By ANGELA HALL, Leader-Post, Thursday, June 12, 2008
The often-controversial practice of sending horses to slaughter has one group calling for a national ban, alleging that operations at a Saskatchewan plant illustrate why the business is “inherently inhumane.”
The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition says hidden-camera footage taken at the Natural Valley Farms slaughter facility in Neudorf, portions of which aired in a CBC documentary Tuesday night, raises questions about horse slaughter practices.
“Even if, say, we had much better regulations and better surveillance, if they’re not being followed, if they’re not being enforced, and if these regulations are designed with other species in mind, then they just can’t result in a humane death for these horses,” said coalition representative Twyla Francois.
But another animal welfare group said regulations do govern the slaughter industry and cautioned that an outright banning of horse slaughter can create a new set of animal welfare issues.
Shanyn Silinski, executive director of the Farm Animal Council in Manitoba, said if the practice of slaughtering horses was suddenly stopped, more of them could end up turned loose on public land without a defence mechanism to survive in the wild, or left to starve.
Silinski also cautioned against drawing conclusions based on clips of camera footage, saying more context is needed before a determination can be made about the processes at a particular facility.
Officials at Natural Valley did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
A Canadian Food Inspection Agency official described past audits at the Natural Valley plant as “consistently good,” and said the plant was shown to be compliant with the rules.
But Anne Allen, CFIA’s animal welfare specialist in the area of slaughter, added that it will investigate allegations tabled by the horse defence coalition.
Previous issues brought forward by the group included concerns that some heads seen in the outdoor compost pile did not have “stun holes.” Allen said the CFIA at the time found that allegation to be unfounded. The small hole created by a penetrating captive bolt is not always easily visible, while some animals in a compost pile will have died of natural causes, she said.
The Saskatchewan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigated Natural Valley in March, after the horse defence coalition and a group called Animals’ Angels brought forward concerns last fall and again this year.
SSPCA executive director Frances Wach said that “at the time of inspection there was no evidence of inhumane treatment of animals.” Wach said future visits to the facility are anticipated as part of the SSPCA’s regular work.
Saskatchewan Agriculture spokesman Scott Brown said the province will look into the matter to see that proper practices are being followed.
Francois said the horse defence coalition plans to make public — and provide to authorities — its findings and footage from Natural Valley at a press conference in Ontario next week.
The plant at Neudorf opened to slaughter cattle about two years ago. The business was touted as a way to give cattlemen more control in their industry, but slowdowns soon led to temporary layoffs. The company said a year ago that it had begun to process horses, with meat destined for the European Union.
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2008
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CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.