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March 31, 2014

Parliament Urged to Restrict Horse Slaughter

Bill C-571 to require medical records for horses entering the food chain

Humane Society International/Canada

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Humane Society International/Canada is calling on all Members of Parliament to support legislation that regulates the unsafe horse slaughter industry in Canada.

The Private Member’s Bill C 571, introduced by NDP Member of Parliament Alex Atamanenko and advanced to Second Reading, aims to close the loopholes of current regulations by requiring a lifetime medical treatment record for any horse presented for slaughter. Under the law, horses who received drugs prohibited from the food chain or weren’t raised for human consumption could not be sent to slaughter. This is an improvement over current regulations that do not effectively prevent horses once treated with banned substances from entering the food chain.

Ewa Demianowicz, campaign manager for HSI/Canada 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.”

MP Alex Atamanenko added: “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 U.S. horses, which do not give guarantees equivalent to the EU food safety standards. The Canadian government, however, continues to allow exports of horsemeat.

In addition to posing public health risks, horse slaughter is inherently cruel. Due to their sensitive nature and flight response, horses cannot be humanely slaughtered. In Canada, many cases of animal welfare violations in horse slaughterhouses have been reported such as sick or injured horses being denied veterinary care and horses receiving multiple blows to the head before they are rendered unconscious. Moreover, horses en route to slaughter in Canada can be transported for up to 36 hours without food, water or rest.

HSI/Canada calls on all MPs to vote in favor of Bill C-571 and regulate the horse slaughter industry in Canada.


  • In 2013, more than 70,000 horses were slaughtered in Canada.
  • 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.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency relies on Equine Identification Documents, which are fraught with fraud, to monitor horses sent to slaughter. The EID is signed by the owner, in often cases a kill-buyer who has owned the horse for less than 24 hours, attesting to the animal’s medical history for the last six months, even though some substances, such as phenylbutazone, are completely banned in food producing animals, regardless when the substance was administered.
  • In July 2012, Belgian authorities notified the European Commission about the reported presence of two forbidden substances, phenylbutazone and clenbuterol, in horsemeat imported from Canada.

Media Contact: Christopher Paré, 514.395.2914, cpare@hsi.org

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