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Thousands of Animals Burn Alive at Van Boekel Farm, of #PigTrial Fame

Animal Justice May 29, 2018

Van Boekel Farms has a habit of getting itself in the news.

In 1994, the family pig farming business and its owner—Eric Van Boekel—were convicted for spilling manure into waterways, damaging the water and surrounding environment. Then, in 2011, they were convicted again, for seven offences under the Ontario Water Resources Act, Environmental Protection Act and Nutrient Management Act. Eric Van Boekel was sentenced to 30 days in jail, ordered to pay $345,000 in fines plus a 25% victim surcharge, and put on probation for two years. On appeal, the sentence was reduced.

Then, in 2015, Van Boekel famously reported Save Movement activist Anita Krajnc to police for giving water to panting, heat-stressed pigs aboard his transport truck on a hot summer’s day. Krajnc was charged with mischief and later acquitted, but not before the case put the entire pig industry on trial. Among other revelations, the cross examination of Van Boekel’s driver revealed that pigs go into distress during transport, that technology is available to cool them but it isn’t being used, and that he was unaware of animal welfare laws with which he was supposed to be compliant.

Now, Van Boekel’s Oxford County barn has burned down with 3000 sows and an “undetermined number of other pigs” trapped inside. Although the OPP say the fire is not suspicious, the Ontario Fire Marshal has been called in to investigate.

Most buildings in Canada must follow strict fire safety rules, but farm buildings with “low human occupancy” don’t. Modern farms can contain tens of thousands of animals whose ability to experience physical pain and emotional suffering is no different than our own, but because human occupancy is the standard, very few fire safety requirements exist to protect them.

Tragically for animals, farm buildings are dangerous, and fire hazards and disaster is inevitable. Animals are trapped inside, with no escape route. There are no fire detection or extinguishing systems in place, like sprinklers. Farm buildings are usually in rural areas, far from fire hydrants, fire stations, and have volunteer firefighters who respond from home. Wiring and electrical equipment is easily damaged by rodents and rampant indoor air pollution. Barns are often filled with flammable straw and wood, flammable gases from animal waste, and dangerous equipment like heat lamps. Despite the extreme risk to animals, fire safety inspections, and prevention plans still aren’t mandatory.

So it’s not really a surprise that between January 2015 and November 2017, more than 470,000 farmed animals burned alive on Canadian farms. It’s clear that the farming industry is unwilling or incapable of taking action to curb the epidemic of animals burning alive in barn fires. That’s why we need the National Farm Building Code to factor in animal protection, to force fire standards into place for farmed animals.

Please take action by contacting your local MP and asking them to protect animals from dying in horrific barn fires!

 

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What You Can Do About False Animal Welfare Labels on Meat, Dairy, and Eggs

Animal Justice May 3, 2018

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a “What We Heard” report about its planned overhaul of Canadian food labelling regulations. What We Heard reports are issued after stakeholders are consulted on proposed policy changes; themes in stakeholder feedback are identified and summarized.

What does food labelling have to do with animal protection, anyway? Meat, dairy and egg packaging often tries to present products as animal-friendly, using terms like “free range,” “cage-free,” “grass-fed” and “family farm.” These labels suggest to consumers that animals were raised in a certain way and may convince them to buy or even pay more for animal products with these labels.

If labelling laws are lax, there is no incentive for producers to improve conditions for animals, because they can mislead consumers instead of making actual changes. In addition, consumers who care about animals may be led to believe that so-called humane agriculture is kind for animals. The truth is that most consumers believe conditions for animals are much better than they actually are.

Now, the CFIA wants to make labelling regulations even weaker than they already are. It wants to make animal welfare and other so-called “consumer values” claims its lowest enforcement priority. Instead of proactively defining and standardizing claims about how farmed animals are treated, the CFIA thinks consumers should be forced to contact companies themselves to find out what their animal welfare claims mean.

But consumers have no way of verifying information provided by companies. Meanwhile, companies stand to benefit financially from misleading consumers.

Animal Justice participated in the CFIA’s labelling consultation. We told them that animal farming lacks transparency, that government must ensure consumers can make informed choices, that animal welfare claims must be regulated, and that regulation is the responsibility of government, not consumers or industry.

We also mobilized Canadians to take action, guiding you through the online feedback process.

It seems that our concerns have been heard: in its What We Heard report, the CFIA wrote:
“Many questioned how the model would achieve a consistent approach regarding the meaning of claims or criteria for making claims.”
“Some consumers and consumer associations thought they may not have the resources (e.g. time, influence, money, knowledge, education, access to information, etc.) to fulfill their role as part of this model. There were concerns that if this is the case, it could become “buyer beware” in the marketplace.”
“Stakeholders stressed the role of government in providing guidance on how to avoid misleading claims.”
“Effective enforcement was mentioned as critical to the success of the model and to avoiding consumer deception when CFIA intervention is needed.”

Unfortunately, however, the CFIA also noted that 84 percent of stakeholders were in favour of the proposed policy changes. Not surprisingly, support was greater among industry than consumers.

What can you do?

The CFIA has correctly identified the concerns with loosening labelling regulations. Now, they need to act on them. Tell the CFIA to crack down on misleading labelling by signing our petition!

 

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Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality

Animal Justice

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Animals Are Freezing To Death on Canadian Slaughter Trucks Right Now

Animal Justice January 5, 2018

Canada is experiencing an especially frigid winter, with temperatures feeling as low as -40° C even in southern parts of the country like Toronto.

Many people will ride out this cold snap in the comfort of their homes, or bundle up if they must face the frosty outdoors. Environment Canada issues extreme cold weather alerts to protect people from frostbite, cities open up warming centres for homeless individuals, and schools even cancel outdoor recess periods when the temperature plummets.

But for the millions of chickens, pigs, and cows trucked to slaughterhouses everyday in Canada, it’s business as usual—even in frigid extremes.

Canadian animal transport slaughter truck slaughterhouse livestock

Animals are routinely transported to slaughter in open-sided vehicles, with no heating systems to protect them from the dangerous cold.

Canada’s animal transport laws are among the weakest in the western world, and there are no restrictions that lay out minimum or maximum temperatures in which animals can be transported. In brutally cold weather, animals routinely arrive at slaughter frostbitten or even dead from weather exposure. Workers at Canada’s largest slaughterhouse, Maple Lodge Farms, which kills half a million chickens every day, have described chickens arriving to slaughter, frozen solid like “hockey pucks” and “popsicles”. Government statistics show at least 1.59 million animals arriving dead at slaughterhouses every year.

Canada’s outdated transport laws haven’t been revised since the 1970s, and a recent proposal by the federal government to update the rules still fails to restrict animal transport during extreme weather, or require climate control for trucks.

Existing transport laws are ineffectively enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and even when investigations and prosecutions do take place, penalties are not strong enough to motivate industry to protect animals from the cold. Maple Lodge Farms, for example, has been repeatedly convicted and fined for allowing animals to freeze to death, yet still operates using the same inadequate trucks.

In 2018, Animal Justice will continue to fight archaic transport laws, and to protect millions of animals from the extreme suffering they endure on Canadian farms.

To help, please sign up to our mailing list and stay tuned for ways to get involved.

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