In the summer of 2011, Animal Alliance launched a campaign to ensure that the proposed trade agreement being negotiated between Canada and the European Union (EU) prohibits imports from Canada of “products” derived from practices that would not meet the highest EU standards of environment and animal protection.
Canada lags far behind the EU in its commitment to farm animal welfare. Canada has some of the worst farm animal welfare standards in the developed world.
In comparison, the EU has some of the most advanced food animal protection laws in the world. Its treaties, regulations and directives are designed to progressively increase the level of welfare for animals designated for food.
Click here for Animal Alliance’s report comparing Canadian/EU Farm Animal Protection
In Canada, there are no national, provincial or municipal animal welfare strategies or rolling plans of action to improve animal welfare, as exist in the EU. The Canadian government’s “Growing Forward” agricultural policy framework gives farm animal welfare scant attention.
While the EU has regulations, directives and decisions on almost every aspect of food animal production, there are only three federal laws that apply to the welfare of food animals in Canada: the Health of Animals Act; the Meat Inspection Act and the Criminal Code, and they provide only the most rudimentary legal protection for food animals.
Both the Health of Animals Act and the Meat Inspection Act fall under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-foods, while the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is charged with administering and enforcing them.
Comparison of Ethics
Unlike in the EU, Canada’s farm animal legislation avoids ethical principles and does not deal with the keeping, caring and housing of animals for agricultural purposes; only voluntary guidelines exist with no mechanisms for enforcement. The majority of these guidelines are decades old and do not reflect modern attitudes or science.
For instance, Canadian food animals are not required to have freedom of movement, freedom from fear, freedom from pain or any other freedoms, and there are no provisions for on farm inspections. Thus, there is no regulation of the intensive farming system in Canada as there is in the EU.
Comparison on Transport
Under the Health of Animals Act, it is legal to force food animals to endure grueling journeys – the longest transport times in the developed world — in sweltering heat or frigid cold, standing in their own excrement.
Without adequate food, water or rest intervals, these animals become dehydrated, fatigued, and sick or easily injured or trampled. It is not surprising that, under these inhumane conditions, nearly 3 million animals arrive dead at Canadian slaughterhouses and another 11 million animals arrive diseased or injured.
Contrast this to the EU statutes which prescribe the shortest transport times in the developed world and require food and water and rest intervals for voyages longer than 12 hours.
Comparison on Voluntary Actions
Even non-legislative actions are playing a beneficial role in improving animal welfare in the EU. In some member states, slaughterhouses adopt animal welfare friendly designs and measures – in the UK slaughterhouses now have closed circuit TV monitors — which go beyond legislative requirements, in order to gain economic advantage among animal welfare conscious consumers.
In the retail sector, corporations such as McDonalds and Unilever are stopping the sale of cage eggs, and are raising the welfare standards for meat. These corporations view increased animal welfare requirements as providing marketing opportunities that differentiate them from the competition.
Yet, such is not the case in Canada. Here the food animal industry spends millions of dollars in advertising and public relations to mislead the public as to the welfare of food animals. Furthermore, industry lobbying efforts directed at government ensure that animal welfare considerations are not regulated or even a priority.
While voluntary efforts within the EU have had a positive effect in advancing food animal welfare, legislation has created a welfare conscious environment where this can happen.
Comparison of Slaughter
In EU slaughterhouses, slaughter men are required to hold a certificate of competence which can only be granted after they have passed an examination. Furthermore, EU slaughterhouses must designate one of their staff as their Animal Welfare Officer, who will take a leading role in ensuring compliance with the most up-to-date animal welfare standards specified in the legislation protecting animals at the time of killing.
In contrast, slaughter personnel in Canadian are not vetted for emotional stability before they are hired and they often perform stunning and rendering without adequate – or any – training.
Undercover footage of a number of Canadian slaughterhouses revealed that veterinary inspectors often overlook blatant violations of welfare regulations, due to intimidation by slaughter staff, and often spend much of their work day away from the kill floor.
In fact, a leaked CFIA memo to one horse slaughter plant deliberately violated the Meat Inspection Act by instructing veterinary inspectors to stay away from the kill floor because the lack of training and vetting of the slaughter staff posed a threat to their physical safety.
Comparison of Stakeholder Input
In the EU, stakeholders, including NGOs, work together to achieve clearly defined objectives, i.e. Austria’s phase out of beak trimming of laying hens, the UK stopping the shooting of male calves, and the EU Declaration supporting phase out of pig castration.
While animal protection advocates in the EU are viewed as valuable stakeholders who partner with industry and government to improve farm animal welfare, the majority of animal protection organizations in Canada are barred from any government/industry consultations on farm animal welfare. Far from being considered stakeholders, animal protection groups are viewed as impediments to a thriving agriculture sector and the availability of low costs food.
Comparison of Food Safety
Since its inception, the EU has recognized the connection between food safety and the health of humans, and the welfare and health of animals raised for food. Under both The Treaty on European Union and the Treaty Establishing the European Community, provisions exist for prohibitions or restrictions on food imports, exports or goods in transit, including animal products, which are justified on grounds of public morality, public policy or public security.
Ensuring food safety and high animal health and welfare standards in the EU is not just a matter of regulations, financial support is also available to help farmers make improvements in these areas under the scope of Rural Development.
Meanwhile, governments in Canada take no role in informing the public about the connection between animal welfare and food safety. Animal welfare quality assurance programs do not include financial incentives for farmers to change their animal welfare practices to more humane standards.
Section 7 of Canada’s Meat Inspection Act regarding meat exports does not mention the health of animals, though there is reference to the necessity of the meat product meeting the requirements of the country to which it is exported.
As long as the Government of Canada fails to recognize the connection between food safety and animal welfare, meat products will continue to be raised well below EU welfare standards.
What You Can Do
We believe that the very best way to help animals is to live a vegan lifestyle.
We also need your help to assist the European Parliamentarians to learn more about the cruelty and environmental impacts of Canada’s agriculture practices so that they understand why they should prevent our “products” from being sold in the EU.
Please encourage the EU to protect animals and the environment by demanding of Canada the standards they uphold in the EU.