Toronto Zoo Elephant Road Transport -INHUMANE*HYPOCRISY*LIES
Here in a clip (at 1:20) from the November 27 Council meeting Councillor Michelle Berardinetti says there are many planes available yet barely two months later there are NONE?
It appears as if road transport was always their number one preferred plan not air despite their previous attempt to fly the elephants in a Russian cargo plane which was proven to be in contravention of International Aviation Laws for the transport of live mammals. By January of 2013 Zoocheck still did not have any viable air transport plans which they had been promising the public for 18 months. Email correspondence between the commercial transport provider and Zoocheck’s Julie Woodyer state that the transport crates the elephants had been training in for over a year had been for road transport only – the crates were NEVER built for air transport. When Zoocheck lobbied the Department of Defence, the zoo and city were required to answer an 8 question due diligence. In the official City of Toronto response which was again accessed through FOIA Zoocheck and the City of Toronto state that they have “exhausted all commercial options for air transport” citing that the crate for youngest and biggest elephant, Thika was too large to fit through any cargo hold doors. This was also claimed again in a legal letter sent by PAWS lawyers in Toronto to the DND. That same letter also indicates that Zoocheck and PAWS were concerned for the elephant’s health and the 4-5 day road trip.
“Furthermore one of the elephants has a serious foot infection which is the leading cause of death of elephants in zoos” it says, “This means it would be a serious hardship for that elephant to travel 4 1/2 days to California.”
Clearly the letter was dictated to the lawyers by Zoocheck’s Julie Woodyer. There is no statistical data to support the statement that foot infections are the leading cause of death of elephants in zoos. If Iringa has just recently recovered from a foot infection which Zoocheck’s Julie Woodyer claimed just 8 months ago was too serious to enable the elephant to travel by road transport safely and humanely what evidence or expertise does Ms. Woodyer have that Iringa has recovered sufficiently to travel by road now? Or was her foot ailment never as serious as Ms. Woodyer had claimed when a foot infection suited her motive to lobby the Royal Canadian Airforce or to convince Toronto Council the elephants had to be moved as soon as possible? This same “foot infection” was used at a July 2012 council meeting by Councillor Cho. He attempted 2xs to put forward a motion without notice to force a vote by council to order the elephants be transported in the Russian Cargo plane, with a low pressurized cargo hold in the middle of the hottest month of the year. They were willing transport the elephants in that plane without any consideration for the health risks involved. It is no surprise at this point they would do anything to get those elephants to PAWS, even if it means risking their lives. Now Iringa’s foot is much better thanks to the work of the zoo’s internationally acclaimed vet staff whose concerns and opposition to this transfer have been ignored and suppressed by the Zoo’s CEO and City Council, but is she well enough to travel 4200km by truck? The senior vet staff say no, the CEO ignored their professional advice. FYI he has as much experience in zoological veterinary care and the transport of large mammals as Zoocheck’s Julie Woodyer has. And that of course would be NONE.
Council and the zoo board reiterated again and again AIR TRANSPORT was the preferred humane option. Our investigation concluded that Zoocheck had been offered a viable transport plan using a Boeing 747 plane with engineered modifications to the crate so it could be loaded onto a commercial plane.
The difference between an inhumane 5 day road transport and air transport is just 5 inches. but is it really about money?
Recent FOIA from the City of Toronto accessed by Zoos Matters indicates that Mr. Barker is concerned about his money and will not pay transport costs up front; he wishes to be reimbursed by the city afterwards to “protect” his investment. They attempted to get a motion before council to address the issue but failed. The city reposnded by reminding Zoocheck that they are responsible for the transport. Zoocheck’s Julie Woodyer and her affiliates on Toronto Council, Councillors Michelle Berardinetti and Glenn DeBaeremaeker have publicly maligned and disparaged the zoo and its staff so much in the media that Mr. Barker now fears zoo staff will not cooperate on transport day and he will lose his money. FOIA evidence shows these councillors colluded with Zoocheck and were being spoon fed disparaging quotes about the zoo and staff by Woodyer.
When the zoo lost its AZA accreditation over governance issues the same media strategy was supplied to councillors again to dismiss the AZA’s standards as less than the standards outlined by PAWS accrediting body the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
Zoocheck rejected the commercial plan but did not clarify any of this to the Department of Defence. The DND only found out when the commercial transporter in question sent his quote to the DND which cannot compete with a commercial vendor. The PAWS coalition decided in the early spring of 2013 that the DND offer would be too late and chose road transport instead. Zoocheck’s Julie Woodyer once again claimed that the elephants might not survive another winter in Toronto, a statement she has now made two years in a row. Odd that Zoocheck claimed for so long that the elephants cannot survive another winter and are not healthy but then they claim they are healthy enough to survive a 4200km road trip? It seems the elephants health fluctuates dramatically in accordance to whatever Zoocheck’s current agenda is.
Ironically PAWS, Bob Barker and several of their animal rights affiliates in the United States have a bill before congress, the Travelling Animal Protection Act. In it they outline the serious affects even short transportation has on animals, from ones being transported for the food industry to circus animals. You would think that after the death of 3 seals last summer during the Zoocheck initiated transport from an Ontario Zoo to a zoo in Missouri that someone, anyone on council would have concerns for the lives of these elephants. Many animal rights and welfare groups lobby against this kind of inhumane road transport yet they are silent on this issue.
- According to the Animal Welfare laws in Ontario and the Animal Welfare Act the road transport plan is inhumane.
- According to what WSPA Canada lobbies for on behalf of livestock in transport to slaughter it is inhumane. According to the 28Hr law in the United States it is inhumane
- According to PETA if a circus transfers an animal for this length or time, chained and immobile it is inhumane, in fact according to many animal welfare activists it is INHUMANE.
Additionally the Federation of Canadian Humane Societies states; exceeding the duration of recommended transport times by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies qualifies as putting an animal in “distress” (here pg.13 subsection 64) and (here). The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies does not recommend transportation longer than 52 hours for farm animals; so the land transport plan of 50+ hours suggested by Zoocheck is a number strategically chosen to avoid direct contravention of what is cited in the Federal Health of Animals Act.
It is inhumane to transfer three disease-free animals (two ageing) 4200km cross country chained in a crate on a truck for 4.5 days (or 65+hrs) to a facility with a known tuberculosis outbreak and proven risks within the herd they will be integrated into. It is inhumane because there is a closer, disease-free facility willing to take these elephants. For $250k in transport cost savings to Florida the City of Toronto will risk the lives of the Toronto Zoo elephants.
At the November 27th, 2012 Council meeting Councillor Raymond Cho, a zoo board member and supporter of PAWS said,
“Our elephants are so old anyway what difference does it make if they die from tuberculosis?”
Councillor Josh Matlow chimed in with more words of political wisdom with this,
“If the elephants could choose for themselves don’t you think they would choose to take this risk?”
Would you take this risk? With your own pets or loved ones?
What would you do if someone tried to force these risks on you?
It is ironic that these elephants are being exploited by animal rights groups to gain a victory and momentum for the anti captivity movement considering the accusation of exploitation activists hurl at zoos. We feel it is unethical to send three healthy disease free animals into a facility with clear cut disease prevention protocol failures and little transparency. The trip to Florida is considerably less in distance for transport, the climate is warmer year round, TNEC provides more space to roam (225 acres vs 80 acres) and living in multi generational family groups is the key to happy elephants in captivity, not space but family. It is the number one factor which is attributed to healthy elephant sociology in the wild.