Transport to Slaughterhouse on Welfare Agenda

CANADA - A Liberal MP is seeks to cut lengthy transport times for livestock on way to the slaughterhouse.
calendar icon 2 November 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

Chickens cannot vote and there are no pigs on the list of registered lobbyists but a Quebec Liberal MP is rushing to the aid of tired and thirsty livestock on their way to your plate.

"We would like animals in transit from farms to slaughterhouses to be given some sort of respect and comfort until they get to the slaughterhouse," Alexandra Mendes (Brossard-La Prairie) told Canada's The Star about her private member's bill to amend federal regulations on food and water for animals in transit.

The current rules allow cattle, sheep, goats and other ruminants to be confined on the road for up to 48 hours without food or water – or 52 hours if they reach their final destination in Canada before then.

Horses, pigs and other animals with one stomach can be held in the same hungry and thirsty state for no more than 36 hours.

"I was literally flabbergasted," Ms Mendes said after a constituent informed her of the time limits. "I had no idea that those were the rules we were still running things under."

Her bill would lower the limit to 12 hours for the ruminants and eight hours for the other animals to match standards in the European Union.

New Democrat agriculture critic, Alex Atamanenko, seconded the bill when Ms Mendes introduced it to the House of Commons on 28 October.

Animal welfare groups applauded the move

"Canadian animal transport standards are among the worst in the industrialised world, so I guess this bill is a fantastic move forward. It's long overdue," said Rebecca Aldworth, director of the Humane Society International Canada. "The Canadian government has been very slow in modifying its transport regulations and has seen to be somewhat reluctant to follow the example set by the European Union."

Ms Aldworth said Canada being a bigger country than any nation in Europe has little to do with the standards here.

"If we require a 72-hour journey, for example, to get an animal to a slaughterhouse, it's clear that a more local slaughterhouse needs to be built," she told The Star.

She said one company often owns several major farms and a slaughterhouse and so they ship animals from all over the place to a central slaughterhouse to keep everything in the business.

"There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't have federally inspected slaughterhouses in reasonable distances from the farms that are producing the animals," she said.

Stephanie Brown, a director of the Canadian Coalition of Farm Animals, said an estimated three million animals die on their way to slaughterhouses every year and another 11 million arrive with diseases or otherwise unfit for human consumption.

"They might be crushed to death because the density is too high. They may be stressed from high temperatures," she said. "Animals sometimes freeze to the side of the trucks."

Ms Brown praised the bill. She said: "The current standards are totally out of date and they are inhumane. They desperately need to be changed."

According to The Star, a spokesman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the federal food safety watchdog could not comment on the feasibility of a bill that has yet to be debated in the House.

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