Grassroots campaign Evolve Our Prison Farms (EOPF) is fighting a recent Government of Canada decision to invest $4.3 million in re-opening prisoner-staffed dairy farms at two prisons in Kingston, ON. The farms, which were previously closed in 2010 after being deemed ineffective at rehabilitating prisoners, will exploit as many as 1,500 goats and 60 cows. The milk will be used to produce infant formula that will be shipped to China and production will start as early as 2019. “The government insists that ‘animal therapy’ was a core benefit of the former prison farm program, using this as justification for a dairy program rather than simply doing plant-based agriculture,” EOPF founder Calvin Neufeld told VegNews. “We have argued—time and again—that involving prisoners in the sexual manipulation, exploitation, and slaughter of animals does not constitute animal therapy. It promotes desensitization and puts prisoners and ‘therapy’ animals directly in harm’s way.” Since 2016, EOPF has met with politicians, senior prison staff, and the Prison Farm Advisory Panel, collected expert statements, held peaceful protests, and submitted two petitions to the government opposing the dairy farms and campaigning for plant-based agriculture and compassionate rehabilitation on Canada’s prison farms. EOPF has issued an appeal for prisoner non-participation in the dairy program, and plans to hold weekly vigils outside the prisons, and launch a third petition opposing the government’s plan. “The renewal of Canada’s prison farms represents a unique opportunity to model ethical and environmentally responsible plant-based farming,” Neufeld said, “to produce healthful foods to feed prisoners, and to teach life skills and job skills consistent with market trends, and to offer compassion-based rehabilitation through sanctuary as prisoner-animal therapy.”
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