African Swine Fever

CFIA Abdicates Responsibility Over African Swine Fever to Industry

Animal Protection Party of Canada Uncategorized 10 Comments

Initially confined to small farm holdings in Africa when first discovered in the early 1900s, the deadly pig disease African Swine Fever (ASF) began its spread across the world in 2018 when it hit China, which until the outbreak reared around half the world’s pigs.

ASF is one of the most severe viral diseases of pigs. It has now reached multiple countries in Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific. The virus has a devastating effect on pigs. It causes terrible suffering and kills over 95% of those infected. Clinically the disease is characterized by high fever, bleeding of internal organs, weakness and difficulty standing, vomiting and diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. Yet, when ASF is talked about, it’s generally spoken of in terms of its monetary impact and threat to trade rather that its horrific impact on animals.

Although ASF has not yet been found in Canada or the U.S., most believe it’s just a matter of time. In Canada, ASF is a reportable disease under the Health of Animals Act, which means that all suspected cases must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

The federal government has been developing a program to prevent and manage ASF for some time. Last week, it finally presented its proposed program in a webinar hosted not just by the CFIA but also the Canadian Pork Council. Titled “Canada’s National Compartmentalization Program (NCP) for African Swine Fever”, the opening slide presented the names of the two speakers: Dr. Egan Brockhoff of the Canadian Pork Council (CPC) and Dr. Penny Greenwood of the CFIA, but featured just the CPC logo. The absence of the CFIA logo proved representative of the program itself which was described by the presenters as a “a private/public partnership established and managed by the private sector”. You read that correctly. Instead of taking the lead and being the regulator that it is supposed to be, the CFIA is putting the pig industry itself in charge of not only developing the program but also managing and enforcing it.

According to Dr. Brockhoff of the CPC the program is “based on a trust-based relationship with the federal veterinary authority (ie. the CFIA)” and that’s “what really excites us”. All elements of the program – from the establishment of the mortality thresholds that must be reached before testing occurs to the decisions on how to handle farms in critical non-compliance – will be developed and enforced by the CPC.

Viewers of the webinar were reassured that there will be third party auditors, but they won’t be from the CFIA either. Instead, they will be hired and overseen by the CPC. Oh, and the entire program is voluntary.

According to Dr. Greenwood, the CFIA will be reviewing the program to ensure it meets national standards, but only because it has to. When asked by a viewer during the question-and-answer period if a program managed and enforced by industry would even be recognized by other countries, Dr. Greenwood responded that CFIA’s verification of the program was in fact a requirement of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to meet international trade standards.

Given Canada’s status as a major exporter of pork (Canada is the world’s 3rd largest exporter of pork and live pigs), the industry has a vested interest in trying to keep ASF out. But that doesn’t mean it should be given powers that normally reside with a federal enforcement body, especially where a reportable disease that causes such immense animal suffering is involved.

The industrial production of meat with its intensive confinement of immunologically-compromised, nearly genetically identical animals into filthy, dark sheds created the conditions necessary to develop and spread diseases like ASF. Animals live in a continued state of stress from over-crowding, intensive confinement, rough handling and painful practices. The industry responsible for these conditions should not be the one to police them. The CFIA must take responsibility and fulfill its mandate to safeguard animal health.

The proposed National Compartmentalization Program is open for public comment until June 16, 2022. One of the “key themes for discussion” is “the roles and responsibilities outlined in the framework”. If you would like to remind the CFIA of its role and responsibility to protect animals as an enforcement agency, please submit your comments using the online form found here.

Animal Protection Party of Canada

Comments 10

  1. Very important information! Many thanks! For the pork industry to get equal time, or actually a more prominent role to the CFIA on this subject, is clearly wrong! There may be moments for public private partnerships but this is not one of them! Food safety and animal welfare should not be in the hands of the industry!

  2. How ironic that fear of ASF is used as a rationale for removing so-called Wild Boars (in fact usually a hybrid between Wild Boars and domestic pigs, all the same species) from the landscape here in Ontario. The Wild Boars got here via hunting interests (and perhaps to a lesser degree private zoos). There is no indication of them carrying ASF, or how removing them will prevent ASF. Meanwhile, the industry responsible for conditions most likely to spread infectious disease is expected to self regulate? That has a long history of not working.

  3. While Canada is reported to have some of the worst animal rights standards it yet again plunges further into the mire of a hear so evil, see no evil , cesspool of blatant disregard for the lives of sentient animals .

  4. CFIA, your website states that your agency is “dedicated to the safeguarding of food, ANIMALS and plants…” How is abdicating responsibility of African swine fever to industry safeguarding animals?? The industry responsible for these conditions should not be the one to police them!

  5. It is already appalling that animal ag is allowed to set its own “standards of practice”, “regulate” itself and keep what is behind closed doors hidden from the public by pressuring government to pass ag-gag laws. Now the “pork” industry wants to take on the duties that fall under the mandate of the CFIA. Footage obtained by activists already confirm that this industry favors profits over the well-being of animals. What is required is more transparency, not less. Covid is essentially a “beginner’s pandemic” with a mortality rate of less than 5%. Besides the horrific suffering African Swine Fever causes the pigs themselves, could you imagine, with its 95% mortality rate, if it made the jump over to humans? Animal agriculture is one of the most destructive forces on the planet and it is time to wind it down, not enable it, and transition to a compassionate, efficient, sustainable and healthy plant-based food system

  6. I really do not think that the fox should protect the hen house. As long as there is money involved it is pretty hard to trust those who have something in both hands – all they are going to care about is what is in it for them. Why have they not found a cure for this so the pigs do not have to suffer even though they will be slaughtered at some time. A completely different body should be overseeing this but who the hell is listening?

  7. The industrial production of meat with its intensive confinement of immunologically-compromised, nearly genetically identical animals into filthy, dark sheds created the conditions necessary to develop and spread diseases like ASF. Animals live in a continued state of stress from over-crowding, intensive confinement, rough handling and painful practices. The industry responsible for these conditions should NOT be the one to police them. The CFIA must take responsibility and fulfill its mandate to safeguard animal health. What is this world coming to…….humans are meant to oversee the animal kingdom with kindness and respect. What a mess we have made of things TIME TO FIX THIS!!!!!

  8. The CFIA should not abdicate it’s responsibility for the health of these pigs. Industry, have no compassion for animals suffering, all they ever care about is the money to be made!

  9. Animal welfare must not be controlled by the very industry that causes undeniable suffering to all animals in their care.
    Come on Canada its time to become a leader in animal advocacy.

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