Reality Check: Government Agencies Ignore Animal Welfare At Stouffville Livestock Market

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Alternative Turkey Day - Photo  © by Joanne McArthur

Alternative Turkey Day – Photo © Joanne McArthur

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Live animal markets are notorious for withstanding humane pressure.  This is due to the fact that both the public and regulatory agencies consistently see the often inhumane treatment of food animals as separate and distinct from pet animals.  While few people would hesitate to contact the police if they saw a dog locked in a hot car, fowl  and rabbits are put into the trunks of cars in 40+ weather every weekend at the Stouffville Livestock Market.

One small mercy is that the summer is almost over now and the hottest days for animals are mostly behind us.  But that doesn’t mean that any government agency was able to seriously step up and take action for the birds and animals of the Market.  At a time when SPCAs are justifiably reminding us that we need to take precautions to keep our pet animals cool by not leaving them unattended in cars,  the helpless food animals (chickens,  ducks, turkeys,  exotic birds, other fowl and rabbits) at the Market are still being put into the stifling, unventilated trunks of cars and driven an unknown distance to their uncertain fates.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,  high temperature, humidity and poor ventilation create an extremely dangerous environment in a vehicle trunk.

This veterinarian sits in a parked car to test the temperature that a pet would experience.

While the trunk is not exposed to direct sunlight, it will still be unbearably hot for a confined animal – on a 95 degree day,  the trunk may be 120 degrees.  It will certainly be hotter than the passenger compartment which at least has ventilation when the windows are down,  if not air-conditioning.

While people in other cities are arrested when caught putting animals in the trunks of cars, York Region Police claim to be unaware of any criminal code violations as they pertain to putting ANY species of animal in the trunk of a car on an oppressively hot day.  I know this because myself and others have spoken to them directly about the animals at the market and Criminal Code legislation. The fact is, when the OSPCA is closed outside of business hours,  automated messages  and instructions on their websites instruct us to call the York Region Police turkey dogduring off hours.   The OSPCA has given the market instructions to provide all animals with water but most of the market vendors and management are either unwilling or incapable (probably both) of following this directive.  Even when we have seen water provided (only on the day of a protest by activists) only the animals on display have been offered water.  Animals kept in confined in plastic containers or on trailers are not offered water unless they are moved to a display cage.

Why do people look the other way when they see farm animals stuffed into the trunk of a car?  They would almost certainly object if they saw you lock your dog in the trunk,  especially on any of the hot July or August days in York Region.  And what kind of person just won’t be bothered to provide water for their animals,  especially when told by a government agency to do so?  All farm animals can and do suffer from heat stress – signs are panting,  increased salivation,  drooling or foaming,  increased respiration or laboured breathing,  lethargy,  or even unconsciousness.

We brought printouts from the  “Health of Animals” Regulations – Livestock Handling,  Transport,  Segregation…  from the Justice Laws website of the Government of Canada to our protests.  it should be obvious that these regulations are sufficient to respond to the circumstances at the Market,  where animals suffer from both the extremes of hot and cold:

141. (1) Subject to this section, no person shall load on any railway car, motor vehicle,  aircraft or vessel and no carrier shall transport animals of different species or of substantially different weight or age unless those animals are segregated.

143. (1) No person shall transport or cause to be transported any animal in a railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, crate or container if injury or undue suffering is likely to be caused to the animal by reason of

(a) inadequate construction of the railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, container or any part thereof;

(b) insecure fittings, the presence of bolt-heads, angles or other projections;

(c) the fittings or other parts of the railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel or container being inadequately padded, fenced off or otherwise obstructed;

(d) undue exposure to the weather; or

(e) inadequate ventilation.

chickens

And from the Criminal Code of Canada:

Section 446 of the Criminal Code sets out the offence of causing damage or injury to animals and birds. Everyone who by:

…wilful neglect causes damage to animals or birds that are being conveyed or everyone who is the owner or has custody or control of an animal or bird wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food water, shelter and care, is guilty of an offence.

A person convicted of this offence is liable to imprisonment for not more than two years if the prosecution proceeds by way of indictment. If convicted of an offence where the Crown proceeds by way of summary conviction, the person faces a maximum punishment of a fine not exceeding $5,000 or six months in jail or both.

Section 446(3) states that:

…evidence that a person failed to exercise reasonable care or supervision of an animal or bird and thereby caused injury or damage to it, is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, proof that the injury or damage was caused by “wilful neglect”.

In our opinion, the livestock market cannot simultaneously operate and meet all of these conditions.

According to the group Canadians For the Ethical Treatment of Farm Animals:”

“To minimize risks of heat stress, farm animals should only be transported during the cooler hours of the day. Space per animal inside transport trucks should be increased by reducing stocking densities to ensure proper air flow between animals and, in the case of pigs, to allow them to lie down. Trucks should be tarped and well ventilated. Water should be provided regularly on long journeys.

Canadian transport regulations, the Health of Animals Act, Part XII, Sections 143, (1)(d) and (e) state that “No person shall transport or cause to be transported any animal in a railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, crate or container if injury or undue suffering is likely to be caused to the animal by reason of undue exposure to the weather or inadequate ventilation.” Yet, in Canada, farm animals are routinely transported during mid-day intense heat in overcrowded, un-tarped trailers, with no forced ventilation or water, as documented by CETFA inspectors.

cetfa_heatstress-did-you-knowEven when outside temperatures are not extreme, temperatures inside a trailer can rise dramatically if it is slowed by construction, stuck in traffic or otherwise forced to sit stationary, such as during unloading or at border crossings, where no dedicated lanes exist for livestock trailers (see case documented by CETFA here). Moreover, the amount of water vapor in the air (humidity) can lower the air temperature that farm animals can withstand without becoming heat stressed. For instance, research indicates that temperatures over only 23oC (73oF) can cause stress to cattle when combined with high humidity. Various combinations of heat and humidity, along with transport conditions, thus have the potential to negatively impact farm animals and induce heat stress during the summer months.

We ask that the readers of this blog post take action when it becomes apparent that farm animals are being transported in inappropriate conditions and suffering from heat stress – please contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the government body responsible for the enforcement of farm animal transport regulations, to report your concerns. Provide details of your observations (location, time of the day, name of the transport company, and D.O.T number printed on the rig, as well as the species transported and the signs of heat stress you observe).

Remind the CFIA that livestock haulers are legally required to take reasonable steps to protect farm animals from severe weather and prevent unnecessary suffering, and urge them to enforce the regulations as they are mandated to do. Also, contact the trucking company involved and email us details of the incident.

Many dogs in heat stress situations have been helped through public involvement. As more and more people are becoming concerned about farm animals, public involvement will also be instrumental in improving the welfare of farm animals during extreme weather conditions.”

Turkeys in the trunk of a car

Turkeys in the trunk of a car

Please reach out to all regulatory groups in the following manner:

Contact information

Canadian Food Inspection Agency:

You can contact the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342 or through your local CFIA office (found in the blue pages of your telephone directory).

174 Stone Rd W
Guelph, Ontario
N1G 4S9
Tel: 226-217-8555
Fax: 226-217-8495

OSPCA:

The Ontario SPCA operates on a complaints basis. This means that you can help animals by being aware of at-risk animals in your community and by reporting cases of suspected animal cruelty to your nearest Ontario SPCA Community, police, Crime Stoppers or police.

1-888-ONT-SPCA (668-7722) ext. 327 or email cruelty@ospca.on.ca, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), your local Ontario SPCA Branch, affiliated Humane Society or police.

York Region Police:

Toll Free Number 1-866-8POLICE or 1-866-876-5423 (non-emergencies only)
TTY 1-800-668-0398

Address all correspondence to:
York Regional Police
17250 Yonge Street
Newmarket, Ontario Canada
L3Y-4W5
1-866-876-5423
Email: info@yrp.ca (This email is monitored during business hours and is for non-emergencies only)

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About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic (but not crazy) vegetarian, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - http://iwl.me/ Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

8 responses »

  1. Excellent blog! Yet again :)

    I also fail to see the difference between the life of a cat or dog to that of a chicken or a rabbit. Our laws need strengthening and the organizations that are supposed to be enforcing our laws NEED TO DO THEIR BLOODY JOBS!!!!!!

  2. And here I am driving around with an OSPCA sticker saying that there are no hot pets in my car and this keeps going on at this crappy auction. Only when animals are not considered to be ‘commodities’ will this stop. Sigh.

    • Today is the first time I’ve been there and can honestly say parts of it really stank. Like literal crap in the aisles. It was gag-inducing. I’m surprised people aren’t complaining. But it’s a good approach also – if it smells complain to management. OSPCA HAS been there, but most of the vendors don’t seem to respect authority.

  3. Excuse me if this has already been tried but has anyone videotaped this abuse/neglect and sent the video into a number of news media?

    • Hi Karen, I was interviewed back in December for the Toronto Star which published an article by Rachel Mendelson. Via Twitter I had an offer to go on a Stouffville radio station (had no idea there was one) but I never heard any more from them. We also met with Mayor Emmerson and I sent petition copies to various politicians. We welcome ideas though!

  4. It is heart breaking to witness animals being so inhumanely treated, I find it hard to eat them and knowing this. We must keep up the pressure or nothing will change. I have noticed that the mistreatment of the pigs and the media exposure has helped. So nice to have social media to effect change.

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