Auditor-General Kenneth Ferguson has been critical of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and now that Health Minister Rona Ambrose has taken over responsibility from Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz for the CFIA’s food safety programs, she has promised swift action to correct the deficiencies Ferguson has identified.
A few days after the AG report, Ambrose announced that the CFIA would increase fines and expand the compliance program. This is probably a good thing, since, in my opinion, the Ministry of Agriculture has shown that they are only interested in promoting food and Big-AG interests, and are not tremendously interested in protecting public health, and it was therefore an obvious conflict of interest. Food safety obviously has to come first, otherwise there is no market. When it comes to meting out fines and jail terms, I don’t care who does the regulating and inspection, as long as the action is taken as quickly as possible and the results are available for public scrutiny.
One of the more useful things the CFIA have taken to doing in the last few years is posting the names of individuals and companies against whom a conviction has been obtained for non-compliance with the various Acts and Regulations. Anyone following horse slaughter issues knows that the transport trade is infested with people of low character who knowingly participate in the inhumane treatment of these animals.
The CFIA has had the power to dispense fines, which they call “administrative monetary penalties” for years. The penalties were used against truckers who failed to meet standards for humane treatment, or for farmers and feed mills who fail to meet other standards. The CFIA says “every person responsible for transporting animals in Canada must ensure that the entire transportation process including loading, transit and unloading, does not cause injury or undue suffering to the animals. The federal requirements for animal transport are set out in the Health of Animals Regulations, Part XII.”
In reviewing four years of fines levied as per the CFIA prosecution bulletins website, it becomes apparent that there are lots of smaller companies and individuals fined, varying from animal transport companies right down to olive oil producers. Fines range from low four figures right up to low 5 figures and occasionally the odd jail sentence, usually to be served on weekends. I saw only two horse transporters who were convicted for improper or dangerous transport conditions. Many violators may never be effectively penalized because the CFIA has no jurisdiction over transporters from the US.
In April 2010, veterinary inspectors of the CFIA conducted a routine inspection of a shipment of horses at the Windsor, Ontario port of entry. As a result, Loerzel Farm Transport Inc., operating as Ontario Corporation number 2023424, was inspected at the Windsor crossing. The inspection resulted in company fines totalling $40,000, while operations manager Manfred Loerzel was fined another total of $6,000 and received a six month conditional sentence. A conviction was finally entered on September 17th, 2013 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Windsor. Note that it took almost 3 ½ years to secure a conviction against this company after two horses died in transit and others were injured by the sharp interior of the company’s trailer, which they operated from April 2009 – May 2010.
Earlier in September 2012, another conviction was obtained in Manitoba Provincial Court against 5133831 Manitoba Ltd., (doing business as Shadow Creek Transport) which entered a guilty plea for one count of contravening Section 143.(1)(b) of the Health of Animals Regulations. In accepting a joint recommendation proposed by Crown and the Defence Counsel, the judge imposed a $7,000 fine on the company.
The incident that gave rise to the charge occurred on November 7th, 2007, when a livestock trailer carrying down or dead horses owned by 5133831 Manitoba Ltd. arrived at the Canadian port of entry at Emerson, Manitoba. Again, please note that it took almost 5 years to get a conviction against this company and the driver. What were they driving during those five years?
Upon examination of the load, numerous draft horses were found down or dead with blood observed inside and outside the trailer and numerous scrapes and abrasions also noted on the horses. Fourteen of the 22 draft horses either died during transport or were euthanized by CFIA veterinarians.
A related court case held in Manitoba Provincial Court on June 4th, 2010, resulted in the driver of the load, Geoffrey Giesbrecht, being found guilty of contravening Section 138(4) of the Health of Animals Regulations. This charge related to the transportation of animals that were injured or unfit for transport. Giesbrecht pled guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in jail – on weekends.
Both of the transport companies and their staff were/are Canadian, transporting horses from within Canada. Possibly some of these were American horses though. Sadly, we will probably never read about any convictions related to the full-term pregnant mare that delivered in a trailer enroute to slaughter at Les Viandes de la Petite Nation, in a consignment from Leroy Baker.
CFIA officials recommended action be taken against Baker or Sugar Creek auction for this gross transgression, which occurred in 2011, but it never appears in any CFIA prosecution bulletin, probably because CFIA authorities must rely on the USDA to initiate even more convictions and fines that Leroy Baker simply won’t pay. The ATI documentation received and translated by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) indicates that the foal in this incident was euthanized shortly after his brief life began, and the mare was shot on schedule a few hours after giving birth, at LPN.