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What An Injured Gull Taught Me About Society

Leaving the loving embrace of Toronto Veg Fest, I was immediately thrust back into general society's disregard for animals.

On the drive back to my hotel in Mississauga last Sunday, I saw a juvenile gull limping across the highway, dragging his right wing. He'd likely been hit by a car and was disoriented and was clearly injured. I was easily able to brake to avoid hitting him, but the driver to my left made no effort to even reduce his speed. He slammed into the gull and dragged him some distance.

I immediately pulled over, put on my 4 way flashers and ran out to scoop the bird up. Still holding him (as any movement was likely excruciating), I drove into a parking lot and sat with him to determine the extent of his injuries. His body was shattered. There was no way he would recover. His neck was arched back over his body, his pupils dilated, his eyes in nystagmus (likely indicating brain damage), and his right wing jutting painfully out from his body - but he was still breathing, conscious and suffering.

It was 11:45 pm and no vet clinics were open so I called the two emergency vet numbers I could find on my phone. No answer from the first and the second told me that, legally, they were prohibited from assisting wild animals! I was referred to Animal Services. Hesitantly (and with my number blocked in case I needed to hang up if they demanded I leave the gull on the side of the road), I called and was relieved to hear the concern in the attendant's voice. She allowed me to keep the gull and dispatched a technician to meet me at the shelter. The technician came screaming into the lot in the animal services van and treated the situation like the crisis that it was. He was thankfully very gentle and kind but I was disturbed to learn that the only means of euthanasia available to them was gassing. Is suffocation really the best we can offer animals who we've caused the suffering of? I would've paid anything to give that bird the most pain-free, dignified death possible, but it wasn't even an option. There's something wrong with this. There's something wrong with a society that prevents those with the best training and tools to help animals from doing so simply because those animals were born in the wild.There's something wrong with a publicly-funded facility not having access to the best tools possible to help animals. And there's something wrong with a society whose members won't even take the slightest action to reduce causing terrible harm to animals.

I'm relieved that poor sweet gull is no longer suffering, but I feel guilty for not at least giving him a better end to his suffering. And I'm tired of a world that lets animals down every time we interact with them.

These are the days I want to live in the world created in my paintings.

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