Steve Thiessen is a small cattle farmer near Coombs who says he would benefit from being able to have his animals slaughtered at his farm instead of going to the nearest abattoir an hour away.
“Sometimes it’s short notice and we’re not able to get animals booked in because the abattoirs are so full,” said Thiessen.
He says sometimes you have to book a date at the slaughterhouse before your animals are even born.
“You’ve got to get in or that could be your profit margin on a small farm where you have just a few animals,” he added. “Not getting in at the right time when they’re the right weight can be the difference between making a dollar and losing many dollars.”
Farmers used to be able to do it themselves but then mad cow disease hit in 2003 and the regulations changed in 2004.
They’ve been fighting it ever since and now with food security concerns around the Covid-19 crisis there’s a spotlight on the food supply chain. Farmers say there’s no good health reason why it can’t be done on-site.
“Regulate it so it can be done safely. We find that many of the bugs we’re afraid of like E. coli are in these plants dealing with hundreds and thousands of animals but not at a small farm like this,” said Thiessen.
There are no statistics to show anyone got sick or died from on-site slaughtering,” said Coombs Farm Institute President Janet Thony. “But that’s the line that’s trotted out. Health and Safety.”
They also say going to a slaughterhouse puts unnecessary stress on the animals.
“The last day of their life they’re going to get on a trailer for the first time in their life, drive, go to a slaughterhouse where they smell stress, blood, it’s very stressful for the animal,” added Thiessen.
“You can set up your operations at your farm so that animal transitions from alive to not alive without even being aware that it happened,” said Thony.
The Ministry of Agriculture says it is reviewing the province’s rural slaughter capacity but there is no indication when or if any changes will be made.
“The review is analyzing results from several recent consultations to provide a comprehensive report on rural slaughter capacity,” reads a statement from the Ministry of Agriculture. “Most recently, the Ministry undertook a consultation with local governments about Class D licensing from June-September 2019. The Ministry looks forward to completing the review of the information it received and the steps that follow.”
It says once the review is finished, a “What We Heard” document will be made available to the public.