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Position Statement on Farm Animal Welfare

The BC SPCA advocates only those farming practices which provide good welfare for the animals raised.

The Society strongly encourages farmers to strive to meet the Five Freedoms by employing management practices and housing systems that meet both the physiological and psychological needs of the animals. In particular, the BC SPCA supports the replacement of all farming practices that cause pain, injury, stress, and negative emotional states such as fear and frustration, with practices that minimize these effects, and that provide farm animals with opportunities to express behaviours that promote well-being.

The BC SPCA also supports the mandatory labelling of animal-derived food products with accurate claims about the methods of production used, in order to enable consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.

Approved by the Board of Directors – September 2007

Background

In accordance with our position statement on Farm Animal Welfare, the BC SPCA has concerns about the following types of practices in animal agriculture:

  • raising animals of any species at high stocking densities, which compromise animal welfare;
  • breeding animals of any species to accentuate certain physical characteristics when the outcome compromises animal welfare;
  • housing any animal in an environment with flooring, penning or lack of bedding that might lead to injury, or with poor ventilation, inadequate temperature control or poor sanitation that might lead to reduced health;
  • housing any animal in an environment that does not allow the expression of strongly motivated behaviour, or under extended periods of poor lighting that do not allow normal vision;
  • feeding diets that are inappropriate for the species and which compromise the animals’ welfare, that contain avian or mammalian byproducts fed to the same species, or relying on routine use of pharmaceutical drugs to support a husbandry system that compromises animal health;
  • conducting painful surgical procedures without the use of anaesthetic or post-operative analgesic, or with only the use of electro-immobilisation, which does not prevent animals from experiencing pain, stress or fear;
    using stressful or painful methods of animal handling, such as electric prods or hitting of animals;
  • transportation, auction or live sale of animals: that are too young or nursing; for long durations; in crowded conditions; under extreme weather conditions; and/or that are sick, injured or otherwise at risk of suffering or death;
    sale of animals through live auctions, resulting in stress, disease risk, and unknown duration of total animal transport times;
  • extended periods of feed and/or water withdrawal, such as before and during transport; in holding; or to elicit specific production responses (e.g., forced molting of poultry);
  • exhibitions or petting zoos that may subject animals to stress and fear in noisy, unfamiliar environments;
  • the raising and breeding of wild animals, whether native or exotic, due to the difficulty in meeting the behavioural needs of these animals in captivity, and the stress and risk of injury imposed by subjecting them to routine farm animal husbandry practices and transportation.

It therefore follows that specific industry practices to which the BC SPCA is opposed include, for example:

  • confining egg-laying hens in barren battery cages;
  • raising veal calves entirely in individual crates that restrict freedom of movement;
  • keeping dairy cows continuously tethered in tie-stalls without regular daily periods of exercise;
  • keeping sows tethered or in crates for the duration of gestation;
  • performing dehorning, tail docking and castration without the use of anaesthetic or post-operative analgesic, or using electro-immobilisation to restrain animals during these procedures;
  • forced molting of farmed poultry;
  • force-feeding waterfowl for the production of foie gras.

In order to advance Canadian standards for all farm animals towards the Five Freedoms, the BC SPCA participates in the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) process to develop Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals, in partnership with the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS). The Code of Practice requirements serve to define generally accepted practices for use in animal protection law enforcement in Canada. The BC SPCA and the CFHS support the NFACC Codes as minimum obligations for animal care, as agreed to by consensus with animal industry representatives, veterinarians and scientists.

This consensus agreement does not equate to a unanimous endorsement of every aspect of each Code, and in many instances, the BC SPCA and CFHS believe that farmers should strive to meet higher standards than the Codes require. These higher standards are described in the SPCA Certified standards for the raising and handling of farm animals, which are fully endorsed by the BC SPCA and CFHS.

Background updated – August 2016

Definitions

Animal husbandry: The practice of raising animals for food production. Animal husbandry generally refers to practices that aim to meet the basic physiological needs required for food production.

Domesticated animals:  Species that have been selectively bred by humans over hundreds, and often thousands of generations, in order to alter their genetics to create animals that are dependant, docile, predictable, and controllable, and that no longer occupy an ecological niche in the wild.

Emotions: Positive or negative feelings (e.g., happiness, fear, anxiety) that are distinct from sensations (e.g., warmth, hunger or pain). Animals experience emotions in response to stimuli from their environment. Emotions exist in order to help animals avoid harm or seek better welfare by triggering appropriate behaviours.

Exotic animals: Species that are non-domesticated, non-indigenous wild animals, whether captured from the wild or captive-bred.

Farm animals: Domesticated animals intentionally reared for food, fibre, labour, or other profitable means for humans. Does not include animals bred or raised commercially for companionship or research.

Fear: A negative emotion experienced in response to perceived danger or threat, usually accompanied by a physiological stress response.

Five Freedoms: The BC SPCA’s Five Freedoms describe conditions that must be fulfilled in order to prevent the suffering of domesticated animals in human care.  We acknowledge that absolute provision of these freedoms may not be possible, but we expect all animal guardians to strive to provide them. The BC SPCA’s Five Freedoms are:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst;
  2. Freedom from pain, injury and disease;
  3. Freedom from distress;
  4. Freedom from discomfort;
  5. Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being.

Frustration: A negative emotion experienced when an animal is prevented from engaging in a behaviour that he/she is motivated to perform.

Stress: The physiological response to a stimulus in order to help an animal cope with his/her environment. The stress response can be associated with either positive emotions (e.g., excitement, arousal) or negative emotions (e.g., anxiety, frustration), depending upon the nature of the stimulus or the animal’s perception of that stimulus.

Welfare: An animal’s quality of life. An animal’s welfare depends upon both his/her physical health and affective state. Animals experience good welfare when they are able to experience positive feelings arising from pleasurable activities and the fulfillment of behavioural needs, and when they are free from poor physical health and negative feelings (e.g., pain, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear and frustration).

Wild animals: Species that have genetically evolved in complex ecological systems resulting in mutual interdependencies with other animals and the surrounding environment.

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