Tag Archives: “AG-Canada”

Survey Results Reveal That Traceability Does Little to Alleviate Concerns About Horsemeat……

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testing horsemeatWritten by Heather Clemenceau

First of all, thanks to everyone for completing the survey I launched in a previous blog,  and for sharing your opinions.  In this survey I don’t claim to provide options for pro-slaughters to render an opinion here, as most people following this blog are vehemently opposed to horse slaughter.  So the questions are mostly open and non-leading, but only if you’re of the anti-slaughter sentiment!

After numerous missed deadlines or the complete absence of functional plans and infrastructure,  we have about two months to go in Canada before we find out what happens with equine traceability.  We know Ag-Canada and Equine Canada won’t be ready, but what will the EU do about it?  They are well aware that the Canadian slaughter system  is  unreliable, dangerous to the global food supply and one to avoid emulating should the U.S. resume slaughtering horses for human consumption, as is being proposed. If the EU decides to continue with the status quo, they are no doubt aware that the EID does not prevent adulterated meat from reaching the consumer. It can’t, because the document doesn’t guarantee anything.   It’s also become more obvious to Canadians that the CFIA is populated with many veterinarians who are quick to respond to news articles to defend food safety practices – but unless they are trained in public health and willing to put public health front and centre, they should refrain from providing false assurances of safety or meddling in food processing operations.  This is certainly true for Dr. Ian Alexander,  who has an Honours B. Sc. degree in Biology and an M. Sc and Ph.D in Veterinary Pharmacology/Toxicology as well as a Doctorate of Veterinary of Medicine from the University of Guelph – but – apparently no public health experiences or epidemiological course of study. It’s absolutely astounding to me that with his education he can blithely dismiss the CFIA testing protocols for horsemeat as remotely accurate.

Traceability is “the ability to systematically identify a unit of production, track its location and describe any treatmenhorse-meatts or transformations at all stages of production,  processing and distribution.”  (Archipelago, 2005)

A takeaway from the food fraud/mislabelling scandal in the EU tells us that no amount of tracking without DNA species analysis at critical junctures would have prevented this fraud.  If all these big chains with their food-safety-is-first traceability schemes don’t know what’s in the products they’re hawking, how are mere mortals and consumers to know?

Equine Life Numbers Liz Brown

Journalist Liz Brown has researched equine traceability for Horse-Canada. Please click on the graphic to embiggen and read the entire article as a PDF.

The concerns with EU horsemeat scandal  and the North American experience have been reflected in the survey.  While 43.9% of the respondents believed that disease-tracking would be an important outcome of such a system,  66.7% of those same individuals would not voluntarily opt-in to a program.  Perhaps related to an earlier statement from Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis regarding slaughterhouses providing 72 hours to claim (and pay associated costs for) a stolen horse  from a plant,  63.2% of those surveyed do not believe a tracking program would significantly prevent horse theft.   I don’t believe attitudes towards traceability for horses result only from cost or other confounding elements of the program, but from past experience with and knowledge of players in the horse slaughter industry itself.  Traceability will do nothing to make slaughter humane,  assure them  food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which they are often seriously injured or killed in transit.

Recent high profile food recalls and enhanced consumer awareness have made traceability a high level issue across the supply chain, from manufacturer to consumer. Even though I have a philosophical objection to it,  journalist Liz Brown has written extensively about the inevitability of  traceability in Canada – her research on the program is available by clicking on the article to the left.

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Further reading:

Star Investigation:  Ottawa refuses to say whether drug-tainted horsemeat entered food chain

Star Investigation:  Drugged horses slipping through inadequate food system

Saving Holly:  Destined for dinner tables,  Star joins race to rescue drug-filled mare from slaughter

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Equine Traceability Being Re-Launched in Canada?

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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 MODEL FOR EQUINE ID & TRACEABILITY IN CANADA

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)

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