Horse Slaughter: New Canadian Rules

There’s been a good bit of talk lately in the horse community about new rules taking effect in Canada on July 1 for horses bound for slaughter.  Thinking about the changes, several questions came to mind…

What, exactly, are the new regulations?  What is the goal of the new regulations? How will the new regulations change the way horses are handled, both before and after shipment to Canada?  Will the new regulations affect the number of horses sent to Canada for slaughter?  Will the new regulations put additional pressure on the current alternatives to Canadian slaughter (rescues and/or slaughter shipments to Mexico, for example)?

Today’s post will address the first two questions, since they deal with factual information that can me measured and verified.  Tomorrow, I’ll post my opinions about the rest of the questions. 

What are the new regulations?  The new regulations are part of the Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures, which is a reference document for inspectors of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and all other stakeholders in the Canadian meat hygiene program.  According to the CFIA, “The Manual contains information covering policies on the importation, exportation and interprovincial trade of meat products in addition to policies concerning the preparation of meat products in establishments licensed under the 1990 Meat Inspection Act and Regulations.”  The new regulation is found under Chapter 17, Annex E:  Ante and Post mortem Inspection Procedures, Dispositions, Monitoring and Controls – Red Meat Species, Ostriches, Rheas and Emus.  

It states:  “Effective July 31, 2010, it will be mandatory for all Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspected facilities in Canada engaged in the slaughter of equine for edible purposes to have complete records for all animals (domestic and imported) presented for slaughter. These records will include unique identification for each animal, a record of illness and a record of medical treatments administered to the animal for the six-month period preceding slaughter. The template entitled “Equine Information Document” (EID) of this annex (see E.2) shall be used by equine owners for this purpose.”  In short, this means that each horse bound for slaughter must be accompanied by a document with identification information (name, sex, color, markings, pedigree and registry numbers), photos or drawings completed by a veterinarian, and a signed statement from the owner documenting period(s) of ownership, vaccination and drug history covering at least six months and medical history covering at least six months.  In addition, the owner must certify whether he/she has knowledge of the horse being treated with one of the drugs on the list of drugs prohibited for use in food equines. 

Quite a few common medications used with sport and race horses appear on the “banned” list.  Here are a few of them:  phenylbutazone (“bute” a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory), nitrofurazone (“Fura-Zone,” “Furacin,” an anti-microbial), Bacitracin (a topical antibiotic), chloramphenicol (an antibiotic), clenbuterol (“Ventipulmin” a bronchodilator for horses with COPD) and Boldenone (“Equipoise” a steroid sometimes used in race horses).  While some of these substances are now forbidden by the USEF and FEI in competition horses, the drug rules for those organizations pertain to drug testing for competitions.  In other words, the USEF does not object to the use of some of these drugs for legitimate diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, it simply requires that the drugs clear the horse’s bloodstream and urine prior to competition (see the USEF’s rules here).  The USEF has no restrictions pertaining to how long forbidden drugs might otherwise reside in the horse’s tissues, since the USEF’s restrictions pertain to fairness in competition.  The Canadian rules pertain to safety of food for human consumption.  What might be fine for use in a competition horse is dangerous for use in a horse that will end up as someone’s dinner.

What is the goal of the new regulations?  The regulations are intended to address concerns about food safety, for horse meat intended for human consumption in Canada and for export from Canada to other countries.  While most Americans find human consumption of horse meat objectionable, there are many cultures that consider it perfectly acceptable.  Of course, if nobody ate horse meat, the regulations would be unnecessary.  However, the facts are that a number of people in several cultures consider horse meat an acceptable form of animal protein for food.  Chemicals that are used to medicate and de-worm horses are NOT meant to be used with food animals, and are surely dangerous to those who might be eating the meat, whether it’s cooked or raw.  The new regulations are intended to make it more difficult for tainted horse meat to enter the market, and easier for inspectors and slaughterhouses to identify horses that will be unsuitable for human consumption.  The full list of medications disallowed by the Canadian government for use with equines can be found here.

To read Part II of this series, which includes more opinion and less fact, click here

4 comments to Horse Slaughter: New Canadian Rules

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