Written by: Heather Clemenceau
As if there wasn’t enough misery in the lives of farm animals…….
By now you’ve probably read about the “Canadian Food Inspection Agency sanctioned” abuse at federally licensed Western Hog Exchange in Alberta, filmed by undercover investigator. The undercover video shows the arrival of dead pigs, lame pigs, pigs being hit with electric prods, and jammed with metal gates. In some instances, CFIA inspectors are present and are videoed providing staff with electric prods which are in violation of Western Hog regulations. All this serves to raise questions about CFIA oversight and investigation and enforcement of anti-cruelty regulations. Why does it always take an undercover operation to expose something terrible happening on the CFIA’s watch?
The footage, filmed by Mercy For Animals, was given to W5, CTV’s investigative program, as part of their “These Little Piggies” expose. W5 made multiple attempts to interview either Dr. Bruce Archibald, President of the CFIA, or failed ostrich farmer Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture, for this segment. In an incredible feat of bureaucratic idiocy and exasperating obfuscation, the CFIA, who claim to be intolerant of farm animal abuse, side-steps the issue and refuses an interview at least until W5 ambushes Archibald in the parking lot. Too bad the media types at the CFIA never understood the phrase “when you find yourself in a deep hole, stop digging.”
W5’s negotiation process with the CFIA looks like this:
September 3, 2014 – W5 e-mails CFIA providing a synopsis of the video, our initial questions, and seeking an interview with CFIA President Bruce Archibald
W5 is producing a story about the transportation of and handling of pigs in Canada. As part of this investigation, W5 has been provided with hidden camera video inside the Red Deer location of the Western Hog Exchange.
September 11, 2014 – CFIA responds to W5’s request for an interview and responds to some of W5’s written questions
I am responding to your recent requests for an interview with Dr. Bruce Archibald. Dr. Archibald is unavailable for an interview however the information you requested is below. Please contact me if you have further questions.
CFIA Media Relations
Question 1: What are Canada’s animal transport and welfare regulations?
Answer: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) does not condone or tolerate any abusive behaviour towards animals and investigates all allegations of animal mistreatment.
The CFIA enforces the humane treatment of animals in accordance with the Health of Animals Regulations and the Meat Inspection Regulations. Broadly speaking, these regulations aim to prevent the undue suffering of animals during transport and during slaughter at federally registered facilities. These regulations are enforced through inspections at various locations such as border entry points, livestock auction markets and slaughter plants.
Most Canadian producers, transporters and processors are strongly committed to treating animals humanely. In the cases of non-compliance, the Agency works closely with the provinces, territories and all stakeholders in the animal care community to encourage immediate reporting of any animal welfare concerns to the appropriate regulatory authority. Rapid, detailed reporting places us in the best possible position to take appropriate enforcement actions.
Question 2: What are the current regulations on transport times, limits for feed, water and rest, andtruck conditions on animal welfare, and animal handling during the transportation process?
Answer: Part XII of the Health of Animals Regulations defines the conditions for humanely transporting all animals in Canada by all modes of transport. The Health of Animals Regulations require that animals be in good physical condition to travel and that the trip be made under suitable conditions (ventilation, duration, loading density, and proper construction of trailers and conveyances
Question 3: Can the CFIA provide their records of inspection at Western Hog Exchange from May 1,2014 to August 31, 2014?
Answer: There have been no issues of non-compliance identified by the CFIA against the Western Hog Exchange in the past year and, therefore, no enforcement actions taken by the CFIA.
September 12, 2014 – W5 again requests an interview
If Dr. Archibald is unavailable, we request an on-camera interview with the person who oversees CFIA inspectors or someone else from the CFIA who can speak to these issues.
September 12, 2014 – CFIA responds and requests a copy of the hidden camera footage, while not agreeing to any interview
The CFIA takes any allegations of animal mistreatment seriously. In order for us to conduct an appropriate investigation, we request that you forward us the video footage.
September 12, 2014 – W5 responds offering to bring the video to the CFIA office and screen it for them prior to any on-camera interview
We propose the following: our reporter, Victor Malarek, will bring a copy of the video to your offices and show it to the person designated to be interviewed (off-camera). Immediately after he or she has viewed the video, we would expect an on-camera interview.
We have previously enumerated the instances contained in the video in advance of its showing to provide an idea of what the interviewee will see:
- a) Pigs being transported in extreme heat;
- b) Pigs dead on arrival;
- c) Pigs coming off trucks that are too injured to stand or move on their own being forced to move with bats, feet, prodded with electric prods, or pushed with heavy gates;
- d) Boars de-tusked to the gum level,
- e) Questionable euthanasia practices;
- f) Overcrowding.
In some instances, CFIA inspectors appear to be present.
September 17, 2014 – CFIA responds saying an interview is not feasible and responds more of W5’s initial questions
In order for us to initiate a proper and detailed investigation, it is essential that several CFIA animal welfare experts thoroughly view the footage. Typically, this process requires multiple viewings and consultation with other officials in the CFIA. Therefore, it would not be feasible to conduct an interview under the scenario you have proposed.
The CFIA takes allegations of animal mistreatment during transport or slaughter seriously and investigates reports of mistreatment. It is important to re-emphasize that we cannot proceed with a full investigation of this situation until we are provided and can appropriately examine the video footage.
Question 1: Can you provide information on the CFIA records of inspection at Western Hog Exchange (WHE) from May 1, 2014 to August 31, 2014 including inspector compliance verification records and non-compliance reports?
Answer: At this facility, WHE employees identify and exclude from slaughter suspect or unsatisfactory animals. CFIA inspectors then verify that the remaining animals are suitable for slaughter and that proper procedures are followed to produce safe meat. There were379,769 animals presented for CFIA inspection during this period. No animals were condemned based on these inspections.
CFIA inspectors also verify that animals arriving at this facility have been transported in a humane manner. It is important to note that CFIA inspectors are not on site for all arrivals; however, the CFIA did conduct 84 humane transport verifications during this period. No non-compliance reports were issued.
Question 2: Were there any “letters of warning” written to the Western Hog Exchange by the CFIA from May 1, 2014 to August 31, 2014? If so, how many? Can we get copies?
Answer: No letters of warning were issued during this period.
September 17, 2014 – W5 again requests an interview
As we continue our reporting, today we interviewed a representative of Western Hog Exchange who agreed to be interviewed immediately after screening the video with his colleagues. We are prepared to do the same for CFIA.
i.e. to screen the video to as many people as you like, and the opportunity to screen the footage multiple times, in order to allow you to thoroughly view and examine the footage, provided that an interview is granted immediately afterward.
October 1, 2014 – W5’s Senior Reporter Victor Malarek approaches CFIA president Bruce Archibald directly to seek answers and to request an interview. (The exchange is recorded by W5’s cameras and can be seen in our report.)
October 2, 2014 – Following the approach to Archibald, CFIA’s Executive Director of Strategic Communications, James Stott, calls W5:
We are prepared to offer an interview. Our spokesperson is in Western Canada, we would have him available in Calgary.
There would be a condition to the interview, and that is that the footage that was taken today and yesterday at our headquarters not be used. … We’d like an opportunity to be part of a fair and balanced story and I don’t think that’s possible with that footage being used.
October 2, 2014 – W5 responds, accepting their offer of an interview, but declining the CFIA’s conditions
According to CTV News Policy, we cannot undertake to withhold any video that has already been shot.
We have been asking for an interview for more than 4 weeks. We find it very interesting that you come to us now with an offer, after we approached Dr. Archibald yesterday. That said, in the interests of fairness we remain interested in an on-camera interview.
Victor and our crew are available to tape an on-camera interview with a spokesperson or representative from CFIA in Ottawa tomorrow, Friday, October 3, 2014, until 5 pm Eastern Time.
October 3, 2014 – There is no response from CFIA
It’s hardly surprising that there are so many lame pigs in the video – pigs fed ractopamine are at increased risk for exhibiting downer pig syndrome. Ractopamine, a growth promoter, has been banned in 160 countries as a suspected carcinogen. The Bureau of Veterinary Drugs, Health Protection Branch of the Health and Welfare Department of Ottawa found that rats fed ractopamine experienced a cluster of birth defects such as cleft palate, open eyelids, shortened limbs, missing digits, enlarged heart, and a protruding tongue. In 2002, the FDA accused Eli Lilly. the manufacturer of Paylean, the brand name for ractopamine for pigs, of a cover-up on the dangers of the drug in animals. There was no mention in documents submitted during Paylean’s approval process of numerous phone calls from farmers reporting that their animals vomited after consuming feed containing Paylean or that they had become hyperactive or had died as a result of exposure to the drug. Inexplicably, the FDA approved the drug, although other countries certainly paid attention to the scandal.
The CFIA, in their hatred of both animals and humans, has also simply ignored research that clearly warns of the danger represented by this drug to humans and the inhumanity to pigs. Even China, home of infant formula contamination, aluminum-contaminated dumplings, and glow-in-the-dark pork, has banned ractopamine, which is given to pigs in their last 4 weeks.
Animal abuse by agri-business does not appear to be a blip on CFIA radar, but they have no problem using extreme prejudice against small farmers and businesses. In 2012 the agency notified Wholearth Farm that they intended to destroy an entire herd of rare Shropshire sheep. The order was made under a federal program to eradicate scrapie, an illness that affects the productivity and longevity of sheep but can’t be transmitted to humans. The CFIA went on to waste more taxpayer money in the sheep-napping investigation that followed. The Wholearth farm was raided multiple times by the CFIA, who threatened the farmer with up to 12 years in jail and fines of up to $1.5 million, even though none of the sheep were determined to have scrapie. It is fascinating how a very simple act of civil disobedience (refusing to hand over the rare sheep to be killed) unleashed an investigation worthy of searching for a mass murderer or a drug cartel.
Contrast the decision to eradicate the healthy sheep to one by the CFIA to declare fit for human consumption 240,000 Atlantic salmon with infectious salmon anemia – a disease it says poses no risk to human heath. Because the U.S. won’t import fish with the virus, the salmon will have to find dinner plates to land on somewhere in Canada. A marine biologist says infectious salmon anemia is an influenza-type virus and can mutate in unpredictable ways, especially if it comes into contact with another flu virus in a human being.
While allowing infected fish in the marketplace, the shallow talent pool at the CFIA have chosen to target Field Roast vegetarian “meat” products, for labelling compliance issues, forcing the vegan company to halt Canadian distribution. It looks like we will need a special act of parliament to allow the Field Roast product into the Canadian marketplace, thanks to this misguided ruling by the CFIA. Virus-infected fish = OK , but vegetarian meat replacements = NON-COMPLIANT WITH CFIA LABELLING REGULATIONS.
It’s simply astonishing that industries that torture and abuse animals have been left relatively untouched by the CFIA while they persecute both a small sheep farmer and the manufacturer of a vegan meat replacement product. The CFIA has set something of a national record for blundering in a single government agency – an agency where lying and bullshitting have also become part of its business model.
In his classic 1986 essay “On Bullshit,” Princeton University professor Harry Frankfurt makes an important distinction between lying and mere “bullshit.” The liar knows and cares about the truth but deliberately sets out to deny or disguise it; the bullshitter doesn’t care about the truth, he is simply trying to impress us or sell us something. The honest man and the liar really care about the facts but the bullshitter isn’t concerned with the facts except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says: He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them up, or makes them up, to suit his purposes.
Please sign the Mercy for Animals petition.
Please also see Canadian Horse Defence Coalition blog posts about CFIA misfeasance.