Annex E - Animal Welfare - Handling of Non-Ambulatory or Stressed Hogs, in Accordance With the Compromised Animal Policy

This page is part of the Guidance Document Repository (GDR).

Looking for related documents?
Search for related documents in the Guidance Document Repository


Effective Date: June 10, 2011

This memo replaces Memo TAHD-DSAT-AHWM-2008-13-03.

Regulatory basis

Sections 138 and 139 of the Health of Animals Regulations (HAR) prohibit the loading, transportation or unloading of unfit animals. These animals, by reason of infirmity, illness, injury, fatigue or any other cause cannot be loaded, transported or unloaded without undue suffering. No person must load or cause to be loaded, or transport or cause to be transported, an animal that is non-ambulatory, except for the purposes of veterinary treatment or diagnosis.

The Health of Animals Regulations defines "non-ambulatory animal" as "an animal that is unable to stand without assistance or to move without being dragged or carried." A stressed hog is a pig showing signs of acute distress, characterized by increased body temperature, difficulty breathing, trembling, patchy skin discolouration, reluctance to move and on occasion death. A stressed hog is unfit whether or not it is non-ambulatory. Non-ambulatory or stressed hogs are unfit for transport.

It is imperative to note that animals that appear fit at the time of loading can become stressed or non-ambulatory during transport.

The Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990 (MIR) contain the following provisions for the protection of animals at federally registered slaughter plants:

62. (1) No food animal shall be handled in a manner that subjects the animal to avoidable distress or avoidable pain.
63. (2) Every food animal that is obviously diseased or injured shall immediately be segregated from apparently healthy food animals.
67. (2) Subject to subsection (9), no food animal shall be slaughtered in a registered establishment unless the animal has been subjected, within 24 hours before the time of slaughter, to
(a) an ante-mortem examination performed under subsection (1), or
(b) an ante-mortem inspection performed by an official veterinarian or by an inspector under the supervision of an official veterinarian.


Unloading of stressed hogs from the truck or handling stressed ambulatory hogs in the plant can result in a worsened condition and even death. Unloading or causing the unloading of a stressed hog before it has been stunned or euthanized is unacceptable and is a contravention of the Health of Animals Regulations (HAR), section 139(2). Appropriate enforcement action must be taken against the responsible parties. Handling an animal in a manner that subjects it to avoidable stress or pain is also in contravention of the Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990 (MIR), section 62(1).

Industry is aware that stressed hogs cause economic loss through decreased meat quality and higher condemnation risk.

Link to Compliance Verification System (CVS) Tasks:
5.1.02 (Humane Receiving and Handling of Animals) and Humane Transport CVS task 1101 (Transportation inspection - General).

Identify a "stressed hog"

A stressed hog may be non-ambulatory, without apparent injury (NANI - non ambulatory, non injured), or it may stand, but refuse to move or walk or follow other pigs. Panting, trembling, blotchy skin, wheezing may be observed.

A non-ambulatory pig is unfit to be unloaded without first being humanely stunned or killed.

Whether or not it is non-ambulatory, a hog that exhibits all of the following is unfit to be unloaded without first being humanely stunned or killed:

  • trembling,
  • patchy skin discolouration, and
  • laboured breathing

Actions to ensure compliance with the HAR and MIR

  • Protect the animal from being trampled by other animals. While still on a trailer, this may be achieved by halting the unloading process until the stressed hog is stunned or by re-routing the other animals in the shipment. In an alleyway, other pigs must be directed away from the stressed hog.
    • Pigs that are standing but refuse to move or walk are defined in the Health of Animals Regulations as non-ambulatory and must not be unloaded in a conscious state.
    • The use of the "hog sled" to unload un-stunned, non-ambulatory animals is prohibited (including non-ambulatory stressed hogs).
  • A stressed hog that exhibits all of the signs listed above is unlikely to recover. The following two options would be in compliance:
    • Euthanize the animal immediately where it is found and hold for veterinary inspection prior to disposal of the carcass as inedible
    • If a CFIA veterinarian, or inspector, is immediately available and performs CFIA antemortem inspection and authorization for slaughter, stun the animal where it is found and have it moved immediately to be bled and hung for evisceration
  • If the operator deems recovery of the hog to be possible (the animal does not exhibit all three signs listed above):
    • Continue to ensure the animal is protected from other animals and wait for recovery.
    • The waiting period cannot be unreasonably long, so as to cause undue stress (contravention of the HAR and the MIR).
  • Plant management must develop and implement procedures that meet the objectives of this policy (as per Section 57 of the MIR).
    • The procedures must include the above definition of "stressed hog," and outline (1) what to look for, (2) the specific action to be taken including those when a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) veterinarian is immediately unavailable, (3) the procedure to be followed, (4) a procedure for recording events, and (5) corrective actions to be taken, all depending on where the animal goes down or becomes stressed.
  • Plant operators should provide their suppliers and transporters with written expectations and humane handling guidelines specifically in regard to stressed hogs.
    • Plant operators are responsible for taking timely and effective corrective action when requirements in this regard have not been met.

Actions the CFIA veterinarian/inspector must take

  • Communicate with the plant operator about the importance of ensuring that stressed hogs are handled humanely at all times. Assist, within reason, or refer the operator to available resources if questions arise in drafting the written procedures.
  • Verify that the plant operator has a written program for stressed hogs that is effective and being implemented.
    • For example, you can review establishment records to verify off-hours compliance.
    • Monitor the handling of stressed hogs routinely.

If you observe non-compliance at a slaughter plant, complete CVS task 5.1.02 (Humane Receiving and Handling of Animals), or Humane Transport CVS task 1101 (Transportation inspection - General) and rate the task "unacceptable".

  • At locations and for activities covered by the Health of Animals Regulations, complete an Inspector's Non Compliance Report (INCR) and submit to Enforcement and Investigation Services along with inspection findings which may be included on form 5610 or 5200. Examples of non-compliance of relevance for this policy may include:
    • overcrowding (Section 140(1) and 140(2))
    • transportation of unfit animals (Section 138(2)(a)),
    • failure to segregate incompatible animals (Section 141(4))
    • inadequate construction of the vehicle or inadequate vehicle for hog transportation (Section 143(1)(a)
    • undue exposure to the weather such as extreme heat (Section 143(1)(d)
    • inadequate ventilation (Section 143(1)(e) or
    • unloading in a manner likely to result in injury or undue suffering (Section 139(2)
    • exposure to undue suffering by delaying unloading or euthanasia (e.g. ante-mortem behaviour indicates suffering, or post-mortem evidence of suffering such as a hip fracture)

Actions for CFIA Operations Managers, Supervisors and Area Specialists

Please ensure that CFIA staff in federal pork establishments and in CFIA-inspected provincial pork establishments are aware of this policy and the regulatory requirements.

If there are any questions on this policy or its expected implementation, contact your manager/supervisor or your Area Specialist for Humane Transportation or Humane Slaughter.

Date modified: