Saturday, July 20, 2013

These little piggies went to market and nearly died for a drop of water

I really wasn't expecting to be so moved – and enraged – when I clicked “play” on this video that came up on my Facebook newsfeed via Canadian for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals.

Please watch it. It's not the least bit gory. What it is is a glimpse behind the curtain that separates us from animals no different from us in the most basic ways, like being laid flat by a heat wave and dying for a drop of water. Except these animals – pigs en route to slaughter during a heat wave – commonly suffer with no relief.

But not this time. In this heartbreaking video, members of a group called Toronto Pig Save frantically administer some milk of human kindness to these chronically abused animals as they head to their undeserved fate.

In Canada, the National Farm Animal Care Council is the official body entrusted with setting standards for the livestock industry. My use of the word “standards” is made advisedly, because the NFACC doesn't regulate or police the industry. Rather it makes recommendations in the form of codes of practice. Thus, to quote from the Recommended code of practice for the care and handling of farm animals – Transportation:
The Codes are voluntary and are intended as an educational tool in the promotion of sound management and welfare practices. 
So if you're in the business of shipping pigs in Canada, the official code of sound welfare practice recommends that you draw the line at hauling them for more than 40 hours without food, water or a rest stop.

True, the code does encourage gentler handling during extreme weather (there are people on the code drafting panels whose priority is animal welfare, but they're outnumbered by representatives from the industry itself):
Feed, water and rest should be provided more often for animals with reduced ability to cope with the stress of transport, such as very young or old animals, and for all animals that are transported under adverse conditions, such as travel through different climatic zones and weather extremes.

But it's clear from videos such as these, from years of witnessing by animal advocates, from the admissions of candid truckers and from the voluntary nature of the code, that pigs – and all the other animals transported to slaughter, auction or from one farm to another – commonly suffer this way during transport and, indeed, also suffer in more seriously injurious and deadly ways.

If you're reading this in the United States, things are no better – laws are so archaic and so rarely enforced that the American Meat Institute has become the default “recommender.”

Pigs, cows, sheep and chickens have served our species for thousands of years. The best place for them today – when animal-free meat and dairy substitutes are more varied and delicious than ever – is on farm sanctuaries where we can appreciate them, not eat them.

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