Canadian Cattlemen’s Association

Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle

Q and A – May 31, 2012

Q: What is the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle?

A: Codes of Practice are nationally developed guidelines for the care and handling of farm animals. The Codes serve as our national understanding of animal care requirements for specific farm animals and recommended practices. Beef producers follow the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle.

Q: Why is the Beef Code of Practice being renewed?

A: The existing Code for beef cattle was released in 1991. Since then science has advanced, public interest in agriculture has changed and practices have evolved. A renewed code will allow industry, the public and others to communicate based on an updated understanding of how beef cattle are cared for in Canada.

This is one way to address customer, consumer, retail and activist concerns about how Canadian beef cattle are raised.  Industry leadership on this initiative is the preferred option over government regulation.  

In 2009 the National Farm Animal Care Council’s pilot project completed the renewal of the Code of Practice for Dairy Cattle.  After that, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association’s Board of Directors voted to seek renewal of the Beef Code through that finalized process.

Q: How is the Beef Cattle Code being renewed?

A: The National Farm Animal Care Council has a process in place to renew existing Codes or draft new Codes.  The process involves two committees:  The Code Development Committee and Scientists Committee.  The Code Development Committee is the group that drafts the new Code.  The Scientists Committee does a review of the literature for the priority welfare issues.  This report informs the drafting work of the Code Development Committee.

Q: Who is involved?

A: The Code Development Committee includes researchers and beef producers, as well as representatives from the transportation, veterinary, humane societies, animal enforcement, and the CFIA. 

Specifically, the Code Development Committee is comprised of Chair Ian McKillop (beef producer from Ontario), other producers include Kim Hextall (SK), John Schooten (AB), Alain Juneau (QC) and Robert Acton (NS), transporter rep Randy Scott (ON), Canadian Veterinary Medical Association rep John Campbell (SK), Canadian Federation of Humane Societies rep Geoff Urton (BC), animal welfare enforcement bodies rep Morris Airey (AB), processor rep Mike Siemens (KS), Canadian Food Inspection Agency rep Genevieve Benard (ON), provincial governments rep Melinda German (MB), research/academic reps Joseph Stookey (SK) and Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein (AB), and Ryder Lee is the liaison person for the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

The Scientists Committee includes: John Campbell, Janice Berg, Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein, Joe Stookey, Derek Haley, Ed Pajor and the writer is Nicole Fenwick.

Q: When will the new Code be completed?

A: The aim is for March of 2013.

Q: Do producers or the public get to have a say in this?

A: Yes, there are a couple of ways to get involved.  The Code Development Committee is built to be representative of all stakeholders in beef production in Canada today.  There are a couple of surveys open to the public at www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/beef-cattle.  The Code content itself will be open to public comment later in 2012  at the same web address.  Press releases will go out at the beginning of that comment period.  If you complete the surveys you are also able to put your email address in to get future updates.

Q: How are Codes used in Canada?

A: Several ways.  Producers and industry use the Code as a guideline and baseline for beef cattle care. It is also used as a reference when there are animal welfare cases.  It can be used for education (of new producers and others interested in beef production).  The Code can be the basis for other programs including on farm assessment if customers ask for proof of how cattle are raised.

Q: What will this change on my farm or ranch?

A: Farmers and ranchers will still be the ones responsible for the way their animals are raised.  A renewed Code will not change that.  At present the beef Code is not mandatory and not audited but if cattle are in distress the Code is one tool enforcement officers will use to measure the owner’s care. What is possible and optimum in production agriculture is always evolving.  Codes of Practice gather the current research and bring it together with practicality, regulations and laws, and public expectation.  All producers should read through the completed Code to see what content is relevant to their operation. 

Most producers will likely already be doing the things the Code either requires or recommends as best practices.  The committee is working on a consensus basis to ensure the Code is practical, based on science and informed by the expectations of consumers, the public, processors and beef sellers.

Q: Is the Code a government regulation?

A: No.  The Code renewal is started by industry.  In some provinces the Codes are referenced by regulations.  This means if someone is found to be treating their animals cruelly then the species specific Code might be used to decide if the practices reflect industry standards.

Q: What will be changed in the new Code?

A: This is part of the discussion.  Details will have to wait until the committee agrees the content is ready for public comments.

Q: Who is paying for all of this?

A: Code of Practice updates initiated from 2010 to 2013 are part of the project: 
Addressing Domestic and International Market Expectations Relative to Farm Animal Welfare 
– a project which is being funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Agricultural Flexibility Fund, as part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan.

Q: What about the surveys producers are being asked to take?

A: The beef Code of Practice, similar to the other 7 Codes currently being written or renewed, is being drafted by a committee designed to represent all the stakeholders with an interest in how beef cattle are raised in Canada.  A 15-person committee cannot know all, so this survey tool has been implemented to help the committee on a few key areas.  The input of producers as well as members of the public is being sought to ensure a robust understanding of Canadian answers to the questions in the survey.  (A second survey is in the works.)

Q: Why should I fill out these surveys?

A: The surveys are part of the input process into drafting the Beef Code of Practice.  This allows a larger group than the 15-member committee to have input.  Participation from individual producers is of value and will help the process along. The process will continue without producer input, so clearly it is better to have that perspective to balance input from people who don’t care for cattle every day but, for other reasons, do have a big interest in the Code of Practice.

For more information, contact Ryder Lee at rlee@cattle.ca, 613-233-9375 or 613-266-3893.