[Série Bien-être animal] Are farm animals well protected by law?

There are millions of farm animals in Quebec. They surround us and feed us, but we know very little about their living conditions. After gathering testimony from producers, animal rights activists and experts, Position It invites you to discover the life cycle of Quebec’s main farm animals, from birth to slaughterhouse, as well as the animal welfare concerns that arise. Note that all practices mentioned are permitted by the codes of practice governing animal husbandry in Canada. Today: legal framework.

The Animal Welfare and Safety Act, passed by Quebec in 2015, prohibits anyone from harming or causing suffering to an animal. But these provisions of the law do not apply as long as the state’s tens of millions of farm animals are treated under “generally recognized rules.” An exception that, according to some, leaves open the way to the “natural cruelty” of the intensive farming method. But it allows for others to feed the population and offer the increased protection considered normal for domestic animals.

For mee Alain Roy, a professor of animal rights at the University of Montreal, said the law “doesn’t offer protection to the animal for what it really is, but instead protects it according to the purpose we give it,” that is, whether it was intended for consumption or to be a pet. “As long as it’s standardized it is done within the framework of the process, we do not consider the sufferings,” he said.

A person who has a pig as a pet can be prosecuted if he cuts off its tail. But producers who tie pig tails are acting within the law because it is a common and accepted practice in the pork industry.

The distinction between domestic animals and farm animals generally does not concern DD Caroline Kilsdonk, veterinarian specializing in bioethics. “Personally, I think that it is normal that we have higher requirements for pets. On the other hand, we need to improve certain practices [dans l’élevage des] farm animals? Yes. »

Practice codes

The “generally accepted practices” referred to in the Act are set out in codes of practice developed by the National Farm Animal Welfare Council, a Canadian organization. These codes for each animal species are developed by committees of producers, processors, transporters, veterinarians, government officials and animal rights advocates. Representatives of the livestock industry generally occupy more than half of the seats.

“This means that it is the industry that determines what is standard practice, and therefore what is legal and not legal,” said M.e Sophie Gaillard, Acting Executive Director of the Montreal SPCA. He believes that “self-regulation” is unacceptable in other sectors. “We would never leave it up to the oil industry to decide what constitutes excessive pollution. It would be an abdication of the government’s obligations, but we do it for livestock in Quebec. »

A review prepared by Jamie Dallaire, a professor specializing in animal behavior and welfare at Laval University’s Department of Animal Sciences, who was already involved as an expert in the code-switching process. He believes that this method has certain advantages, even if the opinion of producers is more in the balance than in Europe, where politicians and experts are at the center of the decision-making process.

“Sometimes as researchers, we come up with ideas that we propose and want to include in the codes, but we, as producers, are not connected to the reality on the ground,” he says, emphasizing that the committee’s decisions are made. not by majority but by consensus. “So everyone puts a little water in their wine at the end of the day. »

Not established by law

Nothing in the Act compels producers to comply with codes of practice governing animal husbandry. However, few producer associations make it mandatory for their members to adhere to practical rules.

For now, the Legault government has no intention of enshrining such an obligation into Quebec law. Emmanuelle Ducharme, press attache to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said in response to a question about André Lamontagne’s press attaché that the Animal Welfare and Safety Act, which recognizes that animals are sentient beings with biological imperatives, was previously considered real property. – still “relatively new”.

“All companies involved in the trade or breeding of animals are responsible for legal means and consequences, but also have a moral and social obligation to operate in an ethical manner,” he replied. Be forced. Minister Lamontagne during the meeting of the Council of Ministers in Quebec on Wednesday Be forced “There is a lot of work to be done [concernant] law enforcement agencies” and “seven years [depuis l’entrée en vigueur de la Loi]it may seem like a lot, but it’s not that much.”

However, he added that in his view there is no “double standard” between the treatment of pets and farm animals.


For several years now, the issue of animal welfare has raised the awareness of an increasingly large part of the population. It’s certainly a societal concern that affects industry practices, believes vet Caroline Kilsdonk. “Manufacturers are sensitive to what consumers say. But are changes happening at the pace consumers want? Certainly not. »

Thus, consumers have a lever, but also a responsibility, emphasizes Sophie Gaillard. “Every day we make consumer choices that affect animals,” he says. Therefore, there is reason to ask whether consumers should agree to pay more for their meat within their means to ensure better animal welfare.

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