From The Canadian Horse Defense Coalition and Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals (CETFA), December 2011
Watch the video - The True Cost of Canada's Horsemeat Industry. Read the entire 88-page report (PDF). Warning: The written report and accompanying videos contain graphic and disturbing content. Discretion is advised.
The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) presents a fourth investigation documenting inhumane horse slaughter at a Canadian slaughterhouse and provides compelling evidence that the much touted Equine Identification Document (EID) program put forward by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) invites fraud.
Despite past reassurances from the CFIA and industry that horse slaughter plant conditions would be improved, this investigation demonstrates that yet a fourth Canadian slaughterhouse is in violation of humane slaughter regulations.
The CHDC has once again received undercover footage - this time from Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation, Inc., in St. Andre-Avellin, Qubec.
The footage was captured on July 13th and 14th of 2011 and was sent anonymously to the CHDC.
Those of us who have examined the video have been shocked and sickened by
what we've viewed. We consulted Dr. Nicholas Dodman, an expert in animal
behaviour and anesthesiology at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary
Medicine. Dr. Dodman had this to say: "...my final conclusion, after
reviewing 150-plus horse slaughters in this series of videos, is that the
process was terrifying for most of the horses and, in many cases, horribly
inhumane. The inhumane treatment of horses at Les Viandes de la Petite
Nation must be stopped immediately."
The evidence is clear: it is impossible, even in well-designed, conscientiously-managed, assembly-line conditions, to humanely slaughter horses. As Dr. Dodman states, "...many head shy or apprehensive horses...presented the operator of the captive bolt gun with a moving target."
Examples of stun box failures noted:
- More than 40% of the horses were not stunned after the 1st shot as required by "humane slaughter" regulations. Captive bolt pistol placement was poor - some horses were shot into their temples, under their ears or at the base of their brain. These horses showed clear signs of ineffective stunning or revival in the form of remaining standing, standing back up, winnying or head-shaking. Up to eleven attempts were made to stun one horse (Horse 33 Day 1) who suffered for almost 4 minutes.
- While we were not able to see into the area where the horses were suspended and butchered, at times the shooter carried a captive bolt pistol out from the area to hose it off as it became too bloody. This captive bolt pistol was a different style and higher calibre than the one normally used in the stun box. Only with excessive bleeding, such as during bleed-out, would the pistol become so blood covered. Blood was not seen or sprayed off the pistol used in the kill line, which raises the question whether horses were shot while being bled out.
- Over 80% of the horses showed signs of fear: their knees trembled and buckled, they lost their footing and repeatedly fell.
- 14% of the horses vocalized (provoked by stress or agitation). Some whinnied even after being shot.
- Government inspectors turned a blind eye to violations of the "humane" slaughter regulations. Over the course of 2 days a government inspector could be seen looking into the stun box (sometimes with no horse present) for a total of just 3 1/2 minutes. One horse revived (Horse 64 Day 1) while the inspector was observing, but while it seems the inspector requested another shot be given, the shooter simply winked at him but delivered no further shots.
In our opinion, the system brought in by the CFIA to meet European standards for food safety and traceability is flawed and incomplete, and appears to invite fraud. Examples of issues include:
- Incomplete owner information
- Incomplete agent information
- Poor identification of horses/erroneous information given, such as age, colour markings, tattoos, primary location, sex of animal etc.
- Information often appeared to be filled out by auction mart not the owner
- Use of a stamp instead of original signature by agent
The EID system, touted by the Canadian government as a document that ensures "a continuous medical history" on each horse presented for slaughter, is far from a guarantee that food safety is being addressed.
"Dirty Little Secret - Canada's slaughter industry under fire", published by the Toronto Star on July 30, 2011, provided a close look at Canada's horse slaughter system. The article took readers from a U.S. auction to the door of a Canadian slaughterhouse. This investigation shows what lies beyond that door.
Gary Corbett, President of the federal union representing slaughterhouse veterinarians stated the following in the Toronto Star piece in regard to the EID system:
"(Veterinarians) do rely a lot on the records of the horses kept by the
owners coming into the country and there are questions about how accurate or
up to date they are. It's at the discretion of the owner. There's no
regulatory framework to monitor it. It's kind of like an honour system."
The Star also confirmed that: "While there have been investigation of the 4 plants between 2000 and 2011, there have been no prosecutions, said a CFIA spokesperson."
Finally, John Holland, President, Equine Welfare Alliance, summarized the view of many that "Canada has had a very negative turn in the way people view them on animal issues because of this. Canada is seen as an opportunist in the way it has filled its plants with these animals after the U.S. closed its doors to the practice.
Read the entire 88-page report (PDF). Warning: The written report and accompanying videos contain graphic and disturbing content. Discretion is advised.