How your input shapes the Codes of Practice and sets farmed animal welfare standards - BC SPCA
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How your input shapes the Codes of Practice and sets farmed animal welfare standards

June 10, 2024

Many Canadians care deeply about farmed animal welfare but sometimes feel powerless to make a difference. However, you can help farmed animals in many important ways, including speaking up for them!

Canada’s Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals set important rules for ensuring farmed animal welfare nationally. Everyone, from farmers to consumers, has an important voice to add to the conversation.

Public feedback is essential to Canada’s process for developing the Codes. Everyone interested in raising national standards for farmed animal welfare is welcome to participate in the public comment periods for each Code. Your feedback plays an important role during the revision process and can influence the final standards of the Codes.

Beet cattle stand in dry pasture

What are Canada’s Codes of Practice?

Canada has Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals that serve as the national understanding of animal care requirements and recommended practices. There is a Code of Practice for almost all types of animals raised on farms across the country.

This process is led by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), which represents and involves many stakeholders, including farmed animal industries, animal welfare organizations, retail and food service, the veterinary community, government, and other groups interested in farmed animal care.

Codes are updated every 10 years to reflect scientific research, remain practical for farmers, and address society’s expectations of responsible care of farmed animals.

In 2024, revisions for five Codes of Practice were initiated – cattle raised for beef, equines, sheep, pigs, and poultry raised for meat (chickens and turkeys). With all this important Code work underway, there has never been a better time to familiarize yourself with the Code development process and better understand the value of your input!

Photo of a beautiful brown and white Appaloosa painted horse grazing in a pasture.

Codes of Practice development process

1. Getting started

The Code development process begins when a national group representing the farmed animal industry (e.g., the Canadian Cattle Association) identifies the need for a Code revision and initiates the process with NFACC.

2. Building the team

A Code Development Committee is established, which includes farmers, an animal welfare representative, a veterinarian, animal welfare researchers, a government representative, and others like a food processor, grocery store, or restaurant industry representative.

3. Initial survey

A preliminary survey is released to gather top-of-mind animal welfare issues, allowing the public, producers, and others interested to provide input. This is your first opportunity to participate! The preliminary survey helps the Code Development Committee understand the most important welfare issues for the species at hand at the beginning of the revision process, and helps guide the focus of the new Code.

4. Scientific research

Based on the preliminary survey results, priority welfare issues are identified. A team of scientists reviews the academic literature for each priority welfare issue and develops a report for the Code Development Committee. This process can take up to one year to complete.

Note: welfare issues not addressed by the researchers can still be addressed in the Code during the next step.

5. Drafting the Code of Practice

The Committee then deliberates on the content of the draft Code. Working together, they identify solutions that address animal welfare concerns, meet market requirements, and are implementable by farmers. Drafting the Code of Practice can take about one year to write.

6. Inviting public comments

NFACC makes the draft Code available for a 60-day public comment period. This is your second opportunity to participate! Anyone can take part, so make sure your voice is heard.

7. Finalizing the Code of Practice

Committee members consider and discuss all the comments received and use this feedback to determine revisions needed before the Code is finalized. The Committee submits its final Code to NFACC, and the industry prepares for implementation.

To develop a Code of Practice from start to finish can take approximately two years.

Lambs on pasture with a flock of sheep.

Is my input considered and valuable?

The answer is yes!

Results from the preliminary survey are made publicly available so you can learn more about how many responses were received and a breakdown of responses by province and group affiliation (e.g., the public, farmer, veterinarian, etc.). The survey report also lists the welfare concerns submitted and which were most frequent, thereby becoming a priority welfare issue to address in step four.

During the public comment period, comments received are reviewed and organized to ensure they can receive proper consideration. The final Code is published alongside a report of how the feedback on the draft was considered, allowing everyone to see how the comment period informed the Code.

Unique comments are generally considered more impactful, so it is important to take the time to express yourself in your own words. Derogatory comments may be discarded, so it is important to be respectful.

See some of the significant wins for farmed animals that the public called for.

How can I stay up to date on Code developments?

To ensure you don’t miss these announcements, sign up for our Action Alerts below, where we will share every opportunity to participate!

The next Codes to begin their revision process are sheep, pigs, and chickens, turkeys and breeders (birds raised for meat).