Disturbing video sparks pressure to ban horse meat
Animal rights groups are calling for a ban on the sale of horse meat after disturbing video at a slaughterhouse in west Quebec was sent to the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition.
The footage was shot with a hidden camera inside Les Viandes de la Petite Nation near Montebello. It shows a parade of horses being stunned with what's called a captive bolt pistol.
At one point, a worker can be seen stunning a horse and waving goodbye. Under Canadian laws, one shot is supposed to render the horse unconscious but it often doesn't happen. Captured on video, is one horse being stunned 11 times.
"What we do here is legal and supervised by the Canadian government," said the company's general manager.
The video was sent by a source inside the slaughterhouse. For the coalition, it was added evidence there needs to be a ban on horse meat for more than just health reasons. They call the process unethical.
"The meat is actually quite toxic, most of these horses come as ex-pets, ex-race horses," said Twyla Francois of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition. "Nobody raises horses to be used as meat and so they're given series of drugs along their lives."
The company claims the footage was obtained illegally and would only speak to CTV over the phone. The general manager insisted "we do a good job here."
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has seen the video but said the quality of it makes it difficult to properly assess. CFIA officials said the company has been audited and no major deviations were found.
Les Viandes de la Petite Nation is one of four federally inspected slaughterhouses in Canada. And since the U.S. banned the killing of horses for meat several years ago, Canadian businesses have picked up extra customers.
Canadian companies ship horse meat to parts of Europe and Asia. It's an industry estimated to bring about $70 million each year; and one the government has been supporting.
Last year, Les Viandes de la Petite Nation received $2 million from the federal government to expand its facility.
There is currently a private members bill before the House of Commons calling for a ban on importing or exporting horses for human food. However, it is rare for one of these bills to become law.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Joanne Schnurr