Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Clarence Nywening, CFFO President
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) withdrew its commitment to enforce animal welfare legislation on March 31. This leaves Ontario without a supervising body to oversee law enforcement in situations that involve animal welfare, including farm animals.
Most farmers today do an excellent job of caring for their animals, providing optimal feed and nutrients, as well as safe and comfortable housing. Farmers know that their animals need the best in order to be the most productive.
But we need to be honest and recognize that all sectors have some who fall short of what is expected. It is prudent for the farming industry to have appropriate protocols to deal with such situations. Almost all the animal commodity boards in Ontario have animal care standards that farmers are required to meet, but it would be inappropriate for them to enforce legislation.
OSPCA’s announcement leaves us with a temporary void, though stopgap measures are being worked out. During this transition period, local police services will be the lead in all large animal complaints with the assistance of OMAFRA, commodity leaders and possibly local veterinarians. Farm groups, such as Beef Farmers of Ontario, are working to inform members of these changes.
This transition period gives us the opportunity to bring in new a system that will satisfy members of the public who are concerned about animal welfare.
The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO) has been working alongside government and other organizations and commodity boards to recommend new approaches to issues of animal welfare enforcement on Ontario farms. We feel that a new body needs to be created to administer this task and uphold the law. CFFO believes that an independent investigative body (rather than commodity groups, for example) will improve public trust for our industry.
If created, it would be crucial that trained officers working for this investigative body be informed about normal farming activities and practices, as well as biosecurity requirements on farm facilities. Ideally, they would also have a good understanding of animal husbandry and animal care procedures, as well as training in farmer mental health first aid. With this in mind, the CFFO encourages government to re-invest the money that formerly went to the OSPCA into the training of a special group of officers to take on this important task.
It is prudent that we as farmers be active in the current conversation about changes to Ontario’s animal welfare enforcement. To continue our good relationship with the public, we need to be transparent about what happens on our farms and to take responsibility for our actions. We can be proud of the great care that farmers provide for our animals, remembering that it is a privilege that God has given us.