Animal Welfare in Canada – What animal activists don’t tell you on Facebook

February 13, 2017

By Krystal Coddington

Have you ever had a really bad teacher, one that made you detest going to class? What about a bad parent, have you ever seen someone that made you think that they shouldn’t be allowed to have kids? I’m sure the answer to the last couple questions have been yes. Now, have you ever seen a video or a photo on social media that made you think that farmers are cruel, heartless people? I have a feeling that the answer to that question is also yes. Yet, I’m also sure that you’ve had a good teacher, or even an amazing teacher, one who put in the extra time and made you feel special. We all know amazing parents, the ones who encourage and teach their children to be the best they can be every single day. Sadly, not everyone has had the chance to meet a good farmer, one who feeds their animals before they eat, and who braves the harsh Winter weather to do calf check in the middle of the night.

With only 1 in 50 Canadians registered as a Canadian farmer in 2011 (Statistics Canada, 2011), it’s understandable that there is a disconnect between agricultural consumers and producers. The Canadian government commissioned concerning the public’s perception of agriculture in Canada (Barefoot and D’Autremont, 2014). In this report, it was clear that there were many misconceptions about farms, farmers, and their practices in Canada. Some agricultural producers may say that this study was unnecessary as the misconceptions are quite evident and prominent on social media, with many videos circulating on the web showing undercover videos of farms. As a cow-calf producer in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, I would like to assure you that what you see in these videos is not a reality on the majority of livestock operations in Canada, or the situations are twisted and improperly explained.

The reach of social media is both a blessing and a curse for agricultural producers. It’s a good place to share farm machinery for sale, or to ask for advice on a particular situation. However, it is also the platform of choice for groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Mercy for Animals, two animal rights activist groups who have over 6.6 million followers on Facebook combined. Picture and video ad campaigns posted by these groups show horrific images of neglect and abuse towards farm animals. These images, paired with sad music and heart-tearing descriptions of what the activist group says is going on behind closed farm doors have many believing that all farmers are bad – but they’re not.

Farming is a passion, it’s seldom said that a person goes into farming for the money. Nevertheless, for arguments sake, let’s say that someone is only farming to make money, they hate livestock. Abusing and neglecting their animals only makes them lose money, as animals will not produce optimally if they are not well taken care of and will therefore not make the most money possible for this fictional greedy farmer. There are also laws and regulations in place concerning farm animal welfare on both a provincial and federal level (NFACC, 2013). Fines, jail, and livestock confiscation are all very possible outcomes for farmers charged with animal abuse or neglect. In 2015, the Animal Welfare and Safety Act was passed, recognizing animals as sentient beings (CBC, 2015). This did not affect many farmers, as they truly do care for their animals as if they are a part of the family. Actually, I personally see my cows more often then I see many of my family members. Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals have also been developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council which have recommended practices for all livestock farms in Canada (NFACC, 2017).

Sadly, there are bad farmers in Canada, just as there are bad teachers, and bad parents. That doesn’t mean all farmers, teachers, and parents are bad. Remember, just because there is one rotten apple in the bunch, doesn’t mean the whole orchard is bad.

 

References

Barefoot, C., and M. D’Autremont. 2014. Realities of Agriculture in Canada. Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Montreal, Qc.

CBC. 2015. Quebec bill calls animals ‘sentient beings’ and includes jail time for cruelty. Available at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-bill-calls-animals-sentient-beings-and-includes-jail-time-for-cruelty-1.3102399 (accessed 9 February 2017). CBC, Montreal, QC.

National Farm Animal Care Council. 2013. A Summary Report on Farm Animal Welfare Law in Canada. NFACC, Lacombe, AB.

National Farm Animal Care Council. 2017. Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals. Available at http://www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice (accessed 9 February 2017). NFACC, Lacombe, AB.

Statistics Canada. 2011. 2011 Census of Agriculture. Available at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/ca2011/ha (accessed 9 February 2017). Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ont.

3 responses to “Animal Welfare in Canada – What animal activists don’t tell you on Facebook”

  1. Stéphanie Bélanger-Naud says:

    L’article est très intéressant. Je suis vraiment d’accord avec ce point de vue. Je crois qu’il est important d’informer la population que les bons agriculteurs existent et que c’est même la très grande majorité qui l’est. De plus, j’aimerais ajouter que je suis convaincu qu’une éducation de la population de la sorte passe également par l’école. D’ailleurs, pourquoi ne pas enseigner un cour d’agriculture au primaire ou au secondaire? De cette façon, les jeunes pourraient se rapprocher de l’agriculture et s’y intéresser davantage et ainsi mieux la comprendre. En effet, il semble avoir aujourd’hui plus que jamais un énorme fossé entre les agriculteurs et la population urbaine. 
    Outre cela, j’ai trouvé que l’introduction de ce texte était vraiment formidable et permettait de capter l’attention du lecteur. Je n’aurais pas pu trouver un meilleur moyen d’introduire cet article.
    Par ailleurs, pour compléter le texte, il aurait été intéressant d’avoir une photo qui montre le réel visage de l’agriculture canadienne que l’on veut démontrer ici. Cela aurait été une belle réplique aux images choquantes et dégradantes de l’élevage animal circulant sur le Web.

  2. rivakhanna says:

    Le texte est très bien structuré! L’introduction capte efficacement l’attention du lecteur et la conclusion fait une belle boucle et un rappel de l’introduction. Le texte coule agréablement et les idées sont clairement présentées. Je ne pourrais être plus d’accord avec le problème de la désinformation dans les médias en général et, plus encore, sur les médias sociaux.

    Les arguments avancés quant à la perte de productivité engendrée par les mauvais traitements affligés aux bêtes sont très exactes. De plus, les affirmations sont toutes appuyées par des références pertinentes. Il appert évident que l’auteure maîtrise le sujet, son professionnalisme ne peut être remis en question.

    Peut-être aurait-il toutefois été intéressant de donner quelques exemples d’actions positives, ou de conséquences positives engendrées par les groupes activistes de droits des animaux, comme PETA. Le cas contraire, l’auteure fait, en quelques sortes, elle aussi ce qu’elle reproche à ces groupes de faire, c’est à dire de ne présenter qu’un côté de la médaille. Car, bien qu’ils font dans le sensationnalisme, ces groupes peuvent également avoir un impact positif.

  3. Julie Major says:

    It was courageous to pick such a contentious topic, and the analogy to teachers and parents is great. It’s very true that it’s not very likely that city dwellers will get to know a “good farmer”. While I think of myself as being a moderate person when it comes to these kinds of issues, I can put myself in the shoes of someone who buys into PETA-type rhetoric. It seems to me that more actual data should have been given to really prove your point (for example, I don’t think it would have been too hard to find numbers relating improved welfare to improved production or profitability, especially in dairy)- you say groups like PETA use anecdotal evidence and generalize…I think the best way to counter this is with facts and numbers. For example, you say abusers can be exposed to fines and even jail – how often does this happen, in reality? Personally I am not convinced by the notion that there are guidelines and rules and this ensures things are done well. Stand on highway 40’s service road in Pointe Claire where the speed limit is 50 km/h and see how well the limit is respected. Might not be a great example because it’s more “obviously wrong” to make an animal suffer that to follow traffic, but the argument is still not very comforting. Keeping a dairy cow on a chain that is too short can be seen as a form of “abuse”, and it might be done “unknowingly”. In my opinion, to make people feel better we need to call for more “mandatory” programs like proAction, third-party certifications and stricter laws (we’ve recently made progress on that front, as you indicated), and more inspectors that are better able to actually do their job (in the face of intimidation and threats from industry, for example – vandalized cars happen). We can mention to people that they can turn to local purchases for meat, where they know their meat farmer and can visit the farm themselves. We can also tell consumers that meat that is “more humane” usually costs more, thus they make decisions in the supermarket aisles. Trying to say the issue is not really a big one, does not make me feel much better, personally. Whew! Hot topic, for sure!

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