Opinion: Drowned animals in B.C. are a further facet of a flawed farming system

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Rising flood waters surround buildings in Abbotsford, BC, November 16, 2021.Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

Jessica Scott-Reed is a Winnipeg-based author and animal advocate. She is also the co-host of Paw & Order, a Canadian animal law podcast produced by Animal Justice.


Last week, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun described how the smell of rot from dead farm animals had begun to linger around flooded areas of British Columbia. He suffocated while talking about how small calves trapped in small huts drowned. And he called the efforts of the farmers “heroic” in their efforts to evacuate the animals from the disaster area.

Immediately, the response to these “rescue” stories and the heartbreaking pictures of animals trapped, frightened and dying in cold water was divided.

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Animal advocates point to the hypocrisy of appreciating farmers for somehow saving animals destined for slaughter. And on the other hand, a viral post on social media asked PETA and Animal Justice not to rush to the scene for help, demanding that advocates help with the fundraising efforts.

When helpless animals are kept in cages, huts and warehouses, and water is pouring in, the feelings are undoubtedly high.

Pointing fingers at individual farmers or animal advocates is a natural reaction. But when the water eventually recedes, and all carcasses are cleared, what will remain to blame is a massively flawed animal farming system.

Our current method of farming millions of animals every year, ethically, environmentally and economically, is set to fail. The drowning of animals in BC is further proof of this.

Heat, fire, floods: how the world’s climate affects British Columbia’s future

According to the National Farm Animal Care Council Code of Practice, which is largely created and overseen by the agriculture industry, farmers must develop a plan to evacuate animals in the event of an emergency. That plan, according to the council’s website, “should include consideration of emergency housing, transportation and personnel.”

But because these codes are essentially voluntary, and because there are no actual laws governing the daily treatment of animals on farms in Canada, there is no real need to implement this evacuation plan – as we have seen.

And the truth is, it is not realistic to move hundreds of thousands of animals from place to place and find a safe place to resettle them when a disaster strikes. It is definitely not economical and that is exactly what it is. For many commercial farmers, these animals are products, investments and their loss is probably felt more in the pockets of their owners than in their hearts.

We cannot even say that this disaster really surprised us. Extreme weather is no longer rare. Just look at the “heat dome” that struck last summer BC, killing at least 651,000 farm animals. We had been warned by environmental experts for years that this was coming.

We are also told that climate change is partly caused by the animal farming industry, which we are now leaving behind. Globally, animal agriculture is responsible for about 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations. It is a major contributor to deforestation, fresh water pollution, ocean erosion and loss of biodiversity.

A 2018 study published in the journal Nature suggested helping Western countries, including Canada, reduce beef and pork consumption by 90 percent, poultry and milk by 60 percent, and replace it with four to six times more legumes and pulses. called upon. Keep current food systems within environmental limits.

GoFundMe pages have been set up to help BC farmers in need. The federal and provincial governments have already promised financial help. This is on top of the billions of dollars in public money already put into animal husbandry over the past two years. This includes a gift of more than $1.75 billion from the federal government to dairy farmers over eight years starting in 2019, a $6 million investment to help boost pork exports, and a $691 million gift to egg and chicken farmers. Is. All the while, meat and dairy prices keep rising.

So before we consider paying to rebuild those BC animal farms, let’s think about what exactly we’re funding: more climate chaos, more economic drain, more inadequate animal welfare policy, and more More human and animal suffering.

Thankfully, there is a way to make animal farmers the true heroes of this story: by taking this disaster as a sign that it’s time to change this crumbling system.

There are other options. Just last week, Canada became home to the largest pea protein plant in the world, dubbing Manitoba the potential Silicon Valley of plant-based proteins. In the Abbotsford area, the land is lush enough to grow nuts, berries and even the world’s most expensive spice, saffron.

Ultimately, our planet doesn’t need any more dairy or chicken farms. The more we take forward the animal farming sector in this country, the more nature is going to come to us.

Now it’s a matter of getting stuck.

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