Re: “Beef farmers care about their animals’ welfare,” (The Hill Times, Aug. 30, p. 9). Richard Horne’s letter on behalf of Ontario’s beef industry fails to acknowledge several important facts.
First, of the 750 million animals sent to slaughter annually, less than one half of one per cent are cows. Thus, Mr. Horne’s statistics do little to inform the public about the real impact of Canada’s shamefully inadequate and outdated animal-transport regulations. The vast majority of animals raised for food in Canada are chickens, with more than 660 million slaughtered in 2015. More than 21 million turkeys and more than 21 million pigs were also slaughtered that year. The fact is that because of Canada’s woefully weak animal-transport standards, a staggering 13.59 million animals arrive dead, dying, or injured at federally inspected slaughterhouses each year.
Second, even if Mr. Horne’s assurance that less than one per cent of all cattle arrive at their destination dead or injured is accurate, this still amounts to potentially tens of thousands of cows dying or becoming injured annually during their arduous trip to slaughter. Of course, Mr. Horne’s statistic does not take into account the many cows who become extremely distressed, ill, and weak from hunger or dehydration during their unacceptably long journeys. Current regulations allow cattle to be transported for up to 52 hours without food, water, or rest, with little to no protection from the elements and barely enough room to move.
Third, Mr. Horne seems to suggest that his industry would disapprove of practices resulting in more than one per cent of animals being dead on arrival (DOA). Yet the cattle industry’s powerful lobby has resisted legislative reforms that would require all livestock sectors, including poultry and pigs who are DOA at much higher rates than cattle, to match or exceed this outcome, and bring Canadian practices more in line with those of most other developed nations. The cattle industry has so far been reluctant to support even minimal changes, such as reducing maximum transport times to 36 hours, requiring all animal handlers to receive training, and preventing the transport of animals deemed unfit for travel.
If Mr. Horne’s association truly prioritizes animal welfare, it should support strengthening national transport regulations. Until that happens, millions of animals will continue to suffer and die in agony, and our international trading partners may begin to question if our inadequate animal-transport laws are functioning as hidden subsidies to the animal agriculture sector.
Humane Society International/Canada
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