Answers wanted on tighter European slaughter rules

August 26, 2009

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) needs to spell out the situation over Europe's tighter rules over horse meat destined for human consumption, according to equine welfare groups.

The horse industry needs answers over the new rules, which appear to rule out many of the horses currently going to slaughter.

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition and Equine Welfare Alliance said the agency should provide its response to a letter dated April 17 from the European Commission outlining the new requirements. The letter was from Paola Testori Coggi, deputy director-general of the Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection.

The letter notified affected "third" countries of requirements for horses, donkeys and cross-breds intended for food production, including the identification of horses intended for food production, a system of identity verification, a prohibition on the use of anabolic steroids and other prohibited drugs, and a minimum six-month withdrawal period for veterinary medicinal products.

The letter said immediate steps were required to implement a food safety programme for countries supplying horse meat to the European Union.

The coalition and alliance said they have yet to receive a response to their inquiry letter previously sent to Dr Claude Boissonneault, of the CFIA's Red Meat Species Programme.

Also, the CFIA had yet to make public the news of the decision that affected the entire horse industry, said Sinikka Crosland and John Holland, representing the two welfare groups.

They said countries affected must have submitted an action plan by this date, yet there has been no indication this has been done.

"It is incredible that the CFIA has yet to inform Canadians and Americans alike, about this far-reaching programme that will impact the entire horse industry," said Crosland.

Holland said: "There are thousands of horses going to slaughter every week in Canada, from both Canada and the US. There is presently no tracking or passport system for horses, and many are routinely given a wide range of performance-enhancing drugs throughout their lives."

"We see a huge potential for horse welfare concerns," said Crosland, "as horses will be held for more than six months at transfer stations, without basic care provided and they will not be allowed to administer worming or pain medications to these horses.

The group said the CFIA should respond without delay, and communicate to all horse groups and people affected.

They urged people to write to the CFIA, asking for details about the programme.

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition is a collective of people and groups working to protect equines from slaughter for human consumption, as well as the export of live horses to other countries for the same purpose.

The Equine Welfare Alliance is an umbrella organization representing equine welfare organizations, equine rescues and individuals involved in a grass roots effort dedicated to ending the slaughter of American horses.