Video footage and photos of troubling practices at a Quebec slaughterhouse have been released today by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC). Captured by an anonymous source at Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation Inc. in St. Andre-Avellin, Quebec, the footage reveals disturbing practices and disregard for animal welfare regulations.

The footage shows discrepancies and missing data on Equine Information Documents (EIDs), records 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 mis-identification of horses as per their accompanying photographs.

Additionally, it brings to light the failure of assembly-line stunning practices to quickly render horses unconscious. Dr. Nicholas Dodman, an anesthesiologist and veterinary behaviourist at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, audited the footage and said, “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 per cent of the horses in the stun box were not rendered immediately unconscious, or revived after stunning. Dr. Dodman added, “At this slaughterhouse, in cases where a second shot was required, most humane standards, in my opinion, were not met.”

For example, 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. As such, it is 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 report and video footage can be viewed here: