Last year, 53,947 horses were shipped from the United States to Mexico for slaughter. That marks a 26% decrease from 2018 when 70,708 horses designated for slaughter were transported across the southern U.S. border, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market News Livestock Export Summary.
Efforts to open new horse slaughter plants have been unsuccessful, partly because of legislation denying funds for federal inspections of such operations. Nevertheless, thousands of U.S. horses have been exported to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.
Canada and Mexico are two of the main exporters of horse meat to Europe. At least 85% of horses slaughtered at European Union–approved Canadian horse slaughterhouses originated in the United States, and 50% of the horse meat produced from those animals was exported to the EU.
Federal data on the number of horses transported to Canada annually aren’t available. However, the advocacy organization Animals’ Angels estimated that 12,273 U.S. horses were imported by Canada for slaughter in 2017.
California, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, and New York have enacted laws against horse slaughter and eating horse meat.
The large majority of Canadians are opposed to horse slaughter, yet it’s still a thriving industry in Canada. Here’s why it’s more important than ever to take a stand against this deplorable practice.
THREE STEPS FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
Fortunately, thanks to the initiatives of individuals and organizations such as the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition to raise awareness for the Canadian horse slaughter industry, small strides are being made. Since 2016, the amount of horse meat exported by Canada has decreased from 10.3 million kg in 2016 to 5.3 million kg in 2018. Revenue from horse meat exports decreased from $76 million in 2016 to $31 million in 2018. The number of horses slaughtered in Canada also dropped from 113, 334 in 2008 (when the US defunded meat inspectors at horse slaughter plants) to 54,100 in 2016. However, as of 2017, the Canadian government refuses to release horse slaughter statistics citing privacy concerns as one family, Bouvry, owns the remaining two slaughter plants in Canada.
POOR TRACEABILITY MAKES HORSE MEAT DANGEROUS FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION
Horse slaughter isn’t just antiquated and cruel – the meat that’s produced is also dangerous for human consumption. Canadian horse meat is exported mainly to Japan, Belgium and other overseas countries, but it’s also consumed in Canada. Unfortunately, horses are the only large animals slaughtered at Canadian plants with extremely low traceability. Several inquiries to the Canadian Meat Council regarding how much horse meat is consumed in Canada reveals that they do not keep track, whereas statistics on how much beef is consumed are readily available.
Not only is traceability low in terms of where the meat is sold in Canada, but so is the tracking of medications administered to horses. While traceability policies and practices for beef, dairy, and sheep are improving, traceability in the Canadian horse meat industry remains problematic as horse owners routinely administer drugs such as phenylbutazone (Bute), and dewormers marked with the strict warning ‘not to be administer to animals for slaughter.’
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) insists it tests horsemeat for chemical residues but admits to testing only .5% of horsemeat since 2010. While every horse sold at slaughter must have a completed Equine Identification Document (EID) in which the owner attests that the horse has been drug-free for a minimum of six months, Global News reports that kill buyers admit that the document can easily be tampered with. Furthermore, a recent ATI reveals that the CFIA and auditors have documented horses at Bouvry’s with incomplete EID’s. A CFIA inspection report reads:
The information in EID documents is based purely on the horse owner’s declarations. The CFIA verification of authenticity of declarations on the EID documents, as provided in the CFIA’s National Equine Identification and Traceability Program and related CBS tasks, does not constitute a strong government control.
TREATMENT OF SLAUGHTER HORSES IS DEPLORABLE
In 2019 investigators from the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF), Animals’ Angels, and Tierschutzbund Zurich (TSB) documented conditions at three Bouvry-owned feedlots, one in Montana, and two in Alberta. The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines requires that horses in feedlots receive adequate shelter, veterinary and hoof care – but these are clearly lacking in the Bouvry feedlots, where horses are lame and unable to rise from recumbent positions. A recent Access to Information request by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition revealed that the CFIA has routinely documented filthy and empty water troughs at Bouvry’s slaughter plant in holding areas.
Canada’s horse meat industry is in a deplorable state in which human health may be at risk due to poor traceability and horses suffer from CFIA documented inadequacies at feedlots and slaughter establishments. For more information, please visit: defendhorsescanada.org.
Source: Equine Wellness