“Listening” -July 2017-

     By the time Deb Bishop managed to get as close as possible to the two dogs stranded on the cliff towering above her, it was starting to get dark. Neither Leeloo nor Bamboo were within reach, and the slippery slope beneath the woman’s feet was completely unstable. “One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is look that dog in the eyes, tell [her] to ‘stay,’ and then climb down,” Bishop reported the next morning following Bamboo’s successful rescue by Denman Island’s Volunteer Fire Department.


                                        Bamboo and Paige Friesen


     Leeloo had somehow managed to free herself from the dense underbrush and find her own way home through Boyle Point Park around 1:00 am, leaving her sister to spend what must have been a terrifying nite alone on a narrow ledge. In the light of day Paige Friesen safely rappelled down the steep embankment to secure Bamboo, then she and the grateful dog were lowered together down an additional 30 or 40 feet to the beach below. It’s really a miracle that either dog was located in the first place, and that this story has a happy ending! Had kayaker Rick Paisley and his partner Ann not been paddling along that particular stretch of sheltered coastline the previous afternoon, they aren’t so sure anyone else would have heard the animals communicating their distress. Fortunately, sound does travel farther over water.

     We can usually count on our companion canines to let us know the mood they’re in. Next to birds, however, did you know that it is actually cats who possess the widest range of vocalizations of any domestic ‘pet’? When we pay attention to their various meows, chirps, yowls and purrs we can discern how certain sounds reflect contentment and ease while others expose worry, fear or even anger. Some types of cats are naturally more talkative but most are usually much quieter around each other than people, according to author and anthrozoologist John Bradshaw. He says they have simply learned how best to attract our attention. While there’s no universal cat language when it comes to meows, Bradshaw acknowledges that a ‘secret code of meows’ can develop between a cat and their caregiver that is “unique to that feline alone and meaning little to outsiders.”



     Today we understand that within a wide range of species the relationship between mothers and their offspring also involves highly personalized vocalizations. Seals and sea lions, for example, recognize their own pups by the sound of their cries among hundreds and hundreds of other infants. But only as recently as 2014 did research published in the Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science formally confirm what some farmers have known for a very long time –  that each calf and cow actually have “a characteristic and exclusive call all their own.” Taking a baby away from their mother violates the powerful instinctual bonds all mammals share. Cows have been known to cry out for their calves for hours and even days. Where I live in farm country the forlorn sound of distressed bovines seems to be routinely accepted as part of the rural soundscape. In general, our species has been incredibly slow to value the voices of those non-human animals we have not invited in to our homes – and slower still to take an interest in what emotions they express.

     On January 1st, 2014, Australian animal advocate James Aspey committed himself to a year of travel, bicycling around the country in voluntary silence. Passionate about promoting peace and veganism, he communicated with people only through body language, blogging and other means rather than break his vow. Inspiring many along the way, Aspey found being voiceless was actually “an incredible way of sparking conversations.” 365 days later on a popular national television show (ironically sponsored by animal agriculture interests), he spoke again for the first time. “I went voiceless because animals are voiceless,” he said, “or at least I thought they were voiceless. But then I realized that every time they cry in pain and scream in terror, they’re trying to tell us that they’re suffering.” The primetime interview was cut short, but a three minute segment shared on the internet has been viewed nearly a million times. Thousands of people have reached out to Aspey and so he has continued to travel with his positive message of justice and hope for a more compassionate world. He’ll be speaking at Victoria Veg Fest (vegtoria.ca) on July 22nd about his experience, headlining a celebratory day featuring great food, musical entertainment, and a plethora of vegan businesses and animal advocacy organizations from across North America.
                              Anna Pippus, of Animal Justice Canada

     Another inspiring speaker I’m really looking forward to listening to and learning from at this special event is Vancouver-based animal rights lawyer Anna Pippus. Director of farmed animal advocacy for Animal Justice Canada and strategic advisor for We Animals, Pippus will be speaking to the hidden lives and deaths ”of the animals on our plates: The truth about Canadian agriculture.” Click on the following CBC story about updates to Canada’s Food Guide and the embedded audio link to hear Pippus reflect on the progressive regulatory amendments designed to guide Canadians away from reliance upon animal-foods towards more plant-centred dietary choices.


     If you can make it to Vegtoria you’ll find Denman Island’s ‘The Very Good Butchers‘ serving their hearty vegan burgers and bangers, and Merville’s brand new food truck ‘The Band Wagon‘ cooking up a delectable storm of 100% plant-based comfort food. Find them on Facebook to track their delicious whereabouts this summer right here in the Comox Valley and beyond!


Here’s a delightfully refreshing, cruelty-free fruit salad recipe with a spicy kick to share with adult dinner guests in your own backyard on a relaxed summer’s eve.
Fire and Ice Melon (with thanks to John Ash for the original recipe)
                                           Ingredients (serving 8):
                       1/3 cup organic, unbleached sugar (cane or coconut)
                       1/2 cup white wine

                       1 tsp. minced red bell pepper

                       1 tsp. minced yellow pepper
                       2 tsp. seeded and minced serrano chiles,
                       or to taste (jalapenos are also fine)
                       1/4 cup fresh lime juice
                       1 Tbs minced fresh mint
                       2 medium-sized honeydew, cantaloupe,
                       crane or other ripe melon
                       8 fresh figs, cut into fans (optional)
                       2 dozen whole organic walnuts or pecans
Combine sugar and wine in saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add bell peppers and remove from heat. Cool and add chiles, lime juice, mint and peppers.
To serve, slice cold melons in half and remove seeds, cut into uniform chunks, and/or scoop the fruit with a melon baller. Arrange on chilled plates and spoon chile syrup over top. Garnish with fig fans, and edible flower petals. Finish plate with several whole walnuts or pecans. Extra syrup can be stored for up to two weeks in the fridge. Bon appetit!

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