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What Do Ontario’s New Slaughter Laws Mean For Animals?

Animal Justice December 12, 2018

Ontario has announced that it’s amending its provincial slaughter regulations. The province will eliminate the need for a veterinarian to conduct post-mortem inspections at a slaughterhouse of an animal killed on a farm. However, a pre-slaughter inspection still needs to be done by a veterinarian on the farm. This will decrease the likelihood that the industry will attempt to truck downed animals to slaughterhouses, causing them even more stress and suffering.

Although the impact on animals will be small, Animal Justice is concerned by the growing trend to make animal welfare regulations more “outcome based.”

“Outcome-based” rules establish only an outcome that a regulated party must achieve. This is the opposite of “prescriptive” rules, which set out exactly how regulated parties must comply with the rules.

For example, saying that it is illegal to overcrowd animals in transport is outcome-based. The outcome is not crowding animals. By contrast, saying that, for example, “the loading density for pigs of around 100 kg should not exceed 235 kg/m2″, as the European Union requires, is prescriptive. What crowding means is measurable using numbers.

Laws must be flexible enough to be adaptive to unique situations, but also predictable and foreseeable for those subject to the laws. Sometimes it is difficult to balance flexibility with predictability. When it is possible to create specific and predictable laws with no real loss to flexibility, it is clearly better for animals that laws are indeed created with specificity and predictability. In other words, as much as possible, it is better for standards to be prescriptive. This ensures animal industries understand exactly what the law requires of them, and ensures law enforcement understands exactly when standards have been met—or violated.

When outcome-based measures are used in situations were prescriptive rules would be more appropriate, a race to the bottom is encouraged. Most animal industries are not over-complying with regulations. They are doing only what they must to stay on the right side of the law. When rules are vague, there’s an incentive is to push the boundaries and do as little as possible.

It is also difficult to enforce vague rules, because law enforcement agencies are also confused about what is required, and unwilling to be zealous in enforcing laws only to face backlash. But when rules are clear, specific, and numbers-based, they are much easier to enforce.

Ontario’s current meat regulation amendment proposes a minor outcome-based modification that would not impact animals. However, we alerted OMAFRA to our objection towards outcome-based rules by filing a submission through their public consultation process.

Thank you for supporting our work to lead the legal fight for animals in Canada. Without you, we would not be able to monitor and influence legal changes like this one.

 

 

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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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