The most recent ban on equine inspections by USDA meat inspectors has moved the horse slaughter debate up to Canada’s House of Commons.
A Member of Parliament (MP) from southeastern British Columbia hopes that a final hour of debate next month can persuade the country’s federal lawmakers to pass his bill limiting slaughter only to those horses raised as feed animals with complete medical records. MP Alex Atamanenko’s legislation (C-571) is a private member’s bill, meaning that the government did not request it.
Atamanenko withdrew an earlier bill that sought a total ban on horse slaughter in Canada and then substituted C-571 in hopes that a more limited ban might attract enough support. He is a member of the minority New Democratic Party and a retired school teacher.
Atamanenko wants to make it more difficult for Canada’s four federally inspected equine processors to do business by imposing requirements he says are designed to keep drugs out of the food chain.
Overall his bill would cut horse slaughter in Canada by 50 percent, according to Atamanenko.
With up to 100,000 live horses from the United States being taken over the border every year for eventual slaughter by one of the four facilities, Canada’s horse meat sales now top $83 million a year.
Most of the horse meat Canada processes goes to the European Union, but not all. Horse meat can be found on fine restaurant menus and in meat shops in its big eastern cities, including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. Canada exports horse meat to France, Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Italy.
The European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office has expressed concerns about the lack of identification documents for horses originating in the U.S. Throughout Europe’s horse fraud scandals, where cheaper horse meat was secretly substituted for more expensive beef, health officials have said that food safety has not been at risk.
No USDA-inspected horse slaughter has occurred in the U.S. since 2007. The method used to ban it has been budget restrictions imposed on USDA. Those were lifted for 2012 and 2013, but the ban extending it to Sept. 30, 2014, was reinstated last Jan. 17.© Food Safety News