The National Farmed Animal Care Council (NFACC) will receive up to $4.56 million from the Canadian Agriculture Partnership to update important livestock care codes including the controversial animal transport one.
The funding was announced by Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and will also be used by NFACC to update its dairy and goat care codes and create one for farmed finfish.
MacAulay said the funding “will ensure Canadian standards are in place and up to date to meet new and emerging consumer and market demands, while building consumer confidence about how farmed animals are raised and transported.”
“Livestock and poultry welfare is important to everyone, from the animals themselves to producers and consumers,” said Ryder Lee, chair of NFACC. “We are pleased the government has chosen to invest in this project to help improve farm animal well-being and address expectations of consumers and the marketplace.”
The dairy code is to be updated to address new scientific findings and changes in industry practices and market and consumer demands while the goat code will be changed to reflect growing buyer and consumer expectations for on-farm animal welfare.
The code for farmed fish “is a new and emerging animal welfare concern for which the industry needs to be able to demonstrate its commitment and alignment with public values and consumer expectations.”
NFACC applied for the funding last year to finish the four projects it had been working on for months, said Jackie Wepruk, manager.
While a lot of preparatory work has been done on modernizing the 2001 transport code, contracting any additional work required a funding commitment.
“We want to be ready to hit the ground running on the code development when it does,” Wepruk said.
The goal will be to have the new transport code ready to come into effect by 2023, she said. While that seems like a long time, there is no rushing the process, and no way to force people to move faster.
“This is a complex endeavour and we want to do it right,” Wepruk said. “Also, we expect there will be many differences among the stakeholders and we want to take the time to find the right balance among the different views.”
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued proposed guidelines on proper humane transport of compromised animals and Wepruk hopes its package of regulations will be ready in time to be included in the NFACC’s transport code work.
The NFACC’s code updating work will include a scan of the available literature on what’s been done in Canada and elsewhere to improve livestock transport, she said.
“We need to reach a common understanding at the issues involved with this matter,” she said. “There are lots of regulations out there on animal transportation. Also it’s an issue that attracts a lot of public attention.”
The public interest “means we have to be ultra-transparent in what we do and make our scientific reports publicly available. It’s important we have a civil dialogue among all the interested groups.”
The resulting code has to be clear for livestock shippers and receivers as well as the drivers who haul the animals, she said. Livestock transport has become a specialty service and training programs for the drivers are available.
The transport code will require input from the 14 livestock species covered by NFACC as well as other stakeholders, she said.