Labour and Factory Farming

The expansion of factory farming has shifted the work of raising livestock from tens of thousands of independent family farms and their hired hands to many fewer waged employees who work for a handful of large corporations. In spite of their isolation from the natural environment, their mechanization, and their regimented production schedule, factory farms are still defined as “farms” in Canada. Factory farms are industrial workplaces, but employees lack many of the legal rights and protections other industrial workers enjoy as farms were historically exempted from labour laws in recognition of the need for farmers to get work done according to the season and weather conditions.

Because Canada’s beef and hog industries are export-focussed there is downward pressure on wages and working conditions on farms and in packing plants due to competition from countries where wages are lower and labour standards weaker. The combination of poor working conditions and low wages makes employment in the intensive livestock industry and meat packing plants unattractive to anyone who can find more rewarding work. As a result companies have turned to workers from other countries for labour. These migrant workers have even fewer rights than Canadian agricultural workers.