Bowmanville Zoo’s New Zebra Highlights Equine Disease Surveillance Concerns

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Zorro in his first Canadian home. He is a Plains/Burchell's Zebra. Health records and a Coggins test for EIA were done when he was imported to Ontario.

Zorro in his first Canadian home. He is a Plains/Burchell’s Zebra. Health records and a Coggins test for EIA were done when he was imported to Ontario in 2012.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

It’s no secret that the Bowmanville Zoo is on the receiving end of more negative publicity after Zoo Director Michael Hackenberger muttered some expletives at his mini-horse riding baboon Austin after the primate didn’t follow his “script” during a live television show. Hackenberger later apologized for his utterances after the TV show expressed its displeasure with his lack of impulse control towards his animals.

But the Alberta branch of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement have inadvertently put the Bowmanville Zoo in the spotlight again when they seized a tame Burchell’s Zebra named “Zorro” from a farm in Alberta, where he is a prohibited animal, and gave him to the Zoo while they were in town supplying animals for “Whoop-Up Days” in Alberta. Not only did Fish and Wildlife confound the issue with Zorro’s previous owners in a long chain of custody disagreement, they apparently did not test him for Equine Infectious Anemia before giving him to the zoo.

Timeline of Events

  1. June 2012 – Zorro imported to Canada
  2. February 2015 – Zorro sold to Newmarket, Ontario equine rescue/breeder who did not take possession of him immediately. He then spent some months at a different facility in Ontario
  3. July 2015 – Zorro flipped to new Alberta owner by the rescue
  4. August 2015 – Zorro seized by Fish and Wildlife Enforcement as a prohibited animal
  5. August 2015 – An offer was made by Fish and Wildlife Enforcement to return Zorro to his last owner in Ontario, who refused to accept him. He was then offered back to the owners of the farm who imported him, who agreed to take him. After arrangements were made, F&WE wrote back that they would be giving him to the Bowmanville Zoo, as “this  facility is CAZA accredited and we feel confident that they have the ability to provide the care for this animal.”
  6. August 2015 – The zebra was picked-up August 23rd

At one time earlier in the email chain Fish and Wildlife Enforcement proposed that Zorro be relocated to the Calgary Zoo, but something changed their minds. Did the decision have anything to do

Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch (to original Ontario owner on August 19th) – “A zoo in Ontario will be taking Zorro. They want a human friendly animal and we will be picking Zorro up at no cost.”

Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch wrote (to original Ontario owner on August 19th) – “A zoo in Ontario will be taking Zorro. They want a human friendly animal and we will be picking Zorro up at no cost.”

with the fact that the Bowmanville Zoo was touring in Alberta at the time and had available space in their trailer?

Ignoring all the issues with private ownership of exotic animals, the most concerning to me is the fact that Fish and Wildlife Enforcement (and probably other branches of the Alberta government) did not have concerns about shipping an equid to Ontario without testing for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), a disease which while rare, is devastating to horse owners when it does invade their barns, since equids must be permanently quarantined in a building with vigilant insect control (the vectors that spread the disease are flies and other insects that bite an infected horse before transferring it to another) or humanely euthanized. Also commonly called “swamp fever,” EIA is caused by a retrovirus, similar to the human HIV.  There is currently no vaccine against the virus, and once infected an equine carries the virus for the rest of its life.  Episodes of more severe signs can occur even years after the initial infection, and during these episodes an infected animal poses the greatest threat to other horses because the viral load in the bloodstream is very high with greater potential for being spread to other animals.

Fish And Wildlife Enforcment Branch (to former Ontario owner on August 17) “It is paramount that we establish the risk factor, if any, to Alberta’s Equine and Cattle industries…”

 

From the picture I can’t tell whether Zorro is completely partitioned off from the cats. Megaphones from across the street during zoo protests are stressful, but travelling with predators is not?

From the picture I can’t tell whether Zorro is completely partitioned off from the cats. The zoo complains that megaphones from across the street during protests are stressful, but travelling with predators is not?

The test for EIA is generally referred to as a Coggins test, although a more accurate ELISA-type test is lately being used to test for the disease, which is most frequently found in Saskatchewan and Alberta. In those provinces there’s a reservoir of infected horses that are still not being identified, and could continue to perpetuate the infection.

OMAFRA fact sheet on EIA

“Equine infectious anemia (EIA) ….. is a potentially fatal disease caused by a virus that can infect all types of equines, including horses, mules, zebras and donkeys. In most cases, the disease begins with an acute phase of illness, followed by chronic cyclical symptoms, which continue throughout the remainder of the horse’s life. Some horses do not show any symptoms but can still be a source of infection for other animals. EIA occurs throughout Ontario and is an ongoing concern for horse owners in the province.”

Control Measures in Canada

  • To conduct EIA testing in Canada, a veterinarian must be federally accredited and send samples only to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)-approved labs.
  • It is required by law that all suspected cases of EIA be immediately reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which investigates all reported cases. In Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) may at times provide assistance with the response.
  • If a horse is confirmed to have EIA, it may either be placed under a permanent CFIA quarantine (if it doesn’t have any symptoms) or ordered destroyed with paid compensation.
  • The CFIA also requires mandatory testing of imported horses and has strict regulations on import of animals and animal products.

Worms and Germs Blog – “EIA testing is required prior to travel to many places and prior to participating in many competitions or shows.  Regular testing of animals that travel frequently helps to identify infected animals more quickly.”

 

At this point in time testing for EIA is a voluntary program administered by the CFIA, but horse owners in Alberta and Saskatchewan are often cautioned to avoid proximity to horses of unknown

Zebras are preyed upon by Lions, Leopards, Hyenas and African Wild Dogs, along with numerous other large carnivores such as Crocodiles when they are crossing rivers or drinking. Hopefully he was fully partitioned off from the lions and tigers with a solid barricade.

This is the trailer Zorro travelled in after he was seized. Zebras are preyed upon by lions, leopards, hyenas and african wild dogs, along with numerous other large carnivores such as crocodiles when they are crossing rivers or drinking. Hopefully Zorro was fully partitioned off from the lions and tigers with a solid barricade so he would not be caused anxiety while on the long trip to Ontario.

EIA status.  This can be tough to do if your horse (or zebra) goes to shows where EIA testing is not mandatory. But with the current problems out west (or anywhere else that EIA may be circulating) testing for EIA prior to moving horses to other provinces is something that should be strongly promoted. This is especially important as the prairies are seeing the highest number of EIA cases in years, with many new cases emerging each year on different properties.

While the Fish and Wildlife people insist in emails that Zorro is a concern for the cattle and equine industry (which is not a frivolous concern) they don’t mention EIA in any emails to former owners of Zorro, nor do they evidently have any concern about the ONTARIO equine industry when they return him without any apparent Coggins test. Was he tested at all before embarking to Ontario? If so when? According to his Alberta owner, no one came to her farm to stick him with a needle at any point, and he was loaded directly on a trailer bound for Ontario with other animals.  It is a bit after-the-fact to be testing him once he’s arrived at the zoo isn’t it?  Rather like shutting the barn door after the horse has already escaped….According to CAZA (Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums) testing for EIA appears in their Accreditation Standards documentation, and equids must be quarantined, as a “best practice.”

I think it is very unlikely that Zorro has been exposed to EIA. He’s a good weight and looks very healthy in fact.  However, complacency is what contributes to the transmission of disease. The zoo equines as well as the horse industry should not be overlooked. I’ve always been required to provide a negative Coggins test even when changing barns within Ontario, because barn owners know that it could devastate their businesses if all the horses had to be destroyed.

It’s rather hypocritical for any level of the Alberta government to express concern only for their cattle and equines (by asking for vet records from previous owners),  but not show any basic common sense when sending Zorro to Ontario where we also have equines.  In any case,  veterinary records from 2012 wouldn’t prove much,  and are completely outdated.  Coggins is good for six months only.  Equines travelling from Alberta and Saskatchewan should automatically be tested before being transferred to the eastern provinces, IMO.

 

Who Will Stand For The Cold Creek Wild Horses?

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The Nevada Legislature is trying to exclude wild horses and burros from the definition of wildlife. That will allow them to also exclude wild horses and burros from water rights.

The Nevada Legislature is trying to exclude wild horses and burros from the definition of wildlife. That will allow them to also exclude wild horses and burros from water rights.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

There’s an old saying, It’s better to help a friend a week too early rather than a day too late.” There are different variations on that theme, and I’ve most often seen it used when people are trying to determine when to euthanize a beloved pet. But a few days ago I was reminded of it in the context of the Cold Creek wild horses in Nevada, where at least some of the group are starving,  including mares and foals. An ensuing debate (whether to help the horses or take no action) raises some ethical and philosophical issues about our idyllic view of nature free from human (and BLM) interference. For instance, is it acceptable to feed these wild horses on compassionate and moral grounds, or do we prefer a laissez-faire management policy that would subject horses and burros to starvation by letting Mother Nature work her will?

You can see from the pics that the worst of these horses would probably rate a 1 or a 2 on the Henneke scale.  Some wild horse advocates have proposed that the starvation death of the horses is preferable to a round-up by the BLM, which they believe may be prompted by a Cold Creek resident’s letter that has been circulating about the condition of the horses. The volunteer-based America’s Wild Horse Advocates have suggested that the original letter writer was intent on creating drama in order that the horses would be removed from Cold Creek. If you read the letter, which is included here, you may agree that the writer of the letter seems hopeful that a roundup will not occur, because the horses are too weak to survive it, and suggests a coordinated effort to help the horses on the ground where they stand. Avoiding the involvement of the BLM seems to be a motivating factor in the decision by the AWHA to wait until fall to determine what, if any action should be taken, while continuing to negotiate for PZP darting.

The original letter does not strike me as that written by someone determined to remove the horses from the area, so I would not say that AWHA has really made that case successfully. The  initial

Original email written by a resident of Cold Creek (click to embiggen)

Original email written by a resident of Cold Creek (click to embiggen)

response by the group to the letter of concern seems quite dismissive of the horses’ condition, referring to them merely as “thin” and to the initial letter writer as some sort of busybody who wants to get rid of the horses. The wild horse advocate makes several untenable claims about the condition of the horses and admonishes people who have expressed concern about the horses as “bleeding hearts.” Here are some of the claims:

“The lower bands will fill out in the fall. If they don’t, AWHA will take care of it.”

Emaciated mares with foals are being fed (at least at the time photos were taken), despite assertions that it is illegal to do so. Being fed by well-meaning people does mean that they will come down to the road for handouts, risking accidents with vehicles. Not only that, abrupt or inappropriate re-feeding can cause metabolic abnormalities leading multi-organ failure and death.

Emaciated mares with foals are being fed (at least at the time photos were taken), despite assertions that it is illegal to do so. Being fed by well-meaning people does mean that they will come down to the road for handouts, risking accidents with vehicles. Not only that, abrupt or inappropriate re-feeding can cause metabolic abnormalities leading multi-organ failure and death.

These horses need more than “filling out,” let’s be honest. I have to admit I’m gobsmacked by the suggestion that the horses are not starving, but merely “thin.”  A horse that has lost 50 percent of its body weight has a poor prognosis for survival. How will it be taken care of? If feeding is illegal, how will the situation be resolved? If they can be fed somehow in the fall, why not do it now, since they critically need it and before they decline even further? And it’s already too late for anyone to suggest that we should not interfere with nature, something we’ve done since the very 1st day when we started fencing horses off in pockets of land.  We already hold interventions for wild animals – vaccination programs against diseases such as rabies or tuberculosis have been implemented for decades, and in national parks, starving animals are sometimes provided with additional food so that they may survive.   Proposed growth suppression projects via PZP will all come too late for any horse who is a literal bone rack.

“It’s called Natural Selection” and “It’s survival of the fittest”

It’s neither “natural selection” nor “survival of the fittest,” at least not from a biological perspective. Modern society interprets “survival of the fittest” to mean that only the strong survive. We often think of evolution in terms of a winner take all competition between the weak and the strong.  The individuals that survive are not always the strongest, fastest, or smartest – the individuals who survive are those who have variations better suited to their environment and as a result, leave behind more offspring than individuals that are less well adapted. Natural selection is a process that generates or guides adaptations (traits) over evolutionary time. For a trait to be shaped by natural selection it must be genetic and heritable. Natural selection is a mechanism of evolution, and it is not about survival in the short term in a sample population of 250 animals, as longevity in the short term and adaptation over generational time (a really long period of time!) are not the same things. The effects of natural selection are barely perceptible, except over long periods of time, so the starvation of one generation of a herd of horses is not an example of natural selection.

The majority of wild animals of any species die well before they reach maximum lifespan, but horses are at a greater disadvantage than many other species.

The majority of wild animals of any species die well before they reach maximum lifespan, but horses are at a greater disadvantage than many other species.

“All in all, an honourable death…preferable to dying in captivity”

I agree that the horses should not be gathered, and probably wouldn’t survive it anyway. When the horse is removed as through helicopter roundups, or is killed off by man, it leaves a big gap that upsets the equilibrated life-support system benefiting other wild populations. Wild horses are also a climax species, helping to sustain other ecosystems through the grazing of grass, pruning of vegetation, and consequent bolstering of annual plant productivity. Since wild horses are already being lost to roundups, slaughter, and most recently to fire, why not do more than stand around watching them starve?

To sum up: there are three possible courses of action for these horses.

  1. No intervention. The horses would either somehow gain weight on their own, or they would be allowed to starve to death
  2. Euthanasia – if they cannot regain weight, or no one is prepared to supplement them, then for some of the worst cases, euthanasia is justifiable on welfare grounds
  3. Feeding – Is welfare better served by feeding rather than doing nothing? It is also justifiable if the horses won’t likely survive otherwise.

If we believe that appropriate action should be option #3, then intervention should take place immediately before welfare declines even further.

Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

I don’t know what the solution is beyond a reasonable doubt. I don’t even know how it is legally or logistically workable.  But I absolutely do not believe that starvation should be the preferred outcome here.

What is really upsetting about this is that when it comes to an animal’s suffering it seems that supposedly intelligent and highly qualified individuals cannot use their logic and experience gained over the years to show compassion to a suffering animal. How many times do we tell pro-slaughters that starvation and slaughter are not the only two options? From an ethical standpoint, I believe that it is both appropriate and even necessary to intervene to help ensure that the wild horses retain their proper place in the landscape.

 

 

Letters Explain the Group’s Rationale for their Position on PZP and Feeding:

By The Horns: Bulls Make Contact With Horses at “Bloodless” Bullfight in Dundalk

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Cavaliera Mara Pimenta

Cavaliera Mara Pimenta with a Lusitano stallion

Writing and Photos by Heather Clemenceau (except where otherwise indicated) In southern Ontario, animal advocates have noticed that so-called “bloodless” bullfights (corrida incruenta) and bull runs seem to be on the increase.  Members of the Portuguese community defend the practice as a “benign” ritual that is part of a celebration of their cultural heritage.  With few exceptions, it’s been difficult to observe these bullfights because most take place on private property such as that owned by Elio Leal, whose 3,000 seat arena – Granadaria Sol y Toiros – hosts these events several times a year. The “bloodless” bullfight is so named because the bull wears a Velcro “saddle” on his back, to which the cavalieros stab the bull with their Velcro-tipped spears,  and his horns are squared-off and wrapped with a covering. You may think that a “bloodless” bullfight is comparable to teasing the angry neighbourhood dog, but all bullfights, whether bloodless or not, all have the same narrative of dominance over the “beast.” The bullfights take place in the small town of Dundalk, Ontario, population < 2,000. The arena, built in 2010, is about 90 minutes northwest of Toronto and was the project of Leal, who wanted to recreate the corrida on his farm. This year the event was easier to locate, since the Paso Fino horse showcase immediately preceding it was advertised by Equine Canada as part of the celebration of the Pan Am Games in Toronto. If you emailed the organizers of the Paso Fino event, you would get a reply promoting the bullfight, which wasn’t openly advertised. On this day there are an estimated 1,300 people in attendance, as reported by the Toronto Star, who was also present at the event.

Mara Pimenta also participates in the traditional "bloody" Portuguese bullfights. Source - http://farpas4.rssing.com/chan-6391260/all_p264.html

Mara Pimenta also participates in the traditional “bloody” Portuguese bullfights.

Leal’s farm is open to the public but the event itself is a fairly closely-held secret, and normally promoted in Portuguese. The remote location has made animal abuses fairly easy to conceal. Aside from the fact that teasing bulls is regarded by many as inhumane, it puts horses and other participants at risk. At this event, I confirmed for myself that, even though the bulls’ horns are capped and squared-off on the ends, they can injure the horses when they make contact. Can anyone honestly assert that a capped bull’s horns are harmless if striking a human or another animal with all the force that the bull can muster? The following are the cast of characters in the Portuguese “bloodless” style of bullfight:

  • The cavaleiros/cavaleiras are the horsemen or horsewomen, dressed in traditional costumes who fight the bull from horseback. In this event, there is no matador. There are two cavaleiras here today – Mara Pimenta and Joana Andrade, who also participate in traditional Portuguese bullfights (the bloody kind that ends in death for the bull).
  • The forcados are a group of eight men who challenge the bull directly, without any protection other than a thick “cummerbund” around the waist. The front man provokes the bull into a charge (these guys are otherwise known as the suicide squad), in an attempt to bring the charging bull to a standstill. The other seven men, lined up behind him, wait for the bull to come at their leader (who must surely be in line for a Darwin Award), and then rush in, piling on top of the bull to stop him in his tracks. Afterwards, the bull is distracted long enough for the first 7 men to escape, while the last man latches on to his tail, spinning him in circles before escaping himself.
  • The bandarilheiros are the cavaleiro/cavaleira’s helpers in the arena. While in the arena, they are holding the cape to distract or position the bull. The men agitate the bull—with shouting, fancy footwork, the wave of a cape—as part of an elaborate ceremony designed to show off their skills. Their presence serves to tire the bull, giving a brief respite to the horse in the arena, whose continual lateral movements would be tiring.Opening Ceremony - feature
  • The campinos are men on foot, armed with long sharp poles, who herd both the bull and Spanish cows among them back out of the arena and the fight is over. This particular role doesn’t seem to require much skill or daring, since both the bull and the cows are determined to get away from people as quickly as possible, and don’t need much direction. I’m relieved that the sharp poles appear to be mostly for show, since when challenged, the campinos climb the arena wall to escape rather than face-off against the indignant bovine.
  • Unlike the horses in a Spanish bullfight who are there primarily to be gored by the bull, these horses are beautiful and well-trained.  In this case they are Portuguese Lusitano stallions, who are skilled in dressage.  If you take the bullfight out of the equation, you would very much enjoy their graceful movements. They bow and perform lateral movements to avoid the advances of the bull, who is not nearly as athletic (but is very determined to charge the source of his torment). There are frequent horse changes by the same rider during each session – each horse is used for perhaps 10 minutes only.
  • The breed of bovine featured are Spanish fighting bulls who live on the Leal farm adjacent to the arena. Females of this breed are also used in this event, and they are also quite aggressive, occasionally stampeding and charging the arena walls. The cows are used to escort the bull out of the arena after the fight is over, after which a fresh bull will be used with a different team.
The bull has made contact with the horse's flank - feature

Bull made contact with this stallion – notice the bloody scrape on the horse’s right flank.

The crowd cheers wildly whenever the cavalieros stab at the bull or reach out and touch the bull’s head in passing. The horses leap aside, and the spectators gasp accordingly. Even though the various performances at the show are designed to wear out the bull, there is not much doubt that the bull is in charge, and the bull sees the horse as his enemy as much as the man. In three instances, the cavaleiros positioned their horses too close to the bulls, and the enraged animals made contact with the horses. One stallion was left with what I presume is a bloody scrape on his flank, but it could have been much worse. In addition, one of the forcados was very visibly in pain after his event, clutching his sides and gasping for air for several minutes afterward. Why wasn’t this mentioned in the Toronto Star article,  which published a very sanitized version of this event? Bulls have a high body mass and an inefficient mechanism to control the excess of body temperature (they neither sweat profusely like the equines or human beings, nor do they have very long tongues to eliminate heat like dogs).  As a result, after fairly limited exercise they are easily exhausted. This can be verified simply observing their facial expressions – the open mouth and the tongue out, sides heaving with exertion. Pulling on the bull’s tail also further agitates the animal, who spins around trying to hook his tormenter with his horns. Several bulls vocalized loudly when they were pulled by the tail, certainly a sign of pain. Afterwards, the forcados, cavalieros, bandarilheiros and campinos all walk the arena, to congratulatory waves and cheers. Spectators toss their hats into the arena where they are kissed and tossed back.

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In most bullfighting countries, statues of bulls regularly stand outside of bullfighting stadiums, and depict the animals in the most stately,  majestic way possible. But these statues are incongruent

Source - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullfighting#/media/File:Bull,_Ronda.JPG

Monument to Bull at the Plaza de Toros de Ronda in Spain.

with the reality of the bullfight where the bull is visibly exhausted and tormented,  and in many cases,  killed outright. The truth is, if a creature suffers then there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. We can have no right whatsoever to make them suffer for our “enjoyment.” Ignoring the potential for human injury at this event, the torment and potential injury of both horses and bulls is deserving of condemnation, and bullfights are surely the worst kind of torture since they are performed solely in the name of entertainment. How is the risk to horses, bulls, and humans acceptable?

Horse Milk “Farmers” Censored by Advertising Standards Canada

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You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable” – Marian Wright Edelman

 

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

In our internet travels we often come across examples of either accidental errors or deliberate attempts to mislead the public. As per a blog post by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, Spa Creek Ranch, located in Salmon Arm British Columbia, was producing horse milk products.  According to their website:

“In Europe, unpasteurized mare’s milk is used for health purposes, because our skin is our largest organ, it [the cream] penetrates through the skin and helps that way.”

and

“Horse milk contains many easy absorbable [sic] vitamins; it gives the skin resistance and increases the blood flow.”

An advertisement in the Warm Blood Breeder’s Digest (page 8/9) claims that the milk products “gives energy to cancer patients”  and that the skin cream and shampoo were used by people with  “eczema,  psoriasis, Crohn’s disease,  diarrhea, constipation,  fatigue,  kidney failure, cow’s milk allergy,  stomach problems, post-surgical recovery,  MS [multiple sclerosis], and rheumatoid arthritis.”  It also claims that prior to WWI,  mare’s milk “cured 25,000 people of tuberculosis.”  Infectious disease specialists should just quit using anti-microbials in their work and give their patients a bottle of mare’s milk……<<eyeroll>>  It really is an outrageous spin,  and shame on the Warm Blood Breeder’s Digest for perpetuating this.

Horse milk is occasionally proclaimed as a sort of beauty treatment, and something that Cleopatra apparently bathed in. But making the claim that a shampoo or skin cream of any type “penetrates the outer layer of the skin” or somehow alleviates any of the aforementioned conditions, is a hugely contentious issue. Once you start advertising that your product penetrates the skin and increases your circulation, you are referring to the actions of a drug, rather than a cream made with horse milk. If you have a product with the effect of a drug, then the FDA will be very interested in talking to you, so you had better be prepared to prove your claims and show that it has been tested for safety and efficacy. One thing I’ve observed about horse milk marketers elsewhere in the world is that they tend to behave like horse meat marketers – they make a lot of claims about the health benefits of their products that don’t necessarily stand up to scrutiny and are usually resistant to reason and contrary evidence. I’m sure that if some of these entrepreneurs could figure out a way to get milk from a California condor, they would surely do it in the name of profit.

 

I checked the Pubmed database to see what studies had been conducted on horse milk and mare’s milk, and found a total of 81 studies, most of which had no direct application to humans.   This is actually a pretty small number of studies,  most of which were done in Russia and the Middle East,  where drinking unpasteurized milk is more common.  This handful of studies typically report the results of using horse milk rather than using a blinded control. There are also a few small, poor quality studies suggesting a possible benefit in mare’s colostrum to improve wound healing and fermented mare’s milk to reduce the toxic effects of mercury (big question mark on that one!) Yet another study seems to show that children allergic to cows milk might be able to tolerate horse milk.  There was certainly nothing that suggested horse milk had therapeutic properties that could encourage uptake of vitamins through the skin, thus reducing symptoms or eliminating serious disease.  Therefore, based on the evidence at hand, horse milk “therapy” could probably be classed as experimental treatment at best. The existing studies might justify doing more (and better quality) research, but they don’t justify prescribing it to treat patients for disease. All in all, the research didn’t amount to much – sorry Cleopatra.

So it seems that science never bothered to test any of the above claims put forth by Spa Creek Ranch.  I gave the company the opportunity send me information regarding any longitudinal study that showed a correlation between horse milk and the successful treatment (or even the unsuccessful treatment) of any of the aforementioned medical conditions. I wrote very politely and nicely in a non-confrontational manner (quite unlike how I often write in this blog). Never heard from them.

So I then wrote to Advertising Standards Canada, a non-governmental body made up of advertisers, representatives from advertising agencies and the media, and consumers. It discourages false or misleading advertising through codes of conduct. I asked ASC to delve into the possibility of an inaccurate advertisement about benefits for people with cancer in particular. Furthermore, on Spa Creek Ranch’s online page for testimonials, it seemed like people were claiming that horse milk cream treated symptoms of menopause, re-grew hair, healed athlete’s foot, and functioned as an antibiotic. To be fair, the company didn’t state these things themselves, but they posted them on their website as a promotion – rather like asking a friend to stuff your Yelp reviews. Nevertheless, people considering buying this product would read this stuff and might be influenced by it, because, you know, the human power of belief is inexhaustible, particularly if you might be sick and looking for a cure.

So after the passage of a few months, ASC wrote back to say that:

“We have made repeated attempts to contact the advertiser to have them rectify the problematic claims with respect to the Mare’s Milk advertising. However, we have not yet received a response to our letters. As part of the drug complaint adjudication process, ASC is required to contact the advertiser to notify them of what needs to be removed or amended to bring the advertising into compliance. Given this, we will be forwarding this complaint to Health Canada for their adjudication.”  

demand-evidence-and-think-critically-It was shortly after this that ASC then advised me that Spa Creek Ranch was planning to withdraw the mare’s milk product and that their website would be revised to remove the related content and thus the file would be closed. In fairness, the company was not asked to stop selling their products entirely (although I’m glad they apparently did) but to modify their marketing efforts so that they were not making unsubstantiated claims about the properties of horse milk.

Some people may question, what is the harm in letting people use these products,  believing that they might have some tangible benefits?  These testimonials are really problematic because they suggest to the uninformed reader that horse milk has these magical properties.  This is not only true of mare’s milk but of any quackery or “woo” therapy.   In a not-so-ironic coincidence, the Chinese word “Wū” (巫) means a shaman, usually with magic powers. So it’s within the alt-med or “woo” community that horse milk purveyors have found their target market. Whenever alternative therapies are found to have efficacy,  they are adopted and become “mainstream.”  If they are tested and found not to have value,  they should be discarded.

Horse milking operations are also promoting and defending some of the same misdeeds associated with the traditional dairy industry, along with horse slaughter. It’s clear that in order to facilitate the production of milk, excess animals will be produced because post-natal hormones are needed to produce milk for offspring. In many ways, the horse milking industry resembles the PMU industry, because slaughter is not just for old, sick, or lame animals.

Horse milk products are far more popular in the EU than in Canada,  where this appears to be a small-scale farm operation.  God help horses and their foals – how many foals were born so that milk was available as an ingredient in shampoo or skin cream?   The website made no mention of what happened to them.

 

 

 

Godbout Express Access-To-Information Docs Reveal Horses In Transit 27+ Hours

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Justice

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The CFIA documents and slaughter records pertaining to the May 15th shipment of two tractor trailers of horses seen near Marysville, ON on a holiday weekend have now been received.  The enquiry was made to ascertain whether or not the horses would have been unloaded in a timely manner on a long holiday weekend in Canada. The paperwork reveals that, as expected,  Godbout Express was driving for Ohio Kill Buyer Fred Bauer and the 56 horses were shipped from Larue Ohio.  The horses were on the trailers for 27+ hours.  Please refer to the previous blog post and video.

Chronology and Summary

  • May 15th @ 5:00 AM  – horses loaded in Larue, Ohio
  • May 15th – border crossing to Canada at Sarnia, Ontario entry point
  • May 15th @7:00 PM – two trailers of horses documented by animal activist Rob Boisvert in Marysville, Ontario,  approximately 5 hours (with traffic) away from Richelieu slaughterhouse
  • May 16th – paperwork completed for Access-To-Information request and mailed to the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada*
  • May 16th @8:15 AM – horses were unloaded at Richelieu slaughterhouse in Massueville, QC on  – 27+ hours later (the regulation limit for transit time in Canada is 36 hours).
  • May 19th – as soon as the plant opened for operations on the Tuesday following the statutory holiday – Boom! – all 56 horses from the two trailer loads were fastracked to the express lane for slaughter
  • July 28th – ATI Request completed & returned to originator – USDA Form 10-13 lists horses as mostly quarter horses and standardbreds,  with the occasional appy or paint; no non-compliance orders indicated

*information was also requested as to the condition of the horses at the time of unloading, but this information was either withheld or simply not provided.

Although the manifests made note of several lip tattoos and brands, only a few were indicated and were sufficiently legible enough to trace.  Most horses with lip tattoos will be thoroughbreds and not standardbreds,  unless perhaps in their late 20s or 30s since the practice of lip-tattooing a standardbred has long been phased-out.  With a swipe of the pen,  no thoroughbreds are sent to slaughter!  Richelieu supposedly backed away from slaughtering thoroughbreds (at least on paper) as a result of the Cactus Cafe & Canuki fiasco with trainer Mark Wedig.  According to an email from Richelieu administrative technician Geneve Ethier,  the Canuki and Cactus Cafe case “did occur major problems to us and a lot of time, efforts, and money consuming. So to avoid that in the future, the plant advises all his suppliers to not BUY those thoroughbred[s] and overall not have them ship to us. . . . For us, thoroughbred[s] are definitely banned from our premises.”  The likelihood that this shipment of 56 horses, some with lip tattoos, contains no thoroughbreds, is quite improbable.  So of course, the paperwork is virtually without a doubt – not accurate,  or we dare say – FALSE.

In two conversations I had with CFIA veterinarians regarding this shipment, at no time did they tell me that veterinarians/inspectors at slaughterhouses worked any shift other than the standard top hat tip Debbyday shift.  According to a 2011 article in Better Farming,  “slaughter-bound shipments will be accepted only during the CFIA’s regular hours of operation…So miraculously perhaps,  an inspector was either working a Saturday as part of his/her normal job requirements (the day the horses were unloaded) or was called in especially to break the seal.  If the drivers make this trip twice a week (a statement made to Rob Boisvert when he quizzed them in Marysville) then it’s reasonable to assume that the horses are left overnight, packed together in stupefyingly hot July and August weather with no access to water, if the same driving schedule is followed.

Every attempt was made to determine the ID of the horses on these shipments. A few are questionable with more than one possibility due to the illegibility of the writing.  Judging by their ages, most of these STB mares could have been older broodmares whose services were no longer required.  The remaining 50 horses all had names at one time; to us they are unknown and untraceable, but not to be forgotten.

In Memoriam:

T4738 – STB Mare – “Gettinjiggywithit

5B159 – STB Gelding – “Snilloc Three

2B448 – STB Mare – “Spring Hill Mini

8A452? – STB Mare – “BC Firepan

L2415? – STB Mare – “Hawaiian Alumina” could alternatively be L2485? –  STB Mare – “Picupyosocs

6G525 – STB Mare – “Fast Bunny

 

The 9 Ethical Principles of the True Horseman

  1.  Anyone involved with a horse takes over responsibility for the living creature entrusted to him.
  2. The horse must be kept in a way that is in keeping with its natural living requirements.
  3. Highest priority must be accorded to the physical as well as psychological health of the horse, irrespective of the purpose for which it is used.
  4. Man must respect every horse alike, regardless of its breed, age and sex and its use for breeding, for recreation or in sporting competition.
  5. Knowledge of the history of the horse, its needs, and how to handle it are part of our historical-cultural heritage.  This information must be cherished and safeguarded in order to be passed on to the next generation.
  6. Contact and dealings with horses are character-building experiences and of valuable significance to the development of the human being – in particular, the young person.  This aspect must always be respected and promoted.
  7. The human who participates in equestrian sport with his horse must subject himself, as well his horse, to training.  The goal of any training is to bring about the best possible harmony between rider and horse.
  8. The use of the horse in competition as well as in general riding, driving and vaulting must be geared toward the horse’s ability, temperament and willingness to perform.  Manipulating a horses’ capacity to work by means of medication or other “horse-unfriendly” influences should be rejected by all and people engaged in such practices should be prosecuted.
  9. The responsibility a human has for the horse entrusted to him includes the end of the horse’s life.  The human must always assume this responsibility and implement any decisions in the best interest of the horse.

from “Tug of War” by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, dressage rider and veterinarian

 

 ATI Documentation

The Ted Offensive

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Cat Scratch Crazy - AKA Toxoplasmosis causes disorganized electrical activity that interrupt the normal functioning of the brain, often leading to uncontrolled movements in the body and sometimes a temporary change in consciousness.  S'plains a lot...

Cat Scratch Crazy – AKA Toxoplasmosis, causes disorganized electrical activity that interrupts the normal functioning of the brain, often leading to uncontrolled movements in the body and sometimes a temporary change in consciousness. S’plains a lot…

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Whenever some hunting or animal killing scandal erupts on the internet, I hustle over to Ted Nugent’s Facebook page to troll the gibberish-spewing bigots that float to the surface. Like a perpetual motion machine, the barbarism on his page never stops either.

Ted is now weighing-in on the issue of Cecil the Zimbabwean lion who was illegally killed by Dr. Walter Palmer DDS, in Hwange National Park after being tracked, in a wounded state, for 40 hours,  after which time he was skinned and decapitated. Killing Cecil was illegal,  according to a statement from the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association, because the farm owner evidently didn’t have a hunting permit and he was deliberately lured from the Park. So Palmer could face poaching charges, and it’s not the first time he’s been in legal trouble as a result of his hunting practices.  Both Nugent and Palmer have a history of profane attacks on women too,  with Palmer agreeing to pay a settlement to a female employee of $127,500 for sexual harassment.

Cecil the lion had been part of an Oxford University study, and his tracking collar was found to have been discarded by the poachers. The university study was looking into the impact of sports hunting on lions living in the safari area surrounding the national park. The research found that “34 of 62 tagged lions died during the study period. 24 were shot by sport hunters. Sport hunters in the safari areas surrounding the park killed 72% of tagged adult males from the study area.” Of course, Ted claims that Palmer is innocent of all charges, and that if hunters didn’t hunt animals, humans would run out of space in which to live. He actually wrote that.

Ted Nugent,  trophy hunter, racist moron,  low IQ buffoon,  shares a lot in common with Dr. Kristen Lindsey.

Ted Nugent, trophy hunter, racist moron, low IQ buffoon, shares a lot in common with cat-killer Dr. Kristen Lindsay.

Trophy hunters do not care about conservation – the only thing they care about is killing the biggest and the best, and bringing home full trophy mounts or body parts, usually back to the United States. Trophy hunting excursions need to be made illegal, IMO, and airlines that do not already decline to ship animal trophies need to be persuaded to stop. If this could be achieved, it would do much to curtail this type of “tourism.”

By the same token, I wish somehow it were possible to keep Ted Nugent and his loincloth in Michigan, even though this would mean throwing more Michigan animals under the bus. I keep hoping that someday he’ll be charged with a criminal offence and become inadmissible to Canada. We block the Westboro Baptist Church from coming to Canada, so why not Nugent? He’s the host of his own animal-death-porn telecast for the Outdoor Channel, and a right-wing hater cruel enough to have his hunting licenses rescinded temporarily in some states. Described by other hunters as “unethical,” and willing to shoot at anything, Ted Nugent’s hunting business, Sunrize Safaris, has been bringing its own brand of cruelty to Canada for decades. Nuge recently shared a photo of himself after he went full berserker on a bear reportedly killed with the help of Lawrence Dyer & Sons Outfitters, a Canada-based hunting business mired in legal trouble over poaching and animal part possession charges. Operators Daniel, Christopher and Kimberly Dyer have been charged with more than 60 counts of illegal hunting and possession of illegal animal parts, including baculum, part of a bear’s penis.

America’s delusional tantrum-throwing adult toddler Ted Nugent will go to his grave babbling about his fetishistic obsession with killing animals just to watch them die.  Yeah,  he hates mustangs too.

America’s delusional tantrum-throwing adult toddler Ted Nugent will go to his grave babbling about his  obsession with killing animals just to watch them die. Yeah, he hates wild horses too.

Although Nugent is not named among the accused in this case, he’s still no stranger to charges of unethical behaviour stemming from his bloody pastime. On a game farm in South Africa, Nugent displayed his unique version of “sportsmanship” when he wounded a rhino. “Humane hunter” that he is, he refused to let game rangers finish what he’d started because he claimed the rhino was “his” to kill. The rhino escaped, presumably mortally wounded, to die a lingering death elsewhere.

In a separate incident, the ever-KKKlassy Nugent, whose career as a “musician” has essentially been over for decades, was banned from hunting in Alaska for a year, served probation, paid a $10,000

Nugent has no respect for Canadian law - Conservatives are welcome to keep their D-list celeb and his loincloth in Michigan.

Nugent has no respect for Canadian law – Conservatives are welcome to keep their D-list celeb and NRA spokes-whore in Michigan.

fine, and recorded a public service announcement as part of a deal to plead guilty to transporting an illegally killed black bear. In 2012, someone watching his hunting show “Spirit of the Wild” realized that the utterly dumb and offensive Nugent had committed a crime when a “crazy law” didn’t let him go on to kill a second bear after the first one escaped, wounded.  The plea deal certainly didn’t slow him down, since he continued advertising bear hunting tours in Canada.

In yet another incident, the Outdoor Channel filmed him killing a buck too young to be legally hunted. The episode aired in February 2010 on the same television show. California Officials investigated this incident and found that the immature deer had been baited, which is illegal in California. Nugent was brought up on charges of illegally baiting a deer and failing to have a deer tag, to which he pleaded no contest. He was fined $1,750. Sadface.

Hopefully he will blow out a knee kicking himself in the ass over these violations being shown on television, but I doubt it. And these fines mean nothing to him financially. But maybe Ted Nugent and LD&S Outfitters (who have their hearing next month) are the reason that the Department of Natural Resources has had to take responsibility for so many bear cubs being orphaned in New Brunswick? Could there really be many other explanations other

Direct quote from the washed-up rocker and unabashed animal killer  - "Anybody that wants to get in our (hunters') way does not deserve anything less than a bullet between the eyes."

Direct quote from the washed-up rocker and unabashed animal killer – “Anybody that wants to get in our (hunters’) way does not deserve anything less than a bullet between the eyes.”

than hunting? Similarly, the degenerate dentist’s killing of Cecil will ultimately mean that the lion that takes Cecil’s place in his pride will almost certainly kill his cubs, exponentially increasing the death toll for the trophy hunt.

After the internet is done being mean to Dr. Decapitator, all that may be left for him in the field of cosmetic dentistry is straightening Ted Nugent’s crooked chiclet veneers. You might wonder why if he loves hunting, the piss-and-shit-in-his-pants draft dodger Nugent didn’t want to go to war and shoot people. Unlike the defenseless animals this asshat plucks off from the safety of a tree blind after luring them with stale donuts, the enemy soldiers would shoot him back.

Delta Airlines is the only major U.S. carrier with direct service to South Africa who has not indicated whether they will refuse to ship hunting trophies. Please sign the petition to ask them to stop accepting trophies, even if they are accompanied by valid permits. Please also contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and tell them to ban importation of animal parts from trophy hunts.

Apologies to my American friends,  but you are almost entirely responsible for the social media popularity of the overzealous kook known as Ted Nugent.

Apologies to my American friends, but you are almost entirely responsible for the social media popularity of the overzealous kook known as Ted Nugent.

 

Unlost and Found: Animal Activist’s Stolen Camera Returned After Meandering Journey

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Twyla Francois - Animal ProtectorWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Art by: Twyla Francois Art

An animal advocate’s camera is a priceless tool that often endures many indignities while capturing the inhumanity of a food animal’s arduous trip to the slaughterhouse. Anita Krajnc’s pro-level Canon cameras, used for Toronto Pig Save vigils and other events, have been inadvertently drowned in fair-trade vegan hot chocolate, and brusquely dropped into mud. But the last Canon camera owned by Anita was surely thought to be irretrievably lost when it was stolen along with her purse in broad daylight in December 2014 in Toronto.

At this point, several kind people came forward to purchase a replacement camera for Anita, who moved on from the experience and perhaps did not realize that a trail of breadcrumbs had been left that enabled the camera to find its way back to her more than six months later….

When the camera had previously fallen in the mud, it was taken to Canon for repairs, so they of course recorded the serial number along with Anita’s contact info. Sometime after the camera was stolen in Toronto, it was purchased by the good Samaritan in our story, who happened to live in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia – about 2,000 kilometres away. The woman who purchased the camera for only $100 thought that she was buying a point-and-shoot camera, but in another fortuitous event, her photographer friend let her know that it was actually a professional camera with a great prime lens. Suspecting that the camera was stolen, Doreen – the good Samaritan, contacted Canon, who of course had the serial number on-hand and in turn contacted the last registered owner – Anita. Doreen ultimately turned the camera in to the Eskasoni RCMP office, who looked up the police report and returned it in the mail to Anita, who must surely have been thunderstruck at the chain of events!Twyla Francois - Direct Action

Through the police, Anita was able to connect with Doreen to send her a Vegan gift basket. The recovered camera is now available for others to use for animal rights photography.

There are many heroes and heroines in this story. For her honesty, Doreen was sent $125 to cover the cost of the camera and additional amount as a “Thank You” for knowing in her heart that something was wrong with the purchase of such a high-end camera at such a cheap price. She really did something exceptional by returning the stolen camera, believing that she would never recover her $100, by empathizing with someone she had never met.  And the karma train took a bit more than six months,  but Anita Krajnc was ultimately repaid for her acts of kindness towards animals….

An Evening Of Classical Portuguese Equestrianism – With No Bull…

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Portuguese riders copy

Writing,  art, and photography by:  Heather Clemenceau

Despite opposition, the annual Bull-on-a-Rope Rodeo at the Oriental Sports Club in Cambridge, Ontario went ahead as planned on July 18th.  This is the event where the bull is tied to a hundred metre-long rope while challengers wave capes and umbrellas at the agitated animal, trying to escape without getting gored. Of course bulls are not easily intimidated by flimsy umbrellas and will not run away, but instead will defend themselves and charge their tormenters.  And both the bull and the guys on the rope know, the rope around the bull’s neck is more of a nuisance than anything else.  Professional matadors still get gored, so why does the bull-on-a-rope event seem like a good idea to anyone?

The good news is that attendance is down by about 2/3 rds over the heyday of Portuguese bull-themed events in the 90s. I guess the bad news is that while we might hope that people were finally losing touch with their inner matador, there are two more bull teasing events being held at this club later in the summer despite more opposition from Town Council members, protesters and the general public.

If you check the Oriental Club’s Facebook page you’ll see that a local resident who lives on the same street has left a review claiming that the noise level at this event has become unbearable. She accuses the club of blaring music from 9am to 2am, setting off firecrackers and various other noisemakers, and remarks on the intoxication of the attendees. Apparently, people living on Shellard Rd.will have to suffer two more weekends subjected to the sounds of a shooting range in their backyard along with an accompanying soundtrack by Seether (my guess is that they’re not into soft rock) blasting them at 100 decibels.

I also left a review, and someone, who appears to be associated with the club, left me a polite response that included a generic invitation to attend the event and make up my mind for myself. He cited the Cambridge Humane Society, who have rubber-stamped this event, as the quintessential authority on animal abuse. But I ruled it out, this time at least, because I’m not keen on going alone to any event two hours away from home on private property where drunkenness is apparently the rule rather than the exception. Even if it’s for charity.

There was another Portuguese-themed event being held in the equestrian town of Caledon the same evening, which was advertised as featuring a “mock bull-fight” with Lusitano horses. My interest was piqued – I wondered what a mock bull-fight could be, especially in close proximity to Lusitano horses? I knew that traditionally, the Portuguese bullfight took place while mounted on a pure bred Lusitano stallion.

Grelo Farms was the first Lusitano breeding facility in Canada and is currently home to over 30 horses, many owned by the students of Riding Master Frank Grelo’s school for the Portuguese tradition of Haute École. It was out of war exercises that these intricate movements and maneuvers eventually influenced the creation of the modern Spanish Riding School of Vienna and the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art.

Since the establishment of his riding school in 1978, Frank Grelo has devoted himself to breeding and training of the Lusitano horse while teaching the art of classical riding to his students. On this evening, Frank, his daughters, and his students, who rode stallions and mares together in the arena, put on an engaging show featuring both Lusitano stallions and their own horses – Lusitanos, Arabs, cross-breds, and other breeds. In addition to the presentation of baroque riding style and “airs above the ground,” the participants showcased collected movements like the passage, piaffe, travers, renvers, half-pass, pirouette, the spanish walk and the levade – where a horse is asked to hold a position about 30 degrees from the ground while standing. The show, part of the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Equestrian Games, also featured demonstrations of vaulting, Portuguese-styled gamesmanship, and riding while blindfolded, in both traditional and military costumes. The entire group demonstrated the classic Portuguese quadrille, all set to classical music. Frank and a student, riding a beautiful Lusitano/draft-cross mare, demonstrated a typical lesson format as well.

Real men do not taunt or hurt animals, and there are other ways of honouring one’s culture. In my opinion, a far more appropriate (and safer) event for charity, and one that offends no one, is the gala featuring baroque riding style rather than one featuring a testosterone-fuelled suicide-squad yanking a frustrated animal around on a rope.

Oh and the “mock bullfight?” The event was completely sans-bovine – the “bull” was a stuffed head with horns attached to a unicycle-like prop that an assistant pushed around the arena while Frank and a student rode their stallions.  The “bull” never makes contact with the horse at all.  The horses are not afraid of the prop either – they don’t shy away because they’ve seen it many times before.  Their practiced maneuvers around the bull-on-a-wheel were fluid, graceful, cadenced and……. cruelty-free.

 

Dairy Farms: Weaning Ourselves Off The Fairy-Tale

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Writing and Photography by:  Heather Clemenceau

Art by:  Twyla Francois Art

Twyla Francois Simon2015 is the 50th anniversary of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, and in June, 14 dairy farms opened their doors to the non-farming public. An Open House was held on June 27, 2015 at the Milky Wave dairy farm in the pastoral Mennonite community of Floradale, Ontario. Today there are hundreds of visitors, including many Mennonite families, sampling chocolate milk and ice cream.

This barn is probably one of the “jewels in the crown” of the DFO, who are the marketing representation for Ontario’s approximately 3,900 dairies. Designed to promote the excellence of milk and the humanity of it all, these tours seem like something of a fairy tale relative to the harsh reality documented during investigations by Mercy for Animals and other groups. Today’s visit is a good example of the dairy industry regrouping and rebranding for its very survival.

Most fairy tales began a long time ago and didn’t really begin with the kingdom the public sees on this visit. This 750 acre facility produces, aside from milk, mostly hay, soy, wheat and corn as feedstuffs for the cows. The Schuurmans family recently purchased this farm, after Henk Schuurmans functioned as the herd manager on the 210-cow dairy operation for 25 years (there are another 200+ cows/heifers/calves of various ages living on the farm). Prior to its expansion, the farm operated with 65 cows in a tie-stall barn.  Schuurmans also helped manage reconstruction after a devastating fire destroyed the barn (and presumably the cows) in 1997.

Brambell’s Five Freedoms

  1. Freedom from discomfort
  2. Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
  3. Freedom to express (most) normal behaviours
  4. Freedom from fear and distress
  5. Freedom from hunger or thirst

Farming practices in Canada have changed dramatically over the last 50 years. No longer do most cows live outside for even part of their day, as in those old dutch paintings of farms in the 1800s. The number of small family farms has significantly declined, and larger intensive farms have become the norm. Milky Wave is considered to be a “small” operation and it certainly is relative to larger farms such as Chilliwack Cattle Sales, the subject of a Mercy For Animals investigation. Despite the size of this farm, the cows do not have any access to pasture and they live Twyla Francois Cow Shadowtheir entire lives in various barns on the property according to their size, maturity, and reproduction/lactation status. Despite the scale, Milky Wave still fits the definition of a factory farm – utilizing modern machinery, biotechnology, automation, and standardization, all very efficiently. It operates with a minimum of staff and a minimum of interaction with the cows. New housing systems have resulted new animal welfare challenges, including lack of access to pasture, confinement, crowding, and the behavioural issues that result.

Every aspect of the operation seen here on this day appears to be consistent with current Codes of Practice for dairy cows (recommended,  but not obligatory in Ontario). Facilities like Milky Wave, which have increased mechanization and confinement in order to reduce labour costs, have addressed some animal health issues, while creating other new health and behavioural issues.

General commentary on the farm and its operations (via direct observation and confirmation from volunteers):

  • Milky Wave farm is a closed system – all cows are born on the farm
  • There are no bulls on this farm – AI is the only method used to make more cows as it poses less risk to employees who are not used to handling bulls.
  • The cows can move about the barns, moving from eating areas to raised platforms where they can doze or sleep, but density is fairly high
  • One humane improvement is that tails are not docked
  • All cows and calves are “head shy” – they move away when people approach
  • No sores visible on the cows – hocks seemed to be free of scrapes, which are a common source of infection in cattle
  • The production cows wear pedometers on their rear legs below the hocks, which record their movements, activity levels, production of milk, treatments and whether they are in heat according to algorithms in the software. Cows who are not ambulatory relative to the baselines/medians in the software are checked to make sure they are not ill.
  • Antibiotics are not used as preventatives, but only in cases of actual bacterial infection – this is course is due to the monitoring of drug withdrawal times and a cow on antibiotics is a cow whose milk will be destroyed for a predetermined period of time after treatment.
  • Young calves did not socially interact – their group housing barn was quite dark – they lie on their “mattresses” and don’t move about while I am there watching. They don’t seem to have any enrichment at all and aren’t interested in their surroundings. Their lives appear to be devoid of stimulation.
  • Only form of enrichment appeared to be the cow-activated body brushes which the cows often line up to use.
  • All cows appeared to have a body condition score of 2-3 based on the appearance of fat around the “hooks and pins” of their hip bones. This is considered to be a healthy weight for dairy cows.
  • Painful procedures are still a cause of concern for the welfare of dairy cattle. All heifers are de-horned at a young age in order to prevent injury to each other or to people later in life. Using a procedure called “disbudding,” the small emerging horn is usually prevented from growing by burning the tissue with a hot iron or a caustic chemical paste.
  • The public is not allowed into the milking parlour for hygienic reasons, and the presence of many strange people milling about is considered to be a stressor for cows.
  • The barn has concrete floors, which can cause lameness in cows over time
  • In Canada all dairy animals (alive or dead) are identified by the National Livestock Identification for Dairy (NLID) ear tags are required by Canadian law. Branding is not commonly practiced in the dairy industry.
  • Large fans keep air circulating in the two larger, high-ceilinged barns. The barns seem to be free of flying pests.
  • At the end of their production lives, the cows are picked up and sent directly to slaughter, after living only a fraction of their lifespan.
  • The youngest calves are housed in hutches in a separate barn – there are less than 10 tiny calves here today. The volunteers explain to the visitors that they must be removed from their mothers within 48 hours otherwise “the mother and baby will bond,” as if this is something that should be avoided at all costs. But the dairy industry has no use for a being who intends to drink the milk that they intend to use for profit.
  • The feed barn is set up to show visitors the various foodstuffs that go into feeding all the cows. Along with hay, corn silage, ground corn, extruded/pelleted feeds and mineral supplements, the feed is supplemented with powdered palm oil, which of course comes with its own separate issues with respect to habitat destruction. The calves are of course fed a milk substitute.
  • A mechanized system removes manure from most barns – like a giant windshield wiper, it channels manure and urine into a crevice in the floor, which is removed out to the manure holding tank via a system of conveyors. The floor is mostly free of manure – the slurry tank outside for storage is massive.

 

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The Canadian Federal and Provincial Governments have ensured that milk remains institutionalized in the Canadian diet by introducing a wide range of programs of grants, loans and other funding options for Canadian Farmers and Agri-Business. Through this system of grants, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs offers millions to dairy and other agricultural producers, including the Canadian Dairy Commission’s Matching Investment Fund (MIF), which is a three-year, $6 million fund designed to encourage growth and innovation in the manufacture and use of Canadian dairy products and ingredients. In the last three years alone, the dairy/cattle industry has benefited from numerous grant programs that we all pay for, whether there is reasonable humane treatment of cows or not:

 

Twyla Francois Handle With CareOne doesn’t need to be operating on a “vegan agenda” to object to the government funding an industry in the name of public health though, especially when the health benefits of dairy products are debateable. It’s also infuriating to imagine that an industry such as Chilliwack Cattle Sales near Vancouver, which milks an astonishing 3,500 cows at its main premises, might directly or indirectly benefit from a grant to improve its image as the most notorious dairy farm in Canada.  All the milk moustaches in advertising history couldn’t compensate for the torture of helpless Holsteins by unskilled, teenaged workers who ran wild in CCS. Open houses such as those at Milky Wave and a few other farms aren’t the only way the livestock industry struggles to improve its image – Alberta Farm Animal Care committed $178,500 to help the industry overcome the “negative, inaccurate and falsified blows to animal agriculture.” The best way to prevent horrific truths from being seen by the public is to take steps to make sure that they don’t happen in the first place…

Milk has become knit into our dietary culture, particularly at breakfast, where we stubbornly adhere to the decades-old Twyla Francois Crushing Compassiontradition of drenching cereal in milk. Whether you believe that dairy is healthy or not, we have bought into false notions that milk is deserving of its own food group, overlooking its sugar (lactose), calories and cholesterol. And the fact that dairy has its own food group with milk having special status as a calcium source makes as much sense as sunflower seeds being a food group because they’re high in magnesium.

Despite some improvements in animal welfare, there remain many problems with dairy both from a nutritional standpoint and from an animal rights standpoint. Regardless of whether or not casein is carcinogenic or whether 60 year-olds with fragile bones can benefit by drinking milk, is it not time that adults weaned themselves off the fairytale version of farming and began to judge it by the standards by which we judge other industries?

“Me And My Fake Service Dog…..”

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Is there anyone who doesn't suffer from some kind of stress or anxiety? But that doesn’t mean we should feel entitled about taking our dog, snake, or llama to places where only service animals should go.

Is there anyone alive who doesn’t suffer from some kind of stress or anxiety? But that doesn’t mean we should feel entitled about taking our dog, snake, or llama to places where only service animals should go.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

…..was the title of a recent (but hastily deleted) article by New York City dog trainer Anna Jane Grossman. With equal parts delusion, narcissism, and fakery, Ms. Grossman set about describing the deceptive tactics she uses to take her Yorkipoo Amos, who is certainly cute but is not a service dog, to places generally accessible only by service animals.

Grossman, whose food of life appears to be attention, suggests that her motivation lies in requests by her clients at the “School For The Dogs,” who asked how they could bring their dogs to visit in hospitals, or restaurants, and travel on planes. She asserts that this might be the beginning of a movement to “stop segregating dogs based on their owner’s disabilities, and instead look at the dog’s abilities.”

Ms. Grossman also acknowledged having a friend create a fake service dog ID, and she went on to use that fake ID when questioned by shop owners about Amos’ status as a service dog. In a dispute with a tax driver, Grossman was further emboldened by the fact that she was able to get the police to side with her.  (I hope she thinks long and hard about the fact that she called the police out on a frivolous complaint against an innocent person in order to perpetuate her falsity).

“It’s a good thing the cop knew that the Americans With Disabilities Act precluded him from asking what my disability was. That’s because I don’t have one.”

 

 

Boom! But the karma train pulled rather quickly into the station, and there was an astounding backlash against Grossman for her deception. In a move that was the opposite of shocking, she issued a stirring non-apology and quickly deleted the post from Medium.com. For a few days the Google cache remained available, and then it too was gone. However, an astute individual made a YouTube video of the post.

The US Department of Justice to crack down on the sale of fake service dog products.  If the fake service dog scam continues to escalate, real service dogs, and the privileges and respect they are entitled to, will be in jeopardy.

There needs to be a crack down on the sale of fake service dog products. If the fake service dog scam continues to escalate, real service dogs, and the privileges and respect they are entitled to, will be in jeopardy.

Grossman certainly isn’t the only unrepentant person to have created an online shit-storm by confessing to using a pretend service animal. Outrage followed the story of New Yorkers Brett David and Kate Vlasovskaya, who were featured in the New York Post. Both David and Vlasovskaya boasted about using fake ID cards and service vests to gain admittance into movie theaters, restaurants, nightclubs, Whole Foods, Starbucks, etc. They merely explained it away as something that’s “becoming more popular now.”

I know that some people reading this are wondering aloud now, what can be wrong with this “crime?” Where do we actually draw the line of pushing our dogs into no-access spaces? After all, most people doing this sort of thing just want to spend more time with their dogs, or they want to avoid having to check them as “baggage” on a plane (an issue I can definitely relate to, knowing that pets kept in the hold of a plane have gone long periods without water, gotten lost, arrived dead, or escaped on the runway). While the sentiment to allow our dogs in more public spaces is not unreasonable, the method Grossman and others have used is ethically challenged. I also believe that there’s something profoundly disturbing about professionals who counsel their clients to become practiced liars at the expense of others.

Fake service dogs set up the real ones for failure, because people then assume all dogs will act up.  When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

Fake service dogs set up the real ones for failure, because people then assume all dogs will act up. When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

An increasing number of fakers have embraced the bogus service dog movement, which essentially requires one to pretend to have a disability. People with no disabilities or serious psychiatric disorders are buying fake service or therapy dog tags and vests online. While all dogs provide emotional support to us in one way or another, the designation of emotional support dog is only applicable to animals who have been “prescribed” by a licensed mental health professional. If you have the money, it’s not difficult to obtain a letter from an online mental health professional stating that one needs their pet as an “emotional support animal,” even though the professional has never treated the “patient” personally. Airlines such as Air Canada have taken to discouraging such one-time diagnoses, by requiring the person with the ESA to present a letter dated within the last six months, from a mental health practitioner who is currently treating the patient, and who has diagnosed them with a condition present in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association) and restricting access to dogs only.

Not only is it bad form to use a fake assistance animal, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s a federal crime to take advantage of privileges reserved for those who genuinely need the assistance of such animals. In the United States, the ADA defines a person with a disability as “…a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on that person’s association with a person with a disability.”

Please don’t participate in service dog fakery.  There are too many ethical ramifications for this behaviour. Service dogs have no price tag.

Please don’t participate in service dog fakery. There are too many ethical ramifications for this behaviour. Service dogs have no price tag.

 

In Canada, the Human Rights Code of Ontario (where I live) defines a disability as “…any degree of physical disability, infirmity,malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device.”

The reality is that the entire service animal community suffers as this trend increases, because business owners, gatekeepers, and the general public are growing increasingly skeptical of assistance animals, and are likely to hold human/animal teams to a lower standard of behaviour if they simply act like any other pet. The act of misrepresenting a pet as a service animal is one of the primary factors that are responsible for the prevalence of access challenges to the disabled. Those with service dogs should never be put in the position of arguing with a gatekeeper in order to gain access to buildings and services.

Advocates of both pets and the disabled are divided as to how to police those who abuse service animal privileges, and some are calling for government to better regulate and enforce service animal rules around the country. Groups and individuals who train service or therapy animals do not want their efforts to be meaningless, nor do they need the general public to make assumptions that helper animals are poorly behaved. There seems to be a general consensus that certified animals should be required to be trained by an accredited facility. Or, at the very least, what is needed is a single-source visible identification for service/therapy animals, which is clear to business owners, transit staff, and landlords that the animal is actually certified (along with serious penalties for those who ignore the absolute rights of the disabled).

An emotional-support card merely means that one’s pet is registered in a database of animals whose owners have paid money to one of several organizations,  which in all probability aren't recognized anywhere.  If you want to turn your pet into a certified E.S.A., all you need is a therapist type who will vouch for your mental un-health. Don’t have one? Enter “emotional-support animal” into Google and take your pick among hundreds of willing professionals.

If you want to turn your pet into a certified E.S.A., all you need is a therapist type who will vouch for your mental un-health. Don’t have one? Enter “emotional-support animal” into Google and take your pick among hundreds of willing “professionals.”

Guide and service dogs are lifelines for their owners – in order to have a bona-fide service dog, one must be disabled within the definition of the law. Service dogs are not pets. They:

  • Are individually trained to perform work for a disabled person, and their skill relates directly to the nature of the individual’s disability
  • May alert people who are deaf, having a seizure, reminding people to take medications, calming people with PTSD or anxiety attacks, or other duties.
  • Receive many hours of socialization and temperament testing.
  • Are assessed for 18 to 24 months to see if they have the right temperament and abilities to be placed with a person in need.
  • Are typically breeds that are naturally well-mannered and even-tempered. Breeds classified as livestock guardians or fighting dogs can have aggression-related breed traits that can be problematic
  • Receive learning appropriate behaviour in a wide variety of public environments.
  • Are usually raised for the role of a service dog since puppyhood.

    Carry a baby down the aisle of an airplane and passengers look at you as if you were toting a machine gun. Imagine, then, what it’s like travelling with a pig.  A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. The individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.  But this poor pig was not ready for air travel,  since he/she pooped in the aisle and he and his owner were removed from the plane.   Animals get stressed in strange situations too.  If you can’t go on a plane without an emotional support animal,  think how the animal probably feels.

    A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the animal is not housebroken. The individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls. But this poor pig was not ready for air travel, since he/she pooped in the aisle and he and his owner were removed from the plane.
    Animals get stressed in strange situations too. If you can’t go on a plane without an emotional support animal, think how the animal probably feels.

The worst case scenario of an access challenge, despite its illegality, is one that is not resolved quickly and to the benefit of the disabled person. The Walt Disney Company felt compelled to change its disabled guest policy at theme parks in 2013 partly due to “abuse of the system.” The announcement came after reports surfaced that wealthy guests were paying wheelchair-riding tour guides top dollar so that the group could use the line-skipping privileges granted to the disabled at Disney theme parks. The Toronto Star recently reported on a shocking situation where two blind women were utterly humiliated and threatened with handcuffing by the police when they declined to muzzle their guide dogs on a Jet Airways flight out of Toronto.

We live in a generation of  scammers who flash fake I.D.s, able-bodied adults who use handicapped placards on their vehicles, and grocery customers who try to slip too many items into the express lane. Running fake service dog ID websites might also classify you as a grifter.  Certifications have become less meaningful too – even the Long Island Medium, who pretends to talk to dead people, has been a “certified” medium for over 10 years!  Proof that you can certify anything…..

While more understanding of accessibility legislation overall is needed,  we still must have integrity in the system and make an effort to ensure the right accesses for individuals with their certified dogs, while safeguarding the public with high training standards.

Canine Companions for Independence has introduced a pledge to protect the rights of people who legitimately need service dogs – please consider signing!

 

Dogs really are the best, but with that said, my dog could never pass as any sort of service animal, not even if I bribed her with a Costco-sized bag of Beggin’ Strips.  She’s mostly blind and afflicted with kidney disease, so she really needs her own guide dog.  But if I have about $35 for a card and another $55 for a photo ID (meaningless vest from $48) I can have a service dog.

Dogs really are the best, but with that said, my dog could never pass as any sort of service animal, not even if I bribed her with a Costco-sized bag of Beggin’ Strips. She’s mostly blind, completely toothless,  hard-of-smelling,  sleeps 20 hours a day, and is afflicted with kidney disease and therefore on meds, so she really needs her own guide dog. But if I have about $35 for a card and another $55 for a photo ID (meaningless vest from $48) I too can have a service dog.