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Farm animals help topics

Farm animals

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act outlines generally accepted practices of animal management as a reason by which distress is legally acceptable.

Generally accepted practices of animal management are ways of handling or caring for animals that are commonly accepted by society. Sometimes these practices still cause pain, suffering and distress to animals. If the practices haven’t been written down in any official document, it is up to experts like veterinarians and leaders in the relevant industry (such as animal farming, sled dogs, animal breeding or horse racing) to give expert testimony in court when there is an animal neglect or cruelty case.

Animals are better represented when practices are written and agreed to by a committee of experts that includes animal welfare experts. We call these documents ‘Standards‘ or ‘Codes of Practice‘.

The Canadian Organic Standards outline minimum animal welfare expectations for Certified Organic farmers. The standards were updated in 2015 and there were many improvements, most notably:

  • The use of crates for housing/restraining pregnant pigs who are giving birth are now prohibited
  • A ban on tying dairy cows to stalls, effective within 5 years’ time (by 2020)
  • Older “minimum ages” at which lambs, calves, and kits (i.e. baby rabbits) can be weaned from their mother
  • Annual water testing requirements to ensure safe drinking water supplies for farm animals
  • Chickens must be fed at least once daily rather than every other day
  • Farmers are required to document animal welfare issues and create a plan to fix them should such issues arise

Access the complete list of animal welfare improvements (PDF) and the full 2015 Canadian Organic Standard.

In September 2018, the next revision process got underway, with completion of the next Organic Standard anticipated to occur in November 2020. Learn how the BC SPCA is involved in the revision process. To review the current (2015) organic standard and propose a specific revision for the committees to consider, visit the Organic Agriculture web page.

The BC SPCA supports the mission of the organic farming industry and will continue to collaborate with organic associations across Canada on improving farm animal welfare in organic production systems.

The BC SPCA also operates its own in-house farm certification and food labelling program, SPCA Certified, with the aim of further improving animal welfare on farms. The SPCA Certified and organic certification programs are complementary. Learn how they compare (PDF).

The BC SPCA believes that all animals should enjoy, as a minimum, five essential freedoms, which were first described by the Farm Animal Welfare Council of the UK:

  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

Happy mixed breed dog lying down being pet by smiling woman

What does animal welfare mean?

The BC SPCA is an animal welfare organization, which means we believe the use of animals for human purposes is justified as long as their welfare is ensured. Animal Welfare means an animal’s quality of life, and it is affected by animals’ physical health and the feelings they experience.

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 (such as pain, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear and frustration).

Animals that are healthy, pain-free, comfortable and unstressed are said to have good welfare.

Close up shot of cute wild common barn owl with sideways tilted head

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Cows in a pasture