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An image from video footage shows a top view of a worker at Bouvry Horse Exports shooting a horse. ((Canadian Horse Defence Coalition))

A slaughterhouse in Fort Macleod, Alta., owned by a Calgary company is under investigation by the RCMP over allegations that it has been killing horses inhumanely at its facility.

Police opened the file after the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition made a complaint against Bouvry Horse Exports Ltd, which sells horse meat to international markets.

The animal rights group says a secretly recorded video was sent to them showing horses at the Fort Macleod slaughterhouse being shot and then hoisted away by their legs while still fully conscious.

"It's currently under investigation. We're speaking with the SPCA as well," said Sgt. Brent Hawker, with the RCMP detachment in Fort Macleod.

"If there's a criminal offence that's been committed, we'll lay charges."

'I feel that the footage from the Bouvry plant shows levels of suffering that are unacceptable.' —Dr. Mary Richardson, veterinarian

Claude Bouvry, one of the owners of the plant, denied the allegations of inappropriate slaughtering on Thursday.

"We are supervised at all times, and the SPCA can visit at anytime," he told CBC News in an interview.

Bouvry said six CFIA officials and a veterinarian are always present during the slaughtering process at his facility.

According to the group that made the allegations, workers can be seen in the video repeatedly failing to kill horses with one rifle shot, and then leaving the animals in pain for a prolonged period.

"I feel that the footage from the Bouvry plant shows levels of suffering that are unacceptable," said Dr. Mary Richardson, a veterinarian with the coalition.

Another expert associated with the horse protection group said it appeared many horses were still showing voluntary movements and clearly breathing when they were suspended. 

"This indicates these horses were likely conscious as they were being hoisted high into the air with one leg bearing their entire weight, and while their necks were cut down to the carotid arteries on both sides," said veterinarian Dr. Debi Zimmermann.

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A horse at Viande Richelieu in Massueville, Que. ((Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals))

The coalition also complained to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which oversees the operations of slaughterhouses, alleging that the company has violated meat inspection laws.

The agency confirmed Thursday it has been investigating the company's killing practices at its Alberta plant, and another it owns in Massueville, Que., Viande Richelieu.

"The agency is validating and investigating the allegations presented in the video and actions will be taken to ensure vigilance and respect with regards to appropriate duty of care and humane treatment of animals," said CFIA media relations officer Guy Gravelle.

"The CFIA takes allegations of abuse very seriously and investigates all reports of abuse."