By Magpie Group
The purpose of animal transport in Canada
From coast to coast along Canada’s highways you’ll often find trucks transporting livestock: cattle, pigs, chickens, as well as other animals. And you might wonder where they’re going or if the animals inside are doing okay.
Animal agriculture plays a fundamental role in our food supply and transporting them from one location to another is a necessary step in the production process. Livestock are moved for a variety of reasons:
- They need to be moved closer to a feed source or to another farm.
- They are being transported to livestock shows or competitions.
- They have to be moved to a veterinary facility if they’re sick or for health reasons.
- They are being shipped to be processed into food or other products.
What people often don’t know is that there are strict rules and regulations that everyone involved in transporting livestock must follow. These rules not only protect the animals – they protect your food too.
Codes of Practice for ethical animal care
Safe animal transport starts on the farm. Animal welfare, which is the humane treatment of animals, is very important to the people who raise and care for them.
Farmers follow Codes of Practice developed by the National Farm Animal Council (NFACC) that sets priorities and recommendations for animal care. Each animal species – beef cattle, dairy cattle, goats, sheep, etc. – has a specific Code of Practice. The Codes are based on years of research by animal scientists, combined with the practical experience of farmers and veterinarians. Each Code goes through a rigorous approval process and is reviewed very 5 years for accuracy and relevance.
DYK? People with a wide range of expertise work together to develop each Code of Practice: researchers and veterinarians, animal welfare groups, farmers and ranchers, food retailers, animal scientists and government. They also consult with members of the public about how animals should be raised.
The Codes make sure that all livestock receive the care they need, including adequate food, water, care and shelter. Part of responsible animal care is ensuring animals are transported humanely. The NFACC guidelines for transportation are currently being revised, but here’s an update on their progress.
The watchful eye of CFIA
Legally, livestock transportation requirements are set out within the Health of Animal Regulations, administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The CFIA is the organization that oversees food safety and animal health. These regulations define the details around inspecting and transporting animals that are entering, leaving or moving within Canada.
Every person responsible for transporting animals in Canada must ensure that the entire transportation process including loading, transit and unloading of animals does not cause injury, pain or suffering. CFIA has the authority to inspect any location or situation where animals are or may be transported.
Among many other requirements, the regulations address:
- Weather (hot/humid and cold)
- Access to food and water
- Adequate space
- Type of equipment that must be used
- The responsibilities of the driver, including routes, stops, maximum travel times, etc.
- Requirements for contingency plans related to unforeseen delays or if an animal becomes injured or unfit for travel
- How animals are assessed and monitored during transport
- How care is transferred to other people when animals move from location to location
The Canadian Livestock Transport Program
We can’t forget about the people who actually drive the trucks! Livestock haulers in Canada must all be certified through the Canadian Livestock Transport (CLT) Certification Program.
This program focuses on regulation requirements and provides crucial information for those with roles and responsibilities in animal transport. The CLT training is beneficial, and in some instances required, for livestock and poultry transporters, farmers and ranchers, handlers, animal catchers and loading crews, receivers, dispatchers and others involved in the animal production system.
And if you don’t follow the transport regulations? There are legal consequences.
The bottom line is that it is illegal to do anything that would cause suffering to an animal at any point in the transportation process. Further, if a person’s actions are considered animal abuse, they can be charged and convicted under the Criminal Code of Canada and/or provincial regulations, resulting in a fine and/or jail sentence.
Tailored care for different livestock species
Not all animals are transported in the same way. Some animals require special care. For example, pigs are semi-tropical animals most comfortable at temperatures preferred by people. Special care is taken when transporting pigs during periods of extreme cold or heat. Beef cattle or sheep adapt easily to cold weather and so are more easily transported during winter months.
There are also many rules and regulations surrounding which animals can be transported. For example, sick animals cannot be transported unless the purpose is to seek medical attention and a veterinarian agrees that it is safe for the animal to travel.
DYK? Animals are routinely checked during transport to ensure they are safe and comfortable. Detailed records must be kept about the condition of the animal upon loading, and the dates, time and place animals were last fed, watered and rested.
The impact of stress on animal health, meat quality and food safety
Injuries, disease and the effects of hot/humid or cold weather during transportation may negatively affect the safety and quality of meat. As well, increased stress levels in animals during transportation can cause animals to shed more bacteria, leading to the spread of diseases to healthy animals, which can contaminate the meat.
Stress alters meat protein composition, making food products from stressed animals more prone to the growth of bacteria and spoilage which affects quality: taste, tenderness, keeping quality and colour. Handler and driver inexperience can result in animals with bruises or injuries which lowers meat quality, along with animal welfare.
In addition to their other roles, CFIA oversees humane processing in meat processing facilities. The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations defines the conditions for the humane handling of all species of food animals at abattoirs in Canada, and the Criminal Code prohibits anyone from willfully causing animals to suffer from neglect, pain or injury.
The well-being of animals during transport is not only a moral imperative but also a critical component of ensuring food safety. With strict regulations in place, dedicated individuals from various fields collaborate to guarantee that livestock travel safely and comfortably. By adhering to these guidelines and promptly reporting any infractions, we can collectively uphold the principles of ethical animal care and safeguard the quality and safety of our food supply.
If you believe you have witnessed someone who is not following the regulations regarding loading, transporting and unloading animals, NFACC encourages you to:
- Gather as many details as possible (for example, date, time, location, license plate number).
- Report this information to the CFIA as soon as possible by contacting your local CFIA office.
Together, we can foster a sustainable and responsible approach to raising and transporting animals for the betterment of all.