The federal government is waiting for clarification on a European Union rule that will affect horse slaughter in Canada.
Humane Society International said in September that Europe would impose a six month “residency” requirement for horses imported into Canada. After March 31, 2017, horses imported from the U.S. for slaughter at Canadian plants will have to remain in Canada for at least 180 days prior to processing.
The Europeans say the rule is necessary because most North American horses are not raised for food. Many receive veterinary drugs that may be hazardous for human consumption.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it is seeking more information from Europe on the requirement.
“(We) have been working closely with industry since we learned of this proposal from the EU last October,” the CFIA said in an email.
“The government understands the serious impact the EU measure of a 180-day holding period will have on exports. In 2015, Canada exported $36.8 million of horse meat to the EU.”
Most of the horse meat is exported to France, Belgium and Switzerland.
The requirement will likely increase costs and red tape for horse slaughter plants in Canada.
“It’s often between 65 and 70 percent of horses slaughtered in Canada that come from the United States,” said Ewa Demianowicz, campaign manager for Humane Society International in Canada.
The primary horse meat processors in Canada are Bouvry Exports in Fort MacLeod, Alta., and the Viande Richelieu plant in Quebec. Canadian Premium Meats in Lacombe, Alta., also slaughters horses for the European market.
Canada already tracks drugs administered to horses before slaughter, the CFIA said.
“Every horse (domestic or imported) presented for slaughter in Canadian (plants) … have a record of all vaccinations and medications given in the previous six months. This is referred to as the Equine Information Document (EID),” the CFIA said.
“Without acceptable EID paperwork, a horse cannot be slaughtered for human consumption in Canada and its meat cannot be exported.”
The CFIA is seeking more information before it proceeds on the residency requirement, but the agency will be enforcing the 180 day rule when it takes effect.
“Once implemented by the EU, CFIA inspectors will verify all requirements are met when certifying horse meat presented for export to the EU.”