AFAC was pleased to be able to host the first Western Canada Livestock Welfare Summit on Friday, August 28. The Summit was originally planned as a networking session during the Livestock Care Conference in March, but when the world went virtual that month, the Summit was postponed.
Despite- or maybe because of- the virtual nature of the session, there was a broad range and variety of participants. Representatives from all livestock sectors and industry stakeholders included: primary producers; livestock carriers; industry associations; and veterinary, government and research organizations. There were representatives from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
The morning started with virtual breakout sessions where four groups discussed the main issues facing their sector and region. The learnings were brought back for a full group discussion, facilitated by Dr. Duane Landals, Alberta SPCA president and veterinarian.
Not surprisingly, there were a number of common themes across all sectors and sessions.
The new regulations and how to ensure proper understanding and adoption, proper training of staff and others involved in livestock transport, as well as ensuring animals are in the proper condition to ship were a few of the areas covered in the most discussed topic of the morning.
Whether communicating directly with the public or looking for new channels and opportunities for reaching consumers, finding ways to share the facts about animal care was high on the list of priorities. Ag in the Classroom programming came up in multiple groups, as did the limited funding for these programs.
Training and animal care programs
Overwhelmingly, the group felt that training and the development of credible animal care programs was an industry responsibility, and recognized the value of existing Codes of Practice and programs such as ProAction, Pig Safe, and VBP+ among others. However, there was also a common theme that individuals in the industry needed to work together – that animal welfare was everyone’s responsibility.
Mental health, activism and access to veterinarians were other common themes. There is a significant understanding that mental health issues are commonly behind animal welfare issues and a recognition, as above, that everyone has a role to play in aiding that situation. Additionally, after a discussion about how to address outliers and bad actors, a suggestion was made to put the spotlight on more of the positive outliers who demonstrate the values in the livestock sector.
One quote from the day summed-up the general discussion well, “There is no finish line. We are always improving and evolving.”
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Western Canada Livestock Welfare Summit. Stay tuned for more information from the day and plans for next steps.