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News in a Flash

March - April 2013

Your comments wanted
on Canada’s new Beef Code

Canada's Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle has been updated and is now online for public comment until March 8. This is the first time the beef code has been updated since it was introduced in 1991, so public input is especially important. In tandem with the code is a useful report by Canadian animal scientists which provides science-based information on animal welfare issues affecting beef cattle.  The various sections in the code outline Requirements (“must do”) and Recommended Practices (“should do”) for beef producers; CCFA’s response to key welfare issues is summarized as follows:

        Branding (“Identification” — section 4.3, page 22): Animal scientists readily admit branding is an acutely painful method of identifying cows, yet it is typically done without pain relief. CCFA recommends that branding not be permitted on cattle (it is banned in Europe), and while it is being phased out, pain control needs to be a requirement in the code, not merely a recommended practice. To support the phase-out, research needs to be done on practical, less invasive alternatives such as biometric identification (the use of unique physical traits to identify animals). 

        Castration (section 4.5, page 24): This painful procedure, done to reduce aggression, prevent pregnancy, and enhance the flavour of the meat, is usually done without anaesthetic. While pain relief is a requirement for older animals (i.e. older than 9 months, when pain is greater and recovery is slower), it should be a requirement for calves of all ages. 
        Dehorning / disbudding (section 4.4, page 23): Horns or, in the case of calves, buds (which have not yet attached to the cow's skull), are removed — usually without pain relief — to prevent animals from causing injury as well as bruising that will damage the meat. The code suggests farmers “Use a combination of local anaesthetic and analgesia….” to control pain. This needs to be a requirement, not a recommended practice.
        Feedlot conditions (section 3.3, page 16): In Canada, 2,775 feedlots receive and raise the calves from 67,300 producers. The animals live in dense, dusty and often muddy conditions that cause problems ranging from heat loss, respiratory disease and foot rot to behavioural problems like buller-steer syndrome. These represent broader systemic issues that raise questions around whether large numbers of animals can be farmed humanely. While they present considerable challenges regarding animal care — and point to the need to reduce (and ideally eliminate) animal consumption — the industry and code need to address them more specifically and clearly.
        Feed (section 3.3.3., page 18). The high-concentrate grain-based diets of feedlot cattle result in painful and potentially fatal problems like acidosis, liver abscesses and laminitis. Research shows, for example, that the prevalence of liver abscesses is as high as 32%, and that in sample beef quality audits, of the 14% of livers condemned, 64% were due to abscesses.  The beef code's recommendations related to feed content, monitoring and adjustment should be full code requirements, not recommended practices.
        Weaning (section 4.6, page 25): Weaning causes great stress both to cows and calves, a situation made worse when the calf is immediately shipped to a feedlot. The sudden separation, often grueling transportation, and commingling with new animals often results in illness and death. CCFA recommends that the code’s recommended practices related to gradual, lower-stress weaning be made more enforceable requirements — for example, practicing two-stage or fenceline weaning, and weaning at least 30 days prior to transport to the feedlot. 

        Transportation (page 27): Cows in Canada may legally be transported (on unheated/un-air-conditioned trucks) for 52 hours with no food, water or rest. In the U.S., by comparison, the maximum is 28 hours. In the European Union it is 8 hours. In addition, while federal legislation (Section XII of regulations under the Health of Animals Act) mandates protection of animals from extreme weather and prohibits transport of non-ambulatory animals (“downers”), these laws are often ignored. The new beef code is an opportunity to request that Canada’s animal transport legislation — among the worst in the industrialized world — be more humane and be enforced.
        Weather (section 1.1, page 7): Extreme weather, both hot and cold, can have a tremendous impact on cattle health, particularly for young calves. For example, one U.S. study of 73 cow-calf operations in Colorado showed that 12.2% of newborn-calf deaths were due to hypothermia. Conversely, large outdoor feedlots often provide little protection from the hot summer sun. Key risk factors, ranging from availability of shelter and type of bedding to amount of feed, are addressed in the code mainly as recommended practices; they need to be more enforceable requirements.
News in a Flash readers are encouraged to comment on the Beef Code as well as read the scientific research behind it. Comments can be made online, and once again, the deadline is March 8, 2013.

"W5 pig farm" to go
stall-free by 2017

The Manitoba pig farm at the centre of an undercover investigation highlighted last December on CTV’s W5 is getting rid of its sow stalls. Interlake Weanlings, operated by Puratone, which is now owned by Maple Leaf Foods, will phase out the stalls by 2017. This is in line with Maple Leaf’s announcement in 2007 that all its facilities, including those acquired through the purchase of Puratone, will phase sow stalls out of the company’s supply chain.
Kudos to Mercy for Animals Canada for helping to increase public awareness of the suffering of pigs at factory farms, and credit goes to Maple Leaf Foods for its proactive 2017 timeline; this is in contrast to the one set by Manitoba Pork, which is asking the province’s pig producers to phase out stalls — voluntarily — by 2025. 
To learn more about sow stalls and how you can support efforts to eliminate them, visit


Need some postcards?
Pop us an email!

CCFA would be happy to send you sow stall and battery cage postcards pre-addressed to Loblaw’s CEO, Galen Weston, to encourage Canada’s largest grocer to move ahead on farm animal welfare. Just email us at and tell us which cards you want and how many. Don’t forget to include your home mailing address!


FAW alliance forges ahead
A farm animal welfare alliance of CCFA, the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), Humane Society International (HSI)/Canada, and the Canadian arm of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is working together to bring increased focus on the plight of farmed animal in Canada through a publication directed to Canadian grocers, industry and governments.  Included are updates from each organization, plus shared policy positions on animal welfare issues in Canada. 
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