By Patrick Battuello,
In Behalf of Animals
With US-based slaughtering shuttered since 2007, Canada and Mexico are receiving our horses in record numbers. Last year, 133,081 American horses were butchered north and south. As discussed in the prior post, the vast majority of the 133,081, if not all of them, should never have entered the slaughter pipeline. But change is in the offing: Europe, having already implemented an “equine passport system” to track the lifetime medical histories, including drugs received, of European horses, has increasingly applied pressure on foreign exporters, most notably Canada and Mexico, to do the same.
To temporarily appease the EU, Canada introduced an Equine Information Document in July 2010. This single-page form covers drugs and vaccines administered to the slaughter-bound during the previous six months. The Toronto Star (7/30/11) had this to say: “But there appears to be little scrutiny over the answers provided. A reporter posing as a seller was told the paperwork could be filled out quickly the morning of the auction.” And Gary Corbett, president of the slaughterhouse veterinarians union in Canada, notes, “It’s [the record] at the discretion of the owner. There’s no regulatory framework to monitor it. It’s kind of like an honour system.” But it gets worse for Canada (and Mexico): By 2013, the EU will require that all third countries (non-EU) exporting horse meat to Europe match the current European mandate: birth-to-death documentation. It remains to be seen whether the “honor system” will satisfy the Europeans.
The Daily Racing Form recently reported (5/31/12) that the parent company for Canadian abattoirs Viande Richelieu and Bouvry (remember them?) has instructed its American buyers to stop sending Thoroughbreds. But in the absence of a definitive corporate statement, it is unclear whether this represents official policy going forward or a temporary respite. In addition, no mention of the tens of thousands of Quarter Horses and Standardbreds slaughtered annually on Canadian soil. But with Europe tightening the reins and with no foreseeable end to chemically-enhanced racing, there exists the real possibility that American horses will be excluded from slaughter. With drugs, legal and otherwise, at the heart of the breakdown epidemic, is or will this become a lesser-evil proposition for horse advocates? I, for one, see these issues, doping and slaughter, as pernicious branches from the same horseracing tree, each, inherently wrong, both, worthy of staunch opposition.