Tag Archives: “farm animal abuse”

Animal Activist Do’s and Don’ts – A Code of Conduct For Protests

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Amberlea with clover for her horseWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Artwork by:  Heather Clemenceau

I think that many people hear the term “Code of Conduct” and think that they are automatically about to be thrown in a straitjacket of do-goodiness.  But a Code of Conduct is really just an itemization of our ethics – it sets the tone from the top down, on what our culture of protest, use of social media, etc. will be.  When the Code is understood by activists, it protects us from our own occasional tendency to want to behave roguishly, and it shows people who are watching and listening to us that we have lines that we just won’t cross,  no matter what others do.

I believe that protests should have principles that govern us.  So I’m drawing on my own experience in the Corporate world as well as the activist world in itemizing what I think are important facets of an activist Code of Conduct:

  • We stand for non-violent protection of animals.  Peaceful protest is honourable protest.
  • Keep the protest passive and try to avoid individuals who are overtly negative.  If they insist on arguing with us, stick to the facts.  Do not use inflammatory language or insults when pointing out your legal position and your right to protest
  • What are my rights and freedoms as a photographer in Ontario?  Here is an excellent resource that explains what can be photographed,  who owns a photo,  and what can be published – Ontario Photographers Rights.
  • Do not endanger yourself or others.  If you put yourself into a situation,  then someone else must either come looking for you or must assist or rescue you,  which also puts them at risk.
  • Stand on public property.  Stand where the police tell you and make note of their badge number if the request is questionable.  If a property owner insists that you stand somewhere else, be cautious,  since the police are the ones who must enforce trespassing laws.
  • Do Use the services of the local SPCA and other agencies that advocate for animals  – they can often help raise awareness of the issues or of future protests.  Ask them to include the dates of future protests in email blasts or newsletters.
  • Do not be defamatory – do not make claims about a person’s reputation or business that may be damaging and untrue.Killer Whales (2)
  • We will always make certain that we are parking on public property.  Please do not park on private property and then proceed to protest against the person or organization upon whose property you just trespassed.
  • Do not be threatening, abusive,  harassing,  and do not invade anyone’s personal privacy.
  • Do not make sexist, racist, profane, homophobic, or otherwise offensive and discriminatory remarks
  • Do not promote violence or other unlawful acts including trespassing.
  • Call the police if someone commits an offence against you so that documentation exists.
  • Obey the law and the police. The Animal Welfare/Rights movement is one that is increasingly intersecting with traditional areas of law such as tort, criminal, property, and constitutional law.  The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is entrenched in Canada’s constitution, guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly in section 2(c).
  • We must be responsible and accountable for our actions, intended or unintended.
  • We don’t condone wrongdoing in ourselves and will be responsible and speak up when it occurs.
  • Do create petitions,  use photographs and factual information to support the petition.  Rely on crowdsourcing to route your petition.  Do find a way to occasionally send a message to the people who have signed your petition to keep them up to date on the progress of your cause.
  • We won’t abuse alcohol or drugs.
  • Contact the police ahead of the protest.  Ask if permits are required.  If so,  ensure that they are fully complied with.
  • If we see violence or vandalism occur, we will report it and co-operate with authorities if required.when pigs fly
  • Know thy audience.  Familiarize yourself with the goal of the protest.  If you create your own signage,  make sure that it aligns with these goals.  Some groups are not susceptible to certain message points,  which means your time and effort protesting will be minimalized or lost entirely.
  • If we use a megaphone, we will ensure that its use is sporadic rather than constant.  We will observe all local bylaws regarding megaphone use.  We will ensure that megaphones are not used excessively in residential areas and we will always use it to convey factual information.  We will not use a megaphone if it startles flight animals.
  • We will respect the rights of non-violence and compassion.
  • We will leave no garbage behind.
  • We will always present ourselves as ordinary, everyday citizens, (which we are).  We have justifiable concerns.  We must also develop and sustain a sense of practicality and realism when responding to questions and concerns.
  • Select an issue that is of particular concern to you and run a campaign to foster change within your local community, workplace or university, or on a larger scale.
  • Video Documentation should be used with a view to preserving evidence and documenting our performance.  Video recording at demos and other events can be a critically useful tool in helping us to review and improve upon our effectiveness. It can also serve as a deterrent to intimidating or violent behavior to our opponents in addition to recourse to be used in litigation. Video recording, however, may unintentionally inflame passions or be viewed as an tool of intimidation if not handled correctly. In view of this it is essential that recording demos and events be done so in a professional manner that avoids aggressive behavior and avoids as much as possible verbal exchanges. (Thanks for this suggestion Martin)

Girl chasing sheepFor a long time it was left to philosophers to speak up in defence of animals.  For example,  Pythagoras urged respect for animals. In the 17th century, early animal protection laws were advanced by Locke, Rousseau, Bentham,  John Stuart Mill et al,  and followed eventually Henry Berg,  who founded the ASPCA.  What we hold in common with the philosophers is that we can advance animal issues by using critical reasoning,  the most effective strategy.

The way has not been easy for contemporary animal activists and will perhaps get even more difficult. The animal exploitation industries have huge resources behind them, and have the ear of government,  But it is impossible to believe that, in the end, justice and compassion will not triumph.

“The question is not can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But can they suffer?”

Space Migration with blue energy field

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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.