ARCHIVED - Findings Summary: Humane handling and transport activities for the Western Hog Exchange and Establishment 270A

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The Western Hog Exchange (WHE) is an assembly yard operating within a facility located in Red Deer, Alberta which is owned and operated by Olymel S.E.C.; a federally registered hog slaughter and processing establishment (Establishment 270A). The assembly yard receives sows and boars that are shipped to other locations, and market hogs destined for slaughter at Establishment 270A.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has approximately 30 employees, including three supervisors, working at Establishment 270A. Inspectors perform ante-mortem inspections of hogs for slaughter by Establishment 270A within the WHE facility.

From May 29 to August 11, 2014, a member of the animal rights organization Mercy for Animals recorded hidden camera footage of the assembly yard while working at the facility. The footage was provided to the media outlet CTV for their investigative news magazine program W5.

As a result of the hidden footage, the W5 program aired a WHE segment on October 11, 2014. The segment focused on alleged abuse of humane transport and treatment of animal rules by transporters and WHE employees, as well as criticisms of CFIA inspectors for their regulatory response, and allegations that CFIA inspectors did not take appropriate action.

After being notified of the allegations from the Mercy for Animals video, the CFIA took immediate action and conducted an investigation.

Summary of CTV's Allegations Against CFIA Inspectors

  • CFIA inspectors were absent while animal abuse happened or failed to take enforcement action in response to animal abuse.
  • The working relationship between Inspectors and WHE employees is too informal.
  • Inspectors participated in animal abuse by giving electric prods to truck drivers.
  • Inspectors contributed to pigs panicking during the movement of large numbers of animals through crowded areas.
  • Inspector comments showed a lack of compassion for animals.

Summary of Investigation Findings

In following-up on the allegations raised in the W5 segment, the CFIA's Alberta North Regional Chief Inspector (RCI) found that:

  • Inspectors do not tolerate nor participate in any animal abuse they are aware of.
  • The relationships between CFIA and industry at Establishment 270A are professional and appropriate.
  • Inspectors have taken compliance action when questionable animal handling was observed, or whenever contravention of the Health of Animals Act or Meat Inspection Act occurred.
  • There is a preference for verbal resolution over written documentation of issues with written documentation reserved for serious or repeat issues. Documentation of non-compliance is an important aspect of the CFIA compliance activities and is needed to support escalation of enforcement actions such as license suspensions if required.
  • There was some uncertainty among the Inspectors concerning their authority to enforce the Meat Inspection Act in an assembly yard and how to properly document non-compliant activities. This can be attributed to the lack of clarity in the Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures on status of this type of facility.
  • Inspectors and inspection supervisors demonstrated a commitment to animal welfare and a dedication to their role as an enforcement agency.

CFIA's Response to Allegations and Findings

  • A CFIA inspection team, led by a CFIA veterinarian not assigned to establishment 270A, conducted unannounced humane transportation inspections of over 2,200 hogs on four separate dates. Their observations included transport operations after regular working hours. Some minor health issues were observed that would not contribute to undue suffering during transportation and all loads were considered to be in compliance with the Health of Animals Act with regards to humane transportation.
  • Inspectors under review were diligent in observing pigs being unloaded and were quick to take action when they observed potential non-compliant situations. However, there are opportunities to improve the level of understanding with the CFIA's Compliance Verificaiton System and the Humane Transportation Program.
  • All inspectors reported concerns in the ability to comprehensively monitor operations to ensure full compliance with the humane transportation standards of the Health of Animals Act due to the size and complexity of the operations, the difference in the establishment's hours of business, and the CFIA's shifts. It is important to note that CFIA Inspectors are not present in the WHE facility for their entire shift as they have additional duties within Establishment 270A.
  • The CFIA initiated an action plan to address concerns identified in the inspection system at Establishment 270A. The RCI lead the implementation of the action plan which focused on four areas:
    1. Leadership support and training,
    2. Inspectorate culture and training,
    3. Regulatory oversight with respect to legislation, and
    4. Regulatory oversight with respect to inspection presence.
  • The CFIA has registered a review of the WHE situation with the Agency's Inspection Verification Office and the Office of the Inspector General.

NB: See Annex A for detailed status of the action plan implementation.

Annex A: Detailed Action Plan Implementation

  1. Leadership support and training:
    • The Regional Chief Inspector has met with inspection supervisors to affirm inspectorate leadership behavioral expectations
  2. Inspectorate culture and training:
    • Regular outreach sessions with the inspectorate at Establishment 270A are conducted to reinforce appropriate behavioural expectations.
    • The Regional Chief Inspector continues to meet with inspection supervisors and staff to review training needs and develop a group learning plan to enhance inspection system performance at establishment 270A.
  3. Regulatory oversight – Legislation:
    • The Regional Chief Inspector has clarified with inspectors their authority in monitoring and enforcing the Meat Inspection Act and Regulations in the Western Hog Exchange.
    • The Regional Chief Inspector and his staff have met with management staff at Establishment 270A and the Western Hog Exchange to clarify the CFIA's authority under the Meat Inspection Act and Regulations at the Western Hog Exchange.
    • The CFIA's Operations Branch is updating guidance documents for inspection staff on the application of the Meat Inspection Act when an assembly yard is adjacent to a slaughter establishment.
  4. Regulatory oversight – Inspection:
    • The Regional Chief Inspector has met with inspection supervisors and staff to review the current approach to regulatory oversight in the Western Hog Exchange, with the goal of enhancing the CFIA's inspection presence and regulatory oversight within current legislative and inspection framework.
    • The CFIA advised the operator of Establishment 270A of the enhanced inspection presence plan and implement the enhanced inspection presence at establishment 270A.
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