The Harper government is coming down hard on people who mistreat livestock during transport, even though there’s no evidence the number of infractions is increasing.
Ottawa is more than doubling fines for violating livestock transport rules under the federal Health of Animals Act.
People who mistreat and improperly transport farm animals can now be hit with a financial penalty of up to $10,000, compared to the previous $4,000 maximum fine.
Repeat offenders can be fined as much as $15,000 instead of the previous $6,000 maximum.
The government made the announcement Oct. 27, citing animal welfare as the reason.
“Our government is not only improving this act because it hasn’t been updated in 10 years but it is also a part of our overall strategy to make sure that animals are handled and transported properly while ensuring our agriculture industry can continue to thrive,” said federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz in an email statement to theCo-operator.
However, livestock transport violations and fines have remained fairly stable in Canada over the years. In some cases, they have actually gone down, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
CFIA figures show the number of violations resulting in financial penalties was 189 in 2004-05 but only 120 in 2009-10 (see chart).
CFIA has authority outside the regular justice system to levy fines (called administrative monetary penalties or AMPs) for violations. The average AMP was $2,100 in 2004-05 and $2,400 in 2009-10. AMPs ranged in value between $200 and $8,000 in 2004-05 and from $200 to $6,400 in 2009-10 (see chart).
This raises questions about why the government is cracking down on livestock transport violators when the statistics do not reflect a growing problem.
Sources speculated the government may be getting ready to announce long-awaited amendments to Part 12 of the Health of Animals Act governing humane transportation. CFIA officials said they could not comment.
Others suggested Ottawa is reacting to a damning report earlier this year alleging horrific conditions for farm animals transported to sale or slaughter in Canada.
Titled “Curb the Cruelty,” the report by the World Society for the Protection of Animals cited CFIA’s own compliance reports to claim livestock-handling abuse is systemic throughout the country and the agency does little about it.
The WSPA in a statement claimed credit for CFIA’s increasing fines for animal transport violations.
“This action by CFIA is a clear indication that WSPA’s Curb the Cruelty report had an impact,” the group said in a statement.
But it urged continued action, citing recent cases in Ontario and Nova Scotia of livestock trucks overturning, causing injury and death to animals.
Other animal welfare groups applauded the government’s announcement.
“We are hopeful that, through today’s changes, we can be encouraged that animals being transported will be safe,” said Connie Mallory, Ontario SPCA’s acting chief inspector.
Commodity groups, including the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Chicken Farmers of Canada, Turkey Farmers of Canada and the Canadian Pork Council, issued statements supporting the increased penalties. [email protected]
“Our government is improving this act because it hasn’t been updated in 10 years.”
– GERRY RITZ
Livestock Transportation Violations
The total number of AMPs issued as a result of violations of Part XII (Transportation of Animals) of the Health of Animals Regulations:
2004-2005 189 2005-2006 134 2006-2007 102 2007-2008 116 2008-2009 120 2009-2010 120 Grand Total 781
The value of the AMPs during this time frame is as follows:
2004-2005 $2,100 2005-2006 $2,200 2006-2007 $2,100 2007-2008 $2,250 2008-2009 $2,575 2009-2010 $2,400
Notice of Violation with PenaltyAverage value of each AMPWHERE THE MONEY GOESFiscal yearLow &High Amounts
2004-2005 $200 to $8,000 2005-2006 $200 to $4,000 2006-2007 $500 to $4,000 2007-2008 $500 to $4,400 2008-2009 $500 to $13,000 2009-2010 $200 to $6,400