Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all of my colleagues who will be supporting my bill, especially those who have taken time today to speak out in favour of it, and also especially the official party support from the leader of the Green Party and the health and agriculture critics of the Liberal Party.
Bill C-571 is about the safety of our food supply. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture in his speech on March 31 said, “While this bill is being presented as such, in fact it is not.” This is false. He also stated, “This bill includes preventing horses from moving from one province to another within Canada”. This is also false.
Annex E: Equine Information Document of the CFIA, on page 20, clearly states that phenylbutazone is one of the long list of veterinary drugs not permitted for use in equine slaughter for food, meaning that no safe limits have been established. On page 21, there is a list of drugs permitted with a six-month withdrawal period; bute is not on this list. Therefore, we can conclude that the parliamentary secretary was incorrect in his comments regarding the Equine Information Document when he said, “The six-month period exceeds the recommended withdrawal period for a number of veterinary drugs, including bute”. This is more false information.
Let me turn to the speech from my hon. colleague from Welland, the agriculture critic for our party. He stated that the CFIA takes concerns about bute seriously and has ensured it is not allowed. A couple of years ago, The New York Times printed an explosive exposé on the problem of doping in the horse-racing industry, which prompted the U.S. government to conduct a committee study. The transcript of testimonies by veterinarians, breeders, trainers, and owners at all these committee hearings were shocking to me in their revelations regarding the overuse and abuse of a wide variety of legal and illegal medications on American racetracks. The CFIA has no laws or restrictions in place excluding racehorses from entering the slaughter system. In fact, Canada's horsemeat industry is deriving a significant portion of its product from racehorses, which should alarm us.
It has been shown time and again that our EID system is fraught with loopholes. In fact, the European Commission's veterinary office has deemed these documents to be frequently fraudulent.
I received an email today from a woman who recently purchased three horses at a horse auction. She did not receive any information about previous owners, nor were there any EIDs accompanying the animals. She also found out that the previous owner was not required to fill out an EID. She said:
If I were a kill buyer this casual transaction would please me greatly. I could then obtain fresh EIDs and fill them out as I pleased, while stating with complete honesty that “to my knowledge” the horses had not been given any substances banned for human consumption.
Henry Skjerven, former director of Natural Valley Farms in Saskatchewan, said:
The system as it stood when we were killing horses was in no way, shape or form, safe, in my opinion.
He went on to say:
We did not know where those horses were coming from, what might be in them or what they were treated with.
Equine Canada has upset many of its members over its lack of consultation before taking a position against Bill C-571 and issuing a lobby letter to me and my hon. colleagues. Many members of this organization are strongly opposed to horse slaughter.
Furthermore, the position Equine Canada has taken seems to be based on a few misconceptions. It states in its letter, quite incorrectly, that record-keeping such as would be required by Bill C-571 does not take place for horses in other countries, whereas in fact in the EU, Canada's main market for horsemeat, it is required that all horses, not just slaughter horses, have a passport within six months of the horse's birth or by December 31 of the year of its birth, and with this passport the horse's comprehensive lifetime medical record must be maintained.
I find it striking that by presenting arguments based on food safety, science, and legal accountability, renowned international equestrian Victoria McCullough and Florida state senator Joseph Abruzzo recently effected a nearly unanimous and non-partisan decision in the U.S. Congress to keep American slaughterhouses closed to horses.
Should we not be holding ourselves at least as accountable to food safety as the U.S. when it comes to slaughtering horses for human consumption? Should the same high standards that we require for all animals not also apply to equines?
Let us get Bill C-571 to the committee and to the debate it deserves and Canadians are expecting.