The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is joining other animal protection, environmental and food advocacy groups in calling on the federal government to direct any financial aid for Canada’s agriculture system toward transitioning to a safe, equitable and sustainable plant-based food system that improves food security, protects animal welfare, public health, worker safety and the environment on which we all depend.
The joint letter highlights that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed serious problems with Canada’s food system and supply chains, particularly in the meat industry. Industrial livestock operations are a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation and are characterized by the confinement of large numbers of genetically-similar animals in unnatural and unhealthy environments. These conditions significantly compromise their welfare and could lead to the rise of new zoonotic diseases that threaten public health.
Meanwhile, the consolidation of the meat industry into the hands of a few multi-billion dollar corporations makes supply chains vulnerable to unexpected disruptions. For example, the pandemic has prompted some pig farmers in Canada to cull animals in response to reduced processing capacity at slaughterhouses, after they were forced to suspend or slow operations following COVID-19 outbreaks among workers. A large number of COVID-19 cases have been linked to slaughterhouses and employees have spoken out about the lack of protection for workers and the dangerous, fast-paced, and unhealthy environments.
The joint letter encourages the federal Minister of Finance and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to dedicate any emergency funding for the agricultural sector, as well as any future funding, on phasing out industrial livestock operations and assisting farmers in transitioning toward a sustainable, ethical and equitable plant-based food system. COVID-19 is an unprecedented wake-up call and policy-makers must take action to ensure that we emerge from this crisis with a more resilient food system that is respectful of the inter-connectedness of human, environmental, and animal health.