The first wholesale changes in 42 years to Canada’s humane transport regulations for animals have been published, but not all animal activists are excited about it. Canada’s new amendments to the Health of Animals Regulations concerning animal transportation are “clear and science-informed,” according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Transporting animals can cause stress, which experts say can lead to immune suppression and sickness that make these policies a food safety concern.

“As a veterinarian, I am happy to say that Canada has improved the well-being of animals during the entire transportation process,” said Dr. Jaspinder Komai, Canada’s Chief Veterinary Officer. “The changes to the humane transport regulations better align Canada’s requirements with international partners — for example the United States, Australia, and the European Union — as well as the OIE’s animal welfare standards for animals transported by land, air, or sea.”

When the new regulations were published on Feb. 20, CFIA said the changes move away from focusing on just time in confinement with perspective requirements that restricted innovation to more outcome-based regulations.

The CFIA collected 51,000 comments from 11,000 stakeholders before publishing the new regulations. The agency reached out to producers, veterinarians, industry and international organizations, animal activists, transportation companies, lawyers and others.

The Canadian unit of Mercy for Animals is one activist group that was extensively involved in the CFIA process but remain unsatisfied with the new amendments. In Mercy’s view the shortcomings include:

  • Animals can still be transported up to 36 hours without food, water, or rest and if animals are provided with food, water and “adequate” ventilation on board there are now no limits to transport time.
  • Animals can still be transported in extreme temperatures characteristic of Canadian summers and winters, with possible violations considered only after animals have died of hypo or hyperthermia.
  • Animals can still be packed into trucks with enough room to move only their heads.
  • Animals can still be loaded and unloaded with electric prods, which are proved to cause animals stress and pain.

Mercy wanted Canada to adopt restrictions such as those in place in the European Union, which limit animals from being transported for more than eight hours with food, water, and rest, or when temperatures would cause discomfort.

The CFIA verifies compliance with humane transportation requirements from various locations, including auction markets, border crossings, slaughter facilities, and other assembly points. It publishes non-compliance data quarterly.

The agency, however, seems to be saying the new regulations are more nuanced. The agency points out that:

  • They also take into account the latest research on animal transportation and international standards. By establishing clear and science-informed requirements, the regulations better reflect the needs of animals and improve overall animal welfare in Canada.
  • These new, stronger regulations include both prescriptive and outcome-based requirements that emphasize and improve the health and wellbeing of the animals during the entire transportation process.
  • The amendments will also increase consumer confidence, strengthen Canada’s international trade status and facilitate market access.
  • The overall objective is that animals arrive at their destination safely, and are suitably fed, hydrated and rested.
  • These amendments go beyond transport journey times to cover the full time an animal is prepared for transit to the time they are installed in their new location.
  • The new regulations are more detailed with respect to the different needs of different types of animals and specify intervals for transporters to provide food, water and rest.

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