Keri Cronin


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Undercover Investigations

Today a new undercover investigation in to cruel practices on veal farms in Canada hits the mainstream media – the Toronto Star has this story on the front page of today’s paper, and tonight CTV’s W5 will air an investigative report. This is the latest in a string of mainstream media attention focusing on cruel practices that are considered “industry standard” on Canadian farms. Thanks to undercover investigations by Mercy For Animals Canada, a number of mainstream media outlets have run prime time/front page stories about the horrific ways in which farmed animals are treated in this country.

The response from industry has been predictable, that these are “isolated incidents,” and yet mounting evidence pointing to the fact that this kind of behaviour is routine undermines this defence. Workers in this industry have come forward to share their stories, and their testimony makes it clear that there is a larger pattern at play here. In addition, these scenes captured by undercover cameras are strikingly similar to scenes uncovered by undercover investigators in other countries.

The footage obtained through these investigations is, undoubtedly, disturbing. It is hard to look at, and many people don’t want to watch it. “Don’t show me that,” they say, “I can’t stand to look at it.” These abuses take place out of sight and, as the industry hopes, out of mind. This is precisely why film footage and photographs taken during these undercover investigations is so important – they make visible what is otherwise culturally invisible. This also speaks to the important role that visual culture plays in activist efforts. There is a long history of activists using imagery in this way, a history that dates back to the 19th century.

I will be writing more about this for an upcoming column for Our Hen House, but for now I just wanted to acknowledge the significance of today’s breaking news and to thank both Mercy for Animals Canada and the media outlets who are brave enough to run these stories for all they are doing to make these stories front and centre.


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Update on the Porch Cats

Remember the porch cats?

I’m a bit overdue with an update on this front, although if you follow me on social media you already know how this story unfolds!

So, we managed to get both Ernie and Ollie in to the house. It was such a brutally cold winter and I’m so glad we got at least two of them off the streets. We got Ollie to the vet right away, got her checked out, vaccinated, spayed, etc. and she very quickly integrated in to our household. Ernie, on the other hand, proved to be a bit more challenging to deal with. It took a long time for us to be able to get near Ernie, but eventually Ernie started coming out for food. It wasn’t long before we noticed Ernie’s expanding belly – our Ernie was an Ernestine and she was about to have kittens! We managed to move her up from the basement to one of the bedrooms just hours before she went in to labour. We now have 4 beautiful kittens in our house as well. All have homes waiting for them when they are old enough to be weaned. The night they were born we had a horribly cold blizzard – I’m not sure they would have survived. I’m so glad that we were able to get Ernie inside in time! She is such a wonderful mom, so patient and gentle with these wee kittens. It has been amazing to watch them grow up.

The kittens have tons of fans through social media – if I go too long without posting a photo of them people write to ask if the kittens are ok. They have even been featured on an episode of the new Our Hen House TV show!

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Porch Cats – An Update

Before Christmas I posted about the “porch cats” who have been visiting our house. We have been spending a lot of time watching, feeding, and setting up shelters for a group of apparently homeless/stray/feral cats. Some of them seem truly feral (e.g.: they run away if we even look at them from a distance), some of them are a lot more used to human company. The one little black and white cat we named Ollie has been especially communicative with us. She would arrive on our porch each morning between 6:30 and 7am and would sit on our “welcome mat” by the door meowing for her breakfast.

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When the cold snap hit last week Ollie seemed to be making an extra effort to communicate with us – she meowed a little longer and louder than she had before and didn’t leave the porch immediately after breakfast like she usually did. She started to hang around more and more. One day after we had received a large amount of snow I looked outside to see little Ollie up to her armpits in a snowbank in our garden, meowing her head off. She seemed stuck and was having trouble getting out of the snowbank. I pulled on my boots and went out to grab her – I didn’t really have a plan, but I knew I couldn’t leave her out there to freeze to death in a snowbank in our garden. I brought her in the house and took her down to the basement because I wanted to keep her separate from our house cats. At first she completely freaked out – I’m sure she has never been in a house before – but she slowly started to settle down and found a warm, comfortable spot to curl up in. Within a few days she was sitting on my lap purring when I came to visit her. Part of me knows that I couldn’t leave her out in the cold, and yet there is a part of me that feels so bad for scooping her up and taking her away from her pals. Did we do the right thing?

We took Ollie in to the community vet clinic the other day and had her checked out. She had fleas, but otherwise she seemed in good health. She got the standard deworm/de-flea/vaccination treatment and we will book her in for a spay soon. I’m not sure what will happen long-term, whether or not Jenny (our senior kitty who hates cats) will let us keep her, but we have some leads one some potential homes for her if things don’t work out.

The rest of the porch cats are still out there – they won’t let us get near them. We didn’t see much of them during the cold snap, but since it has warmed up they have been back around for food and have been using the shelters I’ve set up on the front porch. I was so worried about them and was so glad to see them when they all showed up yesterday.

There are so many cats in need, so much work to do. Sometimes I get overwhelmed just thinking about it. I guess it is one cat at a time.

A number of kind and generous people have come forward to help out with the food for our porch kitties since I first posted about them. We are so grateful for your assistance, and I know that the cats appreciate the food. I get so sad thinking about all these cats with no loving, warm home to curl up in, but then I am heartened by how many people truly want to help change the situation. Thank you.


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Introduction to Visual Culture

I’m about to step back in to the large first year class that I was originally hired to develop, “Introduction to Visual Culture.” For a number of years this was my class, but I eventually cycled out of it. This Winter marks the first time I’ve taught it in a while and I’m quite excited about it. I really love the material and the opportunity to introduce students from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines to thinking critically about images.

To everyone back teaching today – have a wonderful term!


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Farm Sanctuary Internship

During the semester break I had one of the best experiences of my life! I did an internship at Farm Sanctuary and spent my holidays helping out with the shelter operations. It was a ton of work, but it was also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. What a perfect way to spend Christmas! To spend that much time around rescued animals and to be directly working with them and their caregivers was an absolute privilege.

If you care about farmed animals (and why wouldn’t you?), you need to sign up to be an intern. For real. Do it!

I will be writing about my experiences as a shelter intern in a series of columns for Our Hen House in the coming weeks, so I won’t say too much here, but in the meantime here are some pictures of some of the incredible animals I met during my internship.

Maxie!

Maxie!

Baba Ganoush, the handsomest rooster on the planet.

Baba Ganoush, the handsomest rooster on the planet.

Hanging out with Thunder, the gentle giant.

Hanging out with Thunder, the gentle giant.

Dottie is a very curious goat!

Dottie is a very curious goat!

Ormsby

Ormsby

Aunt Bea

Aunt Bea

Dagwood and his stuffed bunny pal.

Dagwood and his stuffed bunny pal.

Sleeping Sebastian.

Sleeping Sebastian.


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Porch Cats

The fall term is over, and I’ve had a few days that are miraculously free of meetings and other administrative tasks. Having a stretch of time to focus exclusively on writing and research is so very rare these days – I live for these moments!

I thought I would have some uninterrupted writing time over these few days, but hasn’t really worked out that way. I’m distracted by the plight of a family of homeless/stray/feral cats that have taken up residence on our block. They curl up on our porch and hang out in our garden. As I sit at my desk and work, they look in at me through the windows. We have put out food, water, and shelter for them (a couple of home made shelters lined with straw, and a fancy deluxe electric heated outdoor cathouse that we ordered online), and the plan is to eventually trap them so that they can be spayed/neutered. There seem to be 5 different cats, but only one of them will let us get close. The others take off the second we step outside. Of course, we have named them all.

There is Ollie, a little black & white cat who seems to be under a year old. She is the friendliest of the bunch and is quite vocal about asking for some food.

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Ernie is about the same age as Ollie and I wonder if they are siblings. They pal around together as if they are, and I’ve often seem them playing/play-fighting. Ernie is mostly white but has the cutest orange “hat” and some orange spots on his back. He is quite afraid of us, but is getting better.

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I put some catnip out for Ollie and Ernie the other day and they seemed to really love it!

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The other cats are all quite a bit older and are much more afraid of us. Lady Grantham (yes, I’m a bit of a Downton Abbey fan!) is black and white and has the same kind of “hat” that Ernie has. I’ve seen Ollie and Lady Grantham greet one another in a way that makes me think they are mother-daughter. Sadly, it looks like Lady Grantham has an expanding belly, and I fear another litter may soon be on its way. Tom is a fluffy orange and white cat who hangs around with Lady Grantham (there isn’t exactly Downton Abbey storyline consistency with this naming project!), and Oscar is a very sad-looking black cat. I don’t think Oscar is part of the same family unit as the other 4. He has the saddest eyes and hangs around by himself all the time. He seems as though he may have once upon a time lived with a family and has now ended up on the street whereas the others seem like they have been outside most/all of their lives.

I wish I knew their stories and where they came from. They are absolutely breaking my heart. I wake up in the night thinking of them, hoping they have found a warm place to curl up. I keep an eye out for them and worry when I don’t see them. I’ve been reading all I can to learn about how best to help these cats. I know there are other neighbours on this street who are also looking out for these cats. I wish this kind of situation wasn’t so common.
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NYC Premiere of The Ghosts in Our Machine

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Tonight is an important night for animal rights, the red carpet premiere of The Ghosts in Our Machine in New York City. This incredible film is hitting the big time!

A huge congratulations to all involved in the making of this film, especially the Director/Writer/Producer, Liz Marshall, and the human star of the film, Jo-Anne McArthur. Countless hours went in to this project, and I hope that you are able to sit back and savour the celebrations tonight. I would give anything to be able to be at the premiere celebrating along with you!

This film will have a tremendous impact on all those who see it, and it is such an important reminder of the power of art to change the world. If you haven’t yet had a chance to see it, watch your local listings. Word is there will be more screenings in more locations coming soon. In the meantime, check out the trailer.

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