Written by: Heather Clemenceau
According to the Toronto Sun, Ontario farmers have developed a “security squad” against animal activists. The paper reports that farmers are monitoring activities online and calling out this squad on a moment’s notice when activists appear on farms or meetings. The Sun goes on to report that:
“Kristen Kelderman of Farm & Food Care says the Guelph, Ont.-based non-profit works “behind the scenes” to see what activists are planning and to prepare for a response.
Farm & Food Care has a hotline farmers can use to call in the emergency squad.”
The Farm and Food Care newsletter and website, which has curiously been down all day at the time of writing, also expressed concern about ATI requests (Access to Information) that were being received and processed by the government as it concerned information about farming practices. Your organization also recommends that farmers record license numbers of vehicles on the street near their farms, which smacks of DEFCON-5 level conspiracist thinking. Would I be a conspiracist if I thought that your newsletter was taken down to scrub it free of incriminating information about dealing with the OSPCA and the Access to Information enquiries?
First off, please be reminded that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is entrenched in Canada’s constitution, guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly in section 2(c) If you truly had a security problem, wouldn’t your organization be better off calling the police rather than some nebulous team you’ve assembled? To me, that suggests that what you’re encountering isn’t illegal activity at all, but instead activity that you would somehow like your “security squad” to intimidate and suppress.
Cases of animal abuse are widespread and well-documented and they are not isolated incidents. Any time someone turns on the video camera, they can find abuse because it is standard industry practice–and for a very good reason. Abusive practices enable farmers to control profit margins. The more animals are crammed into smaller spaces, moved quicker through assembly lines, and treated as commodities instead of the sentient animals they are, the more money to be made. Thanks to activists, we now know that grinding live chicks up in a wood-chipper-machine or suffocating chicks in plastic bags is standard practice, as is grinding up piglets and back-feeding them to other pigs. This practice, when it happened with cow feed, caused the 2003 Bovine spongiform encephalopathy crisis when governments failed to regulate heat-treating in feed plants to ensure it was sufficient to denature prions, which carry the disease between individuals and cause deterioration of the brain.
Christian conservative Matthew Scully, deputy director of presidential speech writing for George W. Bush, had this to say in his book Dominion. “...the persistent animal-welfare questions of our day center on institutional cruelties—on the vast and systematic mistreatment of animals that most of us never see.” When conservatives like Scully begin writing books about the cruelty, you know something is seriously wrong. The right-wing is not usually willing to denounce lucrative business practices even when they entail gross abuse of animals or the environment.
If you are a farmer, agricultural industry manager or worker, do you feel good about everything you do? Are you being honest with everyone about your operations? Most activists are simply advocating for humane farming practices – that animals should not be forced to live in torment. Those who wish to expose those practices are not terrorists. If jamming pregnant female animals into crates so tight that they can’t lie down or turn around for months is such a delightfully ethical practice, why aren’t tours being arranged for school kids? Why not show them chicks being tossed into the wood chipper? Let the poor harassed farmers shine a light onto their humane farms! Because they have nothing to hide…..right? If your membership has nothing to hide, why are they instructed to contact your organization if they become aware of an ATI (Access to Information Request) for their industry?
I do not respect your attempts to try and criminalize activism. Please respect the right of thoughtful citizens to express what they see as a moral outrage. Animal abuse videos have mobilized a movement towards improving the quality of life of pigs, chickens, and cows. Frequently, “abuse” is a product of farmers feeling rushed or cutting corners. I resent the comments sometimes made by far right groups that these videos are edited or compile days of footage distilled down to a few short minutes of cruelty. This is like saying “we didn’t mistreat any animals for the other 23 hours and 57 minutes, so the 3 minutes we did doesn’t count.”
In the absence of the animal welfare movement, there is an obvious race to the bottom. Battery cages and gestation crates are a classic example of this, while the quality of life of a chicken or pig in a bigger more enriched cage is improved, farmers or agribusiness won’t make these investments unless there exists political pressure. This political pressure comes from us activists.
Please don’t give your membership advice on how to support animal cruelty. Most of the activists I know personally are a bunch of mainstream, milquetoast environmentalists and animal lovers who are about as “dangerous” as the Rotary Club. I don’t know anyone who personally protests at farms, but as long as they stay on public property, they have a right to be there. You don’t have any problem “infiltrating” our meetings, and following our activity online, but you have a little problem with a quid pro quo? Seems rather hypocritical to me.
Oh yeah, always remember to be on the alert for suspicious compassionate people. You never know when one will sneak up and hug you.