Equine Identification News

Photo by Ann Fercho.

Back on April 1, I posted a note about the new Meat Hygiene Directive which is tied in with an equine traceability program and which will have an effect not only on horse owners in Canada who need to ship or sell a horse for slaughter purposes, but all equine owners – however peripherally.

While many in the industry see this move as inevitable, others are outstandingly opposed to any program which places the burden and expense of formal equine identification, as well as movement accounts onto horse owners.

There were a number of thought-provoking responses to this post, and I used them as a basis for an interview with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the federal department responsible for this initiative.

Here’s how that conversation, with Guy Gravelle, Media Relations Officer, went.

How does this new Equine Information Document Program differ from past regulations?

Equine owners have, for the most part, been very good at keeping general records of their animals.  The changes being put in place formalize this process and bring equine documentation even closer to similar systems already in place for other food producing animals, such as poultry and swine by enhancing the transfer and traceability information required for equine animals destined for slaughter.

Why was this initiative created and who initiated it?

The CFIA initiated this program in part to meet its priority to enhance traceability, which is key to opening international markets for producers. For example, this program responds to the European Union’s equine slaughter requirements.

This formalized system will help producers and exporters clearly demonstrate that their meat products are safe. The ultimate outcome of this program is enhanced food safety.

Will this program be voluntary or mandatory?

The CFIA equine traceability program is strictly voluntary. It is not mandatory for horse owners to keep track of the medications used, especially if they do not plan to raise equines for meat processing. However if they want to have the option of selling them in the future for processing, equine owners are strongly encouraged to follow this
program and use the equine information document that can be found in the Meat Hygiene Directive no. 2009-49
(http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/meavia/man/direct/2009/direct49e.shtml). This equine program came into affect on January 31, 2010.

A similar program in the United States has been cancelled – the United States Department of Agriculture’s NAIS (National Animal Identification System) – will this affect the Canadian program in any way?

No.

Why is such a thorough description of the horse required (written details/photo)?

The CFIA’s ultimate goal is to bring equine requirements even closer to similar systems already in place for other food producing animals, such as poultry and swine – part of that objective includes making sure traceability information is available for equine animals destined for slaughter.

Who will be assigned the task of building and maintaining the database system described?

The CFIA is in consultation with the equine industry to determine the most appropriate way to develop and maintain the database.

The EID documents will be evaluated at the slaughter establishment by the operator. The CFIA will oversee the operator’s evaluation. The horse will be examined/inspected by the operator and the CFIA after arrival, as well as during processing for evidence of abnormalities.  When evidence of potential medication usage is found, and as a part of routine testing, samples may be sent to detect potential drug residue violations.

In terms of the legislation, effective July 31, 2010, it will be mandatory for all Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspected facilities in Canada engaged in the slaughter of equine for edible purposes to have complete records for all animals (domestic and imported) presented for slaughter.

Again, EIDs are not required for equine that will not be slaughtered for food. When the time comes to sell their animals, equine owners may want to increase sale opportunities to include a potential slaughter option. If a slaughter option is to be considered, equine owners may benefit by providing EID documents at the time of sale. The program is mandatory for equine slaughtered for food in Canada.

The CFIA further stated it is consulting with the equine industry to determine the most appropriate way to develop and maintain its equine traceability program. More on that later, but the majority of that consultation appears to be flowing through Equine Canada.

Comments

  1. The EID and Equine Traceability Program obviously place all equines into the “livestock” category, so I feel it is critical that Equine Canada take immediate action to have the government place all equines into the GST-exempt tax category.
    As “livestock” – like cattle – we should not have to charge or pay GST on horse sales. Cattle are GST exempt.
    With harmonized tax laws being developed in various Provinces, having horses become GST-exempt now would be especially timely.
    This would also go a long way towards satisfying horse owners who are reluctant to bear the burden of cost associated with these new programs.
    The EID and Equine Traceability Programs are critical to the industry in our country…. the option of horse slaughter is necessary here. But, the government cannot have things “both ways”. Horses are either “livestock” or they are not. We need to be GST exempt.

  2. Mae Smith says:

    Would appreciate some comments on the controls of the database system and how they will conform to the Privacy laws in Canada. When the data is collected, will there be restrictions on its use and avaialbilty for any outside purposes?

  3. I don’t believe some of these posts. The new regulations come from the European Union – the people who are actually EATING our horses. They have finally gotten it through their heads that American’s don’t consider horses to be food animals, so they’re not subject to the restrictions that apply to food animals.

    Since we, most of us anyway, do not consider our horses food, we don’t raise them as you would a food animal. We expose them to chemicals that are strictly banned from the food chain. Ever notice those label warnings on bute, wormers, fly spray, many topicals, and on and on that says: Not for use in animals to be used for food. Ever notice those? That means that if your horse has ever in his/her ENTIRE LIFE been exposed to those chemicals he/she is banned from the human food chain PERMANENTLY.

    We have absolutely NO WAY of tracking this, so no American horse can be considered safe to eat. Just bute, for instance, is a known carcinogen, and causes bone marrow suppression and a-plastic anemia in humans.

    In Europe they have a very elaborate system – which is what Canada plans to implement by 2013 – in which within a short time after a horse is foaled he/she must have a microchip implanted with a unique tracking number. The horse is then issued a passport with all that info on ALL medications, illnesses, movements, etc. This passport MUST be with the horse when he/she is presented for slaughter, and the microchip number is checked to make sure it and the passport number are the same. I’m not sure about ALL the ins and outs, but that’s the gist of it.

    If you sell your horse for slaughter, you will have to have done all this, except of course, the US doesn’t have such a program and never will. However, it may be moot, because I’m sure the EU will be considering just banning American horses from their food chain. Canada recently had a lawmaker submit a bill to ban horse slaughter entirely in Canada because he couldn’t see any way they could get all this information for American horses.

    The market is collapsing anyway. A number of EU meat importers have promised their customers that they will by meat only from European horses. This is more about the extreme cruelty of the slaughter pipe line – which the Europeans did not know about but do now – than about meat safety issues, but that is coming. France in particular is said to be very upset about the chemicals they’ve been eating from American horses.

    This will ONLY affect horse owners who – for whatever reason – choose to send their horses straight to hell instead of providing them with a humane death.

  4. MJ Wilson says:

    Exactly Suzanne.

    Why should our tax money go towards animal cruelty and the lining of the pockets of the rich while hurting people.

    It’s time to end it all. Do what’s right Canada and close the border to American poisoned horses!

  5. Livestock raised for human consumption can be traced form their origen! Horses change hands frequetly via auctions,sales etc…

    Being Bute,clenbuterol,banamine and a few other drugs are banned from meat animals and completely elinminates them for human cosumption,how can the EU justify their new rules for meat from Canada&Mexico knowing full well a majority of horses have had these banned meat drugs?