New Report Alleges Systemic Livestock Transport Abuse

“Do the math. It’s less than half a per cent.”


Anew and controversial report by the World Society for the Protection of Animals claims farm animals routinely arrive at Canadian livestock auction markets and slaughterhouses dead, sick or severely injured.

It bases its findings, not on anecdotal evidence, but on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s own internal reports.

WSPA says CFIA compliance reports reveal documented cases of consistent and systemically inhumane conditions for livestock transported for sale or slaughter.

Among its claims:

CFIA’s own statistics show two million to three million animals arrive dead at their destinations every year.

Injured, sick and crippled animals are routinely transported in violation of federal regulations which ban the shipment of “downers.”

Animals are frequently transported in overcrowded conditions for 12 hours or more.

CFIA is severely short of trained animal welfare inspectors, especially veterinarians, whose reporting, when it does occur, is weak and inconsistent.

Animals in transport suffer unduly because livestock shippers are poorly trained.

WSPA derived the information from three months’ worth of CFIA reports used to assess compliance with animal transport regulations under the federal Health of Animals Act. The reports, obtained under federal access to information legislation, date from October 9, 2008 to January 9, 2009.

In its report, WSPA urges Ottawa to strengthen animal transport regulations, implement stronger deterrents, improve enforcement and hire more inspectors to do the job.

It said EU standards are much stricter and cited a United Nations report saying animal transport is “ideally suited for spreading disease.”

The report reached the floor of the House of Commons last week. Citing its findings, NDP MP Malcolm Allen asked Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz to “assure Canadians that diseased animals won’t end up on their grills this summer.”

Ritz dismissed “these ridiculous articles sometimes that appear in the magazines” and said CFIA staff “do a tremendous job.”

Paul Mayers, a CFIA spokesperson, acknowledged the WSPA’s report appears to be based on CFIA’s own inspection documents, adding he couldn’t “confirm accuracy of every word and interpretation.”

But he denied inhumane transport conditions are systemic.

“The information that we have would continue to suggest to the vast majority of Canadian producers (that) the transport of their product takes careful account of the humane treatment of livestock,” said Mayers, CFIA’s associate vice-president of programs.

“The vast majority of transportation events don’t have the kinds of negative results that anyone would agree is inappropriate and should not be condoned.”

Mayers said Canada was the first nation to ban the transport of downer animals, which the WSPA report says still happens frequently. CFIA later confirmed the ban took effect in 2005, well before the time period investigated by WSPA.

Mayers said CFIA is drafting amendments to livestock transportation regulations “that would modernize and enhance the regulatory framework in terms of humane transportation.” They could be published for comment later this year.

Crystal Mackay, Ontario Farm Animal Council executive director, suggested WSPA may have cherry picked incidents to make violations appear worse than they really are.

If three million animals die in transport each year, that’s “horrific” but still only a small fraction of the 700 million animals shipped to slaughter each year, said Mackay.

“Do the math. It’s less than half a per cent.”

Mackay said the industry has come a long way in livestock-handling techniques, including research on loading and stocking densities.

“We’re light years ahead of where we were 50 years ago in how we handle and how we move animals and understanding the impact of humane handling on things like meat quality and (food) safety.”

In its recommendations, WSPA says training in humane handling should be mandatory for all drivers and animal handlers.

According to the Manitoba Pork Council, pig shippers must have Trucker Quality Assurance (TQA) certification in order to deliver animals to federally inspected packing plants in the province. The program, originating in the U. S. and adapted for Manitoba, includes classroom training in livestock handling, animal behaviour and transport regulations. [email protected]

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