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Guidelines for Preventive Control Plan for animal welfare for the slaughter of food animals

Although the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on January 15, 2019, certain requirements may apply in 2020 and 2021 based on food commodity, type of activity and business size. For more information, refer to the SFCR timelines.

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Introduction

Complete measures to mitigate animal welfare risks for avoidable suffering during slaughter activities include the preventive measures of a well written Preventive Control Plan (PCP) for animal welfare during slaughter. This written PCP always will include the monitoring procedures, corrective action procedures to control recurring deviations, verification procedures, objective performance criteria and the procedures for a self-audit (unless a third- party audit is done instead) to check that the preventive measures are implemented and effective as intended and recognized animal welfare standards are achieved.

The approach to developing a PCP is analogous to developing a HACCP intended to prevent and control food safety risks for hazards injurious to human health. Likewise, the outcome of an effective PCP for animal welfare is to prevent and control risks of avoidable suffering for the animals during any of the slaughter activities in the establishment, both within and outside of the facility, taking into account identified gaps and problem areas that may be specific or unique to that establishment.

The outcome of an audit program is to give a snapshot how well the animal welfare risks in the establishment are controlled by the licence holder's PCP in the context of internationally recognized standards and best practices. This may be a self-audit (first party audit) program or a third party audit by an independent qualified animal welfare auditor with a recognized certification in animal welfare auditing.

The expected outcomes of each SFCR provision for PCP requirements for animal welfare can be found under: Additional PCP Content for food animal welfare.

Definitions

For the purposes of this document, the following definitions apply:

Preventive Control Plan for animal welfare

The licence holder's Preventive Control Plan (PCP) for animal welfare is a written systemic approach to humane handling and slaughter which is documented, auditable and detailing preventive measures relating to animal welfare.

Animal welfare risks for avoidable suffering

In the case of animal welfare at the slaughter establishment, the identification of the risks for avoidable suffering will be those that have any potential to impact the animal's welfare, such as the conditions that it is housed in, how it was transported from the farm to the slaughter establishment and unloaded there or the way in which it is handled and slaughtered or humanely killed.

Corrective action procedures

Corrective action procedures in the context of the PCP for animal welfare are procedures that will address any deviations from the expected outcome of humane handling and slaughter of food animals. In general, these are designed to prevent recurrence of a deviation; although immediate corrective action procedures may be required to mitigate the suffering of an individual food animal.

Measures

Measures in the context of the PCP for animal welfare are preventive measure procedures or protocols that control the animal welfare risks in order to achieve an outcome of humane handling and slaughter of food animals

Monitoring Procedures

In the context of the PCP for animal welfare, a monitoring procedure is a means to check the process by conducting a planned sequence of observations, tests and evaluations to assess whether performance criteria are met or a preventive measure is effective.

Verification Procedures

In the context of the PCP for animal welfare, verification procedures are quality control evaluations of the monitoring procedures, to determine whether they have been effectively implemented as intended and provide the expected outcomes of humane handling and slaughter.

Key elements of the Preventive Control Plan for animal welfare

The animal welfare PCP includes the following elements at a minimum:

Assessment for animal welfare risks for suffering in the slaughter establishment

The areas of highest animal welfare risks for suffering include the following slaughter activities (in order of consecutive slaughter steps):

The written preventive measures of the PCP for animal welfare

The preventive measures include at a minimum:

Monitoring animal welfare risks for avoidable suffering

Procedures for monitoring important animal welfare risks such as stunning failures or inappropriate stunning methods can be based on monitoring for the undesired outcome. This is analogous to the detection for the presence or absence of diseases in animal health science research and can be extrapolated to slaughter activities that carry high animal welfare risks for avoidable suffering.

For example, in the case of stunning failures, the monitoring of the risk of consciousness or return to consciousness would be the undesired outcome.

This approach is outlined in the European Food Safety Authority 2013 guidelines for monitoring stunning for the slaughter of bovines, sheep and goats, pigs and birds in slaughter establishments. The recommendation is to use a combination of specific indicators to monitor the undesired outcome of consciousness (sensibility) for different stunning methods. These indicator signs are used as part of a 'toolbox' method that recommends practical and useful signs for monitoring during the most common stunning methods for food animals.

Monitoring and verification procedures may also be conducted using recognized audit tools and performance criteria from other sources, for example,

Corrective actions to prevent recurring deviations

The licence holder will develop and implement effective corrective action procedures if non-compliances occur with the requirements of their written PCP or regulations governing humane treatment and slaughter of food animals. Corrective action procedures include corrective actions for recurring animal welfare non-compliances and for isolated deviations.

Corrective actions may become new preventive measures in the existing PCP or include the installation of new equipment or the redesign of the facility through new construction/renovations to prevent recurring animal welfare deviations, for example:

Verification of the PCP

The verification procedures are part of an internal quality control program to evaluate and check that the PCP for animal welfare is implemented as written and works well as intended, for example:

Audits

When conducted internally, a self–audit program should be conducted at the establishment using performance criteria which are animal based measures, in addition to resource or management based measures.

Examples of animal based measures include:

Examples of resource or management based measures include:

Individuals performing self-audits must be knowledgeable and competent in the principles of animal welfare in order to carry out an audit that gives meaningful results:

Audits conducted by a third-party auditor must be part of a recognized audit program that certifies its auditors using standards recognized by other authorities (competent authorities or industry associations). These audit programs must not contradict or discount regulatory requirements under the SFCR, even when they have been developed under regulatory regimes other than the SFCR. Examples of these include:

PCP records for animal welfare

The operator should retain records of monitoring, verification and regular self-audits/external audits, including corrective action procedures taken to address any deviations identified, as well as any new preventative measures. These should be kept for at least two years.

Program modifications are made as required. The animal welfare written PCP should be reviewed yearly as part of the licence holder's reassessment of all establishment protocols and plans.

References and additional information

CFIA References for handling of food animals during slaughtering activities under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations

CFIA guidelines of best practices

Additional information

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