ALERT – Access to Information Documents Reveal Regulation Violations and CFIA Cover Up For Live Draft Horse Shipments to Japan

Dear Horse Defenders:

Drafts awaiting loading on Atlas aircraft in Calgary for shipment to Japan for slaughter.

Drafts awaiting loading on Atlas aircraft in Calgary for shipment to Japan for slaughter.

Since 2012, CHDC has battled to achieve an end to the cruel air transport of live horses from Canada to Japan for slaughter.  The evidence we’ve uncovered is gruelling.

In response to our Access of Information requests, we recently received pages and pages of reports and e-mails dealing with equine transport issues that CHDC brought to the attention of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in 2012.  The responses reveal that three horses died as a result of a landing accident and six horses perished in flight on August 1, 2012, “due to a combination of a substantial delay, the large size of the horses, and significant stress levels in the animals”.  Further, “horses usually go down during take-off and landing” (incidence of this is allegedly dependent on the individual pilot); one horse died on a trip from Calgary and was upside down in his crate.

How did the CFIA deal with the truth of the six in-flight equine deaths?  We’ve discovered conflicting information, either representative of blatant fabrication or such hopeless disorganization that one has to seriously question the agency’s ability to communicate effectively and to make sound decisions.  We’re not sure which possibility is worse, lying or ineptitude?  Here we’ll let the reader examine the evidence and decide upon the meaning of what we’ve uncovered.  Please click on the following links:  Six equine fatalities and ATI letter and letter from Paul Littlewood, Regional Director-Chief Inspector, Alberta South Region, Western Area Operations, Canadian Food Inspection Agency  to a CHDC supporter.

On one hand, we are told that the six equine fatalities occurred due to a combination of three factors, including the large size of the horses.  On the other hand, the public is fed this line:  “The CFIA is not aware of any injury or undue suffering due to lack of segregation of horses over 14 hands in height.”  Note the dates.  The fatalities occurred on August 1, 2012, and the deviation from the truth found its roots over three months later.

Should it be any surprise that the flimsy wooden crates currently used for equine transport purposes have been known to break?  We suspected that this might be the case, and now we know it to be true.  The CFIA admits that rearing horses have broken overhead wooden lattices covered in netting.  Incidentally, while it is common knowledge that duct tape is useful for many purposes, apparently one more use was discovered for it in 2012 – to repair broken crates housing large horses for export.  At the time, this practice was sanctioned by a well-meaning CFIA official.   Further, see this  memo allowing use of duct tape saying that the carrier (eg: Atlas Air Cargo) can do as they like as long as the problem is fixed.

Canadian law prohibits equines from being deprived of food and water for longer than 36 hours during the process of transport.  Such a lengthy period of time without sustenance is grossly inhumane in itself; and clearly, due to flight delays, the 36-hour regulation can easily be breached.  Further unacceptable practices include the horses’ exposure to de-icing sprays on the tarmac, as well as engine noise levels that can only be described as deafening, while the animals are confined in their crates awaiting loading.  These are the words of a credible eye witness on January 13, 2015, after seeing horses standing in crates, completely exposed:  “….[the horses stood] for about 5 hours in a plume of diesel exhaust from large ground equipment and for several hours as well in plumes of jet fuel exhaust and de-icing glycol chemical overspray.”

ATI findings confirm what we already knew – that stress levels can be very high when horses are in close confinement and subject to the rigors (and terrors) of air travel.

The live horse export business is not only cruel; as currently conducted for the purpose of export for slaughter, it is illegal.

Canada stands in breach of two sections of our own Health of Animals Regulations, as depicted in recent undercover footage, video below, showing a taller horse unable to stand in his/her natural position, and thus illustrating a violation of Section 142 of the Health of Animals Regulations (“No person shall transport or cause to be transported animals in a railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft or vessel unless each animal is able to stand in its natural position without coming into contact with a deck or roof”).

Horses are typically crated together (with three or four horses in a crate), even though this violates Section 141.8 of the Health of Animals Regulations, which prohibits horses over 14 hands from travelling together.  An ATI document makes reference to the fact that loading a fourth horse into a crate is upsetting to the other horses.

On examining a CFIA document dated 2012-12-10 we discover how laws can so fluidly be swept under the carpet and twisted according to the whims of agency officials.  First, formwork detailing a shipment of horses is revealed, with this note at the bottom under “Description of non-compliance” – “Every equine over 14 hands in height shall be segregated from all other animals during transport by air”.  This is followed by commentary regarding an exception for draught horses, because of their calm nature!
(Interestingly enough, an internal e-mail within the agency refers to the horses as “not very tame, and some even border on wild.” It appears that the story changes depending on the CFIA official supplying the commentary.  Wild or calm – which is it?)

Further, on 2012-11-16, clearly without regard to separate subsections concerning equine, an unidentified official has provided an addendum to Section 141.4 of the Health of Animals Regulations.  He/she takes the liberty of adding (to a subsection not including equine), “If horses appear incompatible by nature at loading or at any further time (observed by vets or inspectors)…. [they] shall be segregated during transport.”  This is a clear deviation from the wording of existing legislation.  It appears to be an attempt to legitimize the act of cramming numerous horses into crates, and serves to open the floodgates for further violations.

Additional scrutiny of the ATI documents reveals the following:

  • A March 13, 2012 memorandum within the agency states:  “Although they are not legal requirements, the Transportation Code, the Horse Code and the IATA Live Animals Regulations help to interpret some of the outcome-based provisions of the Health of Animals Regulations.”  Even with this clear admission of the power wielded by existing legislation, attempts to twist those laws are evident.  The term “outcome-based” appears to trivialize the Regulations, indicating that agency interpretation of the outcome is what counts.
  • This statement shows that someone was actually considering the welfare of horses:  “Loading four 1730-pound horses in a 66.5 square foot crate does not meet the OIE and IATA international standards or Canada’s agreed national standards.  Unless it can be shown through research that these horses are not exposed to suffering during transport, it would appear that this is overcrowding and not compliant with the Health of Animals Regulations.”  It is noteworthy that an official within the CFIA attempted to bring camera surveillance into aircraft conveying live horses.  This was refused due to safety concerns involving the use of lithium batteries in the cameras (purportedly a fire hazard).  Note these statements toward the end of the document, however:  “I do not feel that ________ will be helpful…Siding with exporters is what I thought.”  Further, a request to conduct a study regarding equine welfare associated with air transport was turned down. Why have these legitimate efforts to measure the suffering of horses aboard aircraft been shunned?  Was the CFIA official’s assumption correct, that it is the exporters who are actually calling the shots?
  • Instead of adhering to legislation, the government then proceeds to weave its tangled web.  The following commentary attempts to grant other codes of practice more clout than the law:  “In regards to the export of Horses to Japan the Canadian Food Inspection Agency follows the guidelines contained within the CFIA Transportation of Animals Manual of Procedures.  We use the loading density charts contained within the manual to determine the maximum allowable weight of the horse given the square footage provided during transport.  These same charts are contained within the Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals.”  Why not start by following the law first then draw from these other resources?
  • In 2012, exporters were to be advised that effective Dec 1, 2012 crates would not be loaded with more than 3 horses. In an e-mail dated Aug 6, 2013 an attempt was made to qualify the drafts for the same exemption as the Icelandics, and the three horse rule was reiterated in the reply. Yet they continue to ship 4 horses to a crate–as long as they are friends.
  • This statement from a CFIA document may well sum up the situation:  “With respect to the segregation of horses transported by air, professional judgement and previous experience indicate that some horses travel safely and comfortably without segregation.” Again, what has happened to legislation?
  • Here’s one answer.  This could be why great pains have been taken to re-word legislation without the actual use of legal means to achieve that end:  “2012-10-26 12:52 PM  Air Transport of Horses – Overview of our call today –  Segregation:  Raised by CHDC – Regs. require that horses over 14 hands must be segregated during air transport from all other animals.  Don’t know why this was put in place but it is a reg.  When Western Area came to us a few years ago, said don’t have enough resources to enforce therefore WAY down on the priority list, therefore no point in spending time and resources enforcing that.  In the meantime, our Reg. Amendment would remove that provision.”

Whether the actions of the CFIA are the result of ineptitude, or a determined effort to fabricate, ignore laws and cater to industry, the horses are the victims of their misguided closed-door decisions.

It is time to take the CFIA to task.  It is time to end the cruel and illegal live horse export industry!

Please send a letter or telephone Hon. Edward Fast, our Minister of International Trade, to demand that the practice of sending horses overseas by air cargo to slaughter must stop on humane and legal grounds.  Be firm but polite.  Also please copy Dr. Bruce Archibald, CFIA President.

Short on time?  Consider telephoning Hon. Fast’s office (or send him a hard copy letter, which has more impact than e-mails) — and then save time by e-mailing Dr. Archibald and the opposition critics.  In all communications, ask for a response to your concerns.  All contact information is included below.

Please forward any responses to CHDC:

PLEASE DO IT NOW…for the horses!

Hon. Edward Fast, Minister of International Trade
Telephone:                              613-995-0183
Mailing Address:
House of Commons
(No stamp required)
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0A6

Dr. Bruce Archibald
President, Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Telephone:                              1.800.442.2342
Mailing Address:
1400 Merivale Road
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0Y9

If possible please write separate letters to the opposition critics indicated below (sample letter below).

Liberal Shadow Cabinet
International Trade Critic:  Chrystia Freeland
Telephone:                              613-992-5243
Mailing Address:
House of Commons
(No stamp required)
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0A6

NDP Shadow Cabinet
International Trade:            Don Davies
Telephone:                             613-943-0267
Mailing Address:
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0A6

Green Party
International Trade:  Paul Manly      Email:

Animal Issues:  Sameer Mulden       Email:

And please consider writing to Atlas Air Cargo the current carrier of the horses.  They can be reached here.

Here’s the sample letter for you to use.  Please feel free to amend as you see fit but please keep it professional.

Dear Hon. Mr. Fast,

I have serious concerns about the export business of live horses being sent for slaughter to Japan by aircraft.  The pertinent details are well-covered here, and I’m hoping that you will study the Access of Information findings listed:  [The writer can then add one or two examples, if they wish.]

Please act promptly to end this cruel, unsafe and illegal practice.  I look forward to your reply.

You Name and contact information

c.c. Dr. Archibald and the others listed above


  1. Cathy Mansley · ·

    Stop horse slaughter all together. Horses were not meant to be eaten.

  2. chels · ·

    What has the world come too? People are so evil

  3. · ·

    All of this is so inhumane. What has happened to Canada. Anything for a buck!!!! Thank you to those who work so hard to get these gross cruel facts out to public no matter how horrible. I continue my work at informing everyone I see that this goes on. And so many are not aware and are horrified when I share the grim information

    Sent from my iPhone


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