WATERLOO — A training initiative for people who handle and transport animals from the farm gate to processing plants is getting $180,000 in government funds to help get the educational materials online.
The Canadian Animal Health Coalition is getting the money to develop interactive multimedia online materials for a certification program that is offered to transport drivers and handlers of livestock and poultry.
The money comes from Growing Forward 2, a five-year provincial and federal initiative that supports a variety of projects in the agriculture and agri-food industries.
Michael Chong, MP for Wellington-Halton Hills, and Harold Albrecht, MP for Kitchener Conestoga, announced the funding at the Ontario Livestock Exchange in north Waterloo on Wednesday.
"The overall goal is to help ensure that farm animals are transported in safe and humane manner based on the existing Canadian Livestock Transport Certification Program," Chong said.
That is important, not only because Canadians care about animal welfare, but also because foreign markets are demanding the highest animal welfare standards, Chong said.
Also, knowledge about proper transport of animals has become more important because processing plants have been amalgamated and there are longer distances between the farm gate and the destination, he added.
The program started in Alberta but has become a national certification initiative delivered by the coalition.
The program is voluntary. However, many companies that process meat now require drivers and handlers to have this certification, said Mark Beaven, executive director of the non-profit coalition.
About 1,500 transport drivers and handlers who load and unload livestock and poultry are currently certified and they need to recertify every three years. It is estimated that 5,000 to 10,000 people are involved in the transportation of animals in Canada.
The hope is that the online program will boost the number of people who are certified and make the recertification a lot easier, Beaven.
"This funding allows us to take the program into the 21st century," he said. "It will be very interactive and intense, but it allows the current participants to be recertified and new ones to come on board and do it at their own pace."
The training involves everything from knowing the regulations and proper techniques for the safe handling of animals, to loading capacities and avoiding overcrowding and even biosecurity and protocols that are necessary to protect agricultural industries, Beaven said.
It will build Canada's reputation as "a world leader" in the safe and humane handling of farm animals, he said.