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United States livestock markets selling horses to Canada for food processing became subject to new rules and regulations, effective July 31, 2010, by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Before a horse can be presented for slaughter, the new rules require extensive physical and medical identification records known as an Equine Information Document (EID).
The EID requires detailed written and photographic identification of each horse, along with a thorough and comprehensive record of medicines and illnesses for a six-month period prior to slaughter. The new rules are a response to a European Union directive for the identification and traceability of horses used for food. It is anticipated that Mexico’s slaughter plants will also require this information if Mexican processing plants are selling horse meat to European Union countries.
If you are selling a horse at an auction or livestock market and there is a chance the horse could be sold for slaughter for human consumption, the owner is required to submit an EID to the buyer. EID is a three-part document, which reveals the horse’s identification and medical history before the animal can be brought to an equine processing plant in Canada.
The identification portion of the EID requires pictures of the horse. A digital camera is advised so pictures can be quickly printed on a color printer. A written physical description is also required and begins with the forehead, nasal bone, muzzle, lips and chin. You must detail whether the horse has a star, stripe, blaze, white face or snip. Even flesh marks are to be accurately described. Limbs, whorls or cowlicks must also be clearly identified.
A detailed diagram may be used in lieu of pictures, but follows very strict rules. The diagram must be filled in using only a black ballpoint pen and a red ballpoint pen. Blue ink is not permitted. Everything which appears in white on the horse must be shown in red ink on the diagram. Markings which are not white on the horse must be shown in black on the diagram.
Once you have completed the description/identification portion of the EID, you must complete the medical/treatment portion of the document. This requires a detailed history, during the past six months, of all drugs and/or treatments the horse has received. The regulations provide different categories of drugs set forth as follows:
1. Drugs not permitted for use in equine slaughtered for food;
2. Essential veterinary drugs permitted in equine with a six-month withdrawal period; and
3. Drugs safe for use in equine intended for production.
The list of drugs in each category is extensive, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has these lists on its web site. The first category, drugs not permitted for use in equine slaughtered for food, is the most important to identify. It will take a veterinarian, in many cases, to make the determination, and certainly all equine vets and sale barns should be on notice of the various drugs commonly used with equine and the category in which they fall.
For example, a widely used equine drug, Phenylbutuzone, is legal in Canada, but is not permitted to be used in equine that may be used for human consumption. Certain antibiotics and ointments appear in the “drugs not permitted” category. The “drugs not permitted” category fall into five major composition areas:
1. Chloranphenicol and its salts and derivatives;
2. A 5-nitrofuran compound;
3. Clenbuterol and its salts and derivatives;
4. A 5-nitroimidazole compound; and
5. Diethylstilbestrol and other stilbene compounds.
Frankly this is all clear as mud and twice as cloudy!
So what is the effect of all of this? If you have an animal, which is a potential slaughter animal, be prepared to deal with the information requirements of the EID. This means veterinarians and sale barns had better become familiar with the requirements and have a list of common equine drugs, along with the category in which they fall. I am sure sellers will be calling their veterinarians or the sale barn veterinarians for advice on which category a given drug falls. One of the issues is going to be the length of withdrawal period on a given drug, which is defined as the minimum amount of time that must expire since the medication or vaccine was administered before the animal is considered cleared of the medication or vaccine, thereby making it eligible for slaughter for human consumption.
Numerous questions come to mind. What happens if a certain drug does not appear on the list? What if you are using a drug which is safe for use in other food producing animals but has no such label for equines? What about feed supplements? Is the ban on non-permitted drugs for the life of an animal, the six-month period, or a longer period if the drug can be cleared from the horse’s system? What if the banned drugs are not reported on the EID? It appears the only advice for now is, when in doubt, ask your veterinarian.
Auctions present interesting issues and special problems concerning the interpretation of these rules and regulations. If you sell your animal at an auction, does the auction become the owner once the animal is consigned? The answer to this question is “no.” The seller remains the owner until the animal is sold on the auction block. At that time, the buyer is the new owner. Any medication used on the auction premises must be disclosed to the buyer, who will need to complete an EID form before the animal is permitted entry into a Canadian slaughter plant.
The previous EID from the prior owner is not good enough. The new owner will also have to provide another EID. Imagine a trucker hauling a load of meat animals to an auction. The trucker will have to prepare an accurate and detailed EID for each animal in the process of unloading, finding stalls and trying to get back on the road as soon as possible. It will be interesting to see how auction companies and meat buyers will respond to the new rules and regulations.
One thing is certain–the consequences of not having a proper EID are serious. The Canadian slaughter plants, who are ultimately responsible, will refuse the load unless an acceptable EID is presented. Since these rules became effective on July 31, 2010, we will be able to quickly see how these rules are implemented and enforced.
Enough legal talk–it’s time to hitch horses!
Ken is a practicing attorney in Myerstown, PA, where a good bit of his practice involves negligence cases. Ken and his wife, Karen, own Sunny Hill Farm Belgians, and they have been exhibiting their six-horse hitch for the past few years at most major shows in the East.