I just got home from a whirlwind trip to Ottawa. I was invited to be on the scientific committee for the development of the “Codes of Practice” for poultry in Canada. I actually felt pretty honoured to be asked, and was excited. This was my first project at the national level….my projects before this were at the provincial level.
In a truly Canadian fashion, a committee was struck to work out what the main welfare questions were in poultry production, and which ones would benefit from scientific analysis by experts (and me!). I am sure that the public would be surprised to know how invested in this process the professional poultry producers are. Money, man hours, and committment are all available in spades. These groups invest a lot of time and money in a process that has the potential to force them to change the way they run their farms. It shows the real committment they have to the welfare of the birds they raise.
At the meeting were farmers, truckers, processors, humane societies, veterinarians, and welfare researchers. It was amazing to see all these divergent groups agree fundamentally on what needed to be looked into, and what potentially needed to be worked on for ideal care.
After the Code development meeting, I attended a day and a half conference put on by the National Farm Animal Care Council….the group that arranges for the production codes to be developed. It was a bunch of presentations on the direction of farm animal welfare development in Canada. It involved representatives from all species, from dairy cows, to chickens, to mink, to pigs, as well as vets, welfare scientists and some international representatives.
It was also attended by 6 or 8 animal rights groups, and as many humane societies. Again….only in Canada can a cowboy (complete with hat and dinner-plate belt buckle) discuss (politely) the welfare needs of feedlot cattle with a natural-fiber serape wearing, tofu-eating vegan animal rights advocate. They didn’t end up holding hands and singing Kumbayah, but they each allowed that the other had some valid points.
In other jurisdictions (a little south of us), the same crowd would have resulted in a LOT more excitement and possibly the involvement of police and paramedics. I think the honest committment by all parties to the improvement of the welfare of farm animals makes everyone involved willing to work together.
I am excited to be able to continue to work in this arena, because attitudes like this make me confident that welfare advances will be achievable.
Mike the Chicken Vet