I was listening to CBC this morning as I drank my coffee. Michael Enright had a feature on a woman who was charged with criminal mischief for giving pigs water in a transport truck as they were parked in 30 degree heat outside the slaughter plant. Her case has garnered a lot of publicity around the world and has focused attention on the rights of animals we not only consume but use to produce eggs and milk. Listen here: http://www.cbc.ca/1.3497518
As one person interviewed said, if the semi was filled with golden retrievers, people would be outraged at their treatment but because it was “only” pigs, future bacon and pork chops, who really cares. Canada has one of the poorest animal rights records of any of the first world nations, far behind those in Europe. But we also have cheap food. One farmer said, “don’t expect me to subsidize your conscience. If you want better treatment for animals then you have to pay for it”. Battery hens, crowded four or five to a small cage, go blind from the ammonia fumes caused by the build up of droppings in their barns. Everything is automated as humans are unable to stay for any period of time in that toxic environment. Before they go blind the hens retain enough vision to learn how to find the food and water–three months in they can no longer see and they are culled in a year, if they live that long, as egg production drops. My own hens have lived for years. They have room to move, chase bugs, dust bath, lay in the sun and roost beside their best friend (yes, they do have buddies they prefer). I like to eat eggs. I like to eat chicken. And I choose to ethically butcher the birds I have fed and watered and cared for because I want quality food with flavour. It’s not easy. It’s all about respect and value.
I learned many things the hard way. Every time I see a truck loaded with animals on the highway, pigs or sheep or cattle, my mind goes back to a goat I shipped many years ago. She was an older goat. I called her Grandma. She came bred, bought with several others as her previous owner basically gave her to me. I kept her a few years but it became obvious she was too old to breed anymore and I didn’t want to keep her. I was shipping lambs and in a spur of the moment decision decided to put Grandma on the truck too. It was cold, -25/30, and she was cold. I thought she would be fine on the semi packed in with the lambs. But as I drove away I felt like I has made a mistake. A few days later the shipper called and said she had died on the truck but I would be paid as I had insurance on the stock. I asked if the goats got the worst place on the truck and the woman on the phone said, “the truck is inspected and approved to haul stock blah blah blah”. I felt so guilty and ashamed. I have never shipped an older animal since. I have shot a few but I think that is so much more humane than sending them out into an unfamiliar situation. And in the summer, with the trailers loaded with two or three levels of animals, how does air circulate to animals in the centre? Truckers are allowed to haul stock for 18 hours or more with no food or water. So this woman gave a pig some water. In 30 degree weather. If it was a dog in a car in a parking lot she would have a responsibility to aide the dog. Breaking a window if necessary and certainly without facing criminal charges.
I raise my own meat as much as possible. Not everyone is able to do this but ethically raised food is available though not cheap. It is market driven and no one will sell what people won’t buy.
Tonight for supper I cooked a moose roast my nephew gave me. He is a hunter and feeds his family wild meat. A few years ago I was able to help him hang a moose with my tractor so he could gut and clean it.