Guest blog by Heini Hehli, dairy producer and chair of Alberta Farm Animal Care
Anger and disappointment is what I felt when I saw the recent CTV W5 video about the abuse of pigs. This was for two reasons: why is animal cruelty still happening? And secondly, the other side of this story was not covered. I suppose a farmer caring for their animals doesn’t sell advertising.
Although I realize that these are the worst possible images, patiently taken over a period of time, even on the offending farm, such incidents don’t likely happen on a daily basis.
I’m not a pork producer, but as a dairy farmer, I didn’t like seeing these images any more than another consumer. This is how I see farming: if our cows aren’t happy, they don’t produce high quality milk. It’s in my best interest to make sure my group of girls are well taken care of. I do whatever it takes to ensure they have comfortable bedding, nutrient-dense feed and even scratchers to get that itch. I also spend several hours with my cows twice a day at milking, so I get an opportunity to see each individual cow to make sure they are healthy and treat those that are ill.
Additionally, dairy farmers in Canada have updated their Code of Practice that sets the standard for actions on the farm. Abuse and negligence are not accepted, period. Dairy Farmers of Canada and the National Farm Animal Care Council have collaborated with scientists, government experts and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies to ensure that this Code works. Our Code is well-respected as it exceeds the majority of the standards of humane livestock treatment. We are bringing these standards to the farm, and we are committed to show consumers how we’re doing things right.
We also continue to work with animal care groups, such as the SPCA, through the Alberta Farm Animal Care. Alberta Farm Animal Care is a group that is dedicated to improving all farm livestock treatment. I’m very proud to be the chair, and in this capacity, I’m able to work with all industry groups and stakeholders to make sure we are respecting farm animals. And I know that the vast majority of livestock producers take animal welfare and care very serious. We have tools in place such as an emergency number where anyone can anonymously call and report any farm animal abuse. These cases are pursued by the SPCA, RCMP and veterinarians, if needed.
This pig abuse story is a reminder that as livestock producers, we need to be more proactive in showing the good side of producers caring for animals. Whether through social media, your local newspaper, community group or church, we need to show how important it is to have top-notch animal care and how seriously we take it. I encourage all producers to help show their commitment to strong animal care in any way they can. Consumer trust is very important to us and I invite anyone who is interested in knowing more about how we in dairy (or other species) care for our animals, to please contact a local producer organization. At Alberta Milk, for example, farmers are open to people wanting to tour a farm to see what the real story of agriculture is.