The federal government has launched an internal review after allegations of animal abuse at the Western Hog Exchange facility in Red Deer, Alta. 

Hidden surveillance footage released by Mercy for Animal Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing animal cruelty, allegedly shows pigs being abused at the hog assembly yard in Red Deer.

The organization says it had an employee work undercover at the facility for 10 weeks, from May 29 to August 11. In that time, the worker witnessed and documented numerous instances of alleged animal abuse.

Western Hog Exchange

Mercy for Animals released graphic footage that alleges animal abuse at the Red Deer facility. (Supplied/Mercy for Animals Canada)

The organization says sick and injured animals were repeatedly kicked, violently beaten and left to suffer without receiving proper veterinary care and that worker used bolt cutters to cut through the highly sensitive tusks of male pigs. Many pigs at the facility died “from stress, dehydration and severe injuries during transport,” Mercy for Animals says.

Krista Osborne,  executive director of Mercy for Animals, said Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) government inspectors were present in these cases of animal abuse.

“What is of utmost concern is that for every one of the shifts that our undercover investigator worked, the CFIA inspectors were present,” Osborne said. “They witnessed the cruelty, and not only did they witness it, but in certain circumstances they provided workers with electric prods to use.”

In video footage, one of the workers at the Western Hog Exchange says that he has witnessed dozens of pigs freeze to death in a trailer.

Investigations launched

The CFIA launched an internal review to determine if federal rules were broken and if suitable inspections were taken.

“CFIA management has met with all inspection staff in the area to reinforce our values of courage, rigour and respect,” the government said in a statement.  

“We have also taken this opportunity to discuss with staff our ongoing expectations that animal welfare responsibilities  be carried out in a compassionate and respectful manner.”

The Western Hog Exchange released a statement on its website last week saying they have also launched an investigation with third-party experts in animal care and transportation.

“The care and handling of animals is a responsibility we take seriously, and it is paramount that our shortcomings related to animal care are dealt with immediately,” said Western Hog Exchange chairman Brent Moen in the statement.

“Many of the images we saw on the video were shocking and disturbing, and they are not in keeping with the animal care training policies in place at [Western Hog Exchange.] It’s clear that we need to do better.”

Osborne, however, says it’s “far too little and too late.”

“The CFIA has a requirement to conduct an investigation every single time there is a dead animal that comes off a transportation truck,” she said.

“Considering that eight million animals arrive dead or injured, so injured they have to be euthanized, I would have hoped the CFIA looked into that long before Mercy for Animals conducted our undercover investigation.”