Horse Slaughter Bombshell Hits Belguium And Holland

Horse Slaughter Bombshell in Belgium and Holland
Belgian and Dutch consumers were shocked to learn of widespread horse slaughter-related cruelty in North and South America. Undercover video footage aired on three major news programs showed horses designated for slaughter are routinely starved, dehydrated, injured and abused.

Horse meat is commonly available in Belgium and the Netherlands where consumers are almost completely unaware of the cruelties of horse slaughter. Most believe what suppliers claim on their websites, that the meat on their dinner plate comes from contented, grass-eating, healthy horses. The story begins by asking, "Do they [consumers] really know where it comes from?

Horse at Mexican 
plantThe 8½ minute news segment was produced by GAIA, a respected animal welfare organization from Belgium, with much of the footage provided by Animals' Angels USA. The dire conditions of horses at slaughter plants, feedlots and markets in Mexico, Brazil and the U.S., have generated talk of boycotts and moratoriums on the import of horse meat from these countries.
Viewers are told "Cruelty goes hand in hand with incompetence", as undercover video shows a worker knowingly crushing the lower leg of a live horse as he forces the iron gate of an overcrowded trailer shut.
An English version of the story is available on youtube:
Consumers responding on television websites demanded action. "They [importers] told us the meat is of superior quality because the animals live a life of luxury and freedom on green pastures...well cared for with plenty of food. But it's a horrible lie."

On importer Chevideco's website, horses are said to be treated with respect horse at slaughter plantand to live without stress. An accompanying photograph depicts well-proportioned horses standing knee deep in grass. Importer such as Visser & van Walsum make similar claims.
Within hours of the story's 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 have told consumers they do not import horse meat from outside Europe.

Fenavian, the Federation of Meat Producers in Belgium, issued a response denying any wrongdoing and offering reassurances that adherence to safety and European Union animal welfare rules were standard practice.

"However, the evidence is quite overwhelming," said Sonja Meadows, president of Animals Angels U.S.  "Up until recently, officials may have been able to claim that to their knowledge, the animals were treated properly. But now such claims are quite obviously false. Unfortunately we have plenty of documentation to prove that animals caught up in the horse slaughter pipeline are horribly abused."

Dead horse BeltexAnimals' Angels' began focusing efforts on the issue of European consumers' awareness about horse slaughter in November 2009 after meeting with the European Commission. AA shared with committee members evidence of extreme cruelty uncovered at Mexican horse slaughter plants, U.S. feedlots and government export facilities. AA filed an official complaint with the commission soon after the meeting.

Last month 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 of brutality.

Other organizations in the Netherlands and France are also launching consumer awareness campaigns. Most national and regional newspapers have published the story and photographs. Fueled by concerns from both consumers and animal welfare advocates, many more European news outlets are expected to pick up the story.

"I really doubt I'll ever eat horse meat again," said one man. "They may say they fixed the problem, but I'll never trust them again."

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Down Time

A couple of days ago, I turned off the computer - with all the information about the latest atrocities committed against wild horses, and all the videos of unspeakable horrors inside horse slaughter plants - and went on a Sanity Ride with Indy. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon using the shedding blade on both Indy and Ami. Even she enjoyed it! And I felt renewed - as I always do after spending time with those two.

The ride itself was just great. Indy was so responsive you'd think I'd been riding all winter - which is certainly not the case. I was never able to handle cold very well - heck, I thought Dallas winters were cold! - but, since that shingles episode, I have become so sensitive to cold I can hardly stand it at all. I'll actually be shivering when Mike says it's warm. Also, my right sinus - the shingles were confined to the right side of my head and face - is extremely sensitive to my inhaling cold air. Actually, sensitive isn't quite the right word - maybe painfully sensitive - because it really hurts and doesn't stop when I come back inside the house. It wasn't as bad this year as it was last year, so I guess there is hope, but I certainly avoided the cold wind this go round.

Anyway, Indy was perfect and it was certainly warm enough - something like 80 degrees! I believe we have already set three record high temperatures for April. One day it was almost 90! The problem is we have a few warm days, then it gets cold again. I have got a nasty cough that I probably won't be able to get rid of until the temperatures stabilize as warm.

I'm sure Indy and Ami are loving the cool breaks, because they both put on the heaviest coats I think they've ever had for this winter. I don't know why - it wasn't unusually cold. Let's just say, they were prepared...

I just had to take pictures of Indy especially in his magnificent Yak-like coat. I was having to use my zoom to the max, but you can tell Mr. Hairball is well protected. 

Indy from the left...
Indy from the right...

Indy and Ami dozing in the sun

It's harder to tell about Ami's coat because her hair doesn't get as long as Indy's, but is it thick! She also changes color with the seasons almost as dramatically as Indy does - just in the opposite direction. Indy gets very light in the winter - especially his mid-section. Ami gets darker in the winter. As a bay, her top-line is always black, but in winter the black extends up her neck and down her sides as you can see in this picture. Come summer, a lot of the black will retreat until just her top-line is black and her body will become almost a honey color. She is beautiful either way.

The really interesting thing about Ami this spring is how she seems to be feeling so good! When Indy starts something with her - which is often - she is ready to give as good as she gets, running, bucking and picking at him back. Usually, she mostly ignores his attempts to get her going, but not now. 

I'm not sure what the reason is for her becoming more frisky than usual for her. She did make it through the entire winter without even so much as a hint of bruised soles - which was especially great because last winter was murder for her. She's always had tender soles and when the ground was really hard/uneven you could tell she was watching her step. Then, after she foundered in 1995, her soles were even more tender. Not this year though.

The one thing that's different for her - and him too, for that matter - is losing a lot of blubber. Yeah, blubber. They were too fat, so we just bit the bullet and not only kept them in the paddocks from early spring until mid winter, we also cut back on their hay. I guess it probably was harder on me than it was on them, but they definitely didn't appreciate it! Still, I can't help but think the loss of a significant amount of weight must have helped Ami's feet - and Indy's too, for that matter - not to mention just making her feel better in general.

Whatever the reason, it's wonderful to see her romping and playing with him and having as much fun as he is. They've been putting on quite a show and we can see it all from the kitchen window.

 Everyone has to have their down time.

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In The Spirit of Compromise?


Updates will be posted as soon as received.

Comments - Saturday and Sunday data will not be posted until the following Monday.
April 16

Most stallions and weaned colts are doing well and gaining weight.  Mares from Black Rock East, Black Rock West and most Granite horses continue to do well.  Mares from Warm Springs and Calico are improving.  Mares that have been isolated for poor condition are gaining weight.  No miscarriages occurred.  Mares are actively foaling and new foals are born daily.  Work to geld horses four years and younger began today.

Facility Death: 0 Cumulative Death total: 79

Well, well. Ain't this fine? Hot off the BLM presses just yesterday - the same day Laura Leigh dropped her lawsuit against the BLM for the Sheldon disaster. The BLM has a "new plan" to create a mega-plex for the horses in the west. So, Laura decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, and as she said, "In the spirit of compromise," she would drop the suit.

This is the BLM's way of thanking her I guess. Maybe they feel this isn't violating their agreement not to geld any stallions before the IDA lawsuit is settled. Technically, the horses they are gelding are not stallions - because they are four years old or younger, they are colts. Right.

I was really getting my hopes up here. Maybe the BLM had realized they were between a rock and a hard place and was ready to actually do something. Perhaps, just maybe, the BLM was ready to have constructive dialogs with advocates like Laura.

What was I thinking? How can anyone have a "dialog" with people like this?

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No Country For Horses

No Country for Horses

More from Twyla Francois: Selected responses about the transport and slaughter of horses in Canada

Last Updated: Thursday, October 8, 2009 | 1:05 PM ET

The following are selected responses about the transport of horses from the U.S. and the slaughter of horses in Canada from interviews between CBC News reporter Mellissa Fung and Twyla Francois (TF), Regional Director of the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition.


TF: I think one of the big problems – what I was finding in the feedlots in the States and in Canada – we have a number of them here in Canada and there’s one just down the road from me in Manitoba – they’re breeding (horses) as well, and so there’s this indiscriminate breeding that’s going on. Even with the racehorse industry, they breed hoping for that one-in-a-million horse and all these others end up as surplus. So I think that if there was no more market, if horsemeat becomes illegal and you can’t slaughter them anymore or the market dries up in Europe, because that’s where most of it is going – is France, and Japan, actually, then the industry would have to react. If there’s no market, they’ll just stop all this indiscriminate breeding, because then suddenly there won’t be a dollar value to it.


TF: There are only two ways to legally kill a horse in Canada - with a .22 or with a captive bolt pistol. A .22 is much more humane than a captive bolt pistol, because the problem with horses is that they’re very head shy. So when you try to put anything near their head, they’re going to flinch, they’re going to move around. Whereas a .22, it can be aimed at a bit of a distance and it’s a quick, penetrating bolt and they’re gone. But with a captive bolt, it seems that it requires more learning. A captive bolt pistol is a contraption that’s held against a head and a metal bolt comes out, and retracts. And it causes enough damage to the brain that an animal is rendered unconscious quickly. And I have seen it done and it does work, but the difficulty is with horses, they’re head shy. So if you try to put anything near their head, they’re going flinch, they’re going to move, they’re not like a cow. So what we’re wondering is – (when we see dead) horses who don’t have captive boltholes, could they be the ones where the bolt missed? Is it hitting them elsewhere in their face? Is there pressure to continue the line because they’re killing 200 horses a day, which is a massive number of such a large animal, and it takes a long time to process these bodies? So could there be so much pressure that even though they’re not being rendered unconscious, that they’re just pushing them through the line? Bleeding them out while they’re still conscious? We honestly don’t know and the implications are really, really frightening. There’s one method of slaughter that’s being done in Mexico that’s called puntilla, and this is where they use an ice pick and they jab it in the back of the spinal cord. And it doesn’t stop pain. It doesn’t render them unconscious. It just immobilizes them. And I hope this isn’t being used here, but we really have no idea what is being done with these horses.


TF: One of the big issues with horses specifically is a lot of these horses have known human companionship. They seek comfort from us, and it is the ultimate betrayal, that after owning an animal for so long – and at the auctions I see a lot of 20+ year horses – they become injured or they require medical treatment and they’re close to death and the owner knows it’s going to cost quite a bit to bury them, then they’re brought to the auction and these animals are so frightened. You can see them in the ring, that they search the ring looking for a friendly face. We have been comfort for them, and then we take them to slaughter. We see this at the slaughterhouses too, where they’re still seeking out affection from even the slaughterhouse workers themselves. I went to some auctions in Colorado and New Mexico and Texas, and through the States and what we found was a lot of these horses are ex-pets. They’re 20 year-old horses that have been in somebody’s backyard, and then they get ill and it becomes expensive to care of them, expensive to bury them…and so they bring them to auction. But they’re not aware of what they’re inflicting on these horses. And one thing we saw that really broke my heart was, you would see the workers walking by the pens and the horses would rush the pens, looking for comfort from these men who were going to kill them. It just seems like such a betrayal. I think just because of the history of the horse and how they are treated, here in North America and what they’ve experienced in their own life, nothing can prepare them for the journey they have ahead of them after they’ve been given up.


TF: There is a large difference because a horse is a flight animal and their immediate response to fear is to run. And this is what we’ve seen with the handling, because if you’re handling cattle, they follow. They just tend to follow one another. They’re quite calm, whereas what we saw with the handling of horses – electric prods are being used. They’re scared, they’re frightened, they’re frantically running one way, and if they come across any kind of barrier, they would all flee back the other way and then they would all whip back over. So it’s just this reaction they have of pure fright. They also are extremely head shy so trying to hit the captive bolt cleanly, to ensure a clean hit, is much more difficult. There’s a much higher risk of having to shoot them multiple times and just that their reaction is very different. They’re a flight animal. The problem is also with the transport issue, that because they’re such a tall animal and we’re still allowing transport on double-deckers – it’s such a grueling, grueling ride for them -15 to 25 hours of not being able to stand upright. It’s a much more difficult ride for a horse.


TF: The regulations need to be updated. They’re archaic. We’re worse than the United States. Monogastrics like horses and pigs can be transported up to 36 hours with no food or water, and keep in mind that these horses are often coming from the United States, and in the United States, they can be transported up to 28 hours. But the problem is when they hit the border, the clock doesn’t go back to zero - it continues on. So they can literally be doing 50, 60 hours with no food or water or a break.


TF: There is always the question of a conflict of interest, because part of their mandate is to encourage the consumption of Canadian foods. But yet they’re supposed to be providing this protective role as well, for our health and for the welfare of animals. But we question whether they can really give welfare what is required, because even if we call a CFIA inspector about an animal, they aren’t authorized to euthanize. So we can have this animal that’s suffering very badly, and we call in the federal authority and they can’t even do anything about it.


TF: For horses in particular, the fear in them is really shocking when you see them in the slaughterplants. So (humane slaughter) would involve not actually being transported, because there are so many problems transporting horses. It would be slaughter on farm, with a mobile slaughter unit, it would be the only way you could more humanely kill a horse. Our concern with the slaughter a horse is it can’t be done humanely. The only way to humanely kill a horse would be to put it down on the farm. And so we really don’t believe that slaughtering horses could ever be made humane.


TF: Something I’ve been discovering is, I don’t think people who have horses really know what the slaughter process is about. If they knew that it wasn’t this very quick overnight – killed instantly – they wouldn’t be sending them. And I think this is something we have to do – is a large education campaign. As Canadians are becoming more aware of this issue, we’re getting rescue shelters popping up all over the place. People care about horses and they don’t like to see this happening to them, and if they hear of any case of suffering – and I get these calls every day. People just don’t want to see horses suffer. So people will respond - they’ll donate, shelters will come up.

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Does this picture upset you? If is does, are you doing anything to have this horror stopped? Show you care! http://www.savingamericashorses.org/home.html


Canada's Chambers of Carnage

A Sweeping Undercover Investigation of Canada's Leading Equine Slaughterhouses

Horse Welfare Group calls for immediate closure of Canada's horse slaughter plants

Westbank, B.C., March 30, 2010: In late February 2010, the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) received hidden camera footage of horse slaughter practices at Quebec's Viande Richelieu and Alberta's Bouvry Exports - the latter known as North America's largest exporter of horsemeat. The CHDC has asked a panel of veterinarians, the BC SPCA and the World Society for the Protection of Animals to review the footage, which contains numerous instances of improper stunning and horses showing signs of returning consciousness.

Early audit results of the footage show automatic failures of both facilities. The CHDC has compelling proof that puts into question the effectiveness of the assembly-line slaughter of horses. The evidence demonstrates that both the facilities in Alberta and Quebec fail to meet humane slaughter standards used by the CFIA to audit Canadian slaughterhouses. The CHDC's June 2008 report on Natural Valley Farms - the now bankrupt horse slaughterhouse in Saskatchewan (see story) documented the inadequate stunning of horses with the penetrating captive bolt gun. At both plants in the February 2010 investigation, a .22 rifle was used, and again horses were shot incorrectly, with some regaining consciousness. As stated by Alberta veterinarian Dr. Debi Zimmermann: "I conclude that the wary and flighty nature of the horse, coupled with the poorly designed kill plant systems currently in place at Bouvry Exports and Viande Richelieu, results in unacceptable levels of suffering endured by horses (both in number of horses and degree of suffering), and poses inherent dangers to plant personnel." Dr. Zimmermann adds: "The shooters are seldom able to adhere to the required protocols for euthanasia by firearm, due to a combination of horse and human factors."

As there are only two government-approved methods of stunning horses in Canada - captive bolt gun and rifle - and both methods have been shown to cause prolonged suffering in numerous horses, we conclude that these animals cannot be slaughtered humanely in today's slaughterhouse assembly lines.

The CHDC therefore calls for the immediate closure of Canada's horse slaughter plants.

For further information, please contact:
Twyla Francois
Central Region Director
T: 204-296-1375

Chambers of Carnage
A Sweeping Undercover Investigation of Canada's Leading Equine Slaughterhouses

In late February 2010, the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) received hidden camera footage of horse slaughter practices at Viande Richelieu in Quebec and Bouvry Exports in Alberta - the latter known as the largest exporter of horsemeat in North America. The CHDC has compelling proof that puts into question the effectiveness of the assembly-line slaughter of horses. The evidence demonstrates that both the facilities in Alberta and Quebec fail to meet humane slaughter standards used by the CFIA to audit Canadian slaughterhouses.

To view compilations of the footage obtained, please scroll down.

WARNING: Content is very graphic and could be disturbing to some viewers.

  • Bouvry Part I of III

  • Bouvry Part II of III

  • Bouvry Part III of III

  • Richelieu Part I of III

  • Richelieu Part II of III

  • Richelieu Part III of III

  • Photo Slideshow

  • For footage indexes, report and photo stills, click links below: Bouvry Index Richelieu Index  

    Statement from World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)
      The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is appalled by evidence of grossly inhumane slaughter of horses taking place in Canada. We have been sent video footage that is stated to have been taken recently in Bouvry Exports Calgary Ltd slaughterhouse in Fort Macleod, Alberta and Viande Richelieu Inc./Richelieu Meat Inc. slaughterhouse in Massueville, Quebec.  It is clear that neither the facilities nor the behaviour of the personnel shown are suited to the humane slaughter of horses, and that extreme suffering results for many individual animals. Problems include failure to restrain each animal's head properly before shooting, shooting from too great a distance, shooting in the wrong part of the head or body, failure to follow up with an immediate second shot in animals that were not killed by the first, hoisting apparently conscious animals, and - in the case of the Richelieu plant - cruel handling and treatment of the horses, including excessive whipping and overuse of an electric prod as well as an apparent callous disregard for the animals' suffering. An additional cause of very major concern is the presence of what appear to be either plant supervisors or inspectors who observe the employees' actions and yet do nothing.  The WSPA calls on the appropriate authorities to take immediate action to close both these plants down and ensure that those responsible are disciplined. Neither plant should be reopened until or unless they have been redesigned to meet humane slaughter standards, and all staff in contact with these intelligent animals have been trained to treat them with the dignity they deserve.  Furthermore, as we understand that these are the two largest of only four slaughter plants federally registered and licensed to export horse meat abroad, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food should revoke their registration as well as any export permits immediately. To ensure that similar problems are not occurring at the two other federally registered horse slaughter plants, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) should commission independent audits of those as soon as possible.  Measures must be taken to ensure that procedures at the slaughterhouse are carried out in accordance with legislation, including the Canadian Meat Inspection Act which requires that all animals should be slaughtered humanely. We understand that slaughter should be overseen by the CFIA. That oversight should guarantee avoidance of practices that inflict extreme pain and suffering on slaughtered animals, such as those witnessed here that affect hundreds of animals. The WSPA would be happy to provide advice on appropriate facilities and training for humane slaughter, if required, to help protect animals from needless suffering. MVDr. Rasto Kolesar Farm Animal Programme Manager WSPA World Society for the Protection of Animals 89 Albert Embankment London SE1 7TP T: 0044 (0)20 7587 5053 F: 0044 (0)20 7587 5057 D: 0044 (0)20 7587 5053 rastokolesar@wspa.org.uk rastokolesar@wspa-international.org Patrick Tohill Programs Manager WSPA Canada World Society for the Protection of Animals 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 960 Toronto, ON M4P 2Y3 p: (416) 369-0044 x104 f: (416) 369-0147 tf: 1-800-363-9772 www.wspa.ca

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    "From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra