Open Letters2018-07-29T17:31:10+00:00


June 1, 2018

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

This letter is an earnest appeal on behalf of thousands of Canadians who are gravely concerned by your government’s decision to establish a prison goat dairy operation at Joyceville Institution in Kingston. We are calling on you to reverse this decision for the sake of prisoner justice, environmental justice, and animal justice.

Research has connected the harming of animals with increased levels of desensitization, emotional dissonance, violence, PTSD and other forms of trauma in humans, which are in direct conflict with the goals of rehabilitation.

Media reports suggest that the milk will be sold to the Feihe infant formula factory currently under construction in Kingston, where it will be processed and shipped to China. This raises serious questions about the ethics of prison labour, and further removes the program from its relevance to rehabilitation.

We have received numerous statements from experts in law, criminology, climate change, social work, and animal and interpersonal abuse, whose research and experience support an evolved model for Canada’s prison farms; namely, innovative plant-based agriculture and farmed animal sanctuary as prisoner-animal therapy. We have also heard from nearly 150 prisoners at Joyceville, the vast majority of whom expressed preference for an evolved farm model.

One prisoner wrote: “I personally could not be present in any area where animals are being killed. I have suffered a trauma so profound because of the offense I committed that just the thought of seeing any living thing die is unthinkable to me.”

To be clear: A dairy operation necessitates (and will involve prisoners in) sexual manipulation of females (forced insemination), breaking family bonds (separating newborns from their mothers), slaughter of most male calves or kids, and milking of females until their milk productivity declines (after several cycles of pregnancy) at which point they are slaughtered.

According to an inmate who worked on the former prison dairy farms, his tasks included “removal of carcasses.” Most recently, this inmate worked in the Joyceville slaughterhouse: “All human-consumable meat is sent along for further processing, the hides are picked up by a tanner, entrails, hooves, heads and such are processed by a local mink and raw dog food producer.”

We emphatically ask you: Where is the rehabilitative value?

Your government claims to prioritize gender sensitivity, climate change solutions, and evidence-based decision-making. In this highly questionable prison farm decision, you have disregarded all of these stated priorities.

Evolve Our Prison Farms has submitted a petition in the House of Commons calling on the Canadian government to prevent use of animals in prisoner rehabilitation programs except under sanctuary or animal therapy models. We look forward to receiving your response.

When you were at a Town Hall meeting in Kingston in January 2017, you were questioned by a transgender woman who asked if you would “do your best to ensure that [incarcerated] trans women are put into a prison more appropriate to their gender identity.” Your answer was “Yes.” That same year, you overhauled Corrections policies around transgender inmates, essentially flipping the switch in response to a clear justice issue.

As a trans person myself, I am grateful for your courage in correcting an unjust situation. However, I cannot applaud you while a clear injustice is taking place in this prison farms situation. Reversing the prison goat dairy decision in favour of a non-exploitative and non-violent model will demonstrate consistency in your values as a justice-minded person.

We understand that the decision on prison farms rests in the hands of Minister Ralph Goodale, yet he refuses to meet or speak with us. That is why we must appeal to you.

We have a truly beautiful vision for Canada’s prison farms, which will produce healthful foods and teach the value of life. Please, follow your conscience and do the right thing once again. Flip the switch on this inherently harmful prison farm model.


Calvin Neufeld
Evolve Our Prison Farms


June 15, 2018

Dear President Xi Jinping,

Canadian media are reporting that a prison in Kingston, Ontario, is building a goat dairy operation that will use prison labour to produce milk for the new Feihe infant formula factory that is being constructed nearby.

Canadians oppose this plan on ethical grounds. Our prison farms exist as a rehabilitation program, not as a commercial enterprise.

The Chinese consumer should also oppose this. After the tainted milk scandals in China, product distrust is still widespread. Feihe executives have been transparent in their motives for coming to Canada. This move is about reputation and restoring public faith in Chinese dairy. Adding a prison farm to the long list of suppliers could damage Feihe’s image. Strategically it is unwise. Economically it is unnecessary. Ethically it is unjustifiable.

As Canadians seeking to protect our prison rehabilitation programs, and also to protect the Chinese consumer, we ask you with humility and conviction to urge Feihe International to cancel or refuse to sign any contract that sources milk from a Correctional Services of Canada program.

Your government’s priorities include advancing innovation and accelerating domestic demand. Using Canadian prison labour is the wrong way to achieve this. Please act in the best interests of all involved. Protect Feihe from a tainted reputation, and protect Chinese consumers who have a right to transparency and trust.

With gratitude,

Calvin Neufeld
Founder, Evolve Our Prison Farms


The following letter was mailed on March 16 2018 to Inmate Committees across Canada.

Dear prisoners,

Thank you for the feedback you provided, expressing your preferences for prison farms. We received 143 completed forms, the majority of which came from Joyceville Institution in Kingston, where there is a prison slaughterhouse.

Your anonymous feedback has been submitted to the government and released to the public. In total, 72% selected plant-based agriculture and/or sanctuary as your top choice. Of the 28% who favoured a return to dairy, many added “no slaughter” – yet it’s a necessity of the industry.

One prisoner at Joyceville wrote, “I personally could not be present in any area where animals are being killed. I have suffered a trauma so profound because of the offense I committed that just the thought of seeing any living thing die is unthinkable to me.”

Despite our two-year effort campaigning for plant-based agriculture and sanctuary, we regret to report that we have failed. The bulk of funding for prison farms in Kingston ($4.3 million over 5 years) will go towards a goat dairy operation at Joyceville. They will begin with 400 goats whose milk will be sold to a newly constructed multinational infant formula factory (Feihe) which will eventually source milk from 100,000 goats, shipping 85% of its product to China.

As part of this “rehabilitation” program, prisoners will inseminate goats, remove newborn kids in order to machine-milk their mothers (most males are slaughtered in infancy), and finally prisoners will slaughter and butcher the goats, along with animals from hundreds of local farms.

This is unacceptable. Our government has an obligation to actually care about the quality of your rehabilitation. They have no right to sell your rehabilitative programming to the highest bidder, or to exploit your labour along with the vulnerable animals used in your “therapy.”

Prisoners, rehabilitation is about you. You have a say in what rehabilitation truly looks like. You have a right to say no, this is not what rehabilitation looks like.

We are appealing to prisoners to oppose this shameful decision through non-cooperation. You deserve better, the animals deserve better, society deserves better. Together, we can and will demand better. Refuse to participate in the prison farm program until it’s a program that doesn’t exploit anybody. 

This mostly impacts prisoners at Joyceville but we want the message to spread across Canada. We must unite to protect prisons against exploitation of ANY kind.

We will keep you informed of our progress, and we invite you to keep us informed of yours. On March 24, a large group of supporters will be protesting outside Collins Bay Institution in favour of non-violent and non-exploitative rehabilitation – for prisoner justice, for animal justice, for environmental justice, and for sheer common sense.

Calvin Neufeld
On behalf of a widespread community of compassionate prison farm advocates
Evolve Our Prison Farms (57 Foster Street, Box 2012, Perth, Ontario, K7H 1R9)


May 17, 2017

Dear Minister Goodale,

We are writing to express concern over the process and composition of the panel appointed to advise the government on re-opening Kingston’s prison farms. Five of the eight panel members are livestock farmers, making it clear that only animal agriculture is under consideration.

Alternative proposals to establish innovative and ecologically sustainable plant-based farms have been presented to your government on numerous occasions. These voices have been excluded from the panel. We are formally requesting that the composition of the panel be reviewed in favour of a more transparent and balanced process and we call for the inclusion of voices representing forward-thinking plant-based agriculture.

As we have documented in previous submissions, there is strong evidence that a plant-based prison farm would be better for prisoners, animals, the local community and the environment. Yet it appears that the panel has been set up in such a way as to preclude consideration of this option.

Given the demonstrable benefits of a plant-based prison farm, and the acknowledged infeasibility of reinstating dairy farms (see “Report on the Town Hall Meeting on the feasibility of re-establishing penitentiary farms at the Joyceville and Collins Bay Institutions”), we urge you to carefully consider the skewed composition of the committee, and to appoint additional voices to the panel. They could include farmers from Kingston’s vibrant organic plant-based farming community, experts in the rehabilitative potential of human-animal relationships (including sanctuary), and ecologists specializing in sustainable farming practices.

A citizen advisory panel appointed by the federal government must aspire to a high level of balanced representation and commitment to evidence-based policy recommendations. Given that several members of the panel have already made clear that their single-minded goal is reinstatement of animal agriculture, the panel as it stands fails the test.

We call on you to ensure more balanced representation and less biased consideration of the options. The restoration of the farms is eagerly anticipated by the public. In our haste, let us not overlook opportunities and advantages that may lie in previously unexplored possibilities for the future of our prison farms.

Yours sincerely,

Sue Donaldson, Calvin Neufeld, & Franceen Neufeld
Evolve Our Prison Farms

c.c. Mark Gerretsen, MP, Kingston and the Islands
    Hon. Matthew Dubé, NDP critic for Public Safety
    Hon. Elizabeth May, Green critic for Public Safety
    Hon. Erin O’Toole, Conservative critic for Public Safety
    Don Davies, MP, Vancouver Kingsway

See also: Conflict of Interest Report to Commissioner Mario Dion