Animal Wrongs Rebuttal

by David T. Longo

Longo�s Aviaries Inc.
Meaford, Ontario, Canada

This submission addresses an article titled "Animal Wrongs" in the January 22, 2001 issue of Maclean's Magazine!

Overall this was an uninformed and misleading article. Unfortunately you have chosen to tell only one side of the story and neglected to inform people of the responsible and knowledgeable people and organizations in this country that actively lobby for better animal welfare. Certain issues were not addressed or addressed properly in the article. Some in particular I will comment on are legislation regarding animals and their trading, how they are associated with drugs and drug smuggling, smuggling vs. improper documentation, carriers of diseases, (eg. Salmonella) monetary values on animals, and certain individuals in Canada that were addressed.

I do have to agree with James Barbas of Alberta on some points. There is already legislation at a Federal level, the International organization CITES. In my opinion, the problem lies with CITES, Customs and their manpower and as this topic was noted in the article, legislation arises from all levels of government and I do agree there should be better rules and regulations implemented for control of animals and their welfare. Finding a way is something we can exercise. However, disease and its control here seems to be pointed at these exotic animals like zoonotic diseases associated with primates as well as the important Salmonella or Campylobacter that was addressed together with Iguanas and Turtles. Might I add that a bit over 10 years ago Agriculture Canada, now known as the "Canadian Food Inspection Agency" banned the import of turtles, more specifically Red-Eared Sliders that are prone to carrying Salmonella. As Mr. Barbas mentioned, you do not have to look further than raw poultry to find the same disease on the store counter. Myself, speaking from experience in the poultry industry, is something that has been trained for safer procedures to ensure this does not spread this is both controlled by H.A.C.C.P.and is also regulated by the C.F.I.A. but was not addressed in the article. This is one more star on the belt of Animal Rights Activists to point fingers at responsible animal keepers.

The statement of exotic animals being associated with drugs is preposterous! Stolen cars have been associated with drugs and seizures, even green beans this past week in B.C. have been associated with drugs, come on, wake up and smell the beans, coffee, cocaine! Throughout recent years media revelations have associated members of parliament, celebrities, athletes, all walks of life have been associated with drugs. This does not mean the roadside zoos or private collectors and breeders should be placed in the same category, this is unfair. There are more respected and responsible people that are members of Government and reputable zoos that put conservation and preservation of the animals as a priority than there are law-breakers. It is beyond my comprehension that private collectors and zoological parks may be labeled as criminals and punished for protecting the very species they are trying to save from extinction. These people are somewhat heroes, unselfishly doing their utmost to save thousands of species for further generations to enjoy. I believe they are to be commended, often nameless unheard of heroes. Therefore how can any justification be made to compare and what they are endeavoring to do to with drugs? The taxpayers expect legislation to be implemented properly, to stop the corruptness of this and to help the important captive projects that do exist in Canada and eradicate smuggling in Canada/US borders. This drug issue has no merit!

Two gentlemen were brought up and I believe words may have been misconstrued and misunderstood to have the public believe certain things that do not exist. Mike Flikkema of Fenwick Ontario was accused of smuggling thousands of exotic finches from Europe to Canada and then to U.S. because Canada has weak Customs control at our US borders. Now when Most people hear the word smuggling, they think of birds set in a very closterphobic situation, (eg. Luggage or tubes and tires) and when they reach their destination 70-90% of them are deceased. This was not the case. I think there should be a better term for it that was what happened. Sloppy paperwork or no paperwork was the real situation. The birds in this scenario were handled and shipped in safe shipping containers, but "smuggling" as it was portrayed did not take place. Again, I feel this is another attack to responsible keepers of animals where the public sees the term "smuggling". The next time they come across a breeder that keeps animals, they are labeled as taking part in the black market and questions arise as to how and where they obtained their stock. This is not so, I think the picture could have been painted more clearly to the reader that may be uneducated in this field! Other animal keepers like Michael Baron of Port Colborne, close to Mr.Flikkema in Fenwick has an estimated $2,000,000 worth of venomous reptiles. In this collection there are 3,000 animals, the majority being snakes. There is a sense of responsibility if you compare him to Kent Parsons that was charged with having a Saw-Scaled Viper in Toronto that escaped the enclosure. Mr. Parsons had 13 animals compared to 3,000 animals and none have been noted to escape from Mr. Baron. I believe it would be safe to assume, Mr. Baron is far more experienced than most would be led to believe. Because one person that may have a biased opinion of what is happening at his facility and may have been pleasurably welcomed to tour the facility and then attacks this individual because there are no locks on the enclosures and considers this dangerous. I think this is irresponsible and in poor judgement to publish for hundreds of thousands of readers across Canada. Responsible Herpetologists, Aviculturists and Zoologists across our country know and try to meet their needs to the best of their capability and know the physiological needs of their animals may construct enclosures that permit the animals from escaping. This comes with help of certain organizations that implement modeling programs to ensure the optimum keeping of these species. I am quite sure that Mr. Baron would have had a situation like the one in Toronto rise by now.

Responsible breeders and keepers are meeting the neccesary criteria, some better than well known public zoos for proper captive husbandry of these endangered animals. I agree there should be legislation to make sure the welfare of these animals is a top priority and CAZA (Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited facilities are our first step. Larger zoos should have the responsibility of the animals' welfare be the first priority before they dispose of surplus and do not know where it ends up. They should be sure that the animals are going to responsible agents, not dealers or brokers of the pet trade. One other particular issue that was failed to mention is that our animal rights activist friends are the same people that are part of the 2 organizations named in the article. "Animal welfare" and "animal rights" are 2 very distinct categories that seem to be misunderstood and misconstrued. Animal welfare is the focus that should be addressed! We all have to remember that it is not the animals' fault that they are now in captive situations. It is our duty to make sure they are properly cared for and preserved for the future now that they are in their present situations. Releasing any captive animal back into their native habitats is a disaster waiting to happen. The majority of all animals that exist in captivity need to be taught all the neccesary skills to survive. Sadly, with the lack of skills most animals learn when raised in their habitats, releasing these animals is an instant death warrant for them. This is something that is conveniently overlooked and used to the animal rights activists advantage to manipulate the public and misconstrue the truth when they expose the cute dogs, cats and other animals on their infomercials. I hope that my views that I briefly touched upon has been addressed and understood by all your readers.

Its interesting that they had no example of someone being caught actually smuggling a shipment of birds or animals. They really jump around a lot and intermix live animal and animal products. One thing I think merits attention and shows the inaccuracy of this article is the mention of Galahs being imported from Australia. Maybe it should be pointed out that many parrots in Canada are captive bred and Australia banned export in the 50's. They never mentioned how CFIA regulates import of all animals and animal products and actually has staff at all border crossings and major airports to regulate disease spread under the Health of Animals Act. Of course Flikkema shipments I presume were under CFIA control so how can they call it smuggling?

Yours in Aviculture,
Dave T. Longo
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