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Coalition To Step Up Anti-Confinement Activity

“They don’t really understand what the welfare picture is in Canada.”

– SHANYN SILINSKI, MFAC

Acoalition of Canadian animal welfare organizations plans to increase pressure on government and the agricultural industry to ban confinement systems for farm animals.

The seven-member group met in Winnipeg this past weekend to plan strategy for a national campaign against gestation stalls for pregnant sows and battery cages for layer hens.

Their goal is “a voluntary phasing out of confinement systems,” said Bill McDonald, executive director of the Winnipeg Humane Society, which hosted the meeting.

McDonald said the coalition prefers to work with producers, industry and government to voluntarily phase out confinements rather than seek a legislated ban, which he called “a very difficult route to go down.”

But an industry spokesperson said she believes the group’s ultimate aim is to get laws in place against confinement rearing of farm animals.

“They told me what they were trying to do is, they’re coming here to look at how (they) can influence Canadian legislation to force producers to move towards the housing changes that they saw in California with Proposition 2,” said Shanyn Silinski, Manitoba Farm Animal Council executive director.

Proposition 2 was a California ballot initiative passed by state voters in the November 4, 2008 U. S. general election. The measure, which comes into effect January 1, 2015, prohibits the confinement of certain farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs. It deals with three types of confinement: veal crates, battery cages, and sow gestation crates.

The day-and-a-half-long meeting heard from Paul Shapiro, senior director of the Humane Societies of the United States Factory Farming Campaign, about Proposition 2.

McDonald acknowledged a Proposition 2-type campaign

wouldn’t work in Canada because such ballot initiatives do not happen here.

He also said his group prefers working for change within the system rather than resorting to radical measures.

McDonald said animal welfare groups want to build on existing actions animal confinements, such as one taken by Maple Leaf Foods. The company announced a year ago it will phase out its use of sow gestation stalls over 10 years.

“We’re not talking about throwing the barn doors open and everybody’s out under the blue sky running around free and so on,” he said.

“But it’s time for all of us to get together and start thinking outside the cage.”

Silinski, who also speaks for the Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada, noted the meeting did not include anyone involved in livestock production or animal research. She said she tried to attend but failed. “They said they would get back to me and they never did.”

Silinski said Canada already has effective animal welfare regulations, as well as industry codes of practice, and groups who call livestock production practices inhumane are uninformed.

“For them to come up and presume that Canada needs a Proposition 2-type national drive regarding containment housing shows that they don’t really understand what the welfare picture is in Canada. And our Canadian people who were there apparently don’t either,” she said.

“The emotional language and the rhetoric is all very moving, but it’s not an accurate reflection of the actual picture in Manitoba.”

McDonald said Silinski wants to preserve the status quo while he he wants change.

Groups attending last weekend’s meeting along with the Winnipeg Humane Society were: Humane Society International, Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals, Canadian Coalition for Food Animals, World Society for the Protection of Animals, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, B. C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

McDonald said representatives will hold a conference call in a few months to discuss further action. [email protected]

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