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Animal-rights activists blocked the entrance to a slaughterhouse near Montreal Monday in one of several demonstrations against the killing of horses for human consumption held across Canada.

Protests of varying sizes took place in Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Charlottetown.

The protesters urged MPs to support a private member's bill in Ottawa that would ban the slaughter of horses for meat.

The legislation, tabled by the NDP's Alex Atamanenko, appears stalled in Parliament.


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About 20 people waving placards and repeatedly shouting "Murderers!" gathered outside the entrance to the Viande Richelieu Meat Inc. abattoir in Massueville, northeast of Montreal.

Many of the protesters had painted their faces white and affixed fake rubber bullet wounds on their foreheads.

Blood-coloured paint spilled out of the holes.


Brian Morin, owner and chef of Beer Bistro, is confronted by a demonstrator in front of the Toronto restaurant Monday. Beer Bistro serves horse steak tartar. ((Nathan Denette/Canadian Press))

Atamanenko said he fears most horses sent to abattoirs are not bred for their meat. He says many of the animals have been given medication that could be harmful to humans.

The protesters agree.

"The animals who come here are sick," said Cherie Collins, a former horse breeder who drove a few hours from Cardinal, Ont., for the demonstration. "They're usually ill from old age. They're usually ill from injuries, but they're also sick from things like cancer.

"I gotta tell you, there's been a lot of drugs going into a normal horse … so those drugs are in this meat."

The protesters also argue that the horses aren't always slaughtered humanely. They allege that many are injured by bullets meant to kill and are left to die suffering.

Demonstrators like Len Goldberg, a vegan, showed up at the Richelieu abattoir to try to persuade Canadians to stop putting meat of any kind on their dinner plates.

"We're here to shut down a plant that fires bullets into the brains of beautiful, intelligent animals," said the megaphone-toting Ottawa resident, who was holding a framed photo of a horse.

"We're all earthlings, and I don't see how any sane person can say it's humane to kill another earthling so that we can eat their flesh."

The Montreal event wasn't officially organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but members of the group, renowned for its sometimes shocking publicity stunts, did participate.

The boisterous protesters taunted a security guard at the slaughterhouse, but after an hour-and-a-half of chanting, no trucks had tried to get past them to enter the facility's grounds.

The event didn't appear to have disrupted the plant's regular activities.

Demonstrators also protested outside a Vancouver butcher shop and in front of Beer Bistro, a Toronto restaurant that serves horse meat.

Two dozen Toronto protesters stood outside the downtown restaurant with placards calling for an "end to the slaughter."

One placard displayed gruesome photos of horse body parts, including heads.

Horse steak tartare is among the items on Beer Bistro's menu.

In Halifax, only a handful of protesters came out.

Caroline MacPherson of Halifax said that while no horse slaughterhouses exist in Atlantic Canada that she knows of, she fears horses from the region are being sent to other Canadian slaughterhouses.

"It's very, very wrong," she said, while walking outside the Halifax public library with a few other protesters. "There's video on YouTube, there's video on CBC that show the horrific cruelty to these animals.

"I'm here to educate people to stop this, nationwide."