April 2014 - Farmers and ranchers are committed to good animal care practices, even when temperatures plummet and other businesses close. But how many farmers have put their animal care commitment in writing?
"Most farmers do the right thing – they follow accepted animal care standards, they treat their animals with dignity and they make research-based decisions for what works best on their own farm," says Crystal Mackay, Executive Director of Farm & Food Care.
But in addition to 'doing the right thing,' Mackay says it's important farmers take the next step, and 'tell people about it.' "Make it clear for your employees and customers that you have expectations around how your animals will be treated," she says.
A code of conduct provides everyone in a farm or company with an understanding of company policies and values. It also acts as a reminder from owner, to management, to staff, about what is important to the daily operation of the company.
"An animal care code of conduct should represent your company's values and expectations of itself and its employees, and you should be ready to share it public on your website," Mackay says.
In farming and food related businesses, an animal care code of conduct exists to protect the safety and welfare of workers and animals. It is a company's and employees' commitment to doing the right thing. It outlines what needs to happen when things go wrong.
Here are some key considerations relating to an animal care code of conduct:
- Acknowledge that animal welfare is important everyday on your farm and/or your operation.
- Provide transparent understanding of what is and is not acceptable conduct at your premises. This should include not only direct animal care but also the importance of reporting witnessing any breaches of the code immediately.
- Serve as a reminder to employees and managers of the importance of taking care of animals every day at your facility.
- Serve as a renewed and regular commitment to animal welfare at your premises.
- Be used as a direct discussion point during the hiring and training process before any new hires work with animals. Those that will not sign the code of conduct should not be hired.
- Be introduced to existing employees (or re‐introduced) as a renewed commitment to the importance of doing the right thing every day.
"Having and enforcing an animal care code of conduct offers proof that your company or farm does not tolerate disrespectful animal welfare," Mackay says. "Even if something goes wrong, and evidence is produced to show the code may have been temporarily breached, your code of conduct is your insurance for customers and the general public that it is unacceptable."
Mackay stresses that enforcing a code of conduct is key. It should be reviewed with employees regularly, and it should be a mandatory document that is signed by all employees.
SAMPLE – For your personalizing
[Your Farm/Company] Employee Animal Care Code of Conduct
Our commitment to our animals
[Our company/farm] is committed to responsible farm animal care and handling. That means animals in our care deserve to be healthy, safe and well cared for.
Our commitment to our customers
Working with animals is important work that we take seriously. We are proud of the work that we do, and we strictly enforce responsible farm animal care and handling among employees and service providers at our facility.
Every person who handles or comes into contact with an animal is required to support our core objective of responsible farm animal care and handling. The demonstration of that support is through the review and signing of this Code of Conduct agreement on a [quarterly/annual] basis.
Our commitment to our employees
Your job is valuable and important to our animals, and our business. When you report an incident involving possible mistreatment, illness or injury involving one of our animals, we will take it seriously. We will document your concern. We will follow up to resolve the animal's situation, and/or provide additional training among employees.
Our employees' commitment to us
Every one of our employees is required to handle and treat animals with respect and in accordance with [farm/company] policies and rules as well as the federal, provincial and municipal regulations under which we operate.
Any employee who is responsible for, observes or receives any information that alleges an animal on our property or in our care is being mistreated, mishandled or treated or handled in a way that is contrary to our animal care policy/guidelines must report that information to [NAME OF POINT PERSON] immediately so that the situation can be corrected. [PROVIDE CONTACT INFO].
Failure to adhere to this agreement is cause for dismissal. [Farm/company] reserves the right to refer animal-abusers to law enforcement for prosecution.
I _________________________ understand and acknowledge that willful neglect, mishandling or abuse of animals by any [name of company] employee or witnessing it and not reporting it is subject to discipline including immediate termination of employment, and that offenders may also be subject to prosecution under applicable laws.
Signature of Employee:
Signature of employer:
Name and Title:
Important Note: Seek advice from your legal counsel and human resources department if appropriate to ensure any agreement meets relevant labour laws and union contracts.