Union of BC Indian Chiefs rejects factory farming, calls for change

On July 20, 2023, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) issued an open letter to both the provincial and federal Minister’s of Agriculture calling for government action to address the animal welfare, climate and environmental impacts of factory farming.  

The open letter cites UBCIC Resolution 2023-19 “Call to Strengthen Animal Farming Practices and Address the Significant Environmental Impacts of Factory Farming”, which was unanimously endorsed at the UBCIC Chiefs Council in June. 

Read the UBCIC resolution
Learn more about factory farming

The Resolution highlights “our spiritual and ethical responsibility to treat our animal relations with respect, reciprocity, and dignity” and that “poor treatment of animals in factory farming practices contravenes the customs, laws, traditions and values of First Nations in BC who maintain deep spiritual connections to all living things, including new animal kin that were brought over by colonization and European settlement.” 

It goes on to note that: 

“Animals on factory farms are one of the most unregulated and unprotected groups of animals in BC and Canada, and their mistreatment during raising, transport and unethical slaughtering practices is a punishable act under the Criminal Code, but the lack of regulation and oversight bodies prevents it from occurring.”

The Resolution also highlights the intersection between factory farming, climate change, habitat and biodiversity loss “that have resulted in the displacement of Indigenous peoples and our animal kin to make room for mass and over-producing factory farms…” 

The UBCIC Chiefs Council issues a powerful call to action for the B.C. and federal governments, urging both to “work with First Nations to co-develop legislation and regulations in alignment with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that reduce the impacts of climate change and habitat loss due to factory farming, and reduce the risk of disease and suffering of animals on factory farms, and that provide funding to communities in order to support the transition to better animal welfare practices more aligned with a cruelty-free stance toward animals.” 

Read the UBCIC resolution
Learn more about factory farming

Say no to federal ‘ag-gag’ bill targeting animal advocates

An ‘ag-gag’ bill that targets animal advocates and whistleblowers will soon go to a vote. Tell your Member of Parliament to say NO to Bill C-275.

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Quick action: Tell your MP to say NO to Bill C-275

What is Bill C-275?

Bill C-275 is a federal private member’s bill that, if passed, would target whistleblowers and undercover investigators who expose animal cruelty and welfare issues on farms. The bill calls for fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and jail time for offences by individuals and organizations. These types of concerning ‘ag-gag’ laws have been passed in some Canadian provinces including Alberta, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island and in the U.S. in recent years.

While decision-makers claim Bill C-275 will protect on-farm biosecurity by deterring trespassers, trespassing laws already exist and there are no documented cases of disease outbreaks having been caused by animal advocates. In fact, an Animal Justice report points to poor on-farm biosecurity practices as the cause of many disease outbreaks. The standard industry practice of keeping large numbers of animals in close confinement creates a prime environment for disease outbreak.

Instead of targeting animal advocates and whistleblowers who expose the conditions and treatment of animals on farms, the government should be addressing the conditions and treatment directly. Following a recent undercover expose of a B.C.-based slaughterhouse, the VHS is reiterating the urgent need for transparency and accountability within the animal agriculture sector.

Bill C-275 will soon be going to a vote in the House of Commons, making it crucial for Members of Parliament (MPs) to hear from constituents like you.

Ask your MP to say NO to Bill C-275

Podcast: Do pigs really like mud? And other farmed animal behaviours

How would farmed animal species live their lives if they weren’t being raised in the animal agriculture system?

Previous episodes have looked at how the needs of farmed animals are not being met in the industrial animal agriculture system; but how do these species behave when they are living lives that are happy and fulfilled? In this episode of The Informed Animal Ally’s series on animal well-being, the VHS’s Chantelle Archambault and Amy Morris discuss the natural behaviours and needs of farmed animals like pigs, chickens, cows, and sheep.

Note: This written discussion has been edited for length.

How we learn about farmed animal behaviour

Chantelle: Over the past two months, we delved into what good welfare looks like for companion animals when it comes to things like care, play, and training. This week, we’re going to branch out from that and look at what a good life looks like for the species that are currently raised for meat, milk, eggs, and wool.

We’ll talk about some of the science around farmed animal behaviors and needs, and we’ll touch on ways those needs aren’t being met in today’s animal agriculture system. But if you’d like to hear a more in-depth discussion on that aspect, I’d encourage you to go back to our second episode, which looked into farmed animal cruelty laws and practices.

Amy: Where does knowledge about farmed animal behavior typically come from?

Chantelle: We can learn a lot about what these animals’ natural behaviors would look like by observing non domesticated versions of farmed animals in the wild.

The farmed animal species we’ll be talking about today have been domesticated and selectively bred for thousands of years. So those exact breeds of animals don’t typically exist in the wild, but there are wild or feral animals that line up with those domestic breeds. A lot of knowledge also comes from just observing farmed animals and research studies that are funded by educational institutions or government or even the industry. So there can be bias there.

Amy: Yeah, I really love this topic because looking at animal behavior, I see more about what we have in common with animals, being animals ourselves, than our differences. Humans and other animal species all we’re young need bedding and homes, social structures. We all groom and maintain our bodies, we need to find food and water, and we need engagement with our environment through movement. There’s this othering that happens in society as a result of non-human animals being domesticated for food, but now that we’re not dependent on eating animals or their products, we have an opportunity to re-examine our understanding of farmed animals.

I’m hoping with this podcast and all the actions that you take in your everyday life, we can reflect on what information gets buried in order for people to be more comfortable with animal oppression. It was only once I really spent time in person with pigs, cows, chickens, sheep, and goats, that I began to really understand that our similarities outweigh our differences.

We share fear of change, fear of the unknown, and fear of death. We share joy at good food and opportunities to stretch our legs. We develop favorite places to spend our time. We like to choose our own friends, and we get along better with some than others. We go through phases and we make different decisions when we’re young and then when we’re old and have had the opportunity to develop more wisdom and we pass on our wisdom to our young.

Chantelle: I’m so excited to dive into some of the specific species to, to better get a picture of what you’re describing. So what animal should we start with?

Amy: Let’s start with pigs.


Chantelle: I love learning about pigs so much. These are one of the animals that kind of tow the line between farmed animals and companion animals because people have started keeping pigs more as pets while the breed typically kept as pets is slightly smaller potbelly pigs. It’s important to note that the breeds raised for meat are not fundamentally different. In a lot of ways, pigs and other animals that are raised on farms are very similar to the animals that most people consider part of the family, like dogs.

Pigs are curious. They have problem solving skills. They’re social. They form complex relationships. They have favorite people. They have favorite animals. They feel fear. They feel pain.

Pigs in the wild

When we’re looking for an analog to domestic pigs in the wild, we can look at the behaviors of feral pigs and wild boars. And just for a little background on what that means, wild boars are essentially the ancestors of domestic breeds of pigs. While pigs who are released or escape into the wild will become feral, they can grow tusks, they’ll grow thicker hair, and they’ll become more fearful of humans.

Amy: Yeah, and this all depends on their genetics, how their bodies are capable in terms of epigenetics. So there are some nuances there.

Pig socialization & rearing young

Amy: We know both in the wild and on farms, pigs are very social animals who live in small to medium size groups together called sounders. Each group can have kind of one to six female pigs or sows along with their young.

Wild sows experience motherhood very differently than pigs on industrial farms. When they have a choice, they prefer to give birth in sheltered, secluded spots where they raise their piglets on their own for the first one to two weeks. Within the first day, mother sows and piglets will recognize each other by smell. Piglets also recognize the unique grunt calls of their mother, and so they know which pig to go to when it’s time to nurse.

As they get a bit older and start exploring outside of the nest, they’ll call to each other if they get separated. Piglets really like to be close to their mothers, they’ll snuggle up to their mother and litter mates for warmth. After a week or two, the mother and piglets will rejoin the group and the piglets will be fully participating in group life by eight weeks old. All of the pigs will interact and play with each other, but siblings do maintain close bonds into adulthood.

Are pigs aggressive?

Chantelle: Some people in the animal agriculture industry believe that pigs are naturally aggressive, but that’s really because pigs can become aggressive and irritable in stressful conditions; humans do the exact same thing.

In the wild, pigs are mostly peaceful. They form stable social relationships and they live in harmony together. The groups of sounders are not territorial. Many pigs may live in the same area if there’s enough food for all of them. Pigs who branch off might stay close to their mothers, and together the family groups have been found to form herds of up to a hundred pigs.

Whereas we’ve talked about the matriarchal groups (sounders), adult males are more nomadic and the dominant males in an area will generally force the younger males to leave their family groups around seven to 18 months old.

Natural habitats for pigs

Amy: And in terms of their physical environment, pigs are really adaptable.

They can live in most places, from forests, to marshes, to grasslands. They like to be in or near places with dense cover. They tend to avoid areas with a lot of ground frost because it makes it difficult for them to forage roots and tubers.

What do pigs eat?

Amy: Pigs are omnivores. They mostly eat whatever plants and mushrooms are available in their area, but they will hunt for small animals or scavenge meat from dead animals. They spend about 75% of their day rooting and foraging.

If we compare that to industrial animal agriculture, farmed pigs can eat the food they’re given in only 15 minutes in a day or less. They tend to spend much more time resting when there’s a lot of food in an area and they don’t spend as much time traveling to find it or when it’s cold and they need to conserve energy.

Pigs are very social eaters. They prefer to eat together as a group, and they’ll often share food and take turns eating. I think the biggest takeaway on this is knowing how vastly different it looks to be a pig roaming around all day versus having a lot of boredom and time that’s unused for any kind of social or physical activity in industrial settings.

Chantelle: Yeah, absolutely. The way that they spend their time is very different. The environment that they stay in is very different.

Do pigs like mud?

Chantelle: You’re probably familiar with the image of pigs playing in mud, and you may have also heard that pigs like to be clean. If you’re wondering which of those is true, it is both. They’re very hygienic. They keep clean by rubbing off dirt on hard surfaces or swimming in the water and in the wild, they’ll often create separate areas for sleeping, eating, and eliminating waste. And if you have looked at industrial farming systems, things like gestation stalls, there’s absolutely no way for them to do that.

But on the other hand, they also like to wallow in mud or water, and the reason they do that is to regulate their body temperature since they don’t have many sweat glands. So they’ll wallow if they need to keep cool. And when they need to keep warm, they’ll huddle together in communal nests.

 Pig nesting

Amy: And speaking of nests, I love thinking and talking about pig nests. When pigs are pregnant, they take a lot of time to build the perfect nest, to birth their young into. I bet you think of nesting habits of, when you talk about soon to be human parents, it’s referring to birds. But when pregnant pigs want a home for their family, they build a really nice space. And in captivity, the barn conditions means that they don’t get to build the nests. So out of frustration, they end up chewing the bar of the container they’re in until they end up having problems with their mouth and teeth.

Chantelle: It’s really tragic when you look at the disparity of what a good life looks like for pigs expressing their natural behaviors and then the conditions that most of them are living through in the modern farming system.

I think that covers pig behaviour, so shall we move on to cows?


Amy: I’ve always had such a soft spot for cows. I’ve had the privilege of spending time with cows in sanctuary that are social. I’ve also been around cows that were terrified of me. I later figured out why that was; their handlers used sticks to hit them and make them move in down the line to get vaccinated and one handler even jumped his full body weight on a calf in frustration when the calf wouldn’t get up. This was on an organic, free range farm.

I try not to remember those moments very often. I try to focus on the cows that do get to live their ideal lives.

Cow socialization & rearing young

Amy: Cows bond so strongly with their young, the new mom will nuzzle and lick her calf clean, making a sound that encourages the calf to get up and start nursing right away. They’ll provide milk to their calf and spend time together for about a year and sometimes even more before they make the decision to wean them. Suckling increases the bond between the mother and the calf, and that releases oxytocin. So as a kind of converse situation, in intensive farming, calves are removed from their mothers at birth and only fed intermittently rather than the free feeding they would have normally.

Cows that get to continue to suckle their young have a significantly reduced risk of post calving diseases and clinical mastitis. And clinical mastitis is essentially a condition of the udders that is really common on intensive farms.

Chantelle: Definitely. Looking at their sleeping habits, cows can sleep anywhere, but just like humans, they prefer soft bedding. This reduces injuries and health issues such as mastitis and hock sores; they do well on straw bedding. Cows live in a herd with individual and long-lasting social relationships that exist between cows and the herd.

They can recognize up to 50 other cows and they can remember them for several years. They’ll typically follow the decisions of the oldest and most experienced female cows. The ancestors of modern day cows were called aurochs. The social structure of aurochs was based on cooperation, communication, and mutual support with females playing a key role in the organization and leadership of the herd.

Bulls would only join in the herd during the breeding season. Grooming behavior is also social with cows using their tongue, teeth, and horns to clean and groom the hair and skin of other cows. And just like humans, they experience oxytocin from those interactions. They also self groom by rubbing against trees or rocks or other objects to remove dirt and insects and dead skin.

Cow grazing & roaming

Amy: When it comes to eating, cows like to get a variety of nutrients and are highly adaptable to food sources. They are known to have an excellent memory and can remember the location of food and water sources for several years. We know that aurochs would travel long distances to find good food and water sources.

I can say from my experience of being on a free range farm in the mountains, that cows still like to roam big distances in their grazing. In intensive farming, cows can be tied up in barns or packed into dusty feed lots. That means they don’t get any opportunity to do one of their favorite activities, which is grazing. Cows also have an excellent sense of smell, and they can detect orders up to 10 kilometers away.

As a side note, this is why dogs often roll in feces or fishy smells because wolves would hide their scent in order to get a better chance at hunting animals like bison and aurochs.

Cow communication

Cows communicate with each other through a range of vocalizations, body language, and physical contact. They use different vocalizations to indicate hunger, distress, and excitement.

They’re creatures of habit, they prefer to follow a routine and changes in their environment or routine can cause stress and anxiety.

Chantelle: I definitely can sense a familiarity between that and my companion cat. Cows are so fascinating to talk about, but I think that’s a good overview of them and their behaviors. Let’s move on to chickens.


Chicken socialization and behaviour

Amy: I find chickens to be the most interesting and complex of farmed animals. They have this reptilian look descended from the red junglefowl, a wild bird that’s native to Asia. But they also have really complex social structures. I spent some time on a farm that had a flock of rescue chickens, and the biggest rooster was huge.

He had this sizable group of hens that he cared for, but then the other roosters would pair up with one or two hens and keep their distance. I would often see them perched up a few branches in a tree, getting a break from the sun. And chickens also love to spend their time dust bathing in the sun, getting bugs out of their feathers, and they often fall asleep after a good dust bath, which is really cute to see.

They spend their days foraging and as omnivores, they’ll eat bugs and worms as well as grains. They love fruit and it’s a great treat for them on summer days because they can get quite warm.

Egg laying for hens in nature

Chantelle: Chickens in nature would lay 20 to 30 eggs in a clutch all at once, once a year. And when they would do that, they would find a really hidden spot that feels safe and away from predators.

They would keep those eggs warm and do their best to stay alive, leaving only for short periods to get food and water. If you’ve ever heard a chicken lay an egg, you can tell it is an intense and painful process for them every time. Chickens will stay with their chicks until they’re big enough to survive on their own.

They pass on information about their environment, like what bugs are tasty to eat, what places are safe to find shelter. They like to wrap their feet around a branch or a wooden bar at night, and balance as they sleep in a place that has good overhead cover to keep them safe from predators. They also have a range of vocalizations, like clucking, crowing, squawking, and they’ll use those different vocalizations to communicate with each other.

Chickens in intensive farming

Amy: Yeah, and this is really juxtaposed against intensive farming situations, which are really tough to observe if you have seen happy chickens living out their lives. Chickens in intensive farming almost always lack good perches and opportunities to dust bathe. They don’t get reared by a hen, so it’s essentially this weird situation of placing 25,000 orphans in a room together, and they just don’t develop any sense of order and structure that they would have when they’re with their family.

As a result, chickens really often end up boredom feather plucking each other so that they’re often barren. I’ve seen barns where the chickens are so bare of feathers because once it’s started it’s essentially impossible to stop. They are all doing it to each other. They’re also bred to lay eggs almost every day, which on top of being painful makes their bones so weak that they have to be killed after about a year and a half because their bones break so easily.

And as a comparison, chickens in nature live up to 10 years. I was pretty devastated the first time I visited a large scale free range organic operation and realized how much the hens were still suffering. Very few of them, maybe 5 to 10%, even went outside because it’s really problematic to run back inside in case of a predator. There was no overhead cover. Outside, the ground was barren and it really only served a purpose for some of the hens of dust bathing because it was so packed that they couldn’t forage. On a smaller scale farm that was theoretically better, I came across a dead bird that had been trampled. On another smaller scale farm, I came across a chicken whose cloaca, the place where the egg comes out, was stuck permanently extended and the chicken was in a lot of pain. I wasn’t sure how long she had been like that.

I don’t like sharing these stories and I did it very quickly, but they really have stuck with me having witnessed all of that.

After spending a lot of time with chickens, I came away with a strong sense that they deserve to live their lives as fully as you or me.

Chantelle: Thank you for sharing those stories, Amy. I know it’s really difficult to think about, but it’s important for people to know, and it’s something the animal agriculture industry works really hard to hide, so I think it’s an important topic to touch on.

Shall we talk about sheep next?


Sheep have a strong fear response

Amy: Sheep are fascinating as people make a lot of assumptions about them. They have a really strong fear response. In particular, they’re prone to freezing in place. They often get mistaken for “enjoying” being shorn, and I put that in quotes because they’re actually immobilized with fear.

In fact, most activities that people do relate to sheep are about motivating their fear drive, such as when dogs or vehicles are used to herd sheep.

So I wanted to share that because I think a lot of people see these things as normal, and it’s normalized, but there are other kinder ways to motivate sheep with food incentives and things like that.

I thought we’d get that sad part out of the way. So now we can focus more on the ways that sheep are great.

Sheep socialization and communication

Chantelle: Definitely. Sheep have excellent memories. They can recognize up to 50 other sheep’s faces and remember them for several years.

Like cows, they are herd animals. They can see behind them without turning their heads because their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads, like you’ll see with prey animals typically. They’re known for their excellent sense of hearing; they can detect higher frequencies than humans. They can produce different vocalizations to communicate with each other including bleats, grunts, and snorts. A very fun fact is they even have accents. So just like humans, studies have shown that sheep in different regions have distinct vocalizations that reflect their local dialects.

Amy: I love that. Sheep will also spend time with other sheep they know and trust. They’ll seek companionship when they’re feeling stressed or anxious. They sleep in groups huddled together for warmth and protection. And when outdoors, they will sleep in shifts with some sheep standing guard while others sleep, and they tend to return to the same spot to sleep night after night.

Chantelle: When we talk about sheep, we also, I think, can transition very smoothly into goats because goats have a lot of similarities to sheep, so I don’t think we’ll cover them in full.


Chantelle: Goats are excellent climbers. They can climb trees and cliffs, and even steep mountainsides. They have rectangular pupils, which gives them a wider field of vision and better depth perception.

And they’re known for being curious and intelligent, and they’ve been observed learning from each other and problem solving. They have a unique digestive system that allows them to break down tough plant fibers, so they’re excellent foragers.

Many people think that goat milk is a better alternative to dairy milk, but realistically, the treatment and experiences of goats and cows raised for producing dairy is very similar. It limits their ability to express some of their important natural behaviors of grazing, roaming, and raising young. There are so many plant-based alternatives for dairy milk and goat milk on the market now, so you can find one to fit your personal preference.


Amy: Absolutely. I love talking about animal behavior and what animals enjoy. This is a really fun podcast to put together. What was your favorite thing that you learned in preparing for it?

Chantelle: I really love learning about how different animals raise their young. I think it’s so interesting to look at the different family structures and the relationships they form with each other because they’re really so much like us.I think it’s so interesting to look at how complex those relationships can be.

What about you, Amy?

Amy: I really loved learning about sheep dialects. Certainly I know that wild animals like wolves and ravens tend to be regionalized in their communication styles, but it was fun to learn that domesticated animals are too.

I’m also constantly reminded of how much we all have in common.

Chantelle: Yeah, this was a really fun episode to learn about. I’m glad we got to touch on some of the more positive aspects of farmed animals and looking at their behaviors and what it looks like when they get to live a happy and fulfilled life.

I hope that you also got something out of this podcast as a listener, and I hope that you will join us again next month.

Next episode

Please join us next month as we delve into the topic of well-being for wildlife!

Media Release

Polling data from the Lower Mainland shows a plant-forward future is on the horizon

VANCOUVER, April 18, 2023 – Younger generations in B.C.’s Lower Mainland are increasingly shifting their diets toward plant-based foods, new polling data reveals.

The research poll, commissioned by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), examines the dietary preferences and opinions around plant-based eating of Lower Mainland residents. The study was conducted among a representative sample of 803 Lower Mainland residents aged 18+ who are members of the Angus Reid Forum.

Responses reveal a trend away from meat and animal products with each passing generation: vegans and vegetarians comprised 10% of respondents aged 18-34, 9% of respondents aged 35-54, and 6% of respondents aged 55+.

A similar trend can be found when looking at respondents’ reduction of animal-based products. 69% of respondents aged 18-34 had reduced their animal product consumption, compared to 66% of respondents aged 35-54 and 60% of respondents aged 55+.

In addition to vegans and vegetarians, more respondents in the youngest generation identified their diet as “flexitarian” – primarily eating plant-based foods with occasional consumption of animal-based products. 7% of respondents aged 18-34, and 5% of both other age groups surveyed identified as flexitarian.

“The increasing availability of plant-based foods and the growing popularity of plant-based diets are mutually reinforcing,” said VHS Communications Director Chantelle Archambault. “Public demand for tasty animal-free options is driving a huge shift in the industry, which in turn makes it easier than ever for more people to put plant-forward meals on their plates.”

Interestingly, motivations for shifting toward a plant-based diet varied by generation. Respondents aged 18-34 identified both economic reasons and environmental concerns as the top factors influencing their decision to consume fewer animal products, while other age demographics were most motivated by personal health.

When considering how and what to eat overall, every age group was most motivated by taste. Archambault says this is also a hopeful sign for the future.

“As the food industry continues to develop innovative tastes and textures for plant-based products, we’re sure to see a wider shift toward a society that eats more sustainably.”

For those looking to add more plants into their diets, the VHS offers free resources and recipes on their Plant University website.

– ends –  

SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society 

For more information, contact Chantelle Archambault: 604-416-2903,

Related links:

Related media:

@vancouverhumane See what people had to say about plant-based eating at #PlantBasedFood #Vegan #PlantBased #VeganForTheAnimals ♬ original sound – Vancouver Humane Society
Media Release

Nearly 3 in 4 British Columbians believe menus with plant-based options are “more inclusive”: research

VANCOUVER, April 13, 2023 – The majority of British Columbians in the Lower Mainland have positive feelings about plant-based menu options, new polling data reveals. 

The research poll, commissioned by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) among a representative sample of Lower Mainland residents from the Angus Reid Forum, asked participants about their dietary preferences and attitudes around plant-based eating.  

73% of respondents agreed that “Food services that offer a greater variety of plant-based options are more inclusive to all”. This sentiment was shared by a majority of people regardless of their own dietary preferences; 95% of vegans or vegetarians and 71% of people following other diets agreed with the statement. 

The poll results demonstrate that the demand for plant-based options is growing, with 65% of respondents having reduced their consumption of animal products.  

Differences between age demographics indicate a growing shift toward plant-based foods over each generation – 69% of respondents aged 18-34 had reduced their animal product consumption, compared to 66% of respondents aged 35-54 and 60% of respondents aged 55+. 

“A growing number of consumers are reducing or eliminating animal-based products, with more people turning to plant-based options when they are available,” said VHS Communications Director Chantelle Archambault.  

Businesses and organizations are already moving to meet the growing demand for plant-forward foods. Many institutions that now offer plant-based menu items, such as Panago Pizza and the University of British Columbia (UBC), cite sustainability commitments as one motivation for the shift.  

“There are so many great reasons to shift towards a more plant-based diet but for us at UBC Food Services we have done this to support the health of our students and the planet,” said David Speight, Executive Chef and Culinary Director of UBC Food Services. “We know that plant-based diets can provide excellent health benefits for our students and they reduce the negative environmental impacts on our planet compared to more animal protein centric diets.” 

Other local businesses and institutions are stepping up to meet consumer demand as well. Last year, the City of Vancouver committed to exploring a 20% reduction in animal-based products in favour of plant-based foods in their municipal food purchasing, such as through catering and city-owned concessions.  

The new polling data suggests that this growing movement toward accessible, affordable, and tasty plant-based options could prompt a greater dietary shift in the future. 65% of respondents identified that they “would eat more plant-based meals if there were more tasty options available when going out to eat”. 

Speight added, “We have shifted a large percentage of our menu offerings to plant-based and our students are still asking for more. It shows a real hunger for great tasting plant-based offerings.” 

“With the public increasingly interested in plant-forward food items and calling for corporate responsibility, we’re eager to see more businesses and organizations introduce plant-based options in the coming years to avoid being left behind,” said Archambault. 

This shift has the important added benefit of reducing the number of animals suffering for human food production.  

The VHS is offering free support to B.C.-based institutions, such as restaurants, long-term care homes, and schools, that are interesting in introducing more plant-based menu items. 

– ends –  

SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society 

For more information, contact Chantelle Archambault: 604-416-2903,

Related links:

Related media:

@vancouverhumane Visit for more information! #PlantBased #BCBusiness #Vegan #PlantBasedFood ♬ original sound – Vancouver Humane Society

New Canadian dairy industry standards released

Guidelines are not enough.

While the NFACC guidelines aim to address cruelty, the code’s reach is not absolute. Meaningful monitoring, enforcement, and penalties for industry stakeholders found guilty of animal abuse are still needed to ensure animals are protected.

Take action

More than 5,800 people commented on new dairy industry guidelines

Last year, the VHS and other animal organizations across Canada spoke out for animals during a consultation period on the National Farm Animal Care Council’s (NFACC) Dairy Cattle Code of Practice, which provides guidelines for the care of dairy cows on farms across Canada, and shared tips on how to call for much-needed improvements during the public comment period. Thousands of animal advocates and concerned consumers responded, and the Code received a record-setting 5,800+ comments! 

The NFACC has now released its updated Dairy Cattle Code of Practice. The strong public response during the public consultation prompted some positive changes, including stronger restrictions around abusive handling, changes to housing models, and a ban on branding. However, several areas of the Code still fall short of expectations. 

A veal calf from the dairy industry chained up during the Quebec winter. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur \ We Animals Media.

Click or tap the headings below for more details on each section.

Calf housing – Pair/group housing to be required, but not until 2031 

A primary area of concern noted in the public consultation was around calf housing. Approximately 63% of farms currently keep dairy calves in individual housing. This lack of social and physical contact with other calves can cause significant stress for calves. Despite this, the new code continues to allow calves to be kept in individual housing until 2031, at which point they are to be housed in pairs or groups by 4 weeks old. The stressful industry practice of separating mothers and newly born calves was unaddressed in the new code.   

Cow housing – Continuous tethering to be phased out, but details needed around freedom of movement 

Currently, cows can be kept tethered in individual stalls and there has been no requirement for access to pasture, outdoors or a sheltered, bedded pen. Under the new code, continuous tethering will be prohibited by 2027, at which point cows must be provided “sufficient regular opportunity for freedom of movement”. What this means in practice is yet to be determined. 

No requirement for outdoor access 

The NFACC acknowledges that cows are “naturally motivated to access pasture and graze” and that “regular access to open outdoor areas or bedded packs improves hoof health, reduces the frequency and severity of injuries, and can reduce the occurrence of lameness”. Despite this, the new code does not require that cows be provided access to sheltered, bedded packs, exercise yards, or the outdoors.

No emergency plans required, despite recent disasters  

The public consultation period for the dairy code began just weeks after catastrophic flooding hit British Columbia in 2021. This emergency, along with the record-breaking heat waves from earlier that same year, claimed the lives of 1.3 million farmed animals and reiterated the need for emergency plans for farms. Shockingly, the new code fails to include any requirements around emergency planning.  

Compromised and lactating cows still allowed to be transported 

Transport is a particularly stressful process for farmed animals, especially for dairy cows who may be in poor condition after their milk production declines or who are ill or injured. Still, the new code allows compromised (e.g. mild lameness, not fully healed from a procedure) or still lactating cows to be transported, putting them at risk of further injury and suffering.  

Stronger language introduced around abusive handling 

The new code prohibits abusive handling, which it defines as including but not limited to “kicking, beating, striking, tail twisting, dragging, improper use of a prod, and forcefully pulling cattle by the tail, head, or neck.” 

The new Dairy Code of Practice can be read in full here (opens as a PDF).

Monitoring, enforcement and penalties needed 

To protect the well-being of dairy cows, the new Code of Practice must be paired with independent, proactive third-party oversight; enforcement; and effective penalties.

The 2021 undercover investigation of Cedar Valley Farms, a B.C.-based dairy farm, reiterates the importance of proactive monitoring to deter and catch cruelty violations. Footage from the farm revealed serious instances of illegal animal abuse. A former employee of Cedar Valley Farms, who worked there for four years, told media he’d repeatedly reported the abuse, but nothing changed.  

Take action

Now is your chance to speak up for farmed animals! The B.C. government is currently conducting a review of the province’s farmed animal welfare framework. Use the quick action tool below to send a message to B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture. 

Help protect farmed animals

In December 2021, the VHS launched a campaign calling for greater protections for farmed animals in B.C. To date, more than 3,700 animal supporters have used the quick action tool to contact the Ministry of Agriculture calling for:

  • Government-mandated and proactively-enforced compliance with the National Farm Animal Care Council Codes of Practice
  • Publicly-available reports of independent, third party audits on farms
  • Consistent video surveillance monitoring on farms
  • Emergency planning to protect farmed animals in disasters
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Please call on B.C.’s Premier and the Minister of Agriculture to take these important actions to better protect farmed animals from cruelty and suffering.

Opinion Editorial

100 years of cruelty at the Calgary Stampede is nothing to celebrate

Article originally published in the Daily Hive.

The Calgary Stampede’s 100th anniversary of chuckwagon racing is getting a lot of attention this year, with commemorations of those 100 years being splashed across the Stampede website.

A book on the centennial was even published in March. The mood is downright celebratory.

But here’s something no one is proud to commemorate: more than 100 animals have died at the Calgary Stampede since the Vancouver Humane Society started tracking fatalities in 1986. Nearly three-quarters of those were horses used in the chuckwagon races.

The prospect of another 100 years of horse fatalities is certainly not worth celebrating.

The chuckwagon races are the most popular, and by far the most deadly, animal event at the Calgary Stampede. Event organizers and participants are well aware that any given race could quickly turn fatal in an event openly deemed the “Half-Mile of Hell,” as accidents are inevitable.

In fact, in the last two decades, there have only been three years in which the races did not result in horse fatalities: 2003, 2004, and 2016.

According to Stan Church, the chuckwagon safety commissioner of the Stampede in 2015, that risk has long been a draw for crowds. “A lot of people were disappointed if at least one wagon didn’t roll over” in the ‘50s and ‘60s, he said.

The thrill of the risk seems to continue to entice many. In fact, a disturbing pattern has emerged in recent years: each time organizers introduce a small change to improve the races’ safety in response to mass casualty events, those changes are vocally opposed by participants.

Reacting to a change that limited the number of wagons on the track for safety reasons, an anonymous veteran driver confided to the Calgary Sun, “I’m going to tell you, it’s boring watching three wagons compared to four wagons.”

The change came in response to the deaths of six horses in 2019. Safety is clearly not a top priority for all those involved in this sport.

Sadly, despite minor safety changes, horses continue to die in pain and fear nearly every year. That’s because changes to the number of horses and examinations of the track, while well-intentioned, fail to address the inherent dangers of the event: the fast pace, the close proximity of horses and wagons, and the fragile skeletal structure of the thoroughbred horses who are used, the latter of which has been the subject of criticism from animal scientist Temple Grandin.

Thankfully, the tide of public opinion seems to be turning on the use of animals in entertainment events like the Calgary Stampede. Sixty-one per cent of Canadians and 49% of Albertans are opposed to the use of animals in rodeo, compared to 29% and 40% in favour, respectively.

A Research Co. poll conducted during last year’s Stampede revealed the removal of the rodeo and chuckwagon events from the Calgary Stampede program would have virtually no impact on attendance rates.

The poll found that 64% of Calgarians asked indicated that they had attended or were likely to attend the Stampede last year, while 63% indicated they would be likely to attend without the inclusion of the rodeo or chuckwagon races.

What’s more, polling results indicated that the removal of controversial animal events would pique the interest of new crowds, with 24% of non-attendees from last year expressing interest in attending a Stampede free of rodeos and chuckwagons.

Without including the suffering of animals, the Stampede could truly become the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth by highlighting the vibrant arts and culture of Calgary and beyond, bringing people together with festivities all Canadians can be proud to claim as a major national event.

Opinion Editorial

New bill would silence those who shed light on animal cruelty

Article originally published in the Daily Hive.

Members of Parliament may soon be voting on a federal private member’s bill that would impose hefty fines and jail time on those who expose animal cruelty and welfare issues on farms. While it’s being promoted as a measure to protect biosecurity, something far more sinister is happening beneath the surface.

In reality, Bill C-275 proposes a measure that’s well-known among animal advocates as “ag-gag” laws: punitive restrictions that target whistleblowers, journalists, and others who aim to shed light on hidden conditions and illegal cruelty within the animal agriculture system.

Ag-gag laws were first devised by the powerful US farm lobby in response to undercover investigations by animal advocates that showed the public the truth about the often-appalling conditions on factory farms. These exposés regularly caught farms cramming animals like pigs and chickens into tiny, filthy cages; workers hitting, kicking, and punching animals; botched euthanasia; and much more. The abuse captured on camera was bad press for the meat, dairy, and egg industries, and threatened to interfere with profits. But rather than addressing the crisis of cruelty, legislators in several US states instead passed ag-gag laws that made it illegal for undercover whistleblowers to film on farms—ensuring the abuse would stay behind closed doors.

Undercover investigations into factory farms became common in Canada in the 2010s, exposing heartbreaking animal suffering and leading to prosecutions and conviction, such as at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, where an undercover video led to some of the largest animal cruelty fines in Canadian history. The farm industry soon started pushing for ag-gag laws—Alberta and Ontario both introduced laws banning undercover whistleblowers in 2019—and imposing incredibly punitive fines on trespassers. Manitoba and PEI have passed their own versions of ag-gag laws since then, and the first federal ag-gag bill was introduced in 2019.

Ag-gag laws are so damaging to transparency that courts in six US states have struck them down as a violation of free speech provisions in the US Constitution. Animal Justice is leading a legal challenge to Ontario’s ag-gag laws, with the case slated to be heard this fall.

It’s clear these laws limit much-needed transparency on farms, but are they a necessary evil to prevent trespassing and protect biosecurity, as they purport?

If we look at the laws already in place, it’s evident these laws are not about trespassing at all. The justice system is well-equipped to respond to trespass; each province has general anti-trespass and similar laws which have been used to prosecute people who enter farms without permission.

In fact, existing laws have already been used in a way that is favourable to the animal agriculture industry. Many Canadians were disturbed by the high-profile case of the Excelsior 4 in BC last year, which saw advocates put on trial for exposing horrific cruelty at Excelsior Hog Farm. Two advocates were convicted of criminal mischief for entering a farm after the court forbade them from providing evidence of the unjust and potentially illegal cruelty as a “defense of necessity,” further withholding the transparency that Canadians expect in their food system.

Within a justice system already used to serve the bottom line of the animal agriculture industry, Bill C-275 would do more than punish trespassers; it could jail people who bring a camera or tape recorder onto a farm without permission—including undercover advocates, existing workers, or even someone visiting a farm on an “open house” day. It would also doubly punish undercover investigators in provinces such as Alberta and Ontario that already have ag-gag legislation in place. Shockingly, fines for violating the ag-gag law could be as high as half a million dollars.

Disease outbreaks happen regularly on farms, but animal advocates aren’t the cause. Animal Justice analyzed data compiled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which monitors and investigates reportable disease outbreaks in Canada. The report reveals that standard farm practices and poor adherence to biosecurity protocols by farmers are regularly linked to illness and lethal diseases—such as inadequate hand-washing, failure to change boots and clothing, sharing equipment between farms, sharing needles, or in the case of mad cow disease, feeding infected cow flesh to other cows.

If Bill C-275 was serious about stopping diseases on farms, it would set out clear, legal standards for biosecurity in Canada—which don’t currently exist.

It’s obvious that ag-gag laws have little to do with biosecurity or protecting the food supply, but everything to do with hiding the poor conditions where animals are kept. Animals kept on farms deserve national regulations protecting their well-being, coupled with transparent, proactive monitoring and enforcement such as publicly available reporting and surveillance footage. MPs should reject dangerous ag-gag laws, and instead focus on protecting animals farmed for food and increasing transparency.

Opinion Editorial

Calves could be stuck in isolation until 2031 under new dairy industry guidelines

A version of this article was originally published in The Province.

Amid an onslaught of controversies surrounding the Canadian dairy industry, including a scandalous viral video of an Ontario farmer dumping milk down the drain, new guidelines for the care of dairy cows have been quietly released. 

Late last week, the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) released its updated Dairy Cattle Code of Practice, which provides guidelines for the care of dairy cows on farms across Canada. The Code reportedly received a record-setting number of comments from more than 5,800 individuals. Although a strong public response prompted some positive changes, several areas of the Code still fall short of expectations. 

During the public comment period on the Code of Practice, one of the sections that received the strongest response was that on calf housing.  

It’s easy to see why; like other social animals, calves thrive with interaction and physical touch. Most human parents are familiar with the importance of cuddling to a baby’s development. Like human children, calves who are deprived of physical contact experience stress, slower growth, weakened immune systems, and lower welfare. Conversely, research shows that “pair or group housed calves show improved cognitive development, perform more play behaviours, and are less reactive to novelty”. 

A 2018 study found that 63% of farms in Canada reared dairy calves in individual housing. It is a promising step that the NFACC has acknowledged in the new Code of Practice the harms that this can cause, as well as the many benefits of social housing for calves.  

Unfortunately, the new regulations pave a long road to change. The updated Code of Practice will continue to permit the isolated housing of calves until 2031. This prolonged regulation shift will put millions of calves at risk of being housed individually over the next eight years, denying young calves the ability to engage in their natural herding instincts during their formative months.  

Perhaps most shocking is the continued absence of required emergency planning.  

The public comment period for the Dairy Cattle Code of Practice launched November 29, 2021, while rural communities in B.C. were still reeling from the impacts of disastrous flooding. The floods claimed the lives of approximately 640,000 farmed animals in B.C., including about 420 dairy cattle. Farmers, veterinarians, volunteers, and community members scrambled to evacuate and house thousands of animals, as many were trapped for days standing in deep, murky water.  

The Code recommends that farms develop a plan for evacuating cattle in the event of an emergency, but has no requirements around emergency planning. 

Other concerns that remain unresolved by the updated guidelines include the continued use of electric prods, the stressful separation of cows from their newly born calves, the lack of required outdoor access, and the transportation of cows who are compromised or lactating. 

There is some good news – the new Code explicitly prohibits abusive handling, which it defines as “kicking, beating, striking, tail twisting, dragging, improper use of a prod, and forcefully pulling cattle by the tail, head, or neck”. 

Avoiding many of these techniques was previously only considered a recommended best practice, but recent controversies have prompted a public cry for accountability. In 2021, the industry was subject to public scrutiny when news coverage revealed disturbing footage of dairy cows being violently beaten, kicked, and dragged at Cedar Valley Farms in Abbotsford. 

While the NFACC guidelines aim to address some of the systemic cruelty highlighted in undercover investigations like the one at Cedar Valley, the Code’s reach is not absolute. Meaningful monitoring, enforcement, and penalties for industry stakeholders found guilty of animal abuse are still needed to ensure animals are protected. 

The NFACC’s codes of practice are typically only updated every ten years, meaning that for better or worse, dairy cows will likely be stuck under these insufficient guidelines for the next decade. Meanwhile, consumers can find a growing selection of plant-based alternatives that increasingly rival the taste, texture, and price of dairy – without the suffering. 


No updates in cruelty investigation at B.C. slaughterhouse; calls for license suspension

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media

Animals suffer as action delayed

More than a month after disturbing footage unveiled horrific animal cruelty at Meadow Valley Meats, a B.C.-based and provincially-licensed slaughterhouse, there are still no updates in the investigation. 

Take action

Letter asks Province to remove Meadow Valley Meats license

Animal Justice provided the footage to B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture and the Minister stated the situation was being looked into. More than a month later, no further updates have been provided.

The VHS has sent a letter to the Minister supporting Animal Justice’s recent request that the slaughterhouse’s license be suspended or cancelled:

“The video footage shared with the ministry reveals shocking cruelty and captures clear violations of B.C.’s Meat Inspection Regulation, which requires ‘An abattoir licence holder must ensure that an animal in the licensed abattoir is kept before slaughter and slaughtered in accordance with the requirements relating to the humane treatment of animals …'”

Minister @Pam_Alexis_ and the Ministry of Agriculture should cancel or suspend the license for Meadow Valley Meats for their egregious violations of regulations.

Video footage

Content warning: The footage released by Animal Justice depicts horrific animal suffering in a slaughterhouse. 

The footage captured numerous instances of animal abuse, suffering and clear violations of provincial and federal slaughter regulations, including cows, sheep and goats beingforcefully hit, kicked, dragged and thrown to the ground; frightened animals crowded together in hallways and panicked attempts to escape; cruel use of an electric prod on the face of cows; improper slaughter techniques, with animals being improperly stunned to render them unconscious before slaughter; and still conscious animals having their necks cut.

Watch & share video footage

Act now!

Thousands of concerned Canadians have taken action, calling on decision-makers to implement meaningful changes for farmed animals in slaughterhouses.

Quick action: Email the B.C. Minister of Agriculture

Use the quick email tool below to call for meaningful changes for farmed animals in B.C., including:

  1. Proactive enforcement of the Meat Inspection Regulation, which governs provincial slaughterhouses, including appropriate deterrents to prevent animal cruelty and including unannounced inspections;
  2. Publicly-available reports of independent, third-party audits, including consistent video surveillance monitoring for real transparency; and
  3. Effective penalties for industry stakeholders who are found guilty of animal cruelty.

Tip: Personalize your message to make it more impactful! The template below is editable, so feel free to share more about why this issue is important to you.

Live outside of Canada? You can email the Minister at:

Next step: Sign the federal action from Animal Justice

Take action to call for improvements to federal regulations around farmed animal care and slaughter in Canada. This quick action from Animal Justice calls on the federal Minister of Agriculture to introduce mandatory video surveillance in slaughterhouses.

Note: This link will take you to the quick action. Scrolling up on the linked page will reveal graphic images of animal suffering.

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