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Recommended Handling Guidelines and Animal Welfare Assessment Tool for Horses

Providing consistent animal welfare standards for horses at processing

The Recommended Handling Guidelines and Animal Welfare Assessment Tool for horses provides comprehensive, consistent animal welfare standards for the handling of horses at processing.

The resources are intended to be utilized for third party audits and by the horse processing industry for guidance, education and in-house assessments. They offer detailed information about equine behavior and handling, facility design, transport, compromised animals, effective stunning and willful acts of abuse. These guidelines are intended to be used with Canada’s federal and provincial animal protection legislation.

The guidelines are based on the understanding that animal behavior is key to humane livestock handling. When proper handling techniques are used the animals experience less fear and stress and the job of moving animals is easier. Reduced stress also provides for a higher quality end product.

“It is our belief that these tools developed for the welfare of horses will set the standards for the meat processing industry. The program will provide our management and employees with the training and guidance they need to ensure all horses are handled properly,” says Claude Bouvry of Bouvry Exports. “The guidelines, along with video surveillance, will bring confidence to our producers and our customers.”

The guidelines have received international interest. They were featured at the:

  • Humane Slaughter Association, CentenaryInternational Symposium
  • International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group Level (WAFL)
  • Animal Transportation Association Annual Conference

Discussions have been held with the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, the European Federation of Equine Veterinary Associations, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Horse Welfare group on how the program can be adopted by their respective organizations.

To request a copy of the assessment guidelines contact Jennifer Woods

The guidelines was reviewed and endorsement by the North America Farm Animal Well-being Commission.


Horses have been a source of protein for people around the world for centuries. Over one billion people, or 16% of the world population, eat horse meat. In 2010 there were in excess of 89,000 horses processed for meat in Canada. Horse meat is Canada’s third largest exported meat.

In Canada we set the highest standards for all aspects of horse production. The equine industry has guidelines for the care and handling of horses, including unfit animals, transport training programs and Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals. This Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada / Alberta Equestrian Federation project fills the need for horses at processing.

This project enabled a joining of forces that included science, research, welfare experts and government representatives from across North America.

“The equine industry is committed to having the highest standards for humane and ethical treatment of animals. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also the law,” said Bill desBarres, Chair of HWAC. “This industry developed tool will provide guidance, education and a means to audit animal welfare at the plants.”

The tools developed in this project are modeled after the animal welfare guidelines and assessment tools developed by Dr. Temple Grandin and the American Meat Institute (AMI) for the other meat packing industry (cattle, pigs and sheep).

Project Team and Support

This project is a team effort to continuously advance animal welfare in the equine industry.  Funding for this project was provided by: Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, Alberta Farm Animal Care, North American Equine Ranching Information Council, Horse Council BCSaskatchewan Horse Federation, Nova Scotia Equestrian Federation and Fédération équestre du Québec.

This project is managed through the Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada (HWAC). For more information contact Jennifer Woods, Bill desBarres or Mikki Shatosky.

HWAC gratefully acknowledges the Alberta Equestrian Federation for its secretariat support.