Anne Doncaster, 76, founder or cofounder of four noted animal advocacy organizations, died of cancer on April 19, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario.
Born Anne Procter, in 1962 she married former Mississauga Board of Trade president David Doncaster, who survives her, and raised three daughters before becoming involved in animal advocacy.
Recalled Mississauga.com, “Anne Doncaster attended an event one night in 1978 that changed her life forever. The evening included a film called Canada’s Shame, about fur trapping, which was presented by George Clements.”
Clements and his wife Bunty, both school teachers, both now deceased, cofounded the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals in 1952. The organization is now called Fur Bearer Defenders,
“I was profoundly outraged by the cruelty I witnessed in that movie,” Anne Doncaster later recalled. “I thought that all I had to do was tell the world and no one would ever again buy or wear fur. Looking back, I seriously underestimated the difficulty of attacking vested interests and changing human attitudes.”
Founding the Mississauga Animal Rights Society and the National Animal Rights Association, Anne Doncaster embarrassed the Ontario Humane Society in 1981 by exposing a plan to shoot two dogs to test a gun that had been developed as an intended alternative to clubbing seals during the annual Atlantic Canada seal hunt.
Anne Doncaster’s book Experiments on Animals: a Review of the Scientific Literature appeared under the Mississauga Animal Rights Society imprint in 1982.
In 1985 Anne Doncaster joined Stephen Best, Daniel Morast, Anne Streeter, Donna Hart, and others, many of them formerly key personnel for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, in cofounding the International Wildlife Coalition. Like IFAW, IWC was headquartered on Cape Cod. Volunteers maintained offices in Toronto, Montreal, London, and Brazil.
The U.S. and Canadian organizations became dormant by 2006, but IWC-U.K. continues under Charles Wartenburg, sponsoring an ongoing campaign against dog-eating in the Philippines, and IWC-Brazil continues under marine mammalogist Jose Truda Palazzo.
Anne Doncaster was also centrally involved in a 1986 takeover of the Toronto Humane Society by an animal rights advocacy slate including Ark II animal rights group founders Vicki Miller and Kathie Hunter; film maker Stephen Best; wildlife artist Barry Kent MacKay, who was for 25 years the Toronto Star nature columnist; Liz White, who went on to found the Animal Alliance of Canada; ZooCheck Canada founder Rob Laidlaw; and longtime Greenpeace Canada environmental health coordinator Holly Penfound. Miller, as Toronto Humane Society president, discontinued a no-kill sheltering policy introduced by predecessor Tim Trow, who reinstated it after regaining the THS presidency in 2001. (Trow’s second tenure ended after the Ontario SPCA raided the THS shelter in 2009, due to alleged neglect of animals and mismanagement.)
While de-emphasizing sheltering as the central Toronto Humane Society function, Miller also introduced a low-cost dog and cat sterilization program that cut Toronto animal control impoundments by 60% in six years.
Meanwhile, having underbid a laboratory supply company to win the Toronto animal control sheltering contract before Miller’s tenure, the Toronto Humane Society accumulated an operating deficit that peaked four years after Miller’s departure at $9.2 million.
After the Miller-led team was ousted, Anne Doncaster joined Liz White, Stephen Best, and others in forming the Animal Alliance of Canada.
Anne Doncaster’s book The Surplus Pet Problem appeared under the Toronto Humane Society imprint in 1987. Two years later she edited the anti-fur anthology Skinned, published by the International Wildlife Coalition. Contributors included Clements, Best, MacKay, and ANIMALS 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton
“Canada’s official policy is to promote ‘maximum’ sustainable yields, or maximum exploitation; this is now considered by enlightened biologists to be an outworn and misguided concept,” Anne Doncaster wrote. “We can, and must, reject Canada’s myopic and dangerous disregard for the natural world.”
Recalled MacKay, “She was a good and effective person and really a pioneer. I recall how so often, just prior to making a strong point or illustrating some officially sanctioned idiocy, she would say, ‘I’m just a housewife from Mississauga, but…’, then wham.”