Animal Justice Files Legal Complaint Over Filthy Live Animal Markets

Animal Justice has filed a complaint with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) concerning live animal markets—where birds and other animals are packed into tiny enclosures, often stacked on top of each other in filthy conditions, creating the perfect breeding grounds for disease and risking public health.

Despite an ongoing avian flu outbreak threatening bird populations and other animals across Canada, a group called All Ontario Fur & Feather Associates invited bird and other animal breeders and sellers across the province to meet for a live animal sale this past weekend in Shelburne, Ontario. Live animal markets like these are notoriously dangerous breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases due to the close confinement of different and vulnerable species. Footage from the sale shows shocking conditions that put public health and animals at risk.

Image shows chickens in live animal market.
Chickens stacked in cages at live animal market.

Sensitive birds were crammed into small, makeshift cages and forced to endure the rain and noise as prospective buyers and their families crowded around their enclosures, haggling with sellers. Many enclosures were old, filthy wire cages, while others were constructed out of cardboard boxes and chicken wire. Some were stacked on top of each other, letting excrement fall onto birds below. Heartbreakingly, even a peacock was seen trapped in a small cardboard box with no ability to move, with a hole cut out of the back for his tail to stick out.

Almost none of the animals appeared to have access to food or water.

Image shows peacock in live animal market.
Peacock in tiny cage at live animal market.

Animals Sick & Suffering

Other birds were clearly ill. In a small cage packed with seven chickens, several birds were missing feathers on their backs. Many ducks appeared to be in poor health, including one with sores all over her face. Another bird appeared to be suffering from an insect infestation in her rain-drenched crest. A collection of white chickens labelled “meat birds” had severely matted tail feathers and were kept in filthy, feces-covered cages.

When animals were handled by vendors or visitors, it was often done recklessly. Chickens were thrown into transport crates with no regard for their wellbeing, a duck was carried out of the fairgrounds by a man with no enclosure, and a peacock was held in a towel by a young woman for visitors to see up-close.

The sale mostly consisted of bird breeders and sellers, but goats, pigs, rabbits, cows, and sheep (including a 5-day-old lamb) were present as well. On Facebook posts by the host preceding the event, it was advertised that even a kangaroo might be available for purchase.

Perfect Conditions for Bird Flu Outbreak

The event – one of many hosted by Ontario Fur & Feather Associates – was given the go ahead to proceed despite the persistent threat of avian flu across Canada. A whopping 7.2 million domestic birds alone have been impacted across Canada since December 2021.

Infected animals die a painful death and farmed birds are being “destroyed” using methods including gassing barns full of thousands of birds, or even crushing animals’ neck bones and spinal cords.

Lawmakers continue to use biosecurity concerns as a false justification to push for agricultural gag, or “ag gag” laws designed to prevent concerned citizens from exposing cruelty in the meat industry. Yet, events such as this, that pose obvious public health risks, continue to be allowed.

On Sunday, May 7th, another live animal sale is being held at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, Ontario. The event is to be hosted by the Huronia Fur and Feather Breeders Association. We’re calling for this and other similar sales to be cancelled to protect public health and the health and well-being of animals across the province.