Early this morning I visited the Stouffville Flea Market and got a look at the livestock stalls, mostly selling live birds. I witnessed ducks, chickens, turkeys and pigeons crated in containers, in tight quarters, but not dramatically so. I witnessed them being picked up and moved into larger cages for display, handled in a way so that when they were put down they just continued about their business, not really showing any displeasure or ill effects. I saw them purchased by many people, mostly of obvious Italian, Greek or Oriental ethnicity, and placed in large onion bags for individual transportation after sale. Once in the bags, the birds didn’t seem alarmed. I talked to many of the stall owners and workers, discovering that they were from small businesses and farms as far away as Kitchener or Kingston.
All in all I did not witness any overt mistreatment of animals. They were not in an animal, free-range heaven, but they were being treated respectfully, though in the clear knowledge that they were going to shortly end up as food.
In my opinion, the controversy and protest spearheaded by Heather Clemenceau is highly misguided and hypocritical. In a world where animal mistreatment in the large food factories of agribusiness is a well known fact, why would you protest against small family farmers trying to sell their livestock directly to the public. I can guarantee that the conditions in which the Flea Market chickens and ducks were raised are infinitely superior to conditions suffered by the animals that end up on styrofoam trays in our big supermarket chains. Have these protestors looked into conditions at King Cole Ducks, just north of Stouffville? Have they seen the slaughterhouses that produce a large amount of our beef? Why protest the most humane source of animals rather than demonstrating against the supermarkets? These small business farmers are in direct competition with the large supermarkets, and by zeroing in on them, she is helping to stamp out any alternative to the cruelty of agribusiness animal factories. It seems counterproductive to the cause that she is at least pretending to support. I say “pretending” because her being a vegetarian, I can’t help but wonder what her true motives are. Perhaps she’s one of those shallow vegetarians (-and I don’t presume to paint all with the same brush-) who just doesn’t like to see animals in cages (especially cute ones), but it’s all right if they suffer some place where you can’t witness it before they get sliced, diced and presented in a sanitary tray.
Clemenceau’s worry about how these animals might be killed is a bit farfetched, especially when witnessing the ethnic, old world, customers that were doing the purchasing. I seriously doubt that any of the chickens were going to end up as unwilling participants in some voodoo ritual. These people know how to care for, slaughter and clean animals to prepare their own food. While the “Killing standards”, as she puts it, of the factory farms may be more quick and uniform, every stage up to that point is comparatively a travesty. Choosing to ignore that is blatantly ignorant.
Heather Clemenceau, if you want a cause, go to the seafood section of a large supermarket, where they keep the lobsters. Claws bound shut, these animals are packed into a tank until they become part of someone’s bourgeois dinner by being dropped, still living, into boiling water. Anyone who doesn’t think that these animals suffer when boiled alive haven’t heard the scream when they’re plunged into the water. (Not that I, personally, don’t enjoy the occasional lobster.) And yet, you don’t see Heather and her group of “enlightened” protestors in the local Metro or Supercentre protesting in the fish department. Why not? Well first of all, I doubt that the supermarkets would be very amused. Seeing a threat to their business, these large businesses would be very intolerant to any such protest. They’d be out on their asses in no time. Second, protesting lobsters or the source of the products in the poultry or meat sections, is not going to sit well with an unsympathetic public which is satisfied with animal suffering as long as they don’t have to see it. This is the paradox. A huge level of animal cruelty to bring you your BBQ steak is tolerable, but seeing relatively better cared for animals in cages at the Flea Market is not tolerable. This is the height of hypocrisy, on which Heather Clemenceau is capitalizing in order to garner a little bit of attention in her community.