For seven years Liberation BC has been proud to organize the Walk for Farm Animals to benefit Farm Sanctuary and all the amazing work they do to help change the way the world views farm animals. For over 25 years they have rescued animals from horrendous conditions, shared their stories as a way to educate the public, and fought to change the laws that allow humans to legally abuse and kill animals by the billions every year.
This year’s walk was the best yet. Nearly 150 compassionate people raised money and came out to show their support for animals. Together we raised over $16,000! During registration, walkers enjoyed delicious snacks donated by Edible Flours and warmed up with yoga led by Cynthia, from Animal Voices. Elektra painted faces and created balloon animals for the kids.
Our famous cow!
Hayley is ready to go...
Ray helped to hand out leaflets to passersby.
Good question, Gabbey.
When it was time to go the fantastic Carnival Band and members of the VPD led us into the streets of downtown Vancouver where we took up two lanes of the road for our 2.8 mile walk. The festive music and enthusiasm of the leader of the Carnival Band announced our approach and the public were greeted by posters, smiles, waves, and thousands of leaflets handed out by the walkers. It was a parade-like atmosphere where walkers and onlookers alike danced and celebrated together and the message was clear – we are hopeful that things are changing and we will never give up the fight for animal rights!
Here we go!
The Carnival Band!
...on the march.
When the walk finished, everyone celebrated together back at Library Square with entertainment by Sinead Sanders. While the raffle prizes were awarded, hungry walkers lined up for fabulous Loving Hut lunch options.
People line up for lunch at the Loving Hut Express.
The Walk was a huge success! Many thanks to our fantastic volunteers: John, Sandra, Kendal, Brooks, Kimberly, Yuanyang, Sasha, Cathryn, Taylor, and EVERYONE who carried banners and handed out leaflets. And a special thanks to Tanya and Hayley for taking photos! (You can see more photos here.)
Though it is obvious that virtual reality could never truly recreate the experiences of an animal subjected to such cruelty as exists on farms today, a study at Stanford University has perhaps come a little closer than before.
According an article in Scientific American, researchers carried out an experiment meant to give students an impression of what it might feel like to be a cow in a slaughterhouse:
They donned a virtual reality helmet and walked on hands and feet while in a virtual mirror they saw themselves as bovine. As the animal was jabbed with an electrical prod, a lab worker poked a volunteer’s side with a sticklike device. The ground shook to simulate the prod’s vibrations. The cow at the end was led toward a slaughterhouse. (link)
The experiment was not meant to turn people into vegetarians (though it would be nice if that was an unintended effect!) but to learn whether “virtual reality could alter behaviors that tax the environment and contribute to climate change.” Why in the world that required them to feel like a cow I honestly don’t know. (Learn more about animal agriculture and climate change.)
“Once I got used to it I began to feel like I was the cow,” one person wrote. “I truly felt like I was going to the slaughter house towards the end and I felt sad that I (as a cow) was going to die. That last prod felt really sad.”
On that note, the Vegan Feminist Network has written a very thought-provoking response to the idea of a virtual reality program and “feeling like” a cow:
Let’s parallel this. That’s like saying, in order to “feel” what it’s like to be an oppressed person of color, let’s all willingly sit in a prison (considering there are more people of color in prison than any other population because of racism) for an amount of time that you arbitrarily choose in hopes that you, a privileged person, will be able to relate, just so that you can care.
There’s still a very arrogant element involved here. In order for you to care about something, you have to literally be in its position to give a shit. That’s pretty terrible.
That’s why I think it’s important that we don’t conflate empathizing, and then becoming an oppressed being. Those are two completely different projects.
Anyway, we can’t all take part in this particular experiment, but there are a couple of interesting little gadgets available online from Animal Visuals. If possible you should turn your speakers on–perhaps even loudly.
First, a pig trapped in a gestation crate:
Learn more about pigs and gestation crates in Canada.
Animal Visuals also has a virtual battery cage. Again, speakers are recommended:
Learn more about battery-caged chickens in Canada.
Again, such programs as these cannot really come close to recreating the experience of life on a farm, but perhaps they can give us the barest glimpse of it.
Michael, shortly after his rescue. (Photo: Farm Sanctuary)
Michael was born on a small dairy farm. We might like to imagine that small farms are somehow drastically different than large, industrial factory farms–and in some ways, they are–but not necessarily as much as we’d hope. For example, even on the smallest, friendliest dairy farms, calves are a byproduct of an industry that requires constant pregnancy–and therefore, constant babies. Most dairy calves have a miserable fate. Females are sometimes kept to replace their mothers; despite the fact that cows can live 20 to 25 years, the turnover rate for the average dairy farm is shockingly high: in British Columbia, for example, cows are sent to slaughter at the age of 5. (Learn more.) Male calves, meanwhile, are most often killed outright or sold at auction for veal.
Two weeks before, the farmer sent a group of calves to auction, yet she held one back. She liked something about this little calf and wasn’t ready to let him go. Eventually, however, she decided that she must. It is uncommon for a dairy farmer to keep a male calf, feeding and caring for him as he grows while gleaning no marketable product. When animals are seen as commodities, it becomes impractical to put their welfare first, and personal connection inevitably yields to the bottom line. (link)
The farmer eventually decided that Michael would have to go to auction like the others. A trucker friend of hers, however, heard about the little calf’s predicament and began sending out messages, looking for somebody who might take him in. Animal rescuer Mike Stura learned about him just in time, and he and his wife leapt into their truck and headed for the farm, still trying to get in touch with the farmer.
They were finally able to get the farmer’s contact details from the truck driver — and not a minute too soon. Stura pulled into the farmer’s driveway just as the auction truck arrived. He lifted the calf into his own truck and headed for our New York Shelter, arriving at night in the middle of a snowstorm. In honor of this valiant friend to animals, we named the new arrival Michael.
Michael frolicking at his new home at Farm Sanctuary's New York Shelter. (Photo: Farm Sanctuary)
Liberation BC is proud to support Farm Sanctuary by participating in the annual Walk for Farm Animals. Won’t you join us?
Butterscotch arrived at our New York Shelter with a swollen mass on her face, which had destroyed her left eye. She had one good eye left, however, and with it she saw something for the very first time: sunshine. (link)
Butterscotch (Photo: Farm Sanctuary)
Butterscotch was one of 200 hens who were rescued from a battery-cage egg farm in 2013. The farm, unable to pay for mandatory legal upgrades, had opted to sell all their hens to a processing plant to make up for financial loss. Hours before the hens were slated to go to slaughter, Farm Sanctuary was able to take 200 of them.
All of the birds had horribly overgrown toenails and were crawling with mites. Most had pale, limp combs, and all were very stressed. We saw some cases of prolapsed oviducts and of vents so stretched out from excessive egg laying that the resulting incontinence had given the hens urine-scald. Like Butterscotch, many other hens had eye infections; some were even missing eyes…Many of the hens had distended, fluid-filled abdomens from egg yolk peritonitis. We drained nearly 20 ounces from the belly of one hen…another hen, Peppermint, was afflicted with egg impaction too severe for treatment to make a difference, making euthanasia the only humane option. Peppermint probably suffered unnoticed for months as egg after egg became lodged in her reproductive system. (link)
Hens in the egg industry–whether conventional, free-range, or organic–are slaughtered at a fraction of their natural lifespan. Bred to lay far more eggs than they are meant to, the birds wear out and are considered “spent” at only a year or a year-and-a-half old. After being confined for the entirety of their short lives in cages so small that they cannot even spread one wing, egg-laying hens are sent to slaughter for pet food, soups, pot pies, and other low-grade meat that hides the bruises on their bodies. The turnover for egg-laying hens is so high, however, that many are simply killed on the farm and discarded. (Even free-range and organic hens are not exempt from most of the problems that plague their battery-caged sisters.)
98% of Canada's egg-laying hens live in battery cages. (Photo: Farm Sanctuary)
Compared to so many, Butterscotch is lucky. The mass on her eye was diagnosed as a tumour and removed, and Farm Sanctuary is waiting to find out whether it is cancer. In the meantime, she rests and recovers at her new home. Several of the rescued hens were found to have cancer, and though they cannot be cured, medication is being administered in order to slow the growth of the disease and to reduce pain. The same will be done for Butterscotch if indeed she does have cancer.
For the first several nights, the hens slept piled on each other, not yet realizing that is was possible, or would feel good, to spread out. Slowly, however, they are discovering the joys of space. They stretch their wings with a few experimental flaps. In the coming days and weeks, they will learn to perch, roost in nesting boxes, scavenge for insects, and run. (link)
Liberation BC is proud to support Farm Sanctuary by participating in the annual Walk for Farm Animals. Won’t you join us?
Last year, our sixth annual Walk was a major success. (See lots of photos and our blog post about it!) With approximately 115 attendees and a fundraising total of $12,823 for Farm Sanctuary’s important advocacy work, we broke all kinds of records! You can also learn all about our other past walks here.
Monet and Matisse are young with a tiny bit of baby fuzz on their necks that has not yet been replaced with adult feathers, but they already had been subjected to this abuse. Both arrived with sores on their bills from the feeding pipe, and the cuts, scrapes, and broken feathers on their bodies testify to lives spent in cramped cages and rough handling by foie gras producers who hold struggling birds as feed is pumped into their bodies.(link)
See this slideshow for a glimpse of what Monet and Matisse endured:
Monet and Matisse were so terrified when they arrived that it was difficult for us to get near them. Fear is common among the foie gras birds we’ve saved. Ducks rescued from other circumstances may be wary at first, but eventually they grow comfortable with occasional handling. Most foie gras ducks, however, never fully lose their fear of being touched and held by humans — and understandably so. We do our best to handle these birds only when necessary and create environments that allow them to feel safe. Inseparable companions, Monet and Matisse already have the advantage of a strong friendship that will help them begin to feel secure in their new life.(link)
Liberation BC is proud to support Farm Sanctuary by participating in the annual Walk for Farm Animals. Won’t you join us?
Daisy and Stanley bear witness. The driver purposely stayed far from the curb and, with the police present we were not permitted to leave the sidewalk to comfort the pigs. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur, August, 2013.
I spent the summer in Toronto visiting my family, especially my elderly parents. I was reluctant to leave Vancouver for several reasons, one of them being that I would miss our Friday Chicken Slaughterhouse Vigils at Hallmark Poultry Processing at Commercial and Hastings. Fortunately we have such an awesome team of regulars who kept the vigils going strong in Vancouver while I have participated in Toronto’s Pig Save, Chicken Save, and Cow Save vigils.
The purpose of these groups is to “erect glass walls in slaughterhouses” and expose the truth about the suffering of the animals who are delivered there. They do this by holding vigils several times during the week, all-day vigils every once in awhile, leafletting on busy downtown corners, and other special events.
I was given an early introduction to the Pig Save experience during my drive from Vancouver. Passing through Manitoba on the Trans Canada Highway, I stopped for a break at a rest stop on the side of the road. Coincidentally, a double-decker truck full of pigs had stopped there too. At first I was terrified to get out of the car but I knew I had to do whatever I could to offer those innocent little creatures some comfort. I patted their noses and spoke to them gently. I wish now that I had had some water for them. I took several photos before the driver came out of the washroom. I expected him to yell at me and tell me to get away from the truck but instead he looked kind of sheepish. I told him that I found it very sad. He said they were fine and went over to touch one of them saying, “You’re okay, aren’t you guys?” I asked him if it didn’t get to him just a little bit. He shrugged and said, “Not really.” I said one last goodbye to the pigs as they drove away–3 more hours–the driver said. I’m not sure how far they had already come.
Pigs crammed in bottom level of transport truck; Manitoba
This had been the third time I’d driven across the country. I’d never noticed those trucks in the past–I guess because I hadn’t been vegan then. After this I was amazed at how many more trucks I saw on the highway.
My first experience at a Pig Save vigil wasn’t at their usual spot–”Pig Island” at Lakeshore Boulevard and Strachan Avenue, just outside the Princes Gates at the entrance to the Canadian National Exhibition site. The Indy car race was in town and the roads were closed. Instead we met at the actual entrance to the Quality Meat Packers slaughterhouse at 677 Wellington Street. The fence outside the slaughterhouse was used to post several large pictures of pigs inside transport trucks, photos taken by various members of Toronto Pig Save. We held posters ourselves and handed out leaflets to passersby. While pulling into the yard, the trucks loaded with pigs did not stop for more than a second so we did not get to see much of the pigs. But as they backed up to the unloading dock , we could hear them squealing and could see the driver hit the side of the truck with his paddle to hurry them along. Suddenly it hit me that this was indeed their final stop and I began to sob uncontrollably. I was comforted by Agnes Cseke, one of the TPS regulars, and by Jo-Anne McArthur, the photographer featured in the documentary Ghosts in Our Machine.
Agnes comforts me as pigs are unloaded. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur, July, 2013
Since that first vigil, I saw dozens and dozens of trucks go by and didn’t feel the need to cry, just an overwhelming sadness as I would pat as many pigs as I could and offer them water. The first time I saw a pig struggle to drink from my water bottle, I couldn’t help but see my dogs Stanley and Daisy doing the same thing when we go for walks. During the heat wave in Toronto, several vigils were held and many dedicated, caring volunteers came out to bear witness and offer water and watermelon to ease the suffering of the young pigs.
Giving water and watermelon to the pigs. Photo by Anita Krajnc, July, 2013
Many activists broke down in tears as they worked. One day the police were called when one of them threw a bucketful of water into one of the trucks. I guess it had been interpreted as an act of violence towards the truck or driver. We were told to leave the ‘island’ which we did for the day only to return the next day.
Offering a little relief. Photo by Anita Krajnc, July, 2013.
I began to spend most of my time on the other side of the street from “the Island” doing what we in Vancouver do best–holding a sign and waving enthusiastically at the drivers passing by! I stood in a place where I was the first person to get their attention and hoped that they would be alerted to the signs ahead. As in Vancouver, many people wave, nod, smile, or honk in response to the waving. When a truck full of pigs comes along I would just stop and point. I must admit it was hard to smile and wave right after a truck had passed…I had to talk myself into converting all that sadness and anger into reaching the public in a positive way.
Waving to cars in the early morning at Lakeshore and Strachan. Photo by Jo-Aanne Mcarthur, August, 2013.
I was asked a few times why I wave and how it helps the cause. Most basically I believe that sending any kind of positive energy to other human beings is good for the world. Who knows what it might inspire, whether it be for animals or some other issue? As far as spreading the message about animal rights, I hope that people will be able to relate to a friendly greeting and be open to at least hearing what we have to say. If they respond with a wave or a smile, I feel that we have a little foot in the door and the next time they find themselves confronted with the issue they might let us in a little further. If they don’t respond or respond in a negative way (as only a very few do) then at least they go away with an image of us as friendly, positive people, not irrational angry radicals! And lastly, every positive response reinforces my belief that we can reach people and make a difference. I am encouraged to keep working even harder to reach as many people as I can. A few people even blew kisses which brought tears to my eyes and hope for the animals!
My experiences at Cow Save and Chicken Save were mostly about bearing witness, as they are not located in high traffic areas where the public can be easily reached. St. Helen’s, Ryder-Regency, and Genesis meat packing plants are all located on Glen Scarlett Road, just a few blocks away from Maple Leaf Poultry Processors at 100 Ethel Avenue. Recently the group started splitting their efforts between bearing witness at the cattle and poultry slaughterhouses and leafletting at St. Clair Avenue West and Keele Street, the nearest main intersection. The first time I looked into a truck full of poor cows, I cried, knowing that at that moment there was nothing I could do to save them. As with the pigs, we offered them words and water. These particular cows were from a small, family farm. It made me realize that no matter where or how these animals are raised, their final days are spent in misery, fear, and confusion.
Afraid and confused, they have no idea what's ahead of them.
My sister Catherine accompanied me on a couple of occasions and was a great support (as well as feeding me great vegan food!) One day the police arrived in response to a complaint from a security guard that we were giving the cows something to drink and he couldn’t be sure it was water. My sister assured the officer that it was indeed water and when he asked her to drink some she agreed and took a swig! That was all he needed and they left.
The cows were covered in filth.
The Maple Leaf Chicken slaughterhouse at 100 Ethel Street, a few blocks from St. Helen’s, is unlike Vancouver’s in that the trucks full of chickens often wait outside, even in the winter. One day the door to the production line was left open and we were able to use out zoom lenses to get photos of the birds being hung up by their feet and then moved along to the throat slicer. It was heartbreaking.
Sweet little angel.
Video by Michael Sizer, August, 2013
I met many amazing people in attending the events here in Toronto. First and foremost is Anita Krajnc, the founder of the movement. She is amazingly dedicated and has built a powerful medium that has spread worldwide. Of course this is where the inspiration for our Vancouver chicken vigils. Anita and her team have done a great deal of research into the various slaughterhouses. They know exactly what goes on in each department, what each truck is for, and what each worker does. They have found this information through their own investigations (climbing onto the railway tracks behind the pig slaughterhouse for example) and through the book Slaughterhouse by Gail A. Eintz. They have made beautiful posters of the animals in transport trucks and created some excellent information leaflets.
The most important thing I have learned from Anita that can make our Vancouver vigils even more effective is to get as much photo and video footage as possible and post it after every vigil. The library of footage Toronto Pig Save has is incredible, and much of it–especially the footage of offering water to the pigs–has made the television news and gone viral on the internet. Anita does much of the photography herself, but is assisted by many of her team, including Agnes Cseke and Michael Sizer who is working on the documentary film Cow Save. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have Jo-Anne McArthur as a regular at the vigils!
Another special person I met here was Ross Tapp. Ross is a former worker at the Maple Leaf Poultry plant where his job was hanging the birds upside down in shackles. He received a leaflet from Anita on the street one day and has since become a powerful and dedicated animal rights activist! He is a great resource into what goes on inside a slaughterhouse and the minds of the workers.
Ross, in the middle, outside his old place of employment. Photo by Agnes Cseke, July, 2013.
One more episode had an impact on me. I stood across the street from the chicken slaughterhouse as several of the activists got into an argument with a couple of workers. Soon things got out of hand and insults were hurled. I spoke to one of the activists who had been involved and told her I didn’t support that kind of behaviour. She was very open minded and willing to examine the actions of the group critically. Then I spotted my sister speaking to one of the workers who had been attacked. He was very upset and said that he didn’t appreciate being called “fatso”, among other things. She told him that she did not support that kind of behaviour either.
My sister (R), Stanley (C) and me.
I spoke to him as well and what he said really hit home. He said, “You people preach compassion – I don’t see it.” I told him that we would do our best to encourage others not to repeat the incident. He thanked us and waved when we drove away. I spoke to a few other activists who had also not been comfortable with what had occurred. Later I received an email from a TPS member apologizing for her part in the incident. I found this very encouraging because I know how easy it is to get carried away by emotions and passion and how important it is to acknowledge this and take ownership for it.
The following week I returned with a letter for the worker and a slice of home made vegan banana bread (made by my sister!) He was not there when I arrived, so I asked an office worker to deliver it to him. She was very pleased when she heard what it was for. I came back when he was there and asked if he had received our little gift. He smiled and said he really appreciated it. A few other guys were with him at the the time and overheard our conversation. Obviously, I do not like what this man does for a living but I don’t believe we can win respect for the animals if we don’t show respect for humans. I worry that antagonizing workers could lead to them taking their anger at us out on the animals. I can only hope that by treating this man with respect there is a better chance of him making compassionate choices in the future. Who knows? Maybe there is another Ross Tapp inside him!! And hopefully he and his coworkers will share this story with others.
On my way back across the country I saw many transport trucks full of animals, one day 20 trucks full of cattle. I saw a truck pulled over at a rest stop and turned in to visit with the 1000 lb steers inside. Just as with the driver of the truck I met on my way east, this one was somewhat sheepish and very friendly. He admitted that he has been ‘put off beef’.
Now that I’m back in Vancouver I miss all the wonderful people I met through Pig Save and I look forward to seeing them again someday. I learned a great deal about the power of bearing witness. As an activist I believe it’s important to remind myself exactly who I’m fighting for and to be able to describe the situation to others from first hand experience. For the animals, I think it is important that they experience at least a tiny bit of love and compassion in their short lives. For the public, we invite them to bear witness, through our signs and literature, and hope that they, too, will choose compassion. Thank you Toronto Pig Save for everything you do and for inspiring me to keep the spirit alive in Vancouver!
I’ve written about down and other feathers before–not just on our website but on this blog. But I found this the other day at a local store and noticed two problems with the packaging. The first is the fact that the photo is of a Mute Swan, not a goose. (The body language tells us that the swan is kinda pissed off, though, which I guess is appropriate.) The second issue, of course, is with the presentation itself, which is as ridiculous and inaccurate as the pictures of happy cows that sometimes show up on milk cartons.
Dairy cows don’t usually get to graze in some pastoral paradise any more than ducks and geese raised for their down (and meat) spend their free time paddling around in a pond. In fact, many of our goose and duck feathers come from birds raised for foie gras–a product banned in many countries worldwide for its extreme cruelty.
Learn more about the violence behind down and feathers here.
More accurate but probably wouldn't be a big seller. (Goose photo from Four Paws International)
Thanks to Sinead and John who came out today to help hand out nearly 400 leaflets to participants at the SPCA’s Paws for a Cause walk. The leaflet invites owners of companion animals to extend their compassion to other animals and join us at the Walk for Farm Animals. Thanks also to Rev, a handsome brown dog and another cutie in a t-shirt for posing with our ‘Why Love One but Eat the Other’ poster!
Foie gras is a shockingly cruel industry which relies on the deliberate infliction of a painful and debiliating disease in order to create the grossly enlarged, swollen liver so prized by gourmands.
24 million ducks and geese die for foie gras, 500,000 of which are in Canada–Quebec, specifically. In modern foie gras factory farms, these waterfowl are intensively raised in large, enclosed barns. One by one, the farm worker grabs each immobilized bird and forces a metal pipe down their throats. An enormous amount of a corn-and-oil mixture is pumped by a machine directly into their gullets in just a few seconds – up to one-third of the birds’ own body weight each day. They are fed in this way for 2 to 4 weeks before being slaughtered.(link)
To get an idea of the horror inflicted upon birds raised for foie gras, watch this slideshow of photos taken during a series of undercover investigations in Canada’s three foie gras farms, Palmex, Elevages Perigord, and Aux Champs d’Elisee. (Warning: the photos are graphic. Photo credit goes toFarm Sanctuary.)
The industry has no qualms with stating blatant and obvious lies to defend this practice, insisting that force-feeding is merely an extension of the ducks’ “natural migratory behaviour”. They conveniently ignore the fact that Moulards, the birds used in foie gras production, are non-migratory. Even if they were, it’s important to note that birds preparing for migration will only gorge themselves to the point of doubling the size of their livers; the livers of foie gras ducks are ten times bigger than normal.
Foie gras ducks are dabbling ducks, like Mallards, and do not eat fish. (Photo: Richard Bartz)
Another favourite defense of foie gras fans is that ducks eat “wriggling, spiny fish” all the time and therefore, forcing a metal pipe down a duck’s throat and into their stomach is harmless. Putting aside the fact that punctured esophagi are frequently found in foie gras ducks (both live and dead), the claim isn’t even remotely true from a scientific standpoint. Some species of diving ducks do eat fish–yes, even wriggling, spiny ones. Moulards, however, are in a completely different subfamily known as “dabbling ducks”. (Technically, they’re a hybrid of two species of dabbling ducks–Muscovies and our common Mallard.) Dabbling ducks subsist on plant matter that they graze from the surface of the water, as well as small vertebrates and insects. And geese, who are also used for foie gras, are mostly vegetarian; at any rate, they do not eat fish either. (Note: There are freak incidents of dabbling ducks swallowing small fish, but according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this almost never happens; on the rare occasion that it is observed, it is during the ducks’ breeding season when physiological need for protein is highest.)
You can read more industry claims and detailed responses on our part here.