Confessions of a local vegetarian group

Anthony Abbondanza
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As part of the new ‘Foodie Tuesdays’ series at Grand Orme Co-operative, Veg promotes healthy eating, exposes Canada’s meat industry

An ongoing lecture series at the Grande Orme Co-operative in Ste. Anne de Bellevue seeks to educate audiences about the benefits of a vegetarian diet.

An estimated 88 per cent of the antibiotics produced or imported in Canada are given to animals – and not just for disease treatment, according to a former president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

In a Dec. 18, 2013 article published on the Food in Canada website, Ronald Doering highlighted the widespread and legal use of antibiotics for improving the growth production of Canada’s livestock.

It’s one of the reasons why current Beaconsfield councillor Karen Messier launched the vegetarian advocacy group, Veg, about a year ago.

“The goal of the group is to educate people, to inform them of the impacts of their food choices, to raise their consciousness about what we’re doing to animals and how they’re raised today,” said Messier, who became a vegetarian five years ago upon doing her very own research about the meat industry.

The use of these antimicrobial drugs claims the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in both humans and animals, contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance.

Veg is one of thousands of Canadian groups calling for change in the feeding and treatment of livestock, as well as more regulations to protect animals from cruelty.

“I think [people] need to be aware of what’s going on. We want to be a voice for animal rights,” said Messier.

“We are crafting animals that aren’t animals anymore.”

And while there’s virtually little legislation surrounding what livestock can or cannot eat in Canada, here in the West Island, Macdonald Campus Farm stays far away from antibiotic feeds.

“I can’t speak for the industry. In the 1960s it was used as a preventive measure to increase performance of animals,” said Paul Meldrum, farm manager at the Ste. Anne de Bellevue-based farm. “Conventional wisdom figured this may not be so good. Here at the Mac Farm we don’t use it.”

Meldrum said the farm has never fed its animals antibiotics for the purpose of growth enhancement. “I’ve never used it and I’m not interested in using it.”

Meanwhile in the U.S, a slow transformation is underway.

The FDA implemented a voluntary plan in December to phase out the use of certain antibiotics, used to enhance food production. According to the government regulator, antibiotics were and continue to be added to the animal feed or drinking water of cattle, hogs, poultry, and other food-producing animal so as to provoke weight gain.

In Europe, a complete ban on the use of antibiotics was imposed on the industry in 2006.

Veg was meeting at Cooperative des Bons Voisins in Pointe Claire before it was forced to find a new home for the New Year when it closed in December. With the help of Ste. Anne de Bellevue city councillor Ryan Young, an animal and environmental activist, the group is set to become a regular feature at their new home, Grande Orme Co-operative, to which Young is a member.

Veg gathers for meetings on the second Tuesday of every month for ‘Foodie Tuesdays’ (next dates: March 11, April 8).  

While sharing tips on healthy vegetarian eating and living is among one of Veg’s main purposes, their role in reporting news on animal welfare and exposing the many debatable practices in the meat industry cannot be overstated.

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Organizations: Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Grand Orme Co Mac Farm Grande Orme Co

Geographic location: Canada, United States, West Island Europe Pointe Claire

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