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Letters – for Apr. 23, 2009

Confinement systems fail “freedoms” test

In mid-March a group of animal welfare organizations met here in Winnipeg to discuss agricultural confinement systems. The organizations that gathered included the Humane Society of the United States, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the British Columbia SPCA, and the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals, Humane Society International, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals, Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Farm Animals and The Winnipeg Humane Society.

The Winnipeg Humane Society (WHS) has promoted the end of confinement systems for pigs for many years so it was a natural decision for us to invite these other organizations to come to Winnipeg to discuss the important passage of Proposition 2 in California.

Proposition 2 passed last year with an overwhelming margin of 64 per cent of the votes cast. It “requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.”

There is no Proposition 2 option in Canadian elections. But in the animal welfare world, this vote was of huge significance.

The WHS has long advocated for the elimination of sow crates, which confine a pig in a crate to the point that she can only take two steps forward and two steps backwards.

Egg-laying chickens are kept in very confined “battery cages” that restrict the mobility of the birds to the point that they cannot even extend their wings to their full extent.

The WHS and associated organizations find these confinement systems unacceptable; we feel the rest of Canada may very well feel the same.

The animal welfare organizations that gathered in Winnipeg are not out to change the world so that everyone becomes a vegan. We simply want to work with the farmers, the commodity buyers and the sellers and the government to ensure that all of the animals in the food supply chain are treated with what we in the animal welfare world call “the five freedoms.”

Any animal, be it a domestic dog or cat, or a farm animal, should have the freedom to have food and drink, freedom from illness and disease, freedom from distress, freedom from discomfort and most importantly the freedom to behave in a natural manner.

The current system does not meet these goals when it comes to confinement systems. Intensive confinement systems have been banned by legislation in the European Union. To date, the Americans have implemented a ban on confinement systems in six states. Our country could consider doing the same, or alternatively work together to phase out confinement systems by 2017.

Let’s provide a humane life to the animals we raise, then let us transport them humanely to the slaughterhouse and then humanely end their life. This is all we ask.

Bill McDonald Executive director

The Winnipeg Humane Society

Slick strategies skirt the problem

Anger was the first emotion I felt as I read and reread the article by Dan Murphy in the April 9 edition of the Manitoba Co-operator. I also admit a certain admiration for the slick, sly and manipulative psychology evident in every line. The article titled “A positive, proactive approach to activists” would have been better called “How to deflect a charging rhinoceros.”

The rhinoceros is a cranky beast and will charge anything including locomotives on the slightest provocation. Murphy is pumping his pupils full of psychological methods for manipulating public opinion. He knows public opinion can be like a charging rhino and he wants to see the hindquarters herded away, not the horn coming to make a home in him.

I am not a vegetarian. But neither do I have much time for the present “factory” livestock farming methods. Murphy sets forth the methods to be followed to deflect the debate from the suffering of animals to how bad it is going to be for humans if they try to return to more “natural” methods of treating animals. He does not discuss the suffering of animals at all. That appears to be of no consequence to him.

We have a responsibility to the living creatures that inhabit this world with us. Farm animals feel pain, sorrow, loneliness, anger, frustration, anxiety, contentment and joy. Now one who has heard a cow bawling for her calf could doubt that they feel love. No one who sees the antics of calves released from a pen in the spring could doubt their capacity for joy.

Those hellish things that sows spend most of their lives in, if a human was confined to the same extent, total madness would probably result. Think of a creature confined to a space in which they can never turn around. A pig is a highly intelligent animal that loves to root and explore.

How’s this for a philosophy? We should be forced to cut back our consumption rather than increase animal suffering. We and animals must die. But as we seek for fulfilment on our way to that inevitable end, can we not make sure that our prosperity is not bought by inflicting suffering on creatures who are making the same journey? John Beckham

Winnipeg

Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or e-mail: [email protected](subject: To the editor)

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