“Not a single creature on earth has more or less right to be here”– Anthony Douglas Williams – Inside the Divine Pattern.
I think when anyone comes face to face with intensive animal farming they have a tornado of feelings that start swirling around in them. The evolution of farming is something that has gone from wholesome to devastating. If you have working empathy then you’ve felt that in your soul.
There is a real push and pull between animal rights and farming communities. Before we dive deeper into the farming industry in Canada there are a few things to mention. Not all farms in Canada are “factory farms” and the agricultural industry has been one that has fed our people and supported our economy since the birth of the country. Does this mean that the industry can’t grow change and evolve to be better ethically and sustainably? Of course not!
It’s also worth mentioning that the definition of what in fact is classified as factory farming is very loose. So, while one person may think something is definitively animal cruelty, another may disagree. Not to mention the laws and legislation surrounding those topics are flimsy at best here in the great white north.
Oxford Languages defines factory farming as “a system of rearing livestock using intensive methods, by which poultry, pigs, or cattle are confined indoors under strictly controlled conditions.”
The animal ethics and animal rights communities are speaking out. So, let’s break down some of the naked farming truths in Canada.
Naked Facts of the Canadian Farming Industry
- Meat processing is the third-largest manufacturing industry in Canada behind motor vehicles & petroleum products (Industry Stats, 2020).
- Canada exports approximately 45% of cattle & beef production each year making us one of the largest exporters of red meat in the world.
- In 2020 Canada exported 1.38 million metric tons of pork (Statista, 2020).
- The 2016 census found that fewer than 1% of Canadians are farm operators (StatsCan, 2019)
- Canada agriculture industry produces and slaughters over 800 million land animals annually (Factory Farm Collective, 2020)
- The meat industry is lobbying for Ag-Gag Laws across the country (Justice, 2021).
- Alberta passed their Ag-Gag Law in November of 2019, Ontario in June 2020
- There is no proactive monitoring or inspecting of farm facilities – inspections only take place after a complaint is made.
- The Cruelty to Animals laws in Canada are arguably very limited and lax check them out for yourself here.
Does Intensive Animal Farming Happen in Canada?
To understand if intensive animal farming is happening here we have to break down the Ag-Gag Law a little more.
What is the Ag-Gag Law?
The Ag-Gag law is actually Bill-156, which is legally called the “Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020”.
Some of the key takeaways from the bill is that it will now be illegal for individuals to document the treatment of animals on farms. This makes reporting and winning a case of animal cruelty extremely difficult and arguably impossible. This law in addition to the very flimsy cruelty to animals laws in Canada makes anyone wanting to do right by animals have almost no chance.
There is also a ‘false pretences’ section of the bill which makes any information or evidence gathered via prior consent by the owner or occupier of the farm under false pretences. This begs the question, what constitutes false pretences? Can an existing employee on the farm then go on to report animal abuse or neglect or would that fall under false pretences?
Let’s Talk Fines
It’s also worth mentioning that the maximum fine is $15,000 if any person is found guilty of obtaining information gathered under duress or false pretenses.
I’m sorry but $15,000! Compare that to the max fine for animal cruelty in Canada which is only $5000? This difference in the severity of the fines is insane. Sure, you can take into account that the Cruelty to Animals laws was last updated in 1985. Maybe… just maybe, it can be looked at as a different time and societies perspective on animal cruelty may have changed. But that means the laws should be updated and reworked to reflect those beliefs. We can also play devil’s advocate and take into account the time value of money. HOWEVER, I did take the liberty to calculate what $5000 in 1985 would be worth now and it’s still only $10,857.14 which is still significantly less than the max fine someone can receive for trying to expose animal cruelty according to the Ag-Gag!
What Conclusions Can We Draw From This?
A simple google search of factory farming in Canada will bring up a mixed bag of results. Some defending that factory farming doesn’t exist in the great north, and on the flip side, some make passionate claims that it does.
This seems to be the result of a really relaxed definition of what actually falls into the category of intensive animal farming. Animal ethics is tricky business: like anything in that realm, so many people have vastly different opinions on it and its one that often gets emotions flowing.
I think most can agree, the laws protecting animals in Canada are way too lax and outdated.
What could also be argued is if factory farming wasn’t taking place why would the Ag-Gag bill even pass? The bill seems to be very obviously acting to protect farmers from being reported or exposed for any mistreatment of animals, and one could argue workers too.
So, why would multiple provinces have already passed this bill? Well, the answer really does seem to be the all mighty dollar. The meat industry in Canada is a massive industry, one of our largest. Therefore protecting farmers so they can make the choice to put more factory farming practices in place seems to be a decision driven by money.
Why are Farmers Turning to More Intensive Animal Farming Methods?
The population is increasing exponentially, so in order to feed that growing population farming more and more livestock to meet the demand for traditional proteins is a pressure placed on a tiny amount of the population.
Only 1% of Canada’s population are farmers, so the task is falling to that dwindling number to feed the country and the world. That honestly seems like an incredibly daunting task. Not to mention, to compete with prices from other countries that may have even worse practices in factory farming, you can start to see why some family farmers turn to arguably less ethical methods to raise livestock.
Key Takeaways About Intensive Animal Farming in Canada
- The meat production and export industry is one of our largest industries
- This by default means that the industry is driven by the all mighty dollar and so will the legislation surrounding it.
- The Cruelty to Animals Laws in Canada are flimsy and outdated
- The Ag-Gag bill has been passed in both Alberta and Ontario.
- The maximum fine for collecting information or evidence of animal welfare on a farm is $15,000. While the max animal cruelty fine is $5000.
- Both Canada’s population and the worlds is growing exponentially and the percentage of the Canadian population that are farmers is only 1%.
- That’s a lot of pressure to supply healthy food, make a living and survive, and do it ethically on a very small amount number of people.
- It’s also worth noting that there are some fantastic farmers out there who truly care for their animals and their welfare.
What Can You Do About it Today?
“If we would just stop eating all of this meat, the difference would be huge because all of these billions of farm animals, billions, kept in concentration camps to feed us, and, you know, whole environments are wiped out to grow the grain to feed them.”-Jane Goodall
This quote really does speak volumes. The more you can reduce your traditional protein consumption the better. Switching to a more flexitarian diet or plant-based can make a big impact. This means you may want to look into entomophagy, read more about that here! Ultimately, the Canadian farming industry is driven by money so the best and most effective way to have an impact is to support local farms that you know are ethical and/or by switching your diet to more alternative sources of protein!
Additionally, you can consider switching your four-legged family members to an insect-based diet! Since 25% of the worlds meat production goes to pets, why not consider switching to a more sustainable alternative protein! Take a look at why this is a species-appropriate and healthy option for your dog here!
Also, if you’re feeling passionate about the Ag-Gag and believe it should be repealed you can sign this petition!
References used in this Blog
Industry Stats. (2020, September 17). Retrieved from https://www.cattle.ca/cca-resources/industry-stats/
Bedford, P. B., & 16, A. (2020, April 16). Pork: Export volume Canada 2020. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/448817/pork-exports-canada/
Government of Canada, S. C. (2019, July 03). Canadian Agriculture at a Glance. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/96-325-x/96-325-x2019001-eng.htm
Justice, A. (2021, March 09). Animal Justice Files Legal Challenge to Ontario “Ag Gag” Law. Retrieved from https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/animal-justice-files-legal-challenge-to-ontario-ag-gag-law-835348460.html#:~:text=Canadian legal experts have warned,these laws across the country.
Factory Farm Collective. (2020, November 14). Does Factory Farming Exist in Canada? Here’s what the data says. Retrieved from https://factoryfarmcollective.ca/does-factory-farming-exist-in-canada-heres-what-the-data-says/