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Next steps in animal transport welfare

Next steps in animal transport welfare

Industry explores use of smart sensor technology in livestock trailers

By Owen Roberts

The farm community didn’t like it one bit when the court dismissed charges of mischief laid in the summer of 2015 against Anita Krajnc, a Toronto animal rights activist, for giving pigs water while they were being transported to a processor.

She claimed it was an act of compassion and that, legally, livestock are “human persons.”

The judge didn’t buy it. But neither did he consider that she had harmed the animals or prevented their slaughter. So Kranjc went free.

Producers hit the roof. They considered her tactics a clear act of interference. But the ruling that livestock are not people was about the best they were going to get out of this case.

Going forward, though, it once again turned the spotlight on livestock transportation. The industry needed to asked why Kranjc and other activists thought, in the first place, the pigs needed water. Or the chickens and cows they had approached at other times but had not been charged for doing so.

Was it truly a matter of wanting to quench the animals’ thirst? Or was it yet another way to protest animal agriculture?

Likely both.

But whatever the case, the situation prompted more discussion about animal welfare during transportation within the province or across the country.

University of Guelph researchers and others have long worked with producers, producer groups, truckers, self-interest groups and processors to ensure transportation is humane. So, no one had to start from scratch when explaining the ins and outs of livestock transportation to the curious public … and assure them that improvements are continual.

In fact, in February, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced that, in one year, the government would institute amendments to the Health of Animals Regulations (Part XII) on animal transportation. The CFIA said it had consulted extensively with farm groups, transporters, members of the public and interested groups, resulting in what it called “an unprecedented number of responses to the CFIA's proposals” – more than 51,000 comments, in fact. 

The CFIA also considered the latest research on animal transportation and international standards, the agency said.

“These new, stronger regulations include both prescriptive and outcome-based requirements that emphasize and improve the health and wellbeing of the animals during the entire transportation process,” the CFIA said. “The amendments will also increase consumer confidence, strengthen Canada's international trade status and facilitate market access.”

Broadly, the amendments go beyond transport journey to cover the full time from when animals are prepared for transit to the time they reach their destinations.

The new regulations are more detailed with respect to the different needs of different types of animals. The rules specify intervals for transporters to provide food, water and rest, the CFIA says.

Technology can be part of the solution. Last week, a Guelph-based company called Transport Genie announced it was teaming up with Luckhart Transport Ltd., based in Sebringville, Ont., for a two-year research collaboration led by the Canadian Animal Health Coalition to validate new smart sensor technology.

The technology examined in this study, which includes tapping expertise from researchers from Guelph, the University of Saskatchewan and AAFC, involves sensors that monitor microclimate conditions inside conventional livestock trailers.

“Being able to monitor the environmental conditions the animals are being exposed to, and perhaps even monitor the animals directly through video cameras in real time, would be a major improvement over drivers just checking on their animals when they take a driving break,” says Dr. Derek Haley, a University of Guelph researcher.

“This made-in-Canada solution brought forward by our growing ag tech sector is, potentially, offering a very useful middle ground compared with using completely enclosed vehicles, with total mechanical climate control.”

Joel Sotomayor, Transport Genie’s president, says blockchain technology is employed to store and share microclimate information with truck drivers and other users along the supply chain.  

A key focus for the field trials will be to see how Transport Genie sensors can improve the process of disinfecting livestock trailers. Luckhart Transport was one of the first companies in Canada to invest in a thermally assisted drying and disinfection system that uses heat to dry equipment after washing.

The process, called “baking,” is designed to kill pathogens that cause diseases like porcine epidemic diarrhea virus. To properly bake a trailer and destroy pathogens, it must be heated to a temperature of 75 C (167 F) for 15 minutes. Determining where and how these temperatures have been achieved is another role for Transport Genie.

And the ingenuity being shown here to support better animal welfare shows once again why farmers support research. 

Comments (3)


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It would appear that the previous comments to this article are ill informed as to bothe regulations and the reality of livestock transport in this country. First, i might sight the glaringly obvious difference between canada and europe for regulations as animals in europe will almost, if ever, be required to traverse the distances that they do here and therefore regulations must be adapted that redlect this. Also, have either of the previous commenters ever crossed our great country with livestock haulers? They care for the animals not only by the regulations but often better than the regs demand. Hogs will, undoubtably, climb on and over each other even when they have cramped themselves into a bunch and half of their available space is still open to them. This picture that you attempt to paint is not an accurate depiction of the situation. More and more livestock trailers are being built and in use with automatic watering systems, cooling fans and greater openess to the outside air. Livestock are protected from the elements when necessary and also cooled when necessary. The production of quality livestock and its safe passage to market is of great concern to those who make their living providing the rest of us with the sustenance we need on a daily basis. Overall, livestock transportation companies and producers do their absolute best to ensure that the animals arrive safely and in good health. It is their job and they take it seriously. Do animal activists who release animals from parked trailers consider for one moment that a released animal may cause an accident when released near traffic? I doubt it. It has happened before that a driver awakens to find animals loose from their rig parked beside traffic because of the actions of such activists who claim to act in the interests of the animals, all while ignoring any safety concerns at all that their actions may pose. I will not say that their is room for improvement in the technology of
Benjamin |Aug 21 2019 4:21PM
Pigs climbing over one another in blistering trucks, panting uncontrollably... chickens that routinely arrive at slaughter plants frozen solid... This article is a joke!! You mention the CFIA and you cite regulations as if that makes it all okay -- all above board and legal. But all it takes is a pair of eyeballs to see how ridiculously and systemically cruel modern farming is. Producers hit the roof, did they? Well, they'd better be ready to hit it a lot more.
Edana |Aug 20 2019 9:02PM
the changes to transport were minimal and yet you boast "....in February, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced that, in one year, the government would institute amendments to the Health of Animals Regulations (Part XII) on animal transportation. The CFIA said it had consulted extensively with farm groups, transporters, members of the public and interested groups, resulting in what it called “an unprecedented number of responses to the CFIA's proposals” – more than 51,000 comments, in fact. The CFIA also considered the latest research on animal transportation and international standards, the agency said." They sure didn't look to Europe for standards are the basic transit times would have been cut severely in Canada. How they are treated is almost irrelevant when one considers that they should not be used at all. but i guess the farm industry has no desire to go down that road
cath |Aug 20 2019 2:10PM