New Democrat Agriculture Critic Alex Atamanenko (BC southern Interior) has re-introduced a Private Members Bill that would effectively shut down the slaughtering of horses for human consumption in Canada.
“Since I first introduced this bill in the last Parliament, tens of thousands of Canadians have petitioned the government to legislate an end to this practice,” said Atamanenko. “I think it’s high time the government listened.”
According to the B.C. MP, the odds are enormous that certain drugs, prohibited for use during the life of any animals destined for the human food supply, are routinely being administered to horses.
“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," Atamanenko said.
He pointed to the inexpensive, easily available and widely used anti-inflammatory drug, phenylbutazone (bute) or ‘horse’s aspirin’ as it is commonly called, as just one example of what is quite likely to be prevalent in horsemeat. Bute is a known carcinogen and its use is illegal in any animal that enters the food supply.
According to Atamanenko, at least 50 per cent of the horses being slaughtered in Canada are imported from the U.S., where horse slaughter has been banned. The meat is then sold to markets in Europe. There are no regulations in the U.S. to prevent horse owners from administering banned substances because horses are not regarded or treated as food-producing animals.
“On top of that, the U.S. believes it is our task to verify the data in the EID passports as we are the ones selling the meat for human consumption,” he said.
Under pressure from the European Union (EU), Canada has introduced a new ‘equine passport’ system, the data from which is to be verified by the slaughter houses, to track the health history and medical treatments of horses arriving at slaughterhouses, including those from the States.
“The EID system is fraught with loopholes and it is quite a stretch to think that information on hundreds of thousands of horses gathered from every nook and cranny across Canada and America, will be complete or accurate,” he concluded. “The right thing for the government to do would be to adopt Bill C-322 so the issue can be debated as soon as possible.”