Canadian Food Inspection Agency dodges horse slaughter cruelty issue (CAN)

Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

The CFIA are circulating a letter in response to questions raised to them about the ethics of slaughtering horses, dodging the cruelty issue.

Please read what CHDC have written and use this information to help Mr. Mayers and Ms. Swan focus on the real issue at hand.

Mr Mayers’ email letter in regular type; CHDC response in bold type. Thank you.


From: []
Sent: Friday, February 06, 2009 8:36 AM
Subject: Slaughter of Horses

I am writing in response to your letter to Ms. Carole Swan, President of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), regarding the slaughter of horses for meat in Canada . Ms. Swan has asked me to reply on her behalf. I understand that you have written similar correspondence to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

The CFIA understands your position and appreciates that some Canadians have difficulty with the slaughter of horses and the consumption of horsemeat. The CFIA also believes that animals should be protected from unnecessary suffering. Please be assured that most Canadian horse owners are strongly committed to treating their animals with care.

CHDC: The concern that the CFIA needs to focus upon is the lack of humane treatment that was documented at Natural Valley Farms. This is the area of their responsibility–not the issue of horse slaughter in general. They are redirecting the argument. They have also commissioned a report by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (a pro-horse slaughter organization) with the following question being asked: “Can horses be slaughtered humanely?”. This isn’t the issue; we are asking them to act upon footage, photos and evidence of violations and cruelty in one facility–Natural Valley Farms. It is clear that the CFIA is dodging and reframing the questions. This is a diversionary tactic and it is unacceptable.

The role of the CFIA is to verify that the horses are transported, handled and slaughtered in a humane manner. The Health of Animals Regulations prohibit the transportation of any animal under inhumane conditions and state that carriers cannot load, transport or unload animals in a way that would cause injury or undue suffering. Where instances of non-compliance are reported or identified, the CFIA investigates and takes appropriate action. Since 2005, the CFIA has performed over 65 000 humane transportation inspections involving horses and other species at various locations, including auction markets, slaughter facilities and border crossings. The compliance rate has been found to be in the range of 98.7 to 98.9 per cent. The CFIA employs a range of options to enhance compliance. These include education, the issuance of warnings, and prosecution through the imposition of administrative monetary penalties.

CHDC: Compare this to information from the field offered by Twyla Francois: “When I’ve talked to them [CFIA inspectors/vets] at the slaughterhouses, it’s become clear that they’ve not left their labs to do the ante-mortem inspections on the animals as they are supposed to be doing. At the horse slaughterhouse in Massueville, Quebec (Richelieu) we had just been given a tour by management and saw horrible violations, e.g. a horse left in the bloody kill pen while workers went on lunch. The horse was shaking so badly she was nearly falling down. Horses were left standing in the kill line. Electric prods were being used on the horses in the kill line. There was no food or water for the horses in the holding area. There were 2 dead bodies of horses in the rear. When we went to talk to the vet and bring her down to show her our concerns, she was heckled by the shirtless, bloody workers all the way there. When we got there she was shocked at what she saw. It was clear she’d rarely to never been there and we couldn’t blame her. It’s a volatile environment where the CFIA vets/inspectors are bullied.

“CHDC’s Black Beauty Betrayed showed rampant violations–what has the CFIA done to investigate those? Even their own Humane Slaughter expert Dr. Anne Allen told me there was an ongoing investigation by the CFIA to determine why so many horses were arriving dead. The answers were clear: overloading, loading on double deckers, transporting with metal shoes on, transporting pregnant mares too close to term, etc., yet the problem continued to get worse with higher and higher numbers of dead on arrival coming in.”

Regulations and operational policies under the Meat Inspection Act also set standards for the humane handling and slaughter of animals in federally registered abattoirs. A CFIA inspector is present in each federally registered abattoir to conduct routine audits and verify that procedures are appropriate.

CHDC: Again Mr. Mayers is dodging the question. The CFIA vet WAS NOT in her station at the kill box. This is clear in the footage. Instead she was in the butchering line yelling orders to “speed it up!”, “what’s the hold up?” etc. to the captive bolt pistol operator. Each time she yelled, the captive bolt pistol operator became nervous and inaccurately hit the horse he was working on. When one horse was improperly hit and went down only to have her head stuck in the cattle head stanchion (this should never happen if done in a proper kill box) the CFIA vet yelled out, “Poke him with the stick! Poke him through!” This horse was regaining consciousness and because of her order was kicked in the face repeatedly.

Others also have responsibilities to ensure the humane treatment of animals destined for slaughter. For instance, industry must comply with all regulations concerning transportation, handling and slaughter.

CHDC: But by their own accounts this isn’t happening. Dr. Anne Allen was quoted on the CBC’s National expose as saying (of the illegal mislabeling of slaughter-bound horses as feeders): “If they have a sudden epiphany and take the horses to slaughter, what can we do?”. In other words, they know this is happening yet allow it to continue!

The provincial governments oversee sanitation and disposal pits and any “custom slaughter” where the meat is intended for intraprovincial trade. In most provinces, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) enforces the provincial laws that govern the humane treatment of animals. SPCA officers or police officers also investigate complaints under the federal Criminal Code, which prohibits willful cruelty to animals.

CHDC: The Saskatchewan SPCA took eight months to respond to our concerns, only after repeated requests for a reply. When they finally did respond, their statement only pointed to concerns regarding the slippery flooring and the size of the kill box, and that some horses were kept in the kill box for an excessive length of time. There was nothing to indicate any concern for cruelty to horses or improper stunning practices. It’s simply unacceptable that even with such powerful evidence provided (see Black Beauty Betrayed, ) the SSPCA, whose mission is to prevent animal cruelty, has failed to act to protect these horses.

In regard to U.S. horses sent for slaughter to Canada , the CFIA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have a shared responsibility for enforcing our respective regulations that govern the humane transportation of slaughter horses. As an example, at Canadian border points, the CFIA verifies that the accompanying U.S. health certificate has been endorsed by a USDA veterinarian for each horse listed and that it provides all information required by Canadian regulations. This includes a statement verifying that a veterinarian inspected the animal within 30 days prior to export and found it to be clinically healthy and fit to travel without undue suffering.

CHDC, from Twyla Francois: “I have footage of horses crossing without anyone but me inspecting them. They are coming in at night when the CFIA and USDA inspectors have gone home. They are being waved through. The customs broker I spoke to said all that’s required is a form on each horse. No CFIA inspector is signing off on the forms, the broker checks the paperwork, that is all.”

Additional information on the CFIA’s duties with respect to animal welfare is available on the CFIA’s website at

Thank you for writing on this important matter.

It is an important matter of concern to many Canadians. The system needs to do what citizens expect–it needs to protect animals. This includes investigating and appropriately handling violations such as what occurred at Natural Valley Farms.

Paul Mayers
Associate Vice-President, Programs
Vice-président associé, programmes
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Agence Canadienne d’inspection des aliments
1400 Merivale Road
Tower 1, 4th Floor, Room 104
Ottawa , Ontario
K1A 0Y9
(613) 773-5747


Canadian Horse Defence Coalition
P.O. Box 26097
Westbank, B.C.
V4T 2G3
Phone/fax: 250-768-4803

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