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Wild Animal Law of Canada


Meat Inspection Act (Canada)('MIA')

(current to 01 April 2016)

Note Re Application of the Meat Inspection Act

Overwhelmingly, the species coming under the MIA will be domestic food animals (particularly cattle), but the Act does not exclude it's application to wildlife should they otherwise fall under it's terms.

This law bears on the wildlife issues of:
The full current text of this legislation (including regulations) may be viewed at the Canada statute website.


Table of Contents
1. General
2. Slaughter
3. Other Provisions

1. General

The federal Meat Inspection Act ("MIA") establishes regulations respecting the import/export of meat products to/from Canada, and as well regulation of meat products when they move between provinces. For these purposes it also establishes a registration regime for establishments in which animals are slaughtered, and meat products are "prepared, packaged, labelled or stored" [MIA 2(1), 7-9]. Regulation of slaughter, meat production and sale entirely within each province is governed by each province's own legislation.

While the MIA's definition of "animal" ["mammals or birds and includes any other animal that is prescribed for the purposes of this Act or that falls within a class of animals prescribed for those purposes" (MIA 2(1)] does not necessarily restrict it to domestic animals, the only exception to this is semi-farmed "game animals", which are defined by the MIA as "wild animal(s), including an animal living in an enclosed territory under conditions of freedom similar to those of wild animals": Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990, 2(1) ("MIA Reg")]. The MIA Regulations adopt an unhelpfully circular definition of the key jurisdictional term "food animal" - ie. "any animal in the class of mammals or birds that is slaughtered and processed as meat products for human consumption and for which an inspection system has been established for the purpose of these Regulations" [MIA Reg 2(1)].

2. Slaughter

The following rules apply to the slaughter itself:
  • "every food animal that is ritually slaughtered in accordance with Judaic or Islamic law shall be restrained and slaughtered by means of a cut resulting in rapid, simultaneous and complete severance of the jugular veins and carotid arteries, in a manner that causes the animal to lose consciousness immediately" [MIA Reg 77];

  • "no food animal, other than a bird or domesticated rabbit, shall be suspended [SS: 'strung up'] for the purpose of slaughter unless, immediately before being suspended, it is rendered unconscious or killed" (as set out next below)[MIA Reg 78];

  • the first step of slaughter of food animals (other than "muskox, caribou or reindeer that is a game animal") is to, before the animal is bled, render the animal unconscious "in a manner that ensures that it does not regain consciousness before death" by either (a) "delivering a blow to the head by means of a penetrating or non-penetrating mechanical device in a manner that causes immediate loss of consciousness", (b) gas causing rapid loss of consciousness or (c) electrical current causing immediate loss of consciousness [MIA Reg 79(a)];

  • the next step of slaughter of such animals is the killing of the animal by any of the same methods (a,b,c above) used to render it unconscious (birds and rabbits may also be killed by rapid decapitation) [MIA Reg 79(b)];

  • the equipment used in the slaughter process must be fit for the task, and the worker performing it must be fit (by both physical condition and experience) for the task, both so as to prevent "avoidable distress or avoidable pain" to the animal [MIA Reg 80].

3. Other Provisions

The only other aspects of the MIA regime that are of concern to this present wildlife Guide are also related to slaughter, as follows:
  • Pre-Slaughter Welfare

    It may seem hypocritical to speak of the welfare of an animal that is about to be killed and butchered apart, but this is what 'humane' slaughter is all about. To that end the following requirements apply to the management and keeping of animals in abbatoirs ("establishments") before slaughter:

    • "no food animal shall be handled in a manner that subjects the animal to avoidable distress or avoidable pain" [MIA Reg 62(1)];

    • "no goad [SS: long, pointed sticks] or electrical prod shall be applied to the anal, genital or facial region of a food animal" [MIA Reg 62(2)];

    • "different species of food animals shall be kept separate from each other" [MIA Reg 63(1)];

    • "every food animal that is obviously diseased or injured shall immediately be segregated from apparently healthy food animals" [MIA Reg 63(2)];

    • "every food animal that is a potential danger to other food animals shall immediately be segregated from those other food animals [MIA Reg 63(3)];

    • "every holding pen that is used for food animals awaiting slaughter shall be provided with adequate ventilation and shall not be used in a manner that results in their overcrowding" [MIA Reg 64]; and

    • "every food animal in a holding pen awaiting slaughter shall be provided with access to potable water and shall, if held for more than 24 hours, be provided with feed." [MIA Reg 65].

  • Pre-Slaughter ("Ante-Mortem)") Examination

    Within 24 hours before slaugher all animals are required to be subject to an examination by the slaughterhouse operator, or in the case of food animals by the operator or by a Canadian Food Inspection Agency ("CFIA") inspector or veterinarian[MIA Reg 67(1,2)]. However in practice this examination can be avoided by something as simple as an "examination or inspection of a sample from the shipment", or an "examination of the animal information document for the shipment" [MIA Reg 67(9)]. Slaughter of a food animal in a registered establishment must be authorized by a CFIA inspector [MIA Reg 67(3)], who may require that any animal they specify must be inspected by themselves before slaughter [MIA 67(4-6)].

  • Special Health-Related Documentation for Equines and Some Birds

    As a health measure, extensive documentation as to the prior treatment and health of equines and birds (other than ostrich, rhea and emus) is ostensibly required pre-slaughter [MIA Reg 66(1-3)], though an animal may be slaughtered and the product held pending receipt of this documentation [MIS Reg 66(4)].

  • Sick, Injured and Condemned Animals

    Sick or injured animals are to be separated from other animals for further investigation when discovered pre-slaughter [MIA Reg 63(2),68,71]. Where an animal dies before slaughter in the abbatoir it will be classed and 'condemned' and the carcass isolated for special treatment to either render it fit for consumption, direct it for use as animal feed (eg. dog food) or destroyed [MIA Reg 54,69].

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