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.
Founder, Evolve Our Prison Farms
See also: Prison Farms & COVID-19 Proposal
OPEN LETTER TO PRISONERS
Mailed January 9 2019 to federal penitentiaries across Canada.
Dear Inmate Committee representatives,
We regret to inform you that our multi-year effort to see an ethical prison farm program has been unsuccessful.
Soon, Correctional Services Canada will introduce large scale dairy operations at prisons in Kingston Ontario to produce infant formula for the Chinese market.
The good news is that we are undeterred. The world is watching and the time has never been more right to see ethical shifts in our relationship to prisoners and rehabilitation, to animals, and to our environment. The return of Canada’s prison farms is an opportunity to model justice in all its forms.
We care about you, the prisoners, who deserve opportunities to voluntarily engage in meaningful work that is free from exploitation of any kind.
We care about the animals whose lives and sexuality will be manipulated for profit.
We care about you, the prisoners, who must send these animals to slaughter when their profitability declines.
We care about our planet, which is threatened by the impact of animal agriculture; we must heed the warnings of world scientists urging us to make drastic changes at every level of society.
It is wrong for our government to squander this opportunity for prison farms to bring to life a vision of health and sustainability and compassion-based rehabilitation.
We will continue to speak truth to power and money. We will continue to be a voice for the vulnerable, marginalized and oppressed.
What can you do?
Join our Postcard Campaign to Minister Ralph Goodale. Canadians have been signing these by the thousands. We now have formal permission to send them to prisoners too. Write to us and we’ll send you as many as you can use. The postcard campaign is ideally suited to prisoners because no postage is required; mail to the House of Commons is free.
We look forward to hearing from you.
“There is nothing impossible to him who will try.” – Alexander the Great
Calvin Neufeld & Franceen Neufeld
Co-Founders, Evolve Our Prison Farms
OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU
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.
Evolve Our Prison Farms
OPEN LETTER TO CSC COMMISSIONER ANNE KELLY
April 9, 2018
Dear Commissioner Kelly,
We are appalled that CSC has chosen goat dairy over animal sanctuary as the model for prisoner/animal rehabilitative programming. Since you are tasked with overseeing prison operations, it is our hope that you will carefully consider the rehabilitative implications of the following goat dairy practices (as described by government and industry):
“Dr. Lou Nuti demonstrates artificial insemination in goats“:
Doe on elevated surface, rear end towards camera. Six men in room: Dr. Nuti instructing while doing the procedure, one man restraining the doe’s head, one man holding her tail to one side, two men observing, one videographer. Excerpts edited for length.
“Of course we need the animal elevated and restrained, but the first step in the whole process is to ensure that the area you enter is clean. So what we’re going to do now is to just basically clean the vulva area so that there’s no dirt around it. We examine her inside by means of use of a speculum and a light source. We usually put a little bit of lubricant on the outside to ease penetration. We gently push it in [doe tries to pull away and bleats loudly] – it’s a little bit uncomfortable for the animal, but she eventually gets used to it.
The other thing we do of course is to locate the opening to the cervix, so that we can penetrate the cervix and deposit the semen within the uterine body. And what you want to look for is whether the cervix is open, because if it’s open it allows for easy penetration using the gun to deposit the semen. So I’ll load the gun at this time.
So you try to put your pipette tip at the opening and if it is the actual cervix, you’ll hear several little pops as you apply pressure, and those are cervical rings, which indicates that you are in fact in the cervix. [When AI gun penetrates the cervix, the doe struggles and arches her back. The man holding her tail restrains her back leg to prevent her moving.] And as you go through, you want to go through all of them. Now I’ve gone through about two or three rings already, and I’ll apply a little bit more pressure. There, that was the last pop. So I’m in the cervix right now. I’ll pull it back a little bit and then deposit the semen.”
Removal of kids
“Best Management Practices for Dairy Goat Farmers“:
“Normal kids will start trying to stand up immediately and should be on their feet and nursing within a short period of time. For the purpose of disease prevention, kids should not be allowed to nurse directly. Kids should be removed from their dams and fed heat treated colostrum and then pasteurized milk. Milk the doe out as soon as possible after kidding. The first milk is colostrum and should be heat treated and fed back to the kids. The doe will come into milk production in the next two to three days after kidding.”
The Goat Mentor, “How to Disbud a Goat Kid“:
[Kid in disbudding box, her head protruding through a hole in the front of the box. Man uses hot disbudding iron while woman restrains kid’s rear end.]
“Hold the iron on the horn bud for a good 10-12 seconds. One, two, three… [For the full 10-12 seconds, the kid screams loudly. When done, the man soothes the kid by letting her suck his finger.]
We let the head cool off for a couple of moments and then get the other side. Again, hold the iron on this horn bud for a good 10-12 seconds, rotating around the horn bud as you go to be sure it is thoroughly done on all sides [kid screaming].
Then you can either leave the horn bud on and just kind of cap it, or you can remove the cap, which seems to work a little better. [Applies hot iron with sideways pressure to remove the horn buds, baby screams. The woman then applies oil while the man lets the kid suck his finger.]
“Best Management Practices for Dairy Goat Farmers“:
“To advance the herd production and component levels, only doelings from the above average does should be kept.
A major management decision that will need to be made is “How to manage buck kids?” Buck kids to be slaughtered under two months of age do not need to be castrated. If meat goats are to be kept until an older age castrating can be done at two to four weeks of age. Before you make a final decision on buck kids explore the available markets in your area. Which option is the most economical?
The objective of raising the dairy goat kid should be to produce a lactating animal with an adequate body size as inexpensively as possible and in the shortest possible time.
Cull problem goats before breeding. Cull does who have a history of producing kids with problems. Cull poor producers and those with personality traits that make them a nuisance in the herd.
Devote more time to your higher quality and best producing goats. The return on investment of time and money will be greater and efforts more satisfying than being burdened with work on a large number of lesser quality goats.”
H.J. Swatland, University of Guelph:
“Animals can be effectively stunned by concussion. Concussion may be induced by a bullet or a bolt that penetrates the cranium, or by the impact of a fast-moving knocker on the surface of the cranium. The captive bolt pistol resembles a heavy hand gun, but a blank cartridge is used to propel a cylindrical bolt rather than a bullet into the skull. Meat animals may be stunned by passing an alternating electric current through the brain. Unconsciousness is induced by a wide range of voltages, from about seventy volts to several hundred volts.
The exsanguination or sticking of meat animals in an abattoir is usually performed by severing the carotid arteries and the jugular vein at the base of the neck.”
“Ante and Post-mortem Procedures, Dispositions, Monitoring and Controls” Government of Canada:
“Mammary gland… Prepuce and Penis Removal… Brisket Opening and Evisceration… Spinal Cord Removal… Carcass Trimming and Washing… Feet, Hide and Horn Removal… Head Removal and Cleaning…
Ovine [sheep] and caprine [goats] are dressed using the same dressing procedures as described for bovines, except that carcass splitting and bung tying are not required. The oesophagus must be ligatured to prevent regurgitation during evisceration. Goat carcasses may be scalded and dehaired with the skin left on, in which case the dressing procedure is comparable to the dressing procedure of hogs, except for the head that shall be removed.”
This litany of exploitation and abuse required by the goat dairy industry makes it a manifestly unsuitable model for rehabilitative programming in Canadian prisons, one which we hope you will be able to prevent.
Franceen Neufeld & Calvin Neufeld
Evolve Our Prison Farms
OPEN LETTER TO CHINESE PRESIDENT XI JINPING
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.
Founder, Evolve Our Prison Farms
OPEN LETTER TO MINISTER GOODALE
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.
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