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Research consistently indicates that any type of transport is stressful to animals. Animals lose weight when transported and some become sick, rendering them unfit for human consumption. Others arrive unable to stand or walk (in industry terms, these animals are referred to as “downers”) and still others arrive dead.
The following publications document the extent and scale of farm animal suffering during transportation:
There are steps that can be taken to minimize animals’ pain and distress during transport and many of these should be incorporated into law to ensure they are followed.
While on-farm animal welfare falls mainly under the jurisdiction of the provinces, the federal government regulates livestock transportation though the Health of Animals Act and Regulations. These rules prohibit haulers from transporting ill or injured animals and loading or unloading animals in a manner that causes undue suffering. They also set maximum limits for how long an animal can be transported continuously without food, water or rest. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for enforcing these regulations.
The CFIA is now conducting its first review of the livestock transportation regulations in more than 30 years, and the CFHS, along with our member society the BC SPCA, has been pushing for much-needed changes to the regulations. Read more about our recommendations here.
Ultimately, the responsibility for the welfare of animals in transit lies with the farmers who raise them and make the decision to load them for transport, the truckers who are carrying them, and the processing plants that are purchasing them.
The following section was written by the BC SPCA. We thank them for granting permission to include it on our website.
Farmers and transporters must take many factors into account when putting animals in a truck:
Some animals are too sick, injured or young to be transported. At present, only animals that are severely sick or injured (such as those that cannot walk) are prohibited from transport.
Recent developments: The provincial Farm Animal Councils have taken leadership in developing decision trees and guidelines for farmers to ensure they know when an animal is too sick or injured to be transported. Certified Livestock Transport courses developed by Alberta Farm Animal Care are also teaching these rules.
What is needed: The legal definitions that stipulate exactly which kinds of animals cannot be transported for health or age reasons need to be expanded to include a greater range of health conditions. Animals with less severe conditions should be provided with special provisions, such as enough space and bedding to lie down comfortably, and should be transported only for short durations.
This will vary with species, age of the animal and health status. Some animals can endure longer trips than others based on these factors. At present, cattle and sheep can legally be transported for 52 hours continuously without food or water. Horses, pigs and chickens can be transported for 36 hours. Being transported without water or a chance to lie down for this long can result in severe dehydration and fatigue.
Recent developments: In Europe, trucks carrying pigs for longer than 8 hours must provide them with continuous access to water to prevent dehydration.
What is needed: While all transport is stressful, several welfare indicators show a substantial decline in cattle and pigs after 24 hours of transport. As relatively few animals are carried right up to the maximum times, the regulatory maximums could be reduced without affecting very many farmers. As in Europe, Canadian trucks can be outfitted to provide animals with access to water.
The current regulations prohibit overcrowding of animals but do not define minimum space allowances for each animal.
Recent developments: Canada’s Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Animals in Transport provides space allowances that could be incorporated directly into the regulation.
What is needed: The Code’s space allowances should be adopted by the regulations. If animals are permitted to be transported for long durations (over 8 hours), animals should be provided with even more space, allowing them to lie down.
Handling farm animals calmly and humanely is not difficult, but it does require some basic knowledge about animal behaviour.
Recent developments: Current regulations stipulate no requirements for trucker training, but many companies now require their truckers to be certified by a program like Certified Livestock Transport.
Some companies have banned the use of electric prods and the new Canadian Code of Practice for Dairy Cattle stipulates that they must not be used.
The chicken industry is adopting innovative equipment that allows chickens to be loaded into transport crates inside the barn, resulting in less animal handling and lower risk of injury.
What is needed: Canada’s regulations should require that truckers have suitable training in animal handling and safe driving skills specific to carrying loads of animals, just as is required for drivers of hazardous materials. Electric prods are absolutely unnecessary and should be banned from regular use.
In the extreme temperatures we know too well in Canada, a long trip can result in serious problems for animals in transport. Inspection statistics from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) indicate that transport mortality rates in chickens elevate substantially when these animals travel for longer than 8 hours in sub-zero temperatures. By contrast, the temperatures at the core of some poultry trucks can reach temperatures above 30°C even on a cold day.
Recent developments: In Europe, it is required that the temperature inside a truck’s load does not drop below 0°C or exceed 35°C. Actively ventilated trucks have been innovated there to keep temperatures within the acceptable limits.
What is needed: Animal transport should be avoided during extreme weather temperatures, and when necessary, should be limited to short journeys. Commercially feasible designs for actively ventilated trucks are needed in North America.