Animal Abuse on Prison Farms2018-10-30T14:16:44+00:00

Reports of Animal Abuse on Kingston’s Prison Farms

The following accounts of animal abuse took place on the former prison farms in Kingston, Ontario. Animal agriculture objectifies animals and creates a “care-kill paradox,” whereas sanctuary protects animals from abuse. Corrections Canada and the Minister of Public Safety will be culpable for any abuse that occurs in the new prison dairy program.

Correctional Officers and prisoners have shared stories of physical and sexual abuse of cows. Collins Bay Institution also housed a 10,000 chicken egg-laying operation, and there are reports of inmates swinging chickens to break their necks.

Correctional Officer:

I personally know of a case where a farm worker at Frontenac was caught by his peers having sex with a cow. He was placed in segregation at Collins Bay Institution and other offenders were either amused or disgusted, and were bellowing “mooooooo…” at him for days. Just awful all the way around.

Correctional Officer:

I, myself, saw an offender in the Frontenac Institution barn haul off and strike a cow with a shovel in the mid-1990s when she didn’t move quickly enough. I reacted, and a supervisor spoke with the guy. But he wasn’t fired.

Correctional Officer:

A guard from Pittsburgh… reminiscing about particularly violent men… the topic segued to animals and the abattoir. He chuckled about the irony that three prisoners slaughter animals every Thursday, which is the killing day.

Private Citizen:

Prisoners should not have access to farm animals. An acquaintance was in there [Collins Bay] and said some inmates would kick and punch the cattle.

Former Inmate & Prison Farm Worker:

The problem with goats is they’re too small, too nice, too obnoxious, too friendly. They aren’t intimidating. Like it or not, having animals with prisoners will not work if the animals aren’t intimidating, physically. If you hurt a cow, she’ll hurt you back. That’s what it takes for inmates to learn to respect them.

The goats are a bad idea. It’s never going to work. They’ll butt, maybe do something bad, maybe someone’s having a hard day, they’ll get hit, butt-fucked…

It’s the way it is. They will be abused, they will be hurt. You need the intimidation factor to keep from getting abused. If anything happens to any of 1500 goats who will notice? Who will spot a bruise on one, or if one goes missing?

It’s going to be a nightmare.

With numbers like 1500 goats, you’re going to find some go missing, maybe find carcasses in the barns. The prisoners want fresh meat, fresh food. If they see a chance, they’ll slaughter a goat and eat it. In Minimum, prisoners have their own kitchens, they have knives and can cook their own food. There would be big demand for fresh meat. The guy could make money. It could create a kind of black market. And who’s going to notice if a goat went missing with numbers like that? Are they going to do a count twice a day of both prisoners and goats now?

It happened all the time with the chickens on the old farms. They were butchered and eaten, chickens went missing all the time.

Former Inmate & Prison Farm Worker:

A cow had a calf right at lunch time and it wasn’t breathing. There was no barn supervisor, no other inmates or guards around, nobody. I did everything for this calf—I scooped mucus out of his throat, threw him half over the stall to open his airways—every trick in the book. Finally, when I was done I put him on the floor. I said I don’t want to see nobody because I’m going to kill them. That’s all I was thinking, that I’d kill the next person I see. Then I looked at my calf one more time, and my god, it started breathing.

Working the barn isn’t for everybody. Some inmates can’t stand the smell of shit or hay or cows, or they think they’re hard to milk and they didn’t want to take the time to learn to milk ’em right. Some cows will lay right down on top of their food ’cause they don’t want to be milked. Some guys would kick ’em.

Former Inmate & Prison Farm Worker:

It wasn’t easy to adjust to being around cows. I’d been on milking duty a couple of weeks when one of the cows stepped on my foot. I began to hit it with punches like a professional boxer. I don’t know why I did it but for some reason I needed to let off some steam. The next day, another cow crushed me against a railing and I rolled a series of punches on its side and on its head.

After a few days of this, the cows would moo and prance around nervously when I came into the barn, making it harder to milk them.

One day, a cow coughed when I was behind it. Green shit flew out of her ass and all over my face. I tore into that cow with my fists.

My immediate job, however, was preparing cows for slaughter. It was my job to decide which seven cows would end up on death row on any given day. It was also my habit, while they waited to head down that ramp to their fate, to read the Bible aloud to them.

Academic (Queen’s University):

It is widely accepted that husbandry is not an example of therapeutic human-animal relationship. Rather, it creates what sociologists refer to as the “care-kill” paradox, which arises in situations like farming and animal research in which humans are trained on the one hand to provide care to animals, while at the same time being trained to view them as products whom it is okay to harm, coerce and kill. This leads to high rates of moral ambivalence, unease, cognitive dissonance and psychological disorder amongst workers in animal use industries – a widely-documented finding.

Anecdotally, we have heard of many cases of appalling abuse of animals on the prison farms. This is predictable outcome when you create the circumstances of the care-kill paradox. It is manifestly wrong-headed to involve prisoners in this kind of fraught relationship, especially when some of them may have issues around control and abusive behaviour in their human relationships.