Feline fur flip-out
The fur was flying outside the Chinese Consulate on St. George Monday, February 6, over China's involvement in the skinning of dogs and cats for fur for export.
About two dozen animal rights protestors from Canadians Against Dog and Cat Fur (CADCF), some of whom brought their pooches, took part in the international day of protest to urge a boycott of all goods made in China until it enacts a ban on the dog and cat fur trade and the live skinning of any fur-bearing animal.
According to CADCF, more than 2 million cats and dogs are rounded up and slaughtered for their fur, mainly in China, but also in Thailand, the Philippines and the Czech Republic.
The skins are used for fur-lined garments (some of which are exported to Canada, allegedly under false labels) because, says CADCF spokesperson Ariel Lang, "they're cheaper to produce than synthetics."
"This is unacceptable," says Lang, who's seen gory video footage shot by international humane societies showing, in some instances, the skinning of live dogs for their fur.
"Some of the dogs I saw had collars, so they were somebody's," she says.
Consulate spokesperson Yan Sun doesn't deny outright that the practice takes place, but says, "If these practices [occur], they can only be treated as isolated cases."
Sun says the State Council Information Office, along with wildlife conservation authorities, held a conference last month to address the comprehensively regulated breeding and skin-taking techniques used on fur-bearing wildlife.
The Fur Council of Canada, meanwhile, says it doesn't use domestic cat and dog hair and insists it has a monitoring system that ensures animal fur is correctly labelled.
The council's executive VP, Alan Herscovici, calls animal rights activists' condemnations "cultural imperialism trying to make [Chinese fur traders] sound barbaric."
"In North American shelters, we euthanize millions of dogs and cats' we're wealthy enough to throw them away. But in parts of China dog is regarded as prized meat."
Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland and Belgium already have laws banning dog and cat fur imports.
Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade claims the monitoring of imports is not part of its mandate.
However, DFAIT spokesperson Brooke Grantham says, "We're not aware of any cat or dog fur products being imported. I don't think there's really a market for them in Canada."
Unless, of course, the furs are being passed off as something else.
Snow good solution
This winter's milder temps and lack of snow may have global warming types freaked, but other eco-activists - those concerned about the toxic discharges of melting snow from snow dumps into the Don River - are breathing a little easier. But perhaps not for long.
The city is planning to stop dumping at three sites located in the Don Valley (at Pottery Road, Bloor/Bayview and North Keelesdale). That's the good news. The Task Force to Bring Back the Don has been itching to incorporate the valley-land sites into its system of marshlands.
"We could establish marshes and more river meanders," says task force vice-chair Aynsley Morris. "We'll have so many opportunities to increase wildlife habitat and improve the health of the river through natural filtration."
The problem is the alternative -- namely, using melters (which create a thermal cloud that elevates chloride levels) at proposed sites at Ontario Place, Ashbridges Bay and the foot of York Street. Not to mention the associated energy costs of melting snow in giant vats of hot water.
"Then that hot yucky water goes to the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant" and into our water supply, notes RiverSides Stewardship Alliance executive director Kevin Mercer.
"The solution is to have a centralized facility that has an oil/grit separator and a containment system that keeps the runoff water from contaminating water courses. This would be something that polishes the grit off the water and holds it in a pot so you would be able to slowly release the chloride into the water so it is diluted appropriately in the receiving water body."
Romualdo D'Ippolito, manager of surface management for transportation services, says the city's also looking into other disposal sites, radiant heat technology and redesigning the mobile melter technology.
"At the other sites, we want to build water retention so the sediments can be discharged into the stream in a controlled way," he says.
Distillery fest history
The jazzy sounds of horns and strings won't be echoing off the historic walls of the Distillery District this year.
Fringe Jazz Toronto, the non-profit that's put on the Distillery Jazz Festival for the past three years, has had to pull the plug on the event after Dynamic Mutual Funds withdrew as lead sponsor. Dynamic helped keep the fest, which was labouring under a large deficit in its second year, afloat.
The reason for its decision is unclear. All Dynamic VP of marketing Simon Hitzig will say is that the group is "allocating resources elsewhere. It was a great event, [but] we're ready for something new."
Jazz-FM radio host Brad Barker suggests that attendance may have lagged because the Distillery fest was a ticketed event and not more family-and pedestrian-friendly, like the Beaches fest, for example. The unfortunate part for jazz lovers, says Barker, is that it's ticketed events like the Distillery's and Downtown Jazz Festival that attract new, more cutting-edge acts.
Cityscape Property Management Corp. has offered organizers some funding as long as they come up with matching funds before mid-March.
But festival artistic director Larry Rossignol is doubtful. He says the group has already spent months looking for a replacement, with no luck.
"Maybe we were just too ambitious," he says.