New National Initiative Strives to “Put Farm Animal Welfare on the Agenda“

CANADA - Farm-Scape: Episode 2182. Farm-Scape is a Wonderworks Canada production and is distributed courtesy of Manitoba Pork Council and Sask Pork.
calendar icon 3 July 2006
clock icon 7 minute read

Farm-Scape, Episode 2182

Canada's national and provincial farm animal care councils are joining forces to deliver a new three year $700,000.00 initiative designed to “Put Farm Animal Welfare on the Agenda.” The project is being coordinated by the Ontario Farm Animal Council (OFAC), its sister groups in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and the new National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) and is intended to improve the lines of communication among the scientists who conduct animal welfare research, the farmers, ranchers and veterinarians who use that information and the public.

Initiative Encompasses Three Distinct Components

“There are three parts to the project,” explains Ontario Farm Animal Council executive director Crystal Mackay.

“The first is the speakers bureau and the thinking behind sponsoring the speakers bureau is we want to take animal welfare related speakers and get the onto the agendas of existing meetings, to take them to places where people don't usually talk about animal welfare.”

“The second component is a communications angle. We feel there's some great research being done, for example, on animal welfare research but the producers and the veterinarians just aren't getting to hear about the results so we'll be putting newsletters together, articles in trade magazines, radio advertisements and editorials and promotion of a web site.”

“The final and third component is farm animal handling and training workshops. Those will be interactive workshops targeting your such as 4 H or agricultural college students and livestock transporters.”

The total value of the initiative over three years will be close to $700,000 thousand dollars. $400,000.00 was obtained through Agriculture and Agrifood Canada's Advancing Canada's Agriculture and Agrifood program. The balance of the funding will come from the rural adaptation councils in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, from industry contributions as well as from in kind funding in the form of time provided by the staff of the five councils.

Initiative Already Underway

Mackay notes, “The work is already underway. We got approval for the project this past spring and the deliverables will be rolled out over the next three years. The web site is up. Our first issue of Insights newsletters is being printed as we speak and some public education displays and brochures will be ready for public events this fall.”

The partners expect the initiative to dramatically improve both the scope and the consistency of the various projects that have traditionally been delivered by the provincial organizations on a regional level.

Manitoba Farm Animal Council (MFAC) executive director Shanyn Silinski explains, “All four animal councils plus our national farm animal council are following the same path. We have the same beliefs and we have the same access to the research and we want to provide a united front in saying that our producers and the people that we're involved with, are all following the same path. We believe that the strength in numbers will allow us to reach a greater audience.”

Additional Synergy's Expected to Improve Return on Investment

Silinski maintains, “There's no sense in somebody else reinventing the wheel just for their region.”

Mackay notes, “We each have small budgets so we thought we needed to think a little bigger, work together and pool our resources.”

She says, “There are currently four provincial farm animal councils and one new national farm animal council in Canada and each of us has different areas of expertise and specialties. We each operate on a small budget so, in the last few years, we've worked really hard to cooperate and share resources between the provinces.”

She suggests, “With today's day and age in communications, if something is developed on line it doesn't matter where it's developed. The important thing is to get the message out so this project will actually put some good funding behind many of our good ideas that we haven't been able to afford to do as individual councils in the past.”

Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) manager Susan Church agrees, “Sharing of the information just makes our resources go further so it's a tremendous advantage to all of us. It helps too in developing a more consistent approach to farm animal welfare for Canada and stepping forward in this regard.”

Producers, Animal Care Professionals, Public Targeted

Mackay notes, “The primary targets of this project will be people who actually work with animals so farmers, ranchers and veterinarians and it will focus in the provinces that have a farm animal care council such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario.”

Church adds, “Our main target is still going to be our membership base, or our producer organizations, our individual farmers and producers. The next target group would be consumers.”

Silinski suggests, “To borrow the old Alberta Agriculture adage, if you eat you're involved. Anybody that's involved with animal agriculture is involved with animal welfare. Our position is that we want to make sure that farmers, veterinarians, interested consumers, youth that are in 4-H or college students, people that are transporting livestock, anybody that is involved with animal agriculture we would like to target them so that they have access to updated information, research and they can share their information as well with people across the board.”

Initiative Also Designed to be Proactive Rather than Reactive

The proactive approach of the initiative is also being viewed as a valuable asset. Silinski explains, “Historically in agriculture, animal welfare issues seldom become a part of the agenda until there's a problem. With this new national project what we want to do is be more proactive rather than reactive and make sure that animal welfare is on the agenda without a crisis accompanying it.”

Mackay adds, “Typically animal welfare, which could be comparable to environmental issues or other issues that impact agriculture, we don't deal with them until there's a problem so, with this project, we're saying the farm animal councils are set up to specialize in animal care. Let's put together a strategic approach to actually improving animal welfare and boosting the communications around it in a proactive manner instead of waiting for the issue to come to us.”

Producers Take Animal Care Responsibilities Seriously

Adele Buettner, the executive director of the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS), stresses, “Producers have always been very responsible with their livestock.”

She points out , “We know, as an industry, the better we care for our animals the better they will produce. It's just time that we were more vocal and educate our consumers on how producers do care for their livestock.”

Jackie Wepruk, the coordinator of the National Farm Animal Care Council agrees, “Producers want to be doing the right thing and one of the things that this project recognizes is that quite often the information on animal care topics has been done. We know that we have a lot of good researchers here in Canada who are doing a lot of really good work and that's another one of the goals of the project, to ensure that the research extension is happening more effectively.”

She notes, “Producers want to know what's the latest and what's the best way to care for their animals but too often that information not easily accessible and so we want to encourage and facilitate the availability of that kind of information.”

Knowledge Recognized as A Tool

Silinski concludes, “Knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have, then the more choices you have in your decision making process. It's similar to the tool box theory that a lot of people use. If you only have a hammer in your tool box, all problems become nails but, if you have other tools, then you have a greater choice of resources and a greater choice of information to make different decisions.”

Staff Farmscape.Ca
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