How will an EU requirement affect the United States?
A more vexing question is what will happen if the United States' neighbors stop accepting its horse exports?
Horse meat for human consumption is a big industry in Canada. The majority of the horse meat exports produced there — 92 percent
— are sent to France, Switzerland, Japan and Belgium. In total, Canada exported horse meat to 24 countries in 2009.
To meet the new EU requirement, the Equine Welfare Alliance and the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition say the country will
require an EID/electronic passport for every horse presented for slaughter starting on July 30, 2010. By 2011, the Canadian
government committed to instituting a mandatory comprehensive national traceability system for livestock.
These new requirements could have great consequences for U.S. horses bound for Canadian slaughterhouses, according to the
"We know that 50 percent or more of the horses slaughtered in Canada (from the United States) will not meet the EU standards.
... Those 47,000 horses from the United States going to slaughter in Canada in 2010 will originate from livestock auctions
where horses all have virtually unknown history," states a March 2010 report from the Equine Welfare Alliance and the Canadian
Horse Defence Coalition. "There is no information from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) stating how U.S.-based horses
will be checked. ... Under the current circumstances there appears to be no possible way Canada can continue to receive U.S.
horses and still meet the criteria."
Additionally, there have been concerns about humane slaughter in Canada at several of the major equine slaughterhouses, resulting
in investigations by CFIA and a call by some legislators to end horse slaughter for human consumption in Canada. Canadian
Parliament member Alex Atamanenko proposed a bill that would shut down slaughterhouses for human consumption.
"The fact is that drugs that are prohibited for use during the life of any animal destined for the human food supply are routinely
being administered to horses," Atamanenko says in a statement about the bill on his Web site. "It is irresponsible for Canada
to allow the sale of meat from horses as a food item when they have never been raised in accordance with the food-safety practices
required for all other animals.
"Many in the United States believe it should be our job to verify information from U.S. horses since Canada is the only one
slaughtering them for human consumption. It's a stretch to think that information on hundreds of thousands of unwanted horses,
that were never raised to be food, will be complete or accurate."
What would stopping horse exports mean to the unwanted horse problem?
Without firm numbers of exactly how many unwanted horses there are in the United States, it is difficult to estimate what
it would mean if thousands of horses previously exported for slaughter suddenly stayed within U.S. borders.
Ericka Caslin, director of the Unwanted Horse Coalition, says the group is watching the issue, but does not usually take a
position on slaughter legislation issues. However, Caslin says study findings from a report commissioned by Congress from
the United States Government Accountability Office already have been delayed because of the enormous reach of the problem.
The study, commissioned in late 2009 for release in March 2010, was to look into how the horse industry has been affected
by the 2007 closure of horse slaughter plants. It was also meant to study how the transport of horses destined for slaughter
in Canada and Mexico is monitored and any other conclusions regarding the state of equine welfare in the wake of the ban on
horse slaughter for human consumption in the United States
Once work on the study began, however, Caslin says it became clear that the issue was bigger than initially suspected, and
now results are not expected until early 2011.
A federal bill introduced in January 2009, called the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, has been at a stand-still since March
2009, when it was sent to the House of Representatives and Senate committees, but several states are looking to take matters
into their own hands.
California lawmakers are considering a bill that would support the federal proposal to make horse slaughter for human consumption
illegal, while Florida legislators are considering making the distribution or sale of horse meat for human consumption a felony.
Many other states considering laws, however, are on the other side of the fence. Illinois, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma,
South Dakota and Wyoming all have proposed or passed bills urging U.S. lawmakers to reconsider funding inspections of horse
slaughter plants. Illinois is split, however, with lawmakers considering proposals both to remove the prohibition on horse
slaughter and oppose the continuation of any horse slaughter in the United States. Some states even have ordered feasibility
studies for establishing horse processing facilities in their states.