Well, it was an exciting week here at HuffPost Canada. It's not often you get an environment minister sitting down with a bunch of reporters and editorial staff to a no-holds-barred question-and-answer session, let alone a minister who has become as controversial as Peter Kent. Yet that's what happened on Thursday in one of our boardrooms as we initiated our series of monthly lunches with Very Important People You Need to Hear From. When we informed the minister going in that he was our guinea pig, he wondered aloud if he was not in fact our sacrificial lamb?
Not quite. Over sandwiches and a "green" salad -- and after I'd thanked the minister profusely on behalf of all of us for the unseasonably warm winter we were experiencing -- Kent submitted himself to a barrage of questions, both from our reporters and our readers. In this, he showed himself to be the tough newsman that he was for most his life before being elected an MP in 2008.
Unlike most politicians, he did not ask to see the questions in advance. He cheerfully submitted to a camera being set up in the room and, like a seasoned reporter, asked as many questions of us as we asked of him. He was fascinated by the cool new media newsroom, and enjoyed a tour of it. What surprised many of our young reporters was that Kent is considered one of the first journalists to have reported on what was once known as "the greenhouse effect" -- which became global warming, which in turn became "climate change:"
On Jan. 24, 1984, the CBC television program The Journal broadcast a full edition documentary called "The Greenhouse Effect and Planet Earth." It was hosted, narrated and written by Kent. Broadcast more than 27 years ago this may be one of the first major media reports on the subject. Kent concluded with these words: "The greenhouse effect must be considered as the world's greatest environmental concern."
When asked directly whether he believed climate change was affected and exacerbated by mankind, Kent replied unequivocally that science showed that it was. And he also spoke at length, and frankly, about what his government was attempting to do about it -- and the myriad of national and international challenges he faced in doing so, including what he felt was the outdatedness of Kyoto as an effective tool in enforcing nations to control their carbon emissions. You can read and watch the minister's answers to our readers' questions here. And you can read our crack Ottawa correspondent Althia Raj's coverage here.
Meanwhile another Peter (Worthington) was blowing open the story about the radical animal rights group, PETA, and its history of killing thousands of rescue pets. Many of you may know PETA from their sexy campaigns against wearing fur. Others may have a default assumption of them as the "Operation Rescue" of the animal rights movement -- in other words, a zero-tolerance against inhumane treatment and the killing of animals. It was surprising to many, thus, to learn that the organization maintains a shelter in Virginia that habitually euthanizes -- kills -- thousands of rescue pets:
Virginia requires animal shelters to report the number of dogs and cats taken in each year -- how many are euthanized and how many are adopted. These statistics are available through Virginia's Sunshine Law and, as incredible as some may find it, since 1998, of the 31,815 animals (mostly dogs and cats) admitted to PETA shelters, only 3,159 were adopted -- and 27,751 were killed. That's a 9.7% adoption rate and an 87.2% kill rate -- a ghastly record for an organization purporting to work on behalf of animals.
PETA, which does not deny the killing, has mounted a reply here. But supporters of the animal rights group may be left scratching their heads as to wondering why PETA is in the slaughter business to begin with. We know that Humane Societies across the continent are tasked with the unpleasant duty of having to put down thousands of unwanted dogs and cats. These societies mount campaigns and programs promoting the spaying and neutering pets so we can ultimately reduce the number of unwanted animals. But PETA has taken a more ardent stance on behalf of animals, protesting everything from fur wearing to cosmetic testing to animals performing in the circus. It's a little as if discovering a pro-life group was quietly performing abortions, with the excuse that the babies were "unadoptable" anyway. HuffPost readers were recently treated to an exclusive excerpt from Andrew Westoll's The Chimps Of Fauna Sanctuary -- a moving account of a "rehab" facility that was set up for chimps recovering from research experiments and other nightmarish situations. So it's a fair question to ask: Why would PETA direct its vast resources to a killing facility rather than rehab facilities? It's a story we will continue to investigate.
Other highlights of the week was our blog by leading climate change scientist Andrew Weaver on why environmentalists may be over-emphasizing protests against the tar sands rather than the real enemy, coal. And by the end of the week, all seriousness seemed to go into freefall, when Rabbi-to-the-Stars, Shmuley Boteach, accused SUN TV's Michael Coren of anti-Semitism. There may be many things to accuse Michael of, but this was not one of them. As he blogged in reply for us, citing his Jewish street creds:
A little about me: Three Jewish grand-parents, recipient of numerous awards from Jewish organizations, regarded as one of the most vociferous pro-Israel and pro-Jewish voices in Canadian media and -- best of all --receiver of daily death threats from assorted Islamic fanatics. Oh, and I was physically attacked at Toronto University last year when speaking at several campuses as the Jewish community's spokesman against the grotesquely named "Israel Apartheid Week."
Inside sources at SUN TV, who very quickly regretted booking Boteach -- "spiritual advisor to Michael Jackson" -- claimed the man was a nightmare guest from the beginning: He yelled at underlings, including an Orthodox Jewish intern -- who had personally prepared the rabbi a kosher sandwich -- and generally behaved in a most unpleasant way -- and that was before he went on air. There is a Yiddish word for this: a shonda. Rhymes with "Help Me Rhonda." Look it up.
Much coming up next week -- including the last excerpt from our finalists in the Charles Taylor Prize for Non-Fiction series. After it has run, we will open up the voting to our readers, in advance of the prize's announcement on March 5.