Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The big OHS tent

I like to think of the Ottawa Humane Society as a “big tent” where everyone that cares about animals is welcome.  For that matter, even those that don’t particularly care about animals are welcome in our tent, where we hope they will learn that how we treat our weakest and most vulnerable is the most accurate reflection of our humanity.

When you invite everyone into your big tent, you know that not everyone is going to be the same, agree, or view the world the same way.  Our supporters are a diverse lot.  
While the OHS is squarely in the "animal welfare" corner, many think we are "animal rights".* Or that we should be.  Some are vegetarians or vegans, most are not. Some protest that there is meat served at OHS events.  Many paying guests would protest if there were not. 
Last weekend, as 200 guests were being wowed by food and wine at our Summer Harvest Garden Party, OHS outreach staff were overwhelmed by the warm welcome they received while promoting our work and programs at Gay Pride for the first time ever.  Not all the names on the receipts I sign are Campbell and Smith anymore; increasingly they are Nguyen and Shirazi.
Several years ago, I was taken aback when a lady dropped into our Christmas Open House wearing a fur coat. It was cold, she was elderly, and the minks were years past suffering, but it surprised me that she happily wore it to a humane society nonetheless.
Some people associate us almost exclusively with dogs and cats, and not at all with the wild and farm animals that we rescue.  Some think we don’t do enough for livestock and wild animals.
I like that the OHS is a place where so many different people, with so many diverse views come together: donors, adopters, volunteers, board members, staff, and yes, even protesters.  For most of what the OHS does, there is an often vocal minority that thinks we should do it differently, or do something else, or do more.   That’s okay though. I know diversity and inclusion makes us stronger.
*I have always described the difference this way:  If you are animal welfare, you want to assure that the chicken you eat is raised in humane conditions, provided appropriate food, water and space and when the time comes, that the slaughter was humane and pain-free.  If you are animal rights, you don’t eat a chicken – chickens have rights. 
Bruce Roney
Executive Director
Ottawa Humane Society

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