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Here’s Why Thanksgiving is a Nightmare for Turkeys

Animal Justice October 9, 2017

On Thanksgiving, many Canadians give thanks for the wonderful things in our lives, including friends, family, and health.

But turkeys killed and eaten for Thanksgiving dinner have nothing to be thankful for. Raised in appalling conditions on Canada’s industrial turkey facilities and shipped to slaughter, their lives are bleak and filled with suffering.

Turkeys are curious, friendly, and sensitive birds with big personalities. But in Canada, 20 million turkeys are killed for food every year—many of them destined for Thanksgiving meals.

Undercover footage has exposed brutal conditions, abusive transport, and botched killing in the turkey industry. In one exposé of a Kitchener, Ontario turkey farm, workers were seen punching, throwing, and kicking birds, hitting them with metal rods and shovels, and crushing their spines.

And footage from a turkey slaughterhouse in Abbotsford, British Columbia shows painful, botched killings. Multiple turkeys are improperly stunned, thus fully conscious when their throats were slit with a metal blade. Many birds missed the blade, and were then dragged vats full of boiling water to remove their feathers. This killing process is standard in the turkey industry.

Earlier this year, Animal Justice filed a legal complaint with authorities after a witness documented bleeding and injured birds bring trucked to slaughter. Turkeys can be shipped in open-sided vehicles, exposed to blistering heat and frigid cold, for up to 36 hours—all without food, water, or rest. Canada’s weak transport laws are infrequently enforced.

 

Disturbingly, there are no federal regulations protecting turkeys and other farmed animals from horrific suffering while on farms. Please join Animal Justice in asking the federal government to regulate on-farm conditions for animals, and help spread compassion for turkeys by sharing this post!

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Animal Justice

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Canadian Senator: “We Should See Cetaceans As Our Equals, As Living Beings”

Animal Justice March 2, 2017

Committee hearings got underway this week on Bill S-203, a Senate bill that would ban keeping whales and dolphins in captivity in Canada. This groundbreaking bill would protect sensitive and complex whales and dolphins from a being imprisoned in tiny tanks, where they are denied almost everything that makes life worth living.

The first witness questioned by the Fisheries and Oceans Committee was former Senator Wilfred Moore, who championed the bill from the very beginning and spoke eloquently about the need to protect whales and dolphins. But it was Senator Daniel Christmas who stole the show with his insightful and poignant comments on the human relationship with nonhuman animals. Senator Christmas explained how his aboriginal upbringing taught him to respect animals, viewing them not as objects to be used for human purposes, but as equals—living beings with their own families and languages.

“Something tells me in my mind that [seeing animals as objects] is the wrong approach; that we really have to see cetaceans as our equals, as living beings. And if I had an opportunity to ask a beluga, I think I would ask them, ‘What is best for your family?’ And I would be very interested to find out what that answer would be.”

The answer, of course, is increasingly clear. Scientific evidence tells us that cetaceans live much richer, more fulfilling lives in the ocean, where they enjoy complex social and family relationships, cooperative food gathering strategies, and the freedom to swim vast distances, dive deeply, and find their own food. Forcing these complex mammals to live in tiny tanks is undeniably cruel, and many other countries and states have already enhanced legal protections for whales and dolphins. Meanwhile, only two facilities in the country still confine whales and dolphins—the Vancouver Aquarium in British Columbia, and Marineland in Ontario. Cetacean captivity is a dying industry.

Canadians increasingly think about animals like Senator Christmas does: Not as mere objects, but as living beings who deserve our respect and strong legal protections. Passing Bill S-203 would be a huge step toward helping these vulnerable creatures, so please take action today: Encourage Parliamentarians to save these sensitive creatures from captive misery!

You can find the upcoming hearing schedule online, as well as full webcast recordings of past committee meetings. Future meetings will be broadcast live, so it’s easy to track the progress of this important legislation.

Animal Justice

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Access to Information Documents Reveal Sobering Government Collusion with Big Ag

Animal Justice February 15, 2017

Access to information documents obtained by the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals and reviewed by Animal Justice reveal that new proposed animal transport regulations were drafted in collusion with the animal agriculture industry itself.

In correspondence to the public, Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay states that the proposed regulations establish “science-based requirements.”

Internal Government Doc From Access to Information Request

Internal Government Doc From Access to Information Request

In reality, far from reflecting the latest science, the proposed regulations virtually ignore a vast body of science relating to transport times without food, water or rest; exposure to extreme temperatures and weather; and severe overcrowding aboard jerkily moving vehicles.

Instead, the access to information (ATI) documents reveal that the government’s primary concern was appeasing the industry by ensuring they would be required to change very little, if anything.

For example, spent hens—the young but fragile chickens “used up” by the egg industry—are so debilitated by the time they’re sent to slaughter that the brutal transport conditions can kill them. In fact, the ATI docs show that in 2014, loads of spent hens were arriving dead at slaughterhouses at rates of up to 51.59 percent. This wasn’t an anomaly: 17.4 percent of shipments had dead on arrival rates higher than 4 percent, the rate at which regulators step in to investigate, assuming negligence. These suffering-to-death rates are a direct result of transport conditions.

Yet, the ATI docs reveal that instead of mandating a 12-hour limitation on transporting these vulnerable birds without so much as a sip of water, the government caved to industry pressure in mandating a 24-hour limit—a timeframe that is guaranteed to sentence millions of animals to extreme suffering and even death.

For example, in the ATI docs, the government admits: “While a 12 hour… time is supported by science… the initial proposed maximum time of 12 hours has been significantly increased to 24 hours;” “As a result of industry feedback, CFIA adjusted its original proposal from 12 hours to 24 hours without [food, water or rest];”  and “CFIA is now proposing 24 hours as a result of industry concerns.”

Internal Government Doc From Access to Information Request. The science supports not exceeding transport times in the column on the right.

Internal Government Doc From Access to Information Request. The science supports not exceeding transport times in the column on the right. As such, the proposed regulations can’t accurately be called “science-based.”

Internal Government Doc From Access to Information Request. Industry concerns dictated transport times.

Internal Government Doc From Access to Information Request. Industry concerns dictated transport times.

After making adjustments to appease industry, the government reported internally that these transport time limits “could be met by industry with minor management changes and limited additional costs.”

In one document, the government assured industry reps that on-farm feed and water withdrawal times are “not strictly enforced” (this is the period of time animals are deprived of food and water before transport. These withdrawal times will be included in the new transport time limitations).

Talking points prepared for the government to communicate with industry send subtle clues that almost no changes will be required of them: “practices [are] already used by most industry stakeholders;” the proposed regulations “balance the needs of animals during transport [with] the realities of transporting animals in Canada;” and amendments are based on “current industry practices.”

Any discussion of weather exposure was also strikingly absent. Evidently, the government didn’t even consider meaningfully regulating this primary source of suffering and agonizing death.

Ultimately, the lives of animals used for food are characterized by misery and deprivation from birth to death. So why the focus on transport?

One document conceded that transport is a “high priority issue” for the government, not because of the inherent animal welfare concerns, but because “transport is highly visible to the public. While other points in a food animal’s life are relatively unknown to the public ie on farm and at slaughter; transport remains the one aspect that is accessible to the public.” (Errors in original.)

In other words, the government needs to deal with transport to maintain the illusion of animal welfare in our animal agriculture system.

Image: Severely crowded young chickens being transported into an egg-laying barn; Alberta 2013. Via Mercy For Animals.

Animal Justice

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