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Canadians Just Forced the Government to Address Animal Welfare in Slaughter Laws

Animal Justice January 15, 2018

Last year, we told you that the federal government is overhauling Canada’s decades-old slaughter regulations as part of a food safety modernization initiative. We told you that in the entire introduction to the update (over 22,000 words), animal protection wasn’t even mentioned once.

We explained the many ways that the proposed slaughter rules would permit inhumane treatment of animals. We submitted a detailed critique to the government, and mobilized you, our supporters, to do the same.

We’re pleased to tell you that the government has heard us. In the recently issued ‘What We Heard Report‘, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) identified a lack of attention to animal welfare as a key theme that emerged from the public consultation period.

According to the CFIA, 1717 written submissions were received, many of which “supported further strengthening the proposed animal welfare requirements, including a petition signed by Canadians in support of recommendations for more humane treatment of animals.”

In particular, “more precise training protocols, and specific and stronger language were requested for the humane treatment of animals prior to, and during, slaughter.” The CFIA will now revisit the draft regulations, taking this feedback into account.

Our specific criticisms of the draft slaughter regulations were:

  • live-hanging of birds (who represent 97 percent of animals killed for food in Canada) is still allowed, even though this method is known to cause horrific pain and fear to the sensitive creatures.
  • they fail to address the well-documented margin of error on fast-moving slaughter lines—many animals are improperly stunned and drowned, scalded, or skinned alive.
  • sentient aquatic animals like fishes, crustaceans, and octopuses are entirely excluded from slaughter rules.
  • non-stun (ritual) slaughter continues to be permitted, even though it’s opposed by veterinary and animal welfare organizations around the world.
  • cruel electric prods continue to be permitted.
  • government inspectors aren’t required to always be on-site during slaughter.
  • the proposed rules use are difficult to enforce due to vague wording. For example, instead of setting out exactly how much space each animal should have, they simply require animals to have “sufficient space.”
  • the agriculture industry will be allowed to define values claims such as “free range,” even though these marketing terms are deliberately used to mislead consumers.

Thank you to the countless compassionate animal advocates who spoke up! Sometimes it can feel discouraging to fight against the billion-dollar animal agriculture industry, which has the ear of government officials and often gets its way. But we have justice and compassion on our side, and together, we are making a difference for animals. Our voices are starting to be heard, and those voices will only get louder in the years to come—all thanks to you.

We’ll keep you updated on the next steps in forcing the government to take animal protection seriously in its regulatory updates. 

To help, please sign up to our mailing list and stay tuned for ways to get involved.

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur /Djurrattsalliansen

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Animal Justice

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New Farmed Animal Slaughter Rules Proposed – Have Your Say

Animal Justice April 18, 2017

As part of a food safety modernization initiative, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is overhauling our decades-old slaughter regulations.

Though it’s unsurprising that the focus of the new food safety regulations is food safety, it’s concerning that the welfare of the 750 million land animals we kill for food each year in Canada reads more like a footnote than an integral aspect of the regulatory scheme.

In fact, the entire preamble that introduces the new rules (over 22 thousand words) discusses only food safety and economics. There’s not a single reference to animal welfare.

Although suspending conscious animals will be banned under the new rules, an exception is made for birds—including chickens and turkeys—even though these animals are the vast majority of the ones we kill for food (97 percent). Conscious chickens and turkeys will continue to be shackled upside-down before their heads are dragged through an electrified vat of water.

It’s not because these animals don’t suffer when hung upside down, their legs yanked into wedge-shaped metal shackles—they do. And it’s not because less cruel methods aren’t available—they are. Rather, it’s because the priority in drafting new farmed animal rules is industry convenience instead of animal welfare.

The new rules also don’t address the serious problem of too many of animals being improperly stunned on fast moving slaughter lines. In practice, this margin of error means that animals are routinely drowned, scalded, or skinned alive.

Aquatic animals are entirely excluded from the rules, meaning not a single piece of legislation regulates the welfare of fishes at slaughter, despite a growing body of science showing these animals are conscious and experience pain and fear. By contrast, in the European Union, fishes too are covered by the general rule that prohibits inflicting excessive pain and distress at slaughter.

Like their predecessors, the new rules require animals to be unconscious before having their throats cut, but allow an exemption for ritual slaughter. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association—as well as most transnational veterinary and animal welfare groups—opposes this non-stun slaughter for inflicting additional pain and fear onto animals.

The new rules continue to permit electric prods. Covertly obtained footage has shown not only that these cruel devices are used to force injured and ill animals to walk, but that government inspectors have been present for such reprehensible conduct and failed to act.

Government inspectors aren’t even required to always be on-site. When violations occur there’s a good chance nobody will be there to enforce the law anyway. The EU deals with the economic and practical difficulty of always having government inspectors present by requiring slaughterhouses to appoint Animal Welfare Officers on their own dime to implement animal welfare measures.

As part of a worrying trend away from measurable regulations, the new rules are filled with vague terms like “sufficient space,” “avoidable injury,” and “sufficient ventilation.” These amorphous terms—termed “outcomes-based measures”—tend to be under-enforced to animals’ detriment. In the European Union, quantifiable and well-defined standards delineate clear regulatory boundaries.

Updated labelling rules make it more explicit that the government’s priority is monitoring packaging quantities and ingredients. So-called values claims, such as “free range” and “grass fed,” will be left to industry to define—even if it misleads consumers.

When it comes to food safety, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency demonstrates that it’s capable of creating rigorous standards—for instance, chewing gum is prohibited in any food packaging or animal slaughtering facility because evidently it risks contaminating food. Yet, the new slaughter rules lump living animals together with inanimate food items, sidelining even their most fundamental interests to the most trivial of ours.

There is a growing awareness that animals—including farmed animals—are sentient individuals with rich emotional lives. Fortunately, it’s not too late to demand better for these animals from the regulator. The public is invited to submit comments on the draft rules until April 21st, 2017 to CFIA-Modernisation-ACIA@inspection.gc.ca.

Animal Justice

166 total views, 3 today

Company Sues Slaughterhouse For Selling Cancer-Containing Meat

Animal Justice June 20, 2016

A meat brand is suing a slaughtering facility for supplying it with meat from an animal who had cancer. The lawsuit claims damages of $725,867.

The slaughterhouse had previously had its licence suspended for lacking food safety controls.

Canada’s meat industry is largely unregulated. For most of the animals lives, there are no species- or sector-specific standards relating to their treatment, and no oversight, accountability, or transparency. Consumers are in the dark about what animals endure inside modern farms with only industry-created marketing materials to fill the knowledge gap.

Animal Justice is calling for a regulatory system that takes rule-making power out of the hands of those who stand to profit from using–or abusing–animals.

Animal Justice

241 total views, 2 today

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