Friday, March 17, 2017

Lobbying weakens transportation welfare

The federal government watered down its proposals for improving animal and poultry welfare during transportation, the Globe and Mail reports today based on documents an animal welfare organization obtained via Access to Information.
In the case of day-old chicks, for example, the CFIA’s 2013 plan proposed a maximum of 24 hours in transport. By the time the proposal was published in December in the Canada Gazette, the federal government’s official newspaper, that had been changed to 72 hours.
In the case of cattle, 28 hours had become 36 hours.
And with spent hens the limit had doubled to 24 hours from 12..
CFIA’s animal transport rules have not been updated since 1977 and, depending on the species, currently allow for transport times of 18 to 72 hours.
Once the maximum is reached, the animals must be given a rest period with feed and water.
Europe only allows most animals to be transported for a maximum of eight hours. In New Zealand and Australia, the limits generally fall between 12 and 24 hours. The rules in the United States, which have been subject to criticism from animal-rights groups, allow transport up to 28 hours.
In CFIA’s briefing notes and in correspondence among staff, agency officials acknowledge that shorter transport times – generally between eight and 12 hours – are ideal.
Scientific research supports the lowest possible” time limit before feeding, watering and resting, according to one briefing note.
Another discusses a 12-hour maximum as “supported by science.” Meanwhile, research papers cited in the briefings describe “increased stress” and “behavioural changes” associated with longer transport times.
But throughout, CFIA employees describe industry push-back. In a document from July, 2015, staffers say one unidentified group “continues to voice strong opposition” to reduced transport times, citing “significant negative economic impact.” Another document outlines how an unidentified group warned that reduced transport times “would result in cessation” of an industry.
In an e-mailed statement, a CFIA spokesperson said the 2016 proposal still represents a significant improvement over current rules and added that the matter is subject to further changes.
Under the proposed amendments, the maximum times permitted for animals to go without food, water and rest are being reduced for most species, in line with scientific research,” the statement said. “The CFIA readjusted the proposed maximum time intervals for animal welfare to improve the transportation times; address public concern; and, better align Canada with major trading partners and international standards.”
But critics say the agency is prioritizing industry over animal welfare. “On a balance, they hear from animal people, they get letters from public citizens. But who they really listen to is industry,” said Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals director Stephanie Brown.
Of the 951 groups consulted by the CFIA, only 12 were animal welfare groups. The agency said it reached out to the “major animal protection organizations of which we are aware.”
Maureen Harper, who retired in 2011 after more than 30 years as a CFIA veterinarian, said the current proposal “falls far short” of expectations. In 2003, Ms. Harper served as the acting program officer in charge of the CFIA’s animal transport program in Ontario.
It’s the tail wagging the dog,” she said. “This is what industry wants.”