The contentious issue of horse slaughter draws strong emotions from both sides, but it wasn’t until recent public reports about the carcinogenic medications routinely administered to horses that are forbidden to be used in the human food chain that prompted New Democrats’ Agriculture Critic, Alex Atamenko to propose to ban the slaughter of horses for food. The Bill C-544 was presented to the Third Session, 40th Parliament House of Commons this past week.
Bill C-544 will amend the Health of Animals Act and the Meat Inspection Act ( slaughter of horses for human consumption) and will prohibit the importation of horses for slaughter for human consumption.
According to Atamenko, ” It is more likely than not the vast majority of horses will have been administered bute, or ‘horse aspirin’ as it is commonly called.”
The Preamble of the Private Member’s Bill states that horses are pets and used for sports and recreation and are not raised as food animals. Atamenko also states that horse meat is likely to contain prohibited substances.
Canada has introduced an “equine passport” requirement to track the health history and medications administered to horses arriving at Canadian slaughter houses, including horses entering from the United States. It is predicted that it will be impossible for Canadian Food Inspection Agencies to verify data. There are no rules in the United States to keep horse owners from administering any of the prohibited drugs. The United States takes the position that it is Canada’s responsibility to determine what drugs are in American horses. Most horses coming from auctions and purchased by killbuyers ( agents who buy horses for the slaughter houses) will have no knowledge of the background of the horses, and will not be able to verify whether the horses have ever been administered drugs that completely ban the animal from entering the human food chain. The killbuyer will then be able to sign an affidavit stating, “to my knowledge” and with those words, there can be no accountability and no protection for the public.
There are 55 veterinary drugs that are not permitted in equines in their lifetimes. It is interesting to note that most race horse and competition horses have been administered some of these drugs and should be banned from the slaughter houses. Certain drugs as anitbiotics, beta-agonists, nitrofurans, oestradiol, phenylbutazone, stanozolol,stilbenes, and steroid hormones are commonly used in horses from t he United States. At least half of the horses slaughtered in Canada are transported from the United States.
A Private Member’s Bill must be debated and pass three readings before it is allowed to move forward. The next step is a vote, and the bill must be supported by a majority or the Members of Parliament. Most Private Member’s Bills never make it through the House of Commons, however Atamenko has prevailed in the past on another bill.
Parliament is now on a three month summer recess.