Canadian farm animal welfare

Gestation housing

You are working in the office of the provincial Minister of Agriculture, and have learned that the opposition will be demanding to know whether the Minister is going to ban gestation stalls for sows in the province. The Minister, who has never seen a pig farm, needs basic briefing notes on the subject. Using material from the class, readings and other sources, write 2-3 pages covering:
a) What are gestation stalls (also called gestation crates)? How many months does a sow typically stay in a gestation stall per pregnancy and per year?
b) Give at least four production reasons for keeping sows separate during pregnancy.
c) Is it legal to keep sows in gestation stalls in England? in France? in the United States? and in Canada?
d) The Minister has heard that something called Electronic Sow Feeding (ESF) is an alternative to gestation stalls. Describe this system and how it functions.
e) What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of gestation stalls versus ESF, with respect to (1) control of aggression, (2) control of food intake, (3) freedom of movement, and (4) economics?

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Marking: 10 marks to be calculated as a proportion of the following 15:
a) 2 marks: 1 for a good description and 1 for both numbers correct; b) 2 marks for an accurate list of 4 or more reasons; c) 4 marks; d) 3 marks for a good description of ESF and how it functions; e) 4 marks for a good comparison of the systems covering the four topics noted

2. You are a chicken!

You have just been informed that you will be transformed into a chicken immediately after finishing this midterm (but please finish the mid-term anyway). Although you will lament the loss of your old life, you are comforted by the knowledge that you will have a choice between being 1) a layer hen in a typical North American cage system, or 2) a broiler chicken in a typical North American broiler operation. Before you make this decision, however, you want to make sure you fully understand the animal welfare concerns that you might encounter as a typical chicken in one of these systems. Using material from class, readings, journal articles and other reliable sources, write 2-3 pages addressing the following:
a) Provide a brief (1-2 paragraphs) description of a bird’s life in each system including (1) the physical environment, (2) the social environment, and (3) how long they are there.
b) If we think of animal welfare as involving (1) basic health, (2) freedom from unpleasant states such as pain, fear and frustration, and (3) being able to express natural behaviour, what are the main welfare concerns that you might encounter in each system? (at least 3 for each system)
c) What are the main welfare benefits that you might enjoy in each system? (at least 2 in each system)
d) Choose which system to be in. What two recommendations would you make to improve the production system you chose and why?

Marking: 10 marks to be calculated as a proportion of the following 20: a) 3 marks for each system = 6; b) 3 marks for each system = 6; c) 2 marks for each system = 4; d) 2 marks for each good recommendation = 4

3. Dairy production

You are a reporter for a North American dairy newspaper. You have been assigned to prepare an article (2-3 pages) on trends in dairy cattle production and housing in North America and Europe and how these trends affect the care of dairy cattle. Use material covered in class, the readings or other reliable information.
a) Report trends over time (by comparing recent figures with earlier figures from at least 10 years ago) for the following:
• The number of dairy farms in Canada
• The total number of milk-producing cows in Canada
• The average individual milk production (kg per day) by Canadian Holsteins
b) What is the average age of culling of Holsteins in North America (in years or number of lactations), and what are the 2-3 most common reasons for culling?
c) How does average herd size (number of cows per farm) in Canada compare to the USA, Norway and Denmark?
d) What are the two predominant housing systems currently used in Canada and do you expect a change from one system to another over the next decade?
e) Describe two advantages and two disadvantages with respect to the care of dairy cattle for each of these two housing systems.

Marking: 10 marks to be calculated proportionally from the following 15: a) 3 marks for the 3 points; b) 2 marks; c) 3 marks; d) 3 marks; e) 4 marks.

4. Organic and humane labelling

Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) is a USA-based organization that inspects farms (at the request of the farmer) to verify whether they meet the HFAC animal welfare standards. Farms that pass an audit can sell products with a distinctive label so that consumers can support these producers. An organic dairy farmer in southern British Columbia, whose farm is Certified Organic by the COABC (Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia), has approached HFAC and wants to receive their certification. She argues that because her farm has already been inspected and certified as organic, it must be high-welfare, so she should be eligible for HFAC certification automatically, without further inspection. The HFAC are confident in the quality of the organic inspectors, but want to know whether the organic standards truly cover the HFAC requirements. They hire you as a consultant who is knowledgeable about agricultural standards to write a report covering the following.
a) For each of the following six criteria, describe how the HFAC and organic standards compare:
1. Amount of floor space per adult cow when they are kept indoors
2. Requirements for giving colostrum to calves in the first 12 hours
3. Maximum level of severe lameness in the herd
4. Whether tail-docking is permitted.
5. Maximum allowable level of ammonia in the air when cows have to be kept indoors for a period of time.
6. Rules related to tethering of lactating cows.
b) Regarding these six criteria, which specific details (if any) would the HFAC need to check to be sure that the farm meets HFAC standards?
c) Regarding the standards in general (not just the six criteria listed) what are the key differences between the two standards in their approach and philosophy?
Here are websites for the organizations:
For organic standards, go to, under ‘Frequent Links’ click ‘Standards’ and then open – CAN/CGSB 32.310 General Principles and Management Standards.
For HFAC, go to, under the ‘Farmers, Ranchers & Retailers’ tab, click on ‘Certified Humane Standards’ and open Dairy Cows.

Marking: a) 6 marks for points 1-6; b) 2 marks; c) 2 marks for perceptive comments.

5. Abolishing animal use in food production

An organization called “End Animal Slavery Everywhere” (EASE) has proposed that the United Nations ban all use of animals in food production including animals used for meat, milk, eggs and agricultural labour. The FAO contracts you to outline at least five issues that should be explored about how such a policy might affect people. Drawing on material from class, your own reading and FAO publications, identify at least five issues that would cover a range of important and relevant topics. For each issue you identify, write a short paragraph (roughly a half page, double-spaced) that includes at least one numerical fact and cites the source of the number. At the end of the answer, list the references in a standard scholarly format. The issues can be potential harms or potential benefits of banning the use of animals.

Feel free to raise more than five questions; the mark will be based on the best five. As an example to get you started, research the use of animals for cultivating fields, give some numerical data (with a suitable reference) on how widespread this practice is, and ask how banning this use of animals would affect food production among people who do not have access to tractors.

Marking: 10 marks based on 2 marks for each of 5 sensible questions with a relevant numerical fact and an appropriate reference.

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