Livestock farms aim to mitigate herd health risks

  • National Newswatch

Bill to bar trespassers to protect animal health has support

Ottawa-Trespassers on farms are a biosecurity hazard to the health of livestock that farmers go to great efforts to protect, says Matthew Atkinson, President of the Manitoba Beef Producers and co-chair of the animal health and care committee of the Canadian Cattle Association.

Measures proposed in a bill from Conservative ag critic John Barlow to prevent exposure of animals to a disease or toxic substance carried by a trespasser will work in tandem with the beef sector’s robust animal health and welfare standards, he told the Senate agriculture committee. The bill has been approved by the Commons and has passed second reading in the Senate.

“Simply put, biosecurity is about preventing entry and spread of all diseases - both known and unknown. The emergence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in dairy cattle is a great example of unknown. We don’t know fully yet how it spreads, so we need to be vigilant on all potential entry routes including trespassers.”

Lauren Martin, Senior Director of Government Relations and Policy with the Canadian Meat Council (CMC), said the bill will provide an additional, necessary layer of protection against biosecurity threats to the meat industry. “Biosecurity goes hand in hand with animal welfare, and on that front, the Canadian meat industry is highly regulated.”

CMC members support the on-farm Codes of Practice under the National Farm Animal Care Council and plant employees are trained and certified, she said. “The supply chain from farm to slaughter has guidelines and certifications to maintain high animal welfare standards and the necessary biosecurity and food safety practices to protect those food animals from disease or contaminants.”

The wording of the bill “is broad enough to capture the intended audience of unlawful trespassers, yet specific enough to really address many of the industry’s initiatives that already protect biosecurity on farms.”

Atkinson noted that Barlow’s bill enhances the safety and protection of cattle producers and Canada’s food production system and also maintains and respects a citizen’s rights to lawful and peaceful protest. “Canada’s beef producers recognize the importance of transparency and are passionate about openly sharing the story of our operations and how we care for our animals. However, there is a critical distinction between visits offered to those willing to follow prescribed biosecurity measures and sanitation practices and trespassers who could intentionally or unintentionally endanger animal health, welfare and food safety.”

The World Association for Animal Health is doing a lot of work on ways to improve livestock biosecurity and in the future will be holding meetings on bioterrorism. “It is definitely on the minds of everybody locally and internationally.”

Barlow’s bill is welcome because it can relieve one of the stressors in day-to-day farm operations, he said. “The risk of something being introduced on the farm would be the ultimate stressor, for example, the unfortunate events of depressed prices, euthanasia of the animals and addressing all of those issues. The big picture would be catastrophic.

This news item prepared for National Newswatch