Horses held in a pen awaiting export for slaughter to Mexico. Photo by Kathy Milani for HSUS.

Commons votes down bid for horse slaughter ban

Cross-posted from

Alex Atamanenko MP Alberta Protest. Image by Gavin Young.
B.C. New Democrat MP Alex Atamanenko speaks beneath a Stop Slaughtering Us billboard in Calgary. Image by Gavin Young.

A New Democrat MP’s run at new limits on the country’s horsemeat industry was stopped before the finish line Wednesday in the House of Commons.

MPs on Wednesday voted 155 to 102 at second reading against British Columbia MP Alex Atamanenko’s private member’s bill, C-571, which sought amendments to the federal Meat Inspection Act and Safe Food for Canadians Act.

C-571 called for a ban on shipping horses, either by import from other countries or in between provinces, for slaughter for human consumption or for production of meat products for human consumption.

The bill would have made an exception for any horse raised “primarily for human consumption and… accompanied by a medical record that contains its standardized description and a complete lifetime record, in chronological order, of the medical treatments it has received.”

The bill also would have prohibited anyone from delivering horses or other equines to registered slaughter plants without such a medical record in hand.

“The question that needs to be answered is: Without the enactment of Bill C-571, is it possible to guarantee a safe horsemeat product, if it is produced from horses that were not raised or regulated within an agricultural industry and were never intended to enter the human food chain until the day of being purchased by a kill buyer under contract to a Canadian horse processor?” Atamanenko said March 31 when speaking to his bill in the Commons.

C-571, introduced in the Commons in late January, was a reboot of Atamanenko’s C-544, which he unsuccessfully brought to the Commons in 2010.

“I had hoped to follow an example set by the (European Union) to have the same food safety standards, transparency and accountability applied to the horsemeat industry as is required of all animals that are raised to produce food for the human food chain,” Atamanenko, a former NDP agriculture critic, said in a release Thursday.

Horses, he said in his release, are commonly administered medications labelled toxic and not intended for use in food animals because no safe limits or withdrawal periods have been established.

In his speech March 31, he cited phenylbutazone, or “bute,” which he said is “banned for use in any animal intended for human consumption because it causes serious and lethal idiosyncratic adverse effects in humans.”

Unlike other meat sectors, he said, the horse slaughter industry “mainly exists to dispose of the industrial byproduct from the equine sporting industry where abuse and overuse of drugs is rampant.”

In 2013, he said, 71,961 horses — over half of which were imported from the U.S. — were slaughtered in Canada. Of the resulting meat, 85 per cent was exported to the EU and the remaining 15 per cent sold domestically, he added.

Given that the U.S. “has no program in place to monitor the drugs given to horses and has no intention of creating one, the U.S. cannot export its horse meat directly to Europe,” he noted. — Network

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