Reports of Animal Abuse on Kingston’s Prison Farms

Correctional Officers and prisoners have spoken with us to share stories of physical and sexual abuse against the former dairy cows, inmates swinging chickens to break their necks, or secretly slaughtering chickens for “black market” meat within the prison. The following accounts of animal abuse took place on the former prison farms in Kingston, Ontario, which had 300 dairy cows and 10,000 egg-laying chickens. We have protected the anonymity of our sources except where statements were made in public print or interviews.

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:

“[Shaun Shannon] learned quickly, working with the dairy herd, that many prisoners’ fists and feet were used on calves…

If people think that some folks are acting irrationally with the COVID-19 lockdown, they should experience the inside of a penitentiary, said Shannon. The stinking of cow manure was something that could and did occasionally trigger an inmate, or a gang, to beat on someone smelling, said Shannon.” – Ontario Farmer, August 11 2020

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.” – Shaun Shannon, interview with Evolve Our Prison Farms, 2019

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.” – Pat Kincaid, Vice, July 2 2016

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.” – Ricky Atkinson, The Life Crimes and Hard Times of Ricky Atkinson, Leader of the Dirty Tricks Gang: A True Story (2017)


“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.” – Sue Donaldson, Queen’s University

Animal Abuse on the New Prison Farms:

In 2019-2020, the first animals were reintroduced to the new prison farms in Kingston, Ontario, beginning with a couple dozen dairy cows and bull calves. Of 19 bull calves purchased in December 2019, 14 have died under “unknown circumstances” within the first few months. According to the Correctional Service of Canada, “there will be no ongoing investigation.”

In January 2020, Evolve Our Prison Farms received the following report from a colleague with connections to prison staff in Kingston: “According to the guard, the staff are overwhelmingly opposed to having animals at the prison, and they feel that the whole thing is being pushed by farmers who want access to prison labour. The guard says that everyone knows that sexual abuse of the animals is rampant, and this isn’t just historical but happening with the new cows at Collins Bay. The guard isn’t directly involved in the farm program, but says this is common knowledge and talked about amongst the guards. Their view is that vulnerable animals simply should not be there, period.”