Canada: We must do better for our animals

by Anna Pippus

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2016 5:00AM EST

Last updated Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2016 10:53AM EST

Anna Pippus is a Vancouver-based lawyer and director of farmed animal
advocacy at Animal Justice

Earlier this year, 95 per cent of Canadians said
<http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/new-poll-finds-97-percent-of-canadians
-support-stronger-federal-transport-protections-for-farmed-animals-572368961
.html> it is important to ensure farmed animals are treated humanely, even
if it costs more. This is quite possibly the one issue we can actually agree
on <http://angusreid.org/canada-values/> . Although most Canadians eat
animals, we are united in having no appetite for animal suffering.

Animal transport regulations, in particular, have been a political
battleground for animal welfare advocates and the meat industry.

While the government does not regulate farm conditions – choosing instead to
finance and endorse industry-created codes of practice – it does get
involved in regulating transport and slaughter because of the food safety
and interprovincial trade dimensions.

If the government is going to do something, we want them to do it
competently.

But Canada’s transport regulations have been criticized
<http://www.animaljustice.ca/blog/weak-transport-regulations-sentence-millio
ns-farmed-animals-suffer-die/> as the worst in the Western world, lagging
behind the transport welfare laws of the European Union, Australia, New
Zealand and the United States.

Transportation is incredibly stressful. For animals that have never left the
controlled conditions of indoor modern farms, being crowded into a truck
with strangers, deprived of food and water for long periods of time, and
exposed to extreme weather is one of the worst ordeals of their abbreviated
lives.

It is so stressful, in fact, that millions of animals do not survive the
journey to the slaughterhouse. Dropping dead during transportation is so
common that law enforcement will not even investigate a truck of chickens
from an egg farm, for example, unless at least 4 per cent
<http://humanefood.ca/maple_lodge.html> are dead on arrival.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency this week published much-anticipated
amendments to the Health of Animals Regulations after more than a decade of
lobbying from animal welfare advocates, humane societies, veterinarians,
animal lawyers and other experts in animal protection.

The proposed regulations are disappointing, barely improving some key areas
and entirely failing to address others. A CFIA statement
<http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2016/2016-12-03/html/reg2-eng.php> says
98 per cent of shipments are already compliant with the new regulations – in
other words, not much is changing.

For example, exposure to extreme weather is a major source of stress, injury
and mortality. Animals are shipped <http://humanefood.ca/maple_lodge.html>
every day of the year, regardless of weather, which means that in open-sided
trucks they are directly exposed to that day’s precipitation, temperature,
wind and humidity at top highway speeds.

Yet the proposed regulations simply reword the old weather exposure
provision, retaining wishy-washy language that would, in practice, mean
animals will continue to be <http://humanefood.ca/maple_lodge.html>
transported in inadequate trucks every day regardless of weather.

There is no reason we cannot require common-sense technological improvements
and accountability for non-compliance, following in the footsteps of the
European Union. There, vehicles are required to have forced air and heating
ventilation systems that keep trucks between five and 30 degrees Celsius.
Monitoring systems must alert the driver when temperatures reach either
limit, and the data from these systems must be accessible to law
enforcement.

Moreover, Canada’s proposed new regulations would continue to allow animals
to be transported without access to food, water or rest for inexcusably long
periods of time, despite this being a main source of international concern.

On-board watering systems – a simple retrofit – would not be required. Pigs
and horses could be in transit for up to 28 hours; cows for up to 36 hours;
and chickens for up to 24 hours.

The proposed regulations fall short: They would not prohibit animals from
being held by their legs or thrown, even though this is a common – and
criticized
<http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/HSUS-Report-on-Manual-Catchin
g-of-Poultry.pdf> – practice in the chicken transport industry; animals
would be overcrowded because specific, measurable, evidence-based loading
densities have not been included, as they are
<http://www.animaljustice.ca/blog/weak-transport-regulations-sentence-millio
ns-farmed-animals-suffer-die/> in the European Union; they are silent on
the issue of using bolt cutters to cut off animals’ nerve-filled teeth to
the gum line, a common animal management technique (yes, really
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3aOXp7KzPo> ); they would permit the use
of electric prods to shock
<http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/02/29/news/torturous-journey-animals-c
anadian-plates> injured or fearful animals to move; and driving and
transport company training and licensing requirements would remain
ineffectively weak.

Fortunately, it is not too late for the government to get its act together –
there’s a 75 day comment period
<http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1990&ea.campaign.id=602
28> before these bleak regulations become law. Let’s hope they will hear
the 95 per cent of us who want to shed the dubious honour of having the
worst animal transportation standards in the Western world.

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4 thoughts on “Canada: We must do better for our animals

  1. The treatment of farm animals, we know, is horrific and inexcusable. We know it, and most of us have been fighting it for decades. How much good has it done? The powers that be who exploit the animals for money will get their legislators to keep voting against better treatment or will go on passing bills full of loopholes and with no will or funding for enforcement. And most of us will keep on fighting and feeling contempt for all involved. Nothing new here.

    • And let us not forget the primary link on the food chain – the dummies who keep shoveling down their burgers and fries. Some can’t even bother to expend the effort to get out of their car! Someday I expect to see a funnel at the fastfood window –

  2. While I agree with any form of legislation for the betterment of conditions for farm animals, personally I think the current system just couldn’t be trusted. I think until all factory farms are shut down whatever we do is like putting a band aid on a deep cut that is bleeding profusely! Whenever profit becomes the first and foremost priority, any common sense and decency is repressed. Since when we the civilized people think an animal farm must compete, in terms of profit, with other industries. For example why is food companies like Tyson Food are allowed to exist????? How can we agree that a CEO of a food company is the right person to decide for the welfare of animals? Since when any business that is concerned with the all mighty dollars cares about compassion?? Why do governments allow a company to encourage people eat such absurdly massive quantities of meat to increase their profit?

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