12 January 2022
The EU imports horse meat from Canada and this trade is problematic as NGO investigations and EU audits revealed massive problems with animal welfare and food safety. Eurogroup For Animals and the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition recommend using the tools offered by the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) to address and improve horse welfare in Canada.
The EU is the biggest consumer of horse meat, even if consumption – and imports – have decreased over the past decade for various reasons, including the 2014 food scandal, and the subsequent ban on Mexican horse meat. Yet, since 2017, imports have been on the rise, and Canada’s share has remained constant at around 1,350 tonnes yearly.
Even if this volume is relatively low, the horse welfare abuses detected in the production chains are highly problematic. These significant shortcomings in the sector, not only on animal welfare but also on traceability, have been underlined by recent NGO investigations. Furthermore, the EU legislation that imposes a six-month residency period, during which horses are not allowed to receive any medication, has created many additional concerns in terms of horse welfare. During this residency period, the animals are kept in horrifying conditions in open-air feedlots, without any protection from adverse weather or veterinary care for six months until they can be slaughtered.
As animal welfare issues related to farm practices do not fall under the scope of EU animal welfare requirements currently imposed on imports, in a joint letter we call on the European Commission and on the Canadian Minister for International Trade to maximise the opportunities offered by the CETA Regulatory Cooperation Forum (RCF) to improve horse welfare.
The timing has never been better to discuss horse welfare now that it has become a priority of the Canadian government to ban live horse exports, mainly due to poor transport conditions
Sinikka Crosland, President, Canadian Horse Defence Coalition
Moving in this direction would respond to EU citizens’ expectations, as nine out of ten Europeans believe the EU should do more to promote animal welfare awareness worldwide. A petition, which has already gathered nearly 180,000 signatures, calls on the EU to suspend the imports of horse meat from countries where EU requirements on food safety and animal welfare are not respected.
If horse welfare fails to be addressed, the EU should send a clear message to its trading partners stressing that respecting the rules matters, and suspend imports where requirements are not met. In similar conditions, EU imports from Mexican horse meat were suspended in 2015
Stephanie Ghislain, Trade and Animal Welfare, Programme Leader, Eurogroup for Animals
Briefing: Stable to Fork: EU Horse Meat Imports
Joint letter to the Canadian Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development & European Commission Chief Trade Enforcement Officer.