Canada’s livestock transport industry in need of change

Pigs being transported to slaughter in the summer heat. Photo credit: Anita Krajnc

When a truck driver transporting pigs to a slaughterhouse got out of his truck and threatened to phone the police on animal rights activist Anita Krajnc for giving water to the thirsty pigs inside, Krajnc advised him to call Jesus instead. Krajnc and members from Toronto Pig Save have been handing out water and watermelon pieces to transported pigs for the last two years. But back in June while giving water to the pigs, during a confrontation that was captured on video and has since gone viral, Krajnc has what she describes as a very ‘unique’ and ‘tense’ confrontation with the truck driver Jeffrey Veldjesgraaf. As a result, a phone call was made to the police. Krajnc has since been charged with criminal mischief under $5,000 and could face a potential jail sentence of up to 10 years, if convicted.

Of the 700 million farm animals killed each year in Canada, nearly every one will undergo transport at least once in its life. According to reports by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), three million animals die during transport every year. “I’ve been charged with criminal mischief, but the real crime is what’s happening to these animals,” says Krajnc, who adds that the suffering these animals endure is unfathomable. According to the Humane Society International Canada, the conditions of these transport trucks offer poor ventilation, and expose animals to outdoor temperature extremes. Often animals cannot lie down during long journeys, and can overheat. Overcrowding on trucks is another factor, which leads to some animals getting trampled and killed.  The journey also subjects animals to decrease in airflow, as well as high ammonia levels, and poor air quality.

Photo Credit: Anita Krajnc
Photo Credit: Anita Krajnc

Humane Society International Canada has described the Canadian transport standards to be “among the worst in the industrialized world”. Under Canada’s transport regulations pigs, horses, and chickens can be transported for a total of 36 hours without access to food or water. But cattle, sheep, goats, and other ruminant animals can be transported under the same conditions for 52 hours. Animals must also be given an additional five-hour withdrawal period so they don’t get sick. The transport industry for livestock subjects millions of animals to grave journeys each year. It’s priority for animal welfare has been regarded as negligible, and the rules set out are being poorly enforced.

Lynn Kavanagh is on the committee board for the Canadian Coalition of Farm Animals. She says pigs are most susceptible to stress during travel and are more likely to suffer from heart attacks while en route. A few weeks prior to slaughter, Kavanagh says pigs are often fed Paylean to increase fat tissue. The side effect of the medication causes pigs to have heart attacks once they experience high stress. Overheating and freezing is another reason why animals die during transport, especially with poultry.

Eric Van Boekel is the farmer who owned the pigs Krajnc gave the water to on the truck. He said he phoned the police the next day, but it wasn’t Boekel that laid the charges. “We did not lay the charges. The police and their investigation laid the charges,” he says. When it comes to his views on the transport conditions assigned to his pigs, Boekel says, “It’s an ongoing process to do what’s best for the animals. Inhumane treatment of an animal is inappropriate for anyone at any given time. But we’re following all the CFIA guidelines and the transport industry guidelines to get these animals delivered to the plant and to their final destination. It is a top priority for all transporters.” In 2014, Maple Lodge Farms plead guilty to 20 out of 60 criminal charges laid against them when CFIA discovered that thousands of their chickens froze to death while being transported.

Due to the enormity of Canada’s landmass, the industry surrounding livestock is ‘centralized’, which is why so many animals are transported for distances. According to the federal law, animals used for public and commercial consumption must be slaughtered at a federally registered slaughter establishment, for health and sanitation reasons. Thus, animals need to be transported to slaughterhouses, which are often spread out. Some slaughterhouses only cater to certain species, and only operate on certain days. Along with substandard transport conditions, Kavanagh says often animals that don’t survive the journey were animals unfit for travel.

Pig Feature Photo 5
Pigs panting inside the transport truck on their way to the slaughterhouse. Photo credit: Anita Krajnc

Cull animals are animals that by industry standards are considered unproductive, and undesirable. Generally, this refers to female livestock, like sows that are no longer producing piglets, or dairy cows that can no longer produce milk. Many unproductive dairy cows suffer from lameness or have various aliments, and are sometimes emaciated. Many slaughterhouses will not slaughter cull animals. They will often be transported to auctions and sold for little value, then transported again for slaughter. Kavanagh says,

“Really the most humane thing to do to for a cull dairy cow is to kill the animal on the farm and have their bodies picked up to be decomposed rather than transport them.”

According to CFIA regulations, “downer” animals, or animals that are unable to stand or walk, are prohibited from being transported. But according to CFIA records, there are still instances when downers are being transported for slaughter. In 2012, Krajnc was charged during a protest; she walked towards a slaughterhouse to capture a video of a pig screaming as it was being electrically prodded while it was being off-loaded from the transport truck. “It’s a universal principle. When someone is suffering, you try to help them,” say Krajnc. Using an electric prod while off-loading animals is a practice accepted by industry standards. However, there are restrictions on which parts of the animal’s body can be used. According to Krajnc, these prods are sometimes being poked into the gaps of the trucks and the animals are often prodded without discretion. “It’s not only illegal the way they operate in terms of cruelty but we also think it’s fundamentally wrong and immoral to use these instruments of torture against these gentle babies. They’re babies. They’re four to six months old,” say Krajnc. The charges against Krajnc for that incident were eventually dismissed.

Pig Feature Photo 1
Pigs crowded inside of the transport truck. Photo Credit: Anita Krajnc

The welfare standards of livestock in transport are poorly enforced within Canada, but conditions can be worse for animals that are being exported. In 2010, the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada gave CFIA a “D” because it failed to meet its requirements under Canada’s Access to information Act. “There’s no rules or regulations, and inspectors on the road. In Europe there’ s inspectors on the road that will pull over the truck and check on the animals. We’re really so far behind in this regard,” says Kavanagh. Once animals are exported, they are no longer subject to Canada’s welfare standards and can be shipped to countries with little to no animal protection. Most often livestock from Canada are exported to the U.S. for fattening and slaughter but according to Kavanagh, the transport industry does not factor the time the animals have already spent transported on Canadian soil. “The clock starts at zero again. If they’ve been transported for 15 hours in Canada and they cross the border, now they’re subject to the American regulations which is 28 hours,” says Kavanagh. The slaughterhouse reports to Boekel if any of his animals are dead on arrival. “We have had animals in the past that haven’t made it,” says Boekel. According to Boekel, on average his pigs spend no more than two hours being transported from his farm to the slaughterhouse.

Krajnc says what Toronto Pig Save does is bear witness to the animals suffering on a journey. She takes the videos and images of these animals en route so people can acknowledge their circumstances. “It’s important to give water to thirsty animals, but it’s also an opportunity for people to see if they want to participate in exploitation of these incredible creatures,” says Krajnc. Due to the lack of prioritization for animal welfare, safety and enforcement of the animal procedures by its own administration, Krajnc’s act of civil disobedience for serving water to thirsty animals sends the message that if consumers want animal welfare, and the transport industry held accountable, an activists compassion might be the only welfare treatment these animals will get.


  1. I really wish you would do more research before you print this. Most animals in ontario are on truck max 3 hours. Also you stated paylean is fed…well no its not. Certain markets will not let paylean be fed. So many untruths in this story. Also if Anita would refrain from using chemical sprayers and chemical bottles to spray liquid in trailer that would be a start. For someone worried about animal welfare I see glaring holes in her theory when she allows unknowns to use those type of sprayers. Guess we don’t care about food safety anymore.

    • 3 hours in a hot truck, factoring in the wind/speed etc in the hot summer sun, is still too friggin hot, I’d be critically uncomfortable too.. thirst is a reality..
      These animals will die to feed people, why not treat them with respect, kindness, and some humane consideration en route to their premature death. Its not wrong to want them to be comfortable, and hydrated in their final hours

    • Nice try Jeff. You know that the bottles contain water not an unidentifiable “liquid”. Anita has been doing this for years, you have seen her there and have interacted with her previously, and trying to plant seeds in people’s minds that the activists would put anything into the bottles other than water is petty. They are vegans who are fighting for animals to live they would not intentionally harm them just to make a point. And the fact that you would not sample it when she offered showed that you know this as well but want to try to make it seem that she would consider it to help build this argument. Why would she offer you contaminated water and risk jail. We have witnessed first hand pigs that are severely injured, extremely stressed, dying and dead on arrival. Whether it be three hours or thirty hours is irrelevant. They are sentient beings who feel fear and pain, not “property” like your boss likes to call them. Showing compassion to an animal whose been bred into this world for the sole purpose to be killed for our own selfish gluttonous pleasure is the very least we can do.

    • HEY JEFF ILL STICK YOU IN THE TRUNK OF MY CAR FOR 3 HOURS IN SUMMER WITH NO FOOD OR WATER! It’s people like you that advocate the killing of these beautiful animals. Stop eating meat you already are eating cloned meat yes it’s true. Ignorant trash.

    • You are a lier Jeff and a troll … go back to your pig farm and beat some more innocent animals like the pathetic worm you are. Wait for hell Jeff, its coming for you, you evil blind selfish coward.

    • Oh really Jeff…you’ve got to be kidding! … Who is paying you to write this garbage. This is the net buddy and Aaaaample stories have made it in the underground news … Ample stories of horror HAVE BEEN FILMED and have been seen here and everywhere else in so called advanced societies. You are the one who should research but obviously you aren’T interested… what you like is your beef right??? and the security dumbness and numbness controlled media offers you!

  2. This story couldn’t be more untrue if you tried… Did you even do any research on this at all ?.. It looks like you just wrote this off a quick Google search.I agree with Jeff. the protester could have made a huge difference but she went about it all wrong and f***ed everything up for the people who do care about the pigs and are not just trying to make some news story about themselves like show maturity and think about what your doing before you do it

  3. How can I be living in a world in which this is possible (I’m vegan). Worse yet is Jeff’s attitude. He has had a compassion bypass. Chemical sprayers? It is water, which is what they need. You clearly have no regard for the animals, only “food safety”. These are living beings which need to be cared for and nurtured.

  4. Pigs are more intelligent that dogs and cats and just as loving and social. They feel pain and fear. The Chinese do this to dogs and we call them barbaric. WE are barbaric. We are cruel. This is unacceptable and should be illegal.

  5. I am discusted by calling themselves humans ,I am also a vegan and have love for nature,animals are the most run down for envy thing and everything ,abused slaved and I feel ashamed for being human….but all the pain you give you will receive and there will be no peace while we destroy ……god is love and though shall no kill dosent mean kill…

  6. Canadian Standards and Regulations for transportation are antiquated and inhumane. Other countries not only have better standards for this, but the people transporting have to be certified in the care and transportation of animals, and this certification has to be renewed every five years.
    Waken up Canada!

  7. It has reached the point for me that I very seldom buy meat anymore. I can’t bear the thoughts of the cruelty involved in factory farming.

  8. Canada ??????? Realy Canada ????????????? ! I Never thought that you were prehistoric, mediaval, stupid. A person giving water to condemned pigs going years into prison ??????? I have a strong feeling that I am just having a horrible dream. You are so savage, not normal, thousands of years behind !!!!!!!! I will never talk again with a canadian man. For doing these things or letting these things exist, be done. Artists of Canada, artists of all the world, help stop these horrors.

  9. If some of us feel such pain, panic , to help these animals that are going to die, as we cry, thinking about their demise, then something is terribly wrong. We are all sentient creatures who feel each other’s pain. Why is this horror happening ? we do not need their flesh to survive…so what is so horribly wrong with our society ? too much is wrong and we need to fix it. The rest of the people who see these animals as food and nothing else, are not really human. They are clones….or psychopaths. Today they kill an animal and tomorrow, a human, or their relative. What is the difference ? to them ? only a convenience or a priority. We need to close slaughter houses and stop the meat market ! we will be better human beings…..

  10. I’m so sad about this meat business. And some people have guts to justify it. Those pigs and cows should be slaughtered in their own factories. So that no transport to be needed at all. Make the law which obliges the pig and other animal farmers to have their own butcheries so that the price of that product rises so high that very few have enough money to buy that meat. Then the quality and the treatment would become much better and those abusive firms would go to bankrupt.