Farmed animal welfare issues in Canada part 1 – who they are & and how they’re treated

Farmed animal welfare issues in Canada – who they are & and how they’re treated

Today, for the Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity platform, we’re going to explore the issue of farmed animal welfare in Canada. Animal welfare refers to an animal’s well-being, both physically and mentally.

In Part 1 of this series, we’ll learn more about who farmed animals are and how they are treated in the animal agriculture system in Canada. This topic may be upsetting, so please consider taking some time for self care after viewing.

More than 830 million land animals are raised and killed for food in Canada every year. The sheer number of farmed animals raised, along with the standard harmful practices they face on a daily basis, makes the treatment of farmed animals one of the most pressing topics to learn about and work towards improving animal protection.

This number of animals is only an estimate as it doesn’t include aquatic animals, who are typically measured by weight instead of individual lives. It also doesn’t include those who are treated as by-products, such as male chicks who are deemed to be of no value to the egg industry because they don’t lay eggs, and as a result are killed soon after hatching.

But who are these animals? Most people don’t have a lot of experience around farmed animals, but the truth is they are very similar to the dogs, cats and other companion animals we open our homes and hearts to.

They have distinct, individual personalities and a variety of interests. They can form strong bonds with other animals and are curious and enjoy exploring the world around them.

For example, chickens are intelligent animals, with research showing they can understand basic math and can count. They’re also capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions and can show empathy for others. 

Cows are socially complex animals. Studies show they rely on each other for comfort and have strong social bonds, especially between mothers and their calves. Mothers will protect their young in unfamiliar situations and both will show signs of significant distress when separated from each other.

Pigs are sensitive animals, who are aware of the emotions of other individuals. They have an excellent memory and can anticipate future experiences. They’re also incredibly playful and can learn games quickly and engage in play behaviours similar to what we see in dogs. 

Farmed animals are thinking, feeling beings. But the industrialized animal agriculture system treats them like products.

Today, the animal agriculture industry is characterized by large numbers of animals who are kept in cramped and barren conditions, unable to behave naturally or socially.

For example, egg farms often have tens of thousands of animals. The vast majority of egg farms in Canada keep hens confined to cages where each hen typically has less space than a standard sheet of paper. Unsurprisingly, this leads to significant frustration among the hens, who act out by plucking at each other’s feathers.

In addition to the unnatural living conditions, farmed animals will also experience stressful and painful practices that are considered standard on farms, such as de-beaking, or the removal of part of a hen’s beak to try and prevent them from pecking at and injuring each other. Farmed animals often experience rough handling and the use of electric prods to make them move. They may also be subject to inhumane methods of euthanasia, should they become injured or ill while on the farm.

Transport journeys are also very stressful for farmed animals. Loading of animals onto transport trucks often leads to injuries, including broken limbs.

For example, approximately 20% of caged egg-laying hens experience broken bones during the loading and transport process. The length of transport journeys is also a concern, with some species being transported for up to 72 hours straight, without food, water or rest, which is much longer than what’s permitted in Europe or the U.S.

Farmed animals are often transported in all weather conditions, without adequate protection from extreme heat and cold. Reports of pigs seen suffering from dehydration, on transport trucks during the summer heat, has sadly become all too common across Canada.

By the government’s own estimates, 14 million animals suffer injuries and 1.6 million die during transport journeys every year.

It goes without saying that slaughter is inherently stressful for farmed animals – from frightening sights, smells and sounds; to rough handling and fast-paced slaughter lines that put both animals, and workers at risk of injury. This creates the potential for inhumane slaughter practices. There are many animal welfare concerns at this stage.

For example, chickens are most commonly slaughtered by being hung upside down by their legs on an assembly line, before being moved through an electrically-charged bath intended to stun them and render them unconscious before being killed. This fast-paced process, during which upwards of 175 or more birds are slaughtered per minute, can easily lead to failed stunning and significant suffering as a result.

Now that you’ve learned a bit more about who farmed animals really are and how they are treated under today’s animal agriculture system, we encourage you to take good care of yourself as you process all of this information. When you’re ready, you can check out part 2 of this series, which will explore the laws related to farmed animal welfare in Canada. Part 3 will outline actions we can take to help protect farmed animals and create change. 

If you found this video helpful, please consider sharing it.

And don’t forget to subscribe to the Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity platform and email list to stay up to date on new content and to help animals!

Learn more:

Learn ABOUT animal welfare laws in canada

Farmed Animal Welfare Issues in Canada – Part 2

Learn about the laws in Canada and how they fall short, as well as how they can be improved.

Read more


Farmed Animal Welfare Issues in Canada – Part 3

Learn about actions we can take to help protect farmed animals and create change.

Read more

First steps to tofu mastery

First steps to tofu mastery

Featured author: Emma Levez Larocque, Plant-Based RHN

Tofu was invented more than 2,000 years ago and has been eaten in many Asian cuisines for centuries! As this ingredient has become more popular around the world, chefs and cooks everywhere have been experimenting with tofu in the kitchen. We now know that tofu can be versatile—and incredibly tasty—if you just spend a little time learning how to cook it well. 

There are a few things that people who are new to using tofu should be aware of to ensure a good experience.

Keep reading to learn about the different types of tofu and tips and recipes for cooking it. For more tips check out the PlantUniversity platform and subscribe to receive free weekly recipes.

3 things to know to set yourself up for tofu success

1) There are different kinds of tofu, and the kind you use matters

2) How you prepare and cook tofu affects the texture, and good texture makes it easy to love tofu

3) Tofu doesn’t have a lot of flavour, but it will take on the flavours you add to it (which makes it the perfect “blank canvas” and adaptable to many dishes)

Let’s dig into the details.

Types of tofu

The two main types of tofu are regular and silken (Japanese-style). Both types come in soft, medium, firm and extra-firm consistencies. Part of learning to use tofu is trying different kinds to see what textures you prefer. Below is a description of the different kinds of tofu and what they are typically used for.

Adding flavour to tofu

As mentioned above, tofu doesn’t have a lot of flavour on its own. Some people love the subtle taste of plain tofu, and it works well added on its own to dishes like miso soup or a curry/chili. However, most of the time when you are using tofu as a base, or a featured part of a dish, you’ll want to flavour it with herbs, spices, aromatics, or other flavourful ingredients, and/or a delicious marinade or glaze.

Once you get comfortable with tofu and start experimenting, you’ll realize that the possibilities are endless. However, if you’re new to tofu preparation, where should you start?

These are two simple methods that are great to try out as you get started on your tofu journey:

Method 1: Frying and Glazing Tofu

3 simple steps:

  1. Prepare a simple glaze by combining 2 tbsp maple syrup and 2 tbsp tamari, and prepare 1 block of extra-firm tofu by cutting it into 1- inch cubes 
  2. Heat a no- or low-stick sauté pan over medium heat, and once hot, add a dash of olive oil. Add tofu cubes immediately, flipping and turning occasionally until the cubes are crispy on all sides. 
  3. Once the tofu cubes are nicely browned, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the simple glaze, tossing until the tofu is well covered. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn, reducing the heat if necessary. Let everything cook, stirring occasionally, until all the glaze has been absorbed and the tofu is nicely coated. Remove from heat once the tofu is looking nice and crispy.

Other flavourful glazes of equal parts liquid sweetener + liquid salt can be used with this method, and the resulting cubes are a tasty addition to salads, stir fries and grain bowls.

Watch how to fry and glaze tofu:

Method 2: Blending Tofu

Let’s make a Silky Chocolate Pudding!

This recipe is a good example of how silken tofu can be used as a base for sweet or savoury dishes since it will take on the flavours of the ingredients you add to it.

  1. Place the following ingredients in your blender: 
    • 1 container silken lite firm tofu (349 g) OR soft (dessert) regular tofu*
    • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 5-6 dates, soaked for several hours
    • 1-2 tbsp pure maple syrup, or more to taste (optional)
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  2. Blend until completely smooth and creamy. Place into dishes and chill to set. Serve with fresh berries or other fruit of choice. Can be used as a dip without chilling and setting.

*You can use either kind of tofu here, but the silken variety will give you an extra creamy texture.

Watch how to make a silky chocolate pudding:

Let us know how it goes

Have you tried these recipes and tips? How did it go? What’s your favourite glaze to use with tofu? Are there other ways you love to cook tofu? What dishes do you enjoy making with tofu?

Don’t forget to subscribe to get free weekly plant-based recipes right in your inbox! You can unsubscribe at any time.

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Eating habits pose a problem for fish

Eating habits pose a problem for fish

A tuna swimming in the ocean with more tuna in the background

You’ve probably heard somewhere that goldfish have only a three-second memory.

Like so many of the “facts” about fish that have been widely accepted for decades, it’s not true. It’s also symbolic of the many misconceptions humans have about the estimated 3.5 trillion fish with whom we share the planet.

It turns out fish can not only remember things; they can plan, use tools, socialize and play. They are far more intelligent than previously thought and, more importantly, they are sentient. They can experience feelings such as fear, frustration, comfort and enjoyment. They can feel pain.

Sadly, these complex and misunderstood animals are in trouble; and our society’s appetite for fish and other animal-based food products is largely to blame.

This World Oceans Day, let’s explore some of the ways fish are harmed by eating habits—and what we can do about it.

Skip to section:

Fish farming

Industrial fishing

Agricultural runoff

How you can help

Alternatives to eating fish

Fish farming

A fish farm in British Columbia

Fish farming, also known as aquaculture, has been referred to as the factory farms of the sea. That’s because farm-raised fish are kept in crowded conditions without enrichment where they cannot engage in their natural behaviours.

Fish raised in fish farms are subjected to intense stress that leaves them vulnerable to disease. To prevent disease, fish farms depend heavily on antibiotics, which can contribute to drug-resistant infections in humans.

Farmed fish aren’t the only ones who suffer due to aquaculture, though. Naturally carnivorous fish like salmon, halibut, and tuna are typically fed diets made with fish meal and fish oils. The antibiotics and waste from fish farms can seep into the surrounding water, impacting the local ecosystem. Fish farms can spread disease to wild fish. Most First Nations in B.C. oppose open net fish farming, citing the harms they cause to wild fish populations.

Farmed fish account for about 20% of Canada’s seafood production.

Content warning

The following video contains graphic scenes depicting the inhumane conditions and slaughter of farmed fish.

Industrial fishing

Fish caught in a net from a commercial fishing boat

To meet the world’s growing demand for fish, the commercial fishing industry uses methods that result in massive losses of marine life. Methods include:

  • Bottom trawling: a large net with heavy weights is dragged across the seafloor, scooping up everything in its path and damaging sensitive marine habitats.
  • Longlining: Boats use lines that can extend for up to 50 miles, with thousands of baited hooks branching off from the main line.  

It has been estimated that between 0.79 and 2.3 trillion fish are caught globally from the wild each year (2007-2016). According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 34 per cent of fish in the world’s marine fisheries were classified as overfished and nearly 90 per cent of the world’s so-called marine fish stocks are now fully exploited, overexploited or depleted.

An estimated 80 fish species have gone extinct in recent centuries and more than 3000 are threatened with extinction.

Industrial fishing methods also result in bycatch, the unintentional capture of non-target species such as dolphins, sea turtles and diving birds. Animals unintentionally caught in nets often die by suffocation, starvation, or drowning.

Agricultural runoff

An animal agriculture feedlot seen from above

The animal agriculture industry is a major source of ocean pollution. Manure from animals raised for food and pesticides used to grow animal feed can make their way into our earth’s waterways with each rainfall.

Agricultural runoff can lead to the overgrowth of algae, which then decomposes and depletes the water of oxygen. Fish, who cannot survive in oxygen-depleted water, either die or move elsewhere to compete for increasingly scarce territory and resources.

In 2017, the meat industry was criticized for causing what is now considered the world’s second-largest ocean dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

How you can help fish

School of fish underwater

By shifting to a plant-based diet, you can directly save about 348 fish lives each year! This includes fish who are caught or farmed for eating and those used as feed for farmed fish. Eating more plant-based foods also decreases the demand for industrial land animal agriculture and fish farms, two major contributors of ocean pollution that harm wild fish and other marine life.

Alternatives to eating fish

PlantUniversity’s Recipe Library has plenty of tasty meals and snacks, including plant-based versions of fish foods!

Try this tasty Chickpea Salad Sandwich for some quick and easy lunches, or use this clever Vegan “Fish” Sauce in a mouth-watering Pad Thai!

You can also take the Plant-Based Pledge to receive free weekly recipes straight to your inbox. Each week you’ll receive a unique and delicious recipe, like this Sticky Garlic Vegan “Salmon”, just in time for Meatless Monday.

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Plant-based popularity seems ever-growing

Plant-based popularity seems ever-growing

Plant-based eating has moved into the mainstream in recent years, as demonstrated by a 2018 national survey conducted by Dalhousie University which found British Columbia is leading the dietary revolution. The survey found that nearly 40 per cent of British Columbians 35 and under say they follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.

In North America, a growing number of schools, hospitals, food service providers, businesses and municipalities are recognizing and acting on the collective impact of our food choices, and as a result are embracing the plant-based movement.

At least 16 U.S. cities and counties have included meat-reduction efforts in their climate change mitigation strategies. For example, Santa Monica, California’s climate action plan commits the municipality to reducing meat and dairy purchases by 15% and Portland, Oregon’s climate action plan commits to increasing institutional purchases of healthy, climate-friendly food at public meetings, events, and in government facilities. 

Also in the U.S., Chartwells and Morrison Health Care committed to shifting 20% of menu offerings to plant-based by 2020; the University of Guelph in Ontario is working to replace 20% of meat protein with plant-based proteins; and Western University in Ontario is aiming for 55% of menu options to be based on plant proteins.

Metro Vancouver has seen amazing progress in recent months. In November 2021, citing a report from the Vancouver Humane Society, the City of Vancouver unanimously passed a motion to shift 20% of animal-based purchasing to plant-based. The District of North Vancouver passed another plant-forward motion in March citing the same report.

Amaga Food, a North Vancouver food service provider for several secondary schools, has also committed to transitioning 20% of menu offerings to plant-based. To date, 16 secondary and post-secondary schools throughout Metro Vancouver have also worked to increase their plant-based offerings through initiatives like Meatless Monday.

Share the plant-based movement!

Find tools and tips to advocate for more plant-based options in your area here.

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