2017 Harvest

2017 Harvest

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Saskatchewan cattle producer liable for $500 fine for moving cattle without tags

In a recently released decision, the Canadian Agricultural Review Tribunal has upheld a Notice of Violation and a $500 fine against a Saskatchewan rancher who had alleged moved cattle from his farm without proper CFIA tags.  Cecil Coward testified that he is a farmer/rancher in southwestern Saskatchewan and, with his wife, have 175 cow/calf pairs.  In 2009, he transported 125 pairs to his own pastures and 50 pairs to the Shamrock Community Pasture.  He transported the 50 pairs on May 19 in two loads.  After he was home again that morning, he received a call around 11:30 a.m. from the Pasture Manager telling him that some of his cows were missing their RFID-CCIA approved tags.
Once again in this decision, Dr. Donald Buckingham takes note of the practical difficulties in ensuring 100% compliance with the tagging requirements of the Health of Animals Regulations:
Practical difficulties arise in attempting to have 100% of Canadian cattle, bison and sheep tagged with approved tags. Some animals, requiring identification pursuant to Part XV of the Health of Animals Regulations, may never be tagged, through neglect or opposition to the present regulatory scheme. Most animals, however, will be tagged, but, even among these, some will lose their tags somewhere between the birthing pen and the slaughter house floor. To minimize “"slippage"” and to maximize the number of animals that are tagged with approved tags for the full duration of the animal's life, the Health of Animals Regulations require several actors in the production chain to tag animals which are either not yet tagged or which have lost their tags. If actors inside or beyond the farm gate do not tag, as required by the Health of Animals Regulations, they too face liability when tags are missing. Owner and transporters of sheep are among those identified under the Health of Animals Regulations with such responsibilities. The Agency has the responsibility of ensuring compliance with these provisions either through criminal prosecutions or through the levying of administrative monetary penalties for violations identified in the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations.
For the purposes of this case, such approved tags are RFID-CCIA approved tags made of plastic bearing a front piece printed with a bar code and a back button which, when applied to an animal's ear, is meant to lock the tag into place permanently. Such a permanent locking device would permit farm-to-processor tracking and thus meet the objectives of the Regulations to establish a permanent and reliable system to track the movements of all bison, cattle and sheep in Canada from the birth of such animals on their “"farm of origin"” to their removal from the production system, either through export or domestic slaughter. Almost every system of mandatory identification is, however, subject to mechanical failure or human error.
The evidence in this case is that the system that the Regulations rely upon, or perhaps more accurately the equipment and technology to support that system, does not establish a permanent and infallible system to track the movements of all bison, cattle and sheep in Canada. The Tribunal accepts the evidence of Coward that on May 1, 2009, he tagged all of his cattle with RFID-CCIA approved identification tags. If there was human error in the application of the RFID tags on May 1, 2009, there was no evidence of it presented at the hearing. The Agency and its officials were never at the Coward farm and there is no evidence which contradicts the testimony of Coward and his wife on this point. [emphasis added]
However, Buckingham could not overlook that 10 of Coward's cows were found in the Shamrock Community Pasure without approved tags.  He found that, on a balance of probabilities, CFIA had proven that at least one and up to ten of the cows had been loaded on May 19 without a proper tag.  Unlike in the recent Habermehl case, there was an admission by Coward here that he had not verified each cow as it was loaded for travel to the pasture.  Buckingham found it likely that at least one tag fell out between the time they were applied on May 1 and the time the cattle were loaded on May 19.

As usual with the regulations, the Tribunal has no discretion once it has found that the CFIA has proven its case on a balance of probabilities:
The Tribunal finds that the Agency has, therefore, made out all of the essential elements of this case. The Tribunal has no reason to doubt Mr. and Mrs. Coward's assertions that “"due to drought + the price of cattle it is hard enough to make a profit"” (statement by Coward in his request for review) and that they are good cattle producers who agree with the tagging program for Canadian cattle. However, in light of the evidence and the applicable law, the Tribunal must conclude that the Agency has established, on a balance of probabilities, that Coward committed the violation and is liable for payment of the penalty in the amount of $500.00 to the Agency within 30 days after the day on which this decision is served.
Read the decision at: Coward v. Canada (CFIA).