American horses shipped to Canadian slaughterhouses are being turned away, but authorities are a little confused as to why the horses have been given the sudden lucky break.
Sources from horse auction companies in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio confirmed late last week that U.S. horses were not being accepted by Canadian slaughterhouses. The news came so quickly, many horses were already on trucks being transported to Canada.
The first reports hinted that the slaughterhouse plants were shutting down, but later the Canadian Food Inspection Agency indicated the directive was coming from the European Union, who was banning American horse meat for human consumption.
Most of the horses slaughtered in Canada and Mexico are consumed in Europe.
While the EU has not confirmed an actual ban, their actions point to one and the reason might be that U.S. horses are sick. A report recently surfaced that showed that some American horse meat was contaminated with “phenylbutazone (a carcinogen) and clenbuterol (a steroid).”
Another report from the Commission’s Health and Consumers Directorate-General, which was released in Canada one day before the unofficial ban, stated that U.S. veterinary records were “insufficient” to guarantee the health standards and drug history of the horses.
The EU has a new policy that will go into effect July 2013 requiring countries that supply horse meat to come into compliance with their standards of having all animals micro-chipped so their medications can be tracked. There is speculation that the ban is an early start to those changes.
While it is confusing what is the exact reason the slaughter plants are closing their doors, it is pretty clear it will have a big impact on the well-being of the horses. In 2011, the U.S. exported more than 64,000 horses to Canada and 68,000 to Mexico. If the ban continues or is extended to Mexico, it will leave a big question mark about the fate of the tens of thousands of horses slated to be sold for slaughter. Currently there are an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 horses that were turned away from slaughter plants and are on transport trucks, without a home.
Habitat for Horses in Texas isn’t taking any chances with the lives of the horses. The organization is setting up a fund to start buying unwanted slaughterhouse horses. They also advise contacting a law enforcement agency if anyone sees horses being turned loose or denied food or water. The Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA say they are also on standby to rescue horses if it becomes necessary.
Photo Credit: SmabsSputzer