Following news that the controversial Ryding-Regency Meat Packers at 70 Scarlett Rd. - which was closed suddenly on Sept. 17 by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) - is now faced with a national recall of 102 raw beef and veal products due to possible E. coli contamination, animal rights activists are planning a vigil Friday and demanding that the plant be permanently shut down.

CFIA made the recall announcement Tuesday. The September closure of the slaughterhouse was the result of a food safety probe at the processing plant, which the agency called “non-compliances related to control measures."

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E.coli is part of the normal human intestinal flora and most strains are quite harmless. Some strains, however, are capable of causing disease which can result in death. An E.coli outbreak 19 years ago in Walkerton, Ont. saw 2,300 people fall ill and seven die.

“This is indefensible,” said animal rights activist Jenny McQueen. “We’re hearing the E.coli contaminated flesh was sent out in May 2019, yet the E.coli alert is October 2019. Is it possible someone has died from this? Have people become seriously ill? The public has a right to know. What we do know is that the slaughter industry is out of control, that profit trumps safety, animals are suffering egregious cruelty, and humans are at risk too.”

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The plant, located in Toronto’s trendy Junction neighbourhood, has been in the news for years over allegations of severe animal cruelty – and for smelling up the neighbourhood.

The firm told CBC in a statement Wednesday that the CFIA probe was about "program elements that need to be enhanced and strengthened. The CFIA assisted us in identifying opportunities for improving our procedures and processes. We are co-operating with the CFIA to ensure that all requirements are being met and that improvements are being implemented to strengthen our daily business practices."

Ryding-Regency has blamed the problems on isolated “breakdowns in our operating procedures,” adding that the firm “did not knowingly release any contaminated products, and no issues have been raised by our customers,” which CFIA confirmed.

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Toronto Cow Save organizer Anita Krajnc confirmed to Toronto Storeys that the emergency Toronto Cow Save vigil will be held Friday at the plant from 10 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and then from 12 to 2 p.m. at the CIFA offices.

Local activists and residents have been working to have the plant, Ontario’s largest processor of beef, closed for good. Nearly 200,000 have signed a petition calling for the place to be shut down since video footage leaked a few years ago of cows being hung upside down and skinned while still alive inside the facility.

The Scarlett Rd. site, once shuttered, would logically be a prime area for development. Located in The Stockyards, it’s in the northeastern part of the Junction neighbourhood whose main intersections are Dundas St. West and Keele St. The neighbourhood is near the West Toronto Diamond railway junction of four railway lines.

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Krajnc said in September that “Ryding-Regency has also been shown to be a place of severe animal welfare violations. Two years ago, activists filmed cows being hoisted and skinned while conscious.”

In 2015, the animal activist was in the news when she was charged with mischief for giving water to pigs outside a slaughterhouse in Burlington. In May 2017, an Ontario Court judge found her not guilty.

The company is known as the largest kosher beef supplier in the country. To date, no kosher meat products have been identified in the recall.

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