August 2016 Issue - page 7

August 2016
Page 7
By Suzanne Bush
In 2014, after years of
pressure from Europe’s Humane
Society International (HSI), the
European Union banned the
import of horse meat shipped
from Mexican abattoirs. Dr.
Joanna Swabe, the HSI/Europe
Executive Director, says that
her organization finally con-
vinced European Commissioners
that conditions in the Mexican
abattoirs were problematic at
best. Augmenting the HSI’s case
were numerous traceability and
food safety concerns uncovered
in an audit conducted by the
EU’s Food and Veterinary Office
Her organization has made
the same arguments about the
Canadian abattoirs, another
destination for horses sold at
auction in the United States. But
the Canadian horse meat pipeline
to the EU remains open. Despite
Canada’s seeming immunity to
the strictures placed on Mex-
ico, Swabe and others remain
convinced that it’s only a matter
of time until horse meat exports
from Canada will also be banned.
Safety from Farm to Fork
The EU Commission on
Food Safety has developed stan-
dards that are meant to guaran-
tee consumers in EU countries
that food products they buy are
safe. Where meat products are
concerned, the EU standards re-
quire comprehensive data on any
animal that enters the food chain,
including the veterinary history
of every animal, from its birth to
the time it is processed for food.
There are certain pharmaceuticals
considered so toxic that any ani-
mal treated with them is forever
banned from the food chain.
Phenylbutazone, or Bute, is one
of those drugs. Hundreds of
thousands of horses in the United
States are routinely treated with
Bute. Since horses, unlike beef
cattle and pigs, are not raised for
food, it’s not unusual for them to
have been treated differently by
veterinarians than animals that
are destined for the food chain.
Horses that are brought to
Canada for processing in the
abattoirs must have health certif-
icates that detail their veterinary
histories, even the last dates the
horses were wormed or treated
with antibiotics. Anyone who
has ever witnessed the livestock
auctions where horses are sold to
meat buyers can understand that
there’s a chasm between the EU
requirements and the realities of
these auctions.
A Plan for Canada
Swabe responded via email
to several questions about con-
tinued efforts to ban horse meat
from Canadian abattoirs. “The
most recent Food and Veteri-
nary (FVO) findings conclude
that there are no guarantees that
horses slaughtered in Canada for
export to the EU have not been
treated with substances, such as
[those that promote] hormonal
growth,” she explained. She said
such substances are not permitted
to be used in food animals in the
Humane Organizations Still Fighting to Stop Horse Slaughter in Canada
She said that members of the
European Parliament have raised
questions to the EU commission-
ers about how they would protect
European consumers from the
possible contamination of horse
meat from Canadian abattoirs.
But the pressure on the commis-
sioners goes even further. “In ad-
dition,” Swabe said, “HSI/Europe
met with the Commissioner for
Health and Food Safety to hand
deliver a petition signed by more
than 25,000 EU citizens” urging a
suspension of horse meat imports
from those non-EU countries
that do not comply with EU food
safety standards.
Swabe said that the European
Commission recently announced
measures seeking to address
deficiencies in Canada’s abattoirs.
“These include: amending the im-
port certificate, achieving an equiv-
alence of requirements with regard
to veterinary treatments in Canada;
and establishing a mandatory res-
idency of six months for horses in
the country of slaughter.” HSI/Eu-
rope concluded that these measures
are “fundamentally flawed.”
She said that HSI/Europe
and colleagues from HSI/Canada
have been meeting with the Chief
Veterinary Office and others in the
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
(CFIA), to present evidence. “So far,
no concrete actions seem to have
been taken by the CFIA regarding
these significant concerns,” she said.
She believes that only intense pres-
sure from the EU requiring changes
will result in change.
But HSI/Canada representa-
tives did meet with several Mem-
bers of the Canadian Parliament.
Schwabe says that “In previous
sessions, a bill was introduced to
strengthen the traceability system
of the horse slaughter industry.
“Unfortunately it was defeated
by just a handful of votes,” she
said. Among supporters of the bill
were Liberal MPs, a party, which
she happily noted, “is in power
now.” She and her Canadian
colleagues are hopeful that a new
bill will be proposed soon.
“In addition,” Swabe said
“campaigners with HSI/Canada
have recently submitted to the
CFIA a formal complaint against
the horse slaughter facility
Viande Richelieu, requesting an
investigation into the company’s
claims concerning the source,
quality and safety of its horse
meat products.” Viande Richelieu
is one of the primary abattoirs ac-
cepting horses from US auctions.
(Continued on page 21)
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