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Horse slaughter update

July 28, 2010

More than three months have passed since the release of video footage documenting inhumane slaughter practices at two Canadian horse slaughter plants. Yet it appears that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has still not taken any disciplinary or corrective action against the plants in question.

In April, the CFHS and the BC SPCA sent the CFIA a detailed report outlining several serious problems with the slaughter operations captured by the video footage. The footage was reviewed by the BC SPCA’s farm animal behaviour specialist and a staff veterinarian, in consultation with three independent Canadian veterinarians with significant equine expertise. The report raised serious concerns about the facilities and practices of the plants in question, including an excessive use of electrical prods and horses being shot multiple times before being rendered unconscious (or “stunned”). Such practices violate federal regulations and may be in contravention of animal cruelty legislation.

The report was presented to the CFIA in late April. The CFIA’s reply indicated that some changes have been made in the plants and that the CFIA has increased its oversight, but that its detailed investigation into the four horse slaughter plants in Canada found no major deficiencies.

Representatives of the CFHS, the BC SPCA and Equine Canada met with some key CFIA staff in late June to discuss horse slaughter practices in Canada, including their reaction to the video footage. We were surprised to be told that it is industry’s role to address animal welfare and CFIA’s role is merely oversight. We also learned that the CFIA is not able to administer fines against plants for violations of slaughter regulations.

When we asked if there was a minimum number of stuns that a CFIA inspector must witness, they told us that inspectors must observe stunning only once a day in each slaughter plant. This was shocking to hear, given that more than one hundred horses pass through each of these plants every day, and that slaughterhouses for other species may process thousands of animals per day.

The CFHS and the BC SPCA still have more questions for the CFIA and have sought an additional meeting.

We are appalled by the government’s apathetic reaction to this situation. This is the second time in two years that leaked video footage has revealed inhumane practices at horse slaughter plants in Canada. In 2008, undercover footage of some horrific treatment of horses at a Saskatchewan slaughter plant elicited no meaningful reaction from government either.

This is yet another instance of the Canadian government’s extremely lax oversight of animal welfare, particularly in the farm sector. In April 2009, the CFHS released a report giving Canada a failing grade for its farm animal welfare policies, in stark contrast to other developed countries.

The public are rightfully outraged at the never-ending reports of inhumane slaughter and transport of farm animals in this country. It is clear that existing regulations, as weak as they often are, are consistently going unenforced.

The CFHS will continue to push for better oversight and enforcement, along with improved regulations, to protect farm animals from suffering during rearing, transportation, and slaughter.

Take Action!

Please write a letter to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz asking him to ensure that the CFIA increase its monitoring of animal slaughter at all federally registered processing plants. Ask him why regulators have taken no corrective action against horse slaughter plants shown to be using inhumane slaughter procedures in contravention of the Meat Inspection Regulations.

Hon. Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Fax: 613-995-7080

No postage is required to send letters to the federal government.

Please also send copies to your own MP and to the federal Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food:

Mr. Merv Tweed and Committee Members
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agrifood
Sixth Floor, 131 Queen St.
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Fax: 613-995-2106

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