Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 2, Edition 15

Red Deer fallout: Stepping up industry leadership

Posted: October 23, 2014

Serious allegations need a clear response

Dr. Angela Greter is Acting Executive Director of Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC)

'Boobytrap journalism.' 'Gotcha campaigns'. A 'pile on,' 'paint-all-with-one-brush,' attack on the image of an industry.

However hidden video exposes driven by animal rights groups are characterized, for even the most cynical that should in no way minimize the serious issues raised.

By now some of the surprise and shock value of these efforts is lost — agriculture has come to expect this type of revealing video effort to make news every six months or so – but it's still always a big blow to the industry and a major source of frustration. For all the progress that has been made there are still examples of failures that give the industry a bad name.

Disturbing images

The latest example making news is the case of alleged animal abuse at the Western Hog Exchange facility in Red Deer, as shown in undercover video released by the Mercy for Animals organization.

As various major media outlets have reported, the organization says it had an employee work undercover at the facility for 10 weeks, from May 29 to August 11. In that time, the worker witnessed and documented numerous instances of alleged animal abuse.

The information has sparked firings at the facility and an internal review announced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Speaking out on a tough issue

Agriculture has been criticized in the past for often standing still or responding defensively when these types of hidden videos are released. However it's also clear lessons are being learned and responses are improving.

One key organization speaking out in the aftermath of Red Deer is Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC), which released a "Statement on alleged animal abuse at Red Deer facility."

AFAC - founded by Alberta livestock producers - is the farm animal care organization that represents all major livestock producer organizations in Alberta. Its vision is that all farm animals in Alberta are respected, well cared for and experience a high state of welfare.

AFAC statement

The statement says AFAC is concerned about the allegations and supports efforts by Western Hog Exchange and CFIA to address the matter and identify solutions to prevent future incidences.

"AFAC believes all animals should be treated with respect and compassion according to responsible and humane animal care practices throughout their lifetimes," says Dr. Angela Greter, Acting Executive Director of AFAC. "When this principle is violated, clear and timely action must be taken to appropriately deal with the situation. This must include appropriate consequences for those directly involved in any abuse. Lessons from such incidents must also be embraced and turned into actions to support continual improvement efforts throughout livestock industries.

"We cannot tolerate any failure to uphold the high standards of animal welfare that so many industry organizations and individual producers have worked hard to establish and continually improve."

Greter says AFAC encourages anyone witnessing or having evidence of animal abuse to notify the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and provincial or federal authorities. AFAC, through Alberta's livestock industry, also offers the ALERT Line - a dedicated help line and resource team available to anyone to report livestock care concerns in the province: 1-800-506-2273.

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