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Letter to Gabriel Wildgen Are you really a friend of the pigs, sir?

Thank you for the email of July 23, requesting that Small Farm Canada magazine support your employer, the Humane Society International/Canada (HSIC), in its efforts to change the way pigs are raised in Canada and, specifically, to “editorializ[e] in favour of eliminating the perpetual confinement of pigs during pregnancy in controversial gestation crates.”

We considered your request. The answer is no.

This does not mean we are not in favour of improving the lives of hogs and other livestock in Canada—we are, emphatically so. Articles in this publication may have even helped in that regard.

However, we won’t support your cause because we are concerned—no, actually, make that terrified—that you will become a meaningful force in defining what is best for livestock. The last thing we want to do is shirttail our magazine to a simplistic agenda that dictates one way of doing things is bad. We know that farming is a messy middle ground of decisions and concessions affecting livestock well-being, the environment, community and economics.

Everything about your email, and other information on HSIC —speaks of extremism and single-mindedness. In your world, a sow isn’t simply confined, but confined “perpetually,” a gestation crate is “cruel”.? Really, Gabriel? Is a cage cruel or is it how a cage is used that is cruel?

And, instead of citing research about sow stress in gestation crates, of which I am fairly sure there is some, you boast as a participant in your program no less an authority on pigs than actor Ryan Gosling, whose credits include the Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Club, and the movies Goosebumps and Young Hercules. Unless I am missing something about Mr. Gosling’s background, he knows no more about pigs than a dog knows about its father.

No doubt you and the HSIC are concerned about animal welfare, but no doubt too that you have an agenda of finding something new to tilt at, then moving on. Clearly one of your causes is causes.

Over the years, we have come to admire and trust those people that display the broadminded qualities of humility. By humility I mean a generous open-mindedness—the organic farmer understands the circumstances of the conventional farmer, the manager of a 10,000 acre grain farm admires the efforts of the market gardener. Humble people recognize that there are many ways of doing things, and, before criticizing, they ask questions, seek answers and understanding.

Of humility I see nothing in your email or in information on HSIC. Like a sniper working from the safety of long distance, you identify a target and pick it off without concern for consequence. Sow gestation crates are bad. Let’s get rid of them. Period.

Your world may be that simple, but the world of farming is much more complex.

We don’t like long-term confinement of sows in crates either, but instead of destroying what exists help us find viable alternatives.

Gabriel, as we all work toward better ways of dealing with livestock, there should be room at the table for many voices, such as animal behaviour experts, producers, consumers and, yes, maybe even advocates like yourself. Show that you are willing to learn, to make concessions, to listen, and we will be the first to hold a chair for you.

But let’s leave Ryan out of it, okay?