OTTAWA, Ont. – The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning livestock haulers that changes are in store and encouraging them to have a say in what exactly those changes will entail.
The CFIA is giving plenty of notice about the proposed changes to Canada’s animal transportation regulations, in hopes carriers will provide feedback and help shape the new standards which could be introduced as early as this year.
The agency is soliciting feedback through its Web site before posting the proposed changes in Canada Gazette Part 1.
“What it boils down to is the current regulations were written about 30 years ago and there has been very little change (to the regs) since,” the CFIA’s Dr. Gord Doonan told Truck West.
“We have a lot more information available now than we did 30 years ago, and we have to recognize that. Finally, the expectations of the Canadian public have changed over that period of time too. There’s more awareness of the way animals are treated and it’s quite clear from the letters and calls we receive from the public that they expect animals to be treated well.”
Canada’s antiquated animal transport rules allow for cattle to go for up to 81 hours without feed (from the time they leave the farm to the time they are slaughtered) and up to 57 hours without water.
“Most people aren’t taking advantage of that,” Doonan points out. “But there are always a few that will go as far as we allow them to go. The regulations are really needed for the minority.”
Changes to the feed, water and rest requirements will be sure to be included in any amendments to the animal transportation regs, but Doonan said carriers won’t necessarily incur increased costs as a result.
He points out there are many under-utilized areas where livestock can be offloaded for rest periods.
And in some cases, food, water and rest can be provided right on-board the trailer.
“In the Health of Animals regulations there is a provision that allows animals to be provided with food, water and rest on the vehicle but the vehicle must be suitably equipped for that purpose,” points out Doonan.
“What comprises suitability of the vehicle? That’s part of what we’re working on as well.”
Many of the changes being discussed will simply be to the wording of the regulations, in an effort to clarify areas that cause confusion.
For instance, terms such as “animal transportation risk factors” and “overcrowding” will be more clearly defined.
Another area that’s expected to be addressed is loading density. Canadian livestock haulers tend to pack more critters into their trailers than many other countries that have established animal welfare standards, Doonan points out.
While he admits Canadian livestock haulers generally do a good job transporting animals, he adds “We’re the ones that load the most animals on the vehicles out of those countries that have standards … and we allow animals to go the longest.”
The revamped regs may also call for the mandatory training of livestock haulers.
The industry has already started heading in this direction, Doonan says, with the development of a new livestock trucking program developed by Alberta Farm Animal Care.
“There is already a movement in that direction and this would support what the industry is trying to do,” Doonan says.
The changes being proposed are based on about five years of feedback from stakeholders ranging from producers to packing plants. Even animal rights groups have had their say.
But Doonan said he would like to hear more from the carriers and drivers themselves before proceeding with any significant changes.
“We’d like to work more closely with the carriers,” he said. “The trucking industry has been difficult to communicate with because they’re pretty independent.”