13 August 2018
PRISON FARM PROTEST SPARKS DEBATE
Where’s the rehabilitative value in prison dairy for China?
KINGSTON, ONTARIO – On Prisoners’ Justice Day, Friday August 10, a group of justice advocates gathered in front of Collins Bay Institution to protest the government’s plan to establish prison dairy operations, with milk reportedly destined for the Feihe International infant formula factory for export to China as a premium powdered baby food product.
Coordinating the protest was Evolve Our Prison Farms, a grassroots movement representing thousands of Canadians, including hundreds of prisoners, who share an ethical and sustainable vision for prison farms. Signs read “Justice for ALL” and “Prisoner Justice, Animal Justice, Environmental Justice.”
Kingstonist tweeted pictures of the protest live, sparking a controversial stream of responses.
“Wait… Didn’t we have a bunch of protests begging for the farms to come back? And now we don’t want them?” asks one tweeter.
The response: “Another group (Save Our Prison Farms) just wants the old dairy cows returned. Evolve Our Prison Farms advocates innovation: producing healthy plant-based foods for prisoners, training in green farming technologies and techniques, and offering animal-assisted therapy through sanctuary.”
“We already spend too much $$$ on prisoners…” says another. “Recidivism rates are still 35% range on average. Too high.”
The response: “All the more reason to implement rehabilitation programs that are effective and relevant. In no way does the prison dairy for China plan benefit prisoners or contribute to public safety. It benefits only the dairy industry, at the expense of prisoners, animals & the environment.”
Years ago the group Save Our Prison Farms campaigned unsuccessfully to prevent the closure of the prison farms by the Harper government. Since then, they have lobbied to sell back the descendants of the Pen Herd cows they purchased at auction. Those original cows no longer exist, having been farmed for dairy and slaughtered. Their 30 or so descendants are being offered “at fair market value” by Pen Herd Co-Operative shareholders who are concurrently appointees to the Prison Farm Advisory Panel, an arrangement which recently sparked a conflict of interest complaint.
Based on Twitter comments, there remains a misconception that prison farms will produce food for prisoners. Despite a few greenhouses, the bulk of the 1,500 acres of prime agricultural land at Collins Bay and Joyceville Institutions will grow crops to feed up to 1,500 goats and 60 cows who will be converted by prisoners into milk and meat for external, multinational sale.
Prisoners’ Justice Day is a solemn occasion to remember those who have died unnatural deaths in prisons, to struggle against oppression, and to advocate models of healing justice.
“We are opposing exploitation and defending healing justice,” says Calvin Neufeld of Evolve Our Prison Farms. “Countless unnatural deaths – human and non-human – will continue to plague Canadian prisons until we evolve toward a more ethical, compassionate, and sustainable future.”
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Protest Pictures: https://www.facebook.com/EvolveOurPrisonFarms/posts/1830972370329515
Conflict of Interest Report: http://evolveourprisonfarms.ca/prison-farms-conflict-of-interest/
Prison Farms & Feihe Connection: http://evolveourprisonfarms.ca/prison-farms-feihe-connection/
Prison Farms Petition: https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-1774
Related Media Release: http://evolveourprisonfarms.ca/prison-farms-under-fire/