Pigs in a crowded transport truck. Canada, 2012. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur We Animals
Our animal transport regulations were enacted in 1977. For context, that was the year the first Apple computer hit the market and the year that Elvis Presley died. Scientific understanding of, and public sentiment towards animals have changed a lifetime since then. We now know that, like the human animal, farmed animals are capable of experiencing complex and profound physical and psychological suffering.
The good news is that the after four decades the government has finally proposed updates. The bad news is that the updates are barely a change. Don’t believe me? The government itself concedes that 98 percent of shipments would not be impacted by the proposed requirements. Translation: not much is changing.
Our current transport regulations permit animals to be transported without food, water, or rest for up to 52 hours; exposed to extreme weather that often kills them (they freeze or overheat to death); crowded so severely that the jostling aboard the trucks causes injuries like broken legs and suffocation; and zapped with electric prods to force them to move to their deaths, which they resist.
In other words, our transport regulations are from a waking nightmare, not a country that prides itself on values of compassion and justice.
We have until February 15th to comment on the proposed regulations—to formally register our dissatisfaction and to demand better.
Perhaps most concerning is that the old, inadequate weather provision isn’t really changing (it’s simply being reworded). The regulations would ostensibly require protection from weather, but the industry will continue to transport animals every day of the year on open-sided trucks. Without a requirement that either weather conditions dictate when transport occurs or that trucks are climate controlled, animals will continue to suffer and die because of exposure to extreme weather.
Government documents show that some shipments of spent hens—the chickens used up by the egg industry, who are incredibly fragile from the demands of their brutal lives—arrive at slaughterhouses with dead-on-arrival rates over 50 percent. This is a shocking figure that should make anyone with a conscience balk. It means that, sometimes, more than half of the animals loaded alive don’t survive the journey to slaughter. They suffer to death. And sure, not all shipments’ DOAs are this high—but death by transport conditions is so common for spent hens that law enforcement won’t even investigate unless a DOA rate is at least 4 percent. Clearly, something has to change.
It’s not that it’s particularly challenging to create weather regulations. The European Union has already done so, requiring vehicles to have forced air and heating ventilation systems that keep trucks between five and 30 degrees Celsius. Monitoring systems must alert the driver when temperatures reach either limit, and the data from these systems must be accessible to law enforcement.
Other serious concerns with the proposed regulatory updates:
- Animals could still be transported for up to 36 hours without food, water or rest (in the European Union, the limit is eight hours).
- The use of electric prods wouldn't be prohibited.
- Chickens could be held and thrown by their legs.
- Drivers and transport companies wouldn’t be required to undergo strict training and licencing.
- Penalties would continue to be so weak as to be ineffective at deterring deliberate violations.
Unfortunately, the government has prioritized industry convenience over the animal welfare, even though compassion for animals is a value most of us hold. That’s why it’s important the government hears from us before February 15th.
Please take the time to tell the government you’re not happy with these regulations. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 613-773-7028. It’s important to email or call directly if you can do so, because correspondence from individuals is given the most weight. However, if you are too busy, please take 30 seconds to sign Animal Justice’s petition to the government here.
Thank you for speaking up for farmed animals. Whether or not you believe it’s acceptable to farm animals at all, I hope we can all agree that the government has a responsibility to ban the worst forms of animal cruelty.
(Exclusive online photo: Minutes before death at an abattoir, from We Animals.)
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