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AGRICULTURE - Agricultural products - Protection of animal livestock

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 @ 8:36 AM  

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Application by Maple Lodge Farms (MLF) for an order quashing the decision of the Canadian Agricultural Review Tribunal that it transported or caused to be transported spent hens in circumstances where undue suffering was likely caused to the animals by reason of exposure to the weather. On a cold January day, an egg farmer in New York transported spent hens to MLF in Brampton, Ontario for meat processing. At the farm, the hens spent hours in the extreme cold, as it took time to catch and load them and there were mechanical problems with the trailer tailgate. The trip to Brampton took 12 hours. Upon arrival at MLF’s facility, the trailer was taken to an unheated barn. The driver reported that there were 100 dead hens, although MFL’s staff noticed only 12 dead. 12 hours later, when the trailer was finally unloaded, 863 hens, roughly 12 per cent of the load, were found dead. Upon receiving MLF’s report, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a notice of violation against MLF for a violation of s. 143(1)(d) of the Regulations and assessed a penalty of $7,800. MLF requested a review. The Tribunal concluded that the spent hens likely had been subjected to suffering as a result of undue exposure to the weather during the stationary period following loading, and that their compromised state could not have improved to a state of no undue suffering during the course of transport or during the period of lairage at MLF. It concluded that the load should not have been transported, given the four hours of stationary exposure in sub-zero weather.

HELD: Application dismissed. The Tribunal considered the whole of the evidence and made findings of fact that were supported by the totality of the evidence. While the Tribunal’s reasons were not particularly clear or concise, they were sufficient. While the Tribunal erred in finding MLF automatically liable without considering its culpability for the actus reus of s. 143(1)(d), remitting the matter to the Tribunal for redetermination would not serve any practical or legal purpose. The only possible conclusion from the facts found by the Tribunal was that MLF held compromised spent hens in unheated lairage as part of their transportation for 12 hours, and while under the control of MLF, the spent hens experienced prolonged undue suffering due to Maple Lodge Farms’ omission in its practices and procedures. This was contrary to paragraph 143(1)(d) of the Regulations. The Tribunal assessed the penalty based upon a formula set out in the Regulation. Although the Tribunal did not accurately identify what parts of MLF’s conduct were culpable, its assessment of the penalty would be the same. There was no discretion as to penalty that had to be re-exercised.

Maple Lodge Farms Ltd. v. Canada (Canadian Food Inspection Agency), [2017] F.C.J. No. 241, Federal Court of Appeal, J. Gauthier, D.W. Stratas and R. Boivin JJ.A., March 7, 2017. TLD-Apr102017011