by KAREN BRIGGS
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has announced that, effective January 1, 2012, shipments of American horses destined for Canadian abbatoirs may enter Canada only at one of eight designated border crossings, three of which are in Ontario.
The ports of entry at Windsor, Sarnia, and Niagara Falls/Queenston will henceforth be the only Ontario crossings which will accept slaughter-bound horses.
Horses being transported across the border for the purpose of racing, showing, or breeding will not be affected and may enter the country at any border crossing.
The three designated border crossings are staffed by CFIA veterinarians and have appropriate unloading facilities. Slaughter-bound shipments will be accepted only during the CFIA’s regular hours of operation, and transporters will be required to arrange an appointment for inspection of the animals at least 24 hours before arrival.
Since 2007, there have been no operational slaughterhouses in the United States which process horse meat. American horses designated for slaughter are now shipped either to Mexico, or to Canada, where four abbatoirs – two in Quebec, and two in Alberta – currently process horse meat.
Norval Meats, the only facility in Ontario to accept equines in recent years, officially closed in March 2011.
Lisa Gauthier, of CFIA’s Media Relations department, explained the changes. “The Government of Canada takes the humane treatment of animals seriously and has been taking steps to enforce the regulations for the humane transportation and slaughter of animals.
“These new measures are being taken to enhance the CFIA’s ability to verify compliance with the humane transport provisions of the Health of Animals Regulations.
“Humane transport issues have been identified in this industry.”
In addition, Gauthier said, the CFIA has determined that not all of the border crossings had facilities appropriate for unloading horses, and/or veterinary staff available for inspections. BF