From the Editor: An industry invested in animal welfare

Taking a stand
Brett Ruffell
August 14, 2017
By
One of the things I’ve been most impressed by during my first few months with Canadian Poultry is how invested the industry is in animal welfare. Researchers pour countless dollars and resources into ensuring birds are treated as humanely as possible.

Farms, the vast majority of which are family owned, adhere to rigorously developed welfare standards. And producers often pack educational events to learn how to better care for their livestock. “The true welfare advocates are the farmers,” one egg producer told me.

It’s understandable, then, that many producers are fed up with being unfairly demonized by activists whose main agenda is to eliminate animal agriculture altogether. It’s particularly irksome when  they use misleading footage.

Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) called out one such case of deception this spring. After careful analysis, CFC concluded that one activist organization was using footage from a U.S.-based propaganda video to misrepresent Canadian farming practices.

“Canada’s chicken farmers are appalled by the inaccurate and irresponsible portrayal of Canadian chicken production that is being used to target retail and foodservice companies,” CFC said in a press release. It then detailed factors that set Canadian chicken producers apart. Namely, that farms must adhere to a third-party audited Animal Care Program.

The messaging is part of a broader communications effort the organization recently launched. “It’s a new approach for us where we’re facing accusations directly to ensure people know the truth,” says Lisa Bishop-Spencer, CFC’s manager of communications.

By educating partners and the public about its Animal Care Program, the organization wants to avoid unnecessary regulatory duplication. “We started working with our partners to make it clear – you don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to animal care,” Bishop-Spencer says.

As part of that effort, CFC also created a brochure that discusses “replacing gossip with facts.”

What’s more, CFC hosted a Facebook live video from a farm where a producer defended Canadian farmers and talked about the Animal Care Program. The video received over 100,000 views. In addition, CFC recently launched letstalkchicken.ca, a website that educates the public on how birds are raised.

The organization now wants producers to get involved. “It’s important farmers and families play a role in promoting their own practices,” Bishop-Spencer says.

Consider Tara deVries, for example. The Alberta-based chicken producer is a transparency advocate, regularly hosting barn tours and teaching youth at agriculture events. We’re exciting to share her inspiring journey (see page 30) and that of several other producers in this our annual Who’s Who issue!

A few bad actors
While it’s important to confront unjustified complaints, it’s also necessary to speak out firmly when there’s evidence of wrongdoing. That’s what CFC did when a disturbing video surfaced in June allegedly showing members of a contract chicken-catching crew abusing birds inside a B.C. broiler barn.

The secretly recorded video, which made national headlines, led Elite Farm Services to fire five employees. A barn supervisor was let go as well. “We are strongly supporting the BC SCPA in their efforts to bring justice and pursue the people who’ve allegedly committed these acts,” Bishop-Spencer says. “It’s not just about standing up to activists; it’s also about doing the right thing and taking a leadership role for the birds in our care.”

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