Canada

End slaughter of horses for food, activists and lawyers say

Lawyers and animal rights activist are calling on the federal government to ban the practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption.

Lawyers and animal rights activist are calling on the federal government to ban the practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption.

Following a CBC investigation that aired last week, the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition and prominent Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby on Wednesday released a video and report detailing alleged animal cruelty and inhumane practices at a Saskatchewan horse slaughter facility.

The video, taken with a hidden camera at Natural Valley Farms in Neudorf, Sask., shows horses slipping around inside the kill pen as handlers struggle to stun them properly. Some are still conscious when they are finally put to death.

"We're quite certain that these are probably representative of general practices," said Twyla Francois, central region director of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition.

"So we are calling for a ban to horse slaughter, but in the interim we are calling on the [Canadian Food Inspection Agency] to at least do the right thing and shut down this facility until we can determine what's happening at it."

The president of Natural Valley Farms declined to be interviewed, but has previously told the CBC his facility follows all regulations and that its horses are euthanized in a humane way.

Calling the commercial trade in horses for food "ridiculous," Ruby said one of the primary arguments for shutting down the industry entirely is because it is impossible to regulate.

"No one seems interested in policing it, no one seems capable of policing it," he said Wednesday.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which is responsible for monitoring such operations, has declined a request to be interviewed, but said it is in possession of the video and has begun an investigation.

Horse slaughter businesses in Canada have grown by 75 per cent since laws were passed in the United States in 2006 making it illegal to kill horses for human consumption, according to figures from the food inspection agency. It is still legal to ship horses outside the U.S. for slaughter.

Many of the horses slated for slaughter are race or workhorses no longer fit for their former jobs, or unwanted pets. The horses are shipped to any one of seven slaughterhouses in Canada from the U.S. The meat is sent to parts of Europe and Asia where it is considered a delicacy.

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