Plant-based prison farm worth ex­plor­ing

Kingston Whig-Standard - - OPINION -

We are writ­ing to ex­press con­cern over the process and com­po­si­tion of the panel ap­pointed to ad­vise the gov­ern­ment on re­open­ing 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 to the gov­ern­ment, 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 the 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 Aug. 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. Sue Don­ald­son, Calvin Neufeld and Franceen Neufeld for the Evolve Our Prison Farms coali­tion

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