Perspectives on Canada's progress
Viewpoints highlighted at the National Farm Animal Care Conference offer a snapshot on the key opportunities and challenges for livestock producers and their industry.
Posted: October 17, 2013
Courtesy: Calgary Stampede
Big opportunities. Tough challenges. New approaches to building a roadmap to the future.
The rising activity, dialogue and debate around farm animal care today features plenty of these elements and more. A great place to get a window was the recent National Farm Animal Care Conference, Oct. 9-10, 2013 in Ottawa.
NewStream Farm Animal Care was there. Here's a small sampling among the many important perspectives offered during the two-day event attended by over 140 stakeholder representatives from across the country.
Cost sharing is critical
"The issue of cost sharing can be a sore spot for the industry. We are talking to retailers and food service but so far no one is really coming to the plate to say 'our consumers want this and we will pay for it'. If that was the case, converting to new systems would be easier as incentives would be there. But that's not what we're hearing. And there are no positive signals from governments either. Perhaps there will be assistance with research but overall, governments are not stepping up to help the industry. We need to address this because forced conversions will have farmers exit the industry and that is not the objective of the Code. It's not in anyone's interests to close facilities in Canada and fill the gap with imported product that doesn't have our standards, including welfare standards."
– Catherine Scovil, Associate Executive Director, Canadian Pork Council. The public comment period for the recently drafted updated Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs drew over 4,700 comments with the vast majority focused on the lightning rod issue of sow housing.
Non-competitive is key
"I commend producers for their continued leadership in this area, while also recognizing the challenges that we all face ahead. As we move forward, it's important that animal welfare isn't and shouldn't be a competitive advantage in the retail industry - it's about the welfare of the animal. To me, understanding all sides of the issue is very important. It would have been irresponsible for us to make our animal welfare commitments without first understanding the issues and being at the table where these important issues are being discussed."
– Sonya Fiorini, Senior Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Loblaw Companies Limited. The company has made a commitment to transition all of its private label "President's Choice" brand eggs to free-run. It has also made a commitment along with seven other grocery retailers to only purchase fresh pork from alternative housing environments by 2022. Loblaw is an associate member of NFACC.
Doing the right thing trumps image
"Improving animal welfare is for the benefit of animals - it's not a popularity contest. We need to keep that in mind when we consider the needs to have a good image and also to have progress that is practical to implement. It can be appealing to take the choice that looks good on the surface but this shouldn't mean jumping into a fad. Fads change over time. We need to have a long-term practical view that is based on the science and doesn't let other objectives take over besides animal welfare."
– Gord Doonan, Senior Staff Veterinarian, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). A long-serving representative at NFACC, Doonan had a key role in the team processes toward updated Codes of Practice and other initiatives.
Multi-stakeholder process depends on teamwork
"It's really important who you have around the table for drafting Codes of Practice. You need people who play well with others, and also who can hear others. Because what you go through is a change and adaptation exercise. You have strong people who all have opinions and experience. The final Code is probably different from what any of them would have written on their own. But it represents a balance we can agree on to move ahead. Another thing I learned is that there is a lot of fear at the producer level about being controlled by others. Producers are being hit a lot of ways these days around regulation, land use, environment, livestock identification and a host of other issues. The industry is very diverse and what's 'normal' varies greatly across the country. We have no doubt made a lot of progress around NFACC but these are unique challenges we need to continue to address."
– Ryder Lee, Manager of Federal Provincial Relations, Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA). Lee is a long serving CCA representative at NFACC and was part of the Beef Code Development Committee.
Welfare expert: Canada is on the right track
"We have come a long way and we have a lot to celebrate. The collaborative framework we have developed in Canada, along with our progress with Codes of Practice and the Animal Care Assessment Framework are all tremendous achievements. They provide solid foundations we can proudly show to the world and build on for the future."
– Dr. Dan Weary, Professor and NSERC Industrial Research Chair, Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia. Weary has long experience working with industry and is acknowledge as one of the country's foremost farm animal welfare experts. He was asked to help wrap up the Conference with his perspectives on Canada's progress in an international context.
More information captured from the Conference is available on the NFACC website, including "Working together drives new 'Canadian advantage' in farm animal care," speaker presentations and more stories to be posted soon.