by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
Canada Takes Step in Right Direction
A few years ago a colleague in Toronto asked me if I could help her process a batch of reports. “Sure,” I said, not realizing the angst they’d cause me as I helped decipher handwritten scrawls.
The reports were photocopies of forms filled out by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) veterinarians on site as they inspected livestock arriving at a slaughterhouse. With terse, technical terms they described a ghastly litany of illnesses and injuries. A protruding intestine or prolapsed uterus here, a face frozen to the side of the truck there, gaping wounds, protruding bones, ulcerated eyes, respiratory stress, grotesquely infected udders, painfully swollen joints, deep gouges, weeping wounds — it went on and on and on.
In Canada it is legal for many animals with “monogastric” digestive systems — such as horses, hogs and fowl — to be transported for as long as 36 consecutive hours without food, water or rest, after being deprived of food and drink for a five-hour “withdrawal” period before the drive begins. Ruminants, such as cattle or sheep, can go a staggering 52 hours in transport without food, water or rest. Canadian transport standards are all too vague on issues of temperature control and ventilation.
Canada is huge and relatively thinly populated, so long-distance transport is commonplace, and worse, animals often are transported even longer distances internationally. My Sacramento colleagues, especially Born Free USA Senior Program Associate Monica Engebretson, worked on that angle of the problem, including the transport of live pigs from Canada to Hawaii.
In Canada we were, at the time, primarily focused on the issue of “downers,” animals who have collapsed under their own weight, being too sick or too badly injured to stand or walk. Eventually we succeeded in having the transport of downers banned, although some animals starting out upright become downers during transport.
Through it all we were frustrated by knowledge that even in the event of an infraction of such laws that do exist under the Health of Animals Act, those responsible faced a maximum “administrative monetary penalty” (AMP) of only $4,000.
So there was therefore some cause for celebration when, on October 27, the Canadian government more than doubled that fine, to up to $10,000. CFIA will retain the ability to increase even that fine up to 50 percent more for those drivers who have repeated offenses over the previous five years, instead of three years as was the previous situation. A second-time offender could therefore be fined up to $15,000, whereas the previous maximum was $6,000. A step in the right direction, for sure, but I’ll stick to my vegan diet.
Barry Kent MacKay