Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Roadside Memorial Pitched For Fallen Cows

WINNIPEG - An animal rights group wants to set up a roadside memorial sign in western Manitoba for cows killed in a highway crash, awarding bovines the same treatment human crash victims receive.

But the province has given the idea the hoof.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, is asking the Manitoba government for permission to place a sign along Highway 5 near Carberry, about 170 kilometres west of Winnipeg, where 71 cows died after a semi collided with a train on Jan. 31.

"A memorial sign will serve as a tribute to those dozens of cows who had been severely injured and killed on their way to slaughter," PETA spokesperson Emily Lavender said from Ottawa.

The sign would also be a way to draw attention to the group's concerns over how animals are treated before they reach the slaughterhouse.

"Painful mutilations, transport for often hundreds of kilometres in Canada's freezing winters and scorching hot summers and even prolonged suffering at the slaughterhouse are just the tip of the iceberg," Lavender said.

The government quickly rejected the idea.

"Roadside memorials are meant to be there for families and communities who have experienced the loss of a loved one," Rachel Morgan, press secretary for Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton, wrote in an email.

"The department has no intention of changing the meaning behind these memorials."

The department has a policy that requires memorials to be requested only by relatives of the deceased, Morgan added.

PETA applied for a similar memorial in Illinois last year, but was denied. The state's Roadside Memorial Act specifies that only relatives who lost loved ones in highway crashes can request memorials.

In 2006, Virginia rejected PETA's request for highway markers to memorialize hogs killed in crashes on their way to slaughter.

The province's cattle producers association denied PETA's accusation that cows are mistreated.

"Cattle producers care very deeply about their animals," said Cam Dahl, general manager of Manitoba Beef Producers.

"We're always looking for ways of reducing stress on animals and making sure that they do get to where they're going healthy."

PETA asked that the proposed sign read "Careless Driving Costs Lives: In Memory of 71 Cows."

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