By Olivia Visser, Staff Writer
It’s 2022 and we’re still failing to treat our animals with dignity. Despite significant strides made on progressive causes, we’re still not thinking clearly about the scale of corporate animal abuse. Instead, the profit motive keeps animal welfare a low priority in Canada.
That’s not to say our country is entirely absent of animal rights. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for enforcing laws that prevent the infliction of “avoidable” distress or pain upon agriculture animals. In BC, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act provides legislation to protect animals’ living conditions. However, most laws only regulate what they refer to as “generally accepted practices” which have been criticized for their loose definition. Under this state of legal limbo, Canadian animals still aren’t living cruelty-free lives.
The Canadian meat industry provides heartbreaking examples. Every day, around 62,000 male chicks are culled for their lack of financial value. As female hens produce eggs, the cost to keep male chickens alive outweighs the profits they would bring in. Dairy cows are similarly culled after three to five years despite their 20-year life expectancies; the effects of being forced to stand all day, give birth, and produce milk cyclically result in severe calcium deficiency and illness.
The profit motive is the fundamental issue underlying these modern animal rights abuses. When profit is at the center of meat production and consumption, overproduction and overconsumption arise. Without considering the implications of strictly for-profit meat production, animal rights will never move beyond being a discussion of individual dietary decisions. The scale of production and how that scale is achieved are driven by our purchases. Choosing based on convenience and ignorance demands the mass production and exploitation of livestock.
More than 800 million animals in Canada alone are slaughtered every year for consumption. The scale of suffering associated with mass agricultural production is so extreme that it cannot be overlooked. Meat consumption is not inherently unethical if it is done sustainably with consideration and respect for the life of the animal. The present level of meat production achieved through meat factories is incompatible with this model and, as such, demands a reduction in consumption.
Informed consumers don’t need to remove animal products from their diet and go full vegan. If you enjoy meat, you should make an attempt to actively pursue ethically sourced animal products from local producers. Skipping the supermarket is a good bet. Doing research into local farms in your area and going to smaller, speciality outlets or local butchers that sell those farms’ products is a good way to avoid eating abused animals. Indigenous providers are ahead on this issue. With conservation being key to continued food supply, purchasing from Indigenous providers can help consumers secure ethically-sourced food while contributing to the financial well-being of a disenfranchised community. In doing so, you contribute to your local economy while reducing the demand for factory-farmed meat.
Acknowledging the inhumanity of the meat industry doesn’t mean we need to abstain from animal products. Instead, we should be aware of the suffering animals endured because of mass consumption and consider how our decisions may play into the mistreatment of farm animals. Animals do not exist to be exploited; like humans, they deserve to live in good health. As consumers, we have the ability to reduce suffering, and it’s well past time we do so.