As Tuesday’s Horse readers will be well aware, we have been preaching this for some time: Canadian racehorses receive banned drugs throughout their lifetimes and are ineligible for slaughter. (See for example, Thousands of racehorses face slaughter: Not so fast Canada).
This issue has now become the target of a comprehensive Star Investigation.
Here is what the Star Investigation, written by MARY ORMSBY Feature reporter / Dale Brazao News, tells us:
- Backstreet Bully was unloaded from a trailer after dawn and led by his halter into an abattoir in rural Quebec. Once owned and raced by Magna’s Frank Stronach, the chestnut thoroughbred was to be slaughtered then packaged for human food.
That same January morning earlier this year, frantic phone calls from the Stronach group tried to save Backstreet Bully’s life — and protect the public from eating toxic meat.
A Star investigation has found that Canada’s food inspection system has serious flaws when dealing with the steady stream of racehorses sent to slaughter every year. During his life, Backstreet Bully, like many competitive horses, was given powerful performance-enhancing drugs that are potentially deadly in meat eaten by humans.
Two of these, nitrofurazone and one nicknamed “bute” (phenylbutazone), had been administered to Backstreet Bully dozens of times but the shoddy paperwork and poor oversight allowed by Canada’s food watchdog cleared him for human consumption in a market that includes Quebec, Europe and some Toronto restaurants.
“You can’t kill that horse,” Stacie Clark, who works for the Stronach farm, recalled pleading with an abattoir official. It wasn’t just small amounts of these drugs that had once been given to the horse: 21 doses of nitrofurazone, which has been linked to cancer in humans, and at least 23 doses of bute, a drug linked to bone marrow disease.
According to Canada’s Food and Drugs Act, horses should not be sold for food if they have been given nitrofurazone at any point in their lives. Backstreet Bully had been given many other drugs that could also pose a serious risk to humans.
Racehorses are walking pharmacies
“Racehorses are walking pharmacies,” said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinarian at Tufts University in Massachusetts who has studied the issue extensively. “Do you really want to be eating a piece of meat that has the rabies vaccine in it?”
The Star found a host of problems in Canada’s food protection system related to horses. From one document to the next, the Star discovered confusion over which drugs are considered safe, how quickly a toxic drug leaves a horse’s body, and whether any trust can be placed in the system that regulates horses sold for meat.
In a Thursday email to the Star, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it is working with the horse industry to “develop measures to enhance equine traceability.”
When Clark, from Stronach’s Adena Springs farm in Aurora, made her rescue attempt, she was already too late. Backstreet Bully was dead, shot in the head while imprisoned in a cramped abattoir stall. Canadian officials have refused to tell the Star if the horse’s meat entered the food chain.
As part of an investigation into the number of racehorses sent to slaughter as cash-strapped Ontario racetracks close, the Star has traced the life and death of Backstreet Bully, using interviews, government documents and veterinary records.
If not for a clue on his leather halter — a brass plate engraved with the name Backstreet Bully — the fate of the playful animal with “tons of puppy dog personality” might not have been discovered. The horse’s identification paper was falsified, the Star has learned, and is now private property of the slaughterhouse, which refused to produce it.
“Develop measures to enhance equine traceability”? Tragically, the CFIA are not joking. Why develop measures that are clearly going to be ignored?
We call on the Canadian government to shut down immediately all plants killing horses for their meat. We also challenge the EU to call an immediate halt on the import of all horse meat products originating in North America.
— No honor in horse slaughter or drug documentation system it uses; Tuesday’s Horse; Jan. 28, 2013
— Doping at US tracks affects Europe’s taste for horse meat; Tuesday’s Horse; Dec. 9, 2012
— Thousands of racehorses face slaughter: Not so fast Canada; Tuesday’s Horse; Sep. 8, 2012