Tuesday, April 16, 2013

1996-01-21 "Chinese Activist Fearless"

January 21, 1996
The Vancouver Courier
by Kerry Gold

Chinese activist fearless
Drive to end cruelty to animals began at age 10

In the low-ceilinged maze that is the Western Canada Wilderness Committee office, a search for Anthony Marr locates him tucked into a corner desk with his laptop computer and posters of bears, elephants, tigers and rhinos.

Marr, a young-looking 52, has been a busy activist the last three months. A fixture at the WCWC offices since the Committee took on his BET’R (Bear, Elephant, Tiger & Rhino) Campaign in November last year, he’s also been campaigning to save city trees from the chainsaw.

WCWC founder Paul George says the Committee has budgeted $100,000 for the campaign locally and in Asia, and to produce printed materials that will further the cause. . . .

Marr’s campaign to save the environment has garnered him attention from the media, schools, politicians, other environmentalists, and the general public. He’s been on TV news half a dozen times. Numerous articles have been written about him in various newspapers and magazines since his BET’R Campaign started last year.

Environmentalist are hardly in short supply, so why does everybody want to talk with Anthony Marr?

He guesses it’s got something to do with the fact that he’s a Chinese Canadian who’s unafraid to criticize the Chinese community for a lack of environmental awareness. He also isn’t afraid to criticize other cultures for failing to pick up the cause. In these culturally hypersensitive times, Marr could be the fearless spokesman to bridge the cultural divide.

Marr agrees. “My impression is that people tend to give a sigh of relief, and say ‘Finally, there is somebody we can trust to speak our sentiment, and take on the task without raising racism as a red herring.”

On his outreach into the Chinese community, however, he hasn’t always encountered a warm reception. He estimates that three quarters of the incoming calls on Chinese language radio talk shows are critical of what he is doing. He’s been advised by other Chinese to not condemn the use of animal parts outright, or criticize Asian demand.

Marr’s response? “I’ve got to be accountable first and foremost to myself. I’m not going to compromise myself by worrying about offending certain people. You can’t please everybody.”

Marr was born near Canton in 1944. When the Communists took over five years later, the Marr family fled to Hong Kong as refugees. He moved to Canada at 21 and attended the University of Manitoba for one year before coming to attend UBC. “I passed over Vancouver on my way to Winnipeg and was enchanted by its beauty. It was love at first sight.”

When he was as young as 10, he knew he wanted to end cruelty inflicted on animals worldwide. He remembers seeing a snake being skinned alive in a Southeast Asian meat market, and films of dogs in a Vietnamese market with their front legs tied behind their backs.

Today, he’s fighting such atrocities as wild animals being poached to supply superstitious medicinal demands . . . As well, he is fighting global atrocities such as live bears in Seoul being lowered in cages onto hot coal until their feet are cooked to satisfy certain Koreans’ fetish to have super-fresh bear paws at some $2,000 US per serving.

The demand for tiger bone, tiger penis, rhino horn, bear gall and bear paw have generated enough poaching to have driven the tiger, all five species of rhino, and five out of eight species of bear to the brink of extinction. Now, the Grizzly and Black bears in BC are facing the immense poaching pressure displaced from Asia. . . .

To put the problem in perspective, the number of tigers left in the world, about 4,500, would fill only about a quarter of an NHL hockey stadium, he says. Meanwhile, the number of bears killed in Canada last year could fill three stadiums, one dead bear per seat.

And while Marr is looking to his own culture to help remedy the growing problem, all cultures, he says, must do some soul searching. “Every culture has a hand in causing the problem, so every culture has a part to play in the solution.”

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