Cat. 3, Activism 1 – BL-38 – Compassion Into Action

Cat. 3, Activism 1 – BL-38 – Compassion Into Action

Ch. 38 –  Compassion into Action

November 22, 1995, Wednesday
The Vancouver Courier
by Kerry Gold

[Hong Kong environmentalist says many Chinese immigrants too urbanized to care about conservation
[Kerrisdale tree wins temporary reprieve]

China-born environmentalist Anthony Marr temporarily saved a tree in Kerrisdale from the chainsaw Monday.

It’s only the beginning of a campaign to help solve problems that are the result of a serious clash between cultures, he said.

“For the time being, the tree is safe, and I have notified residents,” Marr said after a protest that chased away tree fellers who’d begun to remove the lower boughs of a giant cedar.

When a few Kerrisdale residents realized another tree was about to come down Monday, they rushed to obstruct the fellers. Marr was notified by a protester friend, and within minutes he arrived at the site and joined in. He says he later talked in Chinese with the absentee property owner, who agreed to leave the tall cedar tree in the front yard of 6355 Vine St. temporarily standing.

“After talking to me for a while, he promised not to cut down the tree for the time being, and will try to sell his property with the tree intact.”

However, if he moves into the house himself, he’ll probably cut the tree down, Marr added.

The temporary save isn’t enough for Kerrisdale residents so angry with the rash of tree-cutting in their neighbourhood they’ve formed a committee to deal with the problem. The 40-strong Tree Protection Committee is a part of the Kerrisdale Residents’ Association.

They are mostly long-time Kerrisdale residents fed up with the cutting of trees that are often generations old and irreplaceable. They say that they’re frustrated by city bylaws that don’t have the teeth to prevent destruction of the ecosystem and the natural beauty of the neighbourhood known for its profusion of towering trees. They also feel that the tree-cutting is motivated by profit, and is insensitive to the betterment of the community.

When the tree fellers arrived at the Vine street property, word spread like wildfire among the residents, and they quickly assembled into protest.

“We’re upset and we feel the legislation has to change,” said Irmela Topf, a 24-year Kerrisdale resident who moved to Vancouver Europe because of the scenery. “We neighbours want to keep our trees. This is what makes Vancouver so special.”

Scenes like the one on Vine Street have become commonplace the last few years. While new housing is on the rise to meet the needs of new Chinese immigrants, residents are growing increasingly angry over the removal of old-growth trees.

The private property tree bylaw requires any tree removed to be replaced (“by a twig”, a resident say) when the owner applies for a development permit. But residents say the bylaw is pointless, since it would take another 150 years to re-establish the beauty of that tree again.

“I have never seen this level of urban-tree cutting in any other province or city in the world,” said Barbra Johnston, who sat against the tree and refused to leave, causing the fellers to go away.

“We’re upset and we feel the legislation has to change. This city has to take a stand. We as private citizens can voice our feelings, but we have to have someone who will back us up.”

Enter Marr. He moved to Vancouver 30 years ago, delved into Canadian culture and developed a keen interest in wildlife. As a Hong Kong native, he believes he can act as a go-between for the two cultures.

He’s only recently begun his campaign to liaise between Canadian-born locals and Chinese immigrants. He calls his work to save endangered species the BET’R (pronounced “better”, for Bear, Elephant, Tiger & Rhino) Campaign. While his focus is mainly the illegal trade in bear parts, he says he’ll get involved in any environmental issue.

“I’m a Chinese person dealing with a Chinese-caused problem; that is the uniqueness of my program. Caucasian people find it daunting because of the possibility of alleged racism, so none of their campaigns hit the nail on the head hard enough to have it sink in. I’m volunteering myself as a Chinese activist for non-Chinese to voice the justified opinion.”

Marr is a writer with a physics degree. He’s been involved with the environmental movement since the 1970s, he says. He aims to spread environmental awareness to the Chinese community through school lectures and the media, because wildlife conservation is generally not a concern for most people from Hong Kong, he says.

“Generally, people from Hong Kong have been so concrete-jungle-conditioned that they don’t have the same kind of attachment to trees as Canadian people do. Wildlife awareness is not high among the community. Wild space is considered potential development sites, and basically the attitude is very anthropocentric. If a Hong Kong business person sees an opportunity to build a profitable golf course on a piece of marshland, they would do it without a second thought. And wild animals are still for utility, and wilderness is to be conquered. Sounds familiar?”

Marr confesses that before he came to Canada, he had the same way of thinking. “Unlike many immigrants from Asia, though, personal circumstances have led me to seek full integrated into Canadian society. I’ve acquired a lot of Canadian values, and I’ve come to appreciate wildlife and wilderness for their own sake, as many Canadians do.”

*     *     *

December 2, 1995, Saturday
The Vancouver Sun, p. B2
by Nicholas Read

[Animal parts for sale, and it is legal]

At Hang Hing Herbal Medicines at the corner of Pender and Gore, they openly sell medicinal products made of snake gall, tiger bone seal penis and bear bile. Some of the packages have a picture of a tiger on the front, and the snake, tiger, seal and bear ingredients are listed on the back.

However, on one set of the packages, which says “Tiger bone” in Chinese characters, an English message has been affixed. It says, “Excluding any part of tiger”.

It’s an obvious contradiction, but z store clerk confirms it. No, he says, there is no snake gall, tiger bone or bear bile in any of the products for sale, even though they are listed clearly on the packages.

Anthony Marr isn’t surprised. He says Vancouver’s Asian residents have become sensitive to criticism that medicines made from exotic, endangered animals, as well as local bears, are available in their pharmacies. So, it’s not surprising that they make such claims.

Marr, an environmentalist, is of Chinese descent himself. He was born in China, brought up in Hong Kong, and moved to Vancouver when he was 21. So he is still fluent in Chinese, and can read easily all the package labels that English-only-speaking Canadians can’t.

Thus he finds in another pharmacy an arthritis medicine made of tiger bone. In the aphrodisiac case – labeled “fierce male” in Chinese – he finds packages containing three different kinds of animal penises – seal, bull and dog.

In another pharmacy, there are numerous kinds of deer antlers for sale, even antelope horns.

However, none of these products is illegal to sell, unless the bear bile is from a Canadian bear. Because even though it is against international law to import into Canada parts of animals as critically endangered as the tiger, once they have been smuggled in, there is no internal Canadian law to render them illegal to sell.

In 1992, Ottawa passed a law called the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA), which, if enacted, would make it illegal to sell tiger products. But after three years of bureaucratic wrangling, it’s still not law, which means selling tiger products is still okay.

At least legally. Ethically is another matter, says Marr, which is why he is launching a campaign to persuade Vancouver’s Chinese residents to shun the use of exotic animal parts, including tiger bone and bear gall, in traditional Chinese medicine.

With help from the conservation group, Bear Watch, he plans to place ads in local Chinese newspapers and on television stations advising Chinese Canadians about the environmental concerns other Canadians have about protecting endangered species.

It is not going to be easy. “The Chinese awareness is really not there,” Marr says. “Maybe the only person you saw in Chinatown today who knows or cares about the plight of the tiger was me.”

But education is the answer, he insists. Because even if the Canadian government were to enact WAPPRIITA and impose stiff fines for poaching and trafficking, as long as a demand exists, so will a supply.

Until, that is, the animals from which the parts come disappear. And with as few as 4,500 wild tigers left in the world, that become an increasingly real possibility all the time.

*     *    *

December 6, 1995, Wed.
Ming Pao Daily News
by Eric Chan
(translated from Chinese)

[Anthony Marr says Chinese must help save endangered species

Chinese Canadian environmentalist Anthony Marr has started a campaign to save endangered and threatened species from the Chinese animal parts consumers.
Marr’s BET’R (bear, elephant, tiger & rhino) campaign was started under his own steam in the summer of 1995. . . . He feels that Caucasian environmentalists cannot say what needs to be said to and about the Chinese community without being branded a racist. He believes that this, when dealt with by an environmentalist of Chinese extraction, would be the most effective.

Marr’s activities currently concentrates on public education. So far, he has received invitations from three Vancouver schools (Eric Hamber, Winston Churchill and Maple Grove) whose Chinese student populations range from 70% to 90%. To maximize public impact, these events will be covered by BCTV, CBC and UTV. . . .

In November, Marr met with directors Paul George and Joe Foy of the 25,000-members-strong Western Canada Wilderness Committee, which agreed to embrace the BET’R Campaign, with Marr being retained as BET’R Campaign Director.

the first things WCWC will do for BET’R will be to publish 80,000-100,000 copies of a 4-page paper on bear conservation. . . .

Marr plans to tour the Chinatowns of North America, including Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, to propagate his conservation message. . . . If all go according to plan, he plans to go straight to Asia after 1997.

Marr was born near Canton, China, and brought up in Hong Kong. Since his arrival in Canada in 1965, he spent many summers working in the bush deep in the BC interior. It was then he bonded with wilderness and wildlife. He has been involved in BC’s environmental movement for almost two decades.

*     *     *

December 18, 1995, Mon.
Chinatown News
by Wendy Chow

[Chinese environmentalist campaigning to change centuries-old tradition]

Environmentalist Anthony Marr is on a crusade with a dual goal. He hopes to put an end to the slaughter of endangered or threatened animals used in the preparation of Oriental medicine. By doing so, the Hong Kong raised Marr, 51, says he hopes to elevate the reputation of his fellow Chinese.

“Some people who call in to the Chinese radio talk shows say that I want to discredit Chinese culture. Quite on the contrary. We’ve been acquiring a bad reputation for years even though some Chinese people may not know it. When you get down to the root cause of poaching, it’s the demand by Chinese, Japanese and Korean people for the parts,” says Marr.

“When I was a kid I benefited a great deal from Chinese traditional medicine given to me by my grannies and my mom. I have a lot of reverence for Chinese medicine. But I do want to rid it of environmentally unsound and superstition-based ingredients.”

“I also want to act as a spokesperson to the Western community as a Chinese person,” says Marr. “In doing so, I show by deed that some Chinese people are willing to stand up and correct the wrongs in their native culture.” . . .

“The main consumers of these products at this point are the so called Little Dragons like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore. The Great Dragon, China, has not yet fully awakened as a consuming force. But in a decade or so, when a wealthy middle class arises, the demand from China will skyrocket, and poaching will reach astronomical proportions. If you think what’s happening right now is bad, wait and see. There is not much time to waste.” . . .

Perhaps because Marr is a Chinese person willing to speak out against what is a predominantly Chinese-caused problem, he has had plenty of media attention. He has brought local and national television cameras right into Chinatown, and been interviewed by newspapers and radio talk shows in both languages.

The public reaction to Marr’s campaign? One Maple Grove school teacher said, “I may not have been conscious of it, but for years I have been waiting for someone like Anthony to step forward.”

*     *     *

*1998 – Having succeeded with Canada’s Chinatowns, I went on to clean up New York’s Chinatown

In 1995, I was 51 years of age. So, never say “too leave to get started”.


*     *     *     *     *

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *