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Humane slaughter of horses in Canada

The role of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is to verify that all federally licenced slaughter operators are handling horses with care and the Agency works closely with industry to ensure they understand and comply with federal food safety requirements.

The CFIA verifies industry's compliance by:

Federally licenced operators conducting horse slaughter are responsible for ensuring that horses are treated humanely and are slaughtered without unnecessary suffering, as required by federal law.

Laws governing the humane slaughter of horses

Under the Safe Food for Canadians Act and its regulations, licence holders who operate an establishment where federally regulated slaughter is conducted, must comply with humane slaughter requirements.

Part 6 (Commodity-specific requirements), Division 7 (Meat Products and Food Animals) of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) defines the conditions for the humane slaughter of all species of food animals. Some of the provisions contained in the regulations include:

All operators who slaughter horses also have obligations when receiving horses at the slaughter establishment under the Health of Animals Regulations (HAR).

In addition, the agency provides guidance to industry on procedures for handling and slaughter to meet food specific requirements for meat products and food animals under SFCR.

Industry's role in the humane slaughter of food animals

Canadian law requires that all licence holders who operate a slaughter establishment under federal regulations ensure that all species of food animals are humanely handled when they arrive at the slaughter establishment and during the entire slaughter process.

Additionally, to obtain and maintain a licence under SFCR, a licence holder is required to take the following measures to meet humane slaughter requirements:

Treatment of horses during slaughter

Every animal species has unique behavioural and physical characteristics, which have to be taken into account during slaughter. An effective preventive control plan will include preventive measures to control animal welfare risks, including those unique to the species, during all federally regulated slaughter activities in the establishment.

For example, horses vary a great deal in size, so handling and restraint facilities must be adaptable to the size of individual horses.

In addition, non-slip flooring is particularly important in facilities where horses are slaughtered because horses tend to become easily distressed if their footing is not sure.

CFIA oversight

CFIA inspectors and veterinarians are present daily during all slaughter operations at federally licenced establishments to inspect and verify compliance with various regulations including the SFCR and HAR.

This includes verifying that licence holders who conduct federally regulated slaughter are implementing all the procedures outlined in the animal welfare component of their preventive control plan (PCP) and that their measures are effective. Refer to industry guidelines for an effective animal welfare plan as part of a PCP.

The goal of these inspections is to verify that animals are being handled and slaughtered humanely and are not subjected to avoidable pain or distress.

When the agency identifies non-compliance with the legislation it administers and enforces, it has a number of tools it can use to respond. Learn more about compliance and enforcement activities.

Reporting alleged mistreatment of animals

In order for the agency to take appropriate action in response to violations of federal humane slaughter regulations, it is important that alleged cases of mistreatment be reported to the closest CFIA office immediately.

If you believe you have witnessed someone who is not following the regulations regarding humane slaughter:

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