Michelle Groleau’s office at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency receives regular complaints about cruel treatment of animals during transport.
She told the Canadian Livestock Transport conference in Calgary May 6 that the only contact many people have with livestock is when they see animals being moved in trucks on the highway or at border crossings. They are concerned when they see horses going to slaughter, animals moved during bad weather or apparent overcrowding in trailers.
“Data shows me that the vast majority of those are in compliance,” she said.
Studies show that only one percent of animals suffer an injury or other problem during transport. However, 700 million animals are transported every year, which means seven million could be affected.
“We can improve and we have to improve,” she said.
The country’s current animal transport regulations were written in 1977, but changing attitudes, new scientific evidence, better standards and improved international regulations show the need for change.
Revisions to the regulation are now before the federal justice department and could be published later this year.
The government and the industry agree that the basic goal is a healthy animal coming off a truck.
Changes are likely to cover duration of journeys, density on trailers, better record keeping and specific training for everyone who deals with animals at every stage in the production or transport cycle.
“Transport of animals is a shared responsibility among all handlers at all phases,” she said.
Driver training programs are available in Canada through the Canadian Livestock Transport Certification Program, said manager Geraldine Auston.
An online version may soon be offered so more people can study the material. Random audits are also being considered to make sure certified drivers are following the procedures learned in the course.
The European Union also offers driver training and has had strict regulations for years, but the system is not perfect, said Eddie Harper, a livestock transportation consultant from the United Kingdom.
“All member states must operate within the regulation. We hope,” he said.
Differences in interpretation among the 28 member countries are common. Having 24 official languages adds to the confusion.
Many of the regulations are similar to what is followed in North America, where unfit animals may not be transported.