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animal welfare compassion cruelty News/Blog Promoted

Tell the government it must address the cruelty of animal transport

 

Please speak out for animals facing long journeys of preventable suffering by submitting your views to the government’s consultation on  farmed animal transport

The trial of Ontario animal activist Anita Krajnc, who faces jail time for giving water to pigs being transported to slaughter in hot weather, caught the attention of the world’s media last year.  It also brought attention to the suffering of millions of farmed animals routinely transported throughout Canada.

More stories of animal suffering during transport are emerging. The Vancouver Sun recently revealed the deaths of 27 pigs being trucked from Alberta to Vancouver for slaughter in sub-zero winter weather. A necropsy on some of the dead pigs found that “environmental challenges” during the trip affected the pigs’ ability to regulate their body temperature and they died of “cardiopulmonary failure.”

Such stories are not rare. About 700 million farmed animals undergo transport every year in Canada, 14 million of whom become sick or injured in the process and 1.5 million die en route.

Now the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is proposing new animal transport regulations and is asking for feedback on the proposals. This is your chance to speak up for pigs, chickens, cows and other animals who endure journeys of confinement, deprivation and exposure to Canada’s harsh climate.

VHS has responded to the CFIA proposals, with a submission outlining our concerns. If you share our concerns please feel free to use our submission as a guide in providing your own, unique feedback. It’s crucial that your submission be personalized and not identical to ours, as any identical submissions will all be counted as one submission.

The CFIA’s proposed amendments to the regulations concerning animal transport fall far short of protecting animals from suffering. They also fall short of the expectations of Canadians.  A 2016 poll found that 97 per cent of Canadians surveyed believe the country’s transport regulations must be updated to ensure farmed animals are transported in a safe and humane manner.

Please take a few minutes to read our submission and send your own personalized submission to the CFIA, based on the main issues listed below.

Long transport times:

The proposed length of time farmed animals can be transported for without access to food, water and rest is still far too long. Did you know that they are recommending that spent hens can endure 24 hours of transportation after they have spent up to 1 ½ years in cruel battery cages and are suffering from painful weakened bones, feather loss and other serious health issues?

Canada should follow the lead of the European Union and apply an 8 hour transport maximum for all species; including spent hens and cull dairy cows.

 

Transport trucks:

Poor ventilation and exposure to extreme weather can cause significant suffering, injury and death for animals being transported.

Transport trucks should be required to have temperature-controlled systems.

 

Space requirements:

The proposed regulations don’t provide specific space requirements for animals during transport. On average, transporters pack between seven and 16 chickens into each .5 m² crate, and there may be as many as 11,000 chickens on one truck.

Canada should follow the lead of the European Union and outline specific space requirements in order to prevent overcrowding.

 

Handling techniques:

Carrying animals by their legs, wings and head, as well as the use of electric prods is still allowed under the proposed regulations. Such handling methods should be banned and animals should only be handled in a low-stress and calm way.

 

Tusk removal:

The process of cutting the teeth of boars (de-tusking) without the use of painkillers should be banned. Instead, boars should be transported separately, as is done in the European Union.

 

Driver training:

Transport companies and drivers should be certified by a third party. Certification should include training focused on animal welfare, appropriate handling methods and special considerations for driving live animals.

 

Record-keeping:

Transport records are currently based on the “honour system”. CFIA inspection records reveal some drivers are completely unaware of how many animals they are transporting, even though the regulations require they keep a record.

Electronic systems that can confirm details like travel times, temperatures, speeds, distances, opening/closing of loading door should be required.

 

Enforcing regulations:

Improved regulations are important, but in order to be effective they must be well-enforced and violations must result in appropriate penalties. Anything less allows penalties to become simply a cost of doing business.

For example, transporting animals who are unable to stand in their natural position is considered a “minor” violation.

There should be a zero tolerance policy for animal welfare violations.

 

 

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animal welfare cruelty News/Blog Promoted

Is the end in sight for battery cages?

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Change is coming but more than 90 per cent of eggs in Canada still come from hens in battery cages.

 

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It looks like egg farmers are finally getting the message that consumers don’t want eggs from hens kept in crowded, cruel battery cages.

Their apparent conversion to the concept of cage-free egg production emerged in recent local media reports.  One farmer told the Abbotsford News: “I realized that’s the way of the future so I needed to personally change to meet the needs of our customers.”

His views were echoed by Brad Bond, chairman of the BC Egg Marketing Board, who told the Vancouver Sun: “This trend is going to continue and we are well-positioned to meet the demand… We know that animal welfare is top of mind for the hospitality industry and consumers alike.”

This welcome change comes after years of pressure by animal welfare groups that has educated consumers and retailers about the inherent cruelty of battery cages.  The recent decision by MacDonald’s Restaurants to phase out the use of eggs from caged hens may be the nail in the coffin for battery systems.  This follows similar decisions by big food companies such as Starbucks, General Mills, Sodexo, Aramark and Compass Group.

Here in British Columbia, VHS has led the fight against battery cages with our ChickenOUT! campaign – and we know it’s had an impact. It’s no accident that in B.C. nearly 17 per cent of eggs come from cage-free systems, compared to about three per cent in the rest of Canada.

But with more than 90 per cent of Canada’s eggs still coming from caged hens, there is a long way to go. And there are many problems to overcome.  Some farmers may switch to “enriched cages,” which provide a bit more space but still deny vital natural behaviours. Others may only go as far as switching to free-run or free-range, without moving to certified organic production, which has the highest welfare standards and is inspected by independent, third-party auditors to ensure operations are truly free-range.

VHS executive director Debra Probert expressed such concerns to the Vancouver Sun: “It’s a progressive move and those birds will be out of cages, but the public should know this is not the highest welfare system for laying hens…It remains to be seen how this free-run industry will function.” Nevertheless, the direction away from cages is clear.

While VHS welcomes the reduction in animal suffering that comes with the elimination of battery cages, we are well aware that the egg industry will still have inherent welfare problems, such as the killing of unwanted male chicks and inhumane transportation and slaughter, which all chickens endure.

That’s why VHS urges consumers to try making the switch to a plant-based diet.  Reducing or eliminating eggs from your diet are the best ways to help end the suffering of laying hens.  The good news is that new alternatives to eggs and egg products are emerging.

While victory over battery cage operations cannot yet be declared, their end is in sight.  Perhaps more importantly, the campaigns against them have shown that educating consumers and pressuring producers and retailers does work.  This bodes well for the fight against other cruel factory farm practices.  VHS is committed to being a part of that fight.  We hope you will join us.

 

 

 

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animal welfare Cruelty-free Food and Drink News/Blog plant-based diet Promoted vegan vegetarianism

New meat alternatives offer great promise

 

Homemade Healthy Vegetarian Quinoa Burger with Lettuce and Tomato

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But don’t look to ‘lab meat’ for a solution

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Guest post by David Steele

There is a promising trend in food these days. Meat substitutes are on the rise. More and more plant-based meats that look and taste like their cognate animal products are coming to market. They have been in the news big time lately. The New York Times, The Guardian, Time Magazine and Slate are just a few of the publications that have run feature stories in recent months.

 

Most recently, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote effusively about the latest products. High in protein and other nutrients, these plant-based meats, Kristof tells us, are nearly indistinguishable from cooked animal flesh. What a wonderful development! As The Guardian bluntly states, modern animal agriculture is one of the worst crimes in history. Soon, just maybe, we’ll be able to consign that crime to the past.

 

The vast majority of animals raised for meat, eggs and dairy today are raised on factory farms. Debeaking, tail docking, castration, even tooth cutting – all without anesthetics – are standard practice. Dairy cows have their calves taken from them within hours of giving birth. Egg laying hens live six or eight to a cage; each has less than a standard 8½ x 11” sheet of paper’s ‘floor’ space to her. Pregnant and mother pigs live individually in cages so tiny that they can’t even turn around.  As the Guardian article points out, “The fate of animals in such industrial installations has become one of the most pressing ethical issues of our time.”

 

And the severe problems don’t end with the animals’ hellish lives. Raising livestock and the grain and soybeans to feed them is easily the biggest contributor to rainforest destruction; credible analyses indicate that animal agriculture is responsible for roughly 15 to 25% of global warming.  And animal agriculture is grossly inefficient.

 

As Cornell University’s David Pimentel calculates it, the way we raise meat, it takes some 28 calories of fossil fuel to generate one calorie of food value. This is enormously wasteful. And worse, because so much grain and soy is fed to animals instead of humans, the price of basic staples is raised, pricing out hundreds of millions of the world’s poor (see, e.g., this book review). In effect, we’re throwing away the majority of the protein and calories that humans could have taken in. Clearly, we can’t allow this to go on. Not for long, anyway.

 

In step the meat substitutes

That is why the appearance of ever more meat substitutes is such a very good thing. As Kristof says, “If the alternatives to meat are tasty, healthier, cheaper, better for the environment and pose fewer ethical challenges, the result may be a revolution in the human diet.” And he may very well be right. Tech giant Google wanted to bet big time on it this summer. They made a $200,000,000+ offer for one of the new startups – Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown’s Impossible Foods. Brown’s product won’t even be out until next year! Google, by the way, was turned down; Impossible Foods has raised $108,000,000 on its own instead.

Dr. Brown’s big innovation? He’s adding plant-derived heme to his new veggie burgers. Heme, he argues, is responsible for much of the flavour of meat. If Google’s interest in it is any indicator, he’s probably right. His products will join those of Beyond Meat and the older Tofurky, Yves, Gardein, Field Roast, etc., etc., etc., on store shelves soon.

All of these substitutes for animal products save animals from horrific lives and reduce the environmental footprint of our meals. There are other products on the horizon, though, that are nowhere near as beneficial. They are not even benign.

 

“Lab Meat”

 

Mark Post and colleagues at the Maastricht University in the Netherlands and New York City’s Modern Meadow are attempting to make meat outside of animals’ bodies. Beef seems to be their main goal for now. This is not artificial meat, per se, but rather meat made by growing cells taken from animals. On the surface, it sounds like a great thing. But, when you dig deeper, you see that it is nothing of the sort.

 

The first lab meat burger was made, cooked and eaten a couple of years ago. Constructed from 20,000 tiny strips of muscle cells, the thing was reportedly on the flavourless side and cooked up well only with the liberal use of butter. It was lauded by Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, as the world’s first cruelty-free burger.

 

Unfortunately, in this case Dr. Singer was wrong. Immense cruelty went into it – and goes into the continued work on it and its competitors.

 

Lab meat is made by taking cells from the bodies of living animals and growing them in a liquid medium. The end result is short strands of muscle-like tissue that are then stuck together. Post, at least so far, manually assembles them; Modern Meadow is trying 3D printing.

 

Growing those cells requires serum. Serum is the liquid left over when all of the cells are removed from blood. The serum used to make these burgers comes from fetal calves and, in later stages of the cells’ growth, from horses. Fetal calf serum is ‘harvested’ by killing a pregnant cow, cutting her still living calf from her belly and then puncturing the calf’s still beating heart. About 1 litre of serum is obtained from each calf. Producing those 20,000 strips in the first ‘lab meat’ burger probably required hundreds of liters of the stuff. That’s hundreds of fetal calves taken from slaughtered cows … all for one 4 oz. burger.

Modern Meadow says that it gets more meat from a liter of serum but their claim (as stated in The Guardian) of getting 22 lbs of meat per litre is outrageously high. I doubt very much that anyone with any experience in tissue culture believes that they’re really getting even a tenth of that. My guess would be more like a fiftieth. In any case, if one wants to grow ‘meat’ in the lab, one needs the serum.

 

And, sadly, the prospects for doing away with that serum in the process are bleak. Serum contains enormous numbers of growth factors, hormones and proteins necessary for cell growth. Expert scientists have been trying for decades to come up with an alternative but so far none matches serum in promoting cell growth and all are wildly more expensive (in dollar terms, at least) as well.

 

Still, you might say, it’s not nice to animals but it must be better for the environment. You might cite the paper that says so. It loudly claims that ‘lab meat’ would require 99% less land, 82-96% less water, even 7-45% less energy than meat produced from animals raised in Europe.

 

True, that paper is out there. It got a lot of publicity. Unfortunately, it also is just about the worst example of a failure of peer review that I have ever seen. The study is deeply flawed. Its assumptions are highly questionable, to put it mildly: i.e., that the meat would be raised as free cells in unheated vats, that 80% of the water used to grow the cells would be recycled without treatment, and that the cells would be fed entirely with cyanobacteria. None of these assumptions are even close to realistic.

 

There is not the slightest chance that meat can be grown like that. Instead, the complex mix of nutrients, growth factors and hormones found in fetal calf serum will be required. The media will have to be heated to a constant 98 or 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37-38 degrees Celsius) for the cells to grow; oxygen will have to be delivered and waste products constantly removed. Reusing even 1% of the water without treatment is extremely unlikely.

 

And, because there is no immune system in cell culture, large amounts of antibiotics and antifungal drugs will be needed to keep the growing meat from being over run with germs. The possibility of viral infections will be high.

 

Beyond those problems, growing something that approximates the beef or pork or chicken that people expect will be a daunting task. The meat that Mark Post is producing is only 100-200 micrometres (1/250th to 1/125th of an inch) thick and roughly an inch long. It is nothing like what most people would call meat.

To grow a steak or a piece of chicken will require some sort of degradable scaffold with a complex vascular system capable of bringing food and oxygen to the growing cells and taking waste and carbon dioxide away. 3D printing may help, but it’s hard to imagine a meat anything like what people think of as meat emerging from this process. (I suppose that it might be pulled off by putting the animal cells into one of the excellent plant-based meats, but what would be the point of that?!).

 

All in all, this seems insane. It is true that animal agriculture needs to go. But it does not make sense to attempt to replace it with an enormously expensive high tech system that, if it does work, is highly likely to require major inputs of blood serum. There is little chance, even, that a venture like this will ever be economically viable.

 

And there’s no need. If one feels the need for something that tastes like meat, there are already plenty of plant-based alternatives available. Field Roast, Gardein, Tofurky, Yves, etc. As noted above, ever more flavourful alternatives are on the horizon.

 

By the way, there is a new cheese alternative on the horizon, too. This one will even have plant (actually, yeast)-based casein in it. The cows’ milk protein has been engineered into the yeast. It’s not as scary as it sounds.

 

And, if you must eat meat, do the responsible thing. Eat the plant-based stuff.

 

David Steele is a molecular biologist retired in 2013 from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. He has also held faculty positions at Cornell and Queen’s Universities. Dr. Steele has been Earthsave Canada‘s President since 2009. He is also a regular contributing writer to the Earthsave Canada newsletter and an occasional contributor to various other publications.

 

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Cruelty-free News/Blog plant-based diet Promoted vegetarianism

Go cruelty-free this Thanksgiving

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Pity the poor turkey. An inconceivable 20 million will be slaughtered in Canada in 2015, many of those destined to grace family Thanksgiving dinner tables.

Pity the turkey, the dairy cow, the chicken, the pig; in fact, pity all animals that are raised on factory farms to provide us with cheap meat and dairy products. They face horrific conditions on-farm.  Turkeys and chickens genetically bred to grow quickly suffer from constant hunger, painful lameness and searing pain from hot-blade de-beaking and de-toeing.  Dairy cows also endure painful lameness from lack of exercise, improper and dirty flooring, bad stall design and genetics – in fact, it’s estimated that 35 per cent of dairy cows in Canada are lame at any given time.  Transport and slaughter provide no relief from the cruelty, as already compromised animals are subjected to rough handling, crowded transport and questionable slaughter methods.

The legal system provides little protection for farmed animals.  The term ‘accepted management practices’  exempts  conditions such as extreme confinement, often for the entire life-span of the animal, and painful procedures such as those mentioned above. Conditions on most farms are not monitored by government, or any other independent, third party.

Even when animals are subjected to cruelty that goes beyond that accepted as “necessary”, the law provides very little in the way of redress, even when convictions are achieved.  In 2014, CBC’s Marketplace released graphic undercover footage obtained by Mercy for Animals Canada of a turkey breeder company in Ontario that supplies farms with up to 90 per cent of the turkey stock eaten in Canada.  Workers were seen attempting to kill turkeys with  broom handles and shovels, resulting in one bird being alive for more than five minutes after the bludgeoning began. Birds with open wounds and crippling injuries were left without adequate medical care.

The company and five of its employees were charged with eleven counts of animal cruelty. The company pled guilty to one count in exchange for the remaining ten being dropped. They were fined a mere $5,600.

Another case languishes in B.C. Undercover footage of Canada’s largest dairy farm in the Fraser Valley was released, again by Mercy for Animals Canada, in June, 2014. It exposed sickening abuse such as the repeated kicking and bludgeoning of dairy cows. In one case, a cow’s tail was viciously twisted until it broke.  In a complaint to police, Dr. James Reynolds, a professor of large animal medicine at Western University, called it “the most severe case(s) of animal abuse I have ever seen in 32 years as a bovine veterinarian.” Even though the BC SPCA recommended to Crown Counsel that charges be laid against the company, Chilliwack Cattle Sales, and the employees involved, more than 15 months later, no charges have been laid and the public is left to wonder why nothing has happened.

Codes of Practice exist for all farmed animals in Canada. These codes have serious deficiencies, as they don’t address most issues of public concern, such as gestation crates for sows and battery cages for hens, as well as many painful procedures. The codes are not enforced and not enshrined in law in most provinces (although the Government of B.C. recently announced that the Code of Practice for the Handling of Dairy Cattle is being incorporated into the provincial Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act) – rather, they provide minimum expectations for producers to follow. Unfortunately, there’s no way for the public to be assured that even these minimum guidelines are being followed because there is no third-party, arm’s length audit process.  This means that on-farm cruelty must be addressed by complaints from the public – a near-impossible task since most farms are out of the way and are operated behind closed and locked barn doors.

Fortunately, the public’s concerns about the treatment of farmed animals are increasingly being heard by large companies such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Starbucks and others who are demanding accountability from their suppliers.  Perhaps at some time in the future we will see all farmed animals treated with respect, dignity and empathy.

But in the meantime, pity the poor turkey and take time to contemplate that the product of such a cruel system has become a symbol for a family holiday of thankfulness. Perhaps consider extending your compassion to all animals by replacing them on your table with one of the delicious meat-free and cruelty-free alternatives so readily available, such as Tofurkey, Gardein Holiday Roast, “stuffed turk’y” and “turk’s cutlet”.

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Media Release

Why no charges in dairy cruelty case?

Why no charges in dairy cruelty case?

VANCOUVER, June 8, 2015 – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is calling on B.C. Crown Counsel to explain why it has not laid charges in the case of alleged animal cruelty at a dairy farm in Chilliwack last year.

It will be a year on June 9 since the BC SPCA recommended charges against eight employees of Chilliwack Cattle Sales, after an investigation by animal rights advocates revealed alleged acts of extreme cruelty to dairy cows. Video taken at the farm, which showed cows being beaten, kicked and abused, was broadcast by media across the country and provoked widespread public outrage.

VHS contacted Crown Counsel about the case in January but received no response.

VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker said the unusual delay by Crown Counsel was worrying. “We hope the Crown is taking this case seriously and will move forward on charges soon.”

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Why no action on dairy farm cruelty?

Worker about to beat cowNR

 

It has been almost seven months since the BC SPCA recommended charges against eight employees of a Chilliwack dairy farm, who allegedly whipped, punched and kicked cows at the farm.  Yet Crown Counsel has yet to announce whether the charges will be approved.

Video of the alleged beatings was released by the animal advocacy group Mercy for Animals, following work by an undercover investigator.  The BC SPCA, acting on this evidence, subsequently raided the farm and recommended animal cruelty charges under the Criminal Code.

Graphic video and photos from the undercover investigation were carried by news media across the country, shocking and outraging many Canadians.  Chilliwack Cattle Sales, the operator of the dairy farm, was the focus of intense public criticism and boycotts of milk from the farm were organized.

Despite the clear and overwhelming concern, Crown Counsel has still not responded to the BC SPCA’s recommendation.  Local news media have quoted the BC SPCA stating that the delay “is not typical of SPCA-recommended charges.”

VHS supporters, who worry that animal cruelty is not taken as seriously as it should be by our justice system, have expressed  concern that this case is perhaps not being pursued as vigorously as it should be.

VHS has contacted the Crown Counsel office to reiterate this concern and to enquire about progress on this case.  We are currently awaiting a reply.  It is our view that the public expects animal cruelty cases to be taken extremely seriously and that this case should be treated as a priority.

 

 

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animal welfare cruelty News/Blog Promoted

Appalling cruelty in animal transport

VHS demands action from government

 

 

Undercover footage taken by Mercy for Animals/Canada revealed that Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors failed to stop blatant abuse of pigs being transported to slaughter in Red Deer, Alberta. VHS is calling for enforcement of existing laws and updated legislation to protect these vulnerable animals (see our letter below).

Please contact Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Gerry Ritz and tell him Canadians will not tolerate this cruelty

You can also sign this petition (scroll down this link’s page to sign the petition)

 

October 16, 2014

The Honourable Gerry Ritz
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
1341 Baseline Road
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0C5

Dear Minister Ritz,

I was appalled to see undercover video footage exposing brutal animal abuse in Canada’s livestock transportation sector. The video shows animals overcrowded in transport trucks without protection from extreme weather or access to food and water; pigs who are so sick or injured they are unable to walk being painfully shocked with electric prods; workers using bolt cutters to break the tusks of male pigs without any painkillers; and animals who were so sick they died during transport.

To see this kind of cruelty under the watch of government inspectors and sometimes even in flagrant violation of existing laws, as weak as they are, is shocking, to say the least. The video captured a CFIA inspector stating, “If anybody has a camera, this will be on the internet” and another offering to get an electric prod for an employee. It’s clear that they know that what they are doing is wrong. CFIA inspectors are there to not only protect public health, but also to enforce animal welfare legislation. I find it shameful that these kinds of atrocities could take place in a civilized country such as Canada.

Canada needs to bring itself in line with other countries with much more progressive protection for farmed animals in transport – countries like the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and the US. Legislation to protect farmed animals, who are raised, transported and slaughtered with little or no oversight, should be fast-tracked in order to ensure not only the humane community, but the public, that the government takes farmed animal welfare seriously. Lastly and most importantly, CFIA inspectors need to be properly trained to do the job they are supposed to be doing.

Judging from the number of investigations done in recent months at farms and slaughterhouses chosen at random, this seems to be the culture of these industries, rather than an anomoly. I look forward to hearing the steps the Canadian government will take to address these issues.

Sincerely,

Debra Probert
Executive Director
Vancouver Humane Society