The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has released some alarming findings from a report commissioned to look at the wide-ranging impacts of Canada's animal agriculture practices.
What's On Your Plate? The Hidden Costs of Industrial Animal Agriculture exposes the destructive impacts of intensive livestock operations (ILOs) on our health, the environment, animal welfare and rural Canada. "Intensive livestock operations or ILOs are producing drug resistant super bugs, destroying our planet's life support system and transforming the social fabric of our rural communities" says Melissa Matlow, WSPA Campaigns Manager, Humane and Sustainable Agriculture.
The report also exposes the real costs of our food. We are seeing the results of our broken system through the escalation of food safety and public health issues. "Food-borne illnesses are costing our healthcare system between $12 and $14 billion annually", says report contributor Dr. Eva Pip. Animal agriculture uses more land and water than any other human activity. "The running of ILOs also involves significant energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions", notes Dr. Tony Weis.
ILOs are costing Canadian tax directly as well. As Darrin Qualman points out, "Government of Canada data shows that hog ILOs couldn't exist without huge tax-funded subsidies". Farm animals are paying a high price too. They suffer painful mutilations, bred to grow faster and crammed into small cages, all to make ILOs possible. "There is solid evidence that our industrial farming practices are causing acute suffering for animals," concludes Dr. Ian Duncan.
The huge amounts of manure from ILOs contain antibiotic residues, heavy metals and pathogens (like E. coli). When applied on to fields or illegally dumped in ditches, these toxins end up in our drinking water and on crops. It also flows into lakes and rivers, killing fish
Non-therapeutic use of antibiotics is causing drug resistant super bugs to be found on ILOs in manure and in groundwater near fields — risking the effectiveness of live-saving medicines
ILOs are causing species loss, soil erosion and lake and river pollution
Tax-payers are subsidizing the largest industrial farms. Hog farms with annual revenues over $1million collected 72% of the subsidies in 2009. Since 1996, Canadians have given nearly $4 billion to subsidize the hog industry
ILOs have caused the hollowing out of rural communities as increasing debt, diminished quality of life and soaring unemployment mean businesses, people and infrastructure are abandoning these areas
Painful mutilations done to farm animals (beak severing, hot branding, teeth breaking, etc) without anesthetic would be illegal if performed on a cat or dog and are purely surgical solution to human-made problems
WSPA is calling for changes by all levels of government to policies and practices that will safe-guard the health of Canadians, protect our environment, revitalize rural communities and improve the lives of farm animal across the country.
Phase out painful mutilations (de-beaking, castration, etc) performed without anaesthetic or require anaesthetic be given
Support the Canadian Medical Association’s call to require veterinary prescriptions for all agriculture antibiotic use
Work with industry and farmers to end the worst confinement systems (battery cages, sow stalls, veal crates, etc.)
Redirect farm subsidies to support family farmers and to encourage more humane and sustainable farming practice
Regulate industrial livestock operations like other major polluting industries
Pass a new federal law requiring labelling that would identify production methods to help Canadian consumers choose free-range, local and antibiotic free meat, milk and eggs