Sunday, May 23, 2010

Yet another bunny battle

The ink on Brigitte Bardot coverage of her last media ambush hasn't dried yet and I'm hit with news of a similar bunny battle on the UBC campus. Which is eerily related to a recent crackdown by Toronto police on moving truck fraud.

Many years ago, a friend of mine needed help with some movers who were giving her parents troubles. Her parents just came from Ottawa. As it turned out, the movers quoted one price when they picked up the furniture and belongings and now, to release them, they wanted double or triple the original price. The parents had panicked at the prospect of losing their life’s possessions and though it was a cold, rainy day, I came over to help my friend.

I didn’t think much of what to wear, so I took my new jacket with downy filling, which was rather large. My friend congratulated me: “you’re so big, you’re gonna scare them”. That comment actually scared me: why would I need to scare anybody? Didn’t they have a contract? They should have paid whatever those guys demanded then sue them for extortion or just call the police. The parents were, however, conflict averse. They were in the big city (Toronto) from the sleepy, senior-infested Ottawa – crack addicts were yet to become a serious problem.

So they negotiated a lower price (but still more than they had originally agreed on) but on the condition that the movers don’t move out the stuff. I helped the parents and after, I tried to convince my friend to sue the moving company in Small Claims Court, but she would have none of it.

And all these memories came back to life when I read the following news on CBC:

Eight men and one woman have been arrested in Toronto and charged with fraud after police busted an allegedly fraudulent moving company. Police say the victims made arrangements with one of several moving companies to shift their furniture. They allege the suspects held their goods hostage, or threatened to throw them onto the road, unless they were paid extra.

On Thursday Toronto police said they had seized 13 moving trucks, $20,000 in cash and two vehicles in connection with their investigation. Syed Altaf Hussain, 57, of Toronto, Arif Adnan Syed, 27, of Markham, Syed Amit Monwar Hussain, 29, of Toronto, Clyde Alen Muffty, 34, of Toronto, Scott Paul Slater, 31, of Toronto, Vanessa Longhurst, 38, of Toronto, Joseph Lima, 22, of Toronto, Syed Tamim Rejw Hussain, 25, of Toronto and Jimmy Roland Veilleux, 35, of Toronto have all been charged with fraud. Police say the various moving companies operated by the group took in as much as $1 million per year.

Supt. Sam Fernandes said the movers would simply quote consumers a low price then, once they had their furniture on the truck, they would demand extra payments - up to $2,500. If the customer didn't pay up they movers withheld their furniture, or even dumped it on the road.

"It was a nightmare," said Miriam Goodger who was victimized by the movers two weeks ago."They came to my house and told me it would cost $350 to move. It ended up costing $1,237 - and I had to move all my belongings in the rain, by myself, up 12 flights of stairs," she said.

The arrests are a result of a five-month investigation. Police believe there are more victims.

Personally, I always try to “fix” big problems such as this, as letting crooks doing what they are doing only allows them to victimize others. Yet my friend had always been a bit different from me.

She has a lot of compassion for everything and everyone. Just like Brigitte Bardot, she did some modelling and acting, but she wasn’t as successful. She wasn’t as fascist either.

We once went rock-climbing together. I remember spending as much time going down as I spent going up, because she’d get scared if I’d come down too fast. So I’d go down a few millimetres per minute. I could’ve read a Tolstoievsky book while dangling in the air.

She had a decrepit, geriatric bunny that she couldn’t let go. The bunny would constantly crap all over her apartment and when she was asleep, she’d sometimes wake up with the bunny sitting on her face. So when I read the next piece of news from CBC, I once again remembered her:

A battle over bunnies at the University of Victoria is heating up as animal rights activists fight the school's attempt to cull the animals' growing population. About 100 rabbits have been killed as the university tries to deal with about 1,300 of them on school grounds. Officials are trapping the rabbits, then having them killed.

"We're delivering the rabbits to a veterinarian, who's euthanizing them through an injection," said the university's facilities manager, Tom Smith.

bunnies at uVic

'I'm tired of people writing them off as wildlife.'—Kelly Carson of Save UVic Bunnies

Activists say destroying the rabbits is unnecessary and call for alternative methods to deal with the population explosion. A local veterinarian has offered to neuter male rabbits free of charge, said Kelly Carson of the group Save UVic Bunnies. "It could be time-consuming, but ultimately, it's the right thing to do," said Carson.

The university says it might consider some method of sterilization eventually, but in the short term it has to act quickly, Smith said. The animals are frequently hit by vehicles, leave droppings and have dug holes all over the campus, especially on athletic fields. "The purpose is to rid the area of rabbits because of the critical concern we have for athletes hurting themselves," said Smith.

Humane plan in works

The activists have been videotaping the trappers as they collect the live rabbits. On Monday, they started freeing animals that had been trapped. "I care because these animals fall into a grey area," said Carson. "They aren't pets. They aren't wildlife. And I'm tired of people writing them off as wildlife." The group is also worried about poison boxes that have been set up to control mice and rats. They say young rabbits are attracted to the bait and are small enough to get into the boxes. "They're obviously investigating and ingesting and dying all over the campus," said Carson. "I saw three last night. Dead babies." The university said it will reveal a long-term strategy in June that would control the rabbit population without killing.

Once again, I am angered by the lack of foresight in people pleading for compassion at the expense of human safety. The rabbits are far from being an endangered species and they multiply like crazy. Sure, they are cute, but there are animals far more threatened in the wild. If these students would put the same effort in fighting habitat destruction they’d have a much higher beneficial impact.

That would require placing logic and pragmatism above knee-jerk compassion instincts. It feels great to show compassion, but wouldn’t you rather know that what you are doing is actually having an impact and it’s not just a band-aid measure?!?

Sources / More info: cbc-bunny, cbc-movers, zamo-angola


  1. Of course rabbits aren't endangered... that's not the problem here at all. The problem is that people are bringing animals into their homes without thinking it through. When it finally dawns on them that a live rabbit doesn't act like a stuffed toy, they dump it on the UVic campus. This is happening all over North America in similar rabbit dumps. These settings are not at all appropriate for the rabbits and they end up living very poor-quality lives (malnutrition, disease, unsanitary conditions, accident and injury, etc.) - nothing like the lives they would lead if they were wild rabbits in a natural setting. And, of course, problems for humans also ensue from these rabbit dumps. (Although, frankly, UVic keeps saying they're concerned about athletes' safety, but I've not seen them cite single case of an athlete actually hurting themselves.).

    You suggest that a trap-neuter-release program would be a band-aid solution, and I agree with you, but a cull is just as much a band-aid solution. I think it's wonderful and very important that people put effort into fighting habitat destruction and saving endangered species, but that doesn't mean that speaking out against rabbit dumps is illogical or wasteful. Really, it all stems from the same thing: a lack of respect for non-human life, and a lack of foresight and responsibility for one's actions.

    I don't expect you to care about rabbit dumps - there's so much wrong in the world, we can't all care about all of it. But I think it's a great shame that you are against the people who do care. Divide-and-conquer is no way to save the world.

  2. I think they seem to be dealing with two problems. First, the problem you are identifying, is pet abandonment. This does not happen only with rabbits. Many people buy or adopt pets and then, when either their life circumstances change or they get bored, abandon them, dumping their problem onto other people. This is not solved by a cull, but it's not solved by freeing captured rabbits either.

    The second problem - in fact, several, as cited by the article - is the damage the rabbits caused. This is a problem that would be solved (albeit temporarily) by a cull. It is also a problem that is actually aggravated by the activists' actions. Speaking out against pet dumping is a worthy cause, but interfering with the cull / trap program does not advance it, as it forces other people - who have no connection to either rabbits or pet dumping - to suffer adverse consequences.

    I agree that divide-and-conquer is no way to save the world. That's why I think the activists would better serve their cause by helping the UVic administration to get rid of the rabbits, as painful as it may be, and step up their efforts to inform and educate the public.


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