Frequently asked questions
Why is the welfare of farm animals important?
All animals, including those raised for food and fibre, have feelings that matter to them. Much like dogs, cats and humans, farm animals can experience a wide range of feelings, including fear, frustration, and pain. In short, they can suffer.
Farm animals comprise the single largest group of animals used by humans worldwide. Every year, over 665 million animals are killed for food in Canada. That compares with 15 million animals kept as companions, and approximately two million animals used in research, teaching, and testing.
If you care about animals, it makes sense to care about farm animals.
Is it important to be concerned about the welfare of farm animals when they end up slaughtered for food?
Because humans choose to eat some animals and not others does not change the fact that all animals share the capacity for suffering and are therefore deserving of humane treatment. The fact that they are raised for consumption implies that we have an ethical responsibility to treat them well.
Some animals live for mere months before slaughter. Others, such as laying hens and breeding sows, can live for years. Regardless of the length of an animal’s life and their eventual fate, they deserve a decent quality of life for however long they are alive, whether a short or long period.
Do Canada’s animal welfare laws protect farm animals?
Sadly, Canada’s anti-cruelty laws do not protect farm animals from suffering caused by factory farming systems provided they are considered standard industry practice. The tragedy is that standard industry practices are responsible for some of the worst animal cruelty imaginable.
As a result, you can do almost anything you want to a farm animal in the name of profit without breaking the law, provided standard industry practice is followed.
For example, it is perfectly legal in Canada to crate a pregnant sow for her entire adult life, and house seven laying hens in a cage the size of a microwave oven; both are considered standard practice.
How can you help farm animals?
Here are a few things you can do to help farm animals:
- Educate yourself and spread the word. In this age of globalization and the Internet, there are more sources than ever for good information on modern farming practices;
- Go vegetarian or reduce the amount of meat, dairy and eggs you consume;
- Cut out animal products that come from industries where factory farming is most prevalent. Purchase food that is labelled “Certified Organic” (free-range) or has a label like Winnipeg Humane Society (WHS) Certified or BCSPCA Certified. Foods with these labels are produced in higher-welfare systems;
- Contact your local grocery store and ask about the conditions under which the animals that they sell were raised;
- Write to your provincial government representatives asking for stricter animal-welfare laws that ban factory-farming practices;
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper explaining why the welfare of farm animals is important to you, and what you are doing to make a difference.
What is factory farming?
Download our explanation (pdf file)
Myths about factory farming
Download our list (pdf file)