Open Letter to Prison Farm Decision-Makers

Opportunity presented by CSC’s “pause” of the prison industrial goat farm

March 11, 2021

Dear Commissioner Kelly, Minister Blair, CORCAN CEO Ms Hartle, and Prime Minister Trudeau,

On March 5, CSC issued a news release announcing the “temporary pause” of its planned industrial goat operation. As a co-founder of the advocacy group Evolve Our Prison Farms, I would like to propose that your government and CSC not only pause but outright cancel the prison industrial goat farm. Better yet, I encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunity presented by this pause to re-evaluate and re-orient the prison farm model.

CSC owns a number of cows now, but according to statements from their media department, the necessary research quota has not yet been obtained and the milking barn has not yet been constructed. Since the program is already well over budget ($6.6 million spent as of late 2020) and under increasing public scrutiny, it would not be advisable to invest more money at this time into expanding dairy operations for research purposes. Instead, if CSC were to establish an animal therapy program with its existing cows and barns, no further spending would be required. Such a move would gain widespread support and bring an end to the opposition. It would also better align the program with its stated purposes, providing the same opportunities to gain life skills and transferrable job skills working in agriculture and horticulture, and the soft skills of teamwork and working with animals, without the considerable expense and challenges posed by dairy operations, or the irrelevance of dairy for research purposes, or the harmful impacts of an industrial goat dairy operation. A simple winning solution is at your fingertips.

As you may know, animal-assisted therapy is a structured intervention approach that is increasingly recognized for its benefits in promoting pro-social skills, and in treating persons suffering from mental health conditions caused by traumatic experience. First responders, police, military personnel and veterans often take advantage of such programs to treat PTSD, which can be accompanied by an array of other complications including anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, night terrors, flashbacks and moral injuries. Such a program would be ideally suited to the goals of rehabilitation and the social and psychological repair of individuals impacted by the perpetration of crimes and the trauma of incarceration.

Evolve Our Prison Farms no longer advocates animal-assisted therapy in prisons following the unexplained deaths of 15 bull calves on the prison farms in 2020. However, if CSC were to shift its prison farm model to one of plant-based agriculture and animal-assisted therapy with the cows currently in its possession, our group would not oppose this. We would lend whatever assistance we can to celebrate and support such a transition to a model that will serve the goals of rehabilitation, public safety, and the common good.

For more information on the problems associated with the current prison farm model, and recommended alternatives, see the recent scholarly report (“Canada’s proposed prison farm program: Why it won’t work and what would work better”) published by academics specializing in green criminology, animal and interpersonal abuse, food justice, and social innovation.

Calvin Neufeld
Founder, Evolve Our Prison Farms

See also: Prison Farms & COVID-19 Proposal