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2022

Feds need to ditch plans for prison goat program

by Geraldine Lindley

The federal government is bringing prison farms back to Canada, starting in Kingston Ontario. Despite the potential to create a healing and therapeutic program for prisoners, the new prison farms will primarily be an industrial goat dairy operation, with 2,200 goats producing milk expected to supply infant formula for China. Beef and dairy cows will be added as well, and prisoners slaughter animals in an onsite prison abattoir.

In a March 2021 News Release about the Penitentiary Farm Program, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) announced that implementation of the dairy goat operation part of the Program will be temporarily paused due to the pandemic. Further reading about CSC’s plans to set up intensive goat farms at the Joyceville and Collins Bay federal penitentiaries in Kingston mystifies and concerns me. I am writing as a lay person with no recognized expertise in rehabilitation of inmates or humane correctional environments, nor in the environmental or animal welfare implications of intensive animal farming. But I do confidently assert that I am among the many Canadians who consider the values of compassion, dignity and respect, and responsibility, fundamentally important. And it is through this “values lens” that I outline my opinion.

Compassion:

Intensive animal farming contributes to physical, emotional and mental suffering in many ways - lack of freedom of movement and lack of freedom to express natural behaviours are just two examples. Inmates may enjoy working with animals and yet may be concerned about procedures that diminish the welfare of the animals. Such potentially negative experiences are relevant in properly assessing the government’s responsibility to provide inmates with a safe and humane environment free of violence.

Respect and Dignity:

I imagine that appropriately designed rehabilitative programs would aim to provide ongoing opportunities for productive training and for enhancing an individual’s positive development, which in turn would impact the likelihood of future success and reintegration into the community. Participation in such programs should of course be voluntary, safe, and for a good purpose. Generally, however, from what I have read, opportunities for work in the dairy industry are neither likely (from a labour market perspective), nor desirable (from a working conditions perspective). Furthermore, the question of fairness has rightly been raised in connection with the possibility of the government selling the goat milk to a private company for profit while the inmates working in the program earn less than a dollar an hour.

Responsibiliy:

The reality of intensive animal farming comes with legitimate concerns about air pollution and water pollution, waste disposal, greenhouse gas emissions, and serious zoonotic diseases (such as Q fever). I believe that the responsibility of the government to the workers, the local community, and the broader public, is to avoid such risks when possible.

Why not repurpose the operations of the Penitentiary Farm Program to plant-based agriculture which could provide fresh garden produce for prison kitchens and for donation to local food banks, while also building workers’ skills and community connection, and eliminating the risks associated with intensive animal farming. A prison farm that is not based on an intensive animal production system can serve the best interests of the inmates, the community, and the environment, and be strongly aligned with the values of compassion, respect, and responsibility.

For a detailed analysis, see the January 31, 2021 report “ Canada’s Proposed Prison Farm Program: Why it won't work and what would work better" commissioned by Evolve Our Prison Farms.

Geraldine Lindley is a retired lawyer and a Director of CCFA. She lives in Toronto.

Published January 21, 2022

Transportation Torture

by Jim Sannes

Have you ever seen or read about how animals are transported to the slaughterhouse? We can say that this is one of the most terrible stages of their life. The animals sentenced to death will be sent on a painful and often long journey.

People do not even remotely imagine how millions of cows and calves, sheep, pigs, horses and millions of birds are subjected to suffering during their transportation in Canada. Animals are packed tightly into trucks or railway cars, and for several hours, and sometimes days, they are taken one way to be killed for our tastebuds. Unable to lie down, distraught with fear, crampedness, thirst, stuffiness, these unfortunate creatures sometimes trample each other to death.

Think about how hard it is to travel in crowded public transport on a hot or freezing day, and multiply that several times. Should we continue to torment them, knowing that no animal product or material is necessary for our survival or the satisfaction of our basic human needs?

Jim Sannes live in Kitchener, Ontario. He is the Canadian Representative for the Unitarian Universalists Animal Ministry.

Published October 1, 2021

Canada's Shame: Treatment of Farm Animals

by Debbie Wall

Canada has the shameful reputation of having some of the poorest animal “protection” and transport laws in the developed world.

Agriculture use is but one on an exhaustive list of so-called “accepted activities” that are exempt as long as “codes of practice” are followed. It has to be, because it could not exist if held to the same standards of care legally required of those with companion animals.

Over 800 million animals are killed for food in this country every year, most of whom are bred into lives not worth living and are raised in factory farms that check off all the boxes for conditions that will lead to antibiotic resistant super-bugs and future pandemics.

Instead of being offered the opportunity to engage in natural behaviors, they are forced to endure mutilations such as de-beaking, de-horning, tooth clipping, tail docking and castration. All performed without anesthesia. All standard industry practices.

Annually, fourteen million individuals are injured during transport to slaughter houses (which occurs in all extremes of weather with no food, water or rest) and 1.6 million are dead upon arrival. These are not random numbers pulled out of thin air by activists. They are statistics provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

But instead of introducing legislation that will lessen the suffering of farmed animals in Canada, government passes ag-gag laws which criminalize those who seek to expose it.

Debbie Wall lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She was a candidate for the Animal Protection Party of Canada in the 2021 federal election.

Published October 1, 2021

2018

Giving our time as a family

by Taunya Ahier

Over the winter break, my family and I were able to volunteer a lot. I would highly recommend it as a family activity. We spent time together, experienced new things and met interesting folks, all while helping others. We volunteered at a nursing home for residents with advanced dementia. Our highlight was having a professional musician and the former organist for the Toronto Maple Leafs play a Charlie Brown tune for us on his piano!

We also volunteered at Farmhouse Garden Animal Home. We have been helping the animal sanctuary with bake sales and other fundraisers over the past year but, this winter, we began volunteering with the animals and taking care of the barns. With these more physical chores, our highlights were tipping over a huge round straw bale that we dispersed down a chute from the loft to the barn below and then spread as bedding for the cows. We used pitchforks and other farm tools to give hay to cows and horses and the blunt end of the pitchforks to break the ice cover on some of the water barrels. We know our helping helped others directly, and we are the better for it!

We also spent some time at Toronto Animal Services East and OSPCA in Stouffville delivering toys for the animals that my kids and their classes and my students had made. After spending time at the shelters, our family made our New Year’s resolution to volunteer at the shelter more. We’re looking forward to it!

Taunya Ahier is a teacher in the Toronto District School Board and a longtime supporter of the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals.

Published: January 15, 2018

Meatless Mondays: Small steps for a big change

by Taunya Ahier

This fall at my school, I started something I've been wanting to get going for the past couple years — Meatless Mondays. After inviting classes to study World Food Day and the ways a plant-based diet can reduce world hunger, students were so engaged they came up with the idea of a meatless day at school on their own! After they presented their World Food Day findings to the rest of the school, I invited each class to take on a Meatless Mondays challenge. In November and December, our school of just over 300 kids had about 300 meatless Monday lunches.

Those participating have looked forward to Meatless Mondays and have embraced the idea on other days of the week, too. Kids would shout, “Hey, Ms. Ahier, I have a meatless lunch today, and it's Wednesday!” “Right on!” I would say.

I was also very proud to see that some of the classes explored other reasons for eating less meat: climate change, feeding more people, reducing suffering of animals and health. Sometimes, even staff members would let me know they brought a meat-free lunch! Our announcements every Monday include a clip played over the PA system of a famous athlete, musician or celebrity who is vegetarian. We ask what that famous person has in common with our school that day: We are all having a meat-free lunch!

Taunya Ahier is a teacher in the Toronto District School Board and a longtime supporter of the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals.

Published: January 1, 2018