Animal Justice Slams Health Canada Over Cruel Poisons to Kill Wolves and Other Wildlife

TORONTO—Animal Justice is raising the alarm over a proposed decision posted today by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (“PMRA”).  The Agency is proposing to allow the continued use of pest control products containing strychnine and sodium monofluoroacetate (known as “Compound 1080”) to kill wolves, coyotes, skunks, and black bears.  

These indiscriminate poisons kill target and non-target wildlife, as well as companion dogs, causing excruciating and often prolonged pain and suffering in victims. The PMRA is proposing to allow strychnine and Compound 1080’s continued use subject to new labelling requirements and other “risk mitigation” measures that Animal Justice says fall far short of what is needed to protect Canadian wildlife and companion dogs.

“This proposal is the ultimate betrayal for some of Canada’s most iconic species,” said Kaitlyn Mitchell, staff lawyer with Animal Justice. “There is a reason that strychnine features prominently in Agatha Christie novels—it is among the most gruesome poisons in existence. When placed in the environment these poisons kill even more non-target animals than intended victims, both when animals eat poisoned bait, and when they consume the toxic bodies of poisoned victims.”

The proposed decision is part of the PMRA’s re-evaluation of products containing strychnine and Compound 1080, which are currently used in Alberta and Saskatchewan to kill natural predators in an effort to prevent conflict with livestock, and to protect at-risk caribou herds. In December 2020, Animal Justice and Wolf Awareness, with support from a large coalition of animal protection and environmental groups, filed requests for special review asking that the Agency review the registration of products containing strychnine and Compound 1080, as well as sodium cyanide, which has since been de-registered in Canada. The PMRA rejected the groups’ requests for special review and chose to proceed with its re-evaluation instead.

Strychnine and Compound 1080 cause such significant pain and distress that they have been deemed inhumane and inappropriate by expert bodies including the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Society of Mammalogists. Because it can take hours, or even days, for an animal to die after ingesting baits containing strychnine or Compound 1080, the bodies of poisoned animals can be scattered across great distances. They are then scavenged by other animals, including endangered species, who then suffer the same gruesome death due to secondary poisoning. 

In February of 2021, the PMRA announced that it would not consider animal suffering during its re-evaluation of strychnine. In concluding that the poisons’ environmental risks are “acceptable”, the PMRA ignored animal suffering and focused on “population level effects”. 

”Placing these horrific and indiscriminate poisons in fragile ecosystems is cruel, irresponsible, and completely unnecessary,” said Mitchell. “Even if the PMRA wants to ignore animal suffering, strychnine and Compound 1080 should still be outlawed given the growing body of scientific evidence showing how harmful they are when placed in the natural environment. There are other far more effective ways to prevent conflict between farmed animals and predators, and to protect endangered caribou herds. Scapegoating wolves and coyotes and subjecting them to unimaginable suffering is not the answer.”

According to a national Environics poll commissioned by Wolf Awareness, Animal Alliance, and Animal Justice, 69% of Canadians say that the risks posed by strychnine, Compound 1080, and sodium cyanide used in Canadian wildlife management programs are unacceptable.

The public has 90 days to comment on the PMRA’s proposed decision before a final re-evaluation is posted.

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Contact:
Kaitlyn Mitchell
Staff Lawyer
kmitchell@animaljustice.ca

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