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Banff Pork Seminar 2012

Canadian swine industry updating codes of practice

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Date posted: January 20 2012

Florrian Possberg

The hog industry across Canada has undergone many changes over the past nearly 20 years, but many of those developments have not been incorporated into official codes of practice.

That is changing. The industry is in the midst of updating its codes, last adjusted in 1993. Pork follows the path of the dairy industry, which launched its new codes in 2009.

Pork industry players attending the 2012 Banff Pork Seminar got an update on that progress from veteran Saskatchewan producer, Florrian Possberg. Now president of the Canadian Swine Health Board, a new organization with a mandate to "provide leadership, coordination and support on the management of health in the Canadian swine herd," he has been intimately involved in the code development process.

Animal care practices are public debate today and there is no question public attitudes and expectations have changed, says Possberg. "Humane societies monitor and work to improve the lives of animals cared for by humans. Radical groups question the need for profit or research. What is acceptable is not universal. In Sweden, animal care has changed dramatically. In China, not so much."

The Canadian government determined that all animal industries needed to develop a code of practice, updated every 10 years, reviewed every five.

Codes are designed by a committee that includes producers, industry, research and Humane Societies to follow a standard process, says Possberg. The pig version process started in 2010 with the update to become the Canadian standard by 2013. The code committee is responsible for defining the practices. At this point six areas of sensitivity have been identified for the pork industry. They include: Controlling pain: a study of castration; methods of euthanasia; pig space allowance; sow housing; social management of sows; and space allowance for sows.

Progress to date

The committee has reviewed the scientific literature for each area to use as a basis for the code. There are three considerations for which animal care is analyzed.

  • Biological functioning: how the practice affects performances such as growth rate, fertility etc.
  • Affective state: how this minimizes suffering and promotes positive experiences for the animal.
  • Natural living: emphasizing the naturalness of the experiences for the animal and the ability of the animal to live according to its nature.

The committee drafts the code which then goes to industry and the public for comment. "The first drafts of the new codes have been built and are currently in review by various sectors," says Possberg. He admits there is a long way to go to finalize this.

"One thing that is clear is that the code will become the basis for animal care," he says. It has becomes the basis for determining lawful animal care in four provinces. Judges use the code in cases where abuse and animal welfare are in question. The hog industry has based its animal care assessment (ACA) on this. And the ACA is now linked with Canadian Quality Assurance, which is now a requirement for supplying pigs to most Canadian processors.

"If the industry follows these established practices, producers have protection from radical animal rightists by our community and courts," he says.

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