Prison Farms: Rehabilitation Through Sanctuary Not Slaughter

A message to the world (and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) from Evolve Our Prison Farms. Involving prisoners in the exploitation and slaughter of animals in the name of rehabilitation is unacceptable. We can - and will - and must - do better.



Media Release: Group Marches for Pen Herd Sanctuary

Immediate Release
8 December 2017


KINGSTON, ONTARIO – A group of Kingstonians will be marching from Collins Bay Institution to the office of MP Mark Gerretsen on Friday December 15th in a symbolic move to deliver a 10,000 signature petition calling for sanctuary for the Pen Herd cows as part of a restored prison farm program.

The march is being organized by Evolve Our Prison Farms, a Kingston-based coalition promoting innovative plant-based agriculture and sanctuary for any animals brought onto prison farms for rehabilitative programming.

Before being shuttered by Harper’s Conservative government, prison farms in Canada involved meat and dairy operations, like the ones at Collins Bay Institution and Joyceville Institution. This model involved prisoners in forcibly inseminating cows, separating newborn calves from their mothers, shipping male calves to slaughter, and slaughtering cows once their milk productivity declines at 5-7 years of age, out of a 20 year natural lifespan.

Evolve Our Prison Farms asserts that this form of agriculture is in clear and direct conflict with rehabilitative and therapeutic goals, and should not be reintroduced. It is also an inefficient and environmentally unsustainable form of food production. Animal agriculture has been flagged by the United Nations as one of the most significant global contributors to climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, water use, pollution, deforestation and soil degradation.

While the government deliberates on which model to adopt, public awareness is rapidly growing around issues of animal justice, prisoner justice and environmental justice, all of which converge on the prison farms.

Supporters of sanctuary for the Pen Herd cows are invited to gather across the street from Collins Bay Institution at 3:00PM, beside Sakura Japanese Restaurant (1350 Bath Rd). The march from the prison to MP Gerretsen’s office will begin at 3:15PM. The petition will be submitted at 4:00PM. Anyone unable to march is invited to hold vigil outside Gerretsen’s office as of 3:30PM to welcome the marchers as they arrive.

For more information, visit

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Media Contact: Calvin Neufeld,, 877-312-1718

Media Release: Sanctuary not Slaughter for Canada's Prison Farms

For Immediate Release
9 November 2017

Rehabilitation through Empathy and Ecological Stewardship: The Evolution of Canada’s Prison Farms

KINGSTON, ONTARIO – While the Trudeau government hashes out its plan to restore the federal prison farm program, a new concept is taking root in Canadian consciousness: that animal agriculture is the wrong path to rehabilitating prisoners.

The Kingston-based coalition Evolve Our Prison Farms is calling for a shift from outdated models to more sustainable agricultural practices and compassion-based rehabilitative programming. The combination of plant-based agriculture and farmed animal sanctuary (the permanent, non-exploitative care of animals) represents a forward-thinking alternative to the dairy and meat operations of the past.

Support for the Evolve campaign is growing rapidly as Canadians intuitively recognize the therapeutic merits of sanctuary and ecological stewardship, and the conflicts inherent in animal agriculture as a rehabilitative model.

A “Save the Herd” petition calling for sanctuary for Kingston’s famous “Pen Herd” cows has garnered over 8,000 signatures. Signatories have expressed concern, disbelief and outrage at the thought of involving prisoners in the exploitation and slaughter of animals – necessary elements of the dairy industry.

Inmates at one Kingston prison continue to be trained in an on-site slaughterhouse, raising serious questions about the nature and quality of our rehabilitative programming.

Social consciousness, particularly in Canada, is increasingly focused on greater protections for animals and urgent action on climate change. Prime Minister Trudeau has emphasized that major changes are needed at the local and national level if Canada is to meet its Paris Accord commitments.

Animal agriculture has been highlighted by the United Nations as having a “very substantial contribution” to climate change in a report titled Livestock’s Long Shadow.

“I agree that a good environmental case could be made that cows and other ruminants should not be part of the farm program,” says climate change solutions expert Dr. David Layzell. “The focus should be on plant production.”

The old model is also incongruous with revisions to Canada’s Food Guide, which will advocate a major shift away from animal protein to plant-based diets.

It would be a political error for the Canadian government to recommend a shift to plant-based diets for health and environmental reasons, while simultaneously promoting a form of agriculture that is a predominant cause of climate change, and dietary choices that contribute to preventable illness.

For most Canadians, however, the real perplexity comes at the thought of prisoners being trained to care for cows while being taught that it is acceptable to harm, coerce and kill them.

This creates what sociologists refer to as the “care-kill” paradox, which leads to high rates of moral ambivalence, cognitive dissonance and psychological disorder amongst workers in animal use industries.

Dr. Amy Fitzgerald of the University of Windsor endorses a prison sanctuary model. Specializing in green criminology, violence, and critical animal studies, Dr. Fitzgerald has “had concerns about the use of incarcerated populations in animal agriculture for years. It is not the type of work that we should be training inmates to do.”

“I therefore strongly recommend that animals only be incorporated in correctional environments in a manner that fosters empathy for them (such as animal sanctuary programs) and not through animal agriculture, which by design serves to objectify and truncate empathy.”

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Media Contact: Calvin Neufeld,, 877-312-1718

CFRC Radio Evolve Our Prison Farms

May 11, 2017. Kingston, ON. CFRC Queen's University radio interviews Sue Donaldson and Calvin Neufeld of Evolve Our Prison Farms campaign to establish plant-based prison farms in Canada enhanced by farmed animal sanctuary. 

No credit is claimed for images used in this compilation. Collins Bay Prison Farm photos credit The Kingston Whig-Standard Pat Kincaid photo credit Lars Hagberg, The Canadian Press. Dairy farm photo sequence credit Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

Open letter expresses concern over skewed prison panel

May 17, 2017

The Honourable Ralph Goodale
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario Canada K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Goodale,

We are writing to express concern over the process and composition of the panel appointed to advise the government on re-opening Kingston’s prison farms. Five of the eight panel members are livestock farmers, making it clear that only animal agriculture is under consideration.

Alternative proposals to establish innovative and ecologically sustainable plant-based farms have been presented to your government on numerous occasions. These voices have been excluded from the panel. We are formally requesting that the composition of the panel be reviewed in favour of a more transparent and balanced process and we call for the inclusion of voices representing forward-thinking plant-based agriculture.

As we have documented in previous submissions, there is strong evidence that a plant-based prison farm would be better for prisoners, animals, the local community and the environment. Yet it appears that the panel has been set up in such a way as to preclude consideration of this option. This is puzzling given the challenges identified by your government’s own consultants in their “Report on the Town Hall Meeting on the feasibility of re-establishing penitentiary farms at the Joyceville and Collins Bay Institutions” dated August 16, 2016, which stated that reinstating a dairy farm: 

“may be unrealistic given preliminary estimates of its expense,” and “the operating costs of maintaining the penitentiary farm program as they were, while they were operational, were found to be prohibitive for CORCAN. The capital costs associated with re-establishing the farms as they were could make it even less feasible.”

Given the demonstrable benefits of a plant-based prison farm, and the acknowledged infeasibility of reinstating dairy farms, we urge you to carefully consider the skewed composition of the committee, and to appoint additional voices to the panel. They could include farmers from Kingston’s vibrant organic plant-based farming community, experts in the rehabilitative potential of human-animal relationships (including sanctuary), and ecologists specializing in sustainable farming practices.

A citizen advisory panel appointed by the federal government must aspire to a high level of balanced representation and commitment to evidence-based policy recommendations. Given that several members of the panel have already made clear that their single-minded goal is reinstatement of animal agriculture, the panel as it stands fails the test.

We call on you to ensure more balanced representation and less biased consideration of the options. The restoration of the farms is eagerly anticipated by the public. In our haste, let us not overlook opportunities and advantages that may lie in previously unexplored possibilities for the future of our prison farms.

Yours sincerely,

Sue Donaldson, Calvin Neufeld, & Franceen Neufeld
for the Evolve coalition

c.c.    Mark Gerretsen, MP, Kingston and the Islands
         Hon. Matthew DubĂ©, NDP critic for Public Safety
         Hon. Elizabeth May, Green critic for Public Safety
         Hon. Erin O’Toole, Conservative critic for Public Safety
         Don Davies, MP, Vancouver Kingsway
         Media Contacts

A New Voice on Prison Farms Emerges

Kingston, May 6, 2017 – Evolve Our Prison Farms (EOPF) is a community coalition with an exciting and forward-looking proposal for the re-instatement of prison farms, and its vision is garnering wide support.

EOPF has submitted to Ralph Goodale, Mark Gerretsen, and other legislators a model for plant-based prison farming that prioritizes ecological stewardship, meaningful rehabilitation and employment programming for prisoners, and community development and food security. Evolved farms would focus on production of nutrient dense vegetables, legumes, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds, using approaches that are ecologically sustainable, technologically sophisticated, and consistent with changing community values around healthy lifestyles, food security, and respect for animals and the environment. Evolved farms could be established at a fraction of the cost of re-instating animal agriculture on prison farms.

EOPF recognizes a place for animals on evolved farms – but in much smaller numbers, and engaged in activities which don’t involve commodification and violence. For example, animals could provide fertilizer, pollination services, or participate in non-exploitative roles. The remaining members of the former Kingston Pen Herd could be returned to the prison farms under a model of sanctuary, offering the opportunity for prisoners to care for animals, and to work alongside them, without harming them. 

“Canadians want prison programs that offer meaningful opportunities for psychological healing and growth, and a path to reintegration,” notes EOPF member Sue Donaldson. “Forcibly inseminating cows, separating them from their calves, and slaughtering male calves, ‘spent’ dairy cows and chickens, are activities which have no place in prison farm programs. With everything we know about the psychological damage suffered by slaughterhouse workers, and the connections between slaughterhouse work and domestic violence, it would quite simply be irresponsible to consider re-instating dairy and egg farms at prisons. Stewardship of plants, the environment, and genuine care for animals through a sanctuary model, on the other hand, offer genuine therapeutic benefits.”

A recent petition garnered thousands of supporters for this vision of humane and sustainable prison farms.

“I find this proposal exceptionally sensible and heartening,” writes signatory Toni Pickard of Kingston. “My concern is more on providing helpful skills, both functional and attitudinal for the prisoners than on saving the animals but the two are very persuasively allied in this plan. If this plan were adopted for prison farms, we will have taken giant steps forward in rehabilitation techniques, while providing prisoners an experience of what it takes to begin to create a healthier, sustainable, compassionate world.”

Farming practices need to evolve to feed a growing population in a world of finite land, water and other resources. Compared to animal agriculture, plant-based farming involves much lower energy and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and pollution. If Correctional Service Canada decides to re-establish prison farms, it makes sense to anticipate where farming (and farm jobs) are headed, rather than to chase a disappearing past.

Media Contact:

Calvin Neufeld

General Inquiries:

See also:

The Herd at the Pen: The promise of animal sanctuary on prison farms
Briarpatch Magazine, May 2017


Thank you for your interest in the Evolve Our Prison Farms campaign to establish innovative, rehabilitative, and environmentally sustainable plant-based prison farms in Canada.