Toronto’s First Black Councillor and Deputy Mayor Honored

William Peyton Hubbard, the son of American slaves who in 1837 fled Virginia via the Underground Railroad to take up farming in Canada, was Toronto’s first Black elected City Councillor, representing one of the city’s wealthiest and whitest wards and often presiding over Council as Acting Mayor. Today, as dignitaries including Mayor John Tory, Dub Poet Lillian Allen and Hubbard’s descendants gathered to honor him by naming an elegant park in his honor, the strongest message was that Hubbard’s most enduring legacy was not that he broke the color bar but that he used his status to fight for public ownership of Toronto`s water and hydroelectricity services, and advocated for wronged citizens, whatever their ethnicity.

William Peyton Hubbard, Toronto City Councillor

    William Peyton Hubbard

In 1842, Hubbard was born in a cabin close to Toronto, where a small Black community lived peaceably but not equally, with some public facilities such as hotels and restaurants refusing to admit them. W.P., as he was known, attended the non-segregated Toronto Normal School but became a professional baker and not a teacher. Later, to accommodate the needs of his business, he invented and patented a portable, ‘practically fire-proof’ and much smaller commercial oven to replace the massive brick ovens used in large establishments. The oven was a hit, and sold throughout Canada and the U.S.

Now married to his childhood sweetheart, Julia Luckett, and inspired by his father`s mantra of ‘self-improvement,’ Hubbard earned his living baking cakes and was an astute businessman. He changed careers sixteen years later, after his uncle pleaded with him to join his livery business because it was so difficult to find sober drivers. One day, as he manoeuvred his hansom along a treacherous winter road, Hubbard spotted an overturned cab and a man in need of assistance near the icy Don River. He leapt down to help, a charitable act that would transform his life and set him on the trajectory to public office.

The man he had rescued was the renowned George Brown, a Father of Confederation and a founding member of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada, whose members had helped fugitives using the Underground Railroad to reach Canada. Brown was also a passionate reformist politician and owner-editor of the powerful Globe and Mail newspaper. Brown was so struck by Hubbard`s reformist beliefs, intelligence and energy that he urged him to run for political office.

In 1893, aged 51, Hubbard took the plunge and ran in the municipal elections for Ward 4, an enclave of fine homes and mansions, and lost by a mere seven votes. Encouraged, he ran again in 1894 and won the first of 15 elections to Toronto City Council. His elite constituents had just elected Toronto`s first Black politician.

Hubbard, however, celebrated his election less as a victory for Black progress than as an opportunity to press for the causes he had long espoused. “I have always felt that I am a representative of a race hitherto despised, but if given a fair opportunity would be able to command esteem,” he confided to his best friend, Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott, Canada`s first Black physician, whose daughter married his son, Frederick Langdon Hubbard.

And command esteem he did, impressing his fellow Councillors with his impeccable research and eloquence, and his fearless attacks on corruption. Thanks to his association with George Brown, Hubbard also understood the value of enlisting the press to help further his political goals.

Even with his family, who speak wryly about his interminable ‘speechifying’ at the dinner table, Hubbard did not refer to himself as a champion of Black rights. His measure of a good society was equality and fairness, and he sought to shape Toronto in that image. He supported the House of Industry and Social Improvements, modeled on humane principles quite unlike the poverty-punishing Victorian workhouses it replaced. Hubbard advocated for Jews, demanding that “steps be taken to prohibit attacks being made on the Jewish religion,” and he rallied to help Chinese small laundry owners facing the vitriol and vengeance of more powerful commercial interests.


Hubbard’s legislative legacy includes 100 initiatives for improving city services and infrastructure, including acquiring land for parks, but his most significant and far-reaching accomplishment was to champion a policy of public ownership of Toronto’s water and hydro facilities. The cost of these services in the hands of private companies was prohibitive, he argued, though this stance cost him more than one election because his constituents strongly supported and in some cases were owners or associates of those private companies.

Hubbard persisted. He used his appointment to the Toronto Board of Control, the city’s executive, to campaign to make it an elective body. He then won subsequent Board elections and was named its vice-chairman. And in the city where such posh venues as the Royal York Hotel still rejected Black guests, Hubbard presided as Acting Mayor when the mayor was absent.


W.P. Hubbard House, 660 Broadview Ave.


In his personal life, Hubbard was a devout Anglican, and a member of Black community groups such as the Home Service Association and the Musical and Literary Society of Toronto. In politics, he forged strategic alliances, notably with Adam Beck, Mayor of London, Ontario and a Member of the Provincial Legislature, because Beck shared his vision of publicly-owned utilities. Together Hubbard and Beck succeeded in creating the Toronto Hydro-Electric System and the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario. For this and other endeavors, Beck was knighted. Hubbard, whose work on behalf of fairer consumer pricing had cost him several elections, was named a Justice of the Peace for York County.

In 1913 Hubbard, then 71, was re-elected to Council but soon retired to care for his ailing wife. He remained in their home, a splendid brick house very near Hubbard Park, until his death in 1935, when at 93 he was Toronto’s ‘Grand Old Man’ and its documented oldest native-born citizen, and so admired that public buildings flew their flags at half-mast in mourning. Eight decades later, William Peyton Hubbard’s legacy has again been honored in the city he did so much to improve, and that Dub Poet Lillian Allen described as “an experiment gone grand.”


W.P. Hubbard at 89

                                        W.P. Hubbard at 89

Hubbard family at ribbon-cutting ceremony

            Hubbard family at ribbon-cutting ceremony


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The Lucky Pigs Died First

An early morning transport run to Fearmans Pork Inc. gave 37 of its 180 porcine passengers the first and only lucky break of their short, miserable lives by killing them just outside the slaughterhouse. When the truck, driven by an unnamed 25-year-old now charged with careless driving, flipped over and smashed into the pavement, the luckiest pigs died instantly. Others took longer, their high-pitched screams piercing the air as they flailed and gasped and struggled despite broken limbs and internal injuries to free themselves from the weight of scores of other pigs crushing them.

         Overturned truck Fearmans Pork Inc. Oct. 5, 2016

Steve Jenkins, director of Happily Ever Esther Sanctuary in nearby Campbellville, Ontario, declared that “In the four years I have known Esther, [his four-year-old, 600-pound house pig, rescued as a piglet] I have never heard the noises I heard coming from those pigs today. It was sheer terror, and I will never forget it.”

Esther lives with two humans and several dogs

Esther lives with humans, dogs and cats

Some pigs fell off the downed truck and wandered, at first tentatively and then joyously as, for the first time in their lives, they felt the dew-dampened grass under their hooves and the warmth of the rising sun on their bristly backs. The grievously injured simply sank down, helpless. One mottled brownish pig, downed but still curious, raised her snout up to touch that of a pink pig who hovered beside her, nuzzling her.


Bonnie is comforted by pink pig


“Bonnie,” as Toronto Pig Save witnesses named her, also inspired a slaughterhouse worker to commit the same crime of compassion – giving a drink of water to a doomed pig – that led to the charge of criminal mischief against Toronto Pig Save founder Anita Krajnc, whose trial is ongoing.

While Bonnie lay there, dozens of emergency responders worked to remove the pigs still imprisoned in the truck. Though the police reported that the process was performed “safely and humanely,” Animal Justice lawyers argue that videos of the tortuous process suggest otherwise. The bloodied and traumatized pigs were prodded with long paddles to step over and around downed and dead pigs and down a short ramp to the ground, and even those with visible injuries including rectal prolapses were swatted along into Fearmans  slaughterhouse. A very few, revelling in the miracle of grass and sunshine, trotted innocently toward impending slaughter.

During the hours-long extraction from the truck and the death march that followed, downed pigs suffered unattended under the hot sun though animal advocates     repeatedly urged that they be given veterinary care.

More egregiously, Fearmans rejected Steve Jenkins’ offers of sanctuary for Bonnie and other pigs deemed no longer “viable for processing.” Instead, slaughterhouse staff improvised cardboard barriers around the injured animals to thwart witnesses. One worker, accused of being heartless, exclaimed merrily, “That’s me! I don’t know how I can live with myself!” as she draped cardboard over a fence.

Nudging pigs to slaughter

But the cardboard sagged and swayed, and protesting witnesses watched a man shoot a weapon later identified as a captive bolt gun into Bonnie’s head. He had more difficulty with another pig whose limbs jerked convulsively and who appeared to be suffering. Three other grounded pigs were shot and then shoveled into the bucket of a forklift and carted away for disposal at Fearmans.

Earlier, another drama had unfolded. Anita Krajnc had crossed a yellow police tape to investigate what was happening behind the cardboard but was ordered away. Desperate to observe how the pigs were being treated, she crossed the tape again. The police swung into action, cuffing her hands behind her back, nudging her into a police cruiser and charging her with obstructing police and breaching her bail conditions. Afterward, they released her and Krajnc resumed her mission of witnessing.

The suffering pigs died on October 5th, just a handful of the 10,000 Fearmans slaughters daily. But they left a legacy of more than pork loins and bacon. Animal Justice lawyer Anna Pippus has announced that her organization is calling for criminal animal cruelty charges to be filed against Fearmans. Citing  Sections 445 (1) and 446(1) of Canada’s Criminal Code prohibiting causing unnecessary suffering to animals, and injury to animals through wilful neglect while they are being driven, Pippus argues that the pigs should have had veterinary treatment and, if needed, prompt euthanasia.

Pippus adds: “Twice now, police have laid criminal charges against the wrong person. Once again, animals lay suffering and dying without any medical attention, while police arrested the woman who came to their aid rather than those who caused the animals to suffer in the first place. Abusing and neglecting vulnerable animals is both morally wrong and a criminal offence. The only logical course of action is for police to drop the charges against Dr. Krajnc and to instead charge Fearmans Pork for animal cruelty.”

Spurred into action by the public outcry, the Ontario SPCA has now announced an investigation into how the pigs were handled after the truck accident. And, so that they will never be forgotten, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk has proposed erecting a five foot high memorial tombstone at the crash scene, commemorating all the pigs killed at Fearmans. This time, witnessing and recording and photographing and videotaping has not been in vain.


Filed under Anita Krajnc, factory farming, Fearman's Pork Inc., slaughterhouse

Judging Compassion: the Criminal Trial of Toronto Pig Save’s Anita Krajnc

Judging Compassion: the Criminal Trial of Toronto Pig Save’s Anita Krajnc

The young pig at the outer edge of the immobile transport truck bearing him to slaughter was so terrified and parched that his mouth was foaming. But when the truck stopped at a traffic light and animal activist Anita Krajnc thrust an open water bottle through a ventilation opening, he raised his snout and slurped until the traffic light turned green and the truck revved up and veered around toward Burlington, Ontario’s Fearman’s Pork Inc., the slaughterhouse across the road.

Pig en route to slaughter foaming at mouth from terror and thirst

Pig en route to slaughter foaming at mouth from terror and thirst

This happens often during Toronto Pig Save slaughterhouse vigils, and other activists also tip water bottles into the gasping mouths of frantic pigs. Twice, I have been one of them, holding out my water bottle and crooning through tears the mantra that encapsulates our mission as well as our despair: “We see you. We’re trying. We’re sorry. We love you.”

What was different and unexpected on the June 22, 2015 vigil was that the truck driver, Jeffrey Veldjesgraaf, stepped down and, in a heated exchange captured by a Toronto Pig’s Save videographer, asked Krajnc to stop giving water to the pigs he was transporting to their death. Krajnc refused with a biblical reference to giving water to the thirsty. “Have some compassion!” she urged.

Veldjesgraaf snapped, “You know what, these are not humans, you dumb frickin’ broad,” and later added, “You do it again and I’ll slap it out of your hands.”

But in face of Krajnc’s defiance to his threat to “call the cops” – “Call Jesus!” she retorted – Veldjesgraaf climbed back inside the truck and hauled his cargo of hundreds of pigs to slaughter at Fearman’s.

Anita Krajnc gives water to pigs en route to slaughter

Anita Krajnc gives water to pigs en route to slaughter

The next day, the pigs’ owner, Eric van Boekel of Van Boekel Holdings Inc., filed a complaint against Krajnc and on September 9, 2015, she was charged with criminal mischief. Her trial began a year later, in Burlington’s Courthouse, with van Boekel and Veldjesgraaf’s testifying. On October 3rd, the proceedings were devoted to Krajnc. The courtroom was so packed that the judge invited journalists to move into the empty Prisoners’ Dock, which he said he’d temporarily dub the ‘Press Dock,’ and when every seat was filled, permitted people still waiting to enter his courtroom to sit on the floor to accommodate the overflow crowd that included Ingrid Newkirk,  President of PETA, the world’s largest animal rights organization.

In her testimony, Krajnc confirmed the accuracy of the prosecution’s description of what happened on June 22, 2015. Then, in response to her lawyer James Silver’s questions, she gave detailed accounts of Toronto Pig Save, which she co-founded in 2010, and of the burgeoning Save movement it spawned, that now numbers more than fifty groups in Canada, the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

Krajnc could not save the young pig who sipped her water, but she transformed her legal defense into a powerful platform to not only justify her small act of mercy but also to elaborate on Toronto Pig Save’s mission. She identified herself as the group’s full-time organizer and defined its three goals: to promote a non-violent vegan world, to promote activism, and to promote a cultural shift so that everyone who sees suffering of any sort bears witness, thereby helping animals, people and the planet.

Culturally savvy, the Save Movement uses social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, websites, Vimeo and YouTube – to show the realities of animals going to slaughter and to connect supporters. A Save Response Team is mandated with finding homes for animals who fall off slaughter trucks and are reprieved. There are a plethora of related groups: vegan outreach, poster and postcard campaigns, climate/vegan groups, an SOS squad that issues placards and distributes PETA and vegan starter kits, and a program that pays students $10 each to watch the documentary Earthlings. Dozens of virtual headsets, recently purchased, are being distributed worldwide to render the viewing experience more authentic and compelling.

And, at the heart of the Save Movement are slaughterhouse vigils where supporters bear witness to the terrible suffering of doomed animals being trucked away into local slaughterhouses. At Fearman’s Pork Inc., Krajnc testified, ten thousand pigs are slaughtered daily, and videos of pigs being slaughtered by the same methods used at Fearman’s and elsewhere were entered into the trial records as Exhibits relevant to her defense.

Pigs comfort each other as they await slaughter

Pigs comfort each other as they await slaughter

“We want everyone to see what we see,” Krajnc said. “As Leo Tolstoy said, “When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain, do not submit to the initial desire to flee from the suffering one, but on the contrary, come closer, as close as you can to her who suffers, and try to help her.”

The Save Movement is also guided by the reasoned non-violence of Mohatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King. These two icons also strove to change the system that permits the violence afflicted on other creatures, and to go to the darkest sites of injustice and to bear witness there.

Kindness to sheep on cattle train - 1870

  Kindness to sheep on cattle train – 1870

In 1870, popular American author Louisa May Alcott (Little Women) described with words and illustration how two young girls offered buckets of water and freshly picked clover to distressed and panting sheep on a cattle railroad car, an act of compassion that deeply touched her. A century and a half later, in Canada, Anita Krajnc risks jail time for performing that same act of compassion.

The trial continues on Nov. 1st.

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Re-Percussions! The Steel Drum Beat Goes On … to Africa!


Trinidad Steel Band

           Trinidad Steel Band

Re-Percussions: Our African Odyssey, award-winning Trinidadian film-maker Kim Johnson’s contribution to this year’s Caribbean Tales International Film Festival in Toronto, is a documentary masterpiece focused on Nigerian Chief Bowie Sonnie Bowei’s journey to introduce and popularize steel drum, the musical instrument known as Pan, throughout his native Nigeria and across the African continent.

That journey includes Chief Bowei’s pained acknowledgement that African chiefs participated in the slave trade that forced millions of Africans into the sugar fields of the New World, the nucleus of the great Diaspora that has produced the music he has dedicated his life to. In one extraordinary scene, Bowei visits an historic barracoon, once a slave barracks, where his guide underscores the fact that slaves’ lives were so grotesquely undervalued that one umbrella was worth forty slaves, one bottle of gin ten slaves.

Slave ship

              Slave ship

“Sometimes I am overwhelmed by anger and shame,” Bowei confesses. He also wonders aloud: Do any African chiefs feel at least some slight guilt about what their ancestors did?

In Trinidad, where slaves improvised drums to play remembered music and alleviate their misery, their white overlords condemned drumming as noisy, monotonous and perhaps even demonic. And, because they also feared it as a potential tool to inspire rebellion, they outlawed it. But the slaves refused to relinquish the rhythms that gave them “the physical and psychic strength to endure,“ and made music however and wherever they could.

Chief Bowei visits the North West Laventille Drummers, who perform their understanding of "African" songs

Chief Bowei visits the North West Laventille Drummers, who perform their understanding of “African” songs

In 1877, an official commission banned the use of street drums in processions. Ever inventive, the revellers scrounged to find whatever they could use to beat – scrap metal and dust bins were popular – and before long, steel drumming was born. That, Bowei learns, is true Creole art – improvisation. And that improvisation eventually led from dustbins to 55-gallon steel drums used in Trinidad’s – and Nigeria’s – oil industry.

But steel can be used for more than drumming and Pan, as it is known, is a musical instrument capable of artistry as complex as any other modern music. As well, in Trinidad it is also a life form or movement that embraces politics as well as culture. These features, and its origins as the African Diaspora’s special instrument, has inspired Chief Bowei’s mission to bring Trinidad’s unique contribution back to the ancestral homeland.

“I feel destined to carry out the Pan movement in Africa, not just Nigeria,” he declares.

Bowei’s introduction to Pan had more a prosaic origin: as a young soldier in the Nigerian Army’s steel band, which played old-style tunes on unimproved old pans. “Soldiers follow orders, and that’s how we played in the Nigerian Army Steel Band,” he explains. From 1977 to 2001, the Nigerian Army Steel Band was also Nigeria’s only one, with stale musical offerings that inspired no one.

Nigerian steel band

For Bowei, however, the story does not end there. By following Pan to Trinidad, he sees at firsthand the enormous possibilities, beginning with bands of 120 pannists who produced music of a grandeur and intensity entirely lacking in Nigeria’s nine-man outfit. Bowei is also impressed by what Trinidadian professor Rawle Gibbons’s describes as “the rooted links between Africa and Trinidad as far as Pan goes.”

But at first, Pan is a hard sell. Young people, whom Bowei targets as the likeliest group as both performers and audience, expect guitars, pianos, drums, and recoil at the sight of the huge steel drums they are accustomed to use for water storage. How on earth could these bulky steel drums be musical instruments?

Some of Re-Percussions’ most amusing segments document the learning process of these reluctant students, girls and boys together, as they practice beating Pan and, encouraged by Bowei, realize that with skill and patience, they can reproduce their own kind of music, hip hop as well as folk songs. Costumed in traditional garb, exuberant and confident, they travel into the huge, unfamiliar city of Lagos where they perform so brilliantly that they win several categories in a music festival.

But Bowei is keenly aware that the African steel drums he provides lack the rich and nuanced tones of Trinidadian Pans, specifically partial notes, and so he returns to Port-of-Spain to seek help from the world’s best Pan tuners. One of these, Gabriel “Doyle” Robley, complains that Bowei is too hasty and does not take the time to truly understand how to tune a Pan.

Tuning pan

                             Tuning pan

Bowei, for his part, is deeply satisfied with his education, and lavishes praise on his tutor for his generosity in sharing even treasured nuggets of information about tuning Pans to perfection.

Back in Nigeria, he is determined to succeed in his mission to popularize Pan as a musical instrument, and to attract large numbers of young men and women into joining bands that offer music, camaraderie and a link back to the centuries-old Diaspora.

“The Middle Passage [the part of the slave trade where Africans were shipped across the Atlantic to the West Indies] tore off a piece of our living flesh,” he says. Now the young Nigerian steel bands are bonded with the Diaspora and are full-fledged members of the international steel band community. “This is my steel band, my music, my song,” Bowei murmurs in a moving finale.

Re-Percussions is a visual and auditory feast, illustrated with historical and vintage images and a a scintillating background of music ranging from calypso to African “talking drums” to full-scale steel bands in full regalia.

Film-maker Kim Johnson with Chief Bowei, on location

Film-maker Kim Johnson with Chief Bowei, on location

Bowei, Nigeria’s foremost Pan entrepreneur and aficionado, is the perfect match for Trinidadian scholar/film-maker Kim Johnson, Pan’s foremost historian, author of Tinpan to TASPO: Origins of the Steelband Movement 1939-1951 and The Illustrated Story of Pan, and the award-winning 2013 film, Pan: Our Music Odyssey.


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Ned Taylor

What better way to begin 2016 than to veganize Ned Taylor, a sixteen-year-old from Victoria, BC? In December’s MEATLESS ANYDAY AND A TEENAGER’S PLEDGE TO HELP CHICKENS, I blogged about promoting Ned’s petition – “Ban Battery Cages in Canada,” – urging the government to ban battery cages for chickens. Yet despite his deep concern for chickens and other animals, Ned still ate them.

But he was already considering veganism, and when I challenged him, he committed to one vegan day a week. A few days later, Ned shared his notes about Day 1, which was vegetarian, kind of a warm-up, and Day 2, which was out-and-out vegan.

Day 1 (Vegetarian)

Breakfast: I had scrambled eggs (free-range of course) and hash-browns.

Lunch: I had three grilled cheese sandwiches.

Dinner: I had mashed potatoes, baked green bean and french fried onion mixture, stuffing and carrots.

Thoughts: It was pretty easy going just without meat. For breakfast my family ate bacon, eggs and hash-browns and all I had to do was remove the bacon. I could definitely see myself doing this more often. It’s healthy, good for the environment and super easy!

Day 2 (Vegan)

Breakfast: Hash-browns and 2 pieces of toast and peanut butter.

Lunch: Beans on toast

Dinner: I had a butternut squash soup with garlic bread (recipe below). Also after dinner I went to a movie and got popcorn. Thankfully my mum reminded me to get margarine instead of butter so I didn’t spoil it at the end!

Recipe for Butternut Squash Soup:  


Thoughts: This was definitely trickier than going vegetarian but overall it wasn’t too hard. The main obstacle was avoiding dairy products (like the popcorn butter issue). Also the butternut squash soup was delicious! I definitely want to have that more often.

Well, well, well! What was I to say about this menu? The Day 1 vegetarian dinner looked like a typical meat-based meal with the meat omitted, almost identical to meals I’ve consumed as a guest of non-vegans. Its main virtue was that it required no extra preparation and was, from Ned’s perspective, “pretty easy.” No wonder he could see himself doing it more often.

But I couldn’t help commenting about his lunch of three grilled cheese sandwiches” Isn’t that … um … a lot of sandwiches?” “Oh, my mom also asks me if I really need three,” Ned said cheerily. “The thing is, I do, because I’m really hungry. But I work out a lot so I can afford to eat a lot without gaining any weight.”

I chuckled and reminded myself that Ned is just sixteen, and super fit. I won’t worry about the quantity of food he consumes. I’ll just stick with doing what I’ve agreed to: guiding and documenting his progress on his weekly vegan days, when he abstains from animal products altogether: no eggs, cheese, milk, etc.

When Ned plunged into his vegan day, it helped that both his parents were very supportive, and that it was a Sunday, when he had the time to “find stuff I could cook myself” to avoid expecting his mom to prepare special meals for him. Breakfast and lunch were simple and toasty, and he probably enlivened them with a glass of something to drink and a fruit or two. Lastly, Ned’s dinner of Butternut Squash Soup from One Green Planet constituted a brilliant ending to his first vegan day! (Except, of course, that unbuttered movie theatre popcorn, a pop cultural indulgence shared by millions, including me.)


Squash or pumpkin soup is a mainstay of Caribbean cooking, and when I lived in Haiti we had it every Sunday. It’s delicious, nutritious and filling; it’s also versatile, perfectly happy to be spicy or blander, and always willing to soak up and integrate a stray vegetable or two.

Ned ended his first vegan day resolved to repeat it. “Dairy was the hardest to avoid,” he mused, “but I’d much rather eat vegan things.” Ned’s an environmentalist and a compassionate animal advocate who is already lobbying politicians against factory farming. So far, our modest little experiment is working, because Ned is determined that it will. But it’s clear that I should offer more encouragement in the form of that most basic of assistance: recipes, simple, clearly-described and most of all, appealing to this extraordinary teenager who is so eager to rescue and restore the world to pristine nature.

I’m going to start with pizza, arguably the most popular fast food in North America, and heavily consumed by male teenagers. If Ned tries some of these delicious recipes, he won’t be the odd man out at the table. Without even trying, he’ll have introduced his family members to the delights of good vegan food, and in a single sitting, spared at least a few animals!


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Filed under Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party, Battery cages, Ned Taylor, factory farming. veganism, Uncategorized, Vegan recipes


Recently, a sixteen-year-old high school student in British Columbia contacted me and asked me to help him help chickens. “First off, I would like to thank you for running in this election [for the Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party] and standing up for both animals and our environment,” he wrote. Then he requested my support for his petition, “Ban Battery Cages in Canada,”  against the brutal treatment of factory-farmed chickens, which references the Canadian Coalition for Farmed Animals as its source.

Canada factory farm chicken

Canadian factory farmed chickens. Hell on earth, and methane pollution in the atmosphere

As an animal advocate, I could not resist this appeal on behalf of billions of chickens. Ned’s petition is stellar. It reviews the condition of more than ninety percent of Canada’s egg-laying hens, detailing how these creatures are trapped in cramped wire “battery cages” for their entire lives, forced to exist in spaces smaller than an 8 ½ x 11 inch piece of paper.

These conditions are not only cruel, Ned writes,  but they deprive hens of their natural behaviors of nesting, perching, dust-bathing, stretching their wings or even walking around, and the consequences can be dire. Chickens are fouled and sickened by urine and feces falling down from cages above them. Their feathers fall out and their skin is damaged. Their muscles waste from lack of use, their bones and skeletal systems become brittle, and their spinal cords deteriorate, leaving them paralyzed. Dying and dead chickens litter the cages and are often cannibalized by their surviving cage-mates.

“This is how millions of hens spend their entire lives in Canada, and yet nothing has been done to stop this,” Ned’s petition concludes. “We need to ban battery cages in Canada and make it mandatory for chickens to be raised in a free run or free range system. This is the humane and Canadian thing to do. … Please, for the sake of our animals and our people, do the right thing.”

I read through and signed the petition and agreed to promote it. Soon after, I connected with Ned by telephone and bombarded him with questions. What had driven this teenager’s desire to help chickens? And why had he chosen petitioning the government as the best way to achieve his goal?

“Oh, because at home we always ate free run eggs and one day I just asked my mom why. She gave me some information about battery cages, and when last October’s election was called, I looked at the platforms of all the different candidates, because I thought battery cages, and the way we treat chickens aren’t right, and that led me to your party, the AA/EV.”

“I’m a bit of the odd man out,” Ned admitted. “My friends also followed the campaign, especially about the legalization of pot issue, but I’m the only one who volunteered. And the petition came after the election, because petitions are important tools to achieve results. Look at Europe! Switzerland banned battery cages back in 1992!” Western Europe is way ahead of Canada in animal welfare, Ned and I agree.

And, because we also agree on the intelligence of chickens, and their right to live full, natural lives, I invoked the veganism I assumed we shared.
“Oh, I’m not vegan,” Ned said.

Not vegan? I was taken aback. How could someone so knowledgeable about chicken nature and culture, someone so compassionate about the treatment of animals, justify eating them?

Ned’s explanation was forthright. “We humans are animals, too, and animals have been eating other animals for centuries. I believe that if we treat them right and they live a full life, then there’s nothing wrong with eating them.”

There was more. “Hunting them is better than the food industry,” Ned said. “They live in the wild, and die without fear.” That’s certainly true, but it still implies that humans have the right to end a healthy animal’s life whenever they wish to. Which begs the question: what about veganism?

“I completely support and understand it,” Ned said promptly. “In fact, I’m considering it.

Not promising to do it, just considering it right now.”
How about committing to one meatless day a week? I suggested. It needn’t be a Monday; any day of the week would suffice, making it more convenient and easier for him to honour his commitment.

Ned did not hesitate. “I agree to one meatless day a week, starting next week,” he pledged. “And I also agree to take notes and let you know how I’m doing.”

Ned Taylor

Ned Taylor with Abbey

I can’t wait to hear, and not just because each of Ned’s Meatless Days will save an estimated .54 animals, for a grand total of twenty-eight each year. It’s because I’m confident that this challenge will be so easy for him, and so satisfying that he’ll not only embrace it for life – his life and the lives of animals he cares for so deeply – but that he’ll find ways to reach out to other young people who’ll be inspired to follow his example. When they do, their Meatless Days will add up to thousands of animals saved from the horrors of factory farming and the terror and anguish of slaughterhouses.

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Filed under Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party, Battery cages, Ned Taylor, factory farming. veganism, Elizabeth Abbott, Uncategorized

Speaking out about Syria, student debt, climate change….

Speaking out about Syria, student debt, climate change….

The Syrian crisis? crushing student debt? the critical state of the environment? our crumbling infrastructure? (Un)affordable daycare? We debated all these issues in this just-published YouTube of the Toronto Danforth All-Candidates Rogers Television debate. Present: incumbent Craig Scott, NDP; Julie Dabrusin, Liberal; Chris Tolley, Green Party; and me, Elizabeth Abbott, Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party.

Please watch, even if you are not in Toronto Danforth riding. These issues are of national/international concern.

Canadian factory farmed chickens. Hell on earth, and methane pollution in the atmosphere

Canadian factory farmed chickens. Hell on earth, and methane pollution in the atmosphere

Canadian factory farmed misery - Meat your Hamburger.

Canadian factory farmed misery – Meat your Hamburger.

AAEV Elizabeth Abbott 2

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