CFIA reviewing reports of abuse at Alta. hog assembly yard

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency plans to review claims of abuse of hogs at an Alberta hog stockyard, as footage purported to show the alleged incidents makes its way toward network TV.

The CTV program W5 is scheduled to air a segment Saturday night (Oct. 11) featuring hidden-camera footage supplied by the Canadian arm of the Los Angeles-based organization Mercy for Animals, whose stated focus is “preventing cruelty to farmed animals” and promoting “compassionate food choices and policies.”

Western Hog Exchange, an Edmonton-based, producer-led marketing agency for slaughter-weight animals, said Sept. 25 that the footage provided to W5 was shot this summer at a WHE assembly yard.

CFIA, in a release Friday, said it has “promptly launched an internal review by a team of experts to determine if federal rules were broken and if suitable inspection actions were taken.”

The review team, the agency said, “will provide its findings to senior officials and appropriate actions will be taken.”

W5, which had its season premiere last Saturday, said on its website Friday that the footage shows workers at a WHE facility at Red Deer “using plastic bats to force pigs to move through crowded and overflowing pens.”

The footage, W5 said, also shows workers “forcing pigs that can barely walk to move by using electric prods and shoving them with gates as they are forced into their pens.”

Furthermore, the CTV report said, CFIA inspectors at the facility “can be seen on the undercover footage oblivious to the abuse or even supplying plant workers with electric prods for use on the pigs.”

CTV added that at one point in the footage, as dead pigs are hauled off a trailer, “a CFIA inspector can be heard saying: ‘If anybody has a camera, this’ll be on the internet.'”

CFIA said Friday it had asked for the video footage when it first learned of the issue, so the footage could be “carefully reviewed by our animal welfare experts.”

However, the federal agency said, “the owners of this footage refused to send it to us, preventing us from carrying out a proper and detailed investigation.”

WHE chairman Brent Moen said the company “hired two independent third-party experts to come to the facility to review and evaluate our animal handling protocols and employee training procedures” after learning of the allegations.

The company said it was first contacted by W5 in the first week of September and was given a “one-time opportunity” on Sept. 17 to review the footage. Moen, the company said, “agreed to appear on camera with W5 immediately after viewing the videos.”

Notify authorities

WHE said it’s asked CTV to share the footage with CFIA and the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Anyone who’s witnessed animal abuse or has evidence of alleged abuse, CFIA said Friday, should notify SPCA officials and provincial or federal authorities “immediately.”

WHE “takes responsibility for what happens at our facilities and we will co-operate fully with the proper authorities and our third-party experts to make this right,” Moen said Sept. 25.

The images in the footage, he said, “were shocking and disturbing, and they are not in keeping with the animal care training and policies in place at WHE.”

CFIA said Friday it was “pleased to see (WHE) has taken steps on their own to address animal welfare concerns within their facility.”

Mercy for Animals’ Toronto-based Canadian arm has provided footage to W5 for previous reports, including those on a hog breeding facility in Manitoba, a layer hen operation in Alberta and a veal operation in Quebec, airing in 2012, 2013 and this spring respectively. — Network


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