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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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Here’s Why Animals Keep Burning to Death in Canadian Barn Fires

Animal Justice April 18, 2018

Between January 2015 and November 2017, more than 470,000 farmed animals burned alive on Canadian farms. These animals would have endured frightening and agonizing deaths, trapped in cages or stalls with no chance to escape the smoke and flames.

Most buildings in Canada must follow strict fire safety rules, but farm buildings with “low human occupancy” don’t. Modern farms can contain tends 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 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 the 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.

The current National Farm Building Code is being revised, but animal protection isn’t one of the guiding principles. This is a glaring absence! Animals trapped in barns must be protected from needlessly burning alive.

Please sign this Parliamentary petition to Canada’s federal government asking them to consider the animals when they revise the farm building fire safety rules. Thank you to Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals for sponsoring this petition.

Animal Justice

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Vancouver Aquarium Drops Copyright Lawsuit Against Filmmaker

Animal Justice March 8, 2018

VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Aquarium has dropped its copyright lawsuit against filmmaker Gary Charbonneau. The Aquarium filed a notice of discontinuance in the case this week, shortly before CEO John Nightingale was set to be cross-examined by counsel for Mr. Charbonneau.

The Aquarium first filed the copyright infringement lawsuit against Mr. Charbonneau in 2016 over his documentary Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered, which exposed the Aquarium’s cruel practice of confining sentient whales and dolphins in concrete tanks. The lawsuit was deemed a misuse of copyright law by legal experts, designed to suppress public criticism and debate through the court process.

The Aquarium sought to have the entire documentary removed from the internet, and was successful in obtaining a preliminary injunction ordering that certain segments be removed. On appeal, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned that injunction, emphasizing the importance of Mr. Charbonneau’s freedom of expression.

Animal Justice intervened in the appeal to express concerns that the case could negatively affect the ability of animal advocates to film, expose, and publicize animal cruelty issues across Canada, emboldening secretive animal use industries to file illegitimate copyright lawsuits to silence animal advocates. This could prevent them from investigating, documenting, and exposing hidden animal cruelty.

“I am delighted this frivolous lawsuit has finally been dropped,” said Mr. Charbonneau. “However, I remain troubled by the Aquarium’s aggressive litigation strategy, and I am concerned they will continue to fight losing legal battles at the expense of conservation and rescue.”

“We are glad the Aquarium has finally determined to drop its unmeritorious lawsuit and let the documentary speak for itself, so that Canadians can make their own judgments about the ethics of the Aquarium’s practices,” said Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, counsel to Mr. Charbonneau.

“This lawsuit had disturbing implications for those who investigate, document, and expose animal cruelty,” said Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice. “The writing is on the wall for the cruel captivity industry, as the public no longer supports keeping sentient animals confined for entertainment.”

The Aquarium also sought judicial review of the Vancouver Park Board’s bylaw banning them from keeping whales and dolphins in Stanley Park. The bylaw was overturned last month, but the Park Board is appealing to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

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The Notice of Discontinuance is available here.

For more information, contact:

Gary Charbonneau
evotioninc@gmail.com

Arden Beddoes
Arvay Finlay LLP
abeddoes@arvayfinlay.ca

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director, Animal Justice
camille@animaljustice.ca

Animal Justice

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