Posts Tagged 'animal welfare'


Gerry Ritz announces $3.4 million to update livestock handling.

Research, which includes dialogue with farmers, is how new ideas turn into codes of good practice. “There’s new technology and new information available,” Ritz said. “Farmers have to review their codes of practices and make sure they are the latest and best.”

Farm animals are the beneficiaries of this federal commitment.

Animal industry

Manitoba Cattle Producers Association calls for bounty on coyotes ($50) and wolves ($300) in the names of animal and industry welfare.

The general public may find coyotes harmless, even likening them to the famous cartoon character. With that view, perhaps the MCPA’s demands that bounties be introduced might appear callous.

Let’s clear that up. The bounties are intended to restore a good, healthy wildlife ecosystem, which is no longer in balance. “Our position is not broad-stroke elimination,” says Mowat, “but to gain control on an individual basis. The population mismanagement is resulting in detriment to the industry and to the welfare of these animals — the fact that so many have mange is an indicator that the problem has gone from bad to worse. And we also don’t want to see this issue escalate to human tragedy, as it did on the East Coast.”

Interview with an animal: Don LePan

Don LePan is the founder and president of Broadview Press, a rather fiercely independent academic publisher that averages about forty new titles a year. He’s a painter, too, primarily of large skyscrapers and baseball stadiums. In 2008 he held his first solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Artists Gym. And, somehow, he has also found the time to write a first novel described by the Globe’s Jim Bartley as “psychologically incisive, admirably disquieting” and by novelist Dimitri Nasrallah as “a brave and frequently fascinating debut novel, wrought with painful choices, harrowing journeys, and a deep passion for its subject matter.”

Animals, published by Véhicule in Canada and, this April, by Soft Skull in the US, is the story of Sam, a subhuman or “mongrel.” Sam is abandoned by his human family, adopted as a pet by Naomi and her family, and finally slaughtered in a factory farm. Sam’s story is framed – commented on and contextualized – by Broderick, an advocate for mongrel welfare and the reader’s guide to LePan’s dystopic near-future. Animals is also an unapologetic attempt to “spur people towards a better world.” LePan is not interested in scoring ideological points or in capturing and defending a moral high ground; he is interested only in “addressing the horrific conditions that 99% of farm animals today are subjected to.” In conversation he is gracious, generous, and 100% free of dogmatism.

Where does your interest in non-human animals come from?
Initially, from reading Singer’s Animal Liberation in the early 1990s. It was slow to take effect, though; it was some years before I made any real move away from factory farmed animal products.
At the heart of Animals is the story of an individual who becomes a victim of a factory farm. Were there any individual animals that brought Singer’s message home to you, that helped you make your move away from factory farmed animal products?
I don’t think so, really. For many years I had a cat named Sam, but much as I loved him I don’t think he really affected my approach to factory farming. Maybe at some unconscious level having a loved non-human animal about the house made a difference in how I was led to act toward a broader range of animals.
He at least gave you a name for your protagonist! When did you decide that you wanted to explore the issues Singer had brought to your attention in fiction?
In the spring of 2007. The ethical impulse to try to write a book on this theme came to me at the same time as the basis for the story-line – the essence was all there in about thirty seconds. Oddly enough, the impulse came to me in part as a result of the ongoing stream of bad news from Zimbabwe. I had taught high school students in rural Zimbabwe from 1982-1985 through WUSC (an aid agency), and I had always thought of that as one way in which I had made at least some sort of contribution to the world. With the way in which Mugabe has destroyed things over the past fifteen years, it’s hard to see anything that any of us did back then in that country as having made the world much better – it’s just infinitely depressing. So I had been thinking that I should try to make some contribution now (other than what one does as a book publisher), and I thought in the back of my mind that I do have some ability as a writer, and then I thought that perhaps I could use that in a good cause such as this one. And then the story line for Animals popped into my head, and I knew I had to write it.
Animals is especially good at highlighting the ways in which class can intersect with health and disability. Did your sensitivity to class issues develop in Zimbabwe?
Class and race both – definitely. But so has a lot of my experience living in North America, and in the UK; class really is vitally important just about everywhere, I think.
Why did you choose to foreground Broderick’s framing story – weave it into Sam’s story – rather than, say, tack it on at the end?
I wanted, first of all, a separate discursive voice to talk about the historical and social background from outside the main narrative – and I guess I wanted too to have a voice continually prompting comparisons with today’s world.
Animals is set in a future that clearly follows from our present – there are references to contemporary factory farming practices, as well as to individuals like journalist Margaret Wente and scientists Samuel Wood and Andrew French. Why did you create fictional disabilities for this future (“Peake’s Syndrome,” “Gyberger’s Syndrome”) rather than use the conditions they’re clearly modelled on (Down syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome)?
This was something I spent a lot of time trying to think through. My original feeling was that it would be better to stick as close as possible to the real world in these matters, in order to try to bring things home to readers even more forcefully; in the early drafts, “mongrels” were called “downs” – and most of them had the specific disability we refer to as “Down’s Syndrome.” I was persuaded, though, that many of those who work with people with disabilities might be likely at the very least to find such a high degree of specificity to be a distraction in a book intended to be not about the plight of humans with disabilities but about the plight of non-human animals. At worst I felt some might misinterpret the work as being disrespectful to people with disabilities. I sought the advice of one person in particular who I felt would be in an ideal position to offer helpful comments, and she strongly and I now think wisely advised me to make that change. Véhicule’s fine fiction editor, Andrew Steinmetz, who has something of a medical as well as a literary background, also advised me to make the change, I should add. And I came to think they were right. Particularly given the degree to which societies have proven themselves capable of defining disabilities loosely (and of subjecting those defined as having disabilities to cruel treatment), I became persuaded that there was a benefit in trying to make that side of things a bit more vague, and in placing it at a bit of a remove from today’s terminology.
I’m really bad at geography! – what place is Animals set in?
There are hints that it’s a town or small city near a river that flows from the States into Canada and back into the States, and then into the Missouri (and of course then the Mississippi). It could be a town in Montana or in southern Alberta; Lethbridge would perhaps be the closest Canadian possibility, Great Falls the closest American one, but neither one is on the Milk, which is the only river that fits the description. I did want to keep the location pretty vague – Anytown, North America, really.
The title of the novel is, like the setting, deliberately vague, or it reminds us of how vague the word “animals” is. When did you settle on this word for your title?
The title came to me quite early on, and I never seriously considered others. The main thing it suggests, to me at least, is a commonality between human animals and non-human ones. But of course it’s often used in ways that emphasize a presumed contrast between humans and non-human animals.
How do you use the word “animals” in your own everyday life? Are you careful to distinguish between human animals and non-human animals?
Until quite recently I certainly wasn’t careful – and I’m not even sure what my practice was. In the past few weeks the issue has come much more into focus for me; I’ve just posted something on the Animals blog on this issue, as it happens. I’m sure I’ll still be imprecise from time to time, but I think now I’ll at least be far more alert to the value of trying not to use language in ways that unnecessarily or inappropriately suggest that other animals are more different from us than is in fact the case.
As a child, Naomi tells her parents “I don’t think we should eat any meat at all. Even birds, birds have brains too, they have feelings . . .” As an adult, she looks back on this scene and remarks “The family was hardly likely to eat the flesh of a parrot, but to the child it was somehow all one and the same.” Naomi sounds like she’s arguing for animal rights here, in contrast to Broderick’s animal welfarism and her mother’s rather unapologetic speciesism. Where do you locate yourself on this spectrum?
My own views in this area have shifted somewhat in recent years – and they may well continue to shift. But this is not an area where I’m interested in foregrounding my own views. Much as these questions are interesting and important ones, I feel strongly that our priority should be addressing the horrific conditions that 99% of farm animals today are subjected to. And that’s something that anyone with the slightest concern for animal welfare or animal rights should be willing to support, once they are aware of the facts.
What sources did you use in creating the world of Animals? Did you have to do a lot of research, or had you picked up most of the relevant information already?
I wrote the first draft without doing any research – just what I knew or thought I knew already. And then I revised in the light of further reading – and in the light of comments from others who know more than I do. Singer was among those who was very helpful in correcting some factual details.
What kinds of conversations did you have with philosophers Angus Taylor and Tom Hurka on your Canadian book tour?
Angus gave a very good exposition of the argument from marginal cases. He has published an excellent story/article on this topic, incidentally – “Hunting for Consistency,” which appeared in Philosophy Now a couple of years ago. Tom explored a notion I gather Nozick has put forward – that it might be acceptable to apply different sets of ethical principles in dealing with non-human animals than we do in dealing with other humans.
Animals will be published in the US by Soft Skull this spring. Which country do you consider more likely to make changes in the treatment of food animals in the foreseeable future?
The States. Proposition 2 in California is a big step, but equally important is the appointment of a Secretary of Agriculture who has some sensitivity to the plight of non-human animals; I gather Obama has done that. So much of importance happens at the level of regulatory detail and how it is enforced, not at the level of legislation – though obviously there’s much to be done with legislation too. In Canada new animal cruelty legislation has died in the Senate or on the order paper three times, and Harper has no plans to reintroduce anything with teeth, so far as I’m aware. In this as in so many areas, Canadians assume we are more humane and principled than the States, when in fact we may well be less so.
Is it too early to ask about your next book?
Yes. But many thanks for your interest in this one!

Farmers’ Week

The schedule is set in Grey Bruce.

Some of the featured keynote speakers are:

* Gib Drury from Quebec, the board chairman of Canada Beef Export Federation, will present honey comb tripe.

* Dr. Hubert J. Karreman, VMD, dairy veterinarian, Penn Dutch Cow Care, U.S.A., will discuss, dairy cows and the landscape.

* Dr. Danica Baines, research scientist, will discuss bacterial pathogens and cellular interactions.

* Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, will present information on sheep day and goat day about probiotics and prebiotics and how they can help goats or sheep?

* Lawrence Andres, organic dairy farmer and a member of the National Animal Welfare Task Force, will delve into animal welfare on organic farms.


An in-depth look at welfarism vs. abolitionism, centred on a conversation with Gary Francione.

In a phone interview from Newark, New Jersey, Francione pointed out that the whole raison d’être of the animal-rights movement, like all social-justice movements, is to extend compassion and respect—without discrimination based on factors like race, sex, ability, or species—to all beings.

“It doesn’t make sense to go around yelling and condemning people.…There is a very misanthropic pulse that runs through the animal-rights movement,” he said. “If I was a seal hunter, I would be highly offended and I would be saying, ‘Why are they coming after me?’ Well, it’s because I’m an easy target. Similarly, I will have nothing to do with anti-fur campaigns. Should women wearing fur? No. But am I interested in [targeting] women who wear fur? Not really. I’m much more interested in leather, wool—the sorts of things that are worn ubiquitously. The fur issue is so small…it just gives people another reason to go up to women on the street and give them a hard time.

“Listen, I don’t like what they [hunters and fur farmers] are doing to animals, but I don’t like what any of us are doing to animals, and so I don’t see why they should be treated differently from anybody else. We all share in this mess. We’re all responsible, and we all have to do something about it.”

He said that although these groups give us many reasons to be alienated by the animal-rights movement, they’re not giving us any reason to change the way we view animals in any meaningful way.

Zoos in Canada

Margaret Wente says they’re in crisis.

The trouble with zoos is as old as zoos themselves. What’s good for the box office isn’t always good for the animals. In the age of Animal Planet and heightened awareness over animal welfare, it’s time to ask: What are zoos good for any more?


B.C. SPCA certifies meat.

Alyssa Bell Stoneman, farm animal welfare co-ordinator for the BC SPCA says, “If you plan to indulge, the SPCA Certified label means you can be naughty at the table and still be nice in the kitchen.”

“Chicken, sausages and eggs from Rockweld are all SPCA Certified, which means the animals were raised to BC SPCA farm animal welfare standards,” says Bell Stoneman.

The SPCA Certified labelling program strives to provide farm animals with freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being.



Yann Martel's Beatrice & Virgil


Trevor Herriot


Erika Ritter


Toronto's cat problem


Don LePan


Don LePan's Animals


Justine Pimlott's Cat City


Erika Ritter's The Dog by the Cradle, the Serpent Beneath