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16x9 Horse slaughterI was very excited to hear that 16×9 was going to do a segment on tainted horse meat coming out of Canadian slaughter houses.  This issue needs to be brought to the forefront!  As a Canadian, I’m disgusted that we allow such a dangerous and compromised system to operate.  There’s a national pride when we say “Made in Canada”.  Not here.  In this case, I’m embarrassed.

The segment was as good as it could be, when they’ve only got about 16:31 minutes.  It was good to see the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition highlighted.

The attitude of the kill buyer is, according to the system, correct.  As long as the horse he purchases has a “valid EID”, he can ship it to slaughter.  To the letter of the requirements, he has met them.

However, the EID system, the only safeguard, is failing.  Horribly.

EIDs fail because the system surrounding it is broken.  You cannot ensure the safety of meat for consumption of an animal not raised for consumption.  You cannot demand clarity and compliance for long term medical histories from a system that demands short term ownership before slaughter. 

The business plan is only successful if the EID says that the horse is drug free. If they answer it honestly, that the horse has had drugs, the horse cannot be sold into slaughter. If those are the only buyers for the horse, the seller is stuck with a horse they do not want. Stuck paying for a horse for 6 more months. That can run anywhere from $150 per month to much, much higher. For a horse that was only going to be sold for $400 – $600, it’s a huge hit to the bottom line.

There is a serious financial penalty to being honest.

Add to the equation that horses often change hands several times right before slaughter. While some are being intentionally dishonest, others have no clue or any way to know if the horse truly is drug free. The difference being of course, that they still sign their names and knowingly check that box.

In the 16×9 segment, it was said that the kill buyer would have to keep the horse for 6 months. Horses have this paperwork when they enter the auction. A kill buyer wouldn’t purchase a horse that they had to maintain for 6 months. The horse simply wouldn’t sell. Much like overtly ill horses that won’t meet the criteria to be slaughtered, there simply won’t be a buyer. What happens to them now? That wasn’t covered.

If our regulations state that it’s a lifetime ban [once given banned drugs]. Why do we even have a six month document?

Why indeed. It profits no one to fund the research required to establish how long a particular drug stays in an animals system. Sure, it’s a nice to know. But nice to know doesn’t pay the bills.

Let’s do some math. 16×9 reported that of 82,000 horses slaughtered in 2012, only 143 were tested. Less than 0.5 %. Of those tested, 98% were found to be compliant. That’s where 16×9 left it.

I’d rather hammer those numbers a little further. A 2% failure rate. So 3 horses out of 143. That would be 1,720 drug tainted horses entered the human food chain. Keep in mind that is assuming that the testing the CFIA performs is testing for all possible dangerous drugs. Economics come into play. All drugs cannot be tested for. Some will slip through the tests.

In very general terms, on average a horse would offer about 500 lbs of meat. 860,000 lbs of drug tainted horse meat generated by Canada if we go by the CFIA’s own numbers. Those numbers are terrifying.

Consider the types of drugs that horses are routinely given. Enter any stable of any discipline, you will find drugs that are not fit to enter the human food chain. The vast majority state “Not for use in Horses intended for food.” right on the label.

Bute label

The kill buyer did make an interesting suggestion. That every horse given bute (phenylbutazone) should be freeze branded to signify that they had been given the drug. Extend his position to freeze brand any horse that have been given ANY drug that states it is “Not for use in Horses intended for food.” The industry would be stopped in its tracks.

I’ve never met a horse that was appropriate for slaughter due to drug administration. I don’t say that for dramatic effect. I’ve thought about it. Not a one. Have you?

Thank you to 16×9 and Global News for their attention on this matter. My hope is that the more the public hears about horse slaughter, the abuse, the neglect, the dangerous practices…. This will be a call to action.