Undercover footage of horse slaughter shocks the world
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2010:
FORT MacLEOD, Canada; FRANKFURT,
Germany–Undercover video of horse slaughter in
Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, and horse
transport for slaughter from the U.S. shocked the
world in April 2010, after broadcast by the
leading Canadian and European networks and
postings of graphic clips to YouTube.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
aired video obtained by the Canadian Horse
Defence Coalition three days after networks in
The Netherlands, France, and Belgium aired
video from Animals’ Angels, a 12-year-old
organization with offices in Germany, Britain,
and the U.S.
“The eight-minute news segment” shown in
Europe “was produced by GAIA, a respected animal
welfare organization from Belgium,” said
Animals’ Angels USA president Sonia Meadows.
“Within hours of the broadcast, supermarkets
responded with promises to investigate.
Delhaize, the second largest retailer in
Belgium, asked their supplier to remove affected
meat from their shelves. Two other major grocers
told consumers they do not import horse meat from
outside Europe,” Meadows added.
Meadows said Animals’ Angels’ shared
evidence about cruelty to horses in slaughter and
transportation to slaughterhouses with European
Commission members in November 2009. Although
Animals’ Angels “filed an official complaint with
the Commission,” little happened until GAIA
“asked Animals’ Angels for footage from Mexico
and the U.S. to help with a European campaign to
publicize the conditions endured by horses in the
slaughter pipeline. Gaia had recently finished
undercover investigations in South America and
had gathered their own ample evidence,” Meadows
The Canadian exposé brought immediate
announcements of investigations by the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Food
Inspection Agency, and the Alberta SPCA,
reported Richard Cuthbertson of the Calgary
However, RCMP Sergeant Patrick Webb told
CBC News on May 11, 2010 that no criminal
charges would be filed because the RCMP
investigation found no intent by slaughterhouse
staff to cause cruelty.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency probe
meanwhile expanded beyond the Bouvry Exports
horse slaughterhouse in Fort MacLeod, Alberta,
where the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition video
was made, to a plant that Bouvry owns in
Massueville, Quebec, called Viande Richelieu,
reported John Gibson of the CBC.
“I don’t believe that in an assembly line
situation horses can be humanely slaughtered,”
said Canadian Horse Defence Coal-ition executive
director Sinikka Crosland.
Canadian Horse Defence Coalition member
Twyla Francois told Cuthbertson of the Calgary
Herald that the Fort MacLeod video was made on
February 19, 2010, as could be verified by the
audio from a Lethbridge radio station heard in
the background. Altogether, Francois told
Cuthbert-son, the Canadian Horse Defence
Coalition collected 10 hours of video from the
Fort MacLeod horse slaughterhouse on that day.
“Some of the video shows horses not being
knocked unconscious when shot,” summarized
Cuthbertson. “Instead, when the gun is fired,
another part of the horse’s head is hit, and the
animal is left suffering,” while the
slaughterman reloads the single-shot weapon.
“The horse defence coalition alleges the heads of
the horses are not being secured properly, and
the shot is being taken at an incorrect angle,”
Cuthbertson continued. “Some horses, the
Canadian Horse Defence Coalition says, are being
hoisted from one leg while still showing signs of
Commented Colorado State University
livestock handling expert and slaughterhouse
designer Temple Grandin, “Most of the problems
in the horse slaughter videos are due to poor
management and lack of supervision of employees.
I am a big supporter of video auditing where
auditors can tune in over the Internet,” Grandin
told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “This prevents a plant from
‘acting good’ when an auditor is there,” only to
“The Fort MacLeod horse stun box needs to
have high solid sides and a non-slip floor,”
Horse slaughter is sometimes done at
former cattle or pig slaughtering plants, where
all of the facilities were built for animals of
less height and a less flighty nature.
“I don’t know the history of Bouvry
Exports,” Crosland told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “but I
do know that a standard cattle stun box is being
used to stun horses there. Bouvry slaughters
bison as well.” Crosland said.
Wyoming state legislator Sue Wallis
(R-Gillette) meanwhile claimed to be consulting
with Grandin about a plan by members of the
pro-horse slaughter nonprofit United Organization
of the Horse–an organization she cofounded–to
get into the horse slaughter industry.
“The plan by members of the United
Organization of the Horse is to set up something
like a triage operation at the old railroad
stockyards in Cheyenne for abandoned or unwanted
horses,” reported Joan Barron of the Casper
Star-Tribune capital bureau. “The horses would
be screened and provided rehabilitation,
training, or slaughter, depending on their
condition. The plan is ultimately to market
horse meat in the state,” Barron added.
Wallis acknowledged that U.S. federal law
allows horse meat to be shipped anywhere for
animal food, but not across state lines for human
“Yet since Wyoming is one of 22 or 23
states that have meat inspection programs, Wallis
said, the horses can be slaughtered and used for
human consumption in state restaurants or state
institutions,” Barron wrote.
Wyoming Governor Dave Freuden-thal
recently signed legislation to enable the Wallis
scheme. “The new law allows the Wyoming
Livestock Board to enter into agreements with
licensed meat processing plants to process meat
from livestock” collected as stray or abandoned
by the Livestock Board, and “disposed of by
slaughter. The meat must be sold to state
institutions or to nonprofit organizations for no
more than the board’s costs,” summarized Barron.
“That’s not going to happen,” Wyoming
Livestock Board director Jim Schwartz told
Barron. Sending horses to slaughter “is not an
option, in my opinion,” Schwartz said. “In
Wyoming, people love horses. We’ll continue to
do what we’ve always done and try to get them
sold and find good homes for them,” Schwartz
Meanwhile, Wallis told Michael Van
Cassell of the Cheyenne-based Wyoming Tribune
Eagle, “We think we will probably work up to
killing 20 horses a day,” mainly to feed zoo
animals and pets. “We already have customers for
those products,” Wallis said.
Horses have not been slaughtered in the
U.S. for human consumption since the last two
horse slaughterhouses in Texas and one in
Illinois closed in 2007, but schemes to revive
the industry have also been advanced in Montana,
Missouri, and Tennessee.
Montana state representative Ed Butcher
(R-Winifred) “is confident that investors he’s
working with,” who have claimed connections in
China, “will be able to open several horse
slaughtering plants in the U.S., possibly
including one in Montana,” reported Ed Kemmick
of the Billings Gazette on April 28, 2010.
However, Butcher’s attempt to convert an
abandoned sugar plant in Hardin, Montana into a
horse slaughterhouse was thwarted, Kemmick
explained, when in March 2010 “the Hardin city
council passed an ordinance prohibiting
facilities that would slaughter more than 25
animals within any seven-day period from opening
A Missouri bill to enable horse slaughter
apparently died in committee in early May 2010,
but resurfaced just a few days later. A similar
bill introduced into the Tennessee General
Assembly by representative Frank Niceley
(R-Strawberry Plains) died in committee on May 4,
2010. Nicely is expected to reintroduce it in
the fall 2010 legislative session.
Wrote Paula Bacon, formerly mayor of
Kaufman, Texas, in an open letter to pro-horse
slaughter legislators, “You should ask yourself
why the residents of Texas and Illinois worked so
hard to rid their states of horse slaughter
plants. The industry caused significant and long
term hardship to my community, which was home to
Dallas Crown,” one of the last three horse
slaughterhouses that operated in the U.S.
“Dallas Crown had a very long history of
violations of their industrial waste permit,”
Bacon wrote. “Odor problems resulting from the
outside storage of offal and hides persisted.
Dallas Crown had a negative effect on the
development of surrounding properties, and the
horse slaughter plant was a stigma to the
development of our city.
“These problems were mirrored at the
other two plants,” said Bacon. “Fort Worth’s
Beltex horse slaughter plant violated wastewater
regulations several times, clogged sewer lines,
and both spilled and pumped blood into a nearby
creek. The horse slaughter plant in DeKalb,
Illinois had a similar pattern,” Bacon added.
“It was charged and fined by the DeKalb Sanitary
District almost every month from 2004 until it
closed in 2007 for exceeding wastewater discharge
Legislators in Florida apparently
listened. Both houses of the Florida legislature
unanimously passed and on April 30, 2010 sent to
Governor Charlie Crist a bill which would make
horse slaughter in Florida a felony offense,
with a mandatory minimum sentence for violators
of $3,500 and a year in prison.