The story of the National Farm Animal Care Council and its impact on British Columbia – Summerland Review


by Emma Grégory

In 2005, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that if the avian influenza (H5N1) epidemic that began to spread from poultry to humans in late 2003 were to trigger a pandemic, the worst-case scenario would result the deaths of 260 million people.

Instead, only 257 deaths have been confirmed, due to the low rate of human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 virus, as it has spread to 61 countries, ultimately resulting in the deaths of 250 million chickens.

While profitable animal farming operates in the hope that a percentage of animal herds will not reach the market, 250 million has been viewed by industry and government leaders as unacceptable. It was determined that for animal agriculture to remain profitable, surveillance of farm animal health and disease should be standardized and in accordance with guidelines established by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), based in France. The OIE works globally, in partnership with the World Trade Organization, to monitor and prevent contagious diseases in farm animals and to protect international trade.

Meanwhile, there was also the issue of providing assurances to the public on food safety, as well as a growing interest in farm animal welfare.

In 2005, animal producer associations, including the Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Cattlemen’s Association, launched the CNSAE.

The main function of the CNSAE is the development of codes of practice on how farm animals are to be treated. Members of the provincial SPCAs and animal welfare societies participated in the development of the code to provide commentary on animal welfare.

The standardization of animal welfare rules demonstrated to the OIE that Canada takes animal health seriously. It was also a way of communicating to the public that the commercial agriculture industry was at the top of animal welfare concerns.

The CNSAE is funded by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food. The infrastructure needed to support welfare improvements on farms is also subsidized by the Canadian government.

The BC SPCA – which receives most of its funding from private donations – is responsible for enforcing animal welfare laws in the province. The Canada Revenue Agency reports that the BC SPCA received just over $ 30 million in donations and $ 6 million in government funding last year. The company spent $ 3,873,000 on cruelty investigations in 2020, mostly involving pets.

Not all those concerned with animal welfare support public funding for improving welfare on farms.

Darlene Levecque, with the popular lobby group Nation Rising, wants to see an end to all subsidies for animal agriculture. She criticized commercial farm animals as inherently abusive, and said the onus is on the government “to help farmers switch to plant-based agriculture”, whether it is to grow it. crops or develop Canada’s processing sector.

Amy Sorrano, from activist group Meat the Victims, spoke about her group’s efforts to help the BC SPCA – sharing hours of unauthorized video of apparent animal welfare code violations, obtained by trespassing – only so that its members are subsequently accused of burglary and -enter and malice.

Dead pig on the ground in an industrial farm in Sweden.  Pre-slaughter mortality rates are high in pig farming due to a variety of factors.  Photo by: Clément Martz

Sorrano said the BC SPCA, as a private charity, lacks the accountability mechanisms of a government taxpayer funded body and called on the province to replace the BC SPCA with an agency accountable to the public.

When BC SPCA CEO Craig Daniell wrote to the Agriculture Department last November to point out the effects of criticism from animal rights activists, he also expressed skepticism that agricultural and industry associations implement the welfare standards established by the CNSAE.

John Jamieson, President and CEO of the Canadian Center for Food Integrity, was surprised to learn that the BC SPCA had doubts that welfare laws were being followed on British Columbia farms.

Asked about animal abuse in agriculture – and whether the reported cases were one-off or typical of the industry – Jamieson replied, “I think it’s somewhere in between. I’m not sure… We hope these are unique pieces. I certainly don’t think this is representative of the sector, but I think there are people who work on farms who may not have been properly trained.

Jamieson warns against speaking out from activists who report animal abuse, noting that CCFI subscribes to a service that monitors the activist community.

“I see some of the things that animal activists are presenting, and some of it, there is a bit of bias on all sides,” he said.

Calling his organization an “impartial third party” representing the concerns of plant and farm businesses, Jamieson said ITAB studies public opinion on issues related to agriculture and “helps our food system make sure it does. what it takes to build trust by providing research …

“We know from our research that most Canadians are comfortable consuming meat, eggs and milk as long as they are comfortable and confident that the animals have been treated humanely. This is important information for the sector, ”he said.

A young pig bites cage bars on a Swedish industrial farm.  Photo by: Clément Martz

“And the best way to do that is to have your [NFACC] regularly updated codes of practice.

Daniell’s letter to the ministry suggests that the best way to ensure transparency and accountability to British Columbians that farm animals are well cared for is to implement third-party audits of all farms in Columbia. British.

Asked about the apparent bias in animal rights literature regarding farm animal neglect and abuse, Marcie Moriarty, BC SPCA Prevention and Enforcement Manager, responded: “I thinks this should prompt government and industry to reconsider and determine what areas of accountability and transparency need to be improved here.

According to the communications department of the Department of Agriculture, its “representatives have met with the BC SPCA to discuss the concerns expressed in their letter and these conversations are continuing.”

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Boyd S. Abbott

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