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Federal food agency defends transport of live horses for slaughter, human consumption in Japan

The federal authorities is attempting to quash a lawsuit launched by animal welfare advocates who need to finish the export of Canadian horses for slaughter and human consumption in Japan and South Korea.

The Canadian Meals Inspection Company (CFIA) is defending its equine transportation and enforcement insurance policies in opposition to claims that it is failing to satisfy authorized obligations to make sure humane and secure shipments.

In its June 17 courtroom submitting, the CFIA additionally stated that revised rules set to kick in subsequent yr make the case “moot.”

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC), the group behind the authorized problem, insists the brand new guidelines slated for February 2020 might put horses on long-haul abroad flights to Asia at even better danger.

CHDC lawyer Rebeka Breder stated the circumstances the horses expertise throughout transport trigger misery and hazard. Giant, flighty animals are sometimes crammed collectively with out the ample headroom required by regulation, the group claims.

“They’re exhibiting signs of stress. There have also been injuries, there have been deaths over the last several years,” Breder informed CBC Information.

“Generally speaking, the shipments are not safe for horses. We know that for a fact.”

Canada exports 1000’s of horses every year to Japan, a market the place some customers benefit from the meat as a uncooked delicacy. In 2018, Canada additionally started transport stay horses to South Korea.

In its latest courtroom submitting, CFIA stated the lawsuit relies on “cultural norms” and CHDC’s interpretation of what’s, and isn’t, an acceptable meals animal.

“However, the inevitable reality is that the CFIA’s role, on the facts of this case, is to determine whether the horses are healthy for export and are being safely transported,” the submitting stated. “There is no requirement on the CFIA to obtain a particular enforcement result and it is well recognized that perfection in enforcement can never be more than an unattainable goal.”

The foundations for transport horses

The current Well being of Animals Rules say bigger horses have to be segregated from one another and set minimal necessities for headroom clearance. The CHDC lawsuit stated the CFIA is just not all the time in compliance with the rules.

New 2020 guidelines will get rid of the segregation requirement, with a said purpose of giving shippers better flexibility in order that appropriate horses can journey along with much less anxiousness.

Maureen Harper, a retired veterinarian who labored for CFIA for 30 years, stated “compatibility” is troublesome for an inspector to evaluate on the airport.

Horse meat is a delicacy in Japan. Canada exports 1000’s of stay horses for slaughter to the nation every year. ( Chalermsak/Shutterstock)

Bigger, stronger horses must be segregated to keep away from accidents from kicking, biting, toppling or trampling, she stated. Horses additionally want area to take care of their stability in transit, particularly throughout take-off or touchdown.

Harper stated the general public is aware of little about Canada’s horse export and slaughter trade and he or she believes most Canadians see horses as companions like canine and cats — not as meals.

“Everybody that I speak to, they’re just totally horrified when I tell them what’s happening and I think the CFIA has a huge role to play here and unfortunately, in my view, they’ve dropped the ball,” she stated.

Horse welfare ‘prime precedence’

Eliot Bouvry of Alberta-based Bouvry Exports — which produces horse meat for export, amongst different merchandise — stated the welfare of horses and different livestock is a “top priority” for his firm and the CFIA.

Horses are inspected by CFIA vets on the airport earlier than departure for cuts, bruises, limps or illness. Animals are transported on single-deck trailers which were sanitized and layered with contemporary shavings in line with Canada’s livestock transport rules, he stated.

“Other species/livestock are transported long distances for slaughter and it’s not a topic of discussion,” he stated in a press release to CBC Information. “Although activists keep the industry accountable, we do not consider it truthful that it is an animal welfare issue. For (some) people it is an ethical problem, which is another debate.” 

Enterprise vs. animal welfare?

Breder accuses the CFIA is placing enterprise pursuits forward of animal welfare. 

“There’s a lot of money at stake, and it’s quite clear to the CHDC that what is really at issue here are industry interests, not the interest and the welfare of animals and the way that they’re transported,” she stated. “It is simply the bottom line to make as much profit as possible.”

The CFIA rejects the declare that trade gross sales are driving coverage and enforcement, and maintains that every one animals, together with horses, are “properly certified, fit to travel and transported humanely in a way that does not cause injury or undue suffering.”

The company stated new guidelines will strengthen security rules for horse transport.

“The updated regulations establish clear and science-informed requirements and thus better reflect the needs of animals and improve overall animal welfare in Canada,” CFIA stated in a press release.

Final yr, 3,871 horses price $26.5 million had been shipped to Japan. Exports had been fewer in quantity than throughout the earlier yr, however had a considerably larger worth.

Canada additionally ships contemporary, chilled and frozen horse meat to Japan price about $29 million yearly, and tens of millions of {dollars} extra to European international locations, together with France and Switzerland.

Whereas it is thought-about a meals taboo in most elements of North America, horse meat is offered and served in some grocery shops and eating places in Canada.

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