Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Today was our second protest against the Stouffville Livestock Market, which re-opened for the 2013 season. Fortunately the protest was uneventful, despite some early signs that there might be some hecklers. At the end of our three-hour protest, we were delighted to meet a kind gentleman who regularly rescues and rehabs some of the birds from the livestock market. I’ve included pics of today’s rescue, and I hope you’ll compare this to the Toronto Star video and make note of the fact that these particular birds show some sparse feathering and bloody scabs, which is not atypical for many of the birds sold here.
Re: Farmers’ market runs afoul of activists, March 16
“I applaud Bill Fletcher and the vital part he plays in providing an option for folks who choose to take control of their food source. Heather Clemenceau appears to favour factory farmed chicken because “there is a somewhat consistent method of killing,” as if that could make up for the atrocities of a poultry factory floor.
Conscientious protest is a right to be encouraged, though in this instance the OSPCA and Canadian Food Inspection Agency did not find the alleged cruel, outdated mistreatment of animals at the Stouffville Country Market.
I would encourage Ms Clemenceau to watch the episode of CBC TV’s www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2011/02/10/cons-supermarket-superbugs.html.MarketplaceEND that investigated superbug bacteria on supermarket chicken — the same chicken that most carnivores are familiar with, the same chicken described in the article as “plastic-wrapped packet of boneless, skinless breasts from a refrigerated grocery store aisle,” the chicken that the people who buy from Bill Fletcher do not want to eat.
Researchers bought 100 samples of some of the most popular brands of chicken, labelled and photographed them and sent them off to a lab for testing. Two thirds of the results showed bacteria — not simply E. coli, salmonella or
campylobacter often present on raw chicken, but bacteria that antibiotics cannot kill.
Some bacteria were resistant to as many as eight types of antibiotics. Canadian poultry farmers are allowed to use the full range of antibiotics including those used exclusively when treating pregnant women and children.
Unless consumers buy chicken raised without the use of antibiotics (and clearly labelled as such), they are purchasing factory-farmed chicken that has consumed a lifetime of antibiotics, given for little reason other than delivering a weightier product, faster.
Why should this concern people like Ms Clemenceau? Because the day may (some on the front lines of medicine say will) come when superbug bacteria will infect our population — vegetarian and omnivore alike — and our arsenal of antibiotics will be of no use.
And that is where Bill Fletcher and choice comes into play: by offering his beautiful birds for sale, he is helping to provide a varied system of food delivery. It seems to me that petitioning to close the livestock stalls at the Stouffville Country Market is a mistake that plays right into the hand of industrialized (and not so healthy) food.
Perhaps vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores could unite — as all are at risk of future bacterial infection without antibiotic relief — and demand that the use of antibiotics in animal feed be outlawed across Canada. This protection is already offered throughout much of Europe.
Now that is a petition that I’d sign.” Linda Muir, Toronto
‘Heather Clemenceau and Nic Wilvert have the right cause, but the wrong target. Small livestock dealers at the Stouffville farmer’s market, following a centuries-old tradition of selling live animals to individuals, are not committing atrocities toward animals. Neither are the buyers.
Instead, these animal activists should be directing their energies toward improving the mega-sized, highly commercialized food system in Ontario where animal welfare is really in question. Do these do-gooders not know about the living conditions and transport of most factory farmed animals?
And the huge processing facilities where thousands of antibiotic-infused chickens are mass executed daily in a mechanized fashion? Is the “consistent method of killing” frenzied, stressed animals en masse that Clemenceau refers to in her blog, a preferred fate to the killing of individual animals by humans who end their lives quickly and humanely?
The cellophane wrapped, Styrofoam-tray mounted, chemical-laced poultry product most of us now buy in our box stores is a far cry from what our families used to purchase just a generation ago. I can’t see this as progress.
We all need to be more mindful of where our food comes from. Farmer’s markets are an excellent source of real, genuine food and need to be supported.” Denise Sheedy, Pefferlaw
I would like to respond to Ms. Muir and Ms Sheedy’s Letters to the Editor, published on March 23rd, the day of the opening of the Stouffville Livestock Market for 2013. I wish to clarify that at no time during my interview with the writer Rachel Mendleson did I state that I preferred CAFO farming of any animal. What I did say was that, with the vendor disclosure that many clients were buying these birds, likely for halal or kosher slaughter, a system with controls and inspectors, however flawed, is better than none at all. That does NOT have to be large scale slaughter – a licensed butcher would be much more appropriate, as would a mobile slaughter truck. Halal and Kosher slaughter (or other inept methods of killing) are cruel in that they do not stun the animals beforehand, so they are completely conscious when slaughtered, which I’ve discussed in a blog post and therefore won’t address it here again. The average person killing an animal purchased at the market will be unable to determine whether the vertebral arteries have been severed to the brain (unless of course the animal is completely and immediately decapitated).
Insofar as antibiotics are concerned, this is a separate issue that is not directly related to the issues at the market, which I’ve discussed in several blogposts:
The livestock industry uses the majority of antibiotics sold today – and it’s quite true they are slowly losing their effectiveness in fighting bacterial infections . I’m honestly surprised that the writer cannot make the connection between antibiotic use and the mass production of animals. Surely the writer recognizes that the increase in overall meat consumption has been facilitated by the low cost of meat, due to the mechanization of meat processing, increased economies of scale, and antibiotic use? Without the ability to slaughter hundreds of animals per hour, the craving for meat cannot be satisfied, especially by the small scale producer. Mechanized dis-assembly of animals occurs as a result of the demand for cheap meat, which we’ve also seen result in the horsemeat adulteration scandal in the EU. The only way to avoid this is to stop patronizing the industry.
Any producer, large or small can be a contributor to unethical animal handling, and yes, often the biggest culprit is factory farms. But small scale farmers can hardly be excused because their product “may” be less adulterated. The true pressure on small farmers are not the activists asking that blatant cruelty stop, but on farmers themselves to establish CAFOs in order to compete with the larger corporations. These are not issues we are exploring in our protests. Therefore, discussion of antibiotics in food has little bearing on the deplorable practice of putting animals in the trunks of cars in any climate. Causing undue suffering such as this is in contravention of the SPCA act and Criminal Code. Again, our issue is cruelty, plain and simple.
I do believe that the battery hens at the market, which comprise a sizable majority, are raised in battery cages, with artificial sunlight, for about 72 weeks before slaughter. In Canada anywhere from 70-90 percent of them are raised this way. Beyond seeing Mr. Fletcher’s video, we have no idea how the other vendors raise their birds. Mr. Fletcher is also one of several vendors on this site and when I visited and photographed the market, I saw no guarantees from any of them as to what meds if any, are used in their animals directly or via feed. I saw no disclaimers that these animals were “free range,” or any of the other semi-meaningless descriptors used for animal farms. I have never seen any signage posted or warranties provided that these animals are organic. Indeed, the government of Canada has very specific requirements for registering a farm as “organic.”
Ms. Sheedy decries the “Styrofoam-tray mounted, chemical-laced poultry product most of us now buy in our box stores is a far cry from what our families used to purchase just a generation ago.” What we’ve actually done in the last 100 years is trade one form of cruelty – the unregulated abattoirs, for another – the mass dis-assembly of animals on a production line. The way in which we view animals has changed dramatically over the last 100 years. We experience tension and clashes in this era due to a growing fondness of some animals and the consumption of others. Most abattoirs 100 years ago where situated in slums characterized by extreme poverty, filth, delinquency, and crowded conditions. Today, it is generally acknowledged that sentient creatures being killed are worthy of protection. If you have a market such as this where neither OMAFRA nor the OSPCA are willing or able to direct changes, you have the same institutionalized “forgetting” that creates the conditions for cruelty hidden in a quiet country town.
Even in the eighteenth century , reformers argued that “public slaughterhouses” would be preferable to “private slaughterhouses” (the term referred to any structure in which animals were slaughtered for human consumption, e.g., a butcher’s shed) because they would remove the sight of animal slaughter from public places and indiscreet private slaughterhouses, they could more easily be monitored, they were generally considered to be cleaner as well. Our argument is not so much different from that. That is not to say that industrialization or mechanization of slaughter is somehow preferable to what could be a humane end by a licensed butcher.
In conclusion, a more relevant video embedded in the Star article would have consisted of footage of the actual conditions at the market and not at one vendor’s establishment. I’m gratified that Mr. Fletcher’s birds are indoors and protected from the elements, but again, is he is only one of several livestock vendors that service the market with different species of animals. While the video gives the impression that Mr. Fletcher’s establishment IS the market, the animals at the market have zero protection from the elements for at least six hours unless they remain in a trailer. Today at the protest of the re-opening of the market for 2013, the temperature is in the negative numbers and with wind chill is it even colder. If the protesters at the market are freezing for 3 hours, imagine how these birds must feel, particularly the “spent” hens who have very limited feathering. They don’t all look like Mr. Fletcher’s birds. Thank you to another writer responding to The Star article, Ms. Featherby, who “gets it.” Please read her letter below:
“Rodger Dunlop’s “hope” that the slaughter of farmers’ market purchases is humane is inadequate. That the manager of regulatory compliance for the Ontario Agriculture Ministry “hopes” that these animals will be treated without cruelty by a public whose methods of ending an animal’s life are not monitored, nor guided by definable regulations is an unfortunate guarantee that many short lives will have horrific endings.
If witnesses are observing animals being carelessly tossed into trunks and having their little bones broken in plain view of the public, one wonders what goes on upon arrival home. Indeed, as these animals end up in the care of individuals who clearly want to do the killing themselves, it does make one question just how much kindness and dignity they are afforded in death, and why the absence of regulation continues.” Mercedes Featherby, Toronto