Vigils for Ethical Prison Farms
Weekly Vigils @ Collins Bay Institution (1455 Bath Rd, Kingston, ON)
On June 11 2019, Evolve Our Prison Farms began weekly vigils for ethical prison farms. The following statement explains why.
Friends, this is the beginning of the resistance.
For three years Evolve Our Prison Farms has fought for a beautiful vision. The return of Canada’s prison farms could have been heart-healing, life-affirming, empathy-inducing, community-building, environment-protecting. It could have been green agriculture and animal sanctuary. It could have been beautiful.
Instead a herd of “beef” cows is now imprisoned at Joyceville Institution, grazing until they are slaughtered. One week ago today, 6 dairy calves were transported to Collins Bay Institution, where they will be forcibly inseminated every year, their babies taken away, their lives cut short by slaughter. And looming on the horizon is the government’s main plan: factory-farming thousands of goats to supply China’s top infant formula producer Feihe International.
Meanwhile, prisoners continue to be trained in killing and butchering animals at the Joyceville slaughterhouse.
Recently the Senate Committee on Human Rights stated that incarcerated persons feel “demeaned, humiliated and ignored in a system that does not take their rights seriously.” The prison farm plan exemplifies this systemic disregard for prisoners’ rights.
Prisoners have the right to quality rehabilitation that will nurture empathy and respect for life: instead participants will be required to repeatedly betray the trust of vulnerable animals.
Prisoners have the right to meaningful work that will benefit them and their communities: instead for the first time in Canadian history, cheap prison labour will be exploited for a direct supply chain to international markets.
At the most basic level, prisoners have the right to be nonviolent: raising animals for slaughter violates that right.
On this first weekly anniversary of the Pen Herd cows “coming home” to Collins Bay Institution, we need to remember that this was never their home. Their mothers and grandmothers who were incarcerated here have long since been slaughtered. It is time for the myth of the cows “coming home” to be put to rest once and for all.
As we commemorate this first weekly anniversary, and every weekly anniversary to come, we need a rallying cry. And it is this:
WE CLAIM SANCTUARY.
Two years ago we marched from this place to the office of Kingston MP Mark Gerretsen to deliver 13,000 signatures claiming sanctuary for any animals brought onto prison farms. That claim is permanent.
We claim sanctuary for that little herd of cows huddled in the field at Joyceville Institution, within sight of the prison slaughterhouse. We claim sanctuary for these half-dozen babies here at Collins Bay. We claim sanctuary for every animal yet to come. We will not accept any harm being inflicted on any of them, and we will not accept the harm done to prisoners by a “rehabilitation” program that requires them to do harm to others.
This is the beginning of the resistance. Week by week, we will keep vigil.
Vigil is defined as “a period of keeping awake during the time usually spent asleep, especially to keep watch or pray.”
While others sleep, ignoring or denying the truth about what’s really going on, we will stay awake keeping vigil.
We will not rest until Canada’s prison farms do no harm, to anyone.