Humane Society International/Canada is calling on lawmakers to support legislation to regulate the country’s horse slaughter industry.
The private member’s bill C-571, introduced by New Democratic Party MP Alex Atamanenko, has advanced to its second reading.
It aims to close what its backers see as loopholes in current regulations by requiring a lifetime medical treatment record for any horse presented for slaughter.
Under the law, horses that received drugs prohibited from the food chain or which were not raised for human consumption could not be sent to slaughter.
Current regulations do not effectively prevent horses once treated with banned substances from entering the food chain, backers of the bill believe.
Humane Society International/Canada’s campaign manager, Ewa Demianowicz, said: “The Canadian government cannot continue to ignore the blatant flaws of its cruel horse slaughter industry, nor the fact that horse meat produced in Canada for human consumption poses serious health risks for consumers around the world.
“Bill C-571 introduces regulations that could prevent the death of tens of thousands of horses by ensuring that horses are removed from the slaughter pipeline and food chain.”
Atamanenko said: “A long list of drugs prohibited for use in food animals are commonly administered to horses.
“Currently, no reliable system for recording medications given to horses is available, as medical record keeping for horses is not mandatory. By no stretch of the imagination should horsemeat be considered a safe food option by those who consume it.”
Most horses slaughtered in Canada – the largest exporter of horsemeat to Europe and Asia – come from the United States, where horse slaughterhouses closed in 2007.
Audits by the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office consistently highlight the unreliability of equine identification documents that accompany US horses, which do not give guarantees equivalent to the EU food safety standards.
However, the Canadian Government continued to allow exports of horsemeat.
In 2013, more than 70,000 horses were slaughtered in Canada. The majority are not raised as food animals, the group said, and as a result routinely received drugs prohibited from the food chain.