Humane treatment of food animals at the slaughter establishment

Although the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on January 15, 2019, other requirements will be introduced in 2020 and 2021 based on food commodity, type of activity and business size. For more information, refer to the SFCR timelines.

The outcome of humane treatment of the food animal at your slaughter establishment must be to prevent avoidable suffering, injury or death during all slaughter activities. In the context of these regulations, your responsibilities for the food animals to be slaughtered at your establishment begins with the receiving of the food animals or receiving of the food animals in crates, cages or modules, including the time they are being transported to the any area of the facility or its associated outside premises.

Humane treatment includes any animal care requirements such as, holding the animals in pens inside the facility, or holding the animals in pens or animals contained in crates, cages or modules still stacked on trucks outside the facility prior to their slaughter. Your operational measures must provide the necessary conditions at the establishment identified in your licence to optimize the humane treatment of the food animals at all times.

What this means for your food business

To help you understand these requirements, specific criteria and examples are outlined below. The examples are not exhaustive but help illustrate the intent of the requirement and offer ideas on what you could do to comply. Key terms throughout the text have been hyperlinked to the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) glossary.

Section 127: Avoidable death

  • Avoidable death includes any death of the food animal that is not the outcome of its slaughter or humane killing.
  • Avoidable death includes any death due to negligence for the proper care of the food animals while held prior to their slaughter and under the licence holder's care, or because of the misuse of any restraining, handling, driving, stunning equipment or tools, either intentionally or unintentionally

Examples:

Section 128: Humane handling and avoidable suffering, injury or death

  • You are responsible that all food animals in your establishment are handled in a humane manner by your employees or any contracted personnel who handle food animals, beginning with the receiving of these animals until their slaughter.
  • You are responsible for any malicious or egregious act on the part of any person in contact with any food animals in the establishment identified in your licence that results in avoidable suffering of a food animal.
  • You are responsible throughout operations to account for any conditions that may harm the food animals or cause them avoidable suffering, including while held in holding pens or cages, crates and modules in the establishment

Examples:

  • You ensure that food animals are unloaded from the trucks in a timely and humane manner upon receiving with minimal use of driving tools and minimal waiting time in the trucks
  • You ensure that ritual slaughterers, whom you contract, are fully qualified to conduct ritual slaughter without stunning and do so in a competent manner
  • You ensure that operational conditions in your establishment prevent the death of poultry or rabbits while still contained in cages, modules or crates on the truck or in a holding area prior to their slaughter through the judicious use of ventilation, shade, shelters and covers, especially in extreme weather conditions
  • For additional information, refer to Guidelines for the humane care and handling of food animals at slaughter.

Subsection 129 (1) and 129 (2): Use of tools for moving food animals

  • All driving tools, including the electric prod, to move or drive animals must be used at all times by employees who understand animal behaviour and how to use these tools correctly, that includes avoiding hitting the food animal with any of them.
  • The use of the electric prod is to be used as a driving tool of last resort and only on the hindquarters of large bovines or swine that cannot be encouraged to move by other means or are dangerous to move because of their temperament or nature.
  • The electric prod can never be used on bovines or swine that cannot move because they have injuries that inhibit their mobility, or are lame, sick, weak, lethargic or otherwise compromised in their ability to move easily.
  • The electric prod can never be used where the bovine or swine lack sufficient space to move freely in the desired direction, such as in situations of overcrowded pens, chutes, alleyways, as well as any tight corners or turns in these areas.

Examples:

  • Your employees are well trained not to automatically pick up the electric prod to move animals and try other tools or techniques first, using their knowledge of the principles of animal behaviour.
  • The electric prod should not be used on an animal already in motion to speed it up.
  • For additional information, refer to Guidelines for the humane care and handling of food animals at slaughter.

Subections 130 (1), 130 (2), 130 (3), 130 (4), 130 (5):

  • You must assess all food animals, except game animals over which you have no direct control, upon receiving for any animal welfare concerns and take the appropriate action immediately.
  • You must assess the conditions in the establishment under which the food animals are held or moved prior to slaughter.
  • You must continue to monitor all food animals, except game animals over which you have no direct control, upon their receiving and throughout slaughter activities for any animal welfare concerns.
  • You must implement corrective action procedures as part of your preventive measures for any deviations and to prevent recurrence of the deviations, should the conditions cause the food animals any avoidable suffering, injury or death, except for game animals over which you have no direct control.
  • You must take the proper actions for any food animal that is clearly suffering by immediately providing the proper treatment or humanely killing it or slaughtering it, except if it is a game animal over which you have no direct control.

Examples:

Section 131: Game animals over which you have direct control

  • For a game animal over which you have direct control, you assess, monitor, implement corrective actions or alleviate the suffering as appropriate.

Examples:

  • Game animals over which you have direct control could include any wild muskox which you have contained in a corral or other enclosure prior to slaughter

Subsections 132 (a), (b), (c): Segregation and Isolation

  • You ensure you have the establishment design or operational measures to segregate groups of animals of different species where required because of incompatibility between animal species.
  • You isolate individual animals that may harm other animals because of their size or weight or gender or aggressive temperament or nature.
  • You ensure that individual sick, injured, weak, very young or otherwise incapacitated animals are isolated to protect them from the healthy and uncompromised animals.

Examples:

  • Bulls should be isolated to avoid them injuring the other bovines because of their aggressive natures
  • Horses that are aggressive or with shoes on their hind feet should be isolated to avoid them injuring the other horses
  • Stressed hogs should be isolated to protect them from the other animals
  • Animals with newborns should be isolated from the other animals to protect the newborn animals from other animals
  • For additional information, refer to Guidelines for the humane care and handling of food animals at slaughter.

Section 133: Overcrowding

  • You prevent the overcrowding of food animals during slaughter activities to avoid animals injuring each other or to avoid death because of overheating especially in hot weather or death from difficulty accessing water.

Examples:

  • You ensure the holding pens do not result in overcrowding of animals by your planned scheduling of arrival of lots or loads of animals through effective communication with the producers and transporters
  • Your program includes instructions to fill the crowd pens about half full prior to the stunning pens or restraint equipment to prevent the animals from panicking and injuring each other by jumping on top of each other
  • You ensure the gondolas for the gas stunning system are not overloaded to prevent the pigs from jumping on top of each other because of lack of space
  • For additional information, refer to Guidelines for the humane care and handling of food animals at slaughter.

Section 134: Ventilation

  • You ensure that the ventilation remains at all times adequate to prevent any distress or death to the food animals, especially animals contained in crates or cages or modules and for swine after their arrival, unloading and movement to the holding pens, since these food animals are especially vulnerable to poor ventilation, extreme temperatures and humidity.

Examples:

  • You provide adequate ventilation, depending on ambient temperature and humidity, for poultry held in crates or modules in the holding area or outdoor shelter in order to prevent death from overheating of birds in hot weather or freezing to death of birds in cold weather
  • You maintain the proper ventilation and humidity depending on ambient temperature and humidity for hogs to prevent overheating under extremely hot weather conditions or frostbite in freezing temperatures
  • For additional information, refer to Guidelines for the humane care and handling of food animals at slaughter.

Subparagraphs: 135 (1) (a), 135 (1) (b) Handling

  • Your employees or contracted personnel must be sufficiently competent so that they understand how to handle food animals, including handling the crates, cages or modules that contain poultry or rabbits.
  • Your employees must be knowledgeable and skilled enough to handle competently any moving, restraining, stunning and slaughtering equipment, including automated equipment for these slaughter activities.

Examples:

  • Your employees are well trained to understand animal behaviour and know the best practices for handling the food animals during any slaughter activity
  • Your employees know how to handle crates, cages or modules with animals from the conveyance, including the use of any automated equipment for this purpose
  • Your employees remove the birds from the crates or modules and hang them on the shackle line with care to avoid injury to the legs
  • For additional information, refer to Guidelines for the humane care and handling of food animals at slaughter.

Subsection 135 (2): Areas of establishment and equipment

  • You use only the areas of the slaughter establishment identified in the licence that provide the proper construction and design which promote the humane treatment of the food animals during any slaughter activity.
  • Your employees use only the equipment that is designed for the specific slaughter activity for which it was designed and the specific species of animal for which it is intended, as well as to ensure that it is well maintained at all times.

Examples:

  • You use the proper cartridge and bolt length of the captive bolt pistol stunning gun for the species and size of food animal as per manufacturer's recommendations
  • You maintain the captive bolt pistol stunning gun on a regular schedule as recommended by the manufacturer
  • Your design of the restraint equipment and stun box allows the ritual slaughterer to execute a ritual cut properly and consistently without any impediments from the equipment or area where it is located
  • Your areas where food animals are held or moved, including ramps, holding pens, alleyways, chutes, crowd pens and restraining boxes are designed to take into account the natural behaviour of animals and to prevent injury, including the use of non-slip flooring where required to minimize slipping and falling of the animals
  • For additional information refer to:

Subsections 136 (1), 136 (2): Water and feed

  • You ensure that the animals in the holding pens or in cages, crates or modules, while held for slaughter, receive water that does not present a risk of injury to the health of the animal and feed no later than what is required by these regulations for those food animals.

Examples:

  • You ensure that water is accessible to red meat food animals while they are held in the holding pens prior to slaughter.
  • For poultry in crates, you provide water or another source of hydration in the crates no later than 24 hours after receiving the lot
  • You provide feed to all food animals no later than 24 hours if they are to be held for prolonged periods of time
  • For additional information, refer to Guidelines for the humane care and handling of food animals at slaughter.
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