The Government of Canada has published revisions to the Health of Animals Regulations (HAR). The regulations come into force one year from publication, on February 1, 2020.
While the advent of revamped regulations is not unexpected — there has been a significant amount of consultation on the proposed changes — the timing of the final revisions has been called “premature” by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
The new HAR rules are focused mainly on two aspects: providing more clarity on animals fit for transport, and, changes to allowable length of time in transit without unloading.
For example, under the new rules, ruminant animals, including beef and dairy cattle, can now be transported without access to “safe water and food” for up to 36 hours, down from 48. The rules also cap transport without access to food or water of a compromised animal at 12 hours (vs. no stated cap previously) and drops the time for young ruminants (not yet on hay and grain) to 12 from 18 hours. The time allotment for pigs drops to 28 hours from 36, a move, the government says that will impact only 1% of hog movement.
The government says the current HAR does not consistently meet the standards of Canada’s international trading partners, including the United States and the European Union (EU), and are not adequately aligned with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) welfare standards for animals transported by land, air, and sea. As a member country of the OIE, Canada is expected to meet or exceed OIE standards, the government says, adding that updating the regulations is likely to “facilitate or maintain trade and market access for Canadian products” by avoiding trade barriers that could arise due to differences in Canadian and international regulatory requirements.
The CCA says the published rules are incomplete and, as written, may actually decrease animal welfare, due at least in part to the stress of added unloading and handling and the potential for more injury. There is a on-going research project, partially funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, assessing the impact of the regulation on animal stress and outcomes, but the end date for the trial is 2021, meaning these rules will be in effect long before the measured outcomes are published. The CCA calls this introduction premature, and says these rules will likely increase stress to cattle.
Based on survey results and CFIA inspection data collected at federally registered abattoirs, it was concluded that, overall, 98% of current shipments will not be affected by the new requirements, as the shipments already meet the maximum time intervals, the government says.
In summary, the government says the updated HAR will:
- Move Canada towards a more outcome-based regulatory framework (for example replacing the requirement for a plane to “provide a change of air not less than once every five minutes” with a requirement to provide “adequate ventilation to prevent injury, suffering or death”), which will give regulated parties greater flexibility to apply technological advances in transportation, while maintaining high standards for animal welfare;
- Clarify expectations and better reflect new science regarding the care and handling of animals during all phases of transport, thereby reducing the risk to animal welfare during loading, confinement, transport, and unloading;
- Better align Canada’s requirements with those of other jurisdictions (for example the United States, Australia and the EU) and the OIE’s animal welfare standards for animals transported by land, air and sea; and
- Better satisfy Canadian societal expectations regarding the responsible care of farm animals and the humane treatment of animals during transport, including loading, confinement and unloading.
You can read the entire regulation here.