In June 2020, Ontario passed Bill 156, becoming the second province in Canada to pass an ag-gag law. Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Ernie Hardeman, said the following in support of his ag-gag bill: “We want everyone to know that animal welfare is a top priority for our government.” Ignoring the political doublespeak of uttering a statement like this while introducing an ag-gag law, this post will examine the claim that the Government of Ontario treats ‘animal welfare as a top priority’ by looking at the conditions of animals in Ontario’s transport system.
In a previous post, we examined Canada’s animal transport system by looking at the conditions of animals that arrived at federal slaughterhouses. This post will look at the conditions of animals arriving at Ontario slaughterhouses. The primary difference between federally inspected and provincially inspected slaughterhouses is that the former can export meat to the rest of Canada or internationally, while the latter must sell meat inside of the province’s borders. Federal slaughterhouses are large and few, while provincial slaughterhouses tend to be smaller and numerous. In both cases, animals are trucked from farms to these facilities and inspected by either provincial inspectors or federal inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, depending on the facility’s license.
(Click here to view an interactive map of all provincially licensed slaughterhouses in Ontario. Click here for more detailed information. For federal facilities, click here to search through all federally registered slaughterhouses.)
Canada’s animal transport laws: state-sanctioned animal cruelty
Canada’s animal transport laws are notorious as being among the worst in the western world. Even with amendments that were passed in early 2020, the length of time that animals can legally spend in transport without food, rest, or water and exposed to extreme temperatures results in tremendous animal suffering.
Every year in Canada, millions of animals die or become so badly injured or emaciated in transport that they have to be killed when they arrive at their destination.
We looked at data from the Government of Ontario for 2019 to see the extent of death and suffering that animals experience in Ontario. When animals arrive at the slaughterhouse, inspectors will mark an animal as condemned if they arrive dead or if they have serious health conditions that make them unfit for human consumption. We included the “euthanized” category as it illustrates that despite surviving the journey, some animals became so badly injured that they had to be killed upon arrival. From this 2010 audit on Ontario transport conditions, the authors state: “An animal that was non-ambulatory (not able to walk off of the truck on its own or with assistance) was euthanized on the truck and thus was combined in the data set with cattle that were dead on arrival since animals from both categories would not be used for human consumption.”
The following tables show the number of animals found dead on arrival, euthanized on arrival, or condemned in Ontario in 2019, sorted by animal and month:
The high number of animals that die on transport trucks shows just how inhumane animal transport is, but it also reveals the horrific health conditions that animals develop on the farm and are left untreated. Animals with these conditions are marked as condemned and subsequently killed. Examples of these conditions can be seen on the following pdf which outlines the pathological conditions for pigs. This information is taken from the Ontario datasets linked to above:
In addition to the tens of thousands of animals found dead on transport trucks, the condemned column is also a useful indicator for evaluating the state of animal welfare in Ontario. It reveals:
- How poorly animals are treated on Ontario farms. The nature and number of diseases reveal that farmed animals lacked any veterinary care and should have either been medically treated or euthanized, but instead were left to suffer with these painful conditions and loaded onto transport trucks only to be condemned and killed.
- The horrific conditions of transport trucks. Some of the conditions would have been developed on the trucks themselves and they reveal how tortuous these journeys are for animals, in many cases requiring euthanization.
- The extreme suffering animals experience. Many of the conditions that animals are condemned for are extremely painful and show the extent of neglect and abuse that they experience in the animal agriculture system before they even get loaded onto transport trucks.
“We want everyone to know that animal welfare is a top priority for our government”
In 2019, nearly 23 million animals arrived at Ontario slaughterhouses in such terrible health that they were deemed unfit for human consumption; tens of millions of animals suffered their entire lives in extreme confinement on Ontario farms only to be killed and have their bodies discarded, burned, or buried. 123 animals had to be euthanized because they were too injured from the cruel journey to the slaughterhouse that they couldn’t even walk off the truck.
Over 40,000 animals didn’t survive the journey.
That’s an average of roughly 110 animals that die every single day in Ontario on transport trucks, and that doesn’t include animals that are transported to federal slaughterhouses in Ontario. This widespread animal cruelty happens every day under the government’s watch and no one is held accountable.
Canadians were outraged in June when 38 puppies died on a flight from Ukraine to Toronto. It made international headlines: ‘Horror scene’ in Canada after 38 dead puppies found on plane. But for the tens of thousands of animals that die in transport in Ontario, or the millions of animals across Canada that die in transport every year: silence. Silence from the government, silence from the media. The suffering felt by each individual animal is the same, whether they’re a puppy, calf, or lamb. But the scale of suffering of Ontario’s farmed animals is unmatched by orders of magnitude.
It is abundantly clear that Ernie Hardeman’s claim that “animal welfare is a top priority for our government” is a lie. On the day he uttered those words, over 100 animals died horrific deaths on transport trucks. His government has now passed an ag-gag law that penalizes Ontario citizens from even coming close to transport trucks to document the conditions of farmed animals arriving at slaughterhouses. Animal welfare is not a top priority for the Ontario government. With their recent ag-gag law, the government has made it clear that they have prioritized the concealment of animal suffering over addressing serious animal welfare concerns like Ontario’s broken animal transport system.
1 dead animal in transport is horrific. 38 dead animals is a “horror scene”. 40,370 dead animals is animal agriculture.
Header image: Chickens in a transport truck on their way to slaughter. Toronto 2015. Photo Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals