Treat­ing an­i­mals hu­manely is good busi­ness

Agency looks to tighten an­i­mal trans­port rules

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT -

The life of food an­i­mals on the move is not pleas­ant. On their way to slaugh­ter, they may be trans­ported over great dis­tances in unin­su­lated and over­crowded trucks. They rarely have room to lie down.

In the sum­mer, they suf­fer from ex­treme heat. In the win­ter, they en­dure frigid cold.

The le­gal re­quire­ments for pro­vid­ing them with food and wa­ter are hardly oner­ous. Pigs un­der trans­port need be of­fered wa­ter only once ev­ery 36 hours. For cat­tle, the min­i­mum is 52 hours.

Now, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Cana­dian Food In­spec­tion Agency is look­ing at tight­en­ing th­ese an­i­mal trans­port reg­u­la­tions. It would be nice to think this was mo­ti­vated by a moral de­sire to im­prove an­i­mal wel­fare. But as the CFIA notes in an online draft of its new reg­u­la­tions, the rea­sons are bru­tally eco­nomic.

Do­mes­tic con­sumers, it writes, are in­creas­ingly con­cerned with the wel­fare of the an­i­mals they eat.

More im­por­tant, for­eign­ers — par­tic­u­larly in the Euro­pean Union — are re­luc­tant to im­port meat and poul­try from coun­tries that raise, trans­port or slaugh­ter an­i­mals in­hu­manely. Canada’s fail­ure to match even the min­i­mum of in­ter­na­tional an­i­mal wel­fare stan­dards “could com­pro­mise mar­ket ac­cess,” the agency says

The CFIA’s pro­posed reg­u­la­tory changes are hardly rev­o­lu­tion­ary. Pigs, for in­stance, would have to of­fered wa­ter ev­ery 28 hours, down from 36. For cat­tle be­ing shipped, the wa­ter­ing min­i­mum would drop from 52 to 36 hours.

Un­der the pro­posed new reg­u­la­tions, those han­dling an­i­mals un­der trans­port would no longer be able to zap them with elec­tric prods on their faces, bel­lies or gen­i­tal ar­eas. (They would still be able to zap them else­where). Truck­ers would have to give an­i­mals more room — al­though ex­actly how much more is not spec­i­fied.

None of this matches the stiff reg­u­la­tions at play in the EU. There, an­i­mals un­der trans­port must be given food and wa­ter ev­ery eight hours. As well, load­ing den­si­ties — the amount of space given each an­i­mal in a truck — are ex­plic­itly spec­i­fied.

But it seems the CFIA is try­ing to do as lit­tle as pos­si­ble. The agency es­ti­mates that 98 per cent of Cana­dian ship­pers al­ready ad­here to prac­tices con­sis­tent with the pro­posed new stan­dards

In its online pre­sen­ta­tion of the draft reg­u­la­tions, it as­sures ship­pers that even those who do have to change their ways will find the costs of com­pli­ance min­i­mal. And it says there are eco­nomic ben­e­fits. It reck­ons, for in­stance, that the new reg­u­la­tions will re­duce the num­ber of an­i­mals that are crushed or starved to death dur­ing trans­port.

The truck­ing of food an­i­mals has be­come a cause célèbre since the ar­rest in 2015 of an­i­mal rights ac­tivist Anita Kra­jnc. Her al­leged crime was to give wa­ter to pigs be­ing trucked to a Burling­ton slaugh­ter­house. She is cur­rently on trial for crim­i­nal mis­chief.

Kra­jnc’s ar­rest fo­cused pub­lic at­ten­tion on the weak reg­u­la­tory regime that gov­erns the trans­port of an­i­mals. And so the reg­u­la­tions are be­ing changed. But crit­ics say the pro­posed new rules don’t go far enough.

In par­tic­u­lar, ar­gues Anna Pip­pus, a Van­cou­ver lawyer who works with the ad­vo­cacy group An­i­mal Jus­tice, the new reg­u­la­tions don’t ad­dress prob­lems posed by ex­treme weather.

Nor, as she wrote in the Globe and Mail last year, do they deal with the prac­tice of us­ing bolt cut­ters to cut off the teeth of an­i­mals be­ing shipped — a prac­tice de­signed to pre­vent them from dam­ag­ing one another in crowded quar­ters.

Last week, a fed­eral eco­nomic ad­vi­sory coun­cil is­sued a re­port ar­gu­ing Canada should con­cen­trate on its agri­cul­ture in­dus­try. In par­tic­u­lar, the re­port called on Canada to bur­nish its im­age in­ter­na­tion­ally as a source of safe, top-qual­ity food that is raised and pro­cessed un­der the high­est stan­dards.

If that strat­egy is to be adopted, the gov­ern­ment would be wise to im­ple­ment an­i­mal truck­ing reg­u­la­tions that are con­sid­er­ably more strin­gent than those sug­gested by the CFIA.

Thomas Walkom ap­pears in Torstar news­pa­pers.

THOMAS WALKOM

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