Statements of Support – Dr. Debi Zimmermann

About Dr. Debi Zimmermann B.Sc. (Zoology), D.V. M. :

A native of Alberta, Canada, Debi Zimmermann graduated from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in 1988. In addition to her doctorate degree, she holds a degree in Biology with a specialization in Zoology (University of Alberta), and a diploma in Animal Health Technology (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology).

For 14 years, Dr. Zimmermann owned and operated a veterinary practice which had a strong focus in chronic pain management, preventative medicine, and quality of life issues. Global Television named Dr. Zimmermann Woman of Vision for January 2002, after she rebuilt her practice following a devastating fire during which she entered the burning building just in time to rescue the 11 animals under her care at the time. She sold her practice in 2008, to allow her time to work on animal welfare issues aimed at preventing the suffering of animals on a more global scale.

To date she has offered her veterinary expertise to assist Zoocheck Canada with numerous efforts, assisted with investigations of the Cherokee Bear Pits in North Carolina and has visited the former Bear Pits and the current Bear display in Bern, Switzerland. She has also been working with The Canadian Horse Defense Coalition on their expose of the inherent cruelty of the Canadian horse slaughter industry and joined them on presenting the facts on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, in Spring 2010.

Dr. Zimmermann is a member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management, and a supporter of the The Canadian Horse Defense Coalition, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), In Defense of Animals (IDA), Defenders of Wildlife and Zoocheck Canada.


On April 16th, 2010 I completed a comprehensive review of video footage filmed in early 2010, representing a random day’s operation at two Canadian horse slaughterhouse facilities; Bouvry Exports in Fort Macleod, Alberta, and Viande Richelieu Inc. in Massueville Quebec. During the periods reviewed, 187 horses were processed at Bouvry Exports, and 100 horses at Viande Richelieu.

Summary of Observations:

The horses passing through these slaughterhouses displayed demonstrable fear and emotional distress. In addition to this psychological pain, these horses also suffered physically in a myriad of ways. These included slips and falls, fractures, numerous mis-shots (often tearing through the eyes or other facial structures) with only some of those afforded a second or even third bullet; some horses regaining consciousness before or while being suspended by one leg, and/or when their throats were being slashed: excessive traumatization during assembly; excessive whippings of their bodies and across their faces (Richelieu), and excessive use of electric prods (Richelieu).

It is my opinion, that the design of the horse processing plants at Bouvry Exports in Fort Macleod Alberta, and Viande Richelieu Inc. in Massueville Québec, should not be deemed appropriate for horses when they do not properly address the idiosyncrasies relating to the behavior of this species, nor the dramatic variations in size of equids they process.

It is also apparent that poor facility design poses inherent dangers to not only horses, but to plant personnel as well.

Of serious concern is that the horses are not consistently rendered insensible immediately as required. Because of a combination of horse factors and human factors, the shooters are seldom able to adhere to proper protocols for euthanasia by firearm.

The numerous acts of willful abuse observed (Richelieu) are also of grave concern in the treatment of these sentient and non-aggressive animals.

Using the criterion of the American Meat Institute and an audit designed by Temple Grandin (Doctor of Animal Sciences, consultant to the livestock industry in animal behavior, and slaughterhouse design expert), these two slaughterhouses fail the core criterion, with an automatic failure for Richelieu for willful abuse, and Bouvry Exports because of bleed-rail sensibility in at least 2 horses. Also evident are violations of the Canadian Meat Inspection Act which govern humane slaughter.


Current Canadian horse slaughter industry practices force horses to endure unacceptable levels of suffering, both physically and emotionally. These inhumane practices warrant an immediate investigation into Viande Richelieu Inc. and Bouvry Exports, a moratorium on all horse slaughter facilities in Canada, and a re-evaluation of horse slaughter as a humane process.

General Comments:

From the evidence compiled from this and other investigations, horse slaughter is a brutal and inhumane process that results in very tangible and easily observed animal suffering.

Veterinarians need to be guard against cruelty becoming sanctioned into what the food animal production industry deems “normal standards of practice”. Equally as important, veterinarians need to make it very clear that horse slaughter, is not, and should not be equated with humane euthanasia.

As part of their mandate, veterinarians are entrusted with the prevention and relief of animal suffering and, the promotion of public health. It is incumbent upon veterinarians therefore, to take a stand on horse slaughter on two fronts; firstly to denounce this inherently cruel and brutal method as a humane option to deal with unwanted horses, and secondly, to protect human health from the prohibited and dangerous drugs that invariably end up in the tissues of many slaughtered horses destined for meat consumption.

I congratulate The Canadian Veterinary Equine Welfare Council for taking on this important issue and for providing a platform through which veterinarians can actively protect the welfare of Canadian horses.

Debi Zimmermann B.Sc (Zoology), D.V.M.


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