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News/Blog

Federal e-petition: Video surveillance in slaughterhouses

Animals suffer in slaughterhouses.

Animals in slaughterhouses face stress, fear, and pain, often after suffering through long transport journeys. Year after year, stories have emerged of horrific suffering in slaughterhouses; and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has limited resources to monitor facilities across Canada.

This is why the Vancouver Humane Society, five other animal protection organizations, and the citizens of Canada are supporting a new official federal government petition to introduce video surveillance in federally regulated slaughterhouses. Surveillance would help to:

  • Address the most egregious cruelty farmed animals face at the end of their short lives
  • Improve compliance with cruelty laws
  • Provide transparency to Canadians who consume animal products about where their food comes from

Please add your name to the petition on the Parliament of Canada website to help farmed animals. The petition closes on August 24th.

Sign the federal e-petition
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News/Blog

Podcast: Farmed animal cruelty laws

Industrial animal agriculture has been called the biggest animal welfare crisis on the planet, with more than 70 billion land animals killed for food each year.

The Sentience Institute estimates that 74% of farmed animals are currently on factory farms, which are characterized by large numbers of animals confined in cramped, barren and unnatural conditions. This episode of the Vancouver Humane Society’s podcast, The Informed Animal Ally, explores the practices and laws that impact the suffering of these animals throughout their lives.

Practices on farms

A farmer walks inside a poultry farm

The Canadian Criminal Code may apply to farmed animals—they include an offense for wilfully killing, maiming, wounding, poisoning animals—but only if there is no lawful excuse.

The National Farm Animal Care Council’s Codes of Practice outline the minimum generally accepted practices of animal management; practices within the codes would be considered a “lawful excuse” for causing suffering. In British Columbia, the Codes are incorporated into law as a means of defense for farmers even in cases when there is evidence of animal suffering.

Many practices we would consider essential to the welfare of animals are labelled in the Codes as “recommended practices” and not requirements. Even where there are requirements that help to protect welfare, there is no use of the codes for proactive enforcement by government.

Generally accepted practices can cause acute pain and prolonged suffering. For instance, the chicks of egg-laying hens are met with practices that cause immense suffering or death soon after birth.

  • Male chicks born from egg-laying hens are considered a byproduct because they do not grow as quickly as chickens bred for meat; they can be killed by being sent down a conveyor belt into a macerator, gassed, or suffocated in plastic bags.
  • Female chicks are prepared to be raised for egg-laying by being debeaked; the tip of the top part of their beak is cut off with a hot blade or laser without anesthetic. This mutilation is done to prevent hens from pecking each other and themselves in stressful close quarters rather than giving the hens more space and freedom.

This is just one of many examples of animals receiving a punishment or painful prevention for an undesired behaviour, rather than addressing the poor conditions that cause the behaviour.

You can learn more about generally accepted practices on farms by registering for free at the Animal Justice Academy and watching The State of Animals Used in the Food Industry: In-Depth with Geoff Regier.

Transportation

A pig seen through the bars of a transport truck

The Health of Animals Act regulates animal import and export, including transportation times.

There are very few farms with on-site slaughter facilities, which means most farmed animals must be transported before they are slaughtered.

The transport of animals is regulated federally by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), but the loading of the animals is considered provincial jurisdiction.

Allowed loading practices can cause serious harm to animals, as was evidenced in graphic footage captured on a B.C. egg farm. When animals arrive at the slaughter facility gravely injured or dead, no one is held accountable. Instead, the suffering can be deemed accidental because Codes of Practice were followed and CFIA veterinarians can deem it outside their jurisdiction because the harm happened before transport.

In February 2020, new transport requirements came into effect. Unfortunately, these laws had a negligible impact on the well-being of animals. The new regulations still lag behind other nations. Animals can be transported for long periods without food, water, or rest; they often arrive at slaughter facilities severely dehydrated, unable to stand, and surrounded by their own waste.

Slaughter

Even animals such as dairy cows and egg-laying hens, who are primarily used for the milk and eggs they produce while alive, are slaughtered at the end of their lives.

Slaughter is regulated federally through the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. Though the federal government website claims to require “humane slaughter of food animals”, in reality animals are typically already stressed entering the facility and the slaughterhouse causes further fear and distress.

Laws require that animals are rendered unconscious before being bled. The methods through which this is done have varying degrees of effectiveness and varying degrees of pain. For instance, the gassing often used to render pigs unconscious causes distress. Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and expert in animal behaviour and intelligence, says that “Pigs are at least as cognitively aware as a monkey,” and that their squeals in the slaughterhouse are “distress calls”.

A study published in 2017 found that slaughterhouse workers—often vulnerable migrant workers—experience higher levels of stress than the general population.

Auction of farmed animals

Auctions of farmed animals are typically regulated by the provincial animal cruelty laws; however, there is not usually anyone monitoring them.

Often, there are animals sold at auction who are not in good condition.

Auctions themselves are scary and overwhelming for farmed animals, as they are unfamiliar, loud, and involve a lot of uncomfortable and often cruel handling. Similarly to all other situations with little oversight, animal suffering is the norm.

Labelling of animal products

Very few terms used in the labelling of animal products are actually regulated.

All labels for animal meats where an animal production claim is made such as “organic”, “vegetable grain fed – no animal by-products” or “raised without antibiotics” must be registered with the CFIA.

“Nature” and “natural” are terms often misused on labels and in advertisements and have no meaning for animal well-being. “Organic” means that it follows the Canadian Organic Standards, which still allow painful procedures. However, advertising can be carefully written; is an animal raised by organic methods, or are they only fed an organic feed?

Terms that are not regulated include “grass-fed”, “grass-finished”, “free range”, and “free run”. Hens can be very crowded in barns of 25,000 that are free-range or free-run.

Subliminal messaging and imagery such as the use of the colour green, images of leaves and open pastures, and positive words such as “happy” can also influence the way consumers perceive the welfare of the animals. These are purely marketing tactics and do not reflect the state of the farms.

When it comes to nutrition claims, there are restrictions. However, many of the claims that are on animal products are not on plant products. For example, even though fruits and vegetables can give you much of the nutrition we require in our diets, there are often no labels on them at all because it isn’t legally required.

What you can do

If everyone on earth ate the average Canadian diet, we would need 1.3 earths for agricultural land alone. That huge demand is driving intensive agriculture to try to maximize the food output in the smallest possible space, leading to the most serious welfare concerns.

The best way to reduce the demand for animal agriculture is to start transitioning our consumption to more plant-based foods.

Every level of government and many other institutions like schools and businesses have climate commitments right now, and an important part of meeting those goals would be a shift away from animal agriculture and toward plant-forward policies and legislation.

For instance, the Canadian government currently subsidizes the private animal agriculture industry with millions of taxpayer dollars. Funding that currently props up the animal agriculture industry could be used to invest in sustainable plant-based agriculture and emerging technologies like lab-grown meat.

Governments can also help by improving animal protection laws to immediately address industrial animal agriculture, which produces more greenhouse gas emissions and uses intensive methods with some of the greatest animal welfare concerns.

If you’re interested in spreading the message about eating a plant-based diet, or if you’re thinking of trying more plant-based foods yourself, you can find recipes and tips on Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity platform.

Ag-gag laws

Ag-gag laws are anti-whistlerblower laws that apply within the agriculture industry. They can differ between provinces. They aim to prohibit the taking and sharing of footage of farm animal suffering, under the guise of biosecurity. However, ag-gag laws don’t have to be in place for law enforcement agencies to recommend charges against people who take undercover footage, or go onto farms for the sole purpose of exposing animal cruelty. Charges like “trespassing” and “mischief” are applied even when there are no ag-gag laws in place. A number of cases have been going to court in recent years.

To read industry’s perspective on these laws, check out this article from Canadian Poultry or this article from the Canadian Hog Journal.

To read animal advocates perspectives in more detail, you can read this article from the Animal Protection Party or this article from Animal Justice.

Right now, in B.C., 3 animal activists are facing charges for exposing suffering on a farm in Abbotsford, called the Excelsior 4.

Read op-ed on the Excelsior 4

Next episode

Keep an eye out on July 26 for the next episode of The Informed Animal Ally on fishes. Thank you for listening and thank you for reading.

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News/Blog

District of North Vancouver passes plant-forward motion

The District of North Vancouver has passed a motion to grow awareness throughout the community of the health and environmental benefits of increasing the intake of plant-based foods.

The motion, championed by Councillor Megan Curren, cited VHS’s report entitled “Increasing Plant-Based Purchasing at the Municipal Level”. The report was also cited in a motion unanimously passed by the City of Vancouver in November, which aimed to reduce animal-based food purchasing at the city level by 20%, to be replaced with plant-based foods.

You can read the full report, which outlines a case study of the impact of a 20% reduction in the volume of animal-based foods purchased at the City of Vancouver level, below. The report found that the proposed policy change would:

  • save up to $99,000
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 500 tonnes
  • save the equivalent of nearly 400 farmed animal lives on annual basis

Thank you to Councillor Curren and the rest of the District Council for taking this plant-forward and planet-friendly step!

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Opinion Editorial

Emergency planning must include animals

Article originally published in the VHS Newsletter.

In November 2021, flooding and landslides devastated parts of British Columbia. People were forced from their homes, animals had little or no way of escaping, and roads were blocked off or destroyed, slowing rescue efforts and essential supply distribution.

One of the hardest hit was the Sumas Prairie – a once massive lake that was drained a century ago to become a hub for the province’s animal agriculture. Two measures were meant to prevent the Prairie from returning to its watery roots: a dike and a pump station. When the dike was breached and the pump found itself in critical condition, the overflowing Sumas River reached the Prairie’s farms and the hundreds of thousands of animals inside.

The catastrophe killed more than 640,000 animals, including 628,000 chickens and farmed birds, 12,000 pigs, and 420 cows. There is no doubt that those animals died in pain and fear. Others were impacted by ongoing health issues like pneumonia as a result of the being trapped in flood waters.

In the face of unimaginable tragedy, many people shared feelings of helplessness, anger, and above all, grief. On one thing everyone could agree: no one ever wanted to see a crisis like this happen again.
As we recover and rebuild, it is essential that we not return to the way things were. Decision-makers at every level need to take a serious look at their emergency planning and prevention, and account for the safety and well-being of animals – not just their monetary value.

This incredible scale of suffering and loss of life calls for more than just lip service. It calls for concrete steps to consider animal protection in emergency planning, and transparent communication to the public demonstrating how that action will be taken.

To do that, decision-makers need to examine the factors that made this situation so dire.

We know that the flooding is not a one-time event; several atmospheric rivers have moved in on the province since the initial flood, and experts expect these to grow more severe as warming air carries higher concentrations of water vapour. In some regions, the ground was already damaged by wildfires this past summer, resulting in more severe floods and landslides. Scientists predict that these extreme weather events will only grow more frequent in the coming years as temperatures rise. Urgent climate action must be a part of emergency planning.

As part of their plan to reduce the risk of farmed animals perishing in floods or other extreme weather events, like the heat domes we saw last year, decision-makers should consider sustainable regional and local food policies that meet nutrition demands and reduce climate impacts. For instance, incentives could be introduced for farmers who are transitioning to plant-based agriculture, which reduces the number of animals that would need to be evacuated in an emergency and produces food with a far smaller ecological footprint.

In the meantime, some shorter-term changes can be made to prevent another tragedy from occurring. The low-lying Sumas Prairie is home to well over a million farmed animals. When the flooding began, there was no hope of evacuating them all. There were too many animals and not enough vehicles. Each chicken farm in the area houses around 25,000 birds, with some holding more than three times that number. It seems obvious that emergency planning must include a strategy for animal evacuations to prevent the kind of mass suffering we have seen. Equally important is ensuring those evacuations are feasible. This huge volume of animal lives concentrated in such a small area, especially one at risk of flooding, makes moving the animals to a safer location virtually impossible.

For too long, there has been pushback on progress that protects animals, our environment, and even ourselves. The smallest changes, from reducing our carbon emissions to eating more plant-based foods, have been called extreme. What now seems extreme is not the action, but the result of inaction.

The danger is no longer hypothetical. It is here, on our doorsteps. Decision-makers will need to respond with this tragedy. And then, with crisis staring us in the face, they absolutely must prevent the next one.

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News/Blog

Public feedback needed on dairy farm practices

Update

The comment period for the “Dairy Cattle Code of Practice” has now ended. The updated code is set to be released later in 2022. Thank you for helping to ensure animals’ well-being is considered in this consultation.

The National Farm Animal Care Council’s (NFACC) “Codes of Practice” serve as guidelines for the care and handling of animals in Canada’s animal agriculture industry. The “Dairy Cattle Code of Practice” was last updated in 2009 and since that time cruelty cases, as recently as late last year at a B.C.-based dairy farm, have demonstrated serious systemic non-compliance in the dairy industry. 

NFACC is considering changes to the Code of Practice and is asking for public feedback. Your input is needed prior to the January 27th deadline to help advocate for stronger protections for cows on dairy farms.

We’ve compiled a summary of 13 key points below – please be sure to submit constructive comments in your own words. Do not copy and paste the key points below, as duplicate comments will not be considered.  

Participate in the “Dairy Cattle Code of Practice” public comment period before the January 27th deadline.

Note: If you don’t have time to comment on the specific sections, you can choose to leave general comments by clicking on the “general comments on the code” section, at the end of the survey

13 key points:

  • Section 1: Training – Consider sharing about how previous cruel handling of cows on Canadian dairy farms (e.g. such as kicking, punching, and beating animals, as seen in the following cases: Chilliwack Cattle Sales in 2014, Cedar Valley Farms in 2021) reflects a need for stronger requirements around supervision of staff, animal welfare training, and a process for staff to report concerns that ensures accountability.
A veal calf from the dairy industry chained up during the Quebec winter. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur \ We Animals Media.
  • Section 2.2.1: Calves (Pre-Weaning) – Currently, calves are commonly kept in individual housing and are only required to be housed in a way that allows them to easily stand up, lie down, turn around and adopt a normal resting posture, with visual contact with other calves. In your comments, ask for a requirement for a full, immediate ban on tethering of calves. There should also be an immediate requirement that calves have access to an area outside of a hutch and are housed in social groups with other calves as young as possible and not later than 3 weeks of age. 
  • Section 2.2.3: Lactating and Dry Cows – Currently, cows can be kept tied in individual stalls and there is no requirement for access to pasture, outdoors or a covered, bedded pen. Share in your own words that tie-stall housing prevents freedom of movement and that a deadline should be set to phase out tie stalls as soon as possible for lactating and dry cows, as well as for heifers. Ask that housing be required to allow daily freedom of movement, exercise and social interactions year-round. Ask that pasture or outdoor access, as weather permits, and daily access to a large, covered bedded pen that allows for exercise, rest, and socialization also be a requirement. 
A calf and mother dairy cow.
A calf and mother at Sanctuaire pour animaux de ferme de l’Estrie in Quebec. Photo: Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur We Animals Media.
  • Section 2.3.1: Calving Areas – Currently, cows can be kept in stalls (including in tie stalls) while giving birth. In your comments, ask that a quicker deadline for calving in loose housed pens or pastures be required. The separation of cows and their calves soon after birth is also not addressed in this section. Separation is distressing for both the cow and calf and research shows health and social benefits when kept together. Research shows that there are active, modern farms using cow-calf systems that allow mothers and young to be together. Share in your own words why the separation of cows and their young is a concern for you as a consumer and that the industry needs to address this issue and move away from this practice.   
  • Section 2.5.1: Electric Trainers – Ask for a requirement that prohibits electric trainers, as using an electric shock device to “train” cows to urinate and defecate outside of the stall bed poses welfare issues.
  • Section 2.8: Bedding Management – In your own words, express your support for the requirement that cattle must have a resting surface with bedding, as research shows that large amounts of bedding is a crucial welfare improvement. Ask that specific bedding depth requirements be added. 
  • Section 2.10: Pasture and Exercise Yards – Currently, there is no requirement that cows have access to pasture or outdoors. Ask that pasture or outdoor access, as weather permits, and daily access to a large, covered bedded pen that allows for exercise, rest, and socialization be a requirement. In your own words, highlight one of more of the following benefits: more freedom of movement; exercise opportunities; ability to socialize and engage in more natural behaviours; reduced risk of lameness and other health problems.  
A flooded dairy farm in Abbotsford BC.
A dairy farm sits just above the floodwaters in Abbotsford, BC. Photo: Nick Schafer \ We Animals Media.
  • Section 2.11: Emergencies and Safety – In 2021, approximately 1.3 million farmed animals in B.C. died during record-breaking heat waves and flooding. This reflects the need for stronger emergency preparedness and plans for farms. Ask for required emergency planning that includes a realistic and achievable strategy to ensure animals can safely be evacuated from farms in an emergency.
  • Section 4.1 Handling, Moving and Restraining Cattle – In your own words, express your support for the requirement that prohibits the use of electric prods.  
  • Section 4.1.1: Additional Considerations when moving or handling down cattle Ask for a requirement that electric prods also be banned for use on “down” cows who appear unable to get up. Instead, assisting a down animal should include the use of more humane tools when appropriate, such as full body slings and transport mats. Express your support for the requirement that prohibits down cattle from being moved by hoisting by chain, dragging or lifting without adequate support. Again, here you can highlight how previous cruelty cases have showcased mistreatment and mishandling of animals and that this requires stronger staff training and supervision related to moving and handling animals. 
  • Section 5.3: Caring for Sick, Injured or Compromised Animals – Express your support for the requirement that cattle in pain (from a condition or procedure) must be provided prompt pain control. Ask that this requirement be elaborated on to include the use of local anesthesia (to prevent acute pain) and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (to reduce longer lasting pain)
A close-up of a dairy cow's eye in a transport truck.
A dairy cow is transported. Photo: Louise Jorgensen / We Animals Media.
  • Section 6.1.1: Fitness for transport – Currently, compromised animals (e.g. those with mild lameness, those who have not fully healed after a procedure) can still be transported. Dairy cows sent to auction or slaughter after their milk production declines are particularly vulnerable during transport. Ask that it be required that unfit and compromised animals are not allowed to be transported, as it poses a serious welfare concern.  
  • 6.1.3: Preparing Cattle for Transportation – Currently, cows are commonly transported while still lactating, putting them at risk for udder issues, including mastitis, due to a change in their milking routine. Ask for a requirement that cows are not lactating at the time of transport.  

Note: clicking the button below will open the link in a new tab. You can still return to this tab to review the key points.

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News/Blog

Speak up for better protections for farmed animals

Please ask the B.C. government to introduce third party auditing; video monitoring systems; and emergency plans to better protect farmed animals!  

Email the B.C. government now

Recent news coverage shares disturbing footage from an Abbotsford-based dairy, Cedar Valley Farms, showing dairy cows being violently beaten, kicked and dragged. This case is a recent example of long-standing issues within Canada’s animal agriculture system. In the last few years, there have been several high-profile undercover investigations in B.C. alone that have documented egregious animal cruelty. 

Concerningly, rather than addressing the cruelty issues taking place within the industry, governments have begun introducing anti-whistleblower legislation (commonly referred to as ‘ag-gag’ laws) which effectively deters undercover investigations from taking place.

The VHS and other animal protection groups are calling for transparency and accountability within the animal agriculture industry. Specifically, change is needed to have government-mandated and proactively-enforced compliance with the National Farm Animal Care Council Codes of Practice, as well as third party auditing and video surveillance systems on farms across B.C.

In addition, the recent floods, along with the 2021 heat dome and wildfires, reiterate the importance of protections for farmed animals during disasters and emergencies. More than 651,000 farmed animals perished in the heat dome and more than 640,000 more are reported to have died in the recent floods. Emergency planning must include a feasible strategy for urgent animal evacuations to prevent the kind of mass suffering we have seen.

Take action

  1. Please join us in calling on B.C.’s Premier and the Minister of Agriculture to take these important actions to better protect farmed animals from cruelty and suffering.

2. You can raise awareness of this issue by sharing this recent op-ed featured in the Daily Hive.

Content warning: the op-ed contains photos and descriptions of animal cruelty in the dairy industry.

3. You can make personal changes to take a stand against dairy cruelty. The blog linked below highlights a few staff favourite dairy-free tips and products!

4. This t-shirt, which features a half cow and half dog face, reminds us to be kind to every kind. All proceeds go toward creating a kinder world for animals.

With your help, we can see a change for the better for dairy cows and other farmed animals.

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News/Blog

No more delays for full enforcement of farmed animal transport rules

Success!

2579 individuals used the quick action tool to send an email directly to decision-makers. Thanks to this strong push for action, the CFIA announced that enforcement of new regulations will begin on February 20, 2022. VHS will continue to monitor the situation and advocate for more protections for farmed animals.

Tell the federal government to adequately enforce the farmed animal transport regulations

Farmed animals are among the most directly impacted by human activity, with more than 800 million land animals raised and killed for food every year in Canada. Transportation is one of the most stressful activities for farmed animals. Every year in Canada, approximately 14 million animals suffer injuries and 1.6 million die during transport journeys that are often long-distance and in extreme weather conditions.

In February 2019, the federal government announced updates to the farmed animal transport regulations, set to come into force a year later in February 2020. Unfortunately, the new regulations were hardly an improvement on the previous ones that had been in place since 1977. For example, only minor amendments were made to the food, water and rest (FWR) intervals for animals during transport.

Also concerning was the announcement that there would be a two-year delay (until February 2022) for full enforcement of the updated FWR intervals, including issuing large-scale fines, which is known to be the most effective form of enforcement when it comes to changing the actions of companies. This decision was intended to give the industry more time to adjust the shorter FWR intervals and to implement changes to infrastructure and marketing practices needed to meet the requirements. During this time, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) took a soft approach, focusing on educating people about the new requirements.

As the deadline for this two-year delay in full enforcement approaches, it is possible that further delays are being considered. Please join the VHS and other animal protection organizations and advocates in calling on the federal government to prioritize full enforcement of the farmed animal transport rules.

Take action

Please tell the Minister of Agriculture; the Minister of Health; and the President of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to fully enforce the Transport of Animals regulations, including issuing appropriately sized fines.

This action has now ended

2579 people used this tool to send an email to decision-makers. Thank you for taking action!

Categories
Opinion Editorial

It’s time to boycott the dairy industry

Article originally published on Daily Hive.

The clock has been ticking in the dairy industry for a while, and a recent public scandal may be the time bomb that draws the dairy milk era to a close.

Footage leaked by Animal Justice shows cows being ruthlessly beaten and tormented allegedly at Cedar Valley Farms, a dairy farm in Abbotsford.

In the heartbreaking video, workers hit cornered cows in the face with canes; mother cows wail hauntingly and are kicked in the face by employees as their babies are roughly grabbed by their fragile legs, tossed into wheelbarrows, and rolled away to the slaughterhouse or to be raised for the same cruel fate.

While this blatant cruelty is the worst I have seen, it’s unfortunately nothing new. Animal abuse and suffering are endemic in the dairy industry. To fully understand why that is, we need to go back to the last headline-making video leak from a BC dairy farm.

In 2014, hidden cameras at Canada’s largest dairy farm in Chilliwack revealed horrific abuses. Video footage showed cows being punched, kicked, and beaten with chains and rakes; left to suffer with open wounds and without desperately needed veterinary care; and lifted up by their necks using chains and tractors.

In the ensuing public outcry, the eight employees involved were fired and many faced animal cruelty charges.

The incident prompted a more in-depth look into the dairy industry as a whole. Soon after, the National Farm Animal Care Council’s (NFACC) Code of Practice, which outlines appropriate treatment of the animals used on farms, was incorporated into legislation in BC. The industry also implemented a system of inspections to ensure farmers were complying with the regulations.

In droves, they weren’t.

Within the first 18 months of the new system being implemented, 27 percent of farms failed the inspections and required corrective action; 10 percent were still deemed non-compliant upon their follow-up inspection. Findings described farms with inadequate space for cows, including during the stressful birthing process; extremely limited access to feed troughs; wet and dirty pens; and cows showing such severe signs of lameness that they had to be euthanized.

At the time, industry leaders placated questioning consumers with supposed reasons for the non-compliance: farm owners simply didn’t know about the regulations or new methods. They floated goals of improved education, spot checks, and the ever-effective “peer pressure” to improve conditions.

It has been seven years since the dairy industry began conducting inspections with the goal of improving consumers’ confidence in the food they purchase. By now, the typical dairy buyer would expect the industry to have ironed out any kinks in their system. The most recent video leak has thrown a wrench directly into that carefully curated trust.

This year’s footage from Cedar Valley Farms is yet another reminder of what happens when sentient animals are treated as commodities for profit – “cash cows” in the most literal sense of the word.

It has revealed to consumers that cruelty is still rampant, that an organic label on an animal-based product doesn’t necessarily indicate an ethical purchase, and that ultimately the dairy industry cannot be trusted to self-regulate.

Consumer trust is hard to build when you can’t know if the animals whose bodies produced the milk were treated with respect. The milk used for commercial dairy products is typically “pooled” in BC, meaning if you purchase products like cheese, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, or butter from the grocery store, it’s virtually impossible to tell which farm they came from.

There is also increasing awareness about the suffering inherent in the production of dairy. Cows don’t produce milk all the time; they produce it for their young, like humans and any other mammal. In order to ensure a consistent milk supply, the dairy industry repeatedly impregnates cows and removes their calves as early as just after birth. Calves reared without their mothers experience unnatural behavioural changes and drink far less milk from a bottle than they would otherwise. Their mothers experience an increased risk of mastitis when suckling is not allowed. Then, when the cows are no longer productive, they are typically sent to be slaughtered for meat between two and six years old. Their life expectancy outside of the industry is 15 to 20 years.

The dairy industry has been given endless chances to change for the better, and they have failed to do so again and again. Of course they have – there is money to be made in the status quo.

What this industry fails to realize is that humans do not need animal-based dairy. It is not a necessary part of the human diet, and all the nutrients it provides are found in other foods. With the increasing shift toward plant-based eating, there is a wider variety of delicious animal-free alternatives than ever.

Time is up for the dairy industry’s endless journey of supposed self-improvement. In a consumer society, only consumer action will spark a change. Only when people start reaching for oat milk instead of 2% or canola oil instead of butter will we see a breakthrough in the treatment of farmed animals. It’s time to vote with our wallets. It’s time to boycott animal-based dairy products.

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News/Blog

City of Vancouver unanimously passes motion to shift 20% of animal-based purchasing to plant-based, citing VHS report

UPDATE: The below report led to a motion put forward to Vancouver City Council. Many supporters wrote in to support this motion and it made an impact: The motion was passed unanimously by Vancouver City Council! Thank you to everyone who wrote in and to the speakers, Asha Wheeldon (owner of Kula Kitchen), Eleanor Boyle (author of High Steaks: Why and How to Eat Less Meat), and Ryan McKee (founder of Elemeno), who shared their unique perspectives on this topic.


VHS recently launched a new report, “Increasing Plant-Based Purchasing at the Municipal Level”, which examines food purchasing for the City of Vancouver. The report reviews the impact of a shift in municipal food purchasing that reduces the volume of animal-based foods by 20%, to be replaced with plant-based alternatives.

It concludes that by replacing 20% of animal-based food products with plant-based alternatives, the City of Vancouver could expect to:

  • save up to $99,000
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 500 tonnes
  • save the equivalent of nearly 400 farmed animal lives on annual basis

VHS is distributing this report amongst municipal decision-makers at the City of Vancouver and will be highlighting opportunities for its implementation.

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News/Blog

Take action for animals at the New Westminster Petting Farm

Take action for animals at the Queen’s Park Petting Farm

Tell the City of New Westminster you support their move toward animal-friendly public spaces

Will you support animal-friendly public spaces in New Westminster?

Earlier this year, VHS wrote to New Westminster City Council regarding the Queen’s Park Petting Farm. We shared a briefing note highlighting our evidence-based concerns related to animal welfare, public health and safety, and public education. The note included considerations such as:

  • Petting zoos are stressful for animals, who have little or no way to escape from unwanted petting, chasing, noise, and crowds.
  • Studies show that petting zoos can host diseases such as E. coli and Salmonella and can be a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Most children who visit petting zoos do not gain any new knowledge about animals or conservation. (See these animal-friendly alternatives for more educational family activities.)
  • The smell of animals in petting zoos can attract coyotes.

We recommended that municipal decision-makers close the petting farm and are pleased to see City Council moving in this direction. The City of New Westminster recently launched a public consultation seeking feedback and ideas from residents for an alternative long-term future for the space at Queen’s Park.

Take action:

1. Residents of New Westminster can participate in the online forum now!

We’re encouraging New Westminster residents to participate in the consultation and show their support for closing the petting farm and shifting the space to be focused instead on local, sustainable food production. This is a prime opportunity to improve public access to humane, healthy, and sustainable plant-based food. Share your excitement and ideas with municipal decision-makers!

Some ideas that have been suggested in the consultation are:

  • A community garden with plant-based food preparation lessons
  • A space for seasonal classes such as preparing balcony produce planters
  • A pollination garden

For more background information and VHS’s recommendations to City Council, read our briefing note on the Queen’s Park Petting Farm.

2. Know someone in New Westminster?

Share this page with your animal-friendly friends and family using the buttons below.

3. Share the tweets below.

Thank you @New_Westminster for taking action to create animal-friendly alternatives to the Queen’s Park Petting Farm.
Vancouver Humane Society
Tweet
The move by @New_Westminster to reimagine the Queen’s Park Petting Farm space is great news for animal welfare, public health and safety, and family education.
Vancouver Humane Society
Tweet
Petting farms are stressful for animals and can be a health hazard for humans. I support the move by @New_Westminster toward a more animal-friendly and family-friendly public space in Queen’s Park.
Vancouver Humane Society
Tweet

Read the briefing note: