Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


Progress on the Codes

Eight Codes of Practice are simultaneously under development

Posted: April 5, 2013

Here's a quick-fire look at the progress of those involving several of the major livestock sectors.

Dairy Code gaining adoption. The dairy sector is the first in Canada to complete the Codes of Practice development process. The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals: Dairy Cattle was released in 2009 and has provided the sector with an up-to-date reference for supporting best practices under a unified approach.

The dairy sector across Canada is now making plans to further integrate the Code and the related Animal Care Assessment Model it is piloting into a new approach under development called the "proAction Initiative," which is aimed at streamlining the national delivery of all on-farm programs related to sustainability, including farm animal welfare.

Horse Code nearing implementation. Equine Canada and NFACC coordinated the public comment period on the draft Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines, which completed February 14, 2013.

Beef Code being finalized. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association and NFACC coordinated the public comment period draft Code of Practice for the Care and handling of Beef Cattle, which completed March 8, 2013.

Pig Code tackling tough issues. Among all the new Codes under development for the care and handling of farm animals in Canada, arguably none has greater economic implications than the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs, which is under development through coordination by NFACC and the Canadian Pork Council. The public comment period is scheduled to begin June 1, 2013.

Chickens, Turkeys and Breeders Code in process. The process for updating the Code of Practice for Chickens, Turkeys and Breeders began October 2011. The Turkey Farmers of Canada, Chicken Farmers of Canada, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers and Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council initiated the review.

Poultry – Layers Code: development underway. The process for updating the Code of Practice for Poultry-Layers began April 2012. Egg Farmers of Canada initiated the review with the support of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council and Pullet Growers of Canada.

New ISO technical standard for assessments in the works

Canada advocating a cautious, 'wait and see' approach

As Canada through NFACC develops its Animal Care Assessment Model, new activity spawned at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) level has caused some rumblings of concern.

The focus of that concern is what Canada and others have perceived as a rush forward to develop an international technical specification for animal welfare assessment based on World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines.

ISO is a nongovernmental organization with a membership comprising the national standards bodies of more than 160 countries, including Canada. It is the world's largest developer of voluntary international standards. ISO and OIE signed a cooperation agreement in 2011 to "facilitate and strengthen cooperation and collaboration" in various areas including welfare of terrestrial animals.

Jackie Wepruk of NFACC attended the most recent OIE animal welfare conference in October 2012, where the concept of introducing a technical specification was raised out of ISO. The development was at least partly driven by private sector demand, she says, through an organization called SAFE (Safe and Affordable Food Everywhere) that represents several multinational food industry companies.

The move was positioned as seeking further harmonization of standards on animal welfare. However Canada and several other countries expressed concerns questioning the approach and value, and requesting more information. A series of developments have since transpired and an early draft technical specification has been withdrawn. But a new, more high level and less detailed draft is in the works for consideration later in the year.

"We're engaged in the process around this, with representation on the ISO working group. Canada's representatives report back to a Canadian advisory team which has broad engagement from within industry and beyond," says Wepruk. "The main message we agreed on from a Canadian perspective was that this was going way too fast and we needed to take a step back to examine what exactly the specification was trying to accomplish. We have very rigorous and robust processes here in Canada and we have some concerns around the implications for these processes. We need more clarity on the value of the approach being taken."

Wepruk says the implications for Canada's Animal Care Assessment Model process are unclear. However, like many developments at the international level, there is typically consensus that any standard that emerges should be general enough to accommodate many credible approaches. "The ISO working group does not have any decision making authority," says Wepruk. "It has been charged to create a potential outline on what the technical specification could be. Ultimately, the national standards bodies in each ISO member country, including Canada, will vote on whether to proceed with this new work plan."

Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.




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