Local Activists Angel Chen and Jess Ammann on Veganism and the near-extinction of our Southern Resident Orcas

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Sea Shepherd’s Jess Ammann on our endangered Southern Resident Orcas

Tahlequah pushing around her dead calf for 17 days after death.

Last July, people around the world grieved helplessly as they watched a mother orca, Tahlequah mourn the death of her calf, who died just thirty minutes after being born and then proceeded to carry her dead baby around with her for hundreds of kilometers and for an unprecedented 17 days before finally letting go of the decaying body.

Mere weeks after this tragic event, biologists and veterinarians from Washington and Canada tried to help Scarlett, an ailing 3 year old orca from the same ‘J pod’. Despite their efforts they eventually lost sight of her, presumed dead, and because she had become so thin and had very little blubber, her frail body likely sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

Our Southern Resident Orcas are endangered. Humans are contributing to this with our noise pollution from increasing tanker traffic, dumping toxins into their ocean home, viruses from fish farms, and by eating their main source of food – chinook salmon.

On today’s show, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Vancouver Coordinator Jess Ammann explains the situation and what we can do about it.

Activists Jess Ammann and Sea Shepherd founder, Paul Watson.

Thankfully, Dzawada’enuxw First Nation filed a claim in Vancouver federal court Thursday alleging that 10 fish farms located in the waters of their Central Coast territory infringe on their Aboriginal rights to harvest eulachon and wild salmon.

“We tend to think of extinction in terms of populations and species, but the experience of participating in an effort to rescue a single individual who was part of an ongoing extinction event led me to realize that it is a very personal experience for the individuals undergoing it. Extinction is getting sick and struggling to live and watching everyone you love going through the same agony. This is where extinction lives: in the heart and soul of each individual animal.

All of this happened during a grim year where the population of orcas in that region declined to just 74 individuals– a 35-yr low. In an ominous statement, Ken Balcomb, director of the Center for Whale Research, has since said he will stop counting when their numbers fall to 70.”

– Dr. Lori Marino, neuroscientist and expert in animal behavior and intelligence and President of the Whale Sanctuary Project.


Angel Chen — a force to be reckoned with

Photo by Peace People Project’s Tosha Lobsinger

I met Angel a couple of years ago and recall being impressed by her sweet nature, relentless drive and friendly approach to others while doing animal rights outreach. Now just 20 years old, Vancouver-based animal rights activist and zero-waste enthusiast Angel Chen has come a long way, becoming the co-organizer of Anonymous for the Voiceless and a hardcore fur activist.

Rarely does she pass up the opportunity to inform others of their cruel choice of clothing (Canada Goose jackets are all the rage here in Vancouver and especially on the campus of UBC where Angel is enrolled in environmental studies). With a giant smile plastered across her face, she easily approaches anyone wearing fur and boldly says “did you know that you are wearing coyote fur?” and no matter what their reaction continues to tell them every horrific detail of how coyotes are caught in leg-hold traps, at times chewing off their own feet to get away – home to feed their young, or how they may starve or dehydrate to death as they await their fate – to be shot and turned into a jacket.

She ignores the looks on their faces, and carries on to talk about the feathers stuffed inside the coats and how the ducks and geese suffered for this. No matter what, she has planted seeds of compassion in their heads.

Many activists burn out after a few months or years of enduring the general apathy, ignorance and outright ridicule from the majority of the public, but Angel just carries on –  utterly unphased by people’s negative reactions and for this reason, she is someone I hope will remain this enthusiastic and tenacious woman for years to come. Some people just seem destined to change the world…

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