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Response to CTV W5 Investigation Coverage

Posted by Julia Smith on

A hidden camera video was released as part of a W5 investigation on CTV in October 2014. It showed workers at Western Hog Exchange in Red Deer, Alberta beating, kicking, dragging and using an electric probe on sick, injured and overcrowded pigs. This isn't the first video of this kind and I'm afraid that it won't be the last. 

What is portrayed in this video is horrific and cannot be condoned but neither can it be isolated from the rest of the machine that is the commercial meat production industry. The horrible abuse documented in this investigation is merely a symptom of a much greater, systemic failure that starts on the farm and ends with the 20% of meat that isn't even consumed and ends up in the garbage.

When these types of videos are made public, scorn and contempt rain down upon the perceived “villain.” We blame the farmer, the slaughterhouse employee, the inspector, etc. But I don't believe that any farmer raising animals got into this industry to abuse animals and I have to believe that given the option of improving animal welfare on their farm, most farmers would. I don't believe that anyone would take a job at one of these processing facilities if they had any other option and I don't believe that you can DO a job like that in conditions like those day in and day out without paying a pretty steep emotional cost.

Legislation and regulation isn't the answer. There are already laws & rules in place to specifically prevent the abuse captured in this video. There were inspectors from the Canadian Food and Drug Inspection Agency on site, often participating in the abuse. The CFIA inspectors job is to ensure compliance with Canada’s humane transportation laws, and prevent the undue suffering of animals from transport to slaughter. The Western Hog Exchange employee handbook states:

  • Do not: “kick any part of the hog’s body.”

  • Do not: “drag any downer hogs from a truck.”

  • “Only move small groups of hogs at a time.”

  • And “prods are not allowed to be used in the barn to move hogs.
    Clearly more legislation & rules isn't the answer.

Clearly more legislation & rules isn't the answer.

I don't believe that these employees & inspectors are abusing animals because they are inherently evil people. I believe they have been given an impossible job to perform in soul-destroying conditions. There is only one reason I can think of why someone would break every single rule in the employee handbook day after day. There are simply too many hogs to move from the trucks into the holding pens in the time allowed. Why are so many animals sick and/or injured when they arrive at the plant? Why are so many animals being transported in such cramped conditions in the first place? Why are farms producing more animals than they can handle in a humane, compassionate manner?

Consumer demand for cheap meat.

At the end of the day, it is the end consumer who is responsible for these atrocities. Maybe it's time to stop looking for someone else to pin the blame on. Maybe if we spent less time retweeting videos and signing online petitions and more time considering the consequences of our individual food choices, we might just start to see the kind of systemic changes that are required to end this cycle of abuse, waste and apathy. If you watch these videos and continue to buy factory farmed meat, you are as much responsible for what you saw in that video as the employee with the bat.

Link to W5 investigation coverage

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