The Globe and Mail has a short item on the new logo for certified organic foods in Canada.
Here is part of the official statement from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, with emphasis added:
The Canada organic logo will be permitted for use only on those food products certified as meeting Canadian standards for organic production such as using natural fertilizers and raising animals in conditions that mimic nature as much as possible. Certified products must also contain at least 95 per cent organic ingredients. Following the phase-in period ending in December 2008, it will be mandatory that all organic products be certified for interprovincial and international trade.
Raising animals in conditions that mimic nature as much as possible? That caught my eye, so I looked up the the Organic Products Regulations (which are enabled by the Canada Agricultural Products Act) and found it requires compliance with a set of policies that includes this: Organic Production Systems — General Principles and Management Standards. In that document, not only do we find this regulation is part of a (long overdue) legal effort to stem the use of agricultural antibiotics, but we see this enjoinder
Livestock shall be managed responsibly with care and respect.
That’s encouraging, but it would be more convincing if statements like the following were not included:
Tail docking of pigs is prohibited except to control tail biting and shall be permitted only when all other efforts to eliminate this behaviour have proven unsuccessful.
Beak trimming and de-toeing of birds is prohibited unless all other efforts to control problem behaviour have proven unsuccessful.
The sort of people who buy organic food might just think cutting off bits of animals should be prohibited entirely, especially when its purpose is to prevent behaviours caused by poor living conditions.
Regarding those messy details, I’ll point you in the direction of a book by Peter Singer & Jim Mason: The way we eat: Why our food choices matter (2006). It reveals how the legal and moral issues about food certification are not as black and white as the logo pictured above.