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How are Farmed Animals Protected?
1. Aren’t their laws that protect the welfare of farmed animals in Canada? (From birth to slaughter)?
Provincial animal protection laws usually don’t protect farmed animals because of exemptions from the law for ‘generally accepted’ farming practices (which raises the question, accepted by whom?). For example, section 15 of Ontario’s Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, 2019, prohibits causing distress to an animal, but exempts “ the reasonable and generally accepted practices of agricultural animal care, management or husbandry” even though “distress” is defined to include being in pain or suffering; and PEI’s Animal Welfare Act and associated Regulations do not protect farmed animals from distress, pain, and suffering caused by any activity involving generally accepted practices of animal management, husbandry or slaughter.
There are no federal laws protecting animals on farms except in limited cases of cruelty (Canada’s Criminal Code), but such law does not apply to the above-mentioned farming practices. Further, enforcement of anti-cruelty laws is often quite challenging even when there is a complaint by a whistleblower.
Canadian advocacy organization Animal Justice provides insightful information about the lack of legal protection for farmed animals.
The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) develops Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of various farmed animal species. The Codes are voluntary guidelines without legal force and are considered to be minimum standards.
This federal government website gives a general overview of the roles of the levels of government regarding the protection of farmed animals and provides links to relevant territorial and provincial laws.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA’s) animal welfare mandate is limited to humane slaughtering in federal abattoirs and humane transport of animals. Provincially licensed abattoirs (meat from slaughtered animals can only be sold within the province) are regulated by the relevant province.
CCFA’s view on transportation:
2. Can the public know the truth about what happens to animals that are farmed?
There are no laws requiring transparency of animal farming operations in Canada – what happens to animals on farms is primarily done in secret. To make matters worse, in recent years Canadian jurisdictions have begun to pass “ag-gag” style laws making it extremely difficult for animal advocates or whistle-blowers to expose the cruelty to and suffering of farmed animals. Whether such laws remain in force will depend on the outcomes of legal challenges.