Rosy image of factory farming promoted
The corporate power of Big Agriculture and the Calgary Stampede is being used to paint a rosy picture of factory farming to Calgary schoolchildren – with no dissenting voices allowed.
The Stampede’s ‘Aggie Days’ (April 21-22) is an annual event “celebrating” agriculture in Alberta – as long as it’s conventional, intensive agriculture. Up to 30,000 local schoolchildren visit the promotion each year.
Paul Hughes, a local food activist who promotes small-scale urban agriculture, has been denied a booth at the event for the past four years. Hughes says that his booth would focus on how to grow food in an urban environment, providing information on preparing plots, choosing plants and starting school gardens. Yet despite such innocuous activities and a pledge not to engage in any political activity, Hughes was again denied a booth.
Other exhibitors, like Alberta Chicken Producers and Alberta Egg Producers, will have booths at the event. But Hughes, who is president of the Calgary Liberated Urban Chicken Klub (CLUCK), is not welcome. CLUCK is opposed to factory farming, including battery-cage egg operations. Perhaps the big conventional chicken operations don’t want schoolchildren to hear that hens are happier when they’re not crammed six to a cage.
While VHS has concerns about unregulated urban chickens, CLUCK’s proposals are about responsible urban husbandry that’s subject to regulation that will protect animal welfare. It’s hard not to admire CLUCK’s fight for a traditional form of small-scale agriculture that respects animals and the environment. It’s just one more small voice trying to stand up to the overwhelming power of corporate agriculture.
And it’s that corporate power that is being used to silence any voice that questions factory farming. Meanwhile, Aggie Days will ensure that schoolchildren see a one-sided view of agriculture that suits Big Ag and the Calgary Stampede.