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VHS responds to Tim Hortons announcement on animal welfare

VHS issued the following news release in response to Tim Hortons’ announcement of an animal welfare initiative:

May 4, 2012

Tim Hortons responds to customer demands for more humane eggs and pork

Under mounting pressure from animal welfare organizations and consumers, Tim Hortons announced today it will call on its pork suppliers to eliminate the gestation confinement breeding sows and that it plans to purchase at least 10 per cent of its eggs from enriched caging systems by the end of 2013.

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) still feels Tim Hortons’ initiative falls short of making necessary improvements to animal welfare, particularly in regards to egg-laying hens. Through VHSs online petition* on Change.Org, more than 30,000 people have urged Tim Hortons to stop the use of cages and crates for hens and sows.

VHS is pleased that Tim Hortons is sending a strong message to the pork industry that change is needed to get animals out of tiny crates,” said Leanne McConnachie, Director of the Vancouver Humane Societys Farm Animal Programs. “Like many consumers nationwide, we are disappointed that the company still refuses to use any cage-free eggs though.”

Approximately 26 million hens produce Canada’s egg supply, and Tim Hortons 10 per cent commitment will only affect about 35,000 hens – the equivalent size of the average battery cage barn. In B.C. alone, more than 300,000 hens are raised in cage-free systems such as free-run, free-range and organic free-range.  Most of Tim Hortons’ competitors have opted to purchase eggs from farms using cage-free systems.

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Please sign petition before Tim Hortons AGM

Conventional battery hens

UPDATE:  Tim Hortons has announced an animal welfare initiative. Details here.  Stay tuned for VHS reaction.

On May 10th, Tim Hortons will hold its annual general meeting in Toronto. A shareholder resolution will be proposed asking Tim Hortons to stop buying eggs and pork from hens and pigs confined in cramped metal cages.

Add YOUR voice to the discussion. Sign our petition here and TELL TIM HORTONS TO STOP SUPPORTING FARM ANIMAL CRUELTY. We have collected more than 23,000 signatures so far – AT LEAST 10,000 is even better.

Please sign and share today. We have only A FEW DAYS LEFT!

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Canada’s factory farms exposed

VHS’s contribution to the report concerns Canada’s supply management system and cruelty to caged hens like these ones on an Ontario battery farm.

Report is a must read

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has released some alarming findings about the impacts of Canada’s animal agriculture practices.

What’s On Your Plate? The Hidden Costs of Industrial Animal Agriculture exposes the destructive impacts of intensive livestock operations on our health, the environment, animal welfare and rural Canada.

The report also exposes the real costs of our food, including tax-funded subsidies to agriculture, and the costs borne by our health care system for public safety and food borne illnesses. Our “cheap” food isn’t so cheap after all!

VHS co-wrote a section on supply management and Canada’s egg industry (pages 101-105). Read the report here and take action to help address the issue.

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Big Ag and Calgary Stampede target school kids

Rosy image of factory farming promoted

Conventional egg farm

The corporate power of Big Agriculture and the Calgary Stampede is being used to paint a rosy picture of factory farming to Calgary schoolchildren – with no dissenting voices allowed.

The Stampede’s ‘Aggie Days’ (April 21-22) is an annual event “celebrating” agriculture in Alberta – as long as it’s conventional, intensive agriculture.  Up to  30,000 local schoolchildren visit the promotion each year.

Paul Hughes, a local food activist who promotes small-scale urban agriculture, has been denied a booth at the event for the past four years. Hughes says that his booth would focus on how to grow food in an urban environment, providing information on preparing plots, choosing plants and starting school gardens.   Yet despite such innocuous activities and a pledge not to engage in any political activity, Hughes was again denied a booth.

Other exhibitors, like Alberta Chicken Producers and Alberta Egg Producers, will have booths at the event.  But Hughes, who is president of the Calgary Liberated Urban Chicken Klub (CLUCK), is not welcome.  CLUCK is opposed to factory farming, including battery-cage egg operations. Perhaps the big conventional chicken operations don’t want schoolchildren to hear that hens are happier when they’re not crammed six to a cage.

While VHS has concerns about unregulated urban chickens, CLUCK’s proposals are about responsible urban husbandry that’s subject to regulation that will protect animal welfare.  It’s hard not to admire CLUCK’s fight for a traditional form of small-scale agriculture that respects animals and the environment.  It’s just one more small voice trying to stand up to the overwhelming power of corporate agriculture.

And it’s that corporate power that is being used to silence any voice that questions factory farming.  Meanwhile, Aggie Days will ensure that schoolchildren see a one-sided view of agriculture that suits Big Ag and the Calgary Stampede.





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Hear great new music and help farm animals!

We’re excited to launch our newest and most musical endeavour today!

With the help of Vancouver Film School students we’ve created a great new music album featuring 10 up-and-coming alternative-indie artists, both local and international. There is even a forward by renowned animal advocate Bob Barker of “The Price is Right” fame.

The album, titled Alternative for Animals, can be downloaded from for only $7.99, and 100% of the proceeds will go to VHS’s farm animal programs. Preview the tracks and purchase the album here.

The album is meant to raise awareness about the animal cruelty issues in the farming industry and give you a chance to help. See for more details.

Alternative for Animals will serve as a powerful reminder to people of how our choices and actions can either contribute to or alleviate animal suffering.  We are certain that when consumers are informed about the facts, they will be encouraged to reduce or eliminate their consumption of meat, dairy and eggs or at least choose products from certified organic farms. These options offer higher welfare for the animals and are better for the environment and human health.

Please spread the word about this fantastic project and support the movement towards improving farm animal welfare.

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Hens to end miserable lives as glue

The sticky problem of making money from old hens finally has a solution. They’re going to be turned into glue.

According to a story in the Western Producer, researchers at the University of Alberta say spent hens, which are seen as waste in the industry, can be used to produce wood glue. There’s a “big market” say the researchers.

In Canada at any given time, there are approximately 28 million egg-laying hens. Most of them spend their short lives of 12 to 24 months in wire cages (called battery cages), with each hen having less room than a sheet of paper. The hens are crammed five to seven to a cage with no room to express any natural behaviours such as nesting, wing-flapping, dust-bathing or foraging. The frustration from such extreme crowding causes the birds to cannibalize each other. Industry’s answer to this problem is to cut off the hens’ beaks with a hot blade or a laser, which has been scientifically proven to cause extreme pain.

Until now, the bodies of hens that are no longer considered productive (spent hens) have been worthless, so much so that even transporting them to slaughter was uneconomical. On-farm killing and composting has been encouraged, using methods such as gassing, macerating and electrocution.

There are significant welfare problems with both transport and on-farm slaughter. Transportation of farm animals is poorly regulated in Canada for any species, and the vulnerability of spent hens means they are particularly at risk. Their bones are fragile due to excessive egg production and lack of exercise – between 24% and 29% of laying hens have broken bones by the time they reach the processing plant, according to a 1989 study. The battery cages in which they spend their lives are poorly designed, so even removing them from the cages can cause painful injuries, including fractures. Because of their low economic value, each bird is not treated with care and ‘catchers’ can be extremely rough when removing hens from cages and cramming them into transport drawers.

The trip to the slaughterhouse is fraught with yet more misery, including inclement weather, long transport distances, vehicle vibration, etc. Once there, stressed and suffering, they are again pulled from the containers and hung upside down to have their heads dragged through an electrified water bath (called stunning). Too many birds survive the stunning and are fully conscious as their throats are slit.

While on-farm slaughter addresses the problems with transport, welfare is still a serious issue. Because farms are away from the city, the public, including authorities tasked with oversight of animal welfare, does not see what’s happening. All of the killing methods, including gassing, maceration, and electrocution, can cause terrible suffering.

An improvement in economic value is not likely to result in increased welfare. Spent hens will continue to suffer until the public accepts the painful reality of their lives and deaths.  Their suffering can be reduced by purchasing only cage-free eggs or by cutting out eggs altogether.

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Red meat is bad, but don’t switch to chicken or fish

Eating red meat increases the risk of premature death says a major new report by the Harvard School of Public Health.

This latest study showing that red meat consumption is a health hazard will likely be welcomed by opponents of factory farming. After all, anything that potentially reduces the demand for meat should be good news for animal welfare, the environment and human health. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Like many studies showing the health risks associated with eating red meat, this one recommends switching to alternatives such as fish or poultry – options that are fraught with environmental, sustainability and animal welfare problems.

VHS launched an Eat Less Chicken project specifically to counter suggestions that chicken is a more acceptable choice than red meat. In terms of pound-for-pound animal suffering, eating poultry is among the worst options, as billions of chickens are inhumanely raised and slaughtered to provide relatively small amounts of meat. While poultry production is not as environmentally damaging as, say, intensive pig farming it still has considerable negative impacts.

If substantial numbers of people were to start replacing red meat with fish, it would likely further devastate global fish stocks, three quarters of which are already either fully or over exploited.

The simple truth is that moving toward a plant-based diet is the best way to reduce our impact on the environment, improve our health and prevent animal suffering.

For more information see our Eat Less Meat webpage.