The EU’s other horsemeat scandal arrives via Canada

The European Commission should swiftly suspend the import of Canadian horsemeat to the EU given serious traceability and food safety concerns, warns Dr Joanna Swabe.

Dr Joanna Swabe is the Executive Director for Humane Society International/Europe.

As the horsemeat fraud scandal fades in the collective memory of EU consumers and politicians alike, another horsemeat scandal refuses to go away despite continued health risks posed to EU consumers and concerns over animal welfare.

Each year, tens of thousands of horses from the US, where there is a minimal regulatory burden with regard to veterinary medical recordkeeping, are transported to Canada for slaughter for human consumption. These animals have not been raised for food production, but have been instead kept for companionship, recreation or sport. They endure long stretches of travel to the slaughterhouse without adequate veterinary care, food or water.

Their meat is then exported primarily to France and Belgium to be sold and distributed across the EU. It is a lucrative trade in horsemeat that revolves around a reservoir of cheap horses and comes with health risks and animal welfare concerns.

Last spring, a long awaited Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) audit of the Canadian horsemeat industry once again confirmed Humane Society International/Europe’s serious concerns about the reliability of the controls over both Canadian and US horses destined for slaughter and export to the EU. Previous FVO audits had highlighted serious veterinary recordkeeping deficits leading us to repeatedly warn the Commission that it cannot be guaranteed that horses have not been treated with substances banned for use in food animals.

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
1 Comment
  • Daniel Cordero

    It is a well known secret that the Canadian government, and particularly the CFIA, hard pressed the EU FVO delegation to turn a blind eye on all the issues that surfaced during the May 2014 audit, even if CFIA took special care to stage a vaudeville show in front of EU inspectors to make the horror chambers like happy acress.

    The proposed amendment of the import certificate was already adopted by CFIA / FVO services. In fact, they withheld the 2014 audit for 13 months under the guise of “secret negotiations”. Well… it turns that the famous amendment of the “import certificate” consists basically on a second layer of more bullshit documents signed by killer buyers, or technically speaking, and Equine Identifcation Document of the phone Equine Identification Documents that are already in use:

    Basically the private vet (USDA accredited but still entirely unofficial, non-government, private practice vet) used by the meat buyers in the US to obtain the equine health certificate that states the horses do not have equine infectious anemia, other infections diseases and that they are theoretically “fit to travel to a slaughter plant”, must now sign another unofficial statuory declaration (a document void of legal value) saying that, to his knowledge, the EIDs filled by the killer buyers are correct.

    Well, taking into account that these cow vets do regular business with the killer buyers, which are they customers, they obviously will sign whatever these put in front of them. In fact, it is no secret they do not even fill in the health certificates, the killer buyers do it as was revealed in the Tom Davis / Dennis Chavez DOI OIG investigation report: The exclusively limits himself to sign and stamp the papers the killer buyers sends him by mail, without ever checking the horses. And since are not official affidavits, nor are USDA documents but merely pieces of papers in which they can state whatever they want without risk of prosecution, they just do/say whatever it takes to get a pass and ship these horses to slaughter.

    Do really the European Commission believe these horse pilferers that are the killer buyers will feed these horses for six months in Canada (note nearly all are US citizens) just to comply with some outlandish European regualtion the EU cannot enforce on either US or Canada, since these are not European countries?

    The answer is that they will do what they have always done: fill whatever paper, declaration, red tape that is put before them so they can continue shipping horses to the plant… and poisoning people in Europe.

    Morever… the whole six-month withdrwal period is a farce, and it comes as a misunderstanding / perversion by both USDA, CFIA and Mexican SAGARPA of the actual content and scope of EU regulations, which are by the way quite complex.

    The six-month “clear up” period is ony applicable to substances listed on EC Regulation No. 1950/2006, “substances deemed essential for equine care” but this list of substances “only for equines” for which a six-month withdrawal period was established actually misses quite a big lot of drugs that are regularly used in the US, including amongst other bute, sedatives and a diverse range of antibiotics, specially those for bandage dressign (nitrofurans).

    However, if one takes a look to one of the Mexican or Canadian EIDs, it could be seen that in to part there is reference to said list of EC Regulation No. 1950/2006.

    Morevoer they explictly state that, pursuant to such staturory declaration, the undersigned killer buyer guarantees that some (but not all) of the compounds of Table 2 of Regulation EU 37/2010 plus some beta agonists (substances acting as hormonal disruptors) where not used for 180 days. However, the problem is that beta-agonists (Directive 96/22/EC) and substances of Table 2 of Regulation EU 37/2010 are actually banned for life and any animal receiving them must be excluded forever from the food chain. So yes… the inept buraucrats at CFIA got the regulations mixed up, probably becuase they couldn’t care less.

    Further, any substance that is not listed in Table 1 Regulation EU 37/2010, EC Regulation No. 1950/2006 or Directive 96/22/EC, such as for example bute or any other new drug for which no residue levels have been established, is automatically banned for life in all animals intended for slaughter and thus any horse receiving them must be categorically excluded for life from the food chain.

    Now, how is the EU Commssion or CFIA going to control that no such substances are administered when:

    a) there are no compulsory equine or farm animal ID programs in either Canada or the US (less so in the US)

    b) there are no drug keeping recors for any horse, be it Canadian or US

    c) 70% of horses come from the US

    d) horse owners in America frequently administer medications without prescription by themselves (becuase they know what to do for example to treat inflamation or a very mild bout of colic without calling the vet)

    e) most veterinary drugs can be sourced without prescription and do not need the vet to paste the drug label in the equine passport, which by the way, do not exist in either Canada or the US.

    Answer: They can’t, period. But anyways they’ll try at the request of the Canadian government to see if increasing the amount of bogus, faked documents signed by killer buyers will be enough to confuse everybody and dilute their collective responsibilites should anybody gets intoxicated in Europe.

    December 10, 2015