The federal government is trying to quash a lawsuit launched by animal welfare advocates who want to end the export of Canadian horses for slaughter and human consumption in Japan and South Korea.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is defending its equine transportation and enforcement policies against claims that it's failing to meet legal obligations to ensure humane and safe shipments. In its June 17 court filing, the CFIA also said that revised regulations set to kick in next year make the case "moot."
The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC), the group behind the legal challenge, insists the new rules slated for February 2020 could put horses on long-haul overseas flights to Asia at even greater risk. CHDC lawyer Rebeka Breder said the conditions the horses experience during transport cause distress and danger. Large, flighty animals are often crammed together without the adequate headroom required by law, the group claims.
"They're exhibiting signs of stress. There have also been injuries, there have been deaths over the last several years," Breder told CBC News. "Generally speaking, the shipments are not safe for horses. We know that for a fact."
Canada exports thousands of horses each year to Japan, a market where some consumers enjoy the meat as a raw delicacy. In 2018, Canada also began shipping live horses to South Korea. In its recent court filing, CFIA said the lawsuit is based on "cultural norms" and CHDC's interpretation of what is, and is not, an appropriate food animal.
"However, the inevitable reality is that the CFIA's role, on the facts of this case, is to determine whether the horses are healthy for export and are being safely transported," the filing said. "There is no requirement on the CFIA to obtain a particular enforcement result and it is well recognized that perfection in enforcement can never be more than an unattainable goal."
The rules for shipping horses:
The existing Health of Animals Regulations say larger horses must be segregated from each other and set minimum requirements for headroom clearance. The CHDC lawsuit said the CFIA is not always in compliance with the regulations. New 2020 rules will eliminate the segregation requirement, with a stated goal of giving shippers greater flexibility so that compatible horses can travel together with less anxiety. Maureen Harper, a retired veterinarian who worked for CFIA for 30 years, said "compatibility" is difficult for an inspector to assess at the airport.
Larger, stronger horses should be segregated to avoid injuries from kicking, biting, toppling or trampling, she said. Horses also need space to maintain their balance in transit, especially during take-off or landing. Harper said the public knows little about Canada's horse export and slaughter industry and she believes most Canadians see horses as companions like dogs and cats — not as food.
"Everybody that I speak to, they're just totally horrified when I tell them what's happening and I think the CFIA has a huge role to play here and unfortunately, in my view, they've dropped the ball," she said.
Horse welfare 'top priority':
Eliot Bouvry of Alberta-based Bouvry Exports — which produces horse meat for export, among other products — said the welfare of horses and other livestock is a "top priority" for his company and the CFIA. Horses are inspected by CFIA vets at the airport before departure for cuts, bruises, limps or sickness. Animals are transported on single-deck trailers that have been sanitized and layered with fresh shavings according to Canada's livestock transport regulations, he said.
"Other species/livestock are transported long distances for slaughter and it's not a topic of discussion," he said in a statement to CBC News. "Although activists keep the industry accountable, we do not consider it truthful that it is an animal welfare issue. For (some) people it is an ethical problem, which is another debate."
Business vs. animal welfare?:
Breder accuses the CFIA is putting business interests ahead of animal welfare. "There's a lot of money at stake, and it's quite clear to the CHDC that what is really at issue here are industry interests, not the interest and the welfare of animals and the way that they're transported," she said. "It is simply the bottom line to make as much profit as possible."
The CFIA rejects the claim that industry sales are driving policy and enforcement, and maintains that all animals, including horses, are "properly certified, fit to travel and transported humanely in a way that does not cause injury or undue suffering." The agency said new rules will strengthen safety regulations for horse transport.
Online petition calls on Minister MacAulay to stop the exporting of live horses for slaughter "The updated regulations establish clear and science-informed requirements and thus better reflect the needs of animals and improve overall animal welfare in Canada," CFIA said in a statement.
Last year, 3,871 horses worth $26.5 million were shipped to Japan. Exports were fewer in number than during the previous year, but had a significantly higher value. Canada also ships fresh, chilled and frozen horse meat to Japan worth about $29 million annually, and millions of dollars more to European countries, including France and Switzerland.
While it's considered a food taboo in most parts of North America, horse meat is sold and served in some grocery stores and restaurants in Canada.
Source: CBC News
Thousands of American horses are live-exported to Canada each year just to be slaughtered for human consumption. The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would make this illegal.
The European Commission has implemented a conditional ban of the import of horsemeat from Mexico following a series of audits by the Food and Veterinary Office.
The audits consistently identified serious problems with the lack of traceability of horses slaughtered for EU export with origins in the United States and Mexico, particularly regarding veterinary medical treatment records. The most recent audit published on 4th December is a damning indictment of the horse slaughter industry and the Mexican authorities’ failure to rectify previously identified problems.
Although the ban has been introduced due to food safety concerns, animal protection group Humane Society International/Europe says the decision could potentially have a positive animal welfare impact in reducing the number of horses suffering in the Mexican slaughter pipeline. Dr. Joanna Swabe, HSI’s European Union executive director, welcomed the decision:
“Banning horsemeat imports from Mexico is long overdue. For years Humane Society International has repeatedly sounded the alarm about horsemeat entering the food chain that does not fully meet EU safety standards. As well as safeguarding EU consumer safety, closing our borders to horsemeat from these countries is important for animal welfare, too. Horse slaughter, regardless of which country it is in, is fraught with inherent cruelty.”
Currently 87 percent of the eligible horses slaughtered in Mexico for meat export to the EU originate from the U.S.; horses are not bred to be eaten in either the U.S. or Mexico. Additionally, the use of veterinary drugs such as phenylbutazone, banned for use in food animals, is widespread; mandatory lifetime medical record-keeping is non-existent in both countries.
As confirmed by the latest audit, the FVO has consistently found questionable the reliability and veracity of vendor statements about U.S. and Mexican horses’ treatment records, meaning such meat entering the EU could contain banned veterinary drugs. The FVO also confirmed HSI’s particular concerns regarding the very poor welfare conditions at export facilities located in the U.S., during transport from the U.S. to Mexico and at the slaughterhouses.
HSI acknowledges that the Commission is at last taking rigorous steps to protect EU consumer safety, but would like to see a moratorium covering Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay where similar traceability problems with horsemeat exports persist.
Source: Humane Society International
HSI’s EU Executive Director Dr. Joanna Swabe is available for interview and comment by contacting:
Raul Arce-Contreras, email@example.com +1 301.721.6440
A group advocating for Alberta’s free-roaming horses has entered into an agreement with the province to “humanely manage” the population by starting both contraception and adoption programs.
The memorandum of understanding between Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development and the Wild Horses of Alberta Society will allow the group to help manage horses in the Sundre area.
“It’s a five-year agreement,” said Duncan MacDonnell, spokesman for Alberta Environment. “The agreement allows Wild Horses of Alberta Society to undertake two experimental programs to help control the wild horse populations.” But it doesn’t necessarily preclude another capture season this spring, he said, noting that decision is still pending.
Provincial officials have maintained the horse population needs to be balanced with the health of the grasslands — a position that led to controversy last spring as the province allowed a six-week capture season for up to 196 horses that could be kept for personal use or sent for slaughter. Only 15 animals were rounded up by two ranchers, but it led to protests by wild horse advocates, who suggested there were fewer animals than the province reported.
The official 2014 count showed there were 880 horses in the foothills between Kananaskis Country and Sundre, down about 100 horses from the previous year. It led activists and conservationists to suggest last spring’s capture season was unnecessary.Throughout the debate, others suggested the province try other methods to manage the population.
The agreement between the province and the Wild Horses of Alberta Society includes a contraception program targeting female horses and an adoption program allowing the organization to take in and adopt out any young horses.
Bob Henderson, president of the society, couldn’t be reached for comment, but a news release issued by the group said it’s excited about the opportunity to help manage the horse population. It noted that the contraception program will select a limited number of mares to receive a vaccine to prevent pregnancy for up to three years without disrupting the herd structure and dynamics.
The adoption program will allow the group to take in any young foals that have been abandoned or injured. It also allows rescue of any horses that stray onto private land or roadways. The programs will all be run on donations from the public, including eight hectares of land, where a safe handling facility will be built.
Officials with the province said the Wild Horses of Alberta Society will be required to show results from both programs over the five-year period.
Source: Calgary Herald by Colette Derworiz
Four years after strict import requirements for products of animal origin entered into force in the European Union, Humane Society International is renewing its call to the European Commission to halt the import of horsemeat from outside the EU.
Joanna Swabe, HSI EU director, said “These EU import requirements look great on paper, but the implementation thereof by non-EU countries has been farcical. Humane Society International has repeatedly warned that the measures implemented by Canada and Mexico to prevent meat from horses treated with banned substances, such as phenylbutazone, from entering the EU food system are fundamentally flawed and highly susceptible to fraud. Even the European Commission’s own audits have highlighted this, which makes it all the more outrageous that they have failed to take action to suspend the import of horsemeat products that do not meet EU food safety standards.”
Mounting evidence suggests that this issue is not restricted to horsemeat from North America. Food and Veterinary Office audits in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay  indicate that the measures implemented in these countries to prevent meat from horses treated with substances banned for use in food animals are also vulnerable to fraud. The drug treatment histories of horses slaughtered for export to the EU may also have traceability issues.
An investigative report on horsemeat imports recently produced by a coalition of European animal protection groups  corroborates HSI’s own findings, lending additional weight to our calls for the Commission to uphold its own import requirements for products of animal origin and to take urgent action to ensure that meat from horses that do not qualify for slaughter for export no longer ends up on EU consumers’ plates.
1. All FVO audit reports can be accessed here: http://ec.europa.eu/food/fvo/index_en.cfm
Source: Humane Society International
Media contact: Raúl Arce-Contreras: 301-721-6440, firstname.lastname@example.org