An area resident who organized a weekend protest against a horse-slaughter plant in Westwold, B.C., plans to continue her campaign through social media, saying she wants to draw attention to a practice she believes should not be allowed in Canada.
"I'd always thought I would keep up the [Facebook] page just so people could keep in touch," Jacquie Sharpe, who organized the rally, said on Sunday. "But now I am thinking maybe we can do some more things regarding this plant – just to keep the awareness up and see if Westwold's population really does want this in their neighbourhood or not."
Ms. Sharpe started a Facebook page earlier this month to invite people to protest against operations of KML Meat Processors.
The plant is licensed only to slaughter horses. Canada has five federally registered plants licensed to slaughter horses: two in Ontario, two in Alberta and one in B.C.
The slaughter of horses for human consumption is controversial in Canada, where lobby groups object to it based on grounds that include allegedly inhumane transport and slaughterhouse practices.
Supporters cite market demand for horse meat as well as regulations that have been put in place to protect consumer health and animal welfare.
"There is a legal right – we have a licence," Lyle Lumax, a KML Meat director, said on Sunday. "There are always [Canadian Food Inspection Agency] inspectors who oversee every part of everything, all day long."
Mr. Lumax would not discuss who KML's customers are, how many horses are killed each month or where the animals come from. According to information on the CFIA website, KML Meat has not been approved to sell to export markets.
Canada exported 13,500 tons of horse meat last year and about 82,000 horses were slaughtered in provincially or federally inspected slaughterhouses.
Some of those horses likely came from the United States, which banned horse slaughter between 2007 to 2011 by cutting off inspection funds for equine facilities. Without a federal inspection, the plants could not operate. But that prohibition lapsed last year, clearing the way for several horse slaughterhouses to be approved.
Horse welfare groups are fighting to have the ban extended.
In Canada, B.C. NDP MP Alex Atamanenko has introduced Bill C-322, a private member's bill that would ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption as well as the import or export of horse meat for human consumption. Toronto City Council in June passed a motion expressing its support for the proposed legislation.
The NDP MP's bill was introduced in 2011 and has received first reading in the House of Commons.
Near Westwold, Ms. Sharpe – who says she has donated to groups such as the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition but is not officially affiliated with any of them – plans to keep publicizing her concerns about nearby KML.
"I always felt that Canadians were not aware of this industry because it is so hidden," Ms. Sharpe said. "Even in these small rural communities where there are auction houses, a lot of people don't know that a very high percentage – I'd say 50 per cent of the horses that are being sold there – are being sold to meat buyers."