Canadian Poultry Magazine

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Perspectives: Combating the vegan activist agenda

March 13, 2018
By Michael Laliberté

Increasingly, vegan activists are targeting family farms. Photo: Chicken Farmers of Canada

The chicken industry, along with foodservice and retail, has been in the sights of vegan activists. Their mission, it seems, is to misinform and manipulate Canadians about how we do our work.

We’re competing with a very connected world. Most of Gen Z, the next generation of consumer, own smartphones, have an attention span of less than eight seconds and spend 10 hours or more online every day. And, worryingly, they’re starting to listen to what’s being said about us. When activist videos hit these channels, our ability to tell the truth – the real truth – about our industry gets hampered.

Sure, these activists claim to be advocating for change to help industry practices improve – but that’s not the real agenda. Their real agenda (and they’ll tell you so if you press) is to eliminate meat from the Canadian diet. The objective is to make it more difficult, more frustrating and more expensive for chicken farmers to do their jobs and, ultimately, make it too expensive for consumers.

The reality is that they are not honestly seeking science-based evolution in the best interests of animal welfare. Instead, they are making attempt after attempt to destroy the livelihoods of Canada’s farmers, preach rhetoric filled with misinformation and dictate what Canadians can and can’t eat.

It’s maddening and frustrating for all players in Canadian chicken to be constantly inundated with malicious misinformation and sweeping generalizations that undercut some of the hardest working people in the country.

Chicken Farmers of Canada has been working tirelessly to dispel these myths at the source. We’re also working to ensure that our partners throughout the value chain know that they don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to animal care.

We have a program – it’s a solid program, and it’s the only one that can be administered on every chicken farm in Canada. No other program can achieve this reach.

Having multiple animal care standards across the value chain diminishes them all. Farmers need to make it clear that there is one standard for animal care in Canadian chicken.

We believe in our program. Farmers need to believe in it, too. It’s never easy to have to account for what we do all the time – but that accountability comes with security of knowing that you are being supported, defended and promoted by your provincial and national chicken boards.

More importantly, it means that you’re doing the right thing. It also shows you’re willing to say, in the middle of the accusations and mistruths being fired from all sides: “Not on my farm.”

Those are four powerful words. However, those four powerful words get countered with two more: “Prove it.”

The Chicken Farmers of Canada Animal Care Program lets you prove it. The program helps you stand up and demonstrate (to your customers, your end consumers, to government, to everyone) that you are doing the right thing. We need farmers to back, support and endorse their Animal Care Program.

We all buy food for our own reasons – cost, value, nutrition, convenience, etc. We have a great deal of choice in the meat we buy. Whether you choose organic, free-range, vegetarian-grain-fed, specialty breeds or conventionally raised, consumers have solid choices. They shouldn’t be choosing based on one animal care program or another.

It comes down to this: Farmers are already adapting to the changing Canadian palate. However, we refuse to follow vegan activists masquerading as consumers, who ultimately want to tell Canadians what not to eat and to destroy the livelihoods of farmers in the process. Especially when we have an excellent program to prove it.

Michael Laliberté is the recently appointed executive director of Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC). Prior to replacing Mike Dungate, who had held the position for over 20 years, Laliberté had been with CFC for 26 years in various roles.