Will Canada Ban Horse Slaughter Before the U.S.?
A bill has been tabled or introduced in the Canadian Parliament that would ban the importation or exportation of horses for slaughter or horsemeat for human consumption.
Member of Parliament (MP) Alex Atamanenko tabled Bill C-322 which would amend the Health of Animals Act and the Meat Inspection Act to prohibit the importation or exportation (a) of horses for slaughter for human consumption; and (b) of horse-meat products for human consumption. The bill would also prohibit the transport of horses from one province to another for purposes of slaughter for human consumption.
The preamble to the bill states "horses are ordinarily kept as pets for sporting and recreational purposes" and "are not raised primarily for human consumption". The preamble also notes "horse-meat products for human consumption are likely to contain prohibited substances".
The latter is an understatement when it comes to American horses, thousands of which are still shipped each year to Canada as well as Mexico for slaughter for human consumption. There is no tracking system for American horses, and they may have several owners and simply show up at auction where they are purchased by kill buyers for slaughter. The kill buyer will typically know nothing about the horse's drug, steroid or medication history. And American horses are full of drugs that a recent study confirms create a deadly health risk for human consumers.
The most common drug given to American horses, phenylbutazone or bute, is a carcinogen that can also cause aplastic anemia. The Food and Drug Administration regulations ban bute in animals raised for food. Yet, USDA and FDA allow the export of American horses for human consumption in other countries.
Effective July 31, 2010, the European Union was supposed to begin enforcing restrictions on the sale of meat from horses that have been given certain drugs and steroids. This means that, where horsemeat is destined for the E.U., Canadian or Mexican slaughterhouses must obtain veterinary records of all drugs or medication provided to the horse in the preceding six months. By 2013, all horses to be slaughtered for human consumption in the E.U. must be accompanied by veterinary records from birth that show the horse has never been given banned substances.
Under these restrictions, most American - and Canadian - horses should not be eligible for slaughter for human consumption in Canada as well as Mexico at least not until they have been held for 6 months and their drug and medication intake monitored. Too expensive for most kill buyers.
Investigations have revealed, however, that kill buyers are simply representing to Canadian authorities that the horses have not been given banned substances in the past 6 months. The Canadian authorities appear to be accepting these representations without question let alone investigation.
Horses in Canada have also not traditionally been raised for human consumption and contain substances hazardous to human health.
Mr. Atamanenko states, "It is irresponsible for Canada to allow the sale of meat from horses as a food item when they have never been raised in accordance with the food safety practices required for all other animals. For example, there is the issue of phenylbutazone. Bute is a known carcinogen that is banned from use in any animal entering the food chain.
"It is a health concern. There are substances that are not allowed by our rules to enter the food chain. By stopping the importation of horses from the United States, we would cut this down considerably.
"I urge all members of the House to support [C-322]."
Mr. Atamanenko tabled a similar bill last year that generated tens of thousands of signatures on petitions sent to Parliament in support.
According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada statistics, 88,915 horses were slaughtered in the 4 Canadian slaughter houses in 2010, more than 1,700 each week. An Ipsos-Reid poll reveals that nearly 2/3 of Canadians do not support slaughter of horses for human consumption.
In considering this bill, C-322, it is likely members of Parliament will review records of investigations by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) that reveal the brutality of horse slaughter, that show that slaughter is inherently cruel and horses are typically still conscious when hoisted for slaughter.
Indeed, the conditions in horse slaughter houses are so grim, so dehumanizing that that inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency were ordered to stay off the kill floors, leaving no regulatory oversight of the slaughter process, if it is even possible to regulate an inherently cruel activity. The inspectors' union was actually fearful of its members being around potentially unstable slaughter house workers using rifles and captive bolt guns to try to stun horses prior to slaughter.
In 2008 an investigation into illegal waste dumping practices helped shut down the Canadian Natural Valley Farms horse slaughter house. The community was left with a bankrupt company with losses of $42 million and rivers where large amounts of blood and waste had been dumped.
Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and Member of the Leadership Council of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, said of of the CHDC June, 2008 report on Natural Valley Farms plant: "horses experienced sheer terror", "some horses were not properly stunned", and "this practice should be banned".
Dr. Debi Zimmermann B.Sc. (Zoology), D.V.M. (AB) stated upon viewing footage from horse slaughterhouses, Bouvry Exports (AB) and Viande Richelieu (QC) in April 2010: "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."
It is past time to bring to an end a practice that is inherently cruel and disturbing as much because of what it does to us as human beings and our environment, as the fear and painful suffering it inflicts on horses.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you live in Canada, find your member of Parliament here. Then click on his or her name for contact info. Urge your member to support Bill C-322.
If you live in the U.S., please go here for information about the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, H.R. 2966/S.B. 1176 and how you can help pass it!