A Modest Proposition
By SYD BAUMEL
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 www.gerryritz.com.”
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 Eatkind.net. Both are members of the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals.