According to an article today's Winnipeg Free Press, the charges laid against the farmers in Notre Dame de Lourdes included (among others):
- failure to provide adequate food and water to more than 2,000 pigs
- failing to provide adequate medical attention to hundreds of wounded or ill animals
- confining more than 2,400 animals in a space with inadequate ventilation, according to court documents
I know that vegan purists and hardcore animal rights advocates who don't have any use for "welfarism" might argue that punishing animal abusers misses the point: All exploitation of animals must end. Punishing the abusers soothes the public into believing that justice is being served and everything is going to be OK. I get it. I understand the concern.
But for years, the justice system has traditionally let animal abusers off the hook. Authorities looked the other way. The worst abusers never even got a slap on the wrist. People were allowed to do pretty much anything they wanted to animals without facing any consequences for their actions.
Things are changing. There is a heightened consciousness about the need to end animal suffering. Rather than condemning the "gradualist" approach, we should adopt the view that every step in the right direction is a good thing. Improving the quality of life for animals is essential, even if those improvements do not entail dismantling the factory farm system tomorrow (which should happen, and it's important for us to keep saying, over and over and over, that it should happen, until we're blue in the face).
Something is better than nothing, though. We as vegans and animal rights activists can insist on radical changes, but those aren't going to occur overnight. Seeing harmful individuals - like the hog farmers in Winnipeg - appear to be getting the punishment they so richly deserve is extremely encouraging.