Horse slaughter transport time should be shorter, researcher recommends

An animal welfare researcher at Charlottetown's Atlantic Veterinary College hopes his recommendations to improve the transport of horses heading for slaughter will be adopted.

Maximum transport time should be cut from 36 to 24 hours, says Cyril Roy

The horse slaughter industry needs to take more care in transporting horses, researcher Cyril Roy concluded. (Reuters)

An animal welfare researcher at Charlottetown's Atlantic Veterinary College hopes his recommendations to improve the transport of horses heading for slaughter will be adopted.

It's our responsibility to do the transport properly.— Cyril Roy

Cyril Roy tracked the condition of about 4,000 horses when they arrived at one of Canada's five horse slaughter plants. His study was published in December by the Canadian Journal of Animal Science.

More than half of the horses showed signs of dehydration, and up to five per cent had serious injuries, such as bleeding wounds.

Cyril Roy and Michael Cockram are hopeful the horse slaughter industry will pay attention to the research. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

Roy wants Canada to reduce the length of time these horses can be transported — from 36 hours down to 24. He also wants the horses to be given water every eight hours, and be better protected from injury on the trucks.

"Animals don't need to suffer until the point they go for slaughter," said Roy.

"[Just] because these animals has to be slaughtered, they don't have to be tortured or … undergo injuries before that. So it's our responsibility to do the transport properly, and then the animals go for slaughter."

'A responsible industry'

Michael Cockram, Roy's PhD thesis supervisor at AVC, expects the industry will pay attention to this research.

They would do their best to take advice from whatever source.— Michael Cockram

"It is a responsible industry. It's an industry under a lot of pressure, and a lot of criticism, so it's in their own best interests, and they know this, to try and avoid any criticism," said Cockram.

"They would do their best to take advice from whatever source how to improve their practices."

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is currently reviewing Canada's regulations around animal transport, including horses. New regulations are expected to be released this fall.

The Canadian Meat Council, which represents several of the horse processing plants in Canada, says it's also working with the National Farm Animal Care Council to update industry codes of practice, including many of the issues Roy has raised.

With files from Laura Chapin