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Downer Animals Can No Longer Go To Slaughter

Recent changes to provincial legislation make it illegal to transport “downer” animals to slaughter plants in Manitoba.

Bill 2 (The Animal Care Amendment Act) now only allows downers to be transported to veterinary clinics.

The bill recently passed public hearings by the Manitoba Legislature Standing Committee on Agriculture and Food. It defines a downed animal as one suffering from “infirmity, illness, fatigue or any other cause” that would make it unable to stand or suffer unduly during transport.

The federal Health of Animals Act also prohibits transporting downers. But it only governs animals while in transit, not during loading or unloading. Once an animal is off the truck, federal officials have no authority.

The amendment covers that gap by giving responsibility to the province, said provincial veterinarian Dr. Wayne Lees.

“There is no issue remaining for downer animals because the single clause that referred to transportation directly to slaughter has been removed,” Lees said. “Under the bill as it now stands, one can only move a downer animal to a vet clinic for treatment.”

Under Section 5.1(2) of the previous bill, downer animals could be loaded and transported, if done humanely, either “(a) to or from a veterinary clinic or the nearest suitable place to obtain medical attention, or (b) directly to slaughter at the nearest available slaughterhouse.” The amendment removes (b).

Animal welfare activist attending the March 17 committee hearing took the removal to mean that transporting downers to slaughter will become legal.

“Rather than including an amendment which would strictly forbid this common practice, they instead chose to codify it,” Twyla Francois, an investigator with the Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals, told the committee.

However, Dr. Allan Preston, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives assistant deputy minister, said the situation is exactly the opposite.

“An amendment has been tabled that will remove the exception that would have allowed the transport to slaughter of an animal that cannot be loaded humanely. The issue is resolved,” said Preston, a veterinarian.

He said downer cattle may be slaughtered on a farm and the meat eaten by the farm family, but uninspected meat may not be sold off-farm.

If the producer has an injured animal that he or she wishes to salvage for meat, the animal must be evaluated by a vet first. If it is considered potentially fit for human consumption, but unfit to transport, the animal can be stunned and bled on the farm. The carcass must then be transported to an abattoir within two hours, where it is inspected by a CFIA inspector to determine if the meat is fit for consumption.

Bill 2 was originally introduced in the legislature September 18, 2008 but failed to pass before the session ended. It was reintroduced November 24, 2008.

Other amendments include: developing a public registry of licensed pet breeders; licensing pet stores; mandatory reporting of animal abuse; expanding powers to enter and inspect premises. [email protected]

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