Humane Treatment of Farmed Animals

by Humane Canada
Humane Treatment of Farmed Animals


We are pleased to share an update with you on what we are working on here at Humane Canada to support the Humane Treatment of Farmed Animals.

This past December in a new mandate, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, to ban the practice of live horse exports for slaughter, in addition to other climate and agriculture requests. Trudeau has overwhelmingly heard from Canadians on this issue and the inclusion to stop the export of live horses for slaughter, as well as seeing animal welfare in political platforms in the last election, is a tell-tale sign that politicians are listening to Canadians on these issues.

Earlier this year, we asked Canadians who care about the protection of farmed animals to sign a petition to the federal Minister of Agriculture, that any further delay to the full enforcement of transportation regulations is not acceptable. Transport of farmed animals is one of the few areas of federal oversight for animal welfare.

More than 800 million animals are farmed in Canada for food every year. Transportation, most often from farm to slaughterhouse, is the most stressful time in their short lives. In February 2020, Canada implemented long-overdue updates to the Health of Animals Regulations for Transport of Animals. However, the government indicated there would be a two-year delay to full enforcement. The compliance promotion period is ending this month on February 20, 2022 and we are happy to report that the government is not going to further delay.

Another area of concern, the treatment of Dairy Cattle, is being considered at this time. Canada’s Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle is being revised and recently underwent a public consultation. Humane Canada highlighted many issues, including the following key concerns:

  • The need for emergency preparedness, given the devastating impact of recent floods on farms in BC and the importance of learning lessons for future disasters.
  • The importance of the social needs of calves to house them in pairs or small groups, without delay, in a manner that reflects welfare science best.
  • That all cows should be loose housed and provided with regular access to exercise yards or pasture year-round.
  • The need for more guidance to ensure cattle who are at risk of suffering during transportation are not loaded.

Humane Canada will continue to advocate for strong enforcement approaches and more humane treatment of animals on the farm and during transport.

In late 2021, Canada released its first Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Salmonids. This is an important first step to safeguard the welfare of fish in aquaculture.

It is encouraging to know that Canada is working toward better requirements for the humane treatment of farmed animals. These changes can be slow and steady, but we are seeing improvements happening. As always, we advocate for positive progressive change in animal agriculture in Canada, including improved animal welfare practices, stronger oversight and increased transparency and accountability.

Thank you for your continued support on these important issues.


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First, thank you for your ongoing support to Humane Canada. We are happy to share an update with you on the Humane Treatment of Farm Animals.

With the call of the 2021 federal election and the dissolution of parliament, we were pleased with the demise of Private Member’s Bill C-205, a proposed federal ag-gag bill, as is normal parliamentary procedure when an election takes place. We will continue to keep watch for the introduction of other ag-gag bills in the new parliament. As always, we advocate for positive progressive change in animal agriculture in Canada, including improved animal welfare practices, stronger oversight and increased transparency and accountability.

Since the last update, we have been continuing work to strengthen the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC)’s Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of farmed animals. These documents outline practices applied in farming across Canada, and must continue to move the bar forward on animal welfare. 

Humane Canada has been actively contributing to the draft Code of Practice for Dairy Cattle, which we expect to be released for public comment soon. Of particular interest are the proposals for housing calves and cows. Providing housing that meets the physical, behavioral and social needs of animals is extremely important for their welfare, so this will be a critical area for the public review.

The publication of a final Code of Practice for Farmed Salmonids is expected this fall. Public comments received on the draft Code of Practice for Goats are currently being considered in order to finalize that document. Much work is taking place to develop a draft Code for Transportation of Livestock and Poultry, which is large and complex, as it addresses transportation of all major farmed species in Canada.

 Finally, as we approach the end of 2021, we will be paying close attention to announcements from the Government of Canada regarding implementation, compliance, and enforcement of federal transportation regulations. New requirements for permitted intervals for animals to be without food, water and rest were to come into force in February 2020. However, the federal government decided to implement a two-year delay in enforcing these requirements.

Transportation, most often to slaughter, is the most stressful period in a farmed animal’s life and can often result in physical injury. We are concerned that many animals are being transported longer than the current regulations require. We will be calling on the federal government to ensure the two-year reprieve they have given industry will end and be replaced with proactive and effective enforcement of the new regulated times.

As always, we are so grateful for your generous support and we will continue to keep you up-to-date on the important work to improve Codes of Practice for Farmed Animals.


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Group of pigs at farms
Group of pigs at farms

Within the past two years, legislation known as “Ag-Gag” has been passed at the provincial level in Alberta, Manitoba Ontario, often under the guise of protecting biosecurity and the safety of farmers and farmed animals. However, Ag-Gag legislation often contains anti-whistle-blower clauses and is designed to reduce transparency on farms, putting already vulnerable farmed animals at an even greater risk.   

At the time of writing this report, there is a federal Ag-Gag bill before the House of Commons, titled Bill C-205, An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act. We have asked members of the Agriculture and Agri-Food Committee to oppose the passing of this bill, and we’re asking concerned Canadians to do the same. 

In May, we submitted a brief to The House of Commons Agriculture and Agri-Food Committee, which is currently studying Bill C-205. We are concerned about any measures that reduce transparency and accountability in the farming system because there is already little oversight, inspection or surveillance on farms in Canada, leaving farmed animals vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse. Bill C-205 will increase situations in which farmed animals are vulnerable to harm. Furthermore, it may inhibit whistle-blowing. It is important to note that Canada’s animal protection system is complaints-based. That is to say, an investigation into allegations of animal abuse, no matter where they originate, cannot begin until a complaint is submitted. Without a complaint, there is no enforcement. Any legislation that inhibits potential complaints is unacceptable.  

Moreover, transparency and accountability are core requirements of a strong agriculture sector with a social license to operate. Increasing transparency is good for farmers and the agriculture sector as it will strengthen best practices, standards and requirements, thereby building public confidence.  Measures that seek to reduce transparency, such as Bill C-205, further erode public trust in agriculture.  

We support a commitment to improving animal agriculture in Canada through increased transparency and accountability to meet public values regarding welfare and the environment, rather than a retreat from transparency, which is also something we’ve proposed on our brief. 

We’ll keep you updated on the progress of Bill C-205. 

Thank you for your support. 


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A pig, a mink and a wild salmon
A pig, a mink and a wild salmon

On behalf of hundreds of millions of farmed animals and those who believe they should be treated humanely, Humane Canada™ continues to advocate for the establishment of high standards of care that are legally binding and effectively enforced. 


Since the last update, we have had the opportunity to provide input to the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC)’s Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of farmed animals, advocating strongly that these documents, which outline practices applied in industries across Canada, continue to move the bar forward on animal welfare. 


For proposed amendments to the Code of Practice for Pigs, we are advocating for that the 2024 deadline for phasing out the use of gestation stalls in Canada be upheld. This extreme type of confinement is used to house pregnant sows for most of their breeding lives and deprives them of many important natural behaviours 


We also had serious concerns regarding proposed amendments to the Code of Practice for Farmed Mink that were highly problematic and regressive. With the outbreak of SARS-CoV2 on mink farms in Canada in December, this industry poses greater risks than ever to animal, human and environmental health and welfare. We feel that Canada should join other countries and put an end to fur farming. 


We provided comments on a draft Code of Practice for Farmed Salmonids, the first welfare Code in Canada that will apply to fish used in aquaculture. Once finalized, we are optimistic that the new Code will set out important welfare advances in this growing industry. Humane Canada also continues to participate in the development of standards of care for goats, as well as a Code of Practice applying to all farmed species who are transported in Canada. 


The challenge with all of the NFACC Codes is ensuring that there is third party evaluation and strong oversight to provide members of the public the assurance that farmers across Canada adhere to the requirements.  


Finally, we asked the Ontario government to include Canada’s Codes of Practice as the minimum standard in the new Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act – giving them stronger teeth - while monitoring and speaking out against the increasing threat of Ag Gag legislation in several provinces across the country. 


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After the passing of Ontario's Bill 156, "An Act to Protect Ontario’s Farms and Farm Animals from Trespassers and Other Forms of Interference and to Prevent Contamination of Ontario’s Food Supply” in June, the provincial government announced a public consultation on proposals for the regulations that make up this new law, and Humane Canada™ provided feedback.

Humane Canada’s view is that rather than taking steps that would effectively hide animal cruelty and abuse, Ontario, and indeed all jurisdictions, should be working to establish high standards of care for the treatment and welfare of farmed animals and ensure proactive public enforcement of those standards.

The current system in Canada for farmed animal protection is complaint-based. It lacks external oversight and visibility into farm conditions. Without this visibility, the welfare of farmed animals continues to be at risk.

We need better protections for farm animals, including regulations that include comprehensive standards of care and strong enforcement, with regular on-farm inspections.

We suggest that governments create a robust system of oversight of agricultural settings to improve animal treatment, increase transparency, and ensure farmed animal practices are more humane and provide for the needs of the animals.

We were pleased to see the inclusion of exemptions for journalists and whistleblowers in the proposed Ontario regulations. Journalists and whistleblowers must be able to investigate or bring to light concerns about the treatment and abuse of farmed animals, without fear of reprisal.

Humane Canada™ will continue advocating to ensure transparency and best welfare practices for farmed animals across Canada.


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Humane Canada

Location: Ottawa, ON - Canada
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @humanecanada
Project Leader:
Melissa Devlin
Ottawa , ON Canada
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