Protesters vow to block animals from leaving prison farm as auction looms

A group of protesters has vowed to block any livestock from leaving a prison farm slated to be shut down by the federal government.

Members of Save Our Prison Farms hold a blockade in front of Correctional Service Canada regional headquarters in Kingston

Members of Save Our Prison Farms hold a blockade in front of Correctional Service Canada regional headquarters in Kingston

KINGSTON, Ont. — A group of protesters has vowed to block any livestock from leaving a prison farm slated to be shut down by the federal government.

The statement came after some 200 demonstrators descended on the regional headquarters of Corrections Canada in Kingston, Ont., on Friday morning.

The event was billed as a practice run for a planned stakeout of the nearby Frontenac Institution, a minimum security jail where about 8,000 chickens and 300 cows are slated for auction Aug. 3.

Save Our Prison Farms organizer Andrew McCann says they will not allow the cows or chickens to leave Frontenac.

“We have several hundred people ready to be called at any time of day or night to come out and blockade the animals,” McCann said.

It was the latest action against the slated closure of the farms, a campaign that has drawn the support of author Margaret Atwood and musician Sarah Harmer.

On Friday, Stormy the Donkey — the campaign mascot — was on hand, joined by about a half a dozen people dressed as cows.

The Conservative government decided the farms in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick were no longer useful following a strategic review in 2008.

In May a Corrections spokesperson said less than one per cent of prisoners found work in the agriculture sector after they were released from prison.

But supporters say it doesn’t matter whether released inmates go on to be farmers because a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility are among skills developed through the program.

“Farming is a very multidisciplinary task that also provides animal therapy for these inmates … which ultimately makes our communities safer because these inmates are less likely to reoffend,” McCann said.

Unionized government employees, the National Farmers Union and political opposition members have all decried the pending closures.

“We believe it shines a spotlight on misguided farm and food policy in general from our government,” McCann said.

He said the laying hens produce eggs for 18 prisons in Ontario and Quebec as well as thousands of eggs that are donated to the Kingston food bank every week.

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