Trying to engage in open conversation about difficult topics is challenging in this world of social media. The Winnipeg Humane Society is an organization built on dialogue and kindness. We are an animal welfare charity with a 125-year old mandate to advocate on behalf of all animals.
So we faced a real dilemma: How do we educate the public about the conditions in which animals housed in Intensive Farming Operations (also known as “Factory Farms” or “Confined Farm Operations”) live in a way that is respectful – yet drives home the message that farm animals deserve access to outdoor spaces, they have the right to express all their natural behaviours, and they should not be confined to small spaces for most of their lives?
The answer to this question was to create a new, more comprehensive display in our building. Our new Farm Animal Compassion display is located in our adoptions area, and it features Penelope, a hog housed in a gestation crate without the ability to move during long periods of her life; a new human version of a gestation crate so people can experience what is like to live in those conditions, an information panel about the importance of animal welfare, and a TV screen which will feature the latest news in Animal Welfare.
The idea is not to demonize anyone, the goal is for each of us to access scientifically-backed information that is non-partisan and not linked to any interest group, so we can learn about animals as sentient beings, and reflect on how choices we make as consumers as well as the urgent need to introduce stronger regulations and welfare laws can make the world a kinder, cleaner, and healthier place.
We can help fight climate change, we can allow small and organic farm producers to thrive, we can become healthier and live longer if we choose to eat less meat and we demand to know how farm animals are housed, and what access to the outdoors and to their natural environments they may have had. A better future is in our hands.
As a meat-eater, I can tell you that working with our Animal Compassion Team, our Animal Welfare Consultant and our Communications team showed me that by making a few small changes I can make a great impact on farm animal welfare, climate change, and improve my health. It is my hope that next time you visit our shelter you will spend a few minutes in our Animal Compassion area and start a journey towards a kinder world.
I cannot think a better time to unveil this new exhibition area than right around the Holiday Season. May the spirit of kindness, compassion and love for all living creatures be part of our celebrations this year.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and let me know what you think of this new education are if you come to visit.