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.
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.