Better care for animals means more profit for the people who raise livestock and market meat, says a veterinarian with the Animal Welfare Team at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
More and more, consumers will not stomach meat from animals that did not live a comfortable life with a humane ending, Anne Allen told industry people at the Alberta Farm Animal Care conference in Red Deer on Friday. Along with that, farmers, truckers and processors lose money on carcasses from stressed and injured animals.
In her work with CFIA, Allen strives to educate and change attitudes among people who are ignorant of animal suffering or who know the animals are having trouble but don’t know what to do about it. From the time they’re born to the end of their days, how animals are treated plays a huge a role in producing good meat and happy consumers, she said.
“Animal welfare is a way of doing business. It’s not an option any more.”
Allen saw numerous incidents of abuse at her first posting with CFIA — a “decrepit” little packing plant in Saskatoon.
Examples include cases in which truckers had not backed their livestock trailers far enough to meet the loading dock, leaving a gap between the dock and the trailer.
When the pigs started to come out, the first few fell into the gap. Their prone bodies struck there “like little corks,” trampled by the animals that came off after them, said Allen.
The result was “horrific” suffering to those animals as well as the loss of income to the farmer and hefty penalties to the truck driver.
Allen said she saw so many problems at the plant — including a knife fight during her first shift — she decided to make a bet with the supervisor. She bet that if he and his staff were to change three of things they were doing, they would save $1 per animal. If not, she would stay in her office and leave them alone.
“I was wrong. They saved $1.50.”
It’s the really bad apples — those who actually don’t care about the animals in their care — that show up on the public radar and damage the entire industry, said AFAC chair Doug Sawyer, who raises beef cattle at Pine Lake and has been player in efforts to improve water quality at the lake.
“An animal that’s under stress doesn’t feed well, it doesn’t gain well, so the less stress I put on my animals, the more money I have the opportunity to make.
“Plus, as an animal owner, 99.9 per cent of us care about how our animals feel. We’re in the business because we like animals.
Sawyer said the industry has to ensure animals are treated well, kept safe and reared without negative impacts on the environment from start to finish to earn consumer confidence.
“Consumer awareness . . . is getting higher and higher on the list of things they demand. So, we’re under more of a microscope, but that’s not a concern to me, because we need to increase animal welfare issues, and we are.”
AFAC works to find any bad apples who remain to show them the benefits of taking good care of their animals, said Sawyer.
Even people who don’t care about their animals still care about their profits, so there’s a reason for good animal husbandry, said Sawyer.
Information about AFAC and its activities is available at www.afac.ab.ca