beef cattle in feedlot

CFIA bowed to industry pressure when drafting animal transportation regulations

Documents obtained through an Access to Information request show ‘strong resistance’ to changes intended to improve the welfare of animals

After 39 years, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is amending its outdated animal transportation regulations.

An estimated 14 million animals suffer during transportation every year in Canada and 1.59 million animals reportedly die on the way to their destinations, according to the CFIA.

The Health of Animals Regulations, Part XII (animal transport) is available for public comment until February 15. Have your say.

Documents obtained by the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals through an Access to Information show that, in response to industry concerns, some parts of the regulations were altered against the recommendations of scientists and to the detriment of animals. The CFIA’s talking points, however, show the agency continues to tout its regulations as “supported by science.”

In particular, the maximum allowable time for animals to be transported without food, rest and water was increased from pre-consultation to post-consultation for nearly every mentioned species.

For instance, the agency initially proposed beef and dairy cattle should not be without food, water and rest for longer than 28 hours. After consultation, this was increased to 36 hours.

“Spent” hens, sent to slaughter because they no longer produce as many eggs, were initially considered “compromised due to their depleted state” and a 12-hour maximum without food, water and rest was proposed and “supported by science,” according to minister briefing notes; “however due to industry concerns, the interval was changed to 24 hours.”

Research findings cited in the files show that animals suffer long before the maximum food, water and rest times (“spent” hens reportedly show signs of suffering at eight hours).

Another briefing document notes chickens “are often deprived on farm (prior to “catching”) and in lairage (at the plant prior to slaughter) for excessively and unjustifiably long times.” The average farm withholds food and water from chickens for, on average, 7.75 hours prior to transport, plus 5.54 hours for loading and (an average) 2.96 hours in transport, and 9.72 hours waiting for slaughter, one graphic shows.

While the draft regulations do not address the issue of transporting food animals in hot summer and frigid winter weather, mentioning only that animals should not be transported if they are “likely to suffer, sustain injury or die,” one slide presentation indicated “exposure, heat and cold and inadequate ventilation” as the top three most frequent types of non-compliance.

Other countries provide improvements to animal transport vehicles, including mechanical ventilation, heating and cooling, and alarms to warn drivers of problems. None of these amenities is required in Canada.

Uncovered emails between CFIA staff also reveal dead-on-arrival rates across Canada in 2014 for spent hens; 17.4 per cent of shipments inspected had dead-on-arrival rates of four per cent or more (considered non-compliant). On one truckload, 51.59 per cent of the hens were dead.

“Spent” hens are fragile creatures following a year of egg laying in battery cages. They suffer osteoporosis and are often featherless from cage confinement. “Catchers” quickly grab the worn-out hens from the small cages, breaking their legs and wings, stuffing them in crates for transport to slaughter.

Boars have their tusks cut without pain relief to curb aggression, when an obvious solution is to partition them from other animals.

An analysis included with CFIA’s draft regulations compares the proposed transport times with New Zealand, the European Union, Australia and the United States. It shows that Canada’s current transport regulations are considered the worst in the developed world. While the newly drafted regulations call for shorter transport times, they still significantly exceed times in the European Union and New Zealand.

The Health of Animals Regulations, Part XII (animal transport) is available for public comment until February 15.

Have your say.

Dr. Cornelius Kiley, National Manager
Animal Welfare, Biosecurity and Assurance Programs Section
Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay

Minister of Health Jane Philpott