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Woodville

Woodville

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Published by Nicholas Wilvert

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Published by: Nicholas Wilvert on Jan 27, 2013
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01/27/2013

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What can we name it, mommy?", a young girl asks in the crisp, winter morning on Saturday."Why would we name it, hunny? We're going to eat it!" laughs her mother in reply.These two and the rest of their family are seated behind me on the cold wooden benches of the smaller bidding ring at the weekly Woodville Livestock Auction, chatting and giggling afterhaving just purchased a "spent" dairy goat for 60 cents/pound. Heather Clemenceau sits quietlybeside me, eyes intent on catching a sign of a mistreated or sick animal. We don't have to waitlong.There is a sense of familiarity among many of the people at the auction, many referring toeach other by first name, the auctioneer using his position and quick lip to crack hearty jokesabout many of his co-workers and friends who are in today's crowd. Meanwhile, in the pit of newly placed shavings directly below him, groups of goats, piglets and sheep are coming pair bypair, six by six, and sometimes one by one into the ring. A tall gentleman in overalls tails themin the brief 30-60 seconds that each animal makes its appearance, forcing him/her to flee in everydirection to show the crowd every angle of the animal's appearance and, therefore, market value.Many a time he uses the wooden cane he is wielding to catch them by the neck and escort themout of the "sold" door. Other times, the animal may be grabbed by the tail or hit with a shortwooden gate to encourage his or her immediate departure after he or she is committed to by thehighest bidder. Each time the word "sold" is uttered, the animal's fate is sealed. Their time is up,they are headed to be slaughtered. Most of the bidders are simply kill buyers who slaughter anddistribute the meat to our common Ontario grocery stores.As I depart the cold, stone room for my second bathroom break, I can hear another fast-talking auctioneer on the other side of the building. When I return, I mutter to Heather, "Thedairy cattle and veal auction is happening next door, let's go and check it out." The two of usquietly shuffle out of our front row seats and out the door, leaving behind the smaller stock tosuffer without any compassionate witnesses.At this point in the morning, we are quite familiar with the layout of the building, so weeasily find our way back into the larger ring where animals such as cattle and horses are sold.Preceding the active sales, we were seated in the front row of this "auditorium", observing andrecording the crowd of men, women and children in the ring who were browsing through cratesof chickens, rabbits, and even a kennel with two lightly-coloured ferrets. As we watched, we sawmany a rabbit get "scruffed" by the people who were attempting to sell him or her off. SomethingI learned from my ongoing campaign against the inhumane practices at the Stouffville Market isthat picking up a rabbit by the scruff of the neck is a form of animal cruelty. Unlike dogs andcats, rabbits do not move their young around by gripping the back of their neck. In fact, theynormally don't move their young at all. When this is done to a rabbit, it causes the skin toseparate from the muscle tissue and cause major discomfort. It is thought to be the samesensation as a human would feel if lifted by the skin on the back of their neck. The lack of knowledge seen here is something that is all too common at Ontario's live animal sales.The last part of our stay is bearing witness to the cattle cull. Before coming into here, wehad spent some time standing and talking to the dairy mothers and their babies in the back area
 
of the building. While most of the babies seemed to be at least two weeks old, there was one whoappeared to be approximately 2-3 days old among the group. Shaky on his legs, he continuallywatched and called to the many cows who were contained in a holding pen on the other side of the room. Obviously, not all of these cows could have been his mother, but he seemed to beaddressing all of them. Could it have just been the overwhelming scent of their full, warm uddersthat are designed to provide him with life-saving nutrients and the ultimate motherly comfort? I'dsay so.My attention is distracted when a few small groups of people come in to record andremember the numbers on the ear tags of the calves that they like. One gentleman comments"There's only two calves that I like outta here, the rest are crap." Almost simultaneously, one of the calves begins to gag and ends up regurgitating onto the floor. A man beside me comments"There's almost always a sick one."As the auction begins, the mother cows are brought out one by one into the ring. Two of these ladies showed high aggressive tendencies and fear, attempting to ram and chase the peoplearound them. The second one, who slipped once on the slick floor underneath her, trotted out of the ring quite quickly after being purchased. However, she then did something that I will neverforget. Pausing her run, the cow stopped beside the veal holding pen, where a baby was kneeleddown with his head facing the exit door. She then stuck her nose through the bars and gave him aquick lick on the nose. Immediately, this little boy attempted to stand up and begin to lick herback, but she had already been chased away by the closing door. When this cow initially cameinto the ring charging, Heather and I both grabbed our chests from fear and then laughed out of relief. This rose a question in my mind; Was this cow an angry, evil animal to be feared? Wasshe a contained beast who given the chance would viciously take advantage of and causeintentional harm to the innocent bystanders in the crowd if there were not ropes to separatethem? That is when I realized that this is the exact mindset that causes all of us to justify hurtinganimals from a very young age. In fact, I had the roles completely reversed. My question wasanswered when I realized I was sitting among the evil animals to be feared, among theuncontained beasts who seized every chance to take advantage of and cause intentional harm toinnocent bystanders of nature.In the last few minutes of our trip, Heather and myself go outside to observe the snowyholding pen for the sold animals, who are now prepared to be loaded onto a trailer. The first cowwe come across is dripping blood from her eye and is clearly ill. As I race to access my phonecamera and document this, she silently turns and walks away. The remainder of the cattle areuninterested in us and we soon receive the cold shoulder. My initial reaction to thiscow's eye infection was that it was only "minor". I then asked myself, what defines "minor"?Why does an animal have to scream and collapse in pain for us as adults to feel empathy towardit, when a young child can immediately understand and cry at the sight of an untreated eyeinfection? The answer is diet.It is my belief that as long as we are consuming yet ignoring animals who died in fear, pain,and mental anguish, we are inviting these same feelings into our own bodies. Being raised tosuppress our empathy toward our fellow creatures so we can continue to satisfy our cravings and

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