Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
Cattlemen associations say the comments of NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen - endorsed by Leader Thomas Mulcair - could chase Canadian consumers
away from their favourite steaks, roasts and ground beef.
"They are very, very poorly informed of what the facts are," said Dan Darling, president of the 19,000-member Ontario Cattlemen's Association.
"It absolutely could hurt domestic consumption because consumers don't like to hear about eating roadkill.
"Personally I'd like him to retract his comments and clear the air that there is absolutely no truth to what he said...He's not helping anybody with this," Darling said.
Ontario ranchers, other associations and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) support the changes.
John Masswohl, a spokesman for the 63,500-member Canadian Cattlemen's Association, said the comments hurt the industry.
"Canadian beef is safe and what they've said is false," he said. "I think it's unfortunate...some people believe them...it's not true."
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says the NDP's "ludicrous" statements could also scare away foreign buyers of Canadian beef.
The changes would allow injured animals to be euthanized on farms, under veterinary supervision, before being transported to a federally regulated processing facility. A vet would also perform an examination before slaughter to make sure it's safe to enter the food system.
CFA president Ron Bonnett says under the current rules, farmers can't transport an animal with a broken leg, for example, if it risks the safety of handlers or contravenes Health of Animal Regulations.
"This change will provide an alternative for farmers, not having to choose between transporting compromised animals - a potential animal welfare issue - or losing the cost of their animal," Bonnett said.
"This is not about allowing sick or diseased animals into the system."
The NDP says cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency pose a threat to food safety and the party wants the government to leave existing rules in place.