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Have Your Say: Government Developing Food Policy for Canada

Animal Justice July 12, 2017

The federal government is developing Canada first-ever food policy! A national food policy would address the entire food cycle—from the moment seeds are planted, until the food is prepared and eaten. The policy will set a long-term vision for the health, environmental, social, and economic goals related to food, while identifying actions Canada can take in the short-term. The government’s stated goals are to:

  1. increase access to affordable food;
  2. improve health and food safety
  3. conserve our soil, water and air; and
  4. grow more high-quality food.

The government wants to hear from you before July 27, 2017! This is an incredible opportunity to speak up against unsustainable animal agriculture, encourage the growth of healthful plant crops, and push for improved access to plant-based foods.

Have your say! Visit the consultation website to take the survey. Here are some key points that you may wish to include:

Are there any objectives missing?

There are major current and emerging market opportunities in plant-based and cultured meat, dairy, and eggs. Plant-based replacements for these animal foods are more environmentally sustainable, better for personal health, better for public health (less food-borne illness, pandemic risk, and antibiotic resistance), and better for the animals, who endure intensive confinement conditions under the current system.

Conserving soil, water, and air

Research from internationally respected think tank Chatham House has found that reducing global meat consumption is essential if we are to keep global warming below the “danger level” of two degrees Celsius. Moreover, the public believes it is the responsibility of government to spearhead efforts to address unsustainable consumption of meat.

Affordable food

Plant-based sources of protein are significantly cheaper than animal flesh. At a Canadian grocery store recently, extra lean ground beef was more than five times more expensive than tofu, chickpeas, or red lentils.

The government should develop policies to encourage consumption of healthful, sustainable, and affordable pulses (i.e., beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas). The government should also ensure healthful fruits and vegetables are affordable and accessible to all, and focus on increasing their consumption.

Improving health and food safety

In 2016, Canadians consumed per capita 95.06 kg (209.57 lbs) of animal flesh and 19.93 dozen eggs—far exceeding global averages. Health Canada recommends Canadians eat more vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein-rich foods, with a focus on plant-based sources of protein. When it comes to food safety, animal farming contributes to antibiotic resistance, food-borne illness, and pandemics.

For our full comments, please see: Animal Justice’s Food Policy for Canada Submission.

 

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Animal Justice

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Got (Soy) Milk? European Court Bans ‘Milk’ Labels on Dairy-Free Products

Animal Justice June 16, 2017

Plant-based food companies can no longer use terms like ‘milk’ and ‘cheese’ to describe their products, according a ruling by European Court of Justice released this week.

The case was sparked by a complaint against German company TofuTown, which sells dairy-free products like ‘tofu butter’ and ‘rice spray cream’. According to the Court, terms like ‘milk’, ‘cream’, ‘butter’, ‘yogurt’, and ‘cheese’ are exclusively reserved for animal-derived dairy products.

This isn’t the first time the dairy, egg, and meat industries have tried to shut down plant-based competitors, and it won’t be the last. As consumers learn more about the horrific animal cruelty that pervades the farming industry, they are increasingly seeking out vegan versions of traditional meat, dairy, and egg products. The market share of plant-based products has risen dramatically in recent years, and so to have the animal product industry’s efforts to undermine and injure plant-based companies.

Many Canadians will remember when meat-free sausage company Field Roast was forced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to temporarily halt Canadian distribution of its plant-based meat products. Field Roast sausages were labelled ‘vegetarian grain meat,’ but the CFIA told the company that it could no longer use this label without reformulating its product to have an identical nutritional profile to animal-based sausage. After a long absence, Field Roast came back into Canada with new labels stating ‘simulated sausage’ and ‘contains no meat’.

In another famous food war, U.S. mayonnaise company Hellman’s sued plant-based company Hampton Creek over its popular egg-free mayonnaise, Just Mayo. Hellman’s claimed the term ‘mayo’ could only be used for egg-based mayonnaise, but later backed down after a flood of public outrage. Hellman’s now sells its own brand of vegan mayonnaise in stores across North America.

Meanwhile, U.S. members of congress are pushing a bill that would restrict the use of the word ‘milk’ to dairy products from hooved animals.

But restrictive labelling laws won’t be enough to stop the rise of plant-based milks. The CFIA already restricts use of the word ‘milk’ in Canada, yet dairy consumption is still dropping steadily. According to Statistics Canada, per capita milk consumption has fallen by 21.5% per capita since 2009. The industry suffered losses of $25 million in 2015 alone.

Meanwhile, according to Nielson Home Scan Data 2016, Canadian sales of almond milk tripled in just two years.

Some traditional meat and dairy companies have acknowledged the trend, and are jumping in on this economic opportunity.

Dairy company WhiteWave owns Silk, the popular plant-based milk brand. The largest meat processor in the US, Tyson Foods, recently invested in Beyond Meat, a vegan company that produces a veggie burger that “bleeds” plant blood. Ben and Jerry’s recently jumped on the bandwagon with seven new coconut-based ice cream flavours, and Bailey’s now sells an almond milk version of its iconic creamy liqueur.

Thanks to powerful forces like social media, the disturbing truth about cruelty in animal agriculture is no longer an industry secret. The public is becoming increasingly aware of the animal suffering, environmental impact, and health risks caused by consuming these products. The growth of the plant-based food sector is fuelled by increased consumer concern, and that won’t go away anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Justice

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Public Comments Needed on Draft Code of Practice for Chickens Used for Eggs

Animal Justice August 11, 2016

By Anna Pippus, J.D., director of farmed animal advocacy for Animal Justice

Cover photo by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals.

The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) has released its draft code of practice for the care and handling of chickens used by the egg industry. Our government doesn’t regulate animal agriculture, choosing instead to fund the industry’s creation of its own codes of practice. Although these codes of practice aren’t enforced, they are the closest thing to we have to on-farm rules, and have actual and potential legal significance.

NFACC is currently accepting comments from the public on its draft code of practice for egg-laying hens before it releases the final version later this year. We encourage everyone to take a moment to provide feedback; even if our feedback isn’t heeded, it’s important to make it evident that the public is paying attention and is concerned by rampant cruelty in the industry (which occurs even when best practices are followed). Comments are due August 29th. We have identified some specific concerns with the draft code below.

It’s worth pointing out that, from the beginning, the code of practice process is tainted by conflicts of interest and a lack of credibility; the codes are created by industry, for industry. For example, the “Scientific Committee”—which is supposed to provide an unbiased review of the scientific literature—contained Bernadette Cox, who is not a scientist, from the Egg Farmers of Canada. On her LinkedIn profile she writes that she edited the scientific review prior to its public release. The token veterinarian on the code development committee, Mike Petrik, has defended poultry industry cruelty that eventually resulted in an animal cruelty conviction. Other members on the committee are similarly closely tied with or funded by the industry. As such, both the scientific review and the draft code of practice should be viewed with some degree of skepticism.

Likely the largest concern shared by many animal advocates is that the draft code doesn’t eliminate cages. Instead, it suggests that cages be made larger and equipped with some rudimentary furnishings, like perches, to meet some of the basic hens’ biological needs. Vancouver Humane Society has a good summary of the concerns with so-called furnished cages.

Furnished cages. Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

In furnished cages, hens still spend their entire lives crowded, bored, stressed, and uncomfortable. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

However, it’s important to be aware that none of the proposed systems are without significant welfare concerns; cage-fee hens are crowded, kept in unnaturally large groups leading to stress and aggression, at a greater risk for disease, exposed to poor air quality, and still denied most things—like going outside—that make life enjoyable.

Some specific concerns with the draft code of practice:

The draft code doesn’t require birds have safe and regular access to pasture and/or the outdoors.

The draft code allows birds to live on wire flooring instead of litter. If producers voluntarily use litter, the draft code doesn’t require soiled litter to be replaced except between flocks (longer than a year!)

Wire flooring is uncomfortable and causes painful injuries and deformities. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Wire flooring is uncomfortable and causes painful injuries and deformities. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

The space allowed for each bird is miniscule. They will be so crowded that they will barely be able to express natural behaviours like stretching their wings. Worse, the space allocated is considered a recommendation, rather than a requirement—meaning birds can be even more crowded.

Chickens would naturally live in small social groupings with a defined pecking order that maintains peace and calm. The draft code doesn’t cap flock sizes; tens of thousands of birds may live together. As with other animals, like cats and even humans, chickens find large crowds chaotic and stressful.

In a natural setting, hens would peep to their chicks before they’re hatched, communicating and establishing a bond. After hatching, chicks would stay close to their mothers, finding comfort and protection, and learning skills. The draft code is entirely silent on natural social groupings, assuming and permitting that chicks will be hatched in hatcheries where they will never meet their mothers, find comfort, or learn important life skills.

The draft code doesn’t require natural lighting or sufficient periods of dark for rest.

Dust-bathing is how chickens clean their feathers (the dust clings to oil and is shaken off), which not only keeps them clean and satisfies their strong biological urge to dust-bathe, but also maintains feather insulation and eliminates parasites. Despite its importance, the draft code doesn’t require it for all birds, saying it is “difficult to accommodate in some housing systems.”

Although hens prefer small, private nests, the draft code allows large communal nests.

Like us, chickens enjoy a varied diet and are biologically compelled to seek this out. The draft code doesn’t require access to a varied or even a palatable diet.

The draft code permits chickens having their beaks cut off without painkillers, which can lead to both acute and chronic pain.

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Hens use their beaks for eating, foraging, preening, and more. Amputating their beaks causes numerous problems. Photo: Temara Brown

The draft code permits workers to dangle chickens upside down—despite that this is a well-documented stressor—instead of carrying them upright. In fact, that draft code even acknowledges that chickens find being upside down stressful, yet doesn’t prohibit it. The draft code also doesn’t require workers to set hens down on their feet.

Animal Justice

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