by SUSAN MANN
Imagine you’re in the process of transporting your animals for slaughter and one of them breaks its leg. Current federal meat inspection rules prohibit you from shipping that animal with your only choice being to put it down on your farm and take the monetary loss.
But the federal government is considering changing the rules in its Meat Inspection regulations to allow farmers to euthanize an otherwise healthy animal like this one with the injured leg on their farms with veterinary supervision and ship the carcass for processing.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency spokesman Tim O’Connor says the new proposal would rarely be used. “But for a small individual producer it could have a large impact if they lose that entire animal.”
Canadian farm groups, such as the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, say it’s a great idea. The provision could be used in cases where animals become injured and can’t be transported humanely or they become agitated and aggressive and transporting them would pose a danger for farm workers or transporters. But the move has garnered some controversy with reports in daily newspapers saying the change would lead to lower standards and diseased animals would be allowed in the human food chain.
O’Connor says the proposal doesn’t include allowing dead stock or diseased animals to be shipped for processing.
Ron Bonnett, Canadian Federation president and cow-calf farmer from near Ste. Sault Marie, says the change “allows you to get some value out of a healthy animal.” Checks would be in place with veterinarians supervising the on-farm euthanasia and CFIA staff at the processing facility inspecting the carcass so food safety would be maintained.
Bonnett agrees the procedure would rarely be needed. On his farm they have 100 to 200 animals around at any one time and in 30 years they would have been able to use this provision just two to three times.
The change was posted April 7 on Canada Gazette 1 as part of a package of amendments to the Meat Inspection regulations designed to give federally registered slaughterhouses greater flexibility in how they meet regulatory requirements and remove some redundant requirements. The proposed changes would allow industry stakeholders to focus more of their attention on critically important food safety requirements, it says in an executive summary of the changes. The summary isn’t part of the regulations. The proposed amendments wouldn’t modify food safety standards.
O’Connor says details on when the change to allow on-farm euthanasia of healthy animals would be implemented haven’t been finalized yet.
If a decision is made to proceed with the proposal, it will then be published on Canada Gazette 2 and there will be more public consultations. “I can’t give you timing on that,” he says.
Specific details on how the proposal would work with veterinarians likely doing the on-farm inspections will be worked out once the amendment goes forward, if it does, he explains.
O’Connor says animals will be inspected on the farm before slaughter “to determine if the animal is suitable for slaughter.” The carcass will then have to be shipped to a registered processing facility. Once the carcass is at the facility it will be inspected by CFIA to ensure it is suitable for human consumption.
There will be clear policies and procedures outlining things like transportation requirements that will at a minimum have the same health and safety rules required in registered slaughterhouses “to achieve the same outcome,” he explains.
Current meat inspection regulations stipulate animals slated for human consumption can only be slaughtered in registered slaughterhouses with the exception of game animals in the northern hunt, O’Connor says. And the CFIA doesn’t have the legal capacity now to give permission for an animal to be slaughtered on farm and then enter the human food chain.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association says in a May 15 press release it strongly supports this proposed change to the federal meat inspection regulations. BF