Equine Traceability Being Re-Launched in Canada?

Race horses comprise up to 30% of all horses slaughtered in Canada

Race horses comprise up to 30% of all horses slaughtered in Canada

Written by: Heather Clemenceau

Under regulations of the Health of Animals Act, Canada has a mandatory identification program for cattle, bison and sheep. Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) have expanded that program to include horses.  According to AAFC, horses are functional livestock and are part of the national ID and traceability strategy for animal health and food safety reasons.

Equine Canada, the comprehensive national governing body for equestrianism, is responsible for developing a national equine-specific program (CanEQUID) to satisfy federal government requirements for identification and traceability for equines.  This program would somehow have to be imposed upon US horses coming to Canada as well,  since, after spending several years and millions on the National Animal Identification System , (NAIS) the U.S. Department  of Agriculture (USDA) apparently scrapped the effort and turned responsibility for livestock identification over to the 50 states and various tribal nations.  But for horses sent to Canada for slaughter,  Americans would also have to adopt the UELN, which may result in greater scrutiny for premises ID than that currently experienced for gun control.

If you’ve been following the goings-on with equine traceability in Canada or the US, you would already know that the situation is utterly shambolic, with missed deadlines or the complete absence of functional plans and infrastructure.  Ag-Canada declined to provide funding after committing about $500,000 for a feasibility study, as current budgets for traceability were already committed.  Equine Canada then  informed Ag-Canada that without funding support to fast-track the implementation, they did NOT wish to be included in regulations for mandatory livestock traceability. Their position was very clear — regulations without infrastructure would make compliance impossible.

Well, all of that changed a couple of months ago with a quiet declaration on Equine Canada’s website that the program was once more “on,”   thus ensuring that Canadian slaughter operators can boucherie chevaline2continue to make millions while some horse owners continue to have an outlet to dispose of the constant over production of horses.  Also simultaneously moving forward are the new CFIA meat hygiene directives that affect horsemeat – as of July 31st this year, Canadian slaughter facilities will require complete health records dating back six months.  This would apparently phase-out the often fallaciously completed Equine Information Document (EID), which has failed to assure EU members that drugs are not entering the food chain.   The deadline (July 2013) was created in an exchange between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and SANGO, which is the EU’s version of the CFIA. The working group which includes the CFIA,  Agri-Food Canada,  Health Canada,  the slaughterhouses,  provincial horse groups and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

Here’s the CanEquid  Strategy document.


The CanEQUID model is based on an electronic passport system with an individual record for each horse. The electronic passport record will include:

  • Unique identification information, including a unique lifetime number
  • Horse ownership information
  • Home farm premises information
  • Premises date and location where horses co-mingle for industry activities
  • Horse health records related to a horse’s status for processing
  • Traceability events – health certificates issued, transport manifest documents issued, etc.

boucherie chevalineIn September 2012, the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition wrote to Equine Canada, as well as Integrated Traceability, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to enquire about the status of CanEQUID. A response from Dr. Edward Kendall at Equine Canada confirmed that the CanEQUID program would not meet its end of 2012 target date for this program.  At the time of writing this blog,  we have approximately two months to see exactly what will happen to Canadian horsemeat exports.  Rather unsurprisingly,  the AAFC did not deign to respond to enquiries.

Finally, how is this program supposed to work for U.S. slaughter bound horses entering Canada?  Two-thirds of horses sent to slaughter in Canada in 2011 were from the U.S.  Is Canada’s equinatraceability program going to work for U.S. horses?  It doesn’t seem possible,  since no one in Canada can attest to an individual horse’s status for slaughter.  And I’m not convinced that disease reporting  will be enhanced by the program either.  The chip for horses is not about disease-tracking,  as Ag-Canada would have the various horse owners and associations believe – it is not about science either – it’s a political necessity in order to satisfy requirements to make horsemeat a world-wide commodity.  Here’s a very good example of why that is the case – when a single atypical case BSE was found in the US a few months ago, all trade to South Korea stopped immediately – this was based on trade and politics – not science,  since the cause of the BSE in this example was mutagenic and posed no risk to any other animals.  Random genetic mutations happen all the time in nature, so once in a while a cow will be born with a mutation that makes the BSE prion.

It’s big business to cut corners, and typical of governments to develop rules that they have no intention of following.  The EU horsemeat scandal is perfect evidence that rules will be ignored when profit is a motivator.  Also recall the story of Backstreet Bully,  who was verified by Adena Springs as having received 21 doses of nitrofurazone, which has been linked to cancer in humans, and at least 23 doses of bute, a drug linked to bone marrow disease.   Canadian officials have refused to confirm or deny whether his meat entered the food chain.

What do you think will be the outcomes of a traceability program for horses?  Take the survey below! (Responses will be published in a subsequent blog post)

au cheval du marais

About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic plant-based eater, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - http://iwl.me/ Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

15 responses »

  1. I am an active member of the CHDC, and follow going,s on closely. This takes the wind,s out of my sail.What the hell is it going to take to ban this corrupt predatory industry?

    • You are a great supporter of the CHDC and all things “horse” Dennis! It will be interesting to see what happens now to the HWAC traceability option with Animal ID Solutions – presumably the government isn’t going to fund two systems. Everyone is on edge wondering what will happen in two months time……

  2. Many thanks for this update. I wondered where this disaster was…I am sure the CFIA is closely working with the pro-slaughter lowlife stakeholders to make sure their business isn’t interrupted by any missed deadline.

    • Even if the program were fully functionable tomorrow, AND horses were chipped, they couldn’t support the requirement for six months of data. Either the EU will give an extension or they will deny North American horsemeat. Don’t forget that Bill DesBarres is still desperately pushing his program too.

  3. The entire horse slaughter industry is a black market money laundry of back alley deals with race horses, horsemeat sold as cheap beef, drugs, slaughtered horses alive and basically every creepy crawly you can think of. From slaughtering illegally race horses who lose off the tracks by the hundreds to “sweet gentle Amish” butchering Belgium foals….rewards horse owners who neglect and abuse to Amish who starve to dead TB in 2 years of harness work – all rewarded by throwing the horse away for $200. When did the USA decide to compete for the world moral corruption award with China? Oh Japan – yes terrorize the horses before slaughter to release more “High T” in the blood of the meat!!..What Dark Ages are we in?

  4. As an American, I know what’s supposed to happen to our horses after July 31. IF Mexico and Canada are compliant, they are supposed to turn US horses back at the borders. Canada has already agreed to do this. I’m hoping we will have anti-slaughter legislation passed soon and/or have the funding to inspect horse slaughter plants taken away again. The latter is probably the most likely because both President Obama and the Secretary of the USDA have the defunding language in both of their proposed Budgets.

    Only time will tell.

  5. Great article! Thanks for bringing us up to date on the always entertaining shenanigans that our governments participate in to try to prove that human consumption is a safe way to dispose of “unwanted horses” that have been raised without any regard to the safety of their meat!

    It reminds me of one person’s creative answer to the New York garbage collector’s strike many years ago. He gift wrapped his garbage and left in in the back seat of his unlocked car.

    And the much vaunted EU system? Apparently it can’t even tell you which species you are eating!

    • Well said John! Close the borders and end the slaughter now! There is no place for slaughter in USA!!! (From 2 rescued OTTB’s)

  6. Pingback: Equine Traceability being relaunched in Canada? | Canadian Horse Defence Coalition's Blog

  7. Great article Heather. I got so mad at this I wrote Equine Canada a no-holds-barred letter about their disgraceful conduct by assisting CFIA to channel horses into the slaughter pipeline. These organizations are supposed to help us in our equestrian pursuits, not help put our horses on someone’s dinner plate. Look forward to the results.

  8. It is hard to imagine ANY trace-ability program being honest & accountable. Cheaters, liars & corrupt officials are EVERYWHERE there is easy money to be made. Conservative Harper’s greedy senators get caught with their fingers in the cookie jar & plan is made for the tax-payers to foot the pay-back bill. I just hope all those who like to eat horse meat realize that there will NEVER be a system that can keep that tainted meat from being toxic.

  9. Pingback: Survey Results Reveal That Traceability Does Little to Alleviate Concerns About Horsemeat…… | heatherclemenceau

  10. Pingback: Survey Results Reveal That Traceability Does Little to Alleviate Concerns About Horsemeat…… | Canadian Horse Defence Coalition's Blog

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