Activism Happens – Stouffville’s Dirty Little Secret – The Protest

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Stouffville's Dirty Little SecretWritten by Heather Clemenceau

All Photos by Heather Clemenceau unless otherwise indicated.

The way we treat our animals is a direct reflection of our society. Animals raised for food have little protection against cruelty.  It speaks to a prejudicial attitude towards certain animals,  which is not based on a rational assessment of their ability to feel pain and sense fear,  but on our intended use for them.   As a result of these prejudicial attitudes,  the abuse of animals traditionally thought of as “farm animals” usually merits little attention, while the loudest outcry is reserved for the abuse of suburban pets.

On December 15th, we held our peaceful, planned protest of the Livestock Market in Stouffville, Ontario.  Saturday’s protesters appeared to be an eclectic mix of all ages from Toronto and both York and Durham Regions.  Some brought babies in their arms, others brought their enthusiastic dogs.

Since the initial blog postings by myself and Photojournalist Laura Templeton, we’ve heard that there have been some changes at the market.  It seems that water dispensers have made an appearance for some animals.  While this is clearly an improvement, we wonder about all the other animals in plastic cages who are not on display?  The pigs that I photographed on an earlier visit are now to be contained within plastic bags rather than exposed to airborne particles from the chicken pens.  This is clearly a win for everyone,  since all raw meat products,  whether pork,  beef,  poultry or fish – have the potential to carry bacterial pathogens,  such as Salmonella or E. coli.  No need to facilitate it either by having meat uncovered near live poultry.

MP McMeekin responds to my tweet about the market

MP McMeekin responds to my tweet about the market

While these changes are positive, I can’t help but wonder how long they will last?  Will the old, entrenched habits of the market reappear once the management and vendors think they have escaped public scrutiny?  What the management should have done years ago is take a leadership role – the sudden presence of water in some of the cages and the packaging of the dead pigs are a sign that the management knows that something is amiss,  but for whatever reason they have lacked the initiative required to put such welfare improvements in place.  A proactive management would have done this and a lot more without the presence of activists.

Additionally,  all livestock sellers who display chicks, ducklings and other live poultry should provide health-related information to owners and potential

Spent Hens

“Spent” hens, now with water as a result of social media publicity – Photo courtesy of Lynne Barrington

purchasers of these birds.  This should include information about the possibility of acquiring a Salmonella infection from contacting live poultry.  Platitudes about handwashing stations at petting zoos and washing hands when dealing with potentially risky things are nice but never enough. I wrote about this in the previous blog post about the market,  but it bears repeating,  especially since Martha Stewart of all people famously became infected with Salmonella due to cross-contamination. Both food producers and consumers themselves are billed by the Center for Disease Control as the CCP (Critical Control Point)  where contamination might occur.  And I will also add that none of these live animals can be sold or prepared for public consumption – private consumption only.

The protest was marred by some unforeseen events.  At the close of our 3 ½ our protest/vigil some of the protesters encountered physical hostility by some vendors inside the market.  You can read more about the physical altercations and the gentleman we call “The Self-Appointed Historian”  on Laura Templeton’s blog.  There is no justification for this physicality, as there is no justification for hurling homophobic slurs at the protesters either.  The real problem is the direct link between animal and human violence. It is repeatedly proven that abuse of animals is a rock-solid sign of trouble. Domestic violence and violence in schools are both two main areas in which potential problems could realistically predicted by looking into the implications behind animal and human violence. The individuals who grabbed or shoved the protesters have got some serious issues – even more so in the case of men accosting females.   While most of the sellers at the market wouldn’t start such a confrontation,  it’s unfortunate that a small minority of vendors chose to take this initiative; if one has no empathy towards animals,  it’s not exactly surprising that some express their frustrations in undesireable ways.  Ditto for the homophobic man and his homophobe-in-training child.  The “parent” has not only taught his child to hate/bully others but directly brought her into an altercation with adults and encouraged it!

In a free society, the best tool that we have in moving forward and making social change is knowledge, and by making the general public aware of these happenings; currently there is significant pressure on the management and owner of the market to end the outdated practice of selling live animals who are transported inhumanely and face a death by possibly unskilled or unpracticed hands.  The public are not aware of potential disease risks either,  and these cannot be eliminated without the cessation of live poultry sales completely.

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About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic (but not crazy) vegetarian, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - http://iwl.me/ Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

5 responses »

  1. Heather I have nothing but the deepest respect for you and the people who stand up and allow themselves to be counted as a voice for the animals! Wish I was in Ontario to stand beside you!

  2. Pingback: Stouffville Livestock Market – New Protest and “Letters To The Editor” | heatherclemenceau

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