Canadian horse slaughter plants are no longer accepting horses from the United States, the Equine Welfare Alliance claims, citing multiple sources.
The alliance, an umbrella group for more than 200 horse advocacy groups, said the Shipshewana auction in Indiana had confirmed reports that they had discontinued loose (slaughter) horse sales for an indefinite period.
Alliance representatives John Holland and Sinikka Crosland said a spokesperson for the Sugar Creek, Ohio, auction confirmed that kill buyers were no longer taking slaughter horses because “the plants are shut down”.
This was further confirmed by a Richelieu slaughter house official, they said.
The pair continued: “An unconfirmed report from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) indicated it was the result of a European Union (EU) directive.”
Canadian customs officials, however, knew nothing of the action, according to alliance inquiries.
To add to the confusion, at least one driver confirmed he had delivered horses to an undisclosed plant on Friday afternoon.
The move came so suddenly that many trucks were already on the way when they learned of it.
The alliance said it had made an inquiry of the European Union, amid suggestions the EU had stopped shipments of US horse meat for human consumption in Europe.
Following the closure of US-based horse slaughter plants in 2007, the export of horses to slaughter in Canada and Mexico increased dramatically. In 2011 the US exported over 64,000 horses to Canada and 68,000 to Mexico.
The alliance has long argued about the dangers of US horse meat, noting that several drugs which would rule horses out of entering the human food chain are regularly given to the animals, such as phenylbutazone.
It has argued that the health records for many horses going to slaughter are inadequate to satisfy authorities that any given animal is free of such drugs, given that they are not raised as food animals.
It said documents showing horse meat contaminated with phenylbutazone – a carcinogen – and the steroid clenbuterol surfaced recently, indicating that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the EU were accelerating their residue testing programs.
“These reports were followed by claims from some kill buyers that blood was being drawn from as many as half their horses – an unprecedented percentage – before they were being accepted.”
In 2008, the EU announced that it would require third countries to come into compliance with their strict standards which require horses to be microchipped and all their medications tracked, but few observers expected any action would come before the expiration of a July 2013 deadline.
The alliance said if the drug residue testing program had yielded unsatisfactory results, it was possible the Mexican slaughter industry might soon be in a similar position.