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March 8, 2013

HSI/Canada and the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition Call for a Ban on Horse Slaughter as Phenylbutazone is Detected in Canadian Horsemeat

Humane Society International/Canada

  • In addition to being unsafe for human consumption, Canadian horsemeat is produced in an inhumane fashion. Robert Brownell

MONTREAL— Humane Society International/Canada and the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition are renewing calls for an immediate federal prohibition on the slaughter, sale, transport and live export of horses for human consumption, after traces of phenylbutazone were recently found in Canadian horsemeat exported to Switzerland. Routine sample testing in a laboratory in Berne detected residue of the drug, which is strictly banned from the food chain due to toxic reactions it can cause in humans, leading to potentially fatal adverse effects such as aplastic anemia.

Ewa Demianowicz, campaigner for HSI/Canada stated, “Horses slaughtered in Canada are generally not raised for human consumption and routinely receive drugs that have been banned in food producing animals. There are currently no legal requirements for horse owners to record the use of such drugs. We have proof, yet again, that current Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations are inadequate and cannot guarantee that Canadian horsemeat is safe.”

Sinikka Crosland, executive director for the CHDC said, “The most recent finding comes as no surprise. Due to the widespread use of phenylbutazone in horses, the news from Switzerland simply reveals the tip of an iceberg.” 

Member of Parliament Alex Atamanenko, who introduced a bill in 2011 that would end horse slaughter for human consumption in Canada due to human health concerns added, “Many Canadians are supportive of my bill. People from across the country have rightly expressed concerns that Canadian horsemeat products that are currently being sold for human consumption, in Canada and abroad, are likely to contain prohibited substances.”

Canadian horsemeat, along with being unsafe for human consumption, is produced in an inhumane fashion. Last week, numerous animal welfare violations on feedlots in Alberta were broadcasted on Swiss television, leading to a public outcry, and the withdrawal of Canadian horsemeat from several supermarkets in Switzerland.

In the wake of the recent mislabelling scandal in Europe, the horsemeat business is reportedly in decline in Canada.  HSI/Canada and the CHDC urge the Canadian government to take immediate action by enacting Alex Atemanenko’s 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.


  • In 2012, more than 80,000 horses were slaughtered in Canada.
  • Currently, there is no reliable system in Canada 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 America (including Canada) continues to be exported to the EU even though the Food and Veterinary Office 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 notified the European Commission about the reported presence of two forbidden substances in horse meat imported from 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.


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

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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