In 2016, Canada slaughtered 54,057 horses for human consumption, and exported 5,839 live horses by air to be slaughtered in Japan.
Horse meat is exported to Europe and Asia. Less than 3% is consumed in Canada, some possibly unknowingly.
In 2016, hamburgers distributed from Montreal and labelled 100% beef, were found to contain up to 46% horse meat.
BANNER PICTURE: May 2017. Foal at Gramun, Alberta feedlot, owned by Bouvry Exports Slaughter Plant.
The majority of horses slaughtered in Canada come from the US. In 2007, slaughter plants in the states were shut down due to withdrawal of government funding for inspections.
It is illegal to sell horse meat for human consumption in the US, and 80% of Americans are opposed to horse slaughter, but their horses continue to be exported to Canada and Mexico.
“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 it’s doors to the practice.” – John Holland, Equine Welfare Alliance
Prior to this, Canada’s slaughter plants were mainly supplied by foals and spent mares from the Pregnant Mare Urine (PMU) industry. Horse urine is used to make hormone replacement drugs such as Premarin and Prempro.
Most PMU farms shut down in Canada after studies released in 2002 found these drugs had fatal side effects. Farms were relocated to China and PMU drugs with new names were developed. The industry is now attempting to revamp itself in Canada.
Most horses slaughtered are under the age of six and in good body condition, and the vast majority are quarter horses. They come from breeders, the rodeo and racing industries, and First Nations reservations.
Thoroughbred race horses make up 10% of horses slaughtered, despite multiple drugs administered during their racing careers that are banned for human consumption. It’s estimated that up to 75% of all thoroughbreds registered with the Jockey Club are slaughtered.
Industrialized horse slaughter is an underground, unregulated, predatory industry. It is possibly the most extreme act of cruelty that could be perpetrated against horses. It begins when horses are acquired by kill buyers, to be sold for profit to Canadian slaughter plants.
It is a bloody, incredibly painful and lasting process starting with the betrayal of our equine friends at the hands of the killer buyers in auctions throughout the country, and ends with a terror trip inside the guts of a killing machine.Habitat for Horses
Horses purchased for slaughter are put into crowded kill pens, where young and old; injured, sick or pregnant; stallions and mares; wild horses and former pets, must compete for food and water. They’re then packed onto cattle liners to travel to a Canadian slaughter plant or feedlot.
Double deck cattle liners were outlawed for transporting slaughter horses in the US in 2006, but remain legal in Canada.
Transport often exceeds 36 hours, without food, water or rest. Horses that are compromised often become “downer” animals or don’t survive the trip. Many cases have been reported of pregnant mares giving birth on the trucks.
There have also been several accidents where most or all the horses have been killed. Surviving horses were loaded onto different trucks which carried on to the plant.
The Canadian government is revising animal transport laws for the first time in 40 years. However, rather than making improvements, new regulations will make conditions worse.
When they were loading the mares and foals, the trucks didn’t have dividers and the trailer was rocking and they were kicking each other in there. It was horrific.Observer, October 2015
To qualify for slaughter, horses must be free of drugs banned for human consumption. Food safety is entirely entrusted to previous owners and kill buyers.
They fill out an Equine Information Document (EID), stating that *to their knowledge* the horses haven’t been given illegal substances in the past 180 days. Phenylbutazone is the most common drug given to horses. It can have fatal side effects in humans. It has no known safe withdrawal period, but horses given bute are permitted for slaughter.
There is a list of drugs permitted with a six month withdrawal period. Bute is not on this list.Alex Atamanenko
The EID system was put in place in 2010 to appease the EU, and documents are regularly falsified. If horses had any reliable drug traceability, most would not be eligible for slaughter.
While all other food animals in Canada must comply with strict regulations from birth, horses are given a free pass. Less than .05% of horse meat is tested.
These documents are, in my view, misleading, inaccurate and fraudulent.Maureen Harper, DVM
It’s interesting to note that horse meat was outlawed in pet food in the 1970’s due to health risks. Horses are also shipped live from Canada and exported to Japan. Some are specifically bred for this purpose and most are draft horses. Each horse is valued from $2,000 to $20,000. Air transport costs are feasible because raw horse meat is a delicacy in Japan,
Horses are loaded onto planes in small wooden crates. The Calgary International Airport averages two shipments a week, of 90 horses per plane load. Horses are also occasionally live shipped from Winnipeg and Edmonton.
Many horses have died in transit, and on at least one occasion, an entire shipment arrived dead.
There’s not enough room for them to stand properly, and if a horse goes down, it doesn’t have a chance of getting up. I think there should be a complete review of what’s going on with these shipments of horses going to Japan from Canada.Maureen Harper, DVM
Evidently other charters operators have let the horses get too hot and killed the whole plane load.FedEx Pilot
Once the horses are loaded onto aircraft they are no longer protected by Canadian regulations. CFIA also regularly turns a blind eye to their own regulations.
Surrounding the Bouvry plant in Alberta are large feedlots, where thousands of horses are warehoused and fattened for slaughter, with no shelter from the elements. Sick or injured horses receive no care or medical attention, pregnant mares give birth, and conditions do not meet the most basic animal welfare standards.
This is horrific. Well over 1500 horses. The stench is burning my eyes. Driving through with the windows up and air conditioning on.Observer passing Alberta horse feedlot
Many horses in the feedlots have Bouvry’s “U” brand, plus a large identifying number. Any pain killers administered after branding would render the horses illegal for slaughter.
Once at the plant, the terror for the horses begins. The smell of blood and death causes panic, as horses are funneled towards the kill area amid the noise of blaring radios, saws and compressors.
Horses are prodded into the stun box. Their flight response and further panic makes it almost impossible to get an accurate shot.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) allows for 5% of horses to regain consciousness during butchering.
Four separate undercover video investigations of four different Canadian slaughter plants showed a large percentage of horses were not properly stunned before being hung by a back leg to be bled out and dismembered.
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.Debbi Zimmerman, DVM
Two methods are approved for stunning horses: the captive bolt and the .22 rifle. Both methods failed to meet the minimum requirements for humane stunning.
Animal welfare expert, Temple Grandin, graded Canadian slaughter plants as a “fail” in all categories of humane handling.
Two years ago hidden cameras inside Natural Valley Farms in Neudorf, Saskatchewan, revealed a litany of horrors that the CFIA assured us would be fixed.Melissa Fung
When I saw that conditions (two years later) were actually worse at Bouvry and Richelieu, than at Natural Valley, I was shocked by that.Geoff Urton
Nothing has changed at slaughter plants since these concerns were investigated by the RCMP in 2010. Horses continue to be terrified in the stun box and the unreliable .22 rifle method is still in use.
Of particular concern is the killing of wild horses, as any confinement triggers extreme panic. It’s hard to imagine how these horses endure the process from roundup to slaughter, and killing them humanely would be all but impossible. Many wild horses are also slaughtered carrying full term foals.
In addition to family pets, feral horses off First Nations reserves are sources of slaughter horses from British Columbia.
Canada is currently down to two operating horse slaughter plants: Bouvry Exports in Fort MacLeod, Alberta, and Les Viandes Richelieu, in Massueville, Quebec. Both plants are owned by Claude Bouvry, an immigrant from France, who began building his horse slaughter empire in the 1970’s.
Two other plants are federally licensed to export horse meat for human consumption, but are not currently slaughtering horses: Canadian Premium Meats, in Lacombe, Alberta, and Les Viandes de la Petite Nation, in St. Andre-Avellin, Quebec.
Natural Valley Farms, in Neudorf, Saskatchewan, was shut down in 2009 after violating food safety, environmental, and humane regulations.
In February 2010 a suspicious fire closed Norval Meats, which was the last horse slaughter plant in Ontario, Canada.
Former British Columbia horse slaughter plant, KML Meats in Westwold, did not renew its license to slaughter horses in 2017. Perhaps a protest that took place outside the plant in 2013, and garnered Canada wide attention, worked to dissuade them from renewing their license to slaughter horses.
The EU has been cracking down on imports of North American horse meat. In January, 2015, they stopped accepting horse meat from Mexico.
On March 1, 2017, an EU regulation came into effect requiring US horses to reside in Canada for six months before being slaughtered.
There is no system in place to ensure compliance. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), will continue to rely on the Equine Information Document (EID) filled out by the kill buyer as the ONLY proof of residency. The 6 month rule only applies to meat exported to the EU, so some U.S.A. horses will continue to be off loaded directly to the kill line. Slaughter horses must enter Canada at designated border crossings, but there is no way to track whether horses destined for Europe are being held for the required 6 months.
Canada’s horse slaughter industry is a symbiotic relationship between the meat industry and horse businesses that rely on slaughter to dispose of excess stock. The rodeo, racing, and Quarter horse industries depend on slaughter as a safety valve for their over breeding practices.
Quarter horse breeders openly admit that without slaughter their businesses would fail.
When the inhumanity of horse slaughter began to be exposed, numerous organizations sprang up masquerading as animal welfare groups. Some of these groups, such as the Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada, exist solely to promote the slaughter industry.
The Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada is in partnership with horse slaughter plant, Bouvry Exports.
Equestrian Canada (formerly Equine Canada) promotes the slaughter of horses.
The BC SPCA is also complicit and has NEVER supported anti-slaughter legislation.
There have been three attempts in Parliament to regulate horse slaughter. Bill C-544 in 2010, C-322 in 2011, and C-571 in 2014.
Equestrian Canada (formerly Equine Canada) wrote Canadian Members of Parliament to encourage them to not pass anti-slaughter legislation.
Equestrian Canada claimed that when US plants closed, neglect cases increased. This belief is constantly repeated by the pro slaughter side, despite the fact that the number of US horses being slaughtered increased after US slaughterhouses closed.
The U.S. experience with the closure of all horse processing facilities has resulted in increased horse welfare issues.Equine Canada
Export to slaughter was not shut down. Horse owners could dispose of horses at auction as always.
The closure of US plants coincided with a drought and hay shortage, and a momentary increase in neglect cases. Once the drought was over, the number of neglect cases dropped.
Horse slaughter is an $80 million industry in Canada.
It is NOT about horse welfare, unwanted horses, or the good of the horse.
Slaughter is about money and horse meat, and it is the furthest thing from humane euthanasia.
The most common argument is that horses are livestock, no different from other food animals. While opposition is growing towards the inhumane treatment of all food animals that are mass produced and slaughtered, the slaughter of horses is especially contentious because horses are flight animals and as such, there is no humane way to slaughter a horse. But for those who lack compassion, the answer would be that horses are not produced for consumption. As well, while the industry labels them “livestock,” horses continue to be taxed as pets.
Other animals are being raised for food purposes. Horses are not. That’s the big difference.Maureen Harper, DVM
The other main argument is that slaughter is a necessary evil – that unwanted horses need somewhere to go. However, the industry counts every horse slaughtered as “unwanted.” The truth is, kill buyers scavenge the country for horses to fill their meat quotas. They pick up cheap horses with promises of a good home, and dominate horse sales, where private buyers are outbid or ignored by auctioneers.
Online Horse Rustling ‘common scam’ Toronto Sun, October 11, 2016
Once the safety valve of slaughter isn’t an option, breeders will be forced to stop their excessive breeding. Once breeding slows down, the horse population will begin to decline. Owners who can well afford humane euthanasia, will no longer have the more convenient option of slaughter.
As long as slaughter exists, it’s a barrier to meaningful change.
The horse slaughter industry has caused anguish to horse owners, who live in dread of having to part with their animals. Slaughter does not discriminate and no horse is safe.
I am devastated at the loss of my beautiful, gentle friend, and how this could happen in Canada.Kim Wilson
Lindsay woman wants answers after horse sold to slaughter house for meat The Peterborough Examiner, October 12, 2016
LINDSAY – A Lindsay woman who owns a horse which was allegedly sold for meat without her knowledge wants to know how it’s even possible for such a thing to happen. The federal government has strict regulations to prevent horse meat tainted by drugs that are harmful to humans from entering the food chain. Yet it’s alleged that Sargon — a former race horse given an assortment of such drugs during his lifetime — was sold to a Lindsay buyer without the owner’s knowledge, trucked out of province to a plant in Quebec and slaughtered for meat. READ MORE...
The general public remains oblivious that horse slaughter exists, but horse advocates across North America have been fighting slaughter for years. The battle is against a mentality in the equine industry that views horses as a commodity, and not as sentient beings
Horses have complex social structures and are highly intelligent and sensitive to their surroundings. Industrialized slaughter, from start to finish, is a violation of the nature of the horse.
Horses have given us their trust and loyalty, died in our wars, and served mankind for centuries.
In BC alone, horses generate more than $740 million in economic activity and 7,200 full time jobs. The majority of this revenue is derived from recreational horse activities.
In comparison the Canadian slaughter industry employs fewer than 300 people in low paying, dangerous jobs, and produces profits for only Bouvry Exports.
Horse meat is completely unregulated and is not a necessary or staple food, and two thirds of Canadians are opposed to horse slaughter. Those in favour surely do not know what they are supporting.
The mass killing of horses cannot be made humane and will never be ethical.
It’s time to shut this industry down in Canada.