I went to the PNE last week, specifically the Agrifair bit. I can sort the problematic issues with the Agrifair into two fairly neat categories: the first involves some unsurprising animal abuse. The second was actually far more troubling. I’ll get to that in a bit.
First, the abuse. Here is a photo of the hocks of one of the dairy cows:
Sores on the hocks of a dairy cow.
As you can see, there are strange sores on the cow’s legs. There were three or four other cows chained nearby, and oddly enough, they all had identical sores. You can probably guess why: when they aren’t at the PNE, they aren’t resting on piles of straw. I wrote to an organic dairy to ask their opinion, and they helpfully confirmed what I was thinking, stating that “the cow in the picture has sore ‘hocks’ and the likely cause is insufficient bedding”. (Note: obviously I am not in favor of any kind of dairies, since the system itself requires unnecessary suffering–but organic dairies are more likely in general to be concerned with animal welfare. Learn more about organic, “humane” animal products here.)
Here’s another fun shot. It’s of a calf, two days old, and born at the fair. There were six or seven other calves, all less than a few weeks old, and already separated from their mothers. Not only that–they were all separated from one another as well.
A lonely two day old calf.
Now, if you know much about the dairy industry–organic or not–you’re aware that calves tend to be taken from their mothers at a very young age so that we can drink their milk. You might also know that cows are very social animals. When allowed to, they are form friendships that last throughout their entire lives. The relationships that cows form with their babies is no different; in fact, when the female calves grow up and give birth themselves, the proud grandmother is there to help her offspring care for her new baby.
I think you can guess what my opinion is of the PNE’s decision to not only take such young animals away from their mothers–almost definitely permanently–but to separate them from each other. I also have to wonder what the fate of these calves will be. Will they become veal? Will they be raised for beef, or to be dairy cows themselves? Will they simply be discarded? Such is the fate of calves born to dairy cows.
Here’s another example of something troubling. In the poultry section, I came across this exhibition of Norwich Croppers:
A sick pigeon.
Being a pigeon enthusiast (learn more about what makes these birds so fascinating) I was disturbed by the appearance of this particular bird. You can probably tell that he doesn’t look well. I still wasn’t sure, though, so I contacted the Canadian Pigeon Fanciers Association. Here is part of the response I received: “Yes in this picture this pigeon does look sick. I am not so concerned about the feathers as the dull listless look of the bird in the picture.”
We have no way to determine exactly what this pigeon was suffering from, but it is the responsibility not only of the pigeon’s breeder but the PNE to monitor the condition of these birds. It is worth noting that pigeons, like most prey animals, generally do not reveal such obvious sickness until they are already quite ill.
There were also 12 or 15 roosters being exhibited in a series of very small cages. They looked bored and unhappy, which should come as no shock to anyone who has spent much time around chickens.
Let me out!
In addition, about half of them had absolutely filthy water. I contacted Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns about this, who stated that while though the cups were anchored to keep them from tipping over, they were not clean enough–that chickens should have “fresh, clean, clear water to drink at all times.” I don’t want to rule out the possibility that an attendant would come through periodically to give the chickens fresh water, but from the looks of it, it wasn’t happening very often.
One of many dirty water cups.
Next photo. Yep, these are baby chicks, albeit a very small subsection of what were there. There were, in fact, at least a hundred baby chicks in two open crates, all within a couple days of age, being heated by lamps and poked at by children. There was even an incubation box, with eggs in it…some of which had just hatched.
Throughout this, there was a PNE attendant standing in each crate, picking up individual chicks and allowing children to pet them.
Another LibBC volunteer, Joanne, asked the PNE attendant how long she would hold each individual chick while allowing children to pet them, and she told us that she usually holds them for 15 minutes each. Can you imagine?
Joanne also asked the attendant where the chicks’ mother was…and that brings us to part 2 of my day at the PNE–the unbelievably pervasive lies.