WESTWOLD — Efforts to inform residents of this valley community about the slaughter of horses in their own backyard will continue, the organizer of a protest outside KML Meat Processors said Saturday.
But Jacquie Sharpe isn't sure if more protests like the one that prompted 50 people to gather along Highway 97C will take place.
Sharpe will maintain her Facebook page — Protest Westwold Horse Slaughter Plant — and keep feeding people information on horse slaughter so residents can decide if they want KML Meat Processors to remain open.
"This protest isn't against this particular slaughterhouse other than if people do not want this happening in their area, we'd like them to shut it down," said Sharpe.
Protesters learned that KML Meat Processors was granted a licence to slaughter horses in August, making it one of five such facilities in Canada and the only one in B.C.
The group gathered at a highway pullout, hoisted signs stating Stop Killing Horse For Foreign Pallets and Horses Are Companion Animals Stop Slaughter, then marched to KML.
RCMP were present to ensure the protest was carried out safely. KML was closed, but a couple of local ranchers stood nearby and provided a contrary voice.
Harold Hough said the process is necessary. Horse slaughter isn't allowed in the United States, where some horses are turned out into the wild.
"They are destroying government land and the horses are starving to death," he said. "What's more humane?"
The horses aren't local, he said. He doesn't know how they are killed, but the slaughter is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
"It's not a hillbilly operation," said Hough, adding horses, like cattle, are a commodity industry.
The protesters disagreed with Hough. Belinda Lyall and her daughter, Rega Malysh, 8, came from Salmon Arm to protest.
Lyall has rescued horses from slaughterhouses, including her daughter's pet horse, Beauty. She said horses are put in a kill box built for cattle and killed with a bolt gun or rifle.
Unlike cattle, the horse is well aware of what is going on, she said.
"There's no way it can ever be humane, just due to the nature of the horse and the sheer terror they experience," said Lyall.
Ellie Wilson joined the protest so she could learn more about the slaughter. She wants to know why it's necessary.
It doesn't matter where it's happening, horses shouldn't be killed for food, said Wilson.
"I just don't think it's a cool thing to do," she said, adding she's heard the meat is sold to China.
Resident Val Pringle believes the KML facility is first class, and provides ranchers a means to make money off unwanted horses or those they can't otherwise sell.
The only other option is to shoot them and bury them, he said, adding he's owned horses in the past.
Sharpe said most Canadians consider horses a companion animal that helped build the country, which makes their slaughter a contentious issue.
"I do not believe in horse slaughter period," she said.