By: Pat Raia
A proposed Canadian law could halt the export of U.S. horses for slaughter in that country, one equine welfare advocate said.
Along with Mexico, Canada became a major destination for U.S. slaughter-bound horses after court actions shuttered remaining processing plants in Illinois and Texas in 2007. According to Canadian Food Inspection Agency records, 56 percent of the 93,812 horses processed in 2009 were U.S. exports.
A bill introduced into the Canadian House of Commons on June 16 would amend the Canadian Health of Animals Act to forbid the import and transport of horses for slaughter for human consumption in that country.
The bill, C-544, also amends the Canadian Meat Inspection Act to prohibit the import, export or transport of horsemeat products within Canada on grounds that those products are likely to contain the anti-inflammatory drugs Phenylbutazone (bute) and Banamine, and the sedative Acepromazine. All three drugs are commonly used by owners to treat their horses, but are banned substances under European Union (EU) food inspection regulations. Beginning July 31 all horses processed in Canadian plants must be proven free of the chemicals for their meat to qualify for entry into EU markets.
If passed, C-544 could bring horse processing in Canada to a halt, said Laura Allen, executive director of the Animal Law Coalition. If so, she does not believe the closures will increase the number of horses sent to Mexican plants which are also under EU scrutiny.
“Under EU regulations, plant operators must take animal welfare into account during processing,” she said. “If the plants in Mexico are noncompliant, the EU will shut them down.”
Rep. Sue Wallis, a proponent of U.S. processing plant development, disagrees. Wallis, who sponsored a new Wyoming law allowing state livestock authorities to slaughter stray or feral livestock, including horses, and sell their meat, believes more horses will be shipped to Mexican plants and that so-called unwanted horses in the U.S. and Canada will be at higher risk for abandonment and neglect.
“That’s why it is imperative that we develop U.S. plants and set the standard for how those plants operate,” she said.
Whether or not C-544 passes, Allen hopes its introduction will persuade U.S. legislators to act on HR 503 and SB 727. Both bills would ban the transport of U.S. horses to processing plants in Canada and Mexico.
“The U.S. should be taking the lead on this,” Allen said.