BC SPCA's key issues for the Bison Code of Practice
Did you know that bison are social animals? Calves form strong bonds and stay with their mothers, the family leader, for up to 12 months. They are great at digesting grasses that are native to Canada. Bison coats are so insulated that snow doesn't melt on their backs! They are still quite wild, so bison need tasty food and frequent interactions to become used to people.
1.1 and 1.3 Maximum stocking densities should be outlined.
1.3 and 2.1 Add a requirement based on the scientific report: High concentrate grain finishing diets which result in an outcome of ruminal acidosis are not used.
1.5 Incorporate statements from the pre-amble as requirements: Take steps to assist bison who are not coping with extreme or non-traditional weather conditions. Provide shade areas suitable for the whole group to take cover during times of extreme heat. Avoid handling bison on hot days to avoid stimulating heat stress.
1.6 and 1.7 All recommendations should be requirements.
2.1 Recommendations a and b should be requirements.
2.2 Add a requirement that water be tested annually. Make the recommended best practices a-f requirements.
3.1 Require bison farmers to have a veterinary client patient relationship (VCPR) with a licensed, practicing veterinarian. Also add requirements: The herd should be monitored and assessed for health and well-being at least once daily, understanding that direct physical contact is not always necessary or required as it may cause undue stress. Sick and injured bison must be treated or euthanized without delay.More frequent monitoring of bison is necessary during calving and post-weaning periods, and when multiple stressors occur simultaneously (e.g., weaning, transportation, commingling, etc.).
4.1 and 5.1 Add a requirement based on the scientific report: Personnel habituate cattle to handling through operant conditioning using food-based rewards.
4.4 Make the recommended best practices a-c in section 4.4 requirements.
4.6 Add a requirement based on the scientific report: Permit calves to self-wean (around 12 months of age).
5.1 Add a requirement: Allow cows and calves under 12 months of age to remain in close proximity during moving and handling.
Add a requirement based on a statement in section 5.2: use the minimum of everything required to process bison, including people, movement, sound and prods.
5.4 Make the recommended best practices a-l requirements.
5.6 Make the recommended best practices a and b requirements.
6.1, 6.2, 6.3 Make the recommended best practices in all of section 6, requirements.
More than 100 million farm animals are raised each year in British Columbia and more than 650 million in Canada. The BC SPCA is working to improve the lives of these animals by advocating for higher standards in Canada's Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals.
The Codes outline minimum requirements and recommended best practice and serve as reference documents for animal cruelty laws, setting out generally accepted practices of animal management. They also form the foundation of on-farm animal welfare assurance programs operated by some farming associations and are used widely as an educational tool.
Since 2009, the BC SPCA has successfully advocated for higher standards for animals through new Codes of Practice for:
Cows raised for dairy products, including a prohibition on tail docking and a requirement for pain relief to be used when dehorning or castrating cattle.
Cows raised for beef, including new pain relief requirements when dehorning or castrating older cattle.
Pigs, including a phase-out of confining stalls for pregnant pigs and new requirements for pain relief during castration and tail docking.
Horses and other Equines, including new requirements for exercise, pain control during castration and a prohibition on cosmetic tail mutilations.
Sheep, incuding new requirements for pain relief during castration and tail docking.
Similar to the Codes of Practice, the Canadian Organic Standards lay out national expectations for certified organic farmers in Canada, as arrived at by consensus between farmers, veterinarians, scientists, government agencies, and special interest groups like the BC SPCA.
The organic standards outline minimum animal welfare expectations for certified organic producers, occasionally citing the Codes of Practice where minimum requirements for farm animal care overlap. In November 2015, the most recently revised Canadian Organic Standards were published. This concluded a two-year revision process, with the next one scheduled to occur in five year's time.
Some of the most notable animal welfare improvements in the 2015 revised Standard include:
A ban on the use of tie stalls for dairy cattle in newly built or renovated dairy cattle barns
Requirement that poultry be fed at least once daily rather than every other day
Requirement for annual water testing to ensure safe drinking water supplies for farm animals
Updated requirements for range access for poultry to ensure birds are able to access the outdoors when desired (range access is mandatory for organic poultry)
Provision of individual burrows or nests in which pregnant rabbits may give birth
More thorough on-farm documentation of animal welfare issues with related corrective action plans should such issues arise
The public will have an opportunity to comment on every Code and Organic Standard before they are finalized. To ensure you do not miss out on your opportunity, sign up for our Anim@ls or FarmSense e-newsletters.
The BC SPCA Monty Fund for Community Education and Outreach provides support for prevention of cruelty to animals through education, awareness, and advocacy programs. Your gift can help can help improve the lives of millions of farm, wild and companion animals. Please donate today.