Animal Justice and a coalition of Canadian animal protection organizations have written to the federal government, demanding that no federal bailout funds be given to factory farms where animal cruelty runs rampant. Instead, the groups are asking that any federal bailout funds be directed to rebuilding and growing local, sustainable plant-based food systems that will improve food security, the health of Canadians, worker safety, and the environment.
Across Canada and the United States, slaughterhouses are closing after allowing massive COVID-19 outbreaks to fester among workers. The Cargill slaughterhouse near High River, Alberta is now Canada’s largest single site outbreak of the virus. Closing these facilities is disrupting the meat industry’s supply chain.
The animal agriculture sector has proven it is not resilient and is unable to pivot to meet changing market conditions. The Canadian Pork Council is seeking approximately $500 million in public funds to compensate for lost revenues in the pig farming industry caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is also pushing for funding and government programs to compensate cow farmers’ losses. These requests are in addition to existing funding commitments made by the government to help the agricultural industry during the pandemic.
“Animals kept on factory farms are already living in deplorable, confined conditions,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Now, they may suffer even more as farmers engage in mass ‘depopulation,’ dumping animals’ bodies in landfills or burying them. In Quebec alone, more than 92,000 pigs are now considered to be ‘backlog’ that will likely be ‘disposed of’ in the near future.
“There are no animal protection regulations for animals on farms in Canada. With no proactive government oversight of on-farm welfare, the prospect of unmonitored on-farm killing should be concerning to us all. Industry-accepted methods for culling pigs would shock most Canadians, and include electrocution, blunt force trauma, and carbon dioxide gassing. In the United States, chickens are being gassed, or are being killed by farmers shutting off air ventilation systems in their barns, causing them to overheat and die after prolonged suffering.”
With farms running out of space for new pigs and the market price of piglets falling to almost zero, some pregnant pigs in Canada are already being given injections to cause the abortion of their fetuses. Hundreds of pigs and piglets have already been killed on farms. Among other conditions of bailout funding, the Canadian Pork Council has requested that direct payments to producers not be tied to “inventory depopulation decisions.”
Industrial animal agriculture practices cause a range of environmental and public health problems due to air and water pollution, significant greenhouse gas emissions, and the development of widespread antibiotic resistance. Scientists and public health experts agree: conditions on North American factory farms could lead to the emergency of future zoonotic diseases that are similar to, or even more harmful than, COVID-19.
“The COVID-19 pandemic was caused by environmental destruction as well as human interaction with, and cruelty toward, animals,” said Ms. Labchuk. “We need to deeply reconsider our treatment of animals and the planet. The federal government should ensure Canadians’ tax dollars are used for long-term public gain, putting Canada on track toward sustainable, resilient food systems and the production of fruits, vegetables, pulses, and other climate-compatible plant-based foods.”
A copy of the letter sent to Finance Minister Morneau and Agriculture Minister Bibeau on behalf of a coalition of animal protection organizations can be found here.
For more information contact:
Executive Director, Animal Justice
Corporate Relations Specialist, Mercy for Animals
Director, Canadian Coalition For Farm Animals