Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Hidden Toll of Euthanasia

I've used this Blog to comment countless times on euthanasia at animal shelters. I have also written a newspaper column in the Waterloo Region Record about the subject. It is a complex topic and I've celebrated the men and women who euthanize the animals as genuinely humane people who are doing the difficult work that much of the rest of society prefers to ignore.

These debates are raging at the Toronto Humane Society, where a shake-up of the leadership last year led to the ouster of the organization's president because of his steadfast resistance to euthanasia (as well as some financial problems that plagued the Toronto Humane Society under his leadership). Please read my column above if you wish to understand the controversy.

Recently, the Ontario SPCA quietly moved to euthanize about 350 animals - mostly dogs and cats. They euthanized about 99 before triggering heated anti-euthanasia protests. (Source) I almost always support nonviolent protests for animal rights, which the protests in Toronto have been. But on the issue of euthanasia and animals, it is also important to hold the public's feet to the fire. Too often, the public is let off the hook. We never want to castigate ordinary men and women; we prefer to look to higher places for sources of our social problems.

But much of the blame for the current crisis - and it isn't just in Toronto... animal euthanasia is a big issue in cities across North America - rests with mass public irresponsibility. Toronto Sun columnist Rachel Sa wrote an excellent column last week titled "People are the reason so many animals are in need." Check it out, if you get a chance. She says just what I'm saying.

Sa points out that people are doing a poor job of making sure their dogs and cats are properly spayed and neutered. And because we live in a throw-away society, too many people abandon their pets at local animal shelters with a "Somebody else will take care of the problem" attitude.

It doesn't help matters that most people are content to ignore the suffering in animal shelters that creates an Assembly Line Euthanasia situation. Just like most people don't want to know what goes on inside of a factory farm. They just want their pork, beef, chicken, etc., without knowing a single thing about the animals who undergo trauma, pain and ultimately violent death to furnish that meat. Just give us the meat - End of Story.

But it's not the end of the story for animals. Far from it. And until this dominant attitude changes - and believe me, it is dominant - animals will continue to suffer. Not just by the thousands. Not just by the millions. By the billions.

Denial, along with throw-away consumer culture, is the worst enemy of animals. And the ability of human beings to live in a state of denial, no matter how awful things get out there in the larger world, is profoundly unsettling.

Those of us who embrace a solidly Pro-Life Philosophy owe it to our nonhuman animal friends to shatter the veil of denial wherever it rears its ugly head. Once again, humans are failing animals. Once again, animals deserve much, much better.

Addendum: After posting the above Blog Post, a reader was kind enough to clarify that it was the Ontario SPCA, not the Toronto Humane Society, that pushed for the rapid euthanasia of animals. The Toronto Humane Society backed the protests against the rapid euthanasia. That section of the Blog Entry has been changed for the sake of accuracy, with my apologies for misstating the case. But the essence of the Blog Post, I think, remains correct. We humans need to take more responsibility for our animal companions.


  1. It was the regulatory body, Ontario SPCA, who were going to kill all 350 animals in their York Region shelter because some of them had ringworm. The THS led the protest against OSPCA that resulted in them stopping after 99. When the OSPCA raided the THS last November they accused the THS of not killing animals fast enough.

  2. Please note that Toronto Humane Society allowed animals to die in agony in their cages. Many, many animals died that way at THS.

    THS did NOT lead the protest against the OSPCA, but merely used it for marketing after the fact.

  3. THS euthanized more than 500 animals in 2008. They don't let animals suffer needlessly. If sick animals are treated, most will survive. If sick animals are not treated, all will die. That's the difference.