Animal Transport Regs. Study Closed Without Input From Stakeholders – Former CFIA Veterinarian Asks Why

The public comment period for input into proposed amendments to animal transport regulations has now been closed without input from all stakeholders.

Retired CFIA veterinarian of 30 years, Dr. Maureen Harper, tried to get in front of the Ag. Committee to testify but submissions had been abruptly closed off.

Please read Dr. Harper’s letters regarding the closure of this study,  and her original letter urging for a greater reduction in transport times for animals.

“Dear Jean-Denis Kusion:

Hello Jean- Denis. My name is Dr. Maureen Harper. I am a veterinarian, formerly a CFIA veterinary inspector, retired in 2011 after 30 years service.

Please find below ongoing correspondence that I had with Minister MacAulay in regards to a letter sent to him from both myself and Dr. Judith Samson-French, dated Aug. 28, 2016. I decided to piggyback my comments, about the newly proposed amendments to the Health of Animals animal transport regulations, On the most recent response from Minister MacAulay. Please see below the said comments that I provided to Dr. Kiley and Minister MacAulay regarding the proposed changes to the animal transport regulations. I am sending you this email and my below listed comments, as an official submission of my comments to the agriculture committee in regards to the Transport Study.

It was only yesterday, that I learned that the agriculture committee had struck this study. It was my understanding that people were able to submit their names to testify in front of this committee in regards to the newly proposed animal transport regulations. And today, I learned that the committee is no longer accepting any further witnesses to testify, after only having three meetings. I find this very disappointing and disconcerting.

I am curious as to who has already been allowed to testify and why others are not being allowed to testify. Why was this study struck in the first place? And why were people, who had previously provided comments in regards to the newly proposed animal transport regulations, not advised of this Transport Study and these meetings? What, if anything, is proposed to come out of this study? Will there be official recommendations made to the CFIA? It is apparent to me that the government is being less than forthcoming and transparent in dealing with these newly proposed regulations in this manner.

I would ask that the agriculture committee reconsider its decision to disallow any further witnesses, in order to allow for a truly fair and transparent Transport Study to take place. I would be more than happy to stand in front of the Agriculture Committee to present my point of view on the proposed amendments. Failing being allowed to do so, please consider my original comments provided below as my official submission to the agriculture committee regarding the Transport Study.”

Original comment submission follows:

“Dear Minister MacAulay and Dr. C. Kiley:

Thank you for your attached response Minister MacAulay. I am writing to provide my comments regarding the proposed amendments to Part XII of the Health of Animals Regulations which pertain to the transport of animals and are currently in the public comment phase in Canada Gazette,Part 1.

I must admit that I was very disappointed when I reviewed the proposed changes. I am a veterinarian who worked for 30 years with the CFIA, in Ottawa, at the Guelph Area Office and in the field covering many district offices including the Toronto airport. It has been approximately 40 years since the Health of Animals Animal Transport Regulations have been updated. And in my view, the proposed changes fall far short of what current scientific literature about animal welfare provides and of what the public expectation is regarding the humane treatment of farm animals. It seems that the CFIA has put the “needs” of industry and profit ahead of animal welfare. Costs to producers and haulers should be secondary to the welfare of animals being transported. This is particularly disturbing when the CFIA is the agency charged with the responsibility to protect the welfare of animals being transported and it is also the agency responsible for enforcement of the animal transport regulations.

I believe that it is important for the CFIA to understand that public perception of animals has changed dramatically in 40 years. Animals are viewed as sentient beings and are required to be treated as such.  And Canada, being an OIE member country, ought to abide by the OIE Terrestrial Code Guiding Principles on defining animal welfare including the Five Freedoms which describe the right of animals under human control:

  • Freedom from hunger, malnutrition and thirst
  • Freedom from fear and distress
  • Freedom from physical and thermal discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease
  • Freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour

Further to this, the OIE Animal Welfare Standards have an important role in international trade because they are the only global science-based standards agreed upon by OIE member trading nations of the world. Unfortunately, in my view, the proposed amendments to the Health of Animals Animal Transport Regulations fall short of the OIE standards. Later on, I will provide a very glaring example of this with respect to the shipping of horses to Japan for slaughter.

Contrary to what the CFIA has described, the newly proposed animal transport regulations will not bring Canada in alignment with European standards that were implemented 13 years ago. In Europe, regulations require that all animals being transported more than 8 hours, must be transported on vehicles equipped with water troughs and fans, and trailers need to be equipped with tachographs to record the length of time that the vehicles are in motion. Also in Europe, strict loading densities are required in order to ensure that all animals are able to stand up and lie down in a natural position. Europe prohibits the transport of animals below and above specific temperatures and temperature monitors are required on trucks.

It appears that Europe, 13 years ago, made a sincere attempt to abide by the OIE Terrestrial Code and has tried to honour the Five Freedoms contained therein. I believe after 40 years of waiting to have the animal transport regulations updated, this country can and must do much better than what is proposed in these amendments. For example, even with these new regulations, Canada will still find itself in the unenviable position of having the longest transport times (neck in neck with the US). The  EU, Australia, and New Zealand all have shorter transport times than what is provided in Canada’s newly proposed animal transport regulations.

In my view, that is not acceptable, nor is it living up to the OIE standards. I was not pleased to see that there was no mention of enforcement of the animal transport regulations in the newly proposed regulations. As a former CFIA veterinarian, I am aware of many incidences where field inspectors were not enforcing the animal transport regulations due to industry bullying, middle management coercion, lack of resources and/or inadequate mechanisms in place to admonish and penalize parties committing infractions of the said regulations. As a former program officer who was responsible for overseeing the animal transport program in Ont., I can tell you, for example, that there were countless incidences of high levels of DOA (dead on arrival) birds, at a particular large poultry plant, that went unprosecuted. In my opinion, the AMPs system (monetary penalties) does not work as it is very resource intensive and in my experience, the mechanism allowing industry to challenge an issued AMP was biased in favour of industry. All to say, this has lead to the undue suffering of many animals without adequate punishment for those responsible. I was hopeful that the CFIA would have addressed issues of enforcement with the newly revised regulations. Unfortunately, that has not happened.

I was happy to see that the current transport times have been reduced somewhat. However, I do not believe that any of them have been reduced enough to reflect current scientific knowledge, to meet Canada’s obligations under the OIE, nor to respect the public’s current view of animals as sentient beings. For example, as the Ont. Animal Transport Program Officer, I was aware of an abundance of spent hen shipments with extremely high rates of DOAs, as high as 50%. This is just not acceptable. Spent hens are extremely fragile, often barely feathered, and as such, ought not to be shipped large distances, particularly in trailers that do not have tarps. In my view, spent hens should only be shipped to the most proximal abattoir to the farm, if shipped at all.

As an example of the newly proposed transport times not reflecting current scientific knowledge, I refer you to two recent articles both published in The first is entitled “Patterns And Durations Of Journeys By Horses Transported From The US To Canada For Slaughter” by Roy R.C., Cockram M. S., published in the Canadian Vet Journal (2015) 56: 581-586. This article speaks to the fact that horses are compromised after being transported for more than 24 hours with forced dehydration and starvation. This is echoed in the second article entitled “Assessment of Welfare And Journey Risk Factors Affecting Welfare” by R. Cyril Roy, Michael S.Cockram, Ian R. Dohoo, published in the Canadian Journal of Animal Science (2015) 95: 509-522. It is clear from these two very recent articles that horses should not be transported for more than 24 hours without food, water and rest. And if the journey falls between 2 countries, (eg. between the US and Canada), the entire length of the transport, including travelling through both countries, ought not exceed 24 hrs.

Due to the extreme temperatures in this country, it is incumbent on the CFIA to have legislation in place that provides both maximum and minimum temperatures allowable for transport of animals, by species. This is of utmost importance in light of the fact that the newly proposed regulations still do not mandate that all transport vehicles are required to monitor temperature and ventilation and enclosed trucks with regulated temperatures and ventilation are still not required.  As Animal Transport Program Officer in Ont., I was aware of far too many cases of pigs, being shipped in extreme heat that died en route to slaughter establishments. There is presently a case in front of the courts in Ont. dealing with this very inhumane situation.

In the extreme heat, animals are deprived of water and improper ventilation, particularly when the vehicle is at rest. And this is not such an uncommon occurrence, when many of these old abattoirs suffer mechanical break downs. As a result, they are not able to receive the pigs, which end up being stuck on the trailers in the parking lots at the plants for indefinite periods of time. The proposed transport times for all animals need to be further reduced, in my opinion, and allowable maximum and minimum shipping temperatures, per species, need to be stipulated.

I was dismayed to see that the new regulations will now provide for compromised animals to be shipped for up to 12 hours. Sick and injured animals ought not be moved off the farm with the exception of them being transported for treatment, when deemed necessary. And all culled animals need to be properly assessed by a qualified individual in order to ensure that they are able to properly withstand the journey to the slaughter establishment. As Animal Transport Program Officer in Ont., I was made aware of far too many downer pigs that arrived at abattoirs. Of course, it was always stated that the animal “went down” en route.

I do not believe that it is in the animals’ best interests that the CFIA has decided to implement outcome based regulations. This serves  only to muddy the waters for the inspectors tasked with enforcing the animal transport regulations, which is already a challenge as I previously mentioned.  Outcome based regulations allow producers and haulers much more flexibility to do as they wish. Contrary to outcome based regulations, as an example, the new regulations should be clearly providing prescribed loading densities for each species. Voluntary codes of practice already exist that could be incorporated into the new legislation. In accordance with the OIE, all animals should be able to stand up and lie down comfortably during transportation.

The newly proposed amendments still allow for the use of electric prods and whips. In my view, there should be no place for the use of such devices, period. I am supportive of the CFIA proposing to make training mandatory for people who operate commercial vehicles that transport animals. But, I believe this needs to be extended to all people who handle and transport animals. For example, this would go a long way to help prevent injuries such a broken wings and legs that are inflicted on many birds by improperly trained catching crews. Ideally, there needs to be a standardized prescribed training program for licenced animal transporters and animal handlers.

My final comments pertain to the proposed changes to the animal transport regulations that have a direct impact on the shipment of horses being exported to Japan for slaughter. As per the previous communiques with Minister MacAulay, this is an issue I have been dealing with for many months. The current regulations (141(8)) stipulate that horses over 14 hands are required to be segregated. It is clear from the previous communiques attached, that the CFIA has not been enforcing this particular regulation with the shipments of large draft horses being shipped unsegregated to Japan. The CFIA has now chosen to remove this regulation in the newly proposed legislation. In lieu of this, the new regulations stipulate that only incompatible animals are required to be segregated. Firstly, this disregards the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code, article 7.4.1 (2) Species Requirement, that states. “Horses should be transported in containers and be separated from each other if they are more than 145 cm (57 in) in height.” Secondly, large draft horses being shipped unsegregated in wooden containers contravene the IATA Live Animal Regulations.

Photo: courtesy R. Boisvert

Many of these shipments contain 3 to 4 horses, each well over 14 hands, and as such, when being shipped unsegregated, there is not the prescribed 3 inches on either side of the horses at their widest points (as per IATA Live Animal Regulations). In other words, IATA prescribed loading densities are not being respected with these unsegregated shipments of large draft horses. Wooden crates are not meant to be used for the shipment of large horses.

Having worked for many years as the CFIA veterinary inspector at LBPIA in Toronto, I can unequivocally state that large draft horses never arrived there nor were shipped from there in wooden containers. The only horses that were allowed to be shipped unsegregated in wooden containers were small ponies. And having worked at the Toronto airport and overseeing hundreds of shipments of horses both arriving and departing, I can also state that it is impossible for a veterinarian to assess the compatibility of horses or any other animals on the spot, at the time of loading. All to say, the CFIA has not only gone against the OIE recommendations and IATA requirements by removing the segregation requirement of horses greater than 14 hands, it has potentially put many horses at risk of injury and even death. Large unsegregated horses that don’t have ample room are at risk of going down (particularly at take-off and landing) and having the inability to stand up, thereby being potentially trampled on by other horses.

As mentioned in my previous communiques to Minister MacAulay, there is documented evidence (garnered by ATIP) that this has already occurred and horses have been injured because the CFIA failed to enforce its own current regulations requiring that the horses be segregated. So I am totally baffled that the CFIA has taken measures to remove this segregation requirement for horses over 14 hands.

I can only speculate here. I have personal information from a credible individual who is intimately involved in the shipping of these horses to Japan for slaughter. According to this person, industry does not want the horses to be segregated as it is not economically feasible to ship only 2 horses per container when respecting the segregation requirement.  As well, there are ATIP documents, also garnered by ATIP, that support this allegation.

Unfortunately, it is apparent to me that this is yet another example of the CFIA placing profit above animal welfare, by removing this segregation requirement. As well, it is worth mentioning that the CFIA veterinarians, who are overseeing these shipments at the airport, are signing documents attesting to the fact that shipments are in accordance with OIE standards. I would humbly submit that this is not the case.

Further to this, the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code states, “The container should allow the animal to stand in its natural position without touching the roof of the container or in the case of open containers, the restraining nets, and provide at least 10 cm (4 in.) in clearance above the animal’s head in its normal position; in the case of horses, provide sufficient space above the horse’s head (21 cm , 8 in. recommended) to allow for the movement required for the horse’s balance”.  In article 148 of the newly proposed animal transport regulations, the CFIA has chosen to remove horses from the list of animals whose heads are required not to come into contact with the tops of the shipping containers. I find it almost laughable that the CFIA rationalizes this in its preamble stating that horses may wish to hold their heads straight or hold their heads up depending on the breed, size or type.  Again, there is documentary evidence, garnered by ATIP, supporting the fact that some of the larger horses that have been shipped to Japan, have injured themselves due to the fact that their heads came into contact with the tops of the shipping containers. In fact, the wooden slats across the top of some of the containers have been broken by the heads of some of the larger horses. A logical solution would have been to have industry build the containers higher. If that is not possible due to height restrictions of the aircraft, then industry should have been advised to only ship smaller horses. Has that happened? No. There are recent photographs of horses still being shipped with their heads coming into contact with the tops of the shipping containers, thereby putting the horses at risk of injury and even worse, potentially causing the larger horses to lose their balance and go down in the containers.

So it appears to me once again that in order to appease industry and not contravene its own regulations, the CFIA decided to remove the requirement for horses heads not to touch the tops of containers, rationalizing that some horses may just stand holding their heads straight. This flies in the face of what is best for the horses and what the OIE standards call for. And that is that horses actually need more room than other species for their heads to be held up in a natural position in order to allow for the movement required for the horse’s balance. I believe that this is yet another sad example of the CFIA allowing industry profits to take precedence over the welfare of the animals.

In summary, Canadians have waited a long time for proposed changes to the current Health of Animals Animal Transport Regulations. I am aware that the CFIA has been working on these amendments for more than 10 years. In fact, there was talk of updating the said regulations when I was responsible for the animal transport program in Ont. circa 2003- 2004. Although some progress has been made with the proposed amendments, I believe that Canadian people expect, and Canadian animals deserve far more. I do not feel that the currently proposed amendments are sufficient to protect the welfare of Canadian animals and I have provided concrete examples to support this. Canada, as an OIE member country, needs to be seen as abiding by OIE standards. And now that the IATA Live Animal Regulations (LARs) have been referenced in the newly proposed animal transport regulations, the CFIA needs to ensure that it is abiding by the LARs.

I would ask that you carefully consider the information that I have provided, so as to re-examine the proposed amendments in order to make the necessary recommended changes. If I can be of any further assistance in this important endeavour, please do not hesitate to contact me.”

Regards,

Maureen Harper, D.V.M.. MSc.

 

 

7 comments

  1. When is Canada going to change? All this government care is to benefit financially at the cost of the voiceless. Shame Canada.

  2. Shocking ! Most terribly Sad !!! It appears those in charge , just do not care !!!!!

  3. UGGGGGH….Arshats!!  That is not right . 😦

  4. Sarah Jane West · · Reply

    Canada will NEVER treat any animals properly while we have no federally legislated ANIMAL WELFARE ACT which would of course include the transportation of live animals

    And while Canada still deems animals property that will never happen!

    What about introducing the concept of”Living property”that is sentient and conscious unlike a table which is also someones property

    Living property is:

    SENTIENT
    CONSCIOUS
    ANIMATED

    To continue to deem animals property along with your cell phone and your real estate is barbaric

    I am sick to death of Canad’a impotent and redundant animal cruelty legislation

    There seems to bean unspoken assumption by our government that if an animals going to be slaughtered it does not matter how it is treated until its brutally killed

    I will fight on any personal level I can to change this

    I have been here now in Canada for over 42 years and I am proud to be a Canadian citizen BUT… Canada;s Animal welfare record is the 4th worst in the industrialized world and appalls and disgusts me

    Nothing will change with Farm animals only if and until we have a federal ANIMAL WELFARE ACT

    ALL ANIMALS IN THIS COUNTRY HAVE TO HAVE PROTECTION FROM…. AND AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL FEDERALLY !

    Until then we are fighting inch by inch with every Government dept there is and trying to deal with all the political agendas, lack of enforcement, tunnel vision, corruption, and worst of all their continuance of turning their eyes blind to the suffering

  5. It looks like CFIA is just as crooked as the BLM in the U.S. or any government entity that has control over what happens to horses being shipped to slaughter in Canada/Mexico or livestock like cattle, sheep that are slaughtered in the U.S.

    1. True. We want change it takes all of us to make change.

  6. horsefever · · Reply

    Even though I understand Dr. Harper’s view, I am so, so sad that horses, even if the conditions were “perfect” need to be slaughtered. I will never accept that it is ok to slaughter an animal that is so dependent on us for survival, just for a weekly/monthly meal. IMO, horses should never be slaughtered, just like dogs and cats are not. By changing their status to domestic animal (since they are pets now), this would stop the slaughter of these animals and also stop the slaugher of American horses. I just can’t see why this is so complicated!

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