Central Lambton farmers ask animal rights author pointed questions

Author Sonia Faruqui listens as library patrons and farmers talk about whether the agriculture industry should consider alternatives to their livestock operations.

Sonia Faruqi has spent time with farmers, but never quite like this.

The author of Project Animal Farm: An Accidental Journey into the Secret World of Farming and the Truth About Our Food came to Petrolia Saturday to discuss what she found when she went to work for a dairy farmer after being laid off from her Wall Street job and decided to travel the world to see the condition animals live in on farms.

But Faruqi didn’t have much time to discuss or even read a passage from her book as farmers from almost every major farm groups in the area sat in the audience and tried to get their view of agriculture across.

Watford area pork producer Karen Sanders told Faruqi she paints farmers in a bad light. “I see this as an attack…that we don’t care about our animals. That’s not fair. I’ve had employees crying on my shoulders because they didn’t know how to help an animal.

“I don’t have a PhD, I don’t have a masters, but I have lots of experience and it is kind of insulting that you think we are not caring.”

Sanders added cages for pigs are for their safety and farmers do what they do based on scientific research.

Faruqi, who travelled to farms around the world didn’t agree saying she had seen pigs biting the bars of cages trying to get out. “To a lot of consumers, that’s not okay. The question is what is a good life for an animal…that’s not a good life for an animal.”

Carolynne Griffith, a Brooke-Alvinston egg producer who is with the Egg Producers of Ontario, pointed out that farmers care for their animals but are also a business and are aware they “serve and feed people as economically as possible and at the same time restoring the environment.” Griffith pointed out that modern agriculture uses far fewer resources than it used to produce more food for the world.

“We try to do the right thing so you can buy food.”

Faruqi says the point of her book was not to attack farmers but to open a discussion about how animals raised for food production are treated. “I’m not saying we need to go back to a time of backyard farming with 10 or 20 animals but we can move forward together,” she said as she tried to rap up the meeting to move on to Sarnia for another presentation.

It was a discussion Mark Heinle of Petrolia would have liked to have with the author. “I grew up in the country. I know what farms are; I came her to find other options…how we can do things differently …it would be good to open that conversation up.”