Animals’ Angels has recently completed comprehensive two-year investigation (see the press release here) into the horse slaughter industry in Canada for the purpose of informing EU decision-makers that further restrictions are needed on the importation of horse meat from Canada. From the online investigation:
- “Almost every single kill buyer currently providing horses to the Canadian horse slaughter plants has a well-documented history of providing inaccurate export paperwork. There is no accountability or reliability regarding the information on owner/shipper paperwork or on EID’s regarding a horses’ drug history, which poses a significant risk that horses with phenylbutazone or other restricted substances in their system will enter the food chain.
- Almost every single kill buyer has demonstrated a complete lack of concern for the well-being and welfare of the slaughter horses in his care. Public documents and investigative results show that severely injured, sick, and emaciated horses are shipped to slaughter. Horses are kept in overcrowded, filthy conditions without shelter. Access to necessary veterinary care or a farrier is virtually nonexistent and wounded or ill horses are often left to die alone, without any intervention.
- The conditions at auctions providing horses to the slaughter buyers are equally poor. Cruel handling, overcrowded conditions, lack of shelter, pens literally awash in manure, and no veterinary care have been documented.
- Transport routes remain long, especially for large scale kill buyers. With [some feedlots over 1,000 miles away] from the [Bouvry] plant respectively, they are pushing transport times of well over 20 hours. “
The full video that accompanies this investigation is presented below. The video succeeds in documenting untenable suffering for the horses condemned to the food chain – horses standing on large mounds of manure, some with open wounds, others exhibiting purulent discharges from their nasal passages, long hooves that haven’t seen a farrier in months or possibly longer, horses being struck or having gates slammed on them by auction employees, unfamiliar horses fighting each other in the crowded environs, and lameness and limb injuries in horses run through auctions and on feedlots.
Bouvry and the large EU import companies have lost important customers when evidence of this undeniable suffering have been provided to the grocery chains and importers of horsemeat in the EU. In 2015, GVFI International, the largest Swiss importer of horsemeat, announced that they will stop all horsemeat imports from overseas before the end of that year. This followed a similar declaration by Migros, Switzerland’s largest retail and supermarket chain, who also announced in 2014 that they had terminated their contract with Bouvry.
Please view the accompanying video by AA:
This month we were reminded of the result of the untraceable paper trail for slaughter-bound horses – the Belgians recently detected the presence of oxyphenylbutazone, the metabolite of PBZ, in a sampling of horsemeat from Canada. The original alert has now been updated to include Italy and Switzerland as of Feb. 23/17.
Disclosures of veterinary drug residues and terminated contracts over time may have contributed to preliminary horsemeat production numbers showing a significant decrease in figures YTD compared to 2015.
While slaughter statistics will be finalized shortly, preliminary 2016 numbers show that horse slaughter in Canada has decreased by about 20% year over year. The market economics of supply and demand supports this observation, since there is evidence that horsemeat prices are currently high, which is a phenomenon linked closely to a “shortage” of a particular commodity, in this case – slaughter horses. Another factor that may have contributed to the reduction in slaughter numbers could also be that the mass slaughter of thoroughbreds and standardbreds may have stabilized after the horses flooded the market in 2012 and afterwards when the Liberal government decided to terminate a program that sent $345-million from slot-machine revenues to tracks in 2011. Horse racing in Alberta has rebounded as well, which, in the short term, will lead to increased demand for race horses to participate in racing activities on new tracks. Despite individual attempts to promote horsemeat in “pony food trucks” and trendy restaurants, we also hear through various channels that consumer demand for horsemeat is down overall.
Stills from the video above. Photo credits: Animals’ Angels