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August 9, 2012

HSI/Canada Renews Calls for Prohibition on Horse Slaughter as Banned Substances Found in Canadian Horse Meat

Humane Society International/Canada

  • Horses slaughtered for meat in Canada are generally not raised for human consumption. istock

MONTREAL— Following confirmation of prohibited substances in Canadian horse meat, Humane Society International/Canada is renewing calls for a federal prohibition on the slaughter, sale, transport and export of horses for human consumption. Belgian authorities recently notified the European Commission about the reported presence of two unauthorized substances, clenbuterol and phenylbutazone, in horse meat that was imported into the European Union from Canada. Horses slaughtered for meat in Canada are generally not raised for human consumption and are commonly administered substances that are banned in food-producing animals.

Additionally, the United States Food and Drug Administration recently released a warning letter that revealed the presence of the same two banned substances in an American horse sold to a Canadian slaughter establishment. The American establishment cited in this warning letter provided false information in the Equine Information Document, which Canadian authorities rely upon to determine whether American horses exported to Canada have been administered substances not permitted for use in horses in the last 180 days prior to purchase of the animal.  Specifically, this establishment “filled out and signed the producer’s name” and failed to ask the horse’s producer about its medical treatment history. Like Canadian horses, American horses are not raised for human consumption and are frequently administered substances banned for use in food animals.

“Slaughtering horses for human consumption is inherently inhumane and the recent discovery of prohibited substances in Canadian horse meat proves it may also pose a human health risk,” said Ewa Demianowicz, campaigner for Humane Society International/Canada. “Clenbuterol and phenylbutazone can be toxic to humans and have been banned from our food supply for that reason. Clearly, the horse meat protocols imposed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are inadequate and fail to ensure food safety.”

Humane Society International/Canada urges the Canadian government to take immediate action by enacting Bill C-322, which would amend the Health of Animals Act and the Meat Inspection Act, prohibiting the import, export and inter-provincial transport of horses for slaughter for human consumption. 

The two prohibited substances were found in chilled and frozen horse meat that was subsequently distributed to Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. EU member countries have strict food safety policies, which should prevent domestic horses that been administered with substances prohibited in food-producing animals from ever entering the food chain. In comparison, current CFIA standards are insufficient and could lead to human health threats for those consuming horse meat, the majority of which is exported.


  • In 2011, more than 90,000 horses were slaughtered in Canada.
  • Horses are an extreme example of a flight animal. The panic and instinctive desire to escape causes them to thrash their heads frantically in the kill chute, making it difficult to effectively stun them prior to slaughter. As a result, many horses receive several blows before they are rendered unconscious.
  • Horses can be transported for up to 36 hours without food, water or rest in Canada. Horses are often crammed in trailers (sometimes double-deckers) designed for shorter animals, and travel in uncomfortable positions over very long distances.
  • Because horses are generally not bred as food animals, they are often administered substances that are prohibited in our food supply.
  • In 2011, MP Alex Atamanenko introduced Bill C-322, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act and the Meat Inspection Act to end the import and export (and transfer between provinces) of horses for slaughter for human consumption.


Media Contact: Dean Pogas, HSI Canada: 514-395-2914

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Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI/Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International—one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than ten million members and constituents globally—on the Web at hsicanada.ca.

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