Opinion Letters


Five freedoms for animals urged: WHS

In mid-March a group of animal welfare organizations met in Winnipeg to discuss agricultural confinement systems. The organizations that gathered included the Humane Society of the United States, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the British Columbia SPCA and the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals, Humane Society International, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals, Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Farm Animals and The Winnipeg Humane Society.

The decision to hold this meeting in Winnipeg was based upon the fact that many organizations, and, as well, many thousands of Canadian citizens are concerned about the welfare and ongoing treatment of farm animals. The Winnipeg Humane Society (WHS) has promoted the end of confinement systems for pigs for many, many years so it was a natural decision for us to invite these other organizations to come to Winnipeg to discuss the important passage of Proposition 2 in California. Proposition 2 was passed in the election that took place last November in the United States. It passed with an overwhelming margin of 64 per cent of the votes cast and prohibits the use of confinement cages in the state of California for pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves.

The method of how Proposition 2 was passed is something that we simply don't have here in Canada ... it was a "ballot" question and asked a straightforward question. Proposition 2 "Requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely." Yes or No.

In the animal welfare world this vote was of huge significance and organizations all over North America watched with interest the passage of Proposition 2 and the Winnipeg Humane society was one such organization.

For years the WHS has advocated the elimination of sow crates. Sow crates confine a pig in a crate to the point that the pig can only take two steps forward and two steps backwards. The sow does not even enjoy the simple capability of being able to turn around and lie down facing a different direction, never mind touching its own nose to its tail! Think of this as the equivalent of a human being never being able to simply stand up and turn around. The sow lives its entire two-year life in this confined state. Not able to turn around, not able to move about in a natural manner. Remember that pigs are animals that tend to roam about, root for what they feel are good foodstuffs and build nests to birth their young.

Egg laying chickens are kept in very confined "battery cages" that restrict the mobility of the birds to the point that they cannot even extend their wings to their full extent. In fact, battery raised chickens live in the space that is no larger than an 8.5 by 11 inch sheet of paper. What a life, no opportunity to do anything that is natural to a chicken. The ability to move about, spread their wings, have a dust bath and to lay their eggs in privacy is denied them.

The WHS and the other organizations at the weekend meeting find these confinement systems to be unacceptable and we feel the rest of Canada may very well feel the same. It is time for the producers, the multi-national agri-business firms, the animal welfare organizations and the governments to work together to phase out these confinement practices.

The animal welfare organizations that gathered in Winnipeg this past weekend are not out to change the world so that everyone becomes a vegan. We simply want to work with the farmers, the commodity buyers and the sellers and the government to ensure that all of the animals in the food supply chain are treated with what we in the animal welfare world call THE FIVE FREEDOMS. This is only fair; every animal that is consumed should have these simple freedoms. During its life any animal, be it a domestic dog or cat, or a farm animal, should have the freedom to have food and drink, freedom from illness and disease, freedom from distress, freedom from discomfort and most importantly the freedom to behave in a natural manner. A pig in a crate that can only move two steps forward and two steps back is not, in any definition, behaving in a natural manner.

As a group of concerned animal welfare organizations we are asking, is it not time that the farm producers, the agribusinesses, the government and we in the animal welfare world work together to collectively provide a new system of food production that raises farm animals humanely, transports the animals humanely and slaughters the animals humanely. The current system does not meet these goals when it comes to confinement systems.

Intensive confinement systems have been banned by legislation in the European Union. To-date the Americans have implemented a ban on confinement systems in six states. California is the largest agricultural state in the union. They have done it. Our country could consider doing the same or alternatively work together to phase out confinement systems by 2017.

Humanity takes on many forms. One of them is a concern about animal welfare. No one would consider neutering or spaying a puppy without an anesthetic. Our current Code of Practices allows piglets that are being castrated to have the operation done without an anesthetic or any painkillers. Is this how we want to continue?

Let's work together for the welfare of the animals. The Winnipeg Humane Society calls on the producers, the big multi-national companies and the governments to come together, and work together, to provide the five freedoms for all our farm animals. Is that not a goal we can all agree to and strive for, the ability to feed our country in a humane manner.

It's quite simple in the end. Let's provide a humane life to the animals we raise, then let us transport them humanely to the slaughter house and then humanely end their life. This is all we ask.

Bill McDonald,

Executive Director

The Winnipeg Humane Society

Police continue to investigate their own

Justice Minister Dave Chomiak has dealt a slap in the face to the public by announcing that his new civilian board for investigating police misconduct will be manned with retired police investigators.

Here we go again. Police will still be investigating their fellow police officers. That is the type of situation that has brought so much mistrust of the police by the public. Several incidents lately have shown that the police and members of the justice system cannot be trusted to be truthful or forthcoming when they are investigating their fellow officers.

Come now, there are other people who are just as proficient as retired police officers who could be used as investigators. If you insist on using police officers, retired or not, on this so called civilian board, the public will still see it as being biased in favour of the police officers. So basically you will have accomplished nothing.

The blue wall of silence and attitude of us against them will still prevail .

Lou Spakowski,


Good Friday incident reveals strength of local health services

I would like to express my gratitude to all those persons working at the Gimli Community Heath Centre, the Johnson Memorial Hospital, the St. Andrews First Responders and the Interlake Regional EMS Ambulance Service for their care and their top-notch service in my time of need.

On Good Friday my wife Sue had occasion to call 911 upon my sudden collapse. The lead Paramedic "Thor" made all the right decisions to stabilize me and with the aid of his partner and four St. Andrews First Responders moved me out of my home and into their ambulance. At the Hospital the X-Ray tech came from home and the doctor I am sure the same. And they were both cheerful in spite of their interrupted home life. I would be a patient there six days .

I would like also to thank all staff from those who maintain cleanliness to the nurses (including Donna , the only name I can remember now) for their Cheerful service. And Dr Benshaban who has a gentle bedside manner. They did their jobs in a professional manner without stripping me of my dignity.

Now I realize that they treat everyone with the same grace, and for that I am also grateful .

Thank you.

Dennis Hayward,


Water, water everywhere

Wow!! Have we got water...everywhere and more to come!! This 'spring' has become this 'waterfall' of overflowing water. Roads have washed out, ditches have overflowed and land and homes are being flooded. Our area fared no better.

So what did I do? Called for help. Councillors Ross Bailey and Glen Brooks were manning their phones, so I had no problem getting through. Help would be on the way, assured Councillor Brooks. True to his word, the public works department were out trying to keep up with the calls. Frenchie even called back, just before midnight, making sure I was OK. He had been down our road to see the flooding. Help would come he told me sounding very tired. I asked him how things were going and he replyed we're doing our best.

Folks I guess that's all we can ask of our public workers, their best!! Glen Brooks told me the workers are working around the clock, trying to get to as many sites as possible. No wonder Frenchie sounded so tired. Working all hours can surely tire workers out.

I just wanted to say THANK YOU to each and every worker out there. YOU deserve it!!

Maybe council will finally get down to make a plan to start dredging our ditches. Take the trouble spots and work on them first. The rest could be done on a priority basis. Sure it will take time and money, but with proper planning the job could get done in five to eight years. The RM of Armstrong has been cleaning out their ditches for the last six years. So ... where does their water go? Going east ... to RM of Gimli!!

Well, folks, just food for thought.

But once again ...THANK YOU ... Public workers!!

Gail Mastin,


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