September 23, 2003, VANCOUVER – The case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) along with the various other problems and farming practices highlighted recently in the media is a wakeup call warning us that significant changes in how animals are raised, killed and processed for food are needed says The Humane of Canada (HSC). The ongoing problems with meat exports to the United States & Japan has already cost hundreds of millions of dollars, has serious animal welfare implications, and led to calls for a widespread cull of tens of thousands of cattle and for pay outs of huge tax funded subsidies.
That has led The Humane Society of Canada to propose a twelve point action plan to the Prime Minister and Premiers to help protect people, animals, the environment and the economy:
- Eliminate feeding animals to animals
- Develop alternative uses for slaughterhouse by products
- Phase out the use of pesticides to whatever degree is practical
- Encourage sustainable organic farming practices
- Phase out the use of antibiotics to whatever degree is practical
- Encourage free range conditions for livestock and poultry and move away from herd and flock health management and back to concern for the welfare of each individual farm animal and bird
- Do not allow the construction of any new intensive farming operations
- Regulate by law those intensive farming operations which now exist and encourage their transition into free range operations to whatever degree is practical (at present the only codes of practice available are voluntary ones). Establish and enforce heavy fines, terms of imprisonment and plant shutdowns for environmental pollution violations.
- Ensure that every time an animal is slaughtered for human consumption anywhere in Canada that there is a fully trained and qualified meat inspector present who conducts a thorough examination of the animal or bird (currently, this does not happen even at large slaughter plants)
- Rotate meat inspectors from plant to plant to avoid intimidation and familiarity with plant employees. Establish and enforce heavy fines, terms of imprisonment and plant shutdowns for violations on the part of plant owners, employees, meat inspectors or government enforcement agencies
- Establish farm-to-grocery store tracking of all livestock and poultry products
- Track down all reports of potential problems in a timely effective fashion that involves full public disclosure
“The fact that ‘mad cow’ disease and other food safety shortcomings have occurred in Canada shouldn’t surprise anyone,” says Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director. “Many animals in Canada are ‘raised’ in cramped conditions, fed food they wouldn’t normally eat, routinely given antibiotics and exposed to pesticides. Officials have also expressed concern over the human health impact of antibiotics contained in meat products.”
“Feeding herbivores animal proteins, especially those of their own species is both unnatural and dangerous,” states Hickey. “Ruminants are susceptible to diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), a group of degenerative neurological diseases that includes BSE.”
Michael O’Sullivan, HSC Executive Director, cites the recent case of BSE and other media reports highlighting considerable shortcomings in the system including lack of regulations and the enforcing of these regulations. O’Sullivan who holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and grew up working on farms says that also need to learn from the hard experiences in the United Kingdom and the European Union where hundreds of thousands of livestock were destroyed because of human health concerns, causing animal suffering, costing the economy hundreds of millions of dollars and causing a loss of consumer confidence.
“News reports of questionable practices relating to everything from how animals are raised, killed and processed as well as “outdated and inadequate” meat inspections is a warning that all is not right within the food industry,” suggests O’Sullivan. He has also inspected many slaughterhouses here in Canada and around the world, and believes tighter veterinary inspections are also required.
“Reports of ‘downers’ being routinely processed and even veterinarian’s at processing plants being abused needs to be investigated immediately and effectively dealt with to ensure these incidents are minimized. Not only are these situations potentially harmful to the health of people who eat meat, but they also result in animals being treated inhumanely. Taking close to four months to confirm that an animal had BSE is cause for considerable concern,” says O’Sullivan. “Now there is a call to slaughter hundreds of thousands of cattle to bring about normal market conditions!”
Reports also indicate that some meat not fit for human consumption is able to get approved because the abattoirs pay part of the meat inspectors’ salaries. “This is not only a conflict of interest, it is dangerous,” states O’Sullivan. “Some inspectors will approve some meat they shouldn’t simply because they don’t want to get some abattoir employees, whom they regard as co-workers, in trouble. This serious problem could be averted by simply rotating out the inspectors on a regular basis,” recommends O’Sullivan.
The Humane Society of Canada also believes that veterinarians have to move away from the way the think about farm animals and birds. “In years gone past, there was an emphasis on the health of individual farm animals and birds. However, with the growth of intensive farming and slaughter operations, veterinarians have shifted to a herd and flock health approach, slaughterhouses work to process thousands of animals and birds every hour -- and all of this has to stop. The welfare of every individual farm animal and bird needs to be considered or like a ripple effect we will continue to wind up with widespread problems throughout the entire livestock and poultry sector,” said O’Sullivan.
According to O’Sullivan much needs to be improved regarding the way we raise, treat, kill and eat animals.
“If animals are going to continue to be raised for food, they need to be kept in as natural an environment as possible and fed food they would normally eat. Intensive farming practices need to be eliminated. Laws and regulations should be put in place that will prevent animal abuse, environmental degradation and health problems for both animals and humans. Penalties for infractions concerning the treatment of animals and for the processing of them must be severe, “ continues O’Sullivan. “Organic farming must be encouraged and incentives should be given to organic farming practices.”
Until some of these human health, environmental and animal welfare problems are resolved in a meaningful way, The Humane Society of Canada believes that no new intensive farming operations should be approved for construction anywhere in Canada.
“It should come as no surprise to anyone that as more and more information becomes available about how the meat industry puts human, animal and environmental health at risk, that some people are reducing or even eliminating the amount of meat in their diet,” said O’Sullivan.
CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280
[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.
A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]
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