by SUSAN MANN
The comments Ontario Pork made to the National Farm Animal Care Council in response to the draft pig handling and care code released earlier this year are to remain out of the public realm, at least for now.
Similarly, the Canadian Pork Council’s submission is also being kept under wraps as is an economic impact study the pork council did on the financial implications of the proposed code. But one Oxford County pork farmer would like to know the financial implications outlined by the council.
Jasper Vanderbas, who has a 150-sow farrow-to-finish operation, says the Oxford county pork producers group asked last spring for the economic impact numbers to be released but the council declined to supply them.
“I think they are making a mistake because we need to know that,” he says. “We also need to use those figures as lobbying material for getting some of the available Growing Forward funds for pork producers.”
Canadian Pork Council spokesman Gary Stordy says the economic impact of measures called for in the draft code, such as limiting the use of gestation stalls, was provided to the council’s board for its decision-making. Asked if Better Farming could get a copy of that economic analysis, Stordy said no. “It’s part of the information that was provided to the board for their position. It’s not publicly available.”
The economic impact analysis was a document that was prepared internally for the pork council’s board to consider, he notes. “It was never the intent to have it publicly” available.
Stordy says the pork council’s submission to the farm animal care council is also not available yet “because the process (of developing the code) is still ongoing.”
The draft Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs was released earlier this year. It includes measures to limit farmers’ use of gestation stalls by July 2024, touches on the need for pain control for pigs being castrated and the need to provide animals with environmental enrichment. It was developed by a 17-person committee representing pork industry officials, researchers and animal welfare agencies.
After releasing the draft, the Farm Animal Care Council asked for public comments. There was a huge response by the time the public comment period closed on Aug. 3: more than 4,700 submissions representing 32,340 individual comments. Submissions came from Canada, the United States and other countries. The committee is now reviewing the comments. The finalized code is to be released later this year or in 2014.
The pig code development committee met for two days in late August to review the submissions. “The diversity of views, complexity of the issues and sheer volume of comments made finishing the code within a two-day meeting challenging,” a Council news release says. The committee is engaging in “rigorous dialogue to ensure the range of views is being given fair consideration.” But more time is needed for deliberations and a November meeting is planned.
Ontario Pork communications and consumer marketing division manager Mary Jane Quinn says their board isn’t publicly releasing its submission. “We want the (code) development committee to do its thing. We don’t want any of our comments to detract from what they’re doing. We just don’t want it published at this time.”
Quinn says after obtaining input from farmers before Ontario Pork drafted its submission, the organization outlined a number of areas of concern, including sow housing and animal husbandry practices like those to do with castration. “Those were the areas we made the comments” about, she says.
Quinn declined to be specific on what the board said regarding animal husbandry practices proposed in the draft code.
Quinn says Ontario Pork’s submission definitely won’t be released before the final code is out. She says the board hasn’t yet discussed if it will release the submission after the final code has been made public. Similarly, Stordy says it isn’t clear if the Pork Council’s submission will ever be made public.
Jackie Wepruk, general manager and project coordinator for the farm animal care council, says they’re not releasing anyone’s submission. “We’ve not done that in the past for other public comment periods so we’re not doing that” now. But groups that made submissions are free to publicly release their comments if they want.
“If they choose to provide that information to you, I think that’s in their court to make that decision,” she notes.
Vanderbas says the impact of the code on farmers to switch to loose housing from using gestation stalls will be fairly severe with some estimates putting it at $500 per sow for the change. Ontario’s sow herd stands at about 300,000, he says, so the impact here would be $150 million.
Vanderbas says he wants to know what Ontario Pork said to the Farm Animal Care Council in response to the draft code.
Amy Cronin, Ontario Pork chair, couldn’t be reached for comment. BF