Transportation Code of Practice – Progress Update

March, 2021

Progress on the Livestock & Poultry Transportation Code of Practice continues, with lots of activity occurring in several areas. The Poultry Catching and Transport Working Group (WG) has made great strides forward and is nearing completion of its poultry-specific content, with just a few more sub-WG calls scheduled and only a few topics on which consensus is still needed. The Hatchery Transport WG has been paused while it waits for common content from the Code Development Committee to review. The Mink/Fox/Rabbit WG has developed a near-final draft which is scheduled to be reviewed in its entirety by the WG in April.

Content that is considered to be common for all types of animals covered by the Code is currently being developed by Code Development Committee (CDC) sub-committees. The Loading and Unloading sub-committee has met several times online and has made significant progress reviewing content on topics related to handling, loading, unloading, isolation, and providing feed, water, and rest on fully-equipped vehicles. The Understanding Fitness for Transport sub-committee has also met a handful of times and continues to make progress populating content covering compromised and other vulnerable animals. The remaining 3 sub-committees (Planning; Personnel & Equipment; Ventilation) are scheduled to be activated this spring. In the meantime, efforts are underway to schedule a series of CDC meetings so that the full 23-member group can review sub-committee content, which will then be reviewed by reactivated WGs so that they can supplement the common content with species-specific details.

The Editing & Review Committee met online over several days in February in place of what would normally be a 2-day face-to-face meeting to discuss current WG/CDC status, next steps, and Code content and layout. The team is looking forward to being able to meet in-person soon to begin looking at how all the content coming from multiple sources can be pulled together into a cohesive and user-friendly Code.

Planning is also underway to hold a virtual conference in April for all participants involved in the Transportation Code development process. There are nearly 100 people representing 125+ WG/CDC positions and other supportive roles working at various times to bring this project to fruition. Exclusive to Transport Code participants, the conference will serve to help demonstrate the size and scope of the project and to allow everyone to see fellow WG participants and WG members.

While the goal is to post a draft code for public comment in the summer of 2022, the inability for the CDC and WGs to meet in-person has certainly been challenging. Zoom-fatigue is certainly a reality for several participants. As pandemic-related restrictions begin to lift and people become more comfortable with travelling, it is expected that in-person meetings will convene for CDC meetings and for other groups that have not been able to arrive at consensus on some topics.

November, 2020

The 23-member Code Development Committee (CDC) met for the first time in its entirety in mid-September. Prior to that, the CDC had only met virtually in smaller groups of between 7 and 12 members over a series of 5 meetings comprised of 11 sessions. Of course, due to restrictions linked to the pandemic, the meeting of the full CDC was held in virtual format, and that in and of itself presented several challenges for such a large group. As such, the 2-hour session was used to “kickoff” the process and to introduce CDC members who represent the primary users of the Transportation Code of Practice: livestock and poultry transporters.

The four transporters were given the opportunity to talk about the industry at-large, as well as their own personal backgrounds and experiences in order to provide relevant and important insights into their day-to-day experiences. Amongst other topics, transporters talked about the impact of the myriad of trucking- and welfare-related regulations that need to be balanced, in both typical and post COVID-19 worlds. The session was hosted by Code Manager Jeff Spooner (our resident facilitator-extraordinaire), who posed questions to the transporter panel, and then moderated a Q&A session for all participants.

Three of the five CDC sub-committees have been targeted to complete their work earlier than the other two. The first meeting of the Loading and Unloading sub-committee has been scheduled for late November. Planning for inaugural meetings for the other two sub-committees are currently in the works.

Two orientation sessions for the Intermediary Sites Working Group (WG) were held in October. Work is currently underway to organize an online session at which relevant content from the Scientific Committee report will be presented.

Some species-specific WGs continue work on their sections. A sub-group that is responsible for drafting poultry catching content continues to meet, as does the over-arching Poultry Transportation and Catching WG that is tasked with reviewing content advanced by the sub-group. The Hatchery WG continues to review content drafts, and is expected to hold a virtual meeting in January, 2021. The Mink/Fox/Rabbit WG is tying up loose ends on its section, and is also expected to meet in January. The Bison/Cervid WG has determined that it has gone as far as it can without common content from the CDC, and has decided that it will join other walk-on species WGs in “pause” mode while the CDC and its sub-committees continue their work.

September, 2020

Progress continues on the Livestock and Poultry Transportation Code of Practice. The full 23-member Code Development Committee (CDC) is scheduled to meet in its entirety for the first time in September. Given that the feasibility of holding in-person meetings continues to be out-of-reach, once again, the CDC will meet using an online platform. Prior to this meeting, the CDC had only met in smaller group sizes based on members’ availability over multiple sessions. The September meeting will be used to give the full committee the opportunity to hear about the day-to-day experiences, first-hand knowledge, and insights of the three livestock and one poultry transporter representatives. Following this online meeting, three of the five sub-committees that were recently established are expected to commence work in mid-fall.

In addition, the roster for the Intermediary Sites Working Group (WG) has been populated, and an inaugural online meeting for that group will be scheduled for fall, as well. The meeting will be used to orient the WG members to NFACC, the NFACC Code process, and the amended process that the Transportation Code project is following. It will also provide the opportunity for stakeholders to “meet” each other and to gain a better understanding about their roles and expectations moving forward. The Poultry Catching and Transportation WG, the Hatchery Transport WG, and the Mink/Fox/Rabbit WG continue to fine-tune their sections in the Code. All eight species-specific Working Groups will have the opportunity to review and add to the common Code elements with animal-specific text as the Code Development Committee and its sub-committees populate content.

July, 2020

The goal, after finalizing the 23-member Transportation Code Development Committee (CDC), was to hold a face-to-face meeting in the spring of 2020. As that was not possible, the CDC met over a series of 5 online meeting sessions in late June which, in effect, replaced what would have normally been a day-and-a-half in-person meeting. While not ideal for a first meeting for such a large group, the revised format was successful in that the meeting’s primary goals were achieved.

To address varying degrees of background and Code development experience amongst CDC members, the first 4 sessions focussed on bringing everyone up to a similar level of knowledge of both the generalities and specifics of the Transportation Code development project. The final session was used to draw on the experience and expertise of CDC members to land on a starting point for the Code structure (i.e., table of contents) and to agree on sub-committee topics and rosters. As a reminder, the CDC is responsible for developing content that is common to all types of animals that are covered by the Transportation Code of Practice.

Five sub-committees have been established to review and provide input on various subject-related topics that impact the transportation of all animals covered by the Code.  The sub-committees will be responsible for content that falls in the following categories:

A.            Personnel & Equipment

B.            Loading and Unloading

C.            Pre-Transport Planning

D.            Ventilation

E.            (Understanding Implications of) Fitness for Transport

Each sub-committee has between 5 and 8 members, and 3 of the sub-committees have been targeted to commence work as soon as possible. The start-up of the other 2 sub-committees will be staggered in an effort to manage the workload for the CDC members and the Code team. Sub-committees that are working on topics that will need species-specific Working Group (WG) input have been prioritized to start work immediately, so that WG expertise can be utilized to add animal-specific content as early in the process as possible.

Two online meetings for the entire CDC will be scheduled in the fall, and after that we are looking at early in 2021 as the first opportunity for the group to meet in-person. The CDC will continue to meet every 3 months or so over the course 2021. As with other Codes developed using the NFACC process, sub-committees will convene via online meetings between CDC meetings to draft topic-specific content.

While some WGs continue to draft content for their sections (e.g., Poultry; Hatchery; Mink/Fox/Rabbit) via online meetings, the bulk of the remaining WGs are currently in “pause” mode. It is expected that the those paused WGs will start to meet (online and in-person) starting in the spring of 2021.

The 60-day Public Comment Period (PCP) is targeted to start in June, 2022, after which we expect that the CDC will meet twice to review comments and make amendments to the Code draft. At that time, the CDC may elect to ask species-specific WGs to review and discuss specific comments that are animal-specific in nature.

May, 2020

Like other Codes in development, work on the Livestock and Poultry Transportation Code of Practice is continuing, albeit under conditions that were completely unexpected as recently as a few months ago. Social distancing protocols resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have halted the ability for in-person meetings for the foreseeable future. Ironically, this comes on the heels of recent acknowledgement of the importance of bringing groups together for the first time in a face-to-face environment.

Fortunately, the Sheep/Goat Working Group (WG) was able to squeeze in its first meeting at the end of February in Ottawa, when what appeared to be the biggest concern was the winter weather that ended the meeting early and foiled many travel plans. The Poultry Catching and Transportation WG met over the same two days, and both WGs were able to use the opportunity to select their representatives to the Code Development Committee (CDC).

With those two picks, all eight species-specific WGs are now represented on the CDC, which has now been fully populated. The 23-member CDC also includes livestock and poultry transporters; researchers; processors; and individuals representing animal welfare advocacy and enforcement, livestock markets, veterinarians and the federal government.

Normally, the next step would be to convene the CDC’s inaugural in-person meeting over two days. As that is no longer an option, the Transport Code Management team is currently organizing a series of online meetings that when combined together, will take the place of the in-person meeting. While this is not ideal, the team is also working on developing strategies to facilitate sessions that are productive, inclusive, efficient, and effective. The first CDC “meeting” is scheduled to take place in June.

Two WGs are also in the position of having to migrate to online meeting platforms for their first meetings. The Equine WG had tentatively scheduled its first meeting for May in Calgary; however, with travel on-hold, efforts will soon be underway to reschedule to an online format. The Intermediary Sites WG is nearly fully populated. Once complete, online meetings will be scheduled for summer. This WG will draft content that covers the care of animals at three primary types of sites at which animals are temporarily unloaded, and that are considered to be part of the animal transportation continuum: sales/auction yards; assembly yards; and feed/water/rest stations.

In the meantime, the Poultry Catching and Transport WG, the Hatchery Transport WG, and the Bison/Cervid WG continue to hold online meetings, while the remaining species-specific WGs (Cattle; Pigs; Sheep/Goats; Mink/Fox/Rabbit) have temporarily halted work while they wait for the CDC to draft common content, after which they will reconvene to tease out animal-specific content where deemed appropriate.

February, 2020

Progress continues in the development of the Livestock and Poultry Transportation Code of Practice. Species-Specific Working Groups (WG) are continuing their work under the leadership of Code Managers Jeffrey Spooner, Kate Cooper, and Lucie Verdon. The Pig WG met for its first in-person meeting in November, and both the Cattle and Mink/Fox/Rabbit WGs held their first in-person meetings in Toronto in January. A second 2-day meeting for the Poultry WG is scheduled for February, as is the first meeting of the Sheep/Goats WG.

In November, the transportation Code team organized two webinars (one in English and one in French) for Species-Specific WG members. The webinars were hosted by CFIA to assist WGs with understanding the amended Health of Animals Regulations that govern animal transport. All (90+) Species-Specific WG participants were invited to join the webinars. Many thanks to CFIA for answering the call to host the webinars which resulted in positive feedback from participants.

In November, the Transportation Code director delivered a presentation at the National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council 2019 Forum in Gatineau, QC. She spoke about the many challenges associated with tackling the first off-farm Code that is following the NFACC Code Development Process. As the largest Code undertaken using this process, the Transportation Code will cover animals from 14 national on-farm Codes. The Code will also include the care of animals at intermediary sites, as well as poultry catching, as both are seen as important animal welfare components in the transportation continuum. The Working Group approach that is being utilized for this Code means that there are several groups that are working on similar content simultaneously.  Unlike on-farm Codes of Practice, the Transportation Code will have to incorporate a robust federal regulatory regime that governs the transportation of animals in Canada (Health of Animals Regulations (HAR) Part XII: Transport of Animals). These challenges were discussed by the Transportation Code team at the first meeting of the Editing & Review Committee in November. The meeting triggered a re-think about the structure of the Code as well as the approach that was in place, which, in turn, led to recommendations for moving forward.

Both the rationale and team recommendations were presented to the NFACC board and other stakeholders at the NFACC meeting in December, at which time there was agreement to fine-tune the approach. As a result, there will be a re-focus of energy from drafting species-specific Code content to drafting Code content that is common to all animals covered by the Code. In addition, the overall layout of the Code will be changed in that it will now be sectioned by welfare topic (e.g., driving practices; driver competency; pre-transport planning), as opposed to by specific animals or animal types. Each welfare topic would include HAR requirements, which would then be followed by other requirements and/or recommended practices that cover all animals in the module or Code. Where deemed appropriate, additional content that applies to specific species would follow under sub-headings for each animal under each over-arching welfare topic.

This revised format means that the approach for developing the Code has to be tweaked. Specifically, Code content that covers common elements will need to be drafted sooner than expected. Species-specific WGs will benefit from having the common text/content populated prior to weighing in with their collective species-specific expertise. The Code Development Committee (CDC) has now been tasked with drafting common content. National stakeholder groups have been asked to assist with populating the CDC. In addition, the Code Management team worked with transporters and researchers (who do not have national associations/groups to represent them) to identify CDC members from those sectors. Each species-specific WG has also been asked to select a WG participant to represent their species’ perspectives on the CDC after seats have been filled by the national stakeholder groups, transporters, and researchers. This brings the CDC roster to 23 members. Relatively small sub-committees will be established at the CDC’s first meeting, which is expected to be held in the Spring, and will be used to draft topic-specific content. As a result, there is no longer a need to establish an Overall Code Common Elements WG.

In the meantime, species-specific WGs will continue their work focussing only on subject matter that is unique to their species (e.g., loading densities). Once the WGs have gone as far as their Code Managers and participants feel is plausible, their work will be paused until such time that the common content has been populated. At that point, the species-specific WGs will reconvene to draft additional species-specific content where it is deemed necessary.

While some transitional challenges may be experienced in the near-term, this revised approach is expected to improve the usability of the Code and enable species-specific group members to effectively contribute their animal-specific knowledge and expertise by building on and/or referencing existing over-arching common content.

October 2019

Progress on the Livestock and Poultry Transportation Code of Practice continues at a steady pace. The eighth and final species-specific Working Group (WG) was finalized in September and turned over to Code Manager, Jeffrey Spooner, who has commenced with the early steps of organizing the Equine WG for its first call.

A series of four WG Participant Orientation webinars were conducted in September for new WG participants and those who were unable to attend any of the previous webinars. To date, 11 webinars have been held for more than 90 stakeholder participants to help familiarize them with NFACC, the Code project, and the Livestock and Poultry Transportation Code development process.

The first in-person Poultry Catching and Transportation WG meeting was held over two days in early October in Ottawa. The WG fine-tuned key content to its Code section including Understanding Fitness for Transport and interactions between parties involved in production, catching, and transport.

The first in-person meeting of the Mink/Fox/Rabbit WG has now been scheduled for January, 2020 in Toronto. The Editing and Review Committee will meet for the first time in Ottawa in November just prior to the first in-person meeting of the Pig WG. In addition, the first conference calls of the Hatchery and Bison/Cervid WGs were held in September October respectively, and efforts are underway to schedule the first call of the Sheep/Goats WG.

August 2019 

Progress continues in the update of the livestock and poultry transportation code of practice.  Seven species-specific working groups have been activated, and an eighth will be finalized by the end of August. The Poultry Catching and Transport and the Pig Working Groups (WG) will hold their first in-person meetings in Ottawa this fall, and the Cattle WG will meet face-to-face for its first meeting in Toronto in January. Overseen by its Code Manager Lucie Verdon, the Mink/Fox/Rabbit WG held its first call in July, and again under Lucie’s management, the Hatchery WG will hold its first call in September. Under the management of veteran Code Manager Jeff Spooner, efforts are underway to schedule calls for the Sheep/Goats WG, and the Bison/Cervid WG was recently turned over to Kate Cooper so that it can begin its work.

After the Equine WG has been activated, NFACC will host additional WG Participation Orientation webinars to help familiarize new WG members with NFACC, the Code project, and the Livestock and Poultry Transportation Code development process.

July was a busy month for some scientists who co-authored the Review of Scientific Research on Priority Welfare Issues for the Transportation Code of Practice. Karen Schwean-Lardner and Trever Crowe presented Scientific Committee (SC) report findings on the transportation of poultry to the Poultry WG by webinar.  Similarly, Luigi Faucitano presented findings from the Swine section of the SC Report to the Pig WG, and Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein reported on findings from the report’s Cattle section to the Cattle WG.

Preliminary findings from the top-of-mind survey (open from March 5th to 31st), which provided the opportunity for interested members of the public to contribute their top-of-mind concerns, have been summarized in a report**, and is available on NFACC’s website. The Working Groups and the Code Development Committee will refer back to these important insights as it progresses through the update to this Code of Practice.