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Why are some animals celebrated as individuals while millions more are treated as commodities?

Most pigs are confined on factory farms and sent to slaughter


On a recent Saturday in Cloverdale, B.C., an Alzheimer centre held a birthday party.  The party was not for one of the residents, but for a one-year-old “therapy pig” called Rosie. 

Local press covered the celebration, quoting centre staff on the effect Rosie has on residents and their relatives who come to visit. “Not only has Rosie been hugely beneficial to the residents, but our staff, volunteers, families, they’ve all blended together to become a part of her life as well,” the centre’s program coordinator told the reporter.

The next day, local and national media were reporting on another story just a few miles away in Abbotsford. Animal activists were protesting at a hog farm in response to an undercover video allegedly showing neglected, sick and suffering pigs kept in filthy conditions. 

The contrasting stories, one about a pig bringing joy to humans, the other about humans bringing misery to pigs, could not illustrate our collective cognitive dissonance about pigs more clearly. Are they just meat (cue the “Mmm, bacon” trolls) or are they more akin to our fabled best friend, the dog?

Scientific studies have suggested that pigs are as intelligent as dogs, although it has been argued that such comparisons are not very meaningful, especially in determining how an animal should be treated. If  my border collie is smarter than your bulldog is he entitled to be treated with more kindness?

What really matters is sentience – the ability to experience sensations such as pain, pleasure or comfort. Neuroscientist Lori Marino, who appeared as an expert witness at the 2017 trial of an animal activist charged with mischief for giving water to pigs in transport trucks, testified that pigs are sentient beings and that “They have self-awareness, self-agency and have a sense of themselves within the social community… Each one is a unique individual.”

The suggestion that pigs feel emotion and have unique personalities would come as no surprise to anyone visiting a farm animal sanctuary. Diane Marsh, a co-founder of the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary in B.C. tells the story of Betty the pig, who befriended a donkey who had mourned the loss of his horse buddy for two years, rejecting the company of other animals.  She says they had an “instantaneous friendship” and now share food, graze together and sleep next to each other. 

Imagine getting to know Rosie at the Alzheimer centre or Betty at the sanctuary.  It would be heartbreaking for most people if the two were trucked away to a factory farm and sent for slaughter. Yet that is what happens to millions of pigs, each with a unique personality, every day. The only difference is that those nameless millions are unknown to us.

As people become more ethically uncomfortable with industrialized animal agriculture, some have sought so-called “happy meat” from more traditional farms offering better conditions for animals.  Others, recognizing that this still leaves animals facing an unwanted, premature death, are turning away from meat altogether.  And, as most meat in Canada comes from industrialized farms, this is the only realistic ethical choice.

The phenomenal rise of plant-based alternatives to meat has made it easier than ever to avoid animal consumption.  The new products, competing on taste, price and convenience, are attracting considerable investment and proving popular with consumers around the world.

The environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet have been major drivers of the demand for meat alternatives, boosting the efforts of animal advocates and bolstering their ethical arguments against animal consumption. 

But for those who see pigs and other animals as fellow sentient beings and not mere commodities, the ethical arguments are enough. For them, a simple question provides its own answer: If one can eat well without the need for suffering and slaughter, why not?  For them, every pig is a Rosie or a Betty – someone, not something.










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Abbotsford pig farm cruelty: Another example of why animal agriculture can’t be trusted

Photo: PETA


Yesterday’s release of an undercover video showing sick and dying pigs living in filthy conditions at the Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford is just the latest example of why the animal agriculture industry cannot be trusted to raise animals humanely.

Pigs at the farm, which is owned by a director of the BC Pork Producers Association, are shown in the video unable to stand, some with large untreated growths on their bodies. Dead piglets and an adult dead pig can also be seen.

In 2014, animal activists released video that exposed horrific cruelty inflicted on cows at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, Canada’s largest dairy farm.  At the time, Jeff Kooyman, one of the owners of the farm, said he was “shocked” and claimed he had no idea his staff were allegedly abusing the cows. In 2016, Kooyman and five members of his family were charged with causing or permitting animals to be, or to continue to be, in distress – a violation of B.C.’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Several company employees were also charged under the act and later jailed.  The company was fined $300,000.

In June 2017, video footage released by animal activists showed chickens at a Chilliwack poultry operation being mangled, stomped on, thrown against a wall, and smashed into transport crates. The BC SPCA, which described the abuse as “absolutely sickening,” recommended charges, but nearly two years later Crown Counsel has still not prosecuted anyone. (In December 2018, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) laid charges under federal Health of Animals Regulation against Sofina Foods, Elite Farm Services and Elite’s president, Dwayne Dueck, for allegedly beating chickens and loading them in a way “likely to cause injury or undue suffering.”)

In 2018, the BC SPCA announced it was again investigating Elite Farm Services and a chicken farm called Jaedel Enterprises in what it said was “another situation where chickens have allegedly suffered as a result of what appears to be a blatant disregard to adherence of the industry’s own agreed-upon standards of care and a failure to either comply with or put in place processes to ensure this type of suffering does not occur.”

The poultry, dairy and pork industries responsible for the care of these animals routinely deny that these horrific cases of abuse are “the norm.” It’s always just a few “bad apples” they say, while expecting the public to believe that all the other animals on Canadian farms are living happy lives in wonderful conditions. 

But these undercover animal cruelty cases, and the many others that have exposed similar abuse across Canada, the United States and elsewhere, should make clear that modern industrial agriculture can never provide humane conditions for animals.

Many Canadians do not realize that animal farmers in Canada largely police themselves. There are Codes of Practice to protect animal welfare on Canadian farms but there are no government inspections to enforce the codes in terms of conditions on farms. Government oversight only extends to animal transportation and slaughter practices, not the living conditions or overall well-being of animals farmed for food.

Vancouver Humane believes that it is impossible to give animals a good life on modern, industrialized farms. The system is designed to provide cheap meat, dairy and eggs, not to ensure good animal welfare.

Animals are sentient beings that deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. That’s not going to happen on factory farms, where more than 90 per cent of Canada’s farm animals are raised.

That’s why we encourage people to switch to a plant-based diet and refrain from consuming animal-based products. That’s why we support the rise of plant-based businesses and call on governments at all levels to do the same. 

Modern animal agriculture will never be good for animals and it has been shown to be bad for the environment and for our health.  It’s time to build a food system that is healthy, sustainable and compassionate.





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Why is a humane society talking about plant-based diets?

“Put simply, when we eat animal products we hurt both farmed and wild animals”


Anyone who is familiar with Vancouver Humane’s work or follows our social media channels will notice that we encourage people to try a plant-based diet. Some people, especially those who see a humane society’s work as limited to helping companion animals, might wonder why we put such emphasis on changing diets.

The most obvious reason is that the fewer meat and dairy products we consume, the fewer animals need to be slaughtered. Another reason is that reducing animal-based food consumption negates the case made by industry for factory farming, which exists because of the demand for intensively-produced, cheap meat and dairy.  In short, eating fewer animal products means less slaughter and suffering. It’s also worth noting that 60 per cent of all mammals on earth are livestock, so addressing factory farming means helping large numbers of animals.

“There is substantial evidence that meat consumption contributes to global warming” 

But cutting meat consumption benefits animals in other important ways. Most people are now aware of the threat of climate change to the planet – and that means a threat to animals as well as humans. There is substantial evidence that meat consumption contributes to global warming. (The United Nations says that the livestock sector produces 14.5 per cent of human-generated global greenhouse gas emissions.) And there is no doubt climate change is having an impact on wildlife. As the WWF says, “From polar bears in the Arctic to marine turtles off the coast of Africa, our planet’s diversity of life is at risk from the changing climate.”

Aside from contributing to the harm to wildlife through global warming, meat consumption is having a negative impact on animals by causing other environmental damage. A 2017 WWF study found that excessive animal product consumption is responsible for 60 per cent of all biodiversity loss, due to the massive amount of land being used to grow feed for livestock. A previous study on biodiversity loss concluded that: “The consumption of animal-sourced food products by humans is one of the most powerful negative forces affecting the conservation of terrestrial ecosystems and biological diversity. Livestock production is the single largest driver of habitat loss, and both livestock and feedstock production are increasing in developing tropical countries where the majority of biological diversity resides.”  Put simply, when we eat animal products we hurt both farmed and wild animals.

“Livestock production is the single largest driver of habitat loss”

Our focus on reducing the consumption of animal products doesn’t mean we don’t also work to improve the lives of animals currently suffering on factory farms.  We publicly demand accountability for incidents of deliberate animal cruelty on farms and we routinely push for better conditions for farmed animals through, for example, government consultations.

We also make time to address other issues such as rodeos, animals in captivity and the plight of animals whose welfare is often overlooked.

And we haven’t forgotten our precious companion animals, who we help through our McVitie Fund when they are sick and injured.

It’s your donations that make all this work possible. Whether you want to make a better future for animals or help them right here and now, your support will make a real difference.

Take action: Our Go Veg campaign
News: Our latest article on the Daily Hive 

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Move to incorporate farmed animal codes into law will not protect animals from cruelty

The provincial government recently announced it will be adopting into law the codes of practice for the care and handling of farm animals, as outlined by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC).

The NFACC codes provide guidelines for animal handling, feed and water, housing and health, among other things. They will come into effect for poultry, fur and meat farmers across the province in June of this year.

While on the surface this may seem like a good thing for animals, the devil is in the details. NFACC is largely made of up industry representatives – it includes farmers, producers, transporters, veterinarians, retail and food service organizations, processors, governments and researchers, and animal welfare and enforcement agencies.

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) has several concerns about the adoption of the codes of practice into B.C. law. First, the adoption of the codes will not eliminate inherently inhumane practices currently applied to animals confined on farms. For instance, dairy cows will still spend most, if not all, of their lives indoors and be separated from their newborn calves; chickens will still be selectively bred for crippling fast growth; pigs will still be confined in crates. These are all still permissible under the codes of practice.

Second, how the codes are implemented into provincial law is of crucial importance. Animal Rights Lawyer, Anna Pippus, wrote about this in detail in 2016, after B.C. incorporated the codes of practice for dairy cattle into law. While the government celebrated it as a step forward in improving the welfare of dairy cows in B.C., Pippus noted that the dairy codes were incorporated as a defence rather than as a requirement. The BC Dairy Cattle Regulation recognizes the dairy code practices “as reasonable and generally accepted practices of dairy farming for the purposes of section 24.02 (c) of the Act”, instead of incorporating them as requirements that farmers must comply with. For comparison, Prince Edward Island’s animal welfare regulations reference the codes of practice as follows – “Every owner of a commercial animal shall comply with the codes of practice listed in Schedule B in respect of the commercial animal to which the code applies.”

This mean that in B.C., if a dairy farmer was accused of causing distress to an animal they could avoid charges by arguing that they were complying with the “reasonable and generally accepted practices of dairy farming.” Yet, the same regulation does not allow for farmers to be prosecuted if they aren’t complying with the codes, due to the fact that the dairy codes were not incorporated into law as a requirement that farmers must meet.

Fast forward to 2019, and we’re seeing this story repeat itself, with the remaining farm animal codes of practice being incorporated into B.C. law under the headline of improving animal welfare, but seemingly with the same problematic implications – as reasonable and generally acceptable livestock management practices, thus offering a defence for farmers, not animals.  

Join us in telling the provincial Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham that incorporating the NFACC codes of practice for farm animals as a defence for farmers is a step in the wrong direction. If we are to truly advance the welfare of farmed animals, on-farm regulations should be based on the best available science (not the industry-led codes of practice) and government oversight in the form of pro-active, on-farm audits in order to ensure compliance. See below for key points to make in your email to the Minister.

Ultimately, the best thing that we as individual consumers can do to truly protect animals from cruelty is to not eat, wear or use them. Today there are more alternatives to animal products on the market than ever before, making it easier for people to choose products that align more closely with their values.

Key points:

  • While the adoption of the codes into B.C. law is being framed by the government as strengthening animal welfare, it actually does nothing to further animal welfare. The codes still permit inhumane practices including selective breeding for crippling fast growth, separation of mothers from young and intensive confinement. 
  • Implementing the codes of practice as “reasonable and generally acceptable livestock management practices” and not as requirements that farmers must meet protects farmers, not the animals.
  • To truly advance farmed animal welfare, on-farm regulations should be based on the best available science, not industry-led codes of practice. The regulations should also be subject to government oversight through pro-active, on-farm inspections.
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New transport regulations don’t go far enough to protect farmed animals

The federal government has finally released the new farmed animal transport regulations, which were last revised in 1977. Alarmingly, the new rules fail to address some of the most major animal welfare concerns and offer only minor improvements to the existing, outdated regulations.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) own statistics indicate that approximately 14 million animals suffer injuries during transportation annually in Canada and almost 1.6 million are reported dead on arrival each year. The agency also noted that the existing regulations did not reflect the current science regarding the care and handling of animals and failed to align with the standards of Canada’s international trading partners.

Yet the new regulations still fall significantly short of meeting the best available science and still do not reflect other international standards. Transport is a stressful process for farmed animals and internal CFIA documents revealed that the CFIA’s original intention was to drastically reduce transport times under the new regulations. Officials also indicated in briefing notes that transport times between eight and 12 hours were ideal. But under pressure from industry lobbyists, the CFIA abandoned its own recommendations.

For example, the CFIA initially proposed a maximum of 24 hours in transport for day-old chicks, but lobbying by the meat industry led to the maximum time being changed to 72 hours under the new regulations. Similarly, maximum times for cattle changed from a proposed 28 hours to 36 and spent hens, who are deemed no longer productive for the egg industry and are incredibly vulnerable, went from a proposed maximum of 12 hours to up to 28 hours.

Meanwhile, the European Union has a maximum transport time of eight hours for most animals, while in New Zealand and Australia it ranges from 12 to 24 hours.

Shockingly, animals can still be transported in all types of weather without protection from the elements – a situation that has been increasingly making headlines in recent years, when the public encounters transported animals in distress during heat waves and cold snaps.

These “new” regulations will lead to the continued suffering of millions of animals every year across Canada. Join us in telling the federal Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, that the revised transport laws are unacceptable and fail to meet not only the best available science, but also the expectations of the Canadian public.

Read the recent coalition letter from 30 animal protection organizations, advocates, experts and Members of Parliament calling for stronger federal transport regulations

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Matching grant will double your donations to TWO great campaigns!

Grant will help campaigns to fight rodeo cruelty and factory farming

A generous anonymous donor is offering to match donations to support our fight against rodeo cruelty and to help our Go Veg campaign. The matching grants mean your donation will be doubled, up to $10,000 for each program!

Our campaign against cruelty at the Chilliwack Fair rodeo, the Calgary Stampede and other rodeos will continue this year and your contributions, aided by the matching grant, will allow us to draw greater attention to the plight of rodeo animals. 

Last year, Vancouver Humane exposed the use of electric shock devices at the Chilliwack Fair rodeo, which received considerable media coverage.  We’ll put the spotlight on the rodeo again this year and keep up the pressure on sponsors.

Your doubled donation will also help our Go Veg campaign, allowing us to educate the public about the suffering of farmed animals, promote a plant-based diet and reduce the overall consumption of animal-based foods. We’re also supporting a growing number of institutions, from food service providers, schools and hospitals to corporate cafeterias, in reducing their offering of animal products on menus in favour of more plant-based foods. 

Your gift will allow us to expand this important campaign and go even further to help farmed animals. The funds raised will help us run more Go Veg bus ads, attend more public events and distribute more Go Veg leaflets. We will be able to offer additional culinary support for institutions looking to transition more of their menus to plant-based and we will advocate for policies that prioritize plant-based foods, as well as stronger regulations to protect animal welfare.

Together we can create a kinder and more humane society for all animals!

To donate just click here.  From the drop-down menu choose the Rodeo or Go Veg funds to ensure your donation is doubled.

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The truth about bull-riding

Tormenting animals for entertainment is unacceptable.

Earlier this year, we were dismayed to see two events staged in Abbotsford that saw bulls tormented and taunted for the sake of entertainment.

One was an “extreme rodeo” event held at Abbotsford’s Exhibition Park, some of which can be seen in this video.  It’s clear that the bulls want no part of this sad spectacle. VHS complained to Abbotsford City Council, which owns the venue, but received no response.

The other was a Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event at the Abbotsford Centre, a venue also owned by the City of Abbotsford.  Again, bulls were exploited for human amusement, obviously distressed as they bucked wildly to get unwanted riders off their backs.  In addition, they were exposed to loud fireworks despite the fact that sudden noise is known to cause distress in cattle.

Bull-riding has become popular in recent years, as fans see it as a sensational contest between “man and beast.”  Few people feel empathy for the bulls, as they weigh us much as 2000 pounds and are seen as ferocious and powerful.  PBR and rodeo promoters say the bulls are star “athletes” and are born to buck, even though they have no choice but to participate.

Why do bulls buck?

The truth is that the bulls are selectively bred for a predisposition to buck, which means they are especially sensitive to any negative stimulus, such as the riders they are trying to buck off. This is thought to be an evolutionary response to a predator jumping on the bull’s back.  In other words, the bull feels it is under attack and is fighting for its life.  The wild bucking seen at these events does not occur outside the arena.

In addition to being mounted by the unwanted rider, a “flank strap” is cinched tight around the bull’s torso just before it is released into the arena.  This causes the bull discomfort, creating yet further negative stimulus to induce the bull to buck harder.  One study on bucking bulls puts it very clearly: “The purpose of the flank rope is to produce an annoyance to the bull.”

A bull showing “eye white” – a sign of fear and stress

While the rodeo and bull-riding industries deny bulls are suffering, it is clear to any objective observer that the bulls’ wild bucking is an unnatural, negative experience.  One indicator of the bulls’ distress is the presence “eye white” (an increase in the size of the white of the eye surrounding the pupil), which can be seen in photos of bull-riding events.  Eye white has been identified as sign of fear and distress in cattle. One 2017 study states: “The work to date suggests that eye white percentage is a meaningful indicator of emotion, with more eye whites indicating fear and frustration and less eye white associated with positive feelings.”

Although it is difficult to see what happens behind the scenes in the chutes before a bull is released, there have been instances at rodeos where bulls have been kicked, had their tails twisted or have been electrically shocked – all to ensure bulls leave the chutes angry, fearful and bucking wildly. VHS exposed the use of an electric shock device at the Chilliwack rodeo’s bull-riding event in 2018.

While bulls can exhibit aggressive behaviour, they are not the inherently “mean” or “ornery” animals described by PBR promoters.  Their levels of aggressive behaviour are determined by a mix of breeding and environment. For example, if they are isolated from the herd and put in an unfamiliar setting they are likely to be more aggressive.  Otherwise, aggressive behaviour is manifested when bulls are provoked – such as being mounted by an unwanted rider or stressed by a flank strap.

Bucking bulls are also “trained” through the use of dummies, which are metal weights placed on their backs and released when they buck their hardest, thus conditioning the bull to buck harder to gain relief from the distress caused by the weight.

Physical harm to bulls

There is evidence that bucking bulls may suffer physical damage from the events they are forced to participate in.  A 2017 study states that: “Results indicated bucking bulls were more likely than nonbucking bulls to develop horn and sinus disorders and musculoskeletal disorders of the vertebral region and pelvic limbs.”

While there are no independent statistics on bull injuries, there are certainly instances of bucking bulls suffering catastrophic injuries, such as in this video.

Injuries to humans

Although not an animal welfare issue, it is well known that bull-riding causes numerous injuries to human participants.  A 2007 research paper comparing injury rates in various sports found that bull-riding had an injury rate 10 times greater than American football.  The report concluded: “As a result of these analyses, it is a simple matter to conclude that there is a universal difference in the injury rates between bull riding and most other sports; and these authors, therefore, are compelled to declare the sport of bull riding to be the most dangerous organised sport in the world.” An earlier study suggests about 10 per cent of bull-riding injuries are concussions.

The PBR glorifies the danger of bull-riding, even producing a videos of the worst “wrecks” at its events.  Many boys and young men are drawn to the macho culture, money and adrenalin rush of bull-riding, despite the high risk of long-term physical harm, including potential brain damage.

Take action

Despite being inhumane to bulls, as well as unduly dangerous to humans, bull-riding has grown in popularity.  VHS is urging the public to complain to the venues that host PBR and rodeo bull-riding events.

Donate to protect animals

Tell the Calgary Stampede to end inhumane rodeo events

Learn more about rodeo cruelty

Latest news

Ramping up efforts to end rodeo cruelty

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur\We Animals Media With the 2024 rodeo season underway, the VHS continues to campaign for an end to inhumane rodeo events. This includes reaching out to decision-makers at various levels about growing public opposition to rodeo and the harms of roping, wrestling, and bucking events.  Last year, the VHS shared footage from harmful…


Video from Sisters Rodeo captures rodeo bull jumping fence, tossing spectator

Cover photo: Jo-Anne McArthur \ We Animals Media. Content warning: The video associated with this article shows a bull jumping over a fence and injuring a human. This article from Global News highlights a recent video of a bull named Party Bus jumping over a fence at the Sisters Rodeo in Oregon and tossing…


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On Giving Tuesday you can fight factory farm cruelty and help rescued animals

The Vancouver Humane Society and The Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary are partnering to raise funds to help animals now and in the future

Every year in Canada, more than 800 million animals are raised on cruel factory farms before they are sent for slaughter. They suffer from confinement and from being denied the chance to live and behave naturally.  Yet science has shown that each animal, just like your pet cat or dog, has his or her own unique personality. That’s why we say every animal is someone, not something.

This year, on Giving Tuesday, November 27th, we are again partnering with The Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary to make life better for farmed animals.  Giving Tuesday is the annual opportunity to put your dollars toward a cause that’s near and dear to your heart – this year, we hope you’ll make it the plight of animals on factory farms.  All donations will be split between both charities.

At VHS, we work year-round to draw public and media attention to the treatment of farmed animals. Our Go Veg campaign encourages people to try a plant-based diet, which reduces the demand that drives factory farming. We’ve launched our Meatless Monday initiative in 17 Metro Vancouver secondary and post-secondary schools, helping to introduce a compassionate, healthy and sustainable diet to the next generation.  And our rodeo campaign is exposing cruelty and showing that “livestock” are not just commodities to be brutalized for entertainment, but sentient animals capable of feeling physical and emotional pain.

Our partners at The Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary have shown how rescued farmed animals, free of cruelty and confinement, can flourish as individuals. The sanctuary provides a forever home for all types of animals where they can live out their entire lives in a beautiful, natural setting where they are treated with kindness and respect. Visiting Happy Herd and meeting the animals can be a life-changing experience. You will quickly see them as “friends, not food.”

On November 27th, you can donate directly to our joint appeal, but you can also help by supporting the generous (and cruelty-free) local businesses who are partnering with VHS and Happy Herd. On Giving Tuesday, they will be launching a variety of special offers and promotions, all raising funds to help us help animals.  Watch our website and social media channels for updates as we get closer to November 27th – or sign up for our action alerts.

Giving Tuesday is your chance to make life better for farmed animals.  Don’t miss it!



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This year, have a compassionate, plant-based Thanksgiving

Try these plant-based ideas for Thanksgiving Dinner

Every year in Canada, 20 million turkeys are slaughtered, with many ending up on dinner tables for Thanksgiving.

Most turkeys are bred for fast growth, which causes them to be top-heavy, leading to painful bone deformities and lameness. Most are raised in cramped conditions on factory farms, where they suffer boredom and frustration because they lack the space to express natural behaviours. They are also subjected to painful beak trimming and toe trimming without pain medication.

A plant-based Thanksgiving is a compassionate alternative to eating turkeys or other animals for the celebration. The good news is that there are plenty of  cruelty-free options and resources for a meat-free holiday.  Here are our suggestions on how to enjoy a compassionate Thanksgiving dinner in Vancouver.

A great option is the Annual Compassionate Thanksgiving Potluck Celebration on October 8th, which this year is being hosted by Vancouver’s Meatless Meetup and Vegans of UBC. Proceeds from this family-friendly event will go to cover costs and to support Earthsave Canada’s school talks program.

If your budget allows some fine dining, Vancouver’s upscale plant-based restaurant, The Acorn, is offering an ‘Everything but the Bird Thanksgiving Feast’ on October 7th and 8th, which it says will be an “indulgent, wildly seasonal” three-course dinner for $45 per person with optional wine pairings.

But if, like most people, you plan to prepare your own holiday dinner, there’s no shortage of alternatives to turkey.  There are a number of great meatless roasts available from Vancouver’s Vegan Supply, including offerings from Gardein, Field Roast and Tofurky.

And, of course, there are plenty of online recipes and suggestions for a plant-based Thanksgiving.  The Oh She Glows recipe website offers lots of ideas, as does The Food Network and even this Toronto yoga centre’s site.

Plant-based choices for special celebrations are increasingly common, making it easy to enjoy a cruelty-free holiday feast. 

Have a happy – and compassionate – Thanksgiving!







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Best way to improve chicken welfare? Don’t eat chicken.

The meat and livestock industry has been under sustained pressure to improve animal welfare but sometimes their responses to that pressure, even when genuine, can create complicated new problems.

Recently, the Globe & Mail published an article on the challenges of producing “slow growth” chickens. It described the efforts by producers to address the consequences of selective breeding in the poultry industry, which has led to fast-growing chickens with horrific health problems.

Chickens raised in the 1950s weighed about two pounds when full grown. Now chickens weigh more than nine pounds.  Breeding for unnatural fast growth and more breast meat has created birds that suffer from painful broken bones, lameness, and heart disease.

The Globe piece details how industry, agricultural scientists and animal welfare experts are trying to produce a “better bird” that will appeal to consumers, have better health, be profitable to raise and be environmentally sustainable.  This is proving to be challenging, as slower-growth birds require substantially more water and feed (because they live longer), which means more impact on the environment and higher production costs.  Considerable resources are now being devoted to solving this conundrum.

While any effort to improve animal welfare is laudable, it’s hard to avoid the obvious question: Why not just stop eating chicken?  The advantages of switching to a plant-based diet are clear and well-documented.  For animals, lower demand for meat means less factory farming and slaughter. For the environment it means less deforestation, lower greenhouse gas emissions and less demand for land, water and other resources.  For human health, it means fewer chronic health problems linked to meat consumption.

The resources currently being devoted to producing “better” factory-farmed animals could be devoted to developing a new, plant-based food system.  Science funding could be applied to research into alternatives to animal protein, improvements to protein crops such as pulses and ways to use these crops in new food products.  Government could support public information campaigns to promote a plant-based diet, help plant-based start-ups and invest in research and development to underpin a new agricultural economy that no longer depends on inhumanely incarcerating and slaughtering billions of animals.

To a small degree, this is already happening.  The new Canada Food Guide is expected to put more emphasis on the benefits of a plant-based diet.  The federal government has started to fund major initiatives to develop plant-based foods.  And polls show many Canadians are open to reducing meat consumption.  The opportunity is there, but is the political will?

While a transition to a plant-based food system faces many barriers and will take time, it is the simplest and most effective way to address the unacceptable consequences of our current cruel, unhealthy and environmentally disastrous food system.