Canada’s transport rules ‘embarrassingly far behind’

OTTAWA — Animal transportation is the next priority for Mercy For Animals.

It’s the group responsible for recent undercover videos showing animal cruelty at the Western Hog Exchange in Red Deer and Chilliwack Cattle Sales in British Columbia.

Krista Osborne, executive director for the group in Canada, was in Ottawa at the end of November seeking lobbyists to promote changes to animal transport regulations.

In an interview at the National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council meeting, Osborne said the Western Hog Exchange investigation, which led to a television documentary on W-5, illustrated the need for regulatory improvement.

“It ended up being a real emphasis on how outdated our transportation regulations are in Canada. Our transportation regulations fall embarrassingly far behind every other major country, including new Zealand, Australia, the entire European Union and even the United States,” said Osborne.

She said eight million animals a year die in Canada because of poor transportation, attributing the number to Canadian Food Inspection Agency figures.

Osborne repeated that figure in queries to panelists during a Nov. 24 NFAHW session on animal welfare research capacity.

She referred to an Ontario chicken operation accused of violating federal animal health regulations, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of chickens.

Chicken Farmers of Canada executive director Mike Dungate said producers follow a code of practice that covers transport. Issues arise when meat birds are ready for transport and weather conditions are adverse for shipping.

Holding the chickens back can cause other animal welfare issues, he added.

Dungate cited ongoing research at the University of Saskatchewan and in Ontario aimed at improving chicken welfare in transport.

Greg Douglas, chief veterinarian for Ontario, said most veterinarians have examples of poor decisions made about animal transport. Re-search and training are key to reducing livestock mortality related to shipping.

Osborne said in an interview that Mercy For Animals has sent a proposal for changes to animal transport regulations to federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz but has not received a response.

“What continues to astound me is why farmers do not appeal to Gerry Ritz themselves,” said Osborne.

“I can’t imagine that they are happy to know that eight million of their animals do not enter the human food supply chain as a direct result of our egregious transportation regulations. They should be on our side and they should be working with us to demand that these transportation regulations at minimum meet the standards that apply in the European Union.”

Osborne said Mercy For Animals has ongoing investigations in Canada but declined to provide specifics. The organization has been investigating animal agriculture in Canada for two years and in the United States for 15 years and has exposed animal cruelty at every site it has entered.

“This leads us to believe that cruelty runs rampant throughout the factory farming industry.”

Osborne confirmed that her group’s goal is to eliminate animal agriculture in favor of veganism.

“At Mercy For Animals, we believe that the only way to ensure that we are not participating in cruel practices towards animals is to adopt a vegan diet. That’s the only way anyone can be assured that they’re not participating in the kind of practices that our undercover investigations portray.

“Having said that, we also recognize that the world will not wake up vegan tomorrow, and until that time we do strive for better welfare practices for animals that do become part of the food supply chain.”

The Ottawa conference included representatives from national beef, pork, chicken, dairy, sheep and mink organizations as well as federal and provincial government veterinarians, researchers and others focused on farmed animal welfare.

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