At Maple Leaf, the animal doctor is in

Packaged meat company creates post to oversee animal welfare

Maple Leaf Foods has just filled a new job that probably didn’t exist at any CPG companies until recently: animal wellness leader.

On Monday Maple Leaf announced that it had hired Dr. Stephanie Cottee to take on that post.

Cottee will be responsible for bringing in a comprehensive animal wellness program in both the company's pork and poultry businesses.

The program will include all areas that affect the health and welfare of animals including nutrition, medication, housing, transportation and processing.

"As Canada's largest meat company, we have a duty to continually advance the humane and ethical treatment of animals within our care," Lynda Kuhn, SVP of sustainability and public affairs, said in a statement.

Maple Leaf and other meat processors have come under fire lately over alleged abuse of chickens, turkey and pigs at supplier production facilities.

In March, CBC’s Marketplace aired hidden camera footage at a turkey-breeding supplier of Maple Leaf that showed birds with open wounds and failed attempts to euthanize birds . The video was shot by Mercy for Animals, an animal rights group.

After the footage was aired, Maple Leaf promised to act with more animal welfare audits. A pledge to promote animal welfare is now prominently featured on the company’s home page.

Cottee, who started at Maple Leaf this week, previously worked for Ontario Pork, where she managed the Canadian Quality Assurance and Animal Care Assessment program and was also instrumental in implementing a nationwide swine traceability program.

Cottee’s resume also the Chicken Farmers of Ontario, where she worked on a range of projects including on-farm biosecurity, health and safety, and traceability, and as a research writer working on the development of two codes of practice for the National Farm Animal Care Council.

She has a PhD in farm animal behaviour and welfare and a Master of Science in farm animal behaviour and welfare from the University of Guelph.

"Dr. Cottee's deep experience across the scientific, academic and applied areas of animal wellness will be vital in implementing a strong program that distinguishes Maple Leaf in this vital area of corporate responsibility,” Kuhn said.

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