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Industry Should Lead Change Not Balk At It

I personally believe that North Americans will never stop eating their burgers or bacon and eggs. This means the only remedy is to improve living-dying conditions for the animals in our food chain.

Iwas born and raised in the city and am exactly the Public mentioned in the Feb. 11 article “Some advice for the meat industry.” I’m also the Public that never condoned the mistreatment of any animal and has become more educated on a variety of issues aside from the guy up the street that beats his dog. This has resulted in my becoming more proactive and trying to do what I can to effect change.

My household buys only free-run eggs, humanely raised pork (group housing versus sow stalls) and cheerfully pays the slightly higher prices, as well as having reduced our consumption of red meat.

I personally believe that North Americans will never stop eating their burgers or bacon and eggs. This means the only remedy is to improve living-dying conditions for the animals in our food chain. And just to indicate that I’m not the only person feels this way, the Winnipeg Humane Society (WHS) Quit Stalling campaign (to phase out sow stalls) has 10,000-plus signatures on a petition that is sent to MAFRI on a continuing basis as more signatures are obtained.

There are also several animal welfare or rights groups working in Mani toba that range from “vegan is the only way to go” to groups that want to work with producers.

In the interim, bringing awareness to the public is key to affecting buying habits to hopefully relay the need-for-change message to producers. I belong to such a group called THEN ( The Humane Education Network) with an educate-advocate mandate. We want to become better informed of the producer’s perspective (hence my subscription to the Manitoba Co-operator, which is excellent reading) and to remove the adversarial component that seems to be prevelant.

As a Public I was thrilled to read the Comment section, “Some Advice for the Meat Industry” as it absolutely hit the nail on the head. Reassurances from the industry that there is nothing wrong with battery cages or sow stalls or veal crates or any other confinement system are no longer believed, and do nothing but diminish industry credibility. A picture is worth a thousand words. The WHS life-size model of a sow in an actual stall draws gasps of disapproval and there is no doubt in my mind that their battery cage model will do the same.

At the October 2009 debate on sow stalls at the University of Manitoba, the consensus by those speaking both for and against this system was “that the train has left the station” on the sow confinement system currently used. The number of deaths in fires that make the evening news of these trapped pigs just reinforces this. All over the world (except Canada) these confinement systems are being phased out with publicized sunset dates.

The list of approved additives for meat and poultry is extensive and mind boggling; it kinda’ makes me wonder what I’m really eating. And what is with this Paylean? I have to say that my gut reaction is that the producers don’t care what the long-term effects are on consumers; they just want to make their buck and any problems down the road belong to somebody else. When it comes to antibiotics given routinely to healthy meat animals, I cannot help but think that this is contributing to the super-bugs and their resistance to traditional antibiotics (first problem perhaps?). And don’t get me started on growth hormones and poultry that is so oversized so quickly they cannot even walk because of their own weight.

With access to the Internet, emails, animal welfare groups, rescue groups, newspapers and television all this information is out there and more and more people are hearing these things on a recurring basis. It seems the only people unwilling to acknowledge this are the producers. What else can explain the reluctance to change?

Contrary to popular opinion, the public is not stupid (at least most of them). I would be truly pleased if say the pork producers (or any other producer) decided to be proactive and actually take the LEAD in changes in Canada! What a coupe that would be!

Under the heading “the customer is always right” I’m willing to bet (and I’m cheap) that the popular react ion would be nothing but positive and give a sense of pride to Manitobans that our meat and poultry producers were ahead of the game. It is an ideal moment to become a leader in the industry instead of ignoring the facts.

Leslie Yeoman is a Winnipeg animal welfare advocate who eats meat.

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