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Working together drives new 'Canadian advantage' in farm animal care

Posted: October 16, 2013

Consensus-based approaches and innovative models for continual improvement are helping Canada take charge as a leader in managing the rising expectations and new opportunities around farm animal care.

This was the picture that emerged through discussions of achievements, challenges and future directions at the National Farm Animal Care Conference Oct. 9-10, 2013, in Ottawa. The conference featured a range of leading speakers on the front lines of the latest developments and thinking related to livestock welfare. In attendance were 140 participants from across the agriculture and food value chain as well as others with an interest in farm animal care.

"We have come a long way and we have a lot to celebrate," says Dr. Dan Weary, Professor and NSERC Industrial Research Chair, Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia. "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."

"I'm very proud of what all of the stakeholders working together through NFACC have accomplished," says Edouard Asnong, a Pike River, Québec, hog farmer and chair of NFACC. "We believe that collaboration amongst diverse stakeholder groups is the key to real progress. That is what we have seen. It has come to define Canada's approach and it allows everyone involved to address issues nationally and across sectors with far greater success than any individual organizations could achieve on their own."

The centerpiece of Canada's progress the past several years has been the development of updated Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals. Five Codes have been completed – dairy cattle, mink, fox, equine, and beef cattle. Two more are far into the process – pigs and sheep. And two more have recently started – chickens-turkeys-breeders and poultry-layers. Complementary to this is a more recent focus on developing an Animal Care Assessment Framework, designed to provide industries with a credible process to follow when developing an animal care assessment program.

The building blocks of credibility and consistency also carry strong appeal at the retail and food service level. "Farm animal care today is part of a growing focus on corporate social responsibility and sustainability in the foodservice sector," says Tim Faveri, Director of Sustainability and Responsibility, Tim Hortons. "One of the most important aspects of this is being clear and transparent with the customer. Sustainability is not a destination. It's about a journey of continuous improvement"

From an animal agriculture industry perspective, in addition to supporting good management these initiatives also play a critical role in fostering understanding and further strengthening the relationship between farmers and the public, noted several speakers. "It's about not only doing the right thing but also engaging with people outside of agriculture and telling our story," says Crystal Mackay, Executive Director, Farm & Food Care Ontario.

Numerous additional speakers contributed to engaging discussions covering a variety of topics including priorities and ideas for the next generation of NFACC and Canada's progress. More information on the conference and a number of speaker presentations are available at www.nfacc.ca. Additional stories capturing further highlights and speaker perspectives from the conference will also be posted.

The conference was hosted by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), the lead organization for farm animal care in Canada. NFACC has 29 partner associations including government, farm animal industries, the veterinary community, animal welfare organizations, retail and food service and other allied groups with an interest in farm animal care.

Funding for the Codes of Practice is provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) through the Agricultural Flexibility Fund, as part of Canada's Economic Action Plan.