Source: Beef Farmers of Ontario
BFO concerned the Government of Canada’s new transportation rules will undermine the beef sector’s strong record of humane transport success
The Government of Canada has released amendments to the Health of Animals regulations with respect to livestock transport in Canada. Pursuing changes to transportation practices that improve animal welfare is strongly supported by the Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) and our 19,000 members. However, we are concerned and disappointed by the risky approach the government has taken with the revised regulations.
Of most concern, the decrease in maximum allowable time in transit may actually degrade welfare outcomes for beef cattle in transit rather than improve them. The level of stress and the risk of injury and sickness are highest during loading, unloading and stops at livestock rest stations where animals are co-mingled from different origins. The government’s approach causes more beef cattle to be exposed to these risks by requiring more frequent stops, unloading and reloading. This will come at the expense of animal health and welfare.
The increased risks to beef cattle transported in Canada, as a result of these new regulations, come at a time of exceedingly strong animal welfare outcomes produced by our current system for beef cattle transported in Canada, which is both curious and disappointing. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) research confirms that more than 99.9% of cattle transported in Canada arrive at their destination without incident.
Additional AAFC research is presently underway to better understand the relationship between loading, unloading and reloading animals and the associated animal welfare outcomes among different classes of animals and time in transit. This is a noted gap in current research. It is unfortunate that the government chose to proceed with new rules that will require more frequent stops, loading and unloading before the efficacy of these practices, from an animal welfare perspective, could be evaluated using science-based research tested under commercial conditions in Canada.
To be clear, BFO agrees wholeheartedly with the objective of continuous improvement with respect to the welfare of animals in transit, and we have communicated a desire to make improvements that enhance animal welfare outcomes for beef cattle transported in Canada. Transportation is a critical component of the beef production system. Minimizing stress and preventing injury of animals during transport is of utmost importance to farmers, livestock transporters, the broader industry, and the general public, and should not be taken lightly.
We also believe that an evaluation of the stress of unloading and reloading animals versus the stress of completing the journey, the effects of temperature, trailer design and loading densities, as well as whether rest stops do, in fact, relieve stress, must be completed and analyzed before regulatory changes are made.
The Canadian beef sector has continuously demonstrated leadership in animal welfare, particularly when it comes to understanding the effects of transportation on cattle, and will continue to do so. We have communicated a desire and willingness to make improvements that better the welfare of animals in transit, and we support outcome-based regulations. Moving forward, BFO will be analyzing the revised regulations document in full, and will continue to engage the Government of Canada on our concerns about the animal welfare implications of these regulations before they come into effect next year.