Equine Rescue

DRF: Canada Stops Accepting U.S. Horses for Slaughter

By Glenye Cain Oakford of the Daily Racing Form

“Known Kill Buyers Wring Hands and Pass Slaughter Propoganda”

“It’s a ‘Merican right ta kill horses”

The United States market for slaughter horses was thrown into confusion Friday after slaughterhouses in Canada appeared to have closed their doors abruptly to U.S. horses, according to slaughter buyers, lower-market horse dealers, and the auctions they frequent.

U.S. horse auction officials said that the situation remained unclear, but it appeared the sudden closure might also apply to Mexico and could be related to European Union concerns over U.S. slaughter horses’ medication histories and veterinary documentation. As of late Friday night, slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico had not issued statements regarding their policies on U.S. equine imports, leaving auctioneers and slaughter buyers across the U.S. in limbo as auction houses canceled or postponed sales.

“We canceled upon hearing from some of our buyers that they would not be on the market because they would not be accepting horses into Canada,” said one Western auctioneer who did not want to be identified because he was concerned there could be public backlash against the auction house with which he is affiliated. “Nobody really knows right now if it’s coming from the Canadian government, the EU, or the packing plants.”

“They don’t want our horses, because they can’t ship the meat overseas,” another auction operator said.

Word of the Oct. 12 closures came one day after the European Commission’s Health and Consumers Directorate-General issued its report covering an 11-day audit of Mexican equine slaughter facilities. Although the report found many practices satisfactory at facilities audited by the commission’s Food and Veterinary Office, it called verification of slaughter-bound horses’ veterinary records “insufficient.”

Effective July 31, 2013, the European Union – a major market for meat from U.S. horses slaughtered in Canada and Mexico – will require lifetime medication records for slaughter-bound horses. Both Canada and Mexico have attempted in recent years to tighten their requirements for veterinary records, responding to EU concerns over medications, such as Bute, that it bans from the food chain. But equine welfare advocates have long contended that the affidavits or Equine Identification Documents that are supposed to accompany slaughter-bound U.S. horses, and which detail their veterinary histories, are easily and frequently forged or fabricated as horses pass through the pipeline to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses. The recent FVO audit of Mexican slaughterhouses, which said 80 percent of horses killed in Mexico’s slaughterhouses originated in the U.S., did not use such stark terms but raised serious questions about the affidavits.

“[T]he systems in place for identification, the food chain information and in particular the affidavits concerning the non-treatment for six months with certain medical substances, both for the horses imported from the U.S. as well as for the Mexican horses are insufficient to guarantee that standards equivalent to those provided for by EU legislation are applied,” the Oct. 11 European Commission report said. The report also noted that Mexican officials “are not allowed to question the authenticity or reliability of the sworn statements [affidavits] made by owners of imported horse from the U.S. on veterinary medical treatments,” and that “there is no system in place to verify the declarations” on those horses’ documentation.

The situation could be complicated politically by the fact that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has said it will audit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency later this month. That word came after a late September E. coli outbreak prompted a Canadian meat packer to recall beef in more than 30  U.S. states, though the Canadian agency has said the audit was planned well before that outbreak and not in response to it. The Canadian agency has suspended the beef packer’s export permit.

Earlier this year, the Ontario slaughterhouse operated by Viande Richelieu returned two former racehorses, Canuki and Cactus Cafe, to Mark Wedig, partly because anti-slaughter advocates were able to show that the horses had been given medications and partly because of publicity surrounding the horses’ sale to the slaughter plant, the anti-slaughter advocates have said.

Leroy Baker, who operates Sugarcreek Livestock Auction in Sugarcreek, Ohio, said Friday night that the tighter EU regulations on horse meat already had contributed to a sharp decline in low-end horse prices, even before word filtered out among slaughter buyers that U.S. horses would not be welcome across U.S. borders.

“I told people the last couple of months who complained about the price, I said, ‘It’s coming, by the first of the year I think the borders will be closed down, so instead of worrying about the price, you better start worrying about getting rid of them,’” said Baker. “It’s probably down, oh, 35 percent. And if it’s shut down, there won’t be any market for 85 percent, maybe even 90 percent, of horses. If they don’t get it worked out and get those places opened back up, there will be absolutely no market.

“Starting the last six months, any horse would bring $150 to $550,” he added. “Now, it’s down from nothing to $400. Today, with the market shut down, it’s from nothing to $100. And that’s just little traders who didn’t realize what happened and they think they’re going somewhere else tomorrow or the next week and sell the same horse over and someone will buy it. But news travels fast. By tomorrow at noon, everybody in the country will know that they’re shut down.”

“It’s going to kill the horse industry in the U.S.A.,” said horse dealer Brian Moore.

Baker said he first heard about the slaughterhouses’ closure to U.S. horses at 6 a.m. Friday morning and said the news took him by surprise. He said he called some horse sellers he knew and told them not to bother bringing their horses to Sugarcreek.

In Davenport, Wash., the Stockland Livestock Auction canceled its Oct. 13 horse sale, saying on its website that “Stockland has just become aware of a possible situation regarding horse exports [as of 10/12/12]. We have reached out to numerous experts and traders in the business and as a result and due to the uncertainty surrounding the information we have so far we have decided to cancel the horse sale. We hope to reschedule later this fall or early in 2013.”

But early Saturday morning it still wasn’t clear how long the market might be tied up, the Western auctioneer said.

“Even if it’s just a 72-hour thing, it still crushes our market,” the auctioneer said. “I’ve heard anywhere from 72 hours to six months or better. It depends on where it’s coming from. If the Canadians are putting a stop to it because of inaccurate EID forms and they want the USDA to get tougher on those, then it could be a short deal. But if this is coming from the EU or it has to do with the European economy, then it could be a lot longer. If the U.S. is not going to guarantee that these horses haven’t had these medications that are banned for food in the EU, and if they can’t find a way to make those records more accurate, then it’s going to be a long deal.”

Meanwhile, many anti-slaughter groups cautiously hailed the apparent shutdown as they, like participants in the slaughter market, scrambled to find clarification on whether policies have, in fact, changed permanently in Canada, Mexico, or the EU.

“The most likely explanation for the sudden move is that the expanded residue testing program has yielded worse than anticipated results,” theorized the Equine Welfare Alliance’s John Holland.

But Sugarcreek’s Leroy Baker countered that a slaughter shutdown would still be bad news for U.S. horses.

“These animal rights people want to save them, but all they do is prolong the agony,” Baker said. “They think they’re saving them. They think they saw starving, thin horses that weren’t [taken] care of before when people could sell them and get something? Just imagine: they will turn them out on the roads and in empty fields and everything now.”

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11 replies »

  1. It sounds to me that all these big auctions are claiming that they make a living from selling slaughter horses only? I do not believe that’s the case. So what is all the panic about shutting down auctions! I find many walks of human life wanting horses at auctions! Maybe these auctions ought to look at this as an opportunity! Clean up their act and start treating these beautiful well educated healthy horses with respect and sell them to people instead of slaughter! Sale and ownership of live horses bring in more money in many more ways then horse meat! I have been in New Holland Auction many times. Too many good horses have gone to slaughter! A simple fix, raise the minimum price on live horses to deter meat markets and people who cannot afford them, will eliminate most issues such as neglect, starvation and abuse. If people pay a substantial amount of money, their will value their investment. Most anyone can afford to pay $50 for a horse, but how many of these folks will be able to afford $2,000+ annually to care for the horse? If one cannot afford to pay cash price of at least $1,000 for a horse, shouldn’t own one. Invest in a smaller critter such as a cat.


    • Horses are expensive to keep and there are many fradulant people that would buy a horse and sell it to slaughter just for the money. I stand behind the known registered horse rescuse groups that rescue horses and rehabiliate them and find them a good forever homes. When you take on a horse it is a huge expense especially if you acquire a sick horse that need vet care. It is much better if you have your own property with a barn to keep horses in.


  2. No doubt, there will be ‘unintended consequences’. But is the more favorable alternative knowingly poisoning Europeans who consider imported horse meat a delicacy? This not only furthers the belief that pro-slaughter supporters could give a rat’s ass about horses, but HUMANS as well.

    At the very least, we may have more of an opportunity to ‘save’ these horses – find homes & sanctuaries, evaluate them and employ them. Maybe stem the tide of over-breeding for a minute. There are so many going across the borders that are NOT unwanted, but belonged to people who have lost them due to the immorality that keeps this industry fully-stocked.

    Nearly every aspect – from acquisition, to the feed lot, to auction, to transport and finally to the abbatoir – demonstrates this to be a predatory undertaking, not for the consideration or benefit to horses, simply the money the dead generate.

    And I suspect there will more predators waiting in the wings; any excuse to exploit horses is an acquired taste and likely, difficult not to indulge.

    I feel cautiously optimistic. Even with vultures waiting to swoop, there are still laws in this country that protect horses, aren’t there? While the USDA has not shown much ambition in ensuring food safety and humane treatment policies – particularly those covering horses – are followed, maybe law enforcement can step up their game a little.


    • The American public at large are very upset about the practices of horse slaughter starting with transport alone. Let people know what is actually happening to these beautiful majestic horses and you will cause something that our U.S. Government better be ready for. So many people do not know that horses have been going to slaughter period. When I talk to average American Citizens they are shocked to learn about horse slaughter. Horse slaughter is America’s dirty little secret. Even if the horses are being shipped elsewhere for slaughter the horses still came/coming from the good old U.S.A.


  3. It is time for the states to enforce their cruelty laws if people abuse/neglect/abandon their horses. If the state laws are not strong enough to enforce then they need to be strengthened. It is long past time for horse owners to step up and take responsiblity for their horses. Not just dump them in the laughter market for tax payers to foot the bill.


  4. The quote thar rhis might close the “Horse Industry” down made me laugh. Yeah, the Horse Industry as defined by Sue Wallis and her cohorts. That would be a big plus for us the Anti-Slaughter groups who don’t define the industry in terms of pounds of horse meat. I say close their concept of industry down. Watch me smile.


  5. But DRF….Dr Tom Lenz, US licensed veterinarian extraordinaire of AHC, AAEP, Texas A&M (throw in a little AQHA B$ here) fame and excellent reputation says Mexican EU slaughterhouses are excellent and perfectamundo!

    BTW, no doubt in my mind CFIA and USDA KNEW THIS WAS COMING!!!!!!! They want the ensuing B$ chaos to help bring slaughter back to the US and make antislaughter look bad. What to know who also knew…..THE PLANTS!!!!!!!

    Please note that the proverbial $hit hit the meat fan on a late Thursday night/Friday….typical government tactic when there is “BAD” news”.


  6. I am still wondering HOW these PRO-SLAUGHTER people can say that no shipping of our horses to Canada, or Mexico will cause ANY problems. Just what the heck happened when the horse was the mode of transportation for all Americans, both on farms/ranches AND in cities???? There was NO FORM of slaughter plants for horses then, and the “overwhelming” mountain of dead bodies never happened as they seem to think will be the result if shipping to slaughter ever happens. When the horse was the transportation for all, there were many places breeding yearly and there were not the overpopulation issues that they say will happen today. The major problem today is the cost of hay for these horses, and IF THEY WOULD STOP SHIPPING HAY OVERSEAS, WE WOULD NOT HAVE A SHORTAGE LIKE WE HAVE!! There is hay from Colorado going to other states, and AT THE SAME TIME, HAY COMING IN TO COLORADO FROM OTHER STATES….so the major problem is the usual….the desire for profit at the cost of the owners of the horses and what they can continue to pay. If greed were not the rampant factor here, there wouldn’t be horses being left to fend for themselves, and this supposed need for killing them.


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