Effective July 31, U.S. equines bound for processing at Canadian plants must be accompanied by a detailed Equine Identification Document (EID), a several-page signed declaration from the owner. The EID is a complete written and visual description of the animal, its health history, and any medications and vaccines given during the six months before processing.
Horses exposed to any substances on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s list of acceptable treatments during that time will have to undergo a six-month withdrawal period. The list includes common medications like Phenylbutazone and Acepromazine.
There is another list of banned substances not permitted for use at any time in horses processed for human consumption in Canada, including Ventipulmin (clenbuterol hydrochloride, used to treat breathing disorders) and nitrofurazone, a topical wound dressing.
The directive from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, described as the first step in a comprehensive Canadian food safety program, brings Canada into compliance with the European Commission’s existing rules governing of imported horsemeat. The regulations apply to all horsemeat for human consumption processed in Canada, not just the meat exported to Europe.
While the full implications of the new rules are not yet clear, they are expected to be profound, according to Nancy Robinson, vice president of government and industry affairs for the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), a trade association with more than 800 auction business members.
“I think it’s going to further discourage sale of horses at [auction] markets. I think it’s going to further discourage the export of horses for processing in Canada. That, and Mexico, are the only market now for those live horses. We just continue to build onto the problems we’ve already created as a result of lack of processing facilities in the United States. I’m very concerned about it,” Robinson said.
She is preparing a fact sheet and other resources to help livestock auctions cope with the complications of the extra paperwork.
“Most markets will have to require that any horses being sold on sale day, for the owners to have this [EID] filled out, so if it does go to slaughter, the animal will move with these papers. It’s going to make it very difficult,” Robinson said.
The EID document itself, in its frequently-asked questions section, advises that “in the event that the animal becomes unwanted, if the owner wants to keep the salvage value and salvage options with respect to human consumption of their animal as high as possible, they will need to accurately fill out an EID for animals they wish to sell.”
Anti-slaughter groups have praised the tougher regulations, expressing hope that they will help eliminate horse processing.
An estimated 100,000 of the 9.2 million horses in the U.S. are sent to slaughter annually, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Meanwhile, the 2007 closure of U.S. horse processing plants has been blamed for reducing the options for owners of unwanted horses, and driving the number of abandonment and neglect cases up.