Canada’s new rules on animal transport fall very short


Canada’s new rules on animal transport fall very short

10 March 2019
Since the provisional entry into force of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in September 2017, Canadian beef imports into the EU have rocketed  from 267 tons in 2016 to 909 tons in 2018.

The transport of animals such as cows had been selected as a topic on which the EU and Canada would cooperate and provides an opportunity for both parties to discuss animal welfare. At the time, Canada was reviewing its outdated animal transport rules, and there was hope that the EU could influence this process. Disappointingly, only four months after their first meeting on the topic, Canada’s newly adopted legislation still contains outrageously long traveling times for animals. Around 770 million animals are transported each year in Canada. Packed into outdated vehicles, they face freezing winters, dehydration, scorching summers, trampling and diseases. Around 14 million arrive dead, dying or injured at federally inspected slaughterhouses.  

Before January, Canada’s animal transport rules – which dated from 1977 – allowed for the longest travelling times in the industrialised world. Cattle, sheep or goats could be transported for 52 hours without access to water, food or any rest. For horses, poultry and pigs, the duration allowed was 36 hours.  

At the end of January, Canada adopted a long-awaited reform of its 40-year old legislation – but it is as bad as 20 Canadian NGOs feared after seeing the draft amendments in March 2018, mainly as a result of intensive industry lobbying.

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The first draft of the new regulations published in 2013 were based on the scientific assessment of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and suggested travelling times roughly divided by two or even three. However, the updated draft version published in 2016, which led to the legislation now adopted, saw all traveling times being increased. Spent laying hens can be transported for up to 28 hours (more than twice the 12 hours proposed in 2013) and other chickens for 28 to 36 hours; cows for 36 hours; and equines and pigs for 28 hours. In the EU, transportation time is in theory limited to 8 hours, and transporters have to abide by additional compulsory requirements for longer journeys.

The EU and Canada had put this topic on the agenda of the Regulatory Cooperation Forum (RCF) established in the context of the implementation of CETA, raising hope among NGOs that the EU could feed into the Canadian reform process, by providing access to a vast body of scientific evidence pointing to the need for lower traveling times. After the first meeting of the RCF, Canadian authorities seemed to argue that the discussions with the EU would not be considered in the CFIA-led process to reform their animal transport regulations. Adopting these rules so quickly confirms this.

Eurogroup for Animals will denounce this outrageous outcome at the coming meeting of the EU Domestic Advisory Group on CETA. The adoption of the legislation will not prevent European and Canadian NGOs to continue pushing together for progress in this field.



Stephanie Ghislain, Trade and Animal Welfare Project leader
+32 (0)2 740 08 96 |