Agricultural journalist Jim Romahn reported on a recent Canada Agricultural Tribunal decision that overturned a CFIA sanction against an American trucker shipping horses to Canada for slaughter. One horse in this load was determined by a CFIA veterinarian to be unsuitable for transport, due to lameness. Subsequently, the entire load of horses was rejected for import into Canada. The Tribunal however, overturned the CFIA decision in favour of the trucker on appeal.
From Mr. Romahn’s blog:
Horse trucker wins appeal
“Ricky Bates has won his appeal against the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which judged him guilty of transporting a lame horse.
The CFIA not only found Bates guilty on the basis of one horse, but also refused entry to Canada for all 26 horses he was trucking from Idaho into British Columbia at the Kingsgate border crossing.
He was trucking them to slaughter. There is no horse slaughter in the United States, but there is in Canada, including a packing plant in Alberta.
Bruce La Rochelle, who handled the case for the Canada Agricultural Review Tribunal, said there’s little doubt that animals being transported experience some degree of discomfort, but the issue outlined in legislation is whether there is undue suffering.
After reviewing the CFIA evidence, which included photographs and video footage of the horse in question, La Rochelle ruled that it seemed quiet and had no significant limp.
Bates filed a report by veterinarian Mark Sargent that the horses were all fit for transport.
Dr. Andrew Mack of the CFIA said he decided to take a closer look when he saw blood on the trailer carrying the horses. He took pictures of blood on shavings inside the trailer and on the trailer gate.
Two horses had bloody nasal discharges and one had a bleeding cut above its eye. They were not involved in the CFIA discipline of Bates who was apparently fined, although no amount is mentioned in the tribunal’s report on the case.
La Rochelle noted that it would require an equine specialist to determine whether the horse was lame enough to experience “undue suffering” during transport, and that the CFIA veterinarian Dr. Mack is not an equine specialist.
Bates said he thinks he was targeted by CFIA people who oppose horse slaughter.”
Codes of Practice for Equines stipulate that lame horses can be loaded for slaughter if they are visibly lame but “can keep up with the group” or are “unable to keep up,” in which case they must be loaded into the rear compartment. It is worth noting that the lameness assessment of the (apparently non-veterinary) Tribunal members was given precedence over that of a veterinarian. The Tribunal process is clearly biased in favour of industry. We are concerned that the outcome of this Tribunal will deter the CFIA from taking future action against truckers.
You can read more about the Canada Agricultural Review Tribunal Decision here, where Mr. Bates is quoted as claiming the CFIA was “trying to stop me from making a living an[d] lying about the way I do my job.”