ACCESS TO INFORMATION DOCUMENTS FOR ATLAS AIR CHARTER OF LIVE HORSES FROM THE CALGARY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TO KAGOSHIMA, JAPAN
On September 12, 2017 an Atlas Air charter flight left the Calgary International Airport carrying 106 horses destined for slaughter to Kagoshima, Japan. Because there was a significant flight delay, an Access to Information request was made seeking to determine the length of time the horses had been confined without food and water and if the permissible 36 hours had been exceeded.
148 (1) Subject to subsections (2), (3) and (7), no person shall confine in a railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft or vessel
- (a)equines, swine or other monogastric animals for longer than 36 hours
The documents received describe the horses as Belgian crosses. June is entered as the month of birth for each with the year ranging from 2003 to 2016, when the greatest number were born. This means most horses (84) on this flight were approximately 15 months of age which could explain the smaller sizes observed for some. The majority were identified as geldings.
From a previous correspondence we understand the Canadian Food Inspection Agency oversees the trailer loading operation at the feedlot:
“In order to verify the health and welfare of the horses, a CFIA staff is present at numerous stages during this process. This includes testing of the animals prior to shipment as well as overseeing the loading of the animals into trailers at the farm, into the crates at the airport and the loading of the crated horses onto the aircraft. During the flight an attendant, supplied by the exporter, that has experience in dealing with and handling horses is present.”-Paul Littlewood former Regional Director – Chief Inspector, Alberta South Region, Western Area Operations Canadian Food Inspection Agency / Government of Canada
This did not occur for this load. Instead, the CFIA appears to have accepted the exporter’s account that loading occurred later than scheduled as he was aware there would be a delay in the aircraft’s arrival. The documents record 5 p.m. as the time trailer loading began with a 6 p.m. departure to the airport.
On September 11, 2017 the recorded temperature at 5 p.m., when loading is reported to have begun at the feedlot, was 28° Celsius (82.4° Farenheit) in Calgary.
The trucks were photographed arriving at the Calgary International Airport on Sept. 11, 2017 at approximately 6:50 p.m. Documents state the crate loading procedure was completed in one hour, beginning at 7:45 and ending at 8:45 p.m. Twenty-nine crates were used in total, with one containing 2 horses, eight having 3 horses and twenty crates containing 4 horses each.
141 (1) Subject to this section, no person shall load on any railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft or vessel and no carrier shall transport animals of different species or of substantially different weight or age unless those animals are segregated.
(8) Every equine over 14 hands in height shall be segregated from all other animals during transport by air.
The following day the crates were loaded on the aircraft from 10:55 a.m. to 12:03PM with the plane departing at 1:13 pm. The flight was 10 h 51m in duration. After landing the horses were transferred from the crates onto trucks and transported to the quarantine station.
The horses had been denied food and water from the time they were loaded in trailers at the Alberta feedlot until their arrival at the quarantine station in Japan.
According to the timeline of events included in the documents, the total time elapsed was slightly over 33 hours.
September 11, 2017
- Horses were loaded on trailers at the feedlot from 5-6 p.m. (as reported by the exporter)
- Horses transported to Calgary airport from 6-7 p.m.
- Horses loaded in crates from 7:45 to 8:45 p.m.
September 12, 2017
- The crates were loaded on the aircraft from 10:55 a.m. to 12:03 p.m.
- The aircraft departed at 1:13 p.m., the flight was 10h 51m in duration.
- The horses were unloaded from the aircraft after arrival in Japan and transported to the quarantine station there. Although unconfirmed in the documents we received, the total time calculated to complete these activities was 2 hours.
Two phone calls were made to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Calgary office by concerned citizens regarding this shipment. One of these was made by an individual who had been videotaping as the crated horses were loaded to the aircraft and became concerned that violations related to the Humane Transport of Animals may have occurred.
The Calgary Humane Society (CHS) also received calls from individuals concerned that the horses were without food and water for a long time. National Media Relations was contacted by the CHS and Animal Justice and were provided the number for the Calgary office.
An e-mail was distributed to agency personnel to remind that, unless an individual wished to speak to someone immediately, calls from the public related to horse slaughter or their shipment to slaughter were to be advised their questions and comments could be submitted via the CFIA’s ‘Contact Us’ page. Media inquiries were to be referred to Media Relations.
Staff were alerted to social media activity regarding this shipment, with links to individual and group Facebook pages and notes of previous activity for the two callers.
Please note all documents appear as received, with portions exempted under sections 17, 19(1), 20 (1)(c), 20 (1)(d) and 21 (1)(b) of the Access to Information Act.