Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gone YouTube

Over the past few years I've created and been involved in the making of a number of films and videos, most of them centering on the subject of this blog. A few days ago, I began uploading my videos to YouTube. You can access them from here

The one below is most apropos the holiday season. It's a none-too-subtle attempt to get viewers to take a pass on foods borne of animal abuse during this "good will to men" time of year ... and all year (New Year's resolution, anyone?). The great Albert Schweitzer - a deeply spiritual Christian whose Christmas celebrations likely were vegetarian or very close to it - famously said:
"Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace." (Pardon the sexist language. This is an old quote.)
Extending our circle of compassion to animals who are so much like us and who are barely distinguishable from our companion animals is what this video is about. 

If you want to watch YouTube's highest quality stream of the video (recommended - it's much better), please view it directly on YouTube, here, and select "watch in high quality" at the bottom right, below the video.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Take a bite out of the global grain crunch

In his latest column, the ever insightful progressive Canadian columnist Gwynne Dyer sounds the alarm about a potentially catastrophic global grain crunch brought on by climate change.

To my pleasant surprise, the ever environmentally regressive editors of the Winnipeg Free Press published Dyer's column today. I couldn't resist sending a letter to the editor pointing out a solution to the grain crisis which Dyer didn't mention:

Re: "It's worse than you think," Dec 7

The simplest, most sensible thing we can do to take a crippling bite out of the global grain crunch is to eat less meat, milk and eggs from grain-fed animals – or eat none at all.

Currently nearly 40 per cent of global grain production is fed to farmed animals, squandering eight pounds of plant protein (on average) to produce one pound of animal protein.

It's not that the animals should be denied their food. Most of them, born and raised in confined feeding operations, or factory farms, would be better off having never been born at all. It is we who breed them into a world of pain.

By eating more grains and beans instead of meat, eggs and milk, we can achieve four social goods:

  • Make more grain available to the global poor at cheaper prices.

  • Improve human health and longevity (as the research shows).

  • Reduce global warming (livestock production generates far more greenhouse gases than plant production).

  • And save animals from the abuse that is the hallmark of modern livestock production.

Syd Baumel

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prop 2 for Canada long overdue

Originally published in The Aquarian, Winter 2008

A Modest Proposition

California has illegalized cruelty to farm animals. Why can't we?


It wasn't just hope that got a new lease on life on November 4th. As California voters clinched the deal for Barack Obama, they also voted nearly two to one to ban some of the most unconscionable acts of animal cruelty. (Ironically, they voted against gay marriage while they were at it.)

Thanks to the passage of Proposition 2: The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, on January 1, 2015 it will no longer be legal in the Governator state to house sows in cages barely bigger than their bodies, to stuff egg-laying hens into cages so crowded they can't even stretch their wings or to lock baby calves into closet-sized stalls for the rest of their lives as veal-in-waiting.

Thank God Californians have finally caught up to Canada, eh!

Well – not so fast. It's we who have to catch up to California, not to mention several smaller states that have passed similar legislation ... and the entire European Union.

Remarkably, the country that thinks of itself as a bastion of progressivism, a gentle, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly neighbour to the land of sharp elbows, still issues “Recommended Codes of Practice” to the livestock industry that condone everything California just banned.

It gets worse. While the EU imposes a limit of 8 hours on the amount of time farm animals can be transported without water on their way to auction or slaughter, and the United States thinks 28 hours without food, drink or rest is as bad as it should get, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) clings to antediluvian legislation that says it's just fine to haul farm animals in unheated, un-air-conditioned trucks through whatever weather Canada can throw at them for up to 52 hours without any relief: no food, no water, no rest stop. (The 52-hour limit is for cows and other ruminants. Non-ruminants like pigs, poultry and horses, have it good: they only have to endure 36 hours. Millions of these animals are exported to the U.S. and sometimes farther. When they cross the border, the clock is reset to zero.)

The Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals (CCFA) – the closest thing our hundreds of millions of farm critters have to a lobbyist in Ottawa – has been trying to buttonhole our national Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food about these matters, but Gerry Ritz, they say, only has time for the industry that mistreats the animals.

Mr. Ritz has no apparent interest in promoting the welfare of farm animals,” CCFA stated in a news release a couple days after California passed Proposition 2. “His department’s new five-year, $1.3 billion agriculture policy, Growing Forward Framework Agreement, includes no reference to animal welfare.”

If Ritz won't listen to a coalition of humane societies (including Winnipeg's) and other animal welfare groups, perhaps he'll listen directly to voters. That's what CCFA hopes. “To ask him how he is planning to improve conditions for farm animals in Canada,” they suggest, “call 613.995.7080 or visit”

Here in Manitoba, the Winnipeg Humane Society's Quit Stalling campaign has tried for years to get our provincial leaders to ban the use of 2 x 7 foot cages as living quarters for hundreds of thousands of pregnant sows (one of the practices to be outlawed in California). They too are finding that Ritz's provincial counterpart, Rosann Wowchuk, has a tin ear for farm animal cruelty. Perhaps she'll take the issue seriously if you call her at work at 945-3722.

While we're waiting for our leaders to figure out if cruelty to farm animals is an issue worth bothering about, we all can vote for Proposition 2 by refusing to eat anything that is the product of legalized animal cruelty.

Aquarian co-editor Syd Baumel is a cofounder of AnimalWatch Manitoba and the publisher of Both are members of the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals.