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November 28, 2012

Fast Facts on Animal Transport in Canada

Humane Society International/Canada

Overview

  • Approximately 700 million animals are slaughtered for food every year in Canada. During their journey to slaughter, animals are often forced to endure long periods in extreme temperatures without access to food or water and without being afforded an opportunity to rest.
  • Standards for transporting farm animals in Canada are among the worst in the industrialized world. Each year, millions of animals succumb to these inhumane conditions and arrive dead or dying at federally inspected slaughterhouses.
  • According to the government department responsible for enforcing transport standards, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), between two and three million animals die during transport every year. Most of these animals are chickens—either broiler chickens, raised for meat, or spent hens, laying hens who are no longer seen as productive.

Suffering in transport

  • Transport is an inherently stressful event for any farm animal given their natural sensitivities to new places, loud and unfamiliar sounds, changes in temperature, and being placed into close proximity to other animals.
  • Within Canadian borders, ruminants such as horses, sheep and cattle can be transported for up to 52 hours with no access to food, water, rest, or protection from extreme heat and cold; pigs for 36 hours; and newly hatched chicks can be transported for up to 72 hours with no access to food or water. Rest periods need only be five hours and there is no maximum time limit to an animal’s total journey time.
  • Animals transported in Canada are often overcrowded in trucks, causing poor ventilation and air quality, over-heating, trampling and injury, and forcing animals to sit or lie in their own excrement.
  • Animals in transport often suffer as a result of poor driver training.

Inadequate government regulations and inspections

  • A lack of enforcement of current regulations is placing animals at risk of not even being assured minimum standards of protection.
  • HSI/Canada is highly concerned about the infrequency of inspections of transport vehicles, loading and unloading procedures, as well as the lack of properly trained CFIA inspectors.
  • CFIA considers spent laying hens to be compromised animals (fragile animals who should only ever be transported with special care and provisions). While CFIA standards require that no more than one percent of broiler chickens arrive DOA (dead on arrival) at their destination, the requirement for spent laying hens is four percent, allowing for their transport despite acknowledging that these animals are less likely to survive the stresses of their journey.
  • According to CFIA inspection reports, however, trucks have been known to arrive well over these limits, with hundreds of dead chickens—sometimes up to 30 percent of the animals on board.
  • Under CFIA regulations, transporting “downer” animals, animals who are unable to stand or walk due to stress, injury, illness, or fatigue, is banned. However, according to CFIA records, instances of animals being dragged onto and off transport trucks still occur.
  • Transporting downer animals is not only problematic from a welfare perspective, but also poses serious food safety concerns.
  • In 2010, CFIA was given a “D” by the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada, for failing to meet its obligations under Canada’s Access to Information Act.
  • In 2008, CFIA was awarded theCanadian Association of Journalists' Code of Silence Award for its “dizzying efforts to stop the public from learning details of fatal failures in food safety.”

What we’re doing

  • HSI/Canada, along with numerous animal protection groups, are requesting changes to the Health of Animals Act to improve standards for animals in transport.
  • Updates to the Act have reportedly been drafted, but Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has yet to prioritize publishing the new regulations, despite the ongoing suffering of Canadian farm animals.

You can help

Write to Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz to ask him to urgently publish the new regulations and to allow the Canadian public to comment on proposed changes.

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