Governments respond to CBC report on horse slaughter industry

In the wake of a CBC-TV report, agriculture officials in Saskatchewan and Ottawa are talking about the need to ensure that horses are slaughtered humanely.
Sinikka Crosland, executive director of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, alleges that horses at Natural Valley Farms are not being slaughtered in a humane way. ((CBC))

In the wake of a CBC-TV report, agriculture officials in Saskatchewan and Ottawa are talking about the need to ensure that horses are slaughtered humanely.

The report that was broadcast Tuesday night contained hidden camera footage from Natural Valley Farms at Neudorf, Sask. which the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition alleges shows horses being improperly transported, denied food and water and inhumanely killed. CBC obtained the video from the group.

"It is not humane when there's horror [and] when the horses are frightened," said Sinikka Crosland, the coalition's executive director.

"The horses are slipping and sliding all over the kill box — that is not a humane situation."

Although no one from Natural Valley Farms would comment to CBC Wednesday, government officials were reacting to the report.

"The provincial government supports the humane slaughter of animals,"

said Scott Brown, a spokesman for Saskatchewan's Agriculture Department. 

"However, when we watched the footage last night, there are some concerns about whether all the rules that are in place to support that are being followed."

Enforcing the rules is the responsibility of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Wednesday CFIA has veterinarians at the slaughterhouse who will be looking into the concerns raised by the report.

"We'll have them double check it, to make sure these complaints are legitimate," he said.

If the company is following the laws, the Natural Valley plant will carry on, Ritz said.

Sue Reynolds, a horse owner in B.C., says horses are not animals that should be slaughtered for eating. ((CBC))

The plant serves the European market for horse meat, something that those in the industry think should continue.

Any slaughter, whether it's of cattle or horses, needs to be done properly, not banned, said Shanyn Silinski, executive director of the Manitoba Farm Animal Council.

"Do we want to be in a situation like the U.S. where they're turning them loose in public lands to have them starve to death or be killed by predators?" she asked. "That doesn't seem like a very humane end."

Silinski said she wants animal-rights activists to see the big picture and ensure that by trying to fix one problem they don't cause an even bigger one.

Some horse owners in Kamloops, B.C. — the south central B.C. community that is home to Medallion Meats, which slaughters horses and supplies horse meat to Europe and Hong Kong — said they find it difficult to stomach the fact that horses are being used for food.

"You develop a huge emotional attachment to them, just like a dog," Sue Reynolds said. "I don't think horses are an animal that one rears for eating.

Monica Marpole said meat lovers already have many choices.

"I think that it's totally unnecessary and it's unconscionable. Horses are incredibly intelligent. They are incredibly intuitive. They're just gracious animals," she said.