Severe heat stress
During severe heat waves, death and suffering among farm animals is both widespread and expected in Canada’s pork and poultry industries. Since industry believes that the cost of air conditioning outweighs the economic cost of death, most pigs and chickens are left unprotected when heat waves increase the temperature of their indoor quarters to extreme levels.
In Ontario, the poultry industry reports that hundreds of thousands of hens can be wiped out in a single heat wave, while many more will suffer intensely.
And according to Pork News and Views, “Heat stress usually occurs in hot weather or during periods of physical activity when the pig can no longer maintain its body temperature by panting (pigs have no sweat glands) and the animals’ body temperature rises to an uncontrollable level. A pig that is in distress makes loud, deep gasping sounds….”
For animal agriculture, heat stress is so widespread that it’s generated a thriving industry: “Ontario presently has some forty-five organizations involved in a large network of dead stock processing.”
“The final hours for too many animals are unspeakably painful,” says the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) in reference to transport of animals to slaughter in Canada. “There isn’t the staff to enforce transportation regulations and the penalties have not been stiff enough to discourage careless truckers.”
Confirms Agriculture Canada research scientist Dr. David Fraser with reference to pigs, “Several rules of good husbandry may be broken all at once in the few hours before the animals are killed or moved to a new farm.” 5 Without question, farm-animal transportation in Canada is fundamentally inhumane.
Animals crippled in transit are sometimes dragged alive from the truck by a chain or rope. For example, livestock rigs do not contain air-cooling systems, meaning millions of animals are exposed to “extreme suffering due to severe heat stress.” Approximately 2.5 to 3 million poultry die annually in Canada during shipment to federally inspected slaughterhouses, due to what poultry scientists call primarily “severe heat stress” and additional trauma.
Despite Canada’s bitter cold winter, transport vehicles are also not generally equipped with heating systems. “Too often the animals are left unattended for long periods in the back of a freezing cold truck,” exposing animals to extreme suffering and even death.
En route, animals may face severe food and water deprivation. Federal regulations allow farm animals to be transported without food or water for 36-72 hours, depending on the species.
Furthermore, overcrowding of animals on vehicles is routine and expected in Canada. According to Pork News and Views “…there should be an adjustment in the number of pigs per load to avoid bruising, stress, and possibly death losses during transit.”
The combination of harsh farm life, rough handling and severe overcrowding on trucks is known to cripple large numbers of farm animals in Canada. Animals crippled in transit are “sometimes dragged alive from the truck by a chain or rope.” Referring to what the industry calls ‘downers’, Dr. Gord Doonan, Acting Chief of Humane Transportation,
Agriculture Canada, confirms: “This has been a big problem in Canada.” In Ontario, for example, approximately 7,000 crippled dairy cows arrive at provincial slaughter plants annually.
A 1982 survey revealed that animals are abused or inhumanely slaughtered at a majority of Canadian slaughterhouses. Abuses included improper stunning leading to painful slaughter; dragging of crippled animals; leaving crippled animals to die lingering deaths; and castration of boars without anesthetic.
In 1993, another survey recorded improvements in 11 Canadian slaughterhouses representing approximately 40% of hogs and cattle slaughtered. The plants, however, were not selected randomly, meaning unsatisfactory plants could be excluded; all plants received advance notice; and no provincial or poultry plants allowed inspection.
A 1995 survey of 21 Canadian slaughterhouses was undertaken, but “The itinerary was predetermined by representatives of Agriculture Canada, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the Canadian Meat Council and the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council.” Nonetheless, even this highly controlled survey revealed that some slaughterhouses exposed animals to unreasonable suffering before and during the slaughter process: “Twenty one percent of the livestock plants and half the ritual and poultry plants were out of compliance.”
Problems noted included: catheterizing of conscious sheep; bashing of sheep repeatedly with a wooden board; throat-cutting of conscious hens; ineffective throat cutting in ritual plants; extreme pre-slaughter stress for terrified animals, including intense noise, slick floors and tying up of conscious animals.
To industry’s credit, the survey reports that at least some problems will be rectified; however, it is likely that similar problems will continue to exist in many other Canadian slaughterhouses, the vast majority of which were not covered in this survey.
Researched and written in March 1996, partially updated May 7, 2005
For an exposé on how chickens are slaughtered in Canada, see KFC vs Peta: http://veg.ca/content/view/62/101/issues/kfc-vs-peta.html
Factory Farming: Institutionalized animal cruelty, massive environmental destruction and resource depletion, and animal and human health risks. http://www.factoryfarming.com/index.htm, www.sustainableTable.org
Excellent footnoted article. “These industrial facilities have little to no regard for the environment, animal welfare, or food safety. In order to maximize profits, factory farms often put the health of consumers and rural communities at risk.”