Next steps critical as Canada builds roadmap to the future in livestock welfare
Posted: November 6, 2013
As Canada forges ahead with advances in managing farm animal care, leaders across stakeholder groups stressed the need to continue a national-level collaborative approach that has set a new course of improved transparency and science-informed, consensus-based progress.
This was the overriding message from an open-format "Future Directions" session at the National Farm Animal Care Conference in Ottawa. The event, hosted by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), was attended by 140 participants from across the agriculture and food value chain as well as others with an interest in farm animal care. NFACC was formed to coordinate a national approach to farm animal welfare. Following an ambitious initial phase, it is now pursuing a transition toward an updated long-term work plan and strengthened funding model. The session was designed to generate feedback that will help determine next steps.
Market expectations, production approaches and new opportunities for innovation continually change, says Edouard Asnong, a Québec hog farmer and chair of NFACC. "We need a strong NFACC as a body that allows us to collectively monitor and address what is needed in a practical and balanced way."
"With NFACC we've brought together a process and we've brought together the stakeholders," says Ron Maynard, a P.E.I. dairy farmer and Vice President, Dairy Farmers of Canada. "We've seen the progress that has resulted with major initiatives such as the updated Codes of Practice, the Animal Care Assessment Framework and the first pilot assessment program. Animal welfare is vitally important to all of us. It's essential we maintain and support what's been achieved into the future."
Participants also emphasized a number of priorities for building a successful future, based on progressing animal welfare while maintaining the viability of Canadian animal agriculture.
"Understanding all sides of the issue is very important," says Sonya Fiorini, Senior Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Loblaw Companies Limited. "We all share an interest in supporting the welfare of the animals. From an industry perspective, we need to work together to manage our reputational risk and build a resilient supply chain and industry over time. This means doing the right things and adjusting to changing needs."
The past few years have focused on "heavy lifting" to simultaneously develop multiple Codes along with assessment approaches within limited funding timeframes, says Jackie Wepruk, General Manager of NFACC. "The fact that we have accomplished so much, in such a short time, on a highly emotional issue is no small achievement. But as we look to the future we need a work plan that is both manageable and sustainable. We need to be able to devote more time and resources to telling our story and bringing more people at the ground level into the discussion."
Casting a wider net is part of the solution, agrees Geoff Urton, Manager of Stakeholder Relations with BC SPCA. "As we do this, it's important we continue to put the emphasis on engaging people in a dialogue rather than feeling that we need to 'educate' one group or another. We want a meaningful conversation both ways."
Many noted that NFACC's role requires a broader based resource framework. "We all need to go back to our corners and discuss the importance of what we're doing here and the support we need," says Ryder Lee, Manager of Federal Provincial Relations, Canadian Cattlemen's Association. "The cost of NFACC may need to rise but the value has gone up too."
In the big picture, there's little doubt Canada has substantially increased its standing on the livestock welfare issue internationally with great potential to continue an upward trajectory, says Dr. Dan Weary, Animal Welfare Program, University of British Columbia. "We need to be focusing on animal welfare as an opportunity that impacts Canada's overall reputation as well as that of our industries and products around the world. It's about animal welfare. It's also about building a strong future for Canadian livestock industries."
More information on NFACC and the conference is available at www.nfacc.ca.
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.