New beef code will help calm critics, avoid crisis

Industry action will prevent government overreaction: CCA

BRANDON — Many of Canada’s cattle regulations and approved practices were formulated decades ago and are badly outdated, say beef industry leaders.

They told Manitoba Beef Producers’ recent annual meeting that the 1970s-era rules have Canada’s official situation way out of kilter with those of other countries and out of step with what most farmers think is right, which leaves them open to attack by animal welfare activists.

For example, current regulations allow cattle to be transported without breaks for 52 hours, or 57 hours if they have been watered just before boarding a truck.

“That’s a bit too damned long,” said cattle farmer Larry Clifford.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarian Jim Clark said Australian cattle can be shipped up to 24 hours, American cattle 28 to 36 hours, New Zealand cattle 12 hours and European Union cattle only eight hours.

New, tighter but more generally acceptable regulations are ready to be implemented, Clark said, and would help defend cattle producers against attacks by critics.

The way things stand now, those critics could not only attack specific instances of alleged animal abuse, but also attack industry rules that don’t fit contemporary mores.

“If we’ve got good regulatory framework, if we have good codes of practice, it kind of defuses some of these emotional arguments,” said Clark.

Canadian Cattlemen’s Association welfare specialist Ryder Lee agreed, describing a soon-to-be-updated cattle code of practice as a standard by which both good producers and offenders can be judged. An out-of-date code undermines confidence in farmers and the industry.

If the industry doesn’t appear to have good rules, a future crisis could easily lead to harsh government actions that could hurt farmers for a long time.

“If something goes off the rails hard enough, legislators will make change quicker than we can even get out of bed and react to it,” said Lee, noting the B.C. government’s swift response to the killing of sled dogs.

Farmer Don Guilford said producers have a wide range of opinions about what is and is not an acceptable way to transport livestock, and most just want to know what they should be doing.

“As producers, we want to know where we stand and what the expectations are,” said Guilford.

Lee said new regulations and the new code of practice will be loose on specific instructions, focusing in-stead on the results of whatever actions farmers take. Most methods won’t be dictated. Instead, farmers will be judged by welfare and condition of their animals.

“What we’re not trying to do with the code of practice is have (rules on) how to farm, how to raise cattle, a manual that touches everything,” said Lee.

He said farmers should check the proposed changes to the code of practice to ensure they’re feasible.

“Have a look through there.”

Clark said revised transport regulations are also ready to be implemented.

“We do have draft regulations ready to go.”

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