Humane Handling

Humane Handling of Food Animals

Consumers are increasingly asking questions about the food they eat - questions about food safety and quality, and also questions regarding the treatment of food animals. They expect that their food is from animals treated with care during production and processing. As a result, many food processors are now being audited for animal welfare by their retail customers.

Careful handling on the farm, in the transport truck, at the livestock auction market and at the slaughter plant makes sense in terms of both animal welfare and meat quality. In addition, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has identified animal welfare as a high priority for the coming years. Resources are available to help all operators ensure food animals are handled humanely, every step of the way.

Animal welfare and the Food Safety and Quality Act

In Ontario, Regulation 31/05 (Meat) under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 (FSQA) ensures that food animals are handled and slaughtered humanely at provincially licensed slaughter plants. For example, the regulation requires that:

  • The slaughter process be conducted in a way that does not subject animals to avoidable pain or distress;
  • The equipment or instrument to restrain, slaughter or render a food animal unconscious at a slaughter plant be operated by persons who are competent and physically able to do so without subjecting the animal to avoidable pain or distress; and,
  • The condition of the equipment or instrument and the circumstances under which it is used will not subject the animal to avoidable pain or distress.

Compliance with these requirements is monitored by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) meat inspectors. Meat inspectors are present at provincially licensed abattoirs during all slaughter activities.

Meat inspectors inspect each animal before and after slaughter, as well as premises and operational practices. They have the authority to stop slaughter, detain product and issue compliance orders if operations are not in compliance with standards, including animal welfare standards.

Meat inspectors and appointed veterinarians are supported in their work by area managers, veterinary scientists and regional veterinarians, who provide advice on all animal welfare related matters at abattoirs and sales barns, including facilities, handling, restraints, stunning, bleeding, downer and compromised animals.


Paul Innes, Manager, Veterinary Services
Tel: (519) 766-2537

External links:

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300