The European Union’s DG Health and Food Safety (former FVO) recently published the findings from their latest audit carried out at horse slaughter plants and feedlots in Canada from September 10 – 24th, 2018. The goal of the audit was to review the effectiveness of the food safety control systems in place in the Canadian horse slaughter industry and among other things to evaluate the existing procedures for slaughter horses imported to Canada from the US.
Some of the findings published are quite disturbing and confirm what Animals’ Angels investigations have shown all along: The EID’s (Equine Identification Documents) mandatory for all slaughter horses imported from the US destined for export to the EU do not provide sufficient guaranties that the horses have not been treated with illegal substances within the last 180 days prior to slaughter. Furthermore, the audit team concluded that there was no certainty that the withdrawal period for veterinary medical products had been respected. It was also determined that there was virtually no oversight at slaughter horse feedlots and no inspections of these holding facilities by the authorities in charge.
The report also revealed that at one of the slaughter plants voluntary testing of all carcasses for Phenylbutazone was conducted and that 1-2 horses per week out of 200 horses slaughtered tested positive for the substance – despite the fact that the previous owners had declared the animals as drug free on the EID documents. During the audit team’s visit, multiple EID’s with inaccurate/mistaken information were found and it was noted that the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) often had not been informed about this non-compliance and that record keeping at the plant was generally poor. It was also determined that there were no official checks in place to ensure that the horse slaughtered actually matched the identification on the EID document.
To summarize it all – the systems in place to ensure that the horse meat shipped to the European Union for human consumption is safe and free of residues are failing miserably. The paperwork in place is not reliable and there is little to no accountability for offenders.
While the EU has given Canada the opportunity to respond to these findings with an appropriate “action plan”, we at Animals’ Angels believe – based on years and years of monitoring auctions, kill buyers and feedlots - that the system cannot be fixed and any attempt to implement corrective measures will be nothing but a waste of time. This industry puts consumers at risk and the official findings in the audit report show again that the only responsible course of action is to ban all horse meat imports from Canada to the European Union.