MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — Maple Leaf Foods has launched a formal Animal Care Commitment that articulates the principles, goals and actions the company is taking to become a leader in animal care, the company noted.
“As the largest meat protein company in Canada, we hold ourselves to a high standard of animal care,” said Michael McCain, Maple Leaf Foods president and CEO. “This requires building a strong culture of animal well-being, advancing continuous improvement within Maple Leaf and across the industry, and holding ourselves accountable for performance and progress. We will provide the necessary organizational focus and resources, with a steadfast commitment to advancing the humane and science-based treatment of animals.”
Maple Leaf Foods will enhance animal wellness practices in a manner consistent with the Five Freedoms, the most widely accepted global standard for responsible animal care, the company noted. They include: freedom from hunger or thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury or disease; freedom to express normal behaviors; and freedom from fear and distress.
The company adds that these will be advanced through the following four pillars of its Animal Care program:
- Culture: Advancing a culture of animal care through communications, education and training; robust policies and well-defined Standard Operating Procedures; and providing positive reinforcement and timely consequences for violations.
- Accountability: Regular reporting of performance, issues and progress against goals to a Committee of the board, senior leadership and across facilities; and conducting frequent, rigorous internal and independent audits.
- Advancement: Advancing best practices and technologies based on sound science; establishing an independent council of experts; and supporting research and advocating for improvements that raise standards across the industry.
- Communications: Providing clear, fact-based communication of goals, performance and progress, and seeking to build open and constructive relationships with all stakeholders.
Maple Leaf also noted that it will advance these commitments through action, including the following initiatives, which will be further expanded through completion of the company’s Animal Care Strategy:
- Develop a three-year Animal Care Strategy, identifying goals and initiatives that advance the Five Freedoms across our supply chain including husbandry, environmental enrichment (e.g. space, lighting, air quality), pain mitigation, euthanasia, transportation and governance.
- Transition all sows under our management to loose housing; converting a minimum of 37,000 sows by 2017, and accelerating conversion of remaining sows under management.
- Require all of our pork and poultry operations to undergo an annual independent audit by company- approved auditors, and expediently correct any deficiencies.
- Seek to further enhance current approaches to pain management and potential alternatives to procedures such as surgical castration and tail docking.
- Continue to reduce or eliminate antibiotic use across our supply chain, while recognizing the importance of providing the necessary medication to sick or injured animals.
- Implement remote video auditing in our production and processing facilities, commencing with three plants in 2015. Utilize detailed reports produced to advance training and operating practices, and respond swiftly to any animal welfare incident.
- Implement scientifically advanced and humane euthanasia, including controlled atmosphere stunning, in all our fresh poultry facilities as a core element of our fresh poultry strategy.
- Advocate strongly for enhancements to on-farm poultry audits, including increased transparency and comprehensive annual independent audits.
- Install CO2 stunning at its Brandon pork processing facility, and retrofit barn area to enhance animal care and humane euthanasia.
- Advocate for modernization of federal Animal Transportation regulations and other regulatory reforms that raise standards, including consistently incorporating by reference industry codes of practice into provincial legislation.
- Commit to transparency in our communications, including reporting on our goals, progress and performance.
More information can be obtained at www.mapleleafsustainability.ca.