Our trip to meet Sunshine, dubbed the happiest goat ever, started with a question: how can we help Sunshine who since February, has become the target of a Canadian Food Inspection Agency eradication program?
The CFIA is a regulatory body who aims to mitigate risks to Canada’s animal feeds and products and provide a safe food supply system to Canadians. [i] The CFIA seeks to safeguard Canada’s food supply and does so in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food and with the participation of industry. [ii]
Sunshine is a neutered male goat who lives on a vegan farmstay, animal sanctuary and B&B owned and sustained by the efforts of Sherry and Yan. Living on acres of land in Nipissing Village, amidst farmland and forest bordered by the waters of the South River and Lake Nipissing, Sunshine has become the playful face of Piebird B&B and Vegan Farmstay. [iii] He and his other herbivorous companions are not livestock, nor does he in any way contribute to the meat or dairy industry. His life purpose is simply that of being happy and making any visitor of Piebird, laugh.
Perhaps it’s important to understand at this point how a goat, who’s only purpose is to live, be a companion and enjoy life on a vegan farm, can be targeted by the CFIA who regulate livestock and the meat industry. Sunshine lives on a vegan farm, which as its name dictates, is one which does not contain, contribute or consume any animal products.
The CFIA has alleged that Sunshine’s genealogy can be traced to an Ontario dairy farm where scrapie – a disease of the central nervous system – caused 482 goats to be pre-emptively killed. [iv] Thus, Sunshine has found himself controlled by the CFIA because of this eradication program which is based on opening up “market access domestically and internationally” and ensuring that Canada “remains competitive and maintains market access.” [v] The aim of this CFIA eradication program works in partnership with the food and animal industry, to serve export ambitions – the very system that Sherry and Yan have sought to counter since opening Piebird in 2005 and rescuing ex-farm industry animals.
The CFIA does not recognize any live-testing for scrapie in goats (as they do in sheep) and Sunshine is now past the age where symptoms would usually start to show. Additionally, Sunshine is a neutered, male goat and thus poses no risk of passing along scrapies. As stated by Scrapie Canada – the sheep and goat industry’s informational outlet in Canada – scrapies is transmitted “through fluid and tissue from the placentas of infected females. It can be transmitted from an infected female to her offspring at birth, or to other animals exposed to the same birth environment. Males can contract scrapie, but they do not transmit the disease to other animals.” [vi]
Despite Sunshine’s inability to transfer the disease, on April 23rd the CFIA issued a lifetime order giving them control over the animals and their welfare on Sherry and Yan’s vegan farm. The CFIA derives its powers from the Health of Animals Act [vii] and it provides the CFIA with the authority to “seize and detain an animal or thing,” “dispose” of an animal by requiring an animal to be “destroyed,” or reserve the animal for experimentation. [viii] Should death or injury result in experimentation, Yan and Sherry would be compensated the market value of Sunshine.
If “destroyed,” Sunshine would go to an “animal deadyard” where “animal carcasses, animal by-products or disabled or diseased animals are brought when they are not to be prepared for human consumption.” [ix] Not only do the provisions of this Act not allow for any recognition of animals which live for purposes other than that of food consumption or as a food source, it does not in any way, account for the closeness of a bond between humans and animal companions.
Pet historians have traced animal companionship to 10 000 BC and as early as AD 200, pets were buried in Roman cemeteries with sentimental gravestones. [x] To then speak of Sunshine, as having a market value and capable of being ‘destroyed’ and disposed of in a ‘deadyard’ would be shocking and deeply disturbing to anyone who owns or has loved a companion animal.
To all who visit and have had the heart-warming privilege of getting to know Sunshine, the therapeutic value of animals is all too clear. Sunshine’s adventures have been chronicled through the pictures and videos produced by Piebid B&B and can be watched on their website or Youtube Channel.
Sunshine has connected with over 25,000 people, who have been encouraged to speak out and urge the CFIA to remove their control over his life. Sunshine’s story acutely highlights the paradoxical treatment of animals in the food industry, whose value is determined by the market and pets, who enjoy many more magnitudes of love and affection.
French philosopher, Réne Descartes in his Discourse on Method from 1637, mused that animals were soulless machines, incapable of thinking since they, unlike us, did not have immortal souls.[xi] While this often quoted contention serves as a basis for animal welfare discussions and highlights ‘how far we have come,’ Sunshine is the contemporary subject of this regressive and objectified view of animals.
To follow Sunshine’s story, or learn more about Sherry and Yan, visit www.savesunshine.ca
Written by Kerrie Lowitt – MSc, BES, JD Candidate – Summer Student for Animal Justice Canada
This blog and the contents herein are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to seek legal counsel prior to acting on any matters discussed herein. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
[i] Canadian Food Inspection Agency, “Food Safety Recognition Program,” Jan 2013. Online: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/animals/eng/1299155513713/1299155693492.
[iii] Piebird Bed & Breakfast, “Vegan Bed & Breakfast, FarmStay in Nipissing, Ontario” Online: http://www.piebird.ca/.
[iv] Change.org, “Petitioning Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) & Minister of Agriculture,” Online: https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/save-sunshine-the-happiest-goat-who-lives-free-on-a-happy-vegan-farm
[vi] Scrapie Canada, “What is Scrapie,” Online: http://www.scrapiecanada.ca/whatis.html.
[vii] Health of Animals Act, SC 1990, c 21.
[viii] Ibid, see sections 2, 40, 42 and 52.
[ix] Health of Animals Act, SC 1990, c 21, s 2(1).
[x] David H. Grimm, “A Brief History of Cats and Dogs,” Jan 2014. Online: http://davidhgrimm.com/2014/01/27/a-brief-history-of-cats-and-dogs/