July 31st, the supposed EU deadline for implementing a traceability system for horses in Canada, is a date that has come and gone. Although many pro-slaughter advocates maintained that we all made up that date, it clearly originated from the GAO report on horse slaughter – Horse Welfare – Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter.
“Furthermore, effective July 31, 2013, the European Union will require lifetime medication records for all horses slaughtered in non-European Union countries before accepting imports of horsemeat from those countries. According to APHIS and horse industry sources, these requirements could result in shippers certifying that their horses are free of medication residues without having first-hand knowledge or documentation of the horses’ status for the previous 180 days.”
Earlier in July I wrote to the CFIA to find out what was going down on July 31st. While Dr. Alexander, Chief Veterinary Officer for the CFIA’s response did address some of the questions I posed in a letter, it also leaves some other questions completely unanswered or open to interpretation. The most obvious acknowledgement by the CFIA is that the EU has apparently extended the date two or three years into the future, not that we will be ready by 2015 or 2016 either. They’re really hedging their bets by including two possible implementation dates too! Just in case they can’t get it together by 2015, well, there’s always next year! Lather, rinse and repeat……..
Of course, restrictions and deadlines hardly bothered the CFIA in the past, but now they have this passport system with which to contend – a detailed electronic log of a horse’s lifetime veterinary record and the drugs it has been given— including, but not limited to phenylbutazone, which is banned entirely, must not have been given to the horse in at least the last 180 days prior to slaughter or they can not be imported into EU nations. Canada tried to implement traceability for horses before, and seemed to give up after spending almost $500,000 to find out that it was unworkable, no doubt due in part to the fact that many Canadian horse owners just don’t seem to be interested in paying for microchips and barn calls to satisfy third party concerns about the eligibility of our horses for meat.
Also of interest is the fact that Dr. Alexander tells us that the horsemeat market in Canada is worth $36 million, while we’ve always known it to generate around $70 million in the recent past. Exactly what happened to halve the revenue of this industry in 2012?
Put down any beverages you are currently drinking, because you’ll probably choke when you read that Dr. Alexander believes that the EID system is just as effective as the passporting system! Well, perhaps he’s not really wrong, since they are both completely falsifiable and corruptable. We saw this during the EU lasagna adulteration scandal early this year, where meat has for years been extruded through a supply system that could hardly be more opaque, and foreign gangsters and mafia were secretly adulterating the food supply with profit as the main incentive. This is hardly much different than what happens currently In Canada, (minus the organized crime connection) where the EID system provides as much traceability as does buying meat off the street from a stranger.
Notice also that “technical support” is being offered to both Equine Canada and Canada’s #1 slaugherphile Bill DesBarres of the Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada. Is that CFIA-speak for throwing money at both groups? Apparently, Canada can’t learn from the EU’s mistakes – we’re going to have two separate and distinct databases? The same problems in the EU system – lack of control over the inputs into the database and duplicated records would happen here, and it would be even worse with two systems. The EU has since realized that there were too many opportunities for unscrupulous people to make changes to the database, and are tightening up controls in that respect. What gives veterinarians the idea that they should have any business involving themselves in the architecture and implementation of databases anyway?
I love the closing paragraph on Alexander’s correspondence, – they’ve got an “action plan to not stop exporting equine meat products to the EU Market.” That’s right, no matter what, they’ll jury-rig the system and bamboozle the EU in order to maintain the status quo. Of course they don’t allude to what their plans entail. Whatever could the CFIA have told the EU to make them think we have a system with any credibility whatsoever?
The CFIA was given the dual and conflicting mandate to promote agri-food trade and sales, as well as ensure food safety. That agency has a role to play in preventing the crime of allowing adulterated
horsemeat into the market, but it’s clear that they should not be in charge of food protection whilst simultaneously sending the inexplicably still-employed Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz and others on missions around the world promoting trade.
Food safety in Canada has jumped the shark. There’s just too much allegiance to old, outdated systems operating purely on faith. Horses are not living beings exploited by this industry and its participants, but “products” to be exported like lumber. Oh Canada, what have we got to be proud about when it comes to our treatment of horses?