Undercover Investigation Inside Quebec Slaughterhouse Reveals Serious Food Safety and Horse Welfare Concerns

Orangeville, ON: Footage and photos captured by an anonymous source at Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation Inc. in St. Andre-Avellin, Quebec, are being released by the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition (CHDC): http://www.defendhorsescanada.org/lpn.html.

The evidence provided to the CHDC reveals troubling discrepancies and missing data on Equine Information Documents (EIDs), forms that are required by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to track the drug history of horses sold for slaughter. All documents examined had some form of omission, ranging from incomplete owners' or agents' information, to the disturbing misidentification of horses as per their accompanying photographs.

Research indicates that at least six of the horses had previously raced, with one racing just three months prior to slaughter. From a food traceability standpoint, the results are alarming.

"As most horses have not been raised specifically for human consumption, many have been administered anti-inflammatory drugs such as phenylbutazone," states Sinikka Crosland, executive director of the CHDC. "No withdrawal period has been determined for this drug, so it is considered prohibited and must never enter the food chain."

Yet the CFIA continues to turn a blind eye to this human food safety risk and sanctions the importation of US horses, many of whom have exchanged hands numerous times. It is clear that Canada has a faulty EID system in place that invites fraud and permits horses from any direction to enter the slaughter pipeline.

Additionally, the anonymously-submitted footage clearly illustrates the failure of assembly-line stunning practices to quickly render horses unconscious. Dr. Nicholas Dodman, an anesthesiologist and veterinary behaviorist at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, audited the footage and states, "My final conclusion, after reviewing 150-plus horse slaughters in this series of videos, is that the process was terrifying for most of the horses and, in many cases, horribly inhumane."

At Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation Inc., at least 40 percent of the horses in the stun box were not rendered immediately unconscious, or revived after stunning. Dr. Dodman adds, "At this slaughterhouse, in cases where a second shot was required, most humane standards, in my opinion, were not met."

A large Belgian horse received 11 stunning attempts, and numerous horses whinnied after being shot. One whinnied twice after each of two shots, but no third stunning attempt was made.

Canada's Meat Inspection Act - Part III stipulates that immediate loss of consciousness must be attained before an animal is bled.

Other concerns include the lack of food and water in overnight holding pens, failure to segregate a "downer" horse from others in a crowded pen, and poor stun box design, which contributed to the sheer terror displayed by many of the horses about to be slaughtered.

Previous investigations conducted in recent years on three other Canadian slaughterhouses revealed numerous problems relating to animal welfare as well. It is therefore shocking to discover that - in spite of CFIA reassurances and promises following two 2010 investigations - yet a fourth slaughter plant has been found to be severely lacking in terms of adherence to accepted animal welfare standards. At Viandes de la Petite-Nation, video footage revealed a CFIA inspector observing the stun box for just 3-1/2 minutes over the course of two days.

The CHDC calls upon the Canadian government to stop placing consumers at risk and to end the suffering experienced by horses in the four remaining federally-inspected slaughterhouses in the country. We ask the government to support enactment of Bill C-322, which will prohibit the importation or exportation of horses for slaughter for human consumption, as well as horsemeat products for the same purpose.

The report and video footage can be viewed here: http://www.defendhorsescanada.org/lpn.html

Source: Canadian Horse Defense Coalition