Producers raise their animals following high standards to ensure a healthy, safe and high-quality product. However, all of this investment of time and money would be lost if animals were not treated properly during transport.
Animals that are treated well and are protected from stress arrive at their destination in far better condition. Humane transport of animals is a joint responsibility of all supply chain partners from production to processing. Animal welfare is the prime consideration in animal transportation.
The transport of animals is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). In 2017, CFIA consulted Canadians on proposed amendments to Health of Animals Regulations Part XII - Transportation of Animals.
Changes to humane transport requirements under the Health of Animals Regulations
On February 20, 2020, the CFIA published amendments to the Health of Animals Regulations (Part XII) on animal transportation.
The National Farm Animal Care Council's Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals: Transportation was released in 2001, and is currently under revision.
Pork producers and transporters take specialized training to address the specific needs of animals in transport. This includes training on how to load and unload pigs, account for weather conditions and be prepared for emergency situations. Education tools like the Canadian Livestock Transport Certification Program or the Transport Quality Assurance program is mandatory training for anyone who handles or transports pigs to Canada’s federally inspected plants.
Pigs are transported in trucks usually reserved for the purpose of transporting animals and that are thoroughly washed before loading. Animals are sheltered during transit to prevent discomfort caused by exposure to severe weather conditions. Adequate airflow throughout the vehicle or trailer is provided to ensure animal welfare while in-transit. As technology and innovation evolve, research is currently ongoing to develop new trailers with the purpose of transporting live animals.
Although there is always room for improvement, the Canadian pork sector has a great track record where transporting pigs is concerned. In 2017 Canadian producers shipped over 20 million market weight hogs to federally inspected plants. CFIA’s public information states that for every 10,000 animals shipped 34 animals, or 0.3% were found to be sick, injured or found dead at arrival.
Transportation to abattoirs
Prior to being transported, pigs are assessed to make sure they are fit for transport, loaded in with compatible animals and provided with appropriate bedding such as straw or wood shavings. Producers implement a fasting period before to slaughter. This practice allows the pigs to be transported safely and ensure their welfare. It also ensures food safety by minimizing the potential contamination of pork with foodborne pathogens.
Transportation during extreme weather conditions
Before transporting livestock, transporters review, consider and address expected weather conditions en route, emergency procedures should problems be encountered, possible off-loading sites along the route, expected delays, such as road construction or repairs, ferries, borders and unloading hours at destination.
Animals are protected during transit to prevent discomfort caused by exposure to severe weather conditions. Adequate airflow throughout the vehicle or container is provided to keep the animals comfortable.
During warmer periods, the number of pigs loaded onto trucks is adapted so pigs do not become too uncomfortable. Transportation is scheduled for early mornings and evenings when it's cooler outside. Transporters use wet wood shavings or mist the pigs in transport to keep the pigs cool. When it is necessary to stop, transporters minimize the duration of the stop to prevent the build-up of heat in the vehicle and park the vehicle in the shade where possible.
If producers, buyers, assembly point managers or truckers judge that transporting pigs on a specific day would have a negative impact on their welfare, they will delay transporting them until the weather is more suitable.