The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) just fined a meat company $200,000 for five counts of false labelling. The fine was imposed after Eastern Meat Solutions was busted for packaging beef products as prime rib, Angus, and sirloin—when they were not.
This fine is part of a larger, worrying trend by Canada’s food industry regulator: The CFIA prioritizes enforcement when business interests are affected, but neglects enforcement when animal suffering is at stake.
Animal Justice works to expose the epidemic of false animal welfare claims by companies doing business in Canada, along with countless duped consumers, and a nonexistent government response. We filed consumer protection complaints against slaughterhouse Maple Lodge Farms for claiming to treat chickens humanely even while on probation for illegal animal cruelty. We went after supermarket chain Safeway for marketing chicken meat as “certified humane,” even though genetically manipulated birds are crowded in dark warehouses and deprived of everything that makes life worth living. And we caught the Dairy Farmers of Canada red-handed for running deceptive dairy ads disguised as public health announcements. Despite this long list of violations, the CFIA has refused to prosecute or fine companies for false animal welfare claims.
Earlier this year, we told you that the CFIA is overhauling food labelling regulations. One planned change is that it will be easier for food companies to mislead consumers about animal welfare claims like “free range” and “grass fed.” The CFIA plans to make animal welfare claims its lowest enforcement priority, encouraging consumers to take their questions and concerns to the food companies rather than law enforcement. But consumers have no way to verify claims made by companies, which stand to benefit financially from misleading consumers.
But labelling isn’t the CFIA’s only problem—it routinely underenforces animal transport regulations, too. Meat and egg companies often truck animals long distances in freezing cold or blistering hot weather—illegally allowing animals to suffer to death from weather exposure, lack of ventilation, or crowding. Yet transporters typically only face a measly few thousand dollars in fines for these violations—even when an offender has already racked up dozens of prior offences.
Food fraud is wrong, and meat companies should be held accountable for misleading consumers about product quality. But animal suffering is far more troubling, especially when companies lie to consumers about it so they support it financially. In these cases, the animal victims endure physical and emotional agony—not just a lower-quality meal.
If you agree that the life-and-death treatment of sentient animals is more important than the quality of someone’s steak dinner, please write to federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAuley: [email protected]. He needs to hear that the CFIA’s enforcement priorities do not represent the values of caring Canadians.
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