“We can treat animals humanely and still grow the economy”

“We can treat animals humanely and still grow the economy”

Kendra Coulter, Associate Professor, Centre for Labour Studies, Brock University

Contributed to: the Globe and Mail

April 16, 2016

The National Animal Welfare Conference held in Toronto on April 16 and 17, 2016 hosted a discussion on how to make Canada a better country for animals. The attendees were care workers, cruelty investigators, shelter staff, politicians, researchers and many volunteers who help animals, each having diverse perspectives. The topics on the conference agenda include farming, abuse prevention, legislative change and the challenges and possibilities for animals and human allies.

Prof. Coulter states that “More humans are beginning to recognize that our actions have significant, lasting and often fatal effects on the planet’s other species. The situation is particularly complex when it comes to economic decisions and the world of work.” The Professor continues that there are people who work tirelessly for other animals in humane societies, sanctuaries, veterinary clinics and natural spaces with little recognition and sometimes little or no pay.

Prof. Coulter opines that it is the work places where the most widespread and large-scale violence against animals takes place. In Canada there are about 14 million animals that are loved as companion animals; but Statistics Canada informs that 700 million farm animals are killed each year. Most Canadians do not understand what happens inside today’s factory farms and slaughterhouses. It is bad for the workers and the environment; but worse for animals. “Understanding the truth is a much needed first step as we confront the real consequences of

our choices”, she adds, and now is the time to eliminate damaging practices and to grow the economy in humane ways, notions which are not incompatible.

Prof. Coulter sees significant potential to create “humane jobs”, that is, work that benefits both people and animals. Workers like to earn a decent income and, if given a choice, almost everyone would choose to help other beings rather than harming them. The task at hand is “to support and invest in positive employment sectors and to make humane jobs a part of our political and economic plans. Possibilities exist in health care, cruelty prevention and investigations, conservation, humane education, tourism and other sectors – including agriculture and food production.”

In 2015, the Vancouver Humane Society commissioned a poll and found that 12 million Canadians have stopped eating animals or want to reduce their consumption. The Professor continues: “The demand for ethical and healthy alternatives is growing and with that comes the potential to expand and create cruelty-free farming and food businesses. Her position is that there are clear opportunities for people of various backgrounds and skills in both public and private sectors in the development, implementation and regulation of humane jobs. The Professor adds that there are lessons from around the world and there are uniquely Canadian opportunities. A fertile ground can be created by the public sector for such innovation by shifting subsidies away from such examples as fur farming, commercial seal hunting and industrial animal agriculture toward ethical and sustainable avenues that will create humane jobs. Prof. Coulter concludes by adding that there are animal advocates who often say that, to decide if something is humane, first determine if you would want it done to you. “Such a commitment offers clear guidance about where we ought to go and grow.”