A report by a Quebec media outlet has revealed that burgers represented and sold as “beef” by Montreal-based butcher shop La Maison du Rôti actually contain up to 46 percent horsemeat, and traces of other meats as well. These products are sold directly to consumers as well as to hotels, restaurants and other institutions.

Ewa Demianowicz, campaign manager for Humane Society International/Canada, stated: “The fact that meat products are mislabeled is not only alarming to consumers, but is also potentially harmful for them.

“The majority of horses slaughtered in Canada are companion and work animals. They are not raised for food and often receive drugs and other substances that are prohibited in the food chain. There is no reliable traceability system for horses in Canada to prevent these illegal substances from entering the food supply, making horsemeat potentially dangerous for those who consume it.

“The slaughter of horses also raises ethical questions. The transport and slaughter processes are highly distressing for horses given their flight response instinct. Footage from Canadian slaughterhouses shows horses panicking as they are led into kill chutes and operators stunning horses repeatedly to render them unconscious. Most Canadians prefer to avoid horsemeat, so it is also disturbing for them to learn that they have been consuming it without their knowledge.

“For animal welfare, consumer protection and human health reasons, Humane Society International/Canada calls upon the government to take action to ban horse slaughter in Canada.”

Horse Slaughter Industry Facts

  • In 2015, nearly 68,000 horses were slaughtered for food in Canada. Approximately 65 percent of these horses were from the United States, and the majority of the horsemeat produced in Canada is exported to European and Asian countries.
  • American horses have never been raised for human consumption. As Americans view horses as companion and work animals, horses are frequently treated with veterinary drugs throughout their lives that have been prohibited – both in the U.S. and other countries – for use in food-producing animals. Residues from those substances may be dangerous to humans who ingest them, regardless of when the horses were exposed to the substances.
  • The European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office released an audit report raising serious concerns about the reliability of controls on horses slaughtered in Canada for export of horsemeat to the EU. Among other findings, the audit confirmed that it cannot be guaranteed that horses, particularly those exported from the US, have not been treated with illegal substances during the six months prior to slaughter.