Tag Archives: “Farm Animal Welfare”

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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What’s On Your Plate Stouffville? Livestock Advocacy Efforts Continue Into 2013…

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Chickens at the Stouffville Market

Photo by Laura Templeton

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.

Good to see you Bob and Anita!

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”.

Animal Health Regs

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.

Wind Chill Factors

Wind Chill Factors – the effect of cold and speed on the interior temperature of a livestock trailer with open slats.

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.

What would be the interior temperature of this trailer in November with slats open?

What would be the interior temperature of this trailer in November with slats open? Photo By Laura Templeton

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

Animals of various species loaded into onion sacks.  There is significant weight to these sacks and the animals on the bottom are being crushed.

Animals of various species loaded into onion sacks. There is significant weight to these sacks and the animals on the bottom are being crushed.

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.

Spent Hens

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

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.