Take action: Speak up for Sheep!
Canada’s updated Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Sheep was released July 9th by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). It’s now online for public comment until September 6, 2013. This is your chance to provide valuable input on practices that will impact the welfare of farmed sheep in Canada for years to come. Please visit the NFACC website at http://www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/sheep to complete the feedback survey. Please note: the survey is lengthy. You can save time by referring to the guidelines and suggestions below.
Thank you for advocating for sheep!
Section 1: Environmental Conditions
Section 1.1.2 Provision of Shelter during Cold and Windy, and Cold and Wet Conditions
Sheep should be provided with proper shelter. Hedgerows, natural windbreaks or land features such as less side of a hill, bush, gully or coulees are not enough.
Section 2.1 Housing and Handling for all Sheep
Sheep should have access to the outdoors. Pasture is important to sheep and other than keeping sheep inside on a temporary basis because of extreme weather conditions, sheep should be reared on pasture.
All barns housing livestock/sheep should be equipped with a fire alarm system and this should be mandatory since many animals perish in barn fires when fire prevention measures are not present.
Section 2.1.1 Temperature, humidity and air quality
When sheep are housed in barns, ammonia level should be set to a maximum of 15 ppm given the distress high ammonia levels can cause to sheep. Natural ventilation is preferable.
Section 2.1.2 Social Environment and Enrichment
Given the strong social nature of sheep, it should be required that sheep be housed in groups with other sheep when they are kept indoors.
Section 4: Health Management
Section 4.2 Stockmanship Skills Related to Animal Health and Welfare
Sheep should be inspected regularly and producers should be given guidelines in this regard, for example, at least once a day and more often when they are near lambing, have newborns, vulnerable to fly-strike, sick, etc.
Section 3: Feed and Water
3.1 Nutrition and Feed Management
All sheep should be able to graze, weather permitting, and supplemental feeding must be provided during times when grass is unavailable. To ensure proper rumen function, sheep must be provided with 70 percent long fiber roughage/forage in their diet on a daily dry matter basis from weaning onwards.
3.1.2 Artificial Rearing
Lambs should be raised by their mothers, unless separating them is required for medical reasons. In the case of orphan, abandoned or excess lambs, they should be fostered onto other ewes, and only artificially reared if all other attempts fail. Lambs should never be raised in isolation.
Given the importance of water to sheep welfare, snow is not a sufficient source of water (quantity, quality). Snow should never be the only source of water available, and it should be required (and not recommended) that producers provide water at all times.
Section 5: Husbandry Practices
Section 5.1 Handling, Grouping and Moving Animals
These changes be made to the Recommended Practices:
· Based on the scientists’ report, item (e) be made a requirement
· Also based on the scientists’ report which points out that isolation is a very stressful event for sheep, item (h) be made a requirement
Section 5.2 Identification
Given the pain associated with ear-notching, it should be prohibited in the requirements (per requirement #3) and only tattooing be permitted as a permanent identification method.
For Requirement #2, a note be added at the end to say: “refer to Handling Requirements, Section 5.1.”
Recommendation (b) be made a requirement the importance of treating infections to animal health and welfare.
Section 5.3 Predation Control
Given that animal welfare and possible suffering must be considered across the board, item (b) of the Recommended Practices be made a requirement. An additional item should be added to the Requirements that call for non-harmful, non-lethal methods of predator control as preferable. Suggested wording is as follows: “Preference must be given to effective non-harmful and non-lethal methods of predator control.”
Section 5.4 Shearing and Crutching
Recommended Practices (a) and (b) should be made requirements due to the welfare implications resulting from sheep vulnerability to weather after shearing. Item (c) should also be made a requirement due to the increased comfort it will allow to sheep during the shearing process.
Section 5.6 Castration
Anesthetic and pain management should always be used when castrating rams.
Section 5.7 Tail Docking
Given the pain associated with tail docking, anesthetic and analgesic requirements for tailing docking should be used when it is performed, regardless of age.
Section 5.9 Dehorning/Horn Trimming
For requirement #2, we suggest removing the following text: “...or under the direct supervision of...”. The new wording would read: Minor horn trimming (removal of tips) must be performed by a competent stockperson.
Section 5.10 Breeding
Accelerated breeding programs should not be used given the potential animal welfare consequences. Artificial manipulation of lamb production should not be used, especially when breeding results in more lambs than sheep can effectively rear properly and/or if doing sow compromises the ewe’s health. Furthermore, breeding for more than two lambs per ewe is not acceptable.
In order to prevent animal suffering, item (a) under “Recommended Practices” should be made a requirement with the following revision: “Pain management must be used for obstetrical procedures such as dystocia and prolapse.”
Section 6: Transportation
6.1.1 Fitness for transport
Sheep should not be transported during extreme weather and/or when the humidex is high as they are vulnerable to overheating. Lambs should not be transported around the farm or off the farm until they are at least six weeks old. Recommended practice c (“shipping only healthy animals to auction markets, breeding stock sales and livestock sales”) should be a Requirement.
6.1.3 Preparing Sheep for Transport
Sheep must be fed within the five-hour period immediately prior to being loaded even if the journey is less than 24 hours from the time of loading. It should be a Requirement that lactating dairy ewes must be milked out immediately before being transported, and not transported more than half a day, unless steps are taken to provide them with rest, food, water and relieve their udder of extra milk if they are not accompanied by a lamb.
6.2 Loading and Unloading
Sheep must not be kicked, hit, beaten or electrically-prodded. Proper training in sheep behaviour should be a Requirement for all stockpersons participating in the loading and unloading of sheep.
Sheep should not be over-crowded during transport.
Section 7: Euthanasia
Non-ambulatory animals with no reasonable chance of recovery must be euthanized where they lie in a manner that renders them immediately insensible to pain. Recommended practice (b) — minimizing handling and movements for downed, injured and sick animals — should be a Requirement.
Pork producers stall on
As the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) begins the task of reviewing and implementing the feedback received in the 4,700 responses to the Pig Code, some pork associations continue to oppose changes in the Code that will require conversion from stalls to open housing for breeding sows. Most notably, the Canadian Pork Council (CPC) recently issued a statement saying more research is needed to ensure the changes are in the best interests of farmers. Speaking to Farmscape.ca
, Rick Bergmann, a vice chair on both the Canadian Pork Council and Manitoba Pork Council says, “70 percent of what we produce is exported and we haven’t had any concern or direction suggesting what we’re doing is not as good as it could be.” He adds, “We’ve got neighbours to the south that don’t have these requirements that they’re being faced with.”
In reality, a growing body of science-based evidence
now shows that sow stalls are responsible for everything from neurotic behaviour in sows — bar-biting, head-shaking — to increased arthritis and urinary tract infections.
This would suggest strongly that on-farm practices for about 95% of Canada’s breeding sows could in fact could be much better and more humane.
Moreover, while producers balk at conversion to open housing, the reality is that not only have eight of Canada’s largest grocery retailers called for an end to stalls in their supply chains by 2022
, but they are in line with the precedent set in the U.S.
by a growing number of grocery and restaurant chains as well as 9 U.S. states that have made similar commitments.
Even mainstream media
are calling for an end to sow stalls, and some farm journalists
are saying this is, quite simply, a done deal.
The draft Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs
is calling for a phase-out of sow stalls, with an exception of 5 weeks around insemination, by 2024. The 2-month comment period for the Code closed August 3rd; it is scheduled to be finalized by December 2013.
Your input needed on more transparent food labeling
“Non-certified” and “ritually killed without stunning” could become common wording on animal products if the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) moves ahead with mandatory method-of-production labeling. Currently, terms like “free range” and “free run” are often used on products whose methods of production are not properly — i.e. third-party — certified. Ideally, stepped-up legislation would see wording such as “non-certified free range” or “non-certified free run”, with an accompanying explanatory statement.
This is not a new initiative for CFIA — the agency considered it several years ago but didn’t follow through — however, with the growing interest among consumers in welfare issues such as sow stalls and battery cages, this may be the time to rethink such labeling
. Moreover, while there are various provincial or local initiatives to implement it, such as the new mandatory certification being implemented by the BC Egg Marketing Board, there are no clear, consistent laws at the federal level.
Until September 27th, the CFIA is looking for feedback on method-of-production labeling from as many people as possible
. Please take a minute to email them at CFIA-Modernisation-ACIA@inspection.gc.ca
and tell them you want labeling that is more honest and makes producers more accountable for the welfare of the animals they raise.
Canadian scientists call for ban on poultry antibiotic
Several international scientists, including two from Canada, say that a commonly-used poultry antibiotic should be banned because it is causing antibiotic resistance in humans and is responsible for infections in Europe that are “likely to have tripled from 2007 to 2012”.
Dr. Rebecca Irwin of the Public Health Agency of Canada and Dr. Scott McEwen, a professor at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College, are two of the authors of an open letter titled Human Deaths and Third-Generation Cephalosporin use in Poultry, Europe
. As the letter explains, “Globally, billions of chickens receive third-generation cephalosporins in ovo or as day-old chicks to treat E. coli infection, a practice that has resulted in large reservoirs of resistant bacteria.” This has resulted in “substantial increases” in antimicrobial drug-resistant E. coli in humans.
One study showed that 56% of the resistance genes in humans were identical to genes from E. coli in retail chicken samples. The letter made the point that if this percentage were applied to Europe, it would result in 1,518 deaths and 67,236 days in hospital.
The letter appeared in the August 2013 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases
, a publication produced by the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The letter comes at a time when antibiotics are becoming a growing concern among scientists and doctors. In March, for example, the Ontario Medical Association released a report
concluding that infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming more frequent and difficult to treat. The OMA has called on the government to “address the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance while there is still time”, and in its list of recommendations, has stated that “A veterinary prescription-only standard of access to antibiotics for animals must be instituted”.
Support farm animals Sept. 7 at the Stouffville Market
The Stouffville Country Market has come under increasing scrutiny for its sale of live animals for personal slaughter. Local animal activists have posted pictures of chickens stuffed in onion bags, and have seen animals being roughly handled — being thrown into the trunks of cars, for example — causing bleeding and broken bones.
A Toronto Star article reported that according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF — previously OMAFRA), “slaughter of livestock for retail purposes is restricted to licensed plants. Yet after conducting an investigation, OMAFRA determined the ‘allegations of illegal slaughter were unfounded.”
When CCFA contacted OMAF about the market and the rough handling of the animals there, Mike Draper, Coordinator, Livestock Community Sales Act, replied, “OMAF does not regulate that type of behavior. Stouffville is not a licensed auction and is not licensed under the Livestock Community Sales Act as they do not sell livestock by auction. The animals are sold by vendors to the general public. Animal welfare at Stouffville is the responsibility of the OSPCA and CFIA.”
CCFA has contacted the OSPCA, and has been informed their investigations team is looking into it. We will keep you posted.
In the meantime, if you would like to express your concern for the treatment of animals at the Stouffville Market, a protest will take place at the market Saturday Sept. 7th. To learn more and join, please see the protest Facebook page.