by Pat Raia
New Canadian horse processing regulations could slow the flow of U.S. horses to slaughter plants there, say equine welfare advocates.
Last month the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) advised all Canadian owners of horses that could be sold for processing to keep detailed records of their equines’ vaccinations, medications, and illnesses (see their statement). The information will be necessary beginning July 31 when all horses processed in Canadian plants must be free of chemical substances banned by European Union (EU) food inspection regulations. Undocumented horses brought to slaughter in Canada will be quarantined for six months.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs phenylbutazone (“Bute”) and flunixin (Banamine), and sedative acepromazine are among the banned drugs.
Canada is a major destination for slaughter-bound horses from the United States since state actions eliminated horse processing in 2007. According to CFIA records, 56% of the 93,812 horses processed in Canada in 2009 were imported from the United States.
Horses sent to Canada for processing will be subject to the new inspection requirements. However, the United States has no jurisdiction to require U.S.-based exporters to comply with Canadian health inspection rules.
Equine welfare advocate Jerry Finch said the new regulations will increase horse processing costs in Canada.
“All these measures will make all the operations harder and more costly for all the (Canadian) plants,” said Finch, president of Habitat for Horses Inc. “This may eventually mean the final nail in the slaughter plants’ coffin as far as Canada and the U.S. is concerned.”
However Montana State Senator Ed Butcher said he believes the new rules will give traction to his initiative to establish horse processing facilities in his state. Last year, Montana enacted a law prohibiting state courts from granting injunctions designed to stop or delay construction of horse slaughter or processing facilities in that state (read more).
Since then, Butcher has been negotiating with Asian investors interested in locating horse processing plants in Montana. He believes the new rules will boost investor interest in Montana plant development.
“The more they put the hassle on in Canada, the better position we’re in,” he said.
Whether the Canadian rules will boost U.S. exports to Mexican processing plants is uncertain, said John Holland of the Equine Welfare Alliance. Two major processing plants in that country also provide horsemeat for European markets, and will eventually have to meet EU standards. Failure to do so could stem the flow of horsemeat from that country into Europe.