by GEOFF DALE
The Animal Health Act 2009 passed through third reading into law at Queen’s Park this week with early indicators suggesting industry watchers are generally pleased with the legislation.
In a Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs news release, Gord Coukell, chair of Ontario Livestock and Poultry Council says the new Act “is an essential component to enable industry and government to work together on animal health as it relates to biosecurity and emergency preparedness initiatives.”
Ontario Federation of Agriculture Betty Jean Crews says the legislation was passed after a wide range of industry representatives contributed feedback. The Federation consulted its commodity members before making its submission to the government, she adds.
“We’re particularly pleased with the issue of hazards,” she says. “The good thing is the Act says hazards have exclusions so it is recognized that what may be a hazard to a pet is not necessarily a hazard to a farm animal.”
Crews says the Federation is also pleased veterinarians consulted have experience with farm animals and the Act sets up advisory committees which include farm representatives. “(Federation) staff has not gone over this with a fine tooth yet. On first review I can’t see any problems but I can’t say for sure until we do further study.”
Oxford MPP and Tory agriculture critic Ernie Hardeman was less than enthusiastic in his appraisal of the Act, saying the government used its closure motion to force the legislation through the house.
“While everyone supports the goals of animal health and food safety, the bill that the McGuinty government passed doesn’t accomplish this goal,” Hardeman states in a news release.
He cites the following problems:
• Compensation is not mandatory – even for direct costs, such as destroying animals.
• Many circumstances in which warrants aren’t required to enter private property, including for bureaucratic inspections, lead to major concerns about biosecurity.
• It allows people implementing orders, such as veterinarians, to use reasonable force, creating potentially dangerous situations.
• The traceability system farmers and agricultural organizations asked for is largely missing from the Act.
• It creates significant red tape and additional costs for farmers.
In the provincial government news release Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky states the legislation “establishes a framework that will protect our animals and make our agri-food sector more competitive.” BF