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February 28, 2013

HSI/Canada Calls for a Prohibition on Horse Slaughter after Cruelty in Canadian Facilities Exposed

Humane Society International/Canada

  • Concerns related to the safety of horsemeat, especially of North American origin, have been previously raised. Kayla Grams/The HSUS

MONTREAL— Following the recent exposé, showing numerous animal welfare violations on Canadian horse feedlots, Humane Society International/Canada is calling for a federal prohibition on the slaughter, sale, transport and export of horses for human consumption. The disturbing images were broadcasted on Swiss television and reportedly led to the withdrawal of Canadian horsemeat products in several supermarkets in Switzerland.

“This is not the first case of cruelty in the Canadian horsemeat industry. Throughout the years, investigations in Canadian facilities have repeatedly shown that horse slaughter is inherently inhumane and leads to numerous animal welfare violations,” said Ewa Demianowicz, campaigner for HSI/Canada. “The recent horsemeat scandal in Europe, along with the cruelty involved in slaughtering horses shows that this industry is seriously flawed and that Canada should prohibit horse slaughter.”

Take action: Add your voice to those calling for an end to this cruelty.

These accusations of cruelty are yet another blow to an industry that has already been badly discredited by recent events in Europe, where meat products labeled as beef in fact contained large quantities of unidentified horsemeat. In addition, concerns related to the safety of horsemeat, especially of North American origin, have been previously raised since these products may be tainted with substances banned from entering the food chain.

The majority of Canadian horsemeat is exported to European and Asian countries, and Canada is currently the largest exporter of horsemeat to Europe. In 2012, Canada exported 2.1 million kilograms of horsemeat to Switzerland, which represented the highest valued horsemeat export market for Canada last year.

Audits carried out by the European Commission Food and Veterinary Office have consistently highlighted that current Canadian Food Inspection Agency standards are insufficient and do not meet EU food safety standards. Given the inherent animal welfare problems involved in this industry and the risks it poses to food safety, it is unacceptable and irresponsible for the Canadian government to continue allowing the export of unsafe horsemeat.

HSI/Canada is calling on the federal government to immediately impose a prohibition on the slaughter of horses for human consumption.


  • In 2012, more than 80,000 horses were slaughtered in Canada.
  • Horses are an extreme example of a flight animal. Their instinctive desire to escape from the slaughterhouse causes them to panic and 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 in Canada can be transported over long distances in uncomfortable positions for up to 36 hours, without food, water or rest, and are often crammed in trailers (sometimes double-deckers) designed for shorter animals.
  • Horses slaughtered in Canada come from various backgrounds, the majority of them are not raised as food animals, and as a result they routinely receive drugs that are prohibited from the food chain. 
  • Currently, there is no reliable system for recording medications given to horses over the course of their lifetimes, and no way to remove horses from the food chain once they have been given prohibited substances.
  • A 2010 EU regulation requires that only meat from horses with a known medicinal treatment history can be exported to the EU. However horsemeat from North American (including Canada) continues to be exported to the EU even though the FVO audits have concluded that the equine identification documents for horses originating from the U.S. are insufficient to meet the EU’s food safety regulations.
  • In July 2012, Belgian authorities were notified the European Commission about the reported presence of two forbidden substances in horse meat imported from Canada.
  • In 2011, Member of Parliament 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, 514.395.2914, dpogas@hsi.org  

Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, with active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation, farm animal welfare and animals in research. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International which, together with its partners, constitutes one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide – on the Web at hsicanada.ca

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