How Canada’s Updated Dairy Code of Practice Fails to Protect Cows

Did you know that Canadian dairy farmers are basically allowed to create their own regulations? Every 10 years, Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) updates its codes of practice for the dairy industry. While the code-development process is open for public comment, council membership is 85 percent industry-affiliated—and the codes’ limited guidelines are not even enforceable by law. 

The NFACC released its most recently updated code for cattle in the dairy industry on March 30, but it goes nowhere near far enough to protect cows. Here are just a few examples:

Calf Housing

Currently, around 63 percent of dairy farms keep calves isolated in individual housing. The new code permits this practice until 2031, when it requires pair or group housing for calves by four weeks of age. This means that for the next eight years, every calf born at a Canadian dairy farm can be kept in isolation. The code also does nothing to address the heartbreaking practice of separating mother cows from their newly born calves and allows continued individual housing for animals “not capable” of social housing.


The updated code still permits the cruel, painful practice of dehorning—burning or sawing off the horns of cattle—while recognizing that “all methods of disbudding and dehorning are painful at any age.”

Outdoor Access

Currently cows are not required to have outdoor access at all, let alone exercise yards or sheltered packs (a type of open housing with soft bedding). This is despite the NFACC’s acknowledgment that cows are “naturally motivated to access pasture and graze” and that “regular access to open outdoor areas or bedded packs improves hoof health, reduces the frequency and severity of injuries, and can reduce the occurrence of lameness.”

Emergency Plans

Because factory farms cram large numbers of animals together in one space, they are at risk for mass casualties. Earlier this month, a fire at a dairy farm in Texas claimed the lives of 18,000 cows. Footage from the disaster shows black smoke swirling into the sky as cows cry out in terror. Despite this, the NFACC code does not include any requirements for emergency planning.

Take Action

These are just some of the ways the updated NFACC Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle—again, not even enforceable by law—fails to protect cows. 

Time and again, the dairy industry has demonstrated that it cares far more about profits than the animals suffering in its care. You can stand up for cows—and all farmed animals—by leaving them off your plate. Click here to get started.