Thirty signatories in a letter to federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay have asked for immediate release of new rules governing livestock transport.
In a letter dated Feb. 6, a bevy of humane societies from Montreal to Vancouver, along with animal welfare and animal rights groups including Mercy for Animals, Toronto Pig Save, Animal Alliance of Canada and the Save Movement, asked MacAulay to release updates to the Health of Animals Regulations — Humane Transportation, which has been in the works for years.
Two members of Parliament also signed the letter: Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May and Beaches-East York Liberal party member Nathanial Erskine-Smith, who put forward a private member’s bill in 2016 aimed at strengthening the country’s animal protection laws.
Drafts of the livestock transport amendments were released in 2016 and were expected to be released sometime in 2018 or 2019. The regulations have not been substantially updated since 1977.
“The draft amendments released by your ministry in December 2016 only offer minor improvements to the existing regulations,” the letter said. “Farm animals can legally be transported for up to three days without food, water or rest, or adequate protection from inclement weather. The result is that approximately 14 million farm animals arrive dead, dying or injured at federally inspected slaughterhouses each year because transport conditions are so poor.”
The source of those figures was not provided in the letter. However, they may be based on Canadian Food Inspection Agency background information that said a two percent noncompliance rate with current regulations would mean 14 million animals could suffer during transport.
The letter submitted to the minister further stated that proposed amendments were influenced by livestock industry representatives, particularly in regard to the maximum allowable transport times.
Dave Moss, general manager of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, said the industry provided input to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency about the proposed regulatory changes and shares general desires to see updates to current rules. However, substantial decreases to allowed transport times would be a problem.
“In my mind we’re very much aligned with the animal welfare people, that we all want what’s best for the livestock,” he said.
“We simply go on what the science is showing and there’s some very good studies that have been done showing that animals are arriving at 99 percent, in terms of healthy and standing and in good condition when they arrive (at destination), with the current model the way it is.”
The letter from the 30 groups and individuals calls for science-based regulations as well.
“Our national animal transport regulations should reflect the vast body of scientific evidence concerning animal well-being, as well as Canadian societal values that oppose the needless suffering of non-human animals,” the letter said.
The proposed regulations tabled in Canada Gazette call for maximum intervals without food and water for grain and hay-fed cattle of 36 hours, down from the current 52 hours. Those same intervals for horses and pigs would be reduced to 28 hours from 36 while broiler chicken, spent hen and rabbit intervals would be reduced to 24 hours from the current 36.
In its background data when tabling regulatory proposals, the CFIA said its objectives with the amendments are to better reflect new science on the care and handling of animals to reduce risk, better align Canada’s requirements with those of other countries and satisfy societal expectations regarding responsible animal care in transport.
Moss said there is speculation that the federal election later this year may be the reason for delays in releasing the new rules.
On another front, the National Farm Animal Care Council has undertaken an update to the transport codes of practice for livestock. The projected completion date is spring 2023.