatives to approve a comprehensive review of veterinarian practices in Ontario.
Those are things we could be doing and demanding that might advance the cause of animal welfare in the region of the world.
To watch the undercover story CBC’s Marketplace did on veterinarians, click on the following –
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