Thursday, September 18, 2014

National Farm Animal Awareness Week

“We wanted cheap food, and the market delivered – with ruthless efficiency. Past the point where the animals involved were treated like living, feeling beings.”1 

As an animal welfare organization, our focus is not to abolish the use of animals within our food industry, but rather to promote the humane treatment of these animals to ensure they experience an appropriate quality of life in an environment that provides the necessities for health, comfort, and natural behaviour. Following the five freedoms model, we believe that all animals are entitled to the following: 
Pigs are intelligent creatures who love to play and socialize
with each other. 
  1. Freedom from hunger or thirst 
  2. Freedom from discomfort 
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease 
  4. Freedom to express normal behaviour 
  5. Freedom from fear and distress 

We strive to ensure that farm animals also receive treatment in accordance with the five freedoms, and we support the work of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) in advocating for humane practices in farm animal care. Seemingly, these five freedoms guidelines should be easy enough to implement within our farm industry. So, are they being implemented?

First, consider laying hens, whose natural behaviour includes foraging, perching, and seeking isolation for laying their eggs. These sentient birds are forced to spend their lives crammed together into tiny battery cages, each having less than the dimensions of one sheet of paper as living space. They experience injuries and amputations from being crushed or stomped on by other birds. Is this a five freedoms experience?

Secondly, consider female breeding pigs, often referred to as sows. They love to forage, have a natural home range of about 16 km², and are amongst the cleanest of livestock animals - they even designate a bathroom area within their living space. They are intelligent creatures who love to play and socialize with each other. These curious and interactive animals must spend their lives eating, sleeping, urinating, and defecating in tiny individual sow stalls, which provide barely enough room for a pig to stand up, and no opportunity to walk or even turn around. Is this an acceptable quality of life?

Finally, consider dairy cows, who spend time in select social groups, and nurse their calves and bond with them for months. Many of these sensitive creatures spend their lives in tie stalls, which do not permit them any social interaction with other cows, barely allow them to lay down or move freely in any way. Their calves can be removed from their company at only a day old. Is this humane?

For most of these animals, the only escape from these dreadful conditions is slaughter. When that time comes, some animals are so worn out that they can't even physically walk the transport ramps to their death as this is often the very first and only real exercise they ever experience.

As a humane society, we champion a five freedoms quality of life for all animals, but we know our strength comes from our community members. As part of National Farm Animal Awareness Week, we encourage you to take steps to help improve the welfare of food animals. Some actions you can take include joining the Meatless Mondays movement by incorporating more plant-based meals into your menu planning, visiting local farmers’ markets and practicing conscious consumerism at supermarkets by reading labels and buying from alternative producers that allow animals to experience a higher quality of life. Most importantly, you can speak out for farm animals and raise awareness in our community.

We can’t help but feel like, as a society, this issue is our responsibility to correct. We got what we asked forand for the sake of the animals, it’s time to start asking the farm industry for something else. 

Click here for more information about the Ottawa Humane Society’s position on food animals.

Andrea Tatarski
Co-ordinator: Humane Education

1 . Lange, Karen E. “Back to the Land” All Animals Magazine, July/August 2012. Page 17.

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