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MP chooses new horse slaughter bill for upcoming March debate in House
Federal MP Alex Atamanenko has toned down his private member’s bill that tackles the controversial subject of slaughtering horses for human consumption in order to give it a better chance of success when it comes up for debate in March.
Atamanenko, the NDP MP for British Columbia Southern Interior, introduced a new version of his bill last week and also announced he is choosing this bill for debate.
The new bill, known as C-571, would still prohibit most horses from being sent for slaughter for meat, but it makes an exception for horses raised primarily for human consumption and accompanied by a complete lifetime medical history.
Backbench MPs typically have the opportunity to put forward one private member’s bill or motion for debate and a vote in each session of Parliament.
Names of MPs are drawn at the beginning of each Parliament to determine the order in which their bills or motions will be considered. Atamanenko’s first opportunity since the election of May 2011 comes up in March.
Private members’ bills, especially those put forward by opposition MPs, are rarely passed into law.
The bill receives up to two hours of debate with a number of days between each debate and then is put to a vote.
Only those bills passed at second reading move to a committee for study before returning to the House of Commons for more votes.
Even if a bill makes it through the House, it must go through a similar process in the Senate before becoming law.
Atamanenko said he would present his bill to the NDP’s caucus on Wednesday to gauge support, but he doesn’t know how other parties will respond. In theory, most private members’ bills are free votes, but ministers and opposition critics often put pressure on MPs to vote a certain way.
Bill C-571 would also prohibit transferring horses between provinces or importing or exporting them to slaughter for human consumption.
Atamanenko points out that horses, especially those used in racing, are often given drugs that would make their meat unsafe for human consumption.
An example is the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, which if given to an animal during its lifetime makes its meat no longer fit for human consumption. This drug is often given to horses.
He acknowledges, however, that many of the thousands of people who have written letters and signed petitions in support of his earlier bill, C-322, may be motivated primarily by a love of horses.
Atamanenko is choosing his horse bill over seven other bills and 16 motions that he also has on the order paper.
Those bills and motions deal with a wide range of issues including genetically modified foods, postal service, establishment of a department of peace, declaring a national day of the honey bee, professionalization of peace work and reviewing health impacts of smart meters.
Asked why an MP would introduce so many bills and motions when only one has a chance to be debated and voted on, Atamanenko said it’s a way of making a statement and putting issues he believes are important to a public debate.
It allows people to rally behind a bill, write petitions and put pressure on the government, he said.
It also allows MPs to do homework on an issue and to propose legislation that may be picked up by the government or another MP.