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Have your say: Equine welfare survey

Update

The comment period for the “Equine Code of Practice” has now ended. Thank you for helping to ensure animals’ well-being is considered in this consultation.

  • The National Farm Animal Care Council’s (NFACC) Equine Code of Practice serves as a guideline for the on-farm care and handling of horses raised in Canada, including horses used for rodeos, racing, and slaughter. 
  • The code of practice is up for review for the first time since 2013 and NFACC is seeking public input on what issues to consider when reviewing and updating the code.
  • The current code allows for aversive handling practices that cause stress and fear to horses.
  • Note that the code does not include transport, such as the live export of horses for slaughter; it only includes on-farm practices and deciding if individual horses are fit for transport.

Your input needed to identify top welfare issues

Can you take a moment to fill out the short survey and share your top 3 concerns you think NFACC should consider? The deadline to complete the survey is May 16, 2024.

  • Scroll down to read a few of the top welfare issues you may want to consider.
  • Share your top 3 priorities in the survey.
  • Please use your own words (do not copy and paste the wording below) and be respectful and constructive.
  • Feedback that includes duplicate responses and/or profanity or derogatory language will not be considered by NFACC. 

Photo: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

Top welfare priorities

Aversive handling & training 

Prohibit aversive handling, training methods and tools that involve the use of fear, pain or stress to make horses perform an activity or behaviour. 

Many modern training practices are still largely based on historical methods that rely heavily on punishment. While horses may appear “calm”, they are often experiencing learned helplessness. This condition occurs when the horse experiences a painful or negative situation repeatedly and is unable to escape or change the outcome. This results in a negative mental state for the horse. 

Environment & enrichment 

Improve requirements to ensure access to appropriate space, shelter, and dry, clean pen conditions. 

This is important in preventing lameness and other health issues.

Improve requirements to ensure opportunities to forage, turnout/free pasture time, and socialize.

This is crucial for reducing stress and stereotypic behaviour.

Health & lameness

Require that pin firing (thermocautery) not be performed.

Pin firing is a painful procedure that involves burning or freezing the skin and tissue of the affected leg. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) opposes the practice as it “is ineffective and is inconsistent with evidence-based medicine”.

Take the survey
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10 years of farmed animal cruelty investigations

Over the past decade, near-annual investigations at farms and slaughterhouses have uncovered recurring welfare problems in British Columbia’s animal agriculture industry. Learn more about these investigations and call on the B.C. government to implement meaningful changes to protect farmed animals during its current review of the province’s farmed animal welfare framework.

Recurring animal welfare concerns point to systemic problems

Enforcement of farmed animal welfare regulations faces many challenges:

  • Thousands of farms house more than 100 million animals
  • There is no government-funded enforcement
  • Cruelty investigations are based on complaints, but farmed animals are increasingly hidden from public view
  • Footage obtained in undercover investigations is often deemed non-admissible in court

Charges in cases like these are rare. When charges are recommended or laid, the legal process can take years, resulting in the same companies appearing in multiple cruelty investigations and thousands of animals suffering before companies are held accountable.

Cruelty investigations from 2014 to 2024

Note: The timeline below includes photos from investigations that may be upsetting. For a timeline that does not include any photos, visit this post.

Suffering in egg farm cages
April 2024

Footage shows hens suffering in egg farm cages, including nearly two dozen farms in British Columbia.

Photo: Animal Justice

(Warning: graphic images)

April
2024
Cruelty for caviar
March 2024

An exposé reveals farmed fishes raised in cramped and filthy tanks, repeatedly stabbed and cut open while alive for caviar, and inhumanely slaughtered.

Photo: Animal Justice

(Warning: graphic images)

March
2024
Hog farm exposed again
November 2023

Excelsior Hog Farm accused of cruelty following release of undercover footage showing cruel handling practices, injured and dead pigs and piglets, and filthy conditions.

BC SPCA investigation conducted.

Photo: Animal Justice

November
2023
Slaughterhouse cruelty
February 2023

Undercover investigation at Meadow Valley Meats shows animal abuse, suffering and violations of slaughter regulations.

BC SPCA investigation conducted.

Photo: Animal Justice

February
2023
Dairy farm investigation
November 2021

Organic dairy farm Cedar Valley Farms accused of animal abuse after footage shows dairy cows being violently and repeatedly beaten, injured cows limping, and improper slaughter.

Charges recommended against farm and individuals.

Photo: Animal Justice

November
2021
Abuse of spent egg-laying hens
July 2020

Video from an Abbotsford egg farm shows Elite Farm Services workers flinging chickens into crates by the legs, wings and closing doors on their limbs, necks.

No charges have been laid  in connection with the incident to date.

Photo: BC Animal Ag Uncovered via Chilliwack Progress

July
2020
Hog farm exposed
Spring 2019

Footage from Excelsior Hog Farm shows pigs suffering from growths and injuries, being hit and kicked, and having tails and testicles cut off without pain control.

A BC SPCA investigation was conducted, but no charges were laid.

Photo: Meat The Victims Canada

Spring
2019
Filthy conditions at egg farms
June 2018

Videos from three Abbotsford egg farms show dead hens in cages with live hens, along with dead and dying hens stuck in piles of manure.

BC SPCA investigation conducted.

Photo: Animal Justice via CTV News Vancouver

June
2018
Abuse loading chickens to transport
June 2017

Elite Farm Services is caught on camera brutally abusing chickens at multiple Fraser Valley farms while loading the animals into transport crates.

Six employees from Elitewere fired. BC SPCA recommended charges. In December 2021, Elite and Port Coquitlam slaughterhouse operator Sofina Foods each received a $300,000 fine and three years’ probation.

Photo: Mercy for Animals via CTV News Vancouver

June
2017
Inhumane turkey slaughter
October 2016

Footage from Abbotsford-based Lilydale slaughterhouse shows slow, painful, and inhumane turkey deaths that are commonplace in the poultry industry.

Public cries for changes to practices.

Photo: Mercy for Animals

October
2016
Dairy cow abuse
June 2014

Undercover footage at Chilliwack Cattle Sales shows dairy cows being repeatedly kicked, punched and beaten. Cows are seen suffering from open wounds and infections.

Company president and a director both pled guilty to four counts of animal cruelty and the company was fined about $345,000. Several employees also pled guilty and received varying jail sentences ranging from 7-60 days, probation, fines, and prohibitions against caring for animals for 1-3 years.

Photo: Mercy for Animals via CBC

June
2014

Without stronger protections, animals will continue to suffer behind closed doors. Can you take the quick action to call for meaningful changes to protect animals and bring transparency to the farming system?

Learn more

The Vancouver Humane Society’s Campaign Director, Emily Pickett, discusses her observations of farmed animal cruelty investigations in-depth in this episode of the VHS’s podcast, The Informed Animal Ally.

Learn more about the patterns in this past decade of investigations, what has changed, and how you can help.

Categories
News/Blog

Have your say: Cattle welfare survey

Photos: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media

Update

The comment period for the “Beef Cattle Code of Practice” has now ended. Thank you for helping to ensure animals’ well-being is considered in this consultation.

  • The National Farm Animal Care Council’s (NFACC) Beef Cattle Code of Practice serves as a guideline for the care and handling of cows raised in Canada’s beef industry. 
  • The code of practice is up for review for the first time since 2013 and NFACC is seeking public input on what issues to consider when reviewing and updating the code.
  • The current code allows for many inhumane practices that compromise the welfare of cattle in the beef industry.  

Your input needed to identify top welfare issues

Can you take a moment to fill out the short survey and share your top 3 concerns you think NFACC should consider? The deadline to complete the survey is May 3, 2024.

  • Scroll down to read a few of the top welfare issues you may want to consider.
  • Share your top 3 priorities in the survey.
  • Please use your own words (do not copy and paste the wording below) and be respectful and constructive.
  • Feedback that includes duplicate responses and/or profanity or derogatory language will not be considered by NFACC. 

Top welfare priorities

Fear and stress

Chronic fear and stress throughout an animal’s life, as a result of harsh handling, on-farm procedures, separation of the cow and calf, etc., is a serious animal welfare and health concern. Stronger requirements around staff training and oversight (e.g. video monitoring, third party audits) are needed.

Painful procedures

Require pain medications for all painful procedures, regardless of the animal’s age.

Enrichment

Require enrichment opportunities that allow cattle to express natural behaviours, including foraging, exercise, social behaviour, and grooming. 

Weaning

Require a more gradual, natural weaning process for cows and calves to reduce stress.

Barren environments

Feedlots often lack appropriate space, grazing access, and shelter. Poor feedlot conditions are a serious health and welfare concern and can lead to lameness and disease.

Nutrition

Abrupt changes from a pasture diet to an unnatural high grain-based diet can cause serious digestive and nutritional issues.

Take the survey

Your voice makes a difference.

When the Dairy Cattle Code of Practice was updated, it received a record-setting 5,800+ comments! The strong public response during the public consultation prompted stronger restrictions around abusive handling, changes to housing models, and a ban on branding.

Now, cattle in the beef industry need your help too. Thank you for speaking up for farmed animals!

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News/Blog

Horse racing season to begin at deadly Hastings Racecourse

  • April 27th marks the beginning of live racing season at Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver.
  • Last year, eight horses lost their lives at Hastings.
  • Horses used in racing events endure stress, pain, and risk to their lives due to the high-pressure events, aversive training methods, and the use of painful tools like whips and bits.
  • Horses who no longer generate a profit are at risk of being sent to auction, where they face further trauma and can end up on a slaughterhouse floor.

Can you take the pledge to boycott inhumane horse racing events and add your name in support of protecting horses?

Take pledge
2023 incidents

Take the pledge to say no to horse racing

By taking the pledge today, you will reflect your concern about recent race horse fatalities and incidents and to sign up to receive updates about the VHS’s upcoming horse racing campaign.

Learn more about the deaths of eight horses at Hastings Racecourse in 2023 here.

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UPDATE: Support major changes to protect farmed animals in B.C.

New report recommends major changes to protect farmed animals in B.C. Add your name in support!

Following growing concerns about the state of farmed animal welfare in B.C., a committee tasked with reviewing the province’s farmed animal welfare framework has presented its recommendations to the Ministry of Agriculture. Join the VHS in urging decision-makers to prioritize next steps!

Take action
Learn more

Take action to protect farmed animals

Use the template message below to call on B.C.’s Premier and the Minister of Agriculture to take specific actions that build on these recommendations and to prioritize their implementation to meaningfully protect farmed animals from egregious cruelty and suffering.  

Live outside of Canada? You can email B.C.’s Premier at premier@gov.bc.ca and the Minister of Agriculture at AF.Minister@gov.bc.ca

Agriculture Ministry listening after years of welfare issues

In B.C. alone, near-annual undercover investigations over the last decade have revealed serious and systemic welfare issues within the animal agriculture industry. 

In late 2022, B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture launched a review of the province’s farmed animal welfare framework. This week, a Ministry advisory committee released a new farmed animal welfare recommendations report that will be considered by the Ministry as part of the review. 

The report’s recommendations include a new government-funded inspection and enforcement function within the Ministry of Agriculture, which would take over responsibility for implementation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act with respect to farmed animals. Other recommendations include providing an annual public report around enforcement activities; an expanded range of enforcement options and penalties; animal welfare and humane handling training improvements; and continued support for the inclusion of farmed animals in emergency planning.  

Learn more about the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture’s farmed animal welfare framework review and the advisory committee’s recommendations report. 

Learn more
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BC pig farm accused of cruelty—again

Photo: Animal Justice

Excelsior Hog Farm is in the news again after disturbing new undercover footage, allegedly filmed at the Abbotsford farm between April and June 2023, was released by Animal Justice.  

The footage shows:

  • cruel handling practices, including pigs being kicked in the stomach and face, and struck with metal rods and plastic boards;
  • injured pigs with hernias, pressure sores, open wounds and leg injuries; and
  • filthy conditions, including dead and rotting bodies of pigs and partially eaten bodies of piglets, and floors caked in feces and what appears to be blood and feces in some water troughs. 
Take action
Watch the video (Warning: Graphic content)

Take action

Call for meaningful action to protect farmed animals, including: 

  • Government-mandated and proactively enforced farmed animal welfare regulations;  
  • Publicly available reports of independent, third-party audits on farms and in slaughterhouses, including consistent video surveillance monitoring for real transparency; and 
  • Appropriate deterrents to prevent animal cruelty, including unannounced inspections and effective penalties for industry stakeholders who are found guilty of animal cruelty. 

Fill out the form below to send this important message to your Member of B.C.’s Legislative Assembly (MLA), B.C.’s Premier, and B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture. Feel free to personalize the message.

Live outside of Canada? You can email B.C.’s Premier at premier@gov.bc.ca and the Minister of Agriculture at AF.Minister@gov.bc.ca

Not the first time Excelsior accused of cruelty

This comes after a previous undercover investigation at the farm in 2019, which also showed concerning on-farm conditions and treatment of pigs. The footage included clips of dead and dying pigs in unsanitary conditions and cruel handling, including piglets being castrated without the use of painkillers.

Despite this evidence, the farm’s owners were never charged or held accountable. Instead, two advocates involved in a peaceful protest and sit-in that took place on the farm, have been convicted and face jail time. Both are appealing their convictions. 

Second major undercover investigation in B.C. this year

While the animal agriculture industry attempts to suggest instances like this are the exception to the rule and don’t represent the industry as a whole, the reality is that numerous investigations over the years have revealed widespread animal cruelty and welfare issues on farms and in slaughterhouses.  

In February 2023, undercover footage from a Pitt Meadows-based slaughterhouse, Meadow Valley Meats, showed animals being hit, kicked and thrown to the ground; inhumane use of an electric prod; frightened animals crowding together in the hallways and panicked attempts to escape; and improper slaughter techniques that led to significant animal suffering.

Like Excelsior Hog Farm, this was not the first incident involving the company. Media reports that the company, formerly called Pitt Meadows Meats, pled guilty in 2015 to selling E. Coli-tainted meat and after the plant manager knowingly decided not to recall it.  

The new footage, along with the many other previous undercover investigations in B.C., make it clear that there are serious, systemic issues across the animal agriculture industry. 

Back to take action
Categories
News/Blog

10 years of farmed animal cruelty investigations

Over the past decade, near-annual investigations at farms and slaughterhouses have uncovered recurring welfare problems in British Columbia’s animal agriculture industry. Learn more about these investigations and call on the B.C. government to implement meaningful changes to protect farmed animals during its current review of the province’s farmed animal welfare framework.

Recurring animal welfare concerns point to systemic problems

Enforcement of farmed animal welfare regulations faces many challenges:

  • Thousands of farms house more than 100 million animals
  • There is no government-funded enforcement
  • Cruelty investigations are based on complaints, but farmed animals are increasingly hidden from public view
  • Footage obtained in undercover investigations is often deemed non-admissible in court

Charges in cases like these are rare. When charges are recommended or laid, the legal process can take years, resulting in the same companies appearing in multiple cruelty investigations and thousands of animals suffering before companies are held accountable.

Cruelty investigations from 2014 to 2024

Note: This timeline does not include photos from the investigations. For a timeline with photos, visit this post.​

Suffering in egg farm cages
April 2024

Footage shows hens suffering in egg farm cages, including nearly two dozen farms in British Columbia.

 

(Warning: graphic images)

April
2024
Cruelty for caviar
March 2024

An exposé reveals farmed fishes raised in cramped and filthy tanks, repeatedly stabbed and cut open while alive for caviar, and inhumanely slaughtered.

(Warning: graphic images)

March
2024
Hog farm exposed again
November 2023

Excelsior Hog Farm accused of cruelty following release of undercover footage showing cruel handling practices, injured and dead pigs and piglets, and filthy conditions.

BC SPCA investigation conducted.

 

November
2023
Slaughterhouse cruelty
February 2023

Undercover investigation at Meadow Valley Meats shows animal abuse, suffering and violations of slaughter regulations.

BC SPCA investigation conducted.

 

February
2023
Dairy farm investigation
November 2021

Organic dairy farm Cedar Valley Farms accused of animal abuse after footage shows dairy cows being violently and repeatedly beaten, injured cows limping, and improper slaughter.

Charges recommended against farm and individuals.

 

November
2021
Abuse of spent egg-laying hens
July 2020

Video from an Abbotsford egg farm shows Elite Farm Services workers flinging chickens into crates by the legs, wings and closing doors on their limbs, necks.

No charges have been laid  in connection with the incident to date.

 

July
2020
Hog farm exposed
Spring 2019

Footage from Excelsior Hog Farm shows pigs suffering from growths and injuries, being hit and kicked, and having tails and testicles cut off without pain control.

A BC SPCA investigation was conducted, but no charges were laid.

 

Spring
2019
Filthy conditions at egg farms
June 2018

Videos from three Abbotsford egg farms show dead hens in cages with live hens, along with dead and dying hens stuck in piles of manure.

BC SPCA investigation conducted.

 

June
2018
Abuse loading chickens to transport
June 2017

Elite Farm Services is caught on camera brutally abusing chickens at multiple Fraser Valley farms while loading the animals into transport crates.

Six employees from Elitewere fired. BC SPCA recommended charges. In December 2021, Elite and Port Coquitlam slaughterhouse operator Sofina Foods each received a $300,000 fine and three years’ probation.

 

June
2017
Inhumane turkey slaughter
October 2016

Footage from Abbotsford-based Lilydale slaughterhouse shows slow, painful, and inhumane turkey deaths that are commonplace in the poultry industry.

Public cries for changes to practices.

 

October
2016
Dairy cow abuse
June 2014

Undercover footage at Chilliwack Cattle Sales shows dairy cows being repeatedly kicked, punched and beaten. Cows are seen suffering from open wounds and infections.

Company president and a director both pled guilty to four counts of animal cruelty and the company was fined about $345,000. Several employees also pled guilty and received varying jail sentences ranging from 7-60 days, probation, fines, and prohibitions against caring for animals for 1-3 years.

June
2014

Learn more

The Vancouver Humane Society’s Campaign Director, Emily Pickett, discusses her observations of farmed animal cruelty investigations in-depth in this episode of the VHS’s podcast, The Informed Animal Ally.

Learn more about the patterns in this past decade of investigations, what has changed, and how you can help.

Categories
News/Blog

New footage captures inhumane handling and stressed animals at B.C. rodeos 

  • Newly released footage from several B.C. rodeos reveals recurring animal welfare issues, including animals being hit, kicked, and having their tail and ears twisted and pulled.  
  • New polling shows growing public opposition to the use of animals in rodeo events. 65% of B.C. residents and 67% of Canadians are opposed to the practice. 
  • Use the VHS’s quick action tool to share this new footage with your city council and B.C.’s Minister of Tourism and to call for a rodeo bylaw and an end to using taxpayer dollars to fund inhumane rodeo events.  

Take action

Watch the video

Learn more

Take quick action

Use the VHS’s quick action tool below to share this new footage and call for: 

  1. A municipal bylaw prohibiting inhumane rodeo events in your community; 
  2. An end to BC government funding of rodeo events. 

Watch the footage

Footage from the Princeton, Chilliwack, Armstrong and Merritt rodeos reveals recurring animal welfare issues. In the videos, stressed animals are roughly handled, deliberately agitated into fleeing and bucking, and put at risk of serious injury. Clips show animals being roped around the neck; thrown and wrestled to the ground; and kicked with spurs. Animals are seen being hit and kicked; having their tail and ears twisted and pulled. Frightened animals run into fences, thrash in the chutes, and resist handlers.

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No Description

How rodeo handlers agitate animals into running & bucking

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Rodeos rely on prey animals’ “fight or flight” fear responses to make them “perform”.

Signs of stress in rodeo animals

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Animals experience fear, discomfort, and pain in rodeos. Watch for these signs of stress in rodeo footage, as seen in 2023 B.C.

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News/Blog

TAKE ACTION: Support two new bills to ban Canada’s export of live horses for slaughter 

Speak up for horses: Support two new federal bills calling for a ban on the cruel live horse export industry!

Action: Send a message to federal decision-makers

Use the email template below to send a personalized message to your Member of Parliament, the federal Minister of Agriculture and the Prime Minister, asking them to act to end the export of live horses for slaughter.

Note: If you live outside of Canada and want to take action, you can email the Prime Minister at: PM@pm.gc.ca and the Minister of Agriculture at: aafc.minister-ministre.aac@agr.gc.ca

Two new bills aim to protect horses

Two new bills aim to ban the controversial practice of exporting live horses from Canada for slaughter abroad. Senate Bill S-270, the Horse Protection Act, was introduced by Senator Pierre Dalphond and singer-songwriter Jann Arden, while private member’s bill C-355 was introduced in the House of Commons by Liberal MP Tim Louis. 

These bills come more than a year and a half after the Prime Minister directed the federal Minister of Agriculture to ban the practice. Yet since then, thousands of live draft horses have been loaded onto planes, packed tightly with 3-4 horses per crate, and flown abroad where they will be slaughtered for meat. 

These two new bills present a crucial opportunity for the federal government to follow through on their promise to ban live horse export for slaughter once and for all. Use the quick action tool below to urge decision-makers to prioritize a ban before the next federal election.  

Photo: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

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News/Blog

UPDATE: ‘Ag-gag’ bill reaches review stage. Take Action!

Update

This action has now ended. Thank you to the 4,020 advocates who used the quick action to speak out against anti-transparency ag-gag bills. Please see the Current Campaigns page for more ways you can help protect farmed animals.

  • Bill C-275 has been sent to the House of Commons agriculture committee for further review this fall.
  • This federal ‘ag-gag’ bill would criminalize whistleblowers and undercover investigators who expose animal cruelty or welfare issues on farms.
  • Tell decision-makers to vote NO to C-275.

An ‘ag-gag’ bill that targets animal advocates and whistleblowers will soon go to a vote. Tell your Member of Parliament to say NO to Bill C-275.

Take Action
Learn More

Quick action: Tell decision-makers to vote NO to C-275.

This action has now ended.

4,020 people used the quick action tool to oppose Bill C-275. Thank you for taking action.

See more campaigns

Why say no to Bill C-275?

While decision-makers claim Bill C-275 aims to protect on-farm biosecurity by deterring trespassers, trespassing laws already exist and the government’s own data indicates that previous disease outbreaks have been caused by poor on-farm practices from owners/operators. The standard industry practice of keeping large numbers of genetically similar animals in close confinement creates a prime environment for disease outbreak.

Similar ‘ag-gag’ bills have been implemented in other jurisdictions to further limit transparency of the animal agriculture industry and prevent undercover exposes that shed a negative light on this hidden industry.

Instead of targeting whistleblowers who expose the conditions and treatment of animals on farms, the government should be addressing the conditions and treatment directly. Following a disturbing recent undercover expose of a B.C.-based slaughterhouse, the VHS is reiterating the urgent need for more transparency and accountability within the animal agriculture sector, not less.

Join this call to action by urging federal decision-makers, including your Member of Parliament, the House of Commons Agriculture Committee, and the federal Minister of Agriculture, to say NO to Bill C-275.

Ask your MP to say NO to Bill C-275