Opinion Editorial

Chickens are birds, just like eagles, but they get no respect

Article originally published in the Georgia Straight.

It seems the world loves chicken but not chickens.

When KFC in the United Kingdom recently ran out of chicken, there was near panic, with customers complaining to their members of parliament and even calling the police. During this year’s Super Bowl, football fans reportedly consumed a record 1.35 billion wings and McDonald’s is reportedly planning to become a “credible chicken player” in the fast-food market. In 2016, Canadians ate about 32.5 kilograms of chicken per capita, the highest consumption ever.

All this reflects a trend away from red-meat consumption, which has likely been fuelled by concerns over its negative impacts on health, the environment, and animal welfare. But the downsides of chicken consumption and production have not attracted the same level of public attention, especially when it comes to animal-welfare concerns.

Most people think of chicken in terms of nuggets, not birds. When those Super Bowl fans are gnawing on wings, they are not thinking of the feathered appendages used to shelter chicks or to escape from danger. (Yes, chickens can fly.)

Although we admire the majesty of eagles or show affection for our pet budgies, most of us accord chickens rock-bottom status in the animal world. Some birds are feathered friends. Chickens are, forever, food.

Yet the science is clear that chickens are birds—and they share many of the same behaviours and abilities as other birds. Although we put labels such as “wildlife”, “pet”, or “livestock” on animals, the animals themselves only think and feel as individuals, each with their own needs and desires, oblivious to human categorization. The rooster crowing at sunrise may feel like an eagle, regardless of our perceptions.

A recent review of the scientific data on the cognition, emotion, and behaviour of chickens concluded that they “are just as cognitively, emotionally, and socially complex as most other birds and mammals in many areas” and that they “have distinct personalities, just like all animals who are cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally complex individuals”.

The review, by neuroscientist Lori Marino, found that chickens:

  • have complex negative and positive emotions, as well as a shared psychology with humans and other ethologically complex animals. They exhibit emotional contagion and some evidence for empathy.
  • possess a number of visual and spatial capacities on a par with other birds and mammals.
  • share some very basic arithmetic capacities with other animals.
  • can demonstrate self-control and self-assessment, and these capacities may indicate self-awareness.
  • communicate in complex ways, including through referential communication, which may depend upon some level of self-awareness and the ability to take the perspective of another animal.
  • have the capacity to reason and make logical inferences.
  • perceive time intervals and may be able to anticipate future events.

Marino concluded: “These capacities are, compellingly, similar to what we see in other animals regarded as highly intelligent.”

It’s clear that chickens don’t deserve their low status in the animal kingdom, but should that even matter when it comes to how they are treated? The real ethical question should be about their capacity to suffer. In modern poultry production, there is no doubt that they do.

Chickens raised for meat are bred to grow so fast they are crippled by their own weight, leading to heart disease, skeletal disorders, and lameness. They are transported to slaughterhouses in cramped, unheated trucks with limited ventilation in all weathers, during which time they can legally be deprived of water, food, and rest for up to 36 hours. After short, miserable lives of deprivation, stress, and pain, more than 600 million chickens in Canada are shackled upside-down and slaughtered each year.

Aside from obvious animal-welfare issues, the overuse of antibiotics in poultry production has been cited as a cause of antimicrobial resistance, threatening the effectiveness of antibiotics for human use. Large poultry farms have also been identified as sources of air and water pollution. (A proposed poultry operation in Alberta, which would house 130,000 chickens, is meeting fierce opposition from local residents over environmental concerns.)

One answer to these problems is for consumers to avoid eating chicken altogether, but given its near universal popularity, how likely is that? Yet new developments in the plant-based-food sector suggest that finding a competitive alternative to chicken may not be as improbable as it seems.

number of plant-based chicken substitutes have successfully entered the market (not all available in Canada), but they have yet to make much of a dent in the poultry industry’s dominance. However, plant-based and “clean meat” start-ups continue to improve their products and attract investment. One small company making headlines is New Zealand’s Sunfed Meats, whose  Chicken Free Chicken consistently sells out in its home country and reportedly tastes very close to the real thing. After attracting significant international interest, the company says it plans to go global.

It’s easy to dismiss the idea that “fake chicken” might one day replace the animal flesh so popular today. But consider what’s happening in the dairy industry. Between 1996 and 2015, per-capita consumption of milk in Canada decreased by 21.5 percent. Meanwhile, the global market for plant-based dairy-alternative drinks is forecast to top $16.3 billion dollars this year—up significantly from $7.4 billion in 2010. The emerging plant-based sector is not going away and could be the “disruptor” that brings dramatic change to the food industry and our diets.

If such change is coming to confront poultry producers, it can’t come too soon for the billions of chickens that suffer to provide nuggets and wings to consumers whose appetites may be greater than their capacity for empathy.

Opinion Editorial

Plant-based diets go mainstream in Canada and the United States

Article originally published in the Georgia Straight.

There are few think tanks as serious and sober as Canada’s Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) and the same could be said for its digital magazine Policy Options. Yet in July, there among the magazine’s weighty articles on economic productivity, NAFTA, and pension reform, was a piece titled “Plant-based diet should be central to national food policy”.

Such headlines used to be the preserve of animal-rights pamphlets and vegan websites, but during the last decade the case for a plant-based diet has entered new realms, gaining increased credibility along the way.

The Policy Options article, written by economist and agronomist Jean-Pierre Kiekens, argues that: “Changing our food habits would bring huge benefits, including disease prevention, healthy longevity, environmental protection, biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. The federal government is currently in the midst of a public consultation on a national food policy—it should consider a vigorous promotion of a plant-based diet.”

The arguments for eating less meat are not new, of course, but the sheer weight of evidence in favour of a shift away from animal protein has propelled the case for dietary change from the fringes of public discourse into the mainstream.

The scientific evidence establishing the environmental impact of global meat production has been clear ever since the United Nations published its landmark report Livestock’s Long Shadow in 2006, which concluded: “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” 

Since then, further UN research has established that 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the livestock industry. Many more scientific studies have identified animal agriculture as a major cause of water pollutiondeforestationbiodiversity lossantibiotic-resistant bacteria, and zoonotic infection diseases.

As the environmental studies on the impact of livestock production have piled up, so has the evidence of health risks associated with red meat consumption.

Meanwhile, the dismal animal welfare record of industrialized agriculture is regularly exposed to public scrutiny by many undercover investigations carried out by animal rights groups.

While the downsides of meat consumption and production have accumulated, the benefits of a plant-based diet have attracted more attention—and not just from foodies, vegan bloggers, and fad-following celebrities. Now, it’s health professionals, chefs, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, scientists, and investors who are promoting the shift toward meatless meals. Even the federal government is proposing to encourage Canadians to adopt a more plant-based diet in the new Canada Food Guide.

The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada have long supported a vegetarian diet as healthy but now mainstream medical groups are starting to adopt similar positions. In 2014, Dr. Kim A. Williams, President of the American College of Cardiology, made news when he revealed that he was vegan and recommended plant-based foods to his patients.

The trend has also brought economic opportunities, with plant-based start-ups emerging everywhere. Last year, a group of 40 investors managing $1.25 trillion in assets launched a campaign to encourage 16 global food companies to diversify into plant-based protein. In the U.S., the new Plant Based Food Association, with more than 80 company members, is set to challenge the lobbying power of the American meat industry.

As plant-based eating goes mainstream, the old image of healthy but bland hippie food has faded. Meatless cuisine has become popular and fashionable, and has even entered the upscale dining scene. A Washington Post food critic, in a glowing review of plant-based fine dining in Los Angeles, concluded: “Much of the meatless food I’ve been eating of late has been alarmingly good.”

Here in Vancouver, there has been a proliferation of plant-based eateries. A directory published by Earthsave Canada lists more than 115 vegan, vegetarian, and “veg-friendly” restaurants, cafés, and other retailers in Metro Vancouver. Meanwhile, 11 Vancouver schools have adopted Meatless Monday programs and the University of British Columbia recently launched Canada’s first plant-based culinary training summit for chefs and food service professionals. In June, four Metro Vancouver cities attracted praise from Sir Paul McCartney for endorsing Meatless Monday.

Meat is not about to disappear from our tables anytime soon, but there’s little doubt that the plant-based diet is an idea whose time has come. A growing number of plant-based food enthusiasts, from cooks to consumers, have seen the future—and it tastes good.

Opinion Editorial

Ending some rodeo events could restore goodwill

Article originally published in the Vancouver Sun.

The city of Chilliwack has made national headlines recently, but for all the wrong reasons.

In June, animal rights group Mercy for Animals released undercover video showing alleged abuse of chickens by employees of Chilliwack-based company Elite Farm Services at several poultry facilities. B.C. SPCA officials said the footage, which allegedly showed workers throwing and hitting chickens, simulating sexual acts with them and letting some injured birds slowly die on the ground, was “absolutely sickening.”

In May, several employees of dairy farm operator Chilliwack Cattle Sales were sentenced to jail for abusing cows in another shocking animal cruelty case. Undercover video showed employees punching and kicking cows and striking them with canes and chains.

It is unfortunate that, because of these cases, many people across the country may only know the name Chilliwack because of media coverage of animal cruelty.

But now the city finds itself embroiled in another animal welfare controversy, this time involving a dispute over the rodeo at the annual Chilliwack Fair. The Vancouver Humane Society, as part of its campaign against the rodeo, released photos from last year’s fair showing calves with ropes tight around their necks, tongues hanging out, as they are pulled off their feet and thrown to the ground. Steers are shown having their necks twisted until they are bent completely over. The humane society says the photos are evidence of inhumane treatment of the animals and is calling on the fair to eliminate calf-roping and steer-wrestling. The fair’s management has agreed to review the events and its board will vote in September on whether to cancel them for next year’s rodeo.

The issue of animal cruelty at rodeos is not new to B.C. In 2007, the Cloverdale Rodeo dropped calf-roping and several other events following the death of a calf and a long humane society campaign against the rodeo. In 2015, the Luxton Rodeo near Victoria folded, followed by the Abbotsford Rodeo in 2016, both after humane society campaigns.

It’s clear that on the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island at least, rodeos have lost public support. A 2015 survey by polling company Insights West found that 63 per cent of B.C. residents are opposed to rodeos. 

The Chilliwack Fair must weigh up all the arguments and evidence concerning animal welfare at rodeos, including the photographic evidence from last year’s rodeo. It should also take into account the public disquiet over the treatment of rodeo animals that has been so clearly demonstrated by the demise of other local rodeos.

The fair also has an opportunity to undo some of the damage done to Chilliwack’s reputation by those recent high-profile animal cruelty cases. By voting to end calf-roping and steer-wrestling, the fair’s board, would make a strong statement that Chilliwack cares about animal welfare and that it supports the evolution of rodeo toward a more humane form of entertainment. It could show that it supports the kind of family-friendly, non-controversial events that people in the Lower Mainland want, not outdated spectacles of animal abuse.

If, on the other hand, the board votes to retain the two controversial events, it will signal that it doesn’t care what happens to the animals and it doesn’t care what many compassionate Canadians feel about rodeos.

A recent editorial in a local Chilliwack newspaper advised the board to rely on more than emotional observations and “outside complaints” when it makes its decision in September. To take an insular, mind-your-own-business position would make the board, and by extension the community of Chilliwack, look out-of-touch, parochial and backward. Is that the face a 21st century community wants to show visitors, investors and the rest of the country?

The Chilliwack Fair needs to stand up for animals — and for the reputation of its city.

Opinion Editorial

They refused to run an ad about animal cruelty at the rodeo

Article originally published in the National Observer.

Earlier this year, a tiny community newspaper in Iowa won a Pulitzer Prize for taking on big agriculture companies over factory farm pollution.

The Storm Lake Times, which investigated the effects of nitrogen from farm drainage on drinking water in the state, was praised for its “editorials fuelled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.”

The family that owns the newspaper reportedly lost a few friends and a few advertisers, but never doubted they were doing the right thing.

“We’re here to challenge people’s assumptions and I think that’s what every good newspaper should do,” said one family member at the time.

It’s a great example of a community newspaper showing courage and tenacity in seeking the truth. Some newspapers still uphold the highest standards and values of a free press.

Then there’s the Williams Lake Tribune. In May, I tried to book a full-page ad in the Tribune on behalf of the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), where I work as the communication director.

The ad, as I informed the Tribune’s publisher via email, would express VHS’s opposition to the Williams Lake Stampede rodeo, which took place between June 29 and July 2. The event may be lesser-known than the famous Calgary Stampede kicking off this weekend, but from the perspective of the VHS, it’s every bit as cruel.

Rejected by the corporate owner

After a couple of days of silence from the publisher, I emailed again and received this reply from an executive at Black Press, the Tribune’s corporate owner:

“In consultation with our lawyer we have determined that we are entitled to decline advertising in the circumstances. The Williams Lake Tribune is a sponsor of the Stampede because it is a significant community event that the paper supports. We appreciate that your society opposes the event and we respect your right to that opinion. You were wise to check with us before commissioning artwork and design.

“While we cannot say definitively that we will decline all possible advertising, we can say, from experience, that anti-Stampede type display advertising that suggests or argues gratuitous cruelty to animals by image or text is unlikely to be accepted by the Williams Lake Tribune at this time.”

Since the words “unlikely to be accepted” seemed to leave the door slightly open, I sent the executive the planned content of the ad to see if it would be acceptable. This included a photograph of the steer-wrestling event taken at last year’s Williams Lake Stampede, accompanied by text stating: “You know in your heart this is not right. Stop cruel rodeo events at the Williams Lake Stampede.”

The executive replied that this would not be accepted.

A matter of public interest

This is not the first time a Black Press newspaper has refused one of VHS’s anti-rodeo ads. In 2015, Abbotsford News rejected a full-page ad opposing the Abbotsford Rodeo (which was ultimately cancelled in 2016). No reason was given for the rejection.

It’s perfectly legal for a newspaper to refuse an ad for any number of reasons. The ad might be libelous or gratuitously offensive or misleading to readers. VHS’s ad did contain a graphic image of a steer being wrestled to ground, but it only showed what a rodeo-goer would typically see at the stampede — the very activity that the Williams Lake Tribune says it promotes and supports.

If the Tribune finds a photo of steer-wrestling offensive and unacceptable, how can it support the event?

It’s also perfectly normal for a newspaper not to agree with an ad it might carry. The Tribune could have made this clear with a disclaimer on the VHS ad or it could have run an editorial explaining its contrary position on rodeo.

But the Tribune chose instead to suppress a legitimate point of view on a matter of public interest. It didn’t trust its readers to make up their own minds about rodeo. Unlike The Storm Lake Times, it didn’t challenge assumptions, “like every good newspaper should do.”

The B.C. and Yukon Community Newspaper Association, of which the Williams Lake Tribune is a member, says part of its mission is to: “Improve standards in the practice of the profession of journalism, and to promote a high standard of conduct and professional ethics in the business of newspaper publishing.”

The Canadian Association of Journalists’ ethics guidelines state that, “Defending the public’s interest includes promoting the free flow of information, exposing crime or wrongdoing, protecting public health and safety, and preventing the public from being misled.” (Italics added).

Clearly, ethics matter to journalists and to the public they serve. People still believe that a free press is vital to democracy, that diversity of opinion matters, that newspapers should be courageous defenders of free speech.

What isn’t clear is whether those things matter to the Williams Lake Tribune, which, to my knowledge, has not been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Opinion Editorial

Battery cage ban lacks enforcement tools

Article originally published in the Vancouver Sun.

Ethical Canadian consumers might have been pleased to hear the recent announcement by the National Farm Animal Care Council that the infamous “battery cage” for laying hens is to be phased out.

But while the end of this cruel cage system is welcome, the council’s new codes of practice for hens are far from any guarantee of good animal welfare.

An obvious issue is that egg farmers still have until 2036 before all hens must be out of battery cages. So, for the time being, supermarket shelves will be full of eggs from long-suffering hens that have been crammed into small cages.

By 2036, all hens must be in either cage-free housing or in “enriched” cages. Enriched cages, while bigger than battery cages, still restrict natural behaviours like running, full wing-flapping and flying, and do not permit unrestrained perching and dust-bathing. Even in an enriched cage system that meets the new code requirements, many of the welfare problems inherent in battery cages remain. In short, a cage is a cage. That is why an enriched cage would still not meet the standards required by the B.C. SPCA Certified Program, a third-party animal welfare certification system. Farmers who do opt for enriched caging will be committing to a major investment, guaranteeing these cages will continue to compromise animal welfare for decades.

But perhaps the most serious shortcoming in the new codes relates to inspection and enforcement. The National Farm Animal Care Council itself defines the codes of practice as “nationally developed guidelines” for the care and handling of farm animals. Guidelines are not regulations or laws. The codes refer to “requirements” that farmers “may” be compelled by industry associations to comply with and these requirements “may” be enforceable under federal and provincial legislation.

The codes also list a number of “recommended practices,” which are even less meaningful than code requirements, as they merely “encourage adoption of practices for continual improvement in animal welfare outcomes.” But no one is going to make a farm implement such practices, as the codes state that “…failure to implement them does not imply that acceptable standards of animal care are not met.” In other words, good practice is optional.

In fact, no independent, third-party body inspects egg farms to ensure the requirements under the codes are being met (unless they have signed up to a separate certification program like the B.C. SPCA’s or Certified Organic). It’s still the egg industry policing the egg industry, whatever spin is put on it.

So where does this leave the compassionate consumer who cares about animal welfare? For people who buy eggs, the least inhumane choice remains eggs that are certified organic, which are guaranteed to be cage-free and have the highest welfare standards. Consumers who continue to reject eggs from any cage system will send a strong market signal to parts of the egg industry that may be pinning their hopes on developing enriched cages under the new codes.

The most humane choice for consumers is, of course, to eliminate egg purchases altogether and transition to a plant-based diet. This has become a more feasible and popular option, as an increasing number of plant-based protein sources have rendered eggs unnecessary to a healthy diet. Reduced demand for eggs still means not only fewer hens in cages, but also fewer unwanted male chicks destroyed (by an industry that needs only hens) and fewer “spent hens” being shipped off to slaughter at the end of their lives.

While the end of the battery cage is a welcome victory for those who have long condemned its obvious cruelty, it’s not yet an end to the animal suffering inherent in the egg industry.

Opinion Editorial

Trouble in Canada’s dairy industry is good news for cows

Article originally published in the Georgia Straight.

Canada’s dairy industry is in trouble and that could be good news for cows.  Between 1996 and 2015, per-capita consumption of milk in Canada decreased by 21.5 percent, with similar declines in the United States and Europe.

A key reason for the trend is the rise in market share of dairy alternatives—soy, nut, and other plant-based milks—that consumers are turning to in droves. The American dairy industry, in an obvious move to hobble this competition, is trying to get Congress to help outlaw the use of the word milk in marketing any of the nondairy products. Clearly, the industry is running scared.

And it’s no wonder. Revelations of poor animal welfare and evidence of the environment-damaging practices in the industry have been compounded by scientific studies undermining the health claims for dairy products.

Here in B.C., the horrific animal abuse exposed in 2014 at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, Canada’s biggest dairy operation, shocked consumers. The company, which pleaded guilty and paid a total of S300,000 in fines, was characterized as a bad apple by the B.C. Dairy Association, which stated: “We strongly believe this to not be the norm.”

While it’s impossible to know whether or not such deliberate cruelty has occurred at other B.C. dairy farms, inspection reports from the B.C. Milk Marketing Board found that one in four farms in the province failed to comply with the provincial animal-welfare Code of Practice. During an 18-month period starting in January, 2015, the inspections revealed cases of overcrowding, lame or soiled cattle, tails torn off by machinery, branding and dehorning of calves without pain medication, and other examples of poor welfare.

Beyond criminal cruelty and industry-code violations, animal welfare is routinely compromised through standard practices in dairy farming. Contrary to the images used in dairy-product marketing, most cows are denied access to pasture and are kept indoors. Yet research done at the University of B.C. has found that, guess what, cows like to go outside. Further UBC research suggests the public thinks cows should be allowed outside. But most B.C. dairy cows spend their lives confined indoors.

Another inherent issue is the separation of dairy calves from their mothers. Yet another UBC research study found that the calves experience “a negative emotional state” following the separation. The researcher, Prof. Dan Weary, has stated: “We can’t say that separation is just some instantaneous event that may be painful but doesn’t bother the animal….It does bother the animal. It bothers them enough that their mood state changes for at least a couple days.”

Again, a subsequent study found that consumers don’t like the practice, as Weary summarized: “People are dissatisfied with this idea that we’re doing something which seems very unnatural—taking a baby away from its mother in the first few hours of its life—and that we need to have awful good reasons for doing that.”

In short, just about everything in modern dairy farming raises animal-welfare concerns and the public finds it disturbing. 

Consumers may overlook these issues as necessary evils because they believe dairy products to be essential to human health. But that perception is being rapidly debunked by the latest medical research. One major study found that “higher consumption of milk in women and men is not accompanied by a lower risk of fracture and instead may be associated with a higher rate of death.”

On top off all this, the dairy industry is a significant contributor to climate change, producing about four percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gases. The industry also requires vast amounts of water and has created significant pollution in North AmericaChina, and elsewhere.

Some of the new dairy-free products, such as almond milk, can be resource-intensive but not on the same scale as dairy milk. Newer milks—such as Ripple in the U.S. and Vancouver’s own Veggemo—are made with plentiful peas, giving them a relatively high protein content and an environmentally benign reputation. 

If such alternatives continue to improve and multiply, they are likely to increase their market share at the expense of the dairy industry. If so, it could not only be good news for the cows but also for our health and the environment.

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Tell the government it must address the cruelty of animal transport


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long transport times:

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

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


Transport trucks:

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

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


Space requirements:

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

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


Handling techniques:

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


Tusk removal:

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


Driver training:

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



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

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


Enforcing regulations:

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

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

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



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A chance to speak up for farm animals



The federal, provincial and territorial governments are asking for comments on plans for the future of agriculture in Canada, providing an opportunity to raise issues about the treatment of farm animals.

Phase 2 of the consultation is open until November 30 and includes options to fill in an online questionnaire, email your comments or write a letter. Please take the time to contribute your views about animal welfare and the future of animal agriculture.

The consultation refers to the government’s plan, called The Calgary Statement – the Next Policy Framework, which sets out several Priority Areas:

Markets and trade
Science, research and innovation
Risk management
Environmental sustainability and climate change
Value-added agriculture and agri-food processing
Public Trust

Following are some key points from our submission to the consultation (full submission here):

Markets and Trade

Canada should develop markets for plant-based protein instead of animal-based protein, which contributes to environmental degradation, is resource-intensive and is dependent on inhumane confinement systems.

Science, research and innovation

Canada should invest in research and development of plant-based protein, especially the production and processing of pulse crops.  In contrast to animal protein production, pulses have been shown to be environmentally beneficial (requiring relatively little water and fertilizer), healthy and sustainable.  A number of innovative plant-based industries have emerged in recent years, attracting investment and consumer interest.

Risk management

The livestock sector has a number of inherent risks, including:

– negative environmental impacts (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions)
– zoonotic disease outbreaks (e.g. avian flu, listeria, e. coli)
– consumer rejection of inhumane, intensive confinement systems (e.g. battery cages for laying hens) and other animal welfare concerns
– consumer health concerns over meat consumption (e.g. cancer risk of red and processed meats)
– rise of antbiotic resistance due to overuse of antibiotics in livestock

Environmental sustainability and climate change

Globally, the meat and livestock sector contributes 14.5% of all greenhouse gases, which is more than the transportation sector.  It is also resource-intensive – it is the world’s largest user of agricultural land, through grazing and the use of feed crops. The sector is also a major contributor to water pollution and loss of biodiversity.

Public Trust

Canadian consumers have many concerns about animal agriculture.

Currently, animal agriculture in Canada involves the confinement and suffering of millions of animals.  Animal welfare should be a top priority in the development of agricultural policy. Currently, there are no mandatory animal welfare standards in Canada, only voluntary Codes of Practice.  These should be replaced with mandatory standards enforced by independent, third-party inspections.

The meat and livestock sector is dependent on intensive confinement systems (factory farms) that compromise animal welfare and degrade the environment. In addition, the overconsumption of meat has been shown to be harmful to human health.  Consequently, this sector is unsustainable.  Consumers will lose faith in agriculture if these problems persist.

Resources should be shifted to the development of a plant-based protein sector, including more support for Canada’s production, processing and marketing of pulses (peas, beans, lentils). Plant-based diets should be promoted through public information programs and support for initiatives like Meatless Monday.

Such initiatives would earn public trust, as they benefit the environment, public health and animal welfare.

Your participation in this consultation will ensure that animals are not forgotten in the development of Canada’s agricultural policies.

More info:

CBC News story


Twitter: #agnpf



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Happy Herd: connecting with animals


Stephen Wiltshire and Diane Marsh are living proof that connecting with farmed animals can profoundly influence someone’s life. They didn’t set out to become vegan and they certainly didn’t set out to start a farm sanctuary, but life—and the animals—had other plans.


10978626_863955536999879_358044572848752196_nWith an idyllic rural property and a few animals already running around, it didn’t take long before they started rescuing animals in need of care and a home.


Diane says she has a special connection with a young steer named Scooter. When he was just a day or two old, he was in a livestock auction pen destined for slaughter when, she says, he called out to her. “He was scared and came up to me immediately when I went in their pen,” she says. Both Scooter and his friend Sparky went home with Diane that day.


They were sickly calves, a byproduct of the dairy industry that literally discards the males. Mother cows need to keep giving birth in order to lactate, but their babies are taken away immediately so that the milk can be bottled and sent to supermarkets. Calves like Scooter and Sparky typically end up as veal.


One day, Stephen went with Diane to an auction and came across a large male turkey crammed into a small cage at an auction. His sadness was palpable, says Stephen, and Thomas the turkey came home with them. According to Stephen, “Thomas loved people. He would always greet everyone when they drove in the driveway and follow everyone around the property.”



Even though Stephen and Diane only live with a few animals, giving them the care they need is a big undertaking. The day starts with breakfast and cleaning. Lunch is hay for the three cows, fruits and veggies for the donkey and the pigs, and sometimes apples for the goats. Lunch is followed by more cleaning, then dinner. At dusk, the animals need to be “tucked in” for the night. Stephen and Diane both contribute to the feeding, cleaning, and facility maintenance.


On weekends, volunteers often help with various tasks around the property and, of course, get to know the animals. It’s clear that the animals all thrive in the fresh air, ample space, and clean environment. The animals are friendly and calm—the mark of trust that results from loving caregiving.


10406873_817219841673449_2898160627586922887_nStephen and Diane know they can’t save all of the animals who are casualties of our food system, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Diane still thinks about an elderly pig who connected with her at an auction, and Stephen says he wishes they could help them all. He says, “Without a doubt, interacting with farm animals every day in a caring way will make you look differently at animal agriculture.”


To get in touch for a visit and see more pictures of the happy animals of the Happy Herd, visit their Facebook page here.





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Facing jail for giving pigs water



Photo: Toronto Pig Save

Media in Ontario are reporting that an animal activist, Anita Krajnc, is willing to go to jail rather that face fines or a conditional sentence for giving water to pigs being transported to slaughter.

Krajnc is a co-founder of Toronto Pig Save, which holds vigils outside slaughterhouses to draw attention to the plight of pigs and other animals who endure cruel transport and slaughter. She was charged under the Criminal Code with mischief under $5,000 for trying to give water to pigs in a transport truck.  The incident was described by the Burlington Post:

“Krajnc squirted water from a bottle into a transport truck that was stopped at a traffic light at Appleby Line and Harvester Road, just outside the Fearman’s pork plant. A load of hogs inside the truck was being taken to the plant for slaughter.

“Krajnc, the co-founder of Toronto Pig Save, had a member of the organization videotape the incident, which escalated when the truck driver got out of the rig and confronted Krajnc.

TO Pigsave pic
Photo: Toronto Pig Save

“On the video, posted to Facebook, the driver tells Krajnc to stop squirting the liquid inside the truck. She tells him it is water and to be compassionate, that the pigs are hot and thirsty. She continued to give water to the animals. The driver said he was calling the police and got back in his rig. There was no physical confrontation.”

It is a sad day for justice in Canada when a harmless act of compassion can land someone in court, and possibly in jail.  It is no secret that farmed animals in Canada endure horrific conditions when being transported to slaughter. Trying to bring a small measure of relief to suffering animals is something that should be rewarded, not punished.

Toronto Pig Save is to be commended for its efforts to bring attention to this issue and we hope Anita Krajnc receives public support for her courageous and compassionate dedication to helping animals.