Humane Treatment of Farmed Animals

by Humane Canada
Humane Treatment of Farmed Animals

Barren battery cages for Canada’s egg-laying hens are on their way out 5 years earlier than expected thanks to your donations and the tenacity of negotiators from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS).  

As a supporter of our critical work to ensure the humane treatment of farm animals, we wanted to let you know that some of the most stringent standards for cage-free housing systems could be put in place for Canada’s more than 28 million egg-laying hens, standards on par with the EU and that far surpass current U.S. standards.

The work involved for CFHS representatives was significant and consisted of more than two years of thought, discussion and meetings with other stakeholders, including the egg industry. And the process is not over yet. Thank you for keeping us at the table with your generous donations. CFHS is the only animal welfare organization sitting on the egg laying hen code development committee of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). As the voice for Canada’s farm animals, we understand that there is no quick fix but that we must continue our progressive work to make lasting change.

On Thursday June 30th, NFACC released the draft code of practice for the care and handling of laying hens for public comment, which sets out the most rigorous care standards for egg-laying hens in North America.

Currently, 90% of egg-laying hens in Canada live in cramped, barren battery cages. We previously told you about an announcement from Egg Farmers of Canada on February 5, 2016, that indicated the organization’s more than 1000 member farms would be phasing out barren battery cages by 2036. Thanks to CFHS negotiators, the new 15-year timeline would see that goal achieved 5 years earlier, meaning that 129 million fewer hens will experience that kind of suffering.

Speeding the transition away from barren battery cages is the right thing to do.  We’re seeing a shift that will start to put egg producers on the right side of animal welfare science, which shows that hens experience extreme stress and frustration in barren battery cages because they are unable to express natural behaviours like dust-bathing and foraging. These cramped cages prevent hens from walking or even spreading their wings for their entire lives.

This new draft code would also see the introduction of world-leading cage-free standards in response to public concern about the lack of guidelines for how cage-free systems operate in Canada. Unregulated, cage-free housing can be just as crowded and oppressive as barren battery cages, with no enrichment for the hens and much more aggression and stress.  The new standards in this draft code will ensure that cage-free is as progressive as it sounds.

After the public comment period, the committee members (including CFHS representatives who you are funding to be at the table) will still have work to do taking any comments received to see if any further changes need to be made to the Code. We expect the final version to be published in December 2016, if all goes well.

CFHS continues to lead the charge on 3 additional codes of practice for farmed animals, which are currently in development: Bison, Rabbits, and Veal. CFHS will continue to speak up for farm animals, but we need your support to do this vital work.


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The next three months will be critical at the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies as we have several Codes of Practice at stages where decisions will be made and where we need to be present and working to ensure that Animal Welfare thinking is moving forward.

The CFHS is a founding member of the National Farm Animal Care Council (a federally funded organization) where we negotiate directly with the farming industry to set welfare standards for animals on farm.  

Thanks to your last donation, we are entrenched in deep negotiations with egg laying hen farmers in Canada in order to end the use of battery cages for the 26 million egg-laying hens that suffer in battery cages every year.  If you remember our last report the Egg Farmers of Canada announced that its members will stop using battery cages by 2036 when one of our biggest goals was to eliminate intensive confinement in the shortest timeframe possible.   At CFHS, we find that a 20-year timeline is unacceptable and unnecessary.  We are in the final stages where changing the code of practice putting an end to the use of battery cages can happen.

In June the Code of Practice for the care and handling of chickens and turkeys used solely for meat will be finalized.  ur commitment is that we will continue to advocate for an end to intensive confinement and painful practices for all farm animals not only on the farm but while being transported and during slaughter.

Politically we are up on Parliament Hill meeting with Parliamentarians and bureaucrats to get Canada’s current animal transport regulations updated.  Our current regulations are decades old and inadequate by modern standards. They allow cattle and sheep to be transported for up to 52 hours continuously with no food, water or rest. Pigs, horses and birds can be transported for up to 36 hours. And there is no requirement for animal transporters to have any training on how to handle animals humanely or to drive safely with them on board.

Throughout Canada each year, approximately 700 million farm animals are transported from farm to auction and slaughter. As many as two million of these animals, mostly chickens, are found dead on arrival. Many more arrive sick or injured following their long, grueling journeys.

Because of your donation in April we hosted over 300 people for a National Animal Welfare Conference in Toronto, the largest conference of its type in Canada.    During the conference we had two full days dedicated to farm animal welfare which included presentations by the Co-Chair of the House Agriculture Committee Joe Peschisolido and a thought provoking plenary by Dr. David J. Mellor of the Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, in New Zealand.  Dr. Mellor presented a plenary that talked about the journey in gaining knowledge of animal welfare and applying it in ways that improve our care of animals so that we move Beyond the Five Freedoms Towards A Life Worth Living.   

As CEO of the Federation, I am proud of how much we are accomplishing together.   I want to include a special thank you because you see that making change happen is not a short term goal and that it will take all of us working over a number of years to make a difference.


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On Friday February 5th, in a surprise move, Egg Farmers of Canada announced that its members will stop using battery cages by 2036. This group represents about 90 percent of egg producers in Canada.

This is not a good news story.  This is a commitment that is no commitment at all.

Canada was just weeks away from releasing a new draft code of practice for the care and handling of egg-laying hens that would have outlined a timeline for farmers to stop using these small, inhumane battery cages…cages where 4-6 hens live with less than the space of an 8 ½ x 11 piece of paper per bird.  These hens experience chronic pain from injuries to their feet due to standing on wire floors, fractures because their bones are weak due to lack of movement, and severe frustration because they cannot express natural behaviours that are important to their wellbeing. All of this during a shortened life span of just one year, after which they are considered spent because both their production and the quality of the eggshells declines.   The welfare of hens is sacrificed to provide us with eggs.

We had many goals in sitting down at the table with egg farmers to negotiate standards of care for hens, but key amongst them was to eliminate intensive confinement in the shortest timeframe possible for the 26 million egg-laying hens that suffer in battery cages every year.

The European Union gave farmers 12 years to go cage-free, and some of the biggest players in the food industry has said it will do so in 9 years or less, so why would the egg farmers need 20 years?

We need Egg Farmers of Canada to work in good faith with The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) to make an honest move away from battery cages as quickly as possible. At CFHS, we find that a 20-year timeline is unacceptable and unnecessary.

We want you, our donors, to hear the truth from us.  This is exactly why your support has been so important.   Your donation keeps us at the table so that we can keep the pressure on.

We can’t allow announcements like this to go unchallenged. Industry is not making the decisions they need to make based on the welfare of animals. CFHS participates in negotiations on the codes of practice for other farm animals and is currently the only animal welfare organization at the table.  You keep us working to improve the lives of 26 million egg-laying hens per year.

We must improve this situation and continue to advocate for the humane treatment of all of Canada’s farm animals.


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The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) is back at the negotiating table for farm animals.  This time we’re sitting down with poultry farmers and fighting to bring about cage-free farming for laying hens across Canada to eliminate intensive confinement.  CFHS is the only animal welfare organization at the table doing this work and your support keeps us there.  You keep us working to make the lives of egg laying hens better.  We are currently at a critical time in the negotiating process.  We’re coming close to the time when the Code of Practice will be released and we are fighting for the more than 20 million egg-laying hens in Canada,of which 90% are confined in small in humane cages, called battery cages.   Four to six hens are grouped in each of these cages with less than the space of an 8 ½ x 11 piece of paper per bird.  The cages are then stacked on top of each other. Egg farmers like them because they allow a large number of hens to be kept in efficient and orderly conditions, allowing for high productivity and keeping the birds away from their feces. This results in low costs to the farmer and low prices for the consumer, but in the end, the welfare of the hens is sacrificed and they suffer in a number of ways.

Hens kept in conventional battery cages are physically uncomfortable.  They often experience chronic pain associated with injuries to their feet caused by standing on the wire floor of the cages and studies show that hens in battery cages have weak bones, due in part to lack of movement.  They are therefore more susceptible to bone fractures during catching and during transport.  

These hens also experience severe frustration due to their confinement because the cages are far too small to allow the hens to make natural movements they are strongly motivated to perform, including grooming, wing flapping, perching and nest building.

To decrease injuries caused by cannibalism, bullying and feather and vent pecking, beak trimming is routinely performed on flocks for the commercial production because they are in such close quarters. This is a painful procedure that involves removing a portion of the beak using either a blade (hot or cold) or a laser and is performed within the first week of life.

Due in part to the lack of exercise caged hens can engage in, their bones are weak and brittle making them susceptible to painful fractures of the wings and legs as they are pulled from the cages at the end of their laying cycle. Studies show that 20 per cent of caged hens suffer broken bones after being removed from cages for transport.

After just one year of laying eggs, a hen’s egg production declines, as does the quality of the egg shell and contents, and the hen is considered “spent”.   On most farms in Canada, one-year-old hens are taken to slaughter. As such, a hen’s life span on-farm is much shorter than her natural life expectancy of 5 – 11 years.

We must improve this situation and continue to advocate for the humane treatment of egg laying hens. They shouldn’t have to suffer to provide us with eggs and meat. Thank you for your support and please help us stay at the table and hold industry accountable for treating egg laying hens humanely.   


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As the CFHS is pushing for more humane standards of care on Canadian farms, it might help to learn about the Five Freedoms.

We use the Five Freedoms to guide and determine animal welfare. The Five Freedoms describe conditions that must be fulfilled in order to prevent the suffering of domesticated animals in human care.This is a concept that was originally developed in 1965 by the UK Government based on the "Brambell" report and is specifically designed to guide how animals under human control should be treated.

The five freedoms are:

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst

2. Freedom from pain, injury, and disease

3. Freedom from distress

4. Freedom from discomfort

5. Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being

These five freedom concepts are what drives the CFHS when we negotiating on behalf of Canadian farm animals. Thank you for your support as we work on the issues that matter to you.

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Humane Canada

Location: Ottawa, ON - Canada
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @humanecanada
Project Leader:
Melissa Devlin
Ottawa, ON Canada
$18,063 raised of $54,207 goal
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