The Current

Farm animal transport to slaughterhouses need better rules, says advocate

Taking stock of the treatment of animals from the farm to the slaughterhouse.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency are currently proposing new guidelines for animal transportation. The rules have not been updated since 1977. (Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe VIA AP)

Animal rights activist Anita Krajnc wins her day in court after she was charged with criminal mischief for giving water to pigs inside a transport truck in June 2015.

Krajnc, the co-founder of Toronto Pig Save — an animal rights group, says she's happy the charges were dismissed "in the sense that compassion is not a crime but I think we need to make great strides with respect to how animals are viewed in the law."

The current rules around animal transportation are being re-written — rules that haven't been updated since 1977.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CFIA,  has been working on a new set of rules for a decade. And last December, the agency put forward changes that are under consideration by the House of Commons agriculture committee.

The new regulations the CFIA proposes would reduce the amount of time animals are allowed to spend in transit.  For example, pigs can spend up to 36 hours on a truck. If the new rules are adopted, the limit will be 28.

But Maureen Harper, a retired veterinary inspector with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, says that's still too long a time for an animal in transport.

"It's very clear that from scientific literature that the longer the trip, the more stress and the more loss there will be of animals," Harper tells The Current's Friday host Nora Young.

She explains that other proposed changes include reducing the hours of transport by eight hours for horses and for cattle from 52 to 36 hours. Harper says through access to information documents, she was able to determine the CFIA was proposing to lower the hours even more but the industry pushed back.

"And so we find ourselves where we are here today with ... a reduced number from what the current legislation is but still has not gone far enough."
Animal rights activist Anita Krajnc gives water to a pig in a truck that led to a charge of criminal mischief. If convicted she could have been facing six months in prison and a $5,000 fine. But charges against her were dismissed. (HO-Elli Garlin/CP)

Harper argues even if there is a higher cost attached, "we have a responsibility as custodians of these animals that are sacrificing their lives for us … to ensure that we are handling [the animals] and treating them as humanely as possible."

Egan Brockhoff who provides veterinary counselling to the Canadian Pork Council, says the case of Krajnc is worrying because a person being able to give liquids to animals during transport is a public health issue.

"People want to know their food is safe and wholesome and certainly nutritious, and having foreign liquids added to animals destined for food consumption is concerning to me. I think it should be as concerning to the public."

Brockhoff tells Young he's frustrated with the proposal of reducing transport times for animals.

"In all honesty, there isn't a lot of data to suggest reducing travel time is going to be any benefit to the pig. In fact if we look at current peer reviewed published research, it clearly states there's no linear relationship between travel time and outcomes."

He suggests getting caught up in transport time "is certainly leading us down the wrong path."

Brockhoff would like to see a focus on how pigs are handled in the trailer and also to explore designing trailers that can greatly impact their welfare.

"I think we're missing some of the big ticket items for improving animal welfare and maintaining positive outcomes for the pigs."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson and Catherine Kalbfleisch.