You, our Animal Alliance of Canada supporters, and Canadians who care deeply about animals have achieved a great win, one we invite you all to celebrate.
The poison, Strychnine, will be banned from use on Richardson’s Ground Squirrels, thanks to a decision by Health Canada made earlier this year.
This one decision has the potential to save thousands of animal lives
— not only of Squirrels — but Burrowing Owls, Swift Foxes, Songbirds and more.
The coming ban means that Ground Squirrels and the non-targeted animals who would also come into contact with this poison will not endure painful and prolonged deaths. Death by Strychnine poisoning causes spasms and painful convulsions, followed by asphyxiation and death due to paralysis. Strychnine has been legally used to kill Richardson’s Ground Squirrels and other animals, considered “pests”, in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The poison is licensed for use by Health Canada under its Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). Provincial ministries and agencies, as well as “pest” control companies then apply to use these poisons. These are cruel and outdated practices that today are widely understood to be inhumane.
It’s difficult to contemplate that it has ever been seen as acceptable to intentionally cause such painful and prolonged death to animals, and more difficult to accept that this method of killing has been legally sanctioned by our own Canadian government. This unethical practice speaks to the often-brutal way that our own species regards the non-human animals who share our world. The true poison is the belief that we humans have a moral right to treat animals as disposable and to inflict such great suffering according to our whim.
Luckily, for the Richardson’s Ground Squirrels of Saskatchewan and Alberta, there will finally be relief.
And, this is thanks to so many of you who took action to let political leaders know how strongly you oppose this legally sanctioned cruelty to animals.
In its Decision, Health Canada stated “An evaluation of available scientific information confirmed that there are risks of concern for non-target organisms, including species at risk, for products registered to control Richardson’s ground squirrels.”
And, indeed, the risk to non-target wildlife was always obvious. Once poisoned bait is introduced into the environment there is no control over which animals will ingest the bait. Once animals have died painfully their poisoned bodies are then lethal to the scavenger animals who will ingest them.
Animal Alliance of Canada first became concerned about the use of poisons to kill wild animals in the early 1990s. In later years we joined forces with groups such as Wolf Awareness and International Fund for Animal Welfare and began to actively campaign to ban the three major vertebrate poisons – strychnine, Compound 1080 and Sodium Cyanide. In June 2018 Health Canada began a review process of the use of Strychnine to kill Richardson’s Ground Squirrels and we actively participated in the review process.
In September 2018 and February 2019, we asked you, our supporters, to let Health Canada know that you oppose the use of Strychnine to kill wild animals, and thankfully, many of you responded. Thank you!
This decision by Health Canada is being phased in, which means that it will remain legal to use Strychnine against Richardson’s Grounds Squirrels for another 3 years.
Production will be banned in year one with a phase out. The sale of the poison will be banned in the next year. The final year will be the last year of permitted use but our hope is that there will be a steep reduction in the availability of the poison by that time.
Of course, this process will take far too long, but we know that this is a significant win nevertheless, one we should celebrate. There is real hope in sight at last. We should note that this ban was not supported by the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the two provinces where Strychnine, and two other brutal poisons are used against wild animals.
It’s likely that the two provincial governments opposed this decision because they fear that it sets a precedent. And they are right. We will use the same arguments to ban poisons for other wild animals such as coyotes, wolves and bears – the other animals who it’s currently legal to kill with poisons.
We continue to make that argument and will continue to do so vigorously. We believe that we have a real opportunity to make meaningful progress on stopping this dreadful practice.
While we celebrate this win, we still have work to do.
It remains legal to use Strychnine to kill Coyotes, Wolves and Bears; though routinely, it’s the two canid species who it’s used against. And, this must be stopped.
As well, two other poisons are still licensed for use by Health Canada. Compound 1080 is used in Alberta and Saskatchewan to target Wolves and Coyotes. Sodium Cyanide M-44 is used by Alberta government agencies to kill Coyotes.
At this time, it’s important that we sincerely thank Canada’s Minister of Health for the decision on Strychnine and Richardson’s Ground Squirrels.
While we hope for more, we are also aware that any time a Minister leads on legislation that benefits animals they face enormous opposition from industries, opposition politicians, and even members of their own parties. We must celebrate the successes we do achieve because each of them is hard-won. And, we must demonstrate to politicians that we value their effort when they have been successful in bringing about better legislation that benefits animals.
So, please, join with us in thanking Canada’s Minister of Health, the Honourable Patty Hajdu.
Please let Minister Hajdu know that:
- We greatly appreciate the decision to ban the use of Strychnine on Richardson’s Ground Squirrels.
- We value the lives of animals and want Canada to be distinguished for our humane and ethical relationship with animals, and,
- We value progressive ideas and actions that move us away from an outdated and destructive relationship with our natural lands and the wildlife who rely on them.
We can also politely urge her to continue this good work by also banning the use of Strychnine against any animal, regardless of species; as well as Compound 1080 and Sodium Cyanide M-44.
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
T/ 613-996-4792 F/ 613-996-9785
And, to all of you, please accept our thanks as well. Without you, these wins would be impossible.
Your support in contacting our political representatives, and donating to our campaigns makes it possible for us to keep fighting for animals. We all know that we fight against well-funded and politically-connected adversaries, those who think nothing of destroying the lives of wild animals in even the most painful of ways. The animals rely on us, all of the people across Canada who want a completely new relationship with animals and are willing to keep fighting until we get there.