Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Yesterday, in anticipation of the 2013 opening of the Stouffville Livestock Market, we met with Mayor Emmerson and a representative of the Town of Stouffville. Our intent has been to highlight the perceptions of livestock markets in general by both the local community and the world at large, and explain that our position on the livestock handling and sale is supported by evidence and law. We acknowledge that the Mayor does not necessarily have jurisdiction over all aspects of the market, but nevertheless, should be made aware of the “other side” of the story that is not being told by the market operators or necessarily the media. The Mayor also invited members of the OSPCA, but unfortunately they were unavailable/failed to present for the meeting. At the same time, a Toronto Star article was published comparing/contrasting activist claims with vendor and government assertions about care and handling of the animals.
First on the agenda was to present the Mayor with the petition, which now reflected between 1,500 and 1,600 signatures from all over the world. I also gave the Mayor a page of signatures for the Stouffville area alone.
We brought printouts from the “Health of Animals” Regulations – Livestock Handling, Transport, Segregation… from the Justice Laws website of the Government of Canada:
141. (1) Subject to this section, no person shall load on any railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft or vessel and no carrier shall transport animals of different species or of substantially different weight or age unless those animals are segregated.”
143. (1) No person shall transport or cause to be transported any animal in a railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, crate or container if injury or undue suffering is likely to be caused to the animal by reason of
(a) inadequate construction of the railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, container or any part thereof;
(b) insecure fittings, the presence of bolt-heads, angles or other projections;
(c) the fittings or other parts of the railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel or container being inadequately padded, fenced off or otherwise obstructed;
(d) undue exposure to the weather; or
(e) inadequate ventilation.
And from the Criminal Code of Canada:
Section 446 of the Criminal Code sets out the offence of causing damage or injury to animals and birds. Everyone who by:
…wilful neglect causes damage to animals or birds that are being conveyed or everyone who is the owner or has custody or control of an animal or bird wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food water, shelter and care, is guilty of an offence.
A person convicted of this offence is liable to imprisonment for not more than two years if the prosecution proceeds by way of indictment. If convicted of an offence where the Crown proceeds by way of summary conviction, the person faces a maximum punishment of a fine not exceeding $5,000 or six months in jail or both.
Section 446(3) states that:
…evidence that a person failed to exercise reasonable care or supervision of an animal or bird and thereby caused injury or damage to it, is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, proof that the injury or damage was caused by “wilful neglect”.
In our opinion, the livestock market cannot simultaneously operate and meet all of these conditions. As identified in my previous blog on the market, animals of all species are placed in an onion bag(s) – this may consist of rabbits, chickens, quail, or ducks. It is the market’s responsibility to segregate the animals by species. OMAFRA handed down a decision at the Woodville auction whereby onion bags were not permissible and the animals were placed in cardboard boxes. We verified that this was happening at the Woodville auction in January 2013. OSPCA senior inspector Steven Toy did not only insist that the vendors supply water to the animals, but he also told them that they could only place one animal per onion bag, although that wasn’t mentioned in the Toronto Star article covering our protests. However, it seems to be that the only animals receiving any water are those on display – animals constricted in the yellow/red cages are not offered water unless they are put out on display in smaller metal cages.
While a spokesman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency stated that “Onion bags allow the animals to be calm and breathe comfortably,” I wonder if he would arrive at the same conclusion if he saw multiple species of animal stuffed into the bag and placed into the trunk of a car? I also spoke with a CFIA source on March 11th and asked him whether it could be construed that placing animals in the trunks of cars could be considered “undue stress” and he did agree. Therefore, we hold that the market or possibly its customers may also be in contravention of section 143 (1) of the “Health of Animals” regulations since animals placed in the trunks of cars, particularly on the hottest months of the year will indeed experience “undue suffering.” This is no different that leaving a dog in a locked car without appropriate ventilation – the police would likely be called and the owner may be charged. We discussed with the Mayor the possibility that persons storing the animals in trunks could be charged under the Criminal Code.
Holding a market in March and November/December is unduly cold for many of the animals, especially chickens who have lost much of their feathers and have little protection from the elements. This is exacerbated by transporting them in trailers with open slats – the chicken cages are loaded directly against the slats, and open slats in winter coupled with the speed of the vehicle can often bring the interior temperatures of the trailer into negative numbers. You can see from the various blog pictures that the trailers all have open slats, and these pictures were taken in November. It’s amazing to me that the OSPCA apparently overlooked this. National Farm Animal Care Council codes of practice indicate that “Ventilation should be adjustable from the outside of the vehicle in response to temperature changes during a trip.”
Again, despite vendor claims to the contrary, various protesters have actually seen chickens being killed at the market. Most of the activists have seen chickens get their necks snapped – how can this be construed as “taking things out of context?” I would honestly say that a great many of the birds on sale at the market hardly look “1,000 times better” than what’s produced on factory farms,” since many of them are spent battery hens at the end of their productive lives.
Also not mentioned in the Toronto Star article was the outstanding issue whereby 3 people were assaulted at the market on December 15th. Two people were pushed, one person’s phone was nearly knocked out of their hand, and another was physically restrained by the wrist. We were not discouraged from filing police reports by the Mayor’s Office either. Does anyone other than the conscientious objectors to the market believe that assault, particularly by a man of a woman, is a telling indicator of how some of the vendors might behave towards their animals?
Of course it’s better for the purchasers of the animals to take them to a licensed slaughterhouse, but how many purchasers do that? If they didn’t want to
slaughter animals themselves, they would likely go to their local butcher and still be able to claim they’re a “locavore.” Third-generation chicken farmer, Fletcher, as quoted in the Star article, acknowledges that the animals are being killed at home: “…..his customers, who range from immigrants accustomed to slaughtering their own meat to families seeking a source for fresh eggs.” Religious or kosher/halal slaughter techniques are cruel and should be ended, says a scientific assessment from animal welfare advisers. The Farm Animal Welfare Council in the UK says that slitting the throats of the animals most commonly used for meat, chickens, without stunning, results in “significant pain and distress”. Throat cutting associated with religious slaughter may fail to sever the vertebral arteries supplying the brain.
We came away from our meeting having reached consensus on some issues with the Mayor. Smoking around flammable material by vendors and customers is to be addressed with signage and inspection from the Fire department. We were not dissuaded from filing police reports as a result of the assaults. The Mayor agreed to asking the market to use cardboard boxes, so that the market is “on spec” with the practices being used at Woodville. I sense that the Mayor was uncomfortable with the past practice of putting goats in the trunks of cars – I say “past practice” because we assume that they will no longer be sold at the market since per the CFIA, hoofstock is not permissible. Mayor Emmerson also didn’t really offer any resistance when we suggested that purchasers who put animals in the trunks of cars on hot days might be subject to charges of animal cruelty either. Is it so difficult to put an animal into the climate-controlled passenger compartment?
At this time, our protest of the market re-opening is still a go for March 23rd, despite conflicting information about the official start of the livestock market. It will be interesting to see what policy changes “stick” with the market in 2013. We thank the Mayor for agreeing to meet with us and will follow-up with the other agencies as discussed.