op ed articles

Animal transport regulations: time for change

Stephanie Brown
The Hill Times

June 20, 2016

Imagine travelling—mostly standingmore than two days and two nights without water, food, or rest. Yet 52 hours is the allowed travel time for Canada’s cattle, sheep and goats, according to federal animal transport regulations. For pigs, poultry and horses, the prescribed time is 36 hours without water, food, or rest.

That’s in addition to the five to seven-hour feed withdrawal prior to loading.

It all combines to create one of the most stressful situations animals must endure. Yet virtually all Canada’s hundreds of millions of farmed animals are transported at least once in their lifetime. The type of farm where they were raised doesn’t matter: organic, conventional, small or large, they all must endure transport. And every year, millions of animals die en route to their destination.

On arrival at the slaughter plant—animals wait their turn for slaughter, often for hours. Chickens sit, stacked in cramped crates on trailers, waiting. Fragile “spent” hens— their bodies nearly featherless and suffering osteoporosis after a year of egg laying in battery cages—are shipped long hours to slaughter to become spiced hot dogs.

Canada’s animal transport regulations date back to 1975. They don’t reflect today’s standards. Compared with the European Union, our vehicles are rudimentary and rarely outfitted with mechanical ventilation, movable floors, temperature monitors, alarms, or water. These amenities are available, though rarely used in Canada, yet these improvements make a huge difference to animal well-being.

Canada’s animal transport times are considered the worst in the developed world. The United States has the 28-hour law which, as its name suggests, sets a maximum baseline travel time of 28 hours. Compare our regulations with the EU, which permits only eight hours of transport unless vehicle amenities are provided. 

Canadian pigs and cattle are shipped east and west across the country, and south to the United States for slaughter. To add insult to injury, after many hours without food, water or rest, the transport clock returns to zero when animals reach the border for further travel, often to the southern U.S.

Highway inspections of animal-transport vehicles are needed, but few, if any, Canadian Food Inspection Agency highway inspectors are available. As a result, animals die from inadequate protection and ventilation in Canada’s often extreme weather.


The CFIA, too, recognizes the problems. According to their statements, changes are necessary because, “Canada’s current humane transportation Regulations no longer reflect current industry practice, current science, or societal expectations. Public perception and livestock industry practices have changed. Public scrutiny, stakeholder interest, and advancements in animal welfare have increased significantly in recent years. Gaps exist in the World Organizations for Animal Health (OIE) standards, and there is pressure from international partners who desire to see changes to the regulations in the context of Canadian exports (e.g. Europe).”

The reality is that today, farm animal welfare is not only good for animals, it’s also become critical to international business—which makes the way we transport animals under the Health of Animals Regulations extremely important.

Updating the regulations is an opportunity for federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay to advance Canada’s position as a global trade partner and improve the lives of millions of animals—two good reasons for change.

Stephanie Brown is a co-founder and a director of the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals, based in Toronto, info@humanefood.ca