Viandes Richelieu – Lost in Translation (Again)

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

It can be a daunting challenge for consumers to separate true advertising claims from false ones. This is especially true with industries that slaughter animals – in the interest of public image, they are anxious to avoid any terminology that suggests that animals in the food chain die horrible deaths. The term “processing” is now to be used instead of “slaughter,” because of the latter term’s association with mass murder.  And while the CFIA heavy-handedly enforces decades old product descriptions that don’t take into consideration the proliferation of newly available plant-based foods, no one is minding the store at the Viandes Richelieu website, where the company makes claims, without evidence, that horsemeat is “good for pregnant women and anemics” and is advisable for individuals with “an increased risk of infections.”  It looks like VR’s marketing department could use a good proofreader, or as they say in French, un bon relecteur.  So what’s going on here?  Is this a faux pas, or a jeu de mots gone wrong?

These types of random statements are pretty risky claims for a slaughterhouse to make.  Health Canada has some pretty onerous “Guiding Principles” for product labels and advertising about food characteristics and related health benefits – obviously, because these types of claims influence people’s buying habits.  And Health Canada’s standards of evidence are generally consistent with those of other scientific and regulatory authorities, including the European Food Safety Authority.

Consider that “a health claim is a statement or representation that states, suggests or implies that a relation exists between a food or component of that food and health” in Health Canada’s guidance documents on nutrition. These types of claims (about infection and health in pregnancy) fall under “Disease risk reduction claims” and “function claims.” When someone advertises a claim about their product’s ability to treat a health condition, mitigate a disease, or about restoring, correcting or modifying body functions – they must be prepared to back it up.  Ideally, the company is supposed to submit these claims to Health Canada so they can be reviewed BEFORE publishing them anywhere. Neither can a company typically make non-specific or general claims (for example, “horsemeat is beneficial to health” or “horsemeat supports immune health”) since these are subject to multiple interpretations and are potentially misleading.

Making health claims are totally optional for a food product. But if and when a claim is made, it must be truthful and not misleading, according to Subsection 5(1) of the Food and Drugs Act. This means that producers must have scientific evidence to substantiate a food health claim prior to its use. Subsection 3(1) of the FDA goes on to state that no person shall advertise any food, drug, cosmetic or device to the general public as a treatment, preventative or cure for any of the diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states referred to in Schedule A.

There are some great precedents whereby manufacturers have been slapped down for making dubious or unsupported claims in the past. One of the most famous examples occurred when, in 2011,  the Kellogg Co. paid $5 million back to consumers for making the common claim that its Rice and Cocoa Krispies can help a child’s immune system, shortly after a similar settlement concerning its Frosted Mini-Wheats.

The marketing folks at Viandes Richelieu must be under terrible pressure – they blame activists for the unpopularity of their product in an article published in the French language Journal de Montréal.

“There is no restaurant that wants to use it because of the threats. We, too, have it continuously. Our equipment must be monitored 24 hours a day,” declared spokesperson Marc Bouvry in a translated statement about the Bouvry operations in Alberta (VR is also part of the Bouvry horse slaughter empire).  Hey Marc, maybe this industry isn’t worth it – at least, that’s the consensus of about 69% of Canadians.  Time to find more socially acceptable work. So that’s why I’ll be writing to Health Canada, to ask them to make a determination about the appropriateness of these claims made by Viandes Richelieu. Not too long after sending a letter to Advertising Standards Canada about statements made on Richelieu’s website in 2011,  I received a response from ASC indicating that the company had revamped their website to remove the misleading claims.

 

I didn’t realize that you could request a purebred horse steak (or an “old half-bred” for that matter either).

 

 

 

Slaughter of Pregnant Mares – An Inconvenient Truth

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This Temple Grandin quote hangs in a slaughterhouse to remind workers to be “respectful.” Source – Modern Farmer https://modernfarmer.com/2013/04/this-is-what-humane-slaughter-looks-like-is-it-good-enough/

 

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau (with files from the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)

Dear friends,

Many people are shocked to find out that pregnant animals are routinely slaughtered.  According to the European Food Safety Authority, “on average 3% of dairy cows, 1.5 % of beef cattle, 0.5% of pigs, 0.8% sheep and 0.2% of goats in the EU are slaughtered during the last third of gestation. Reasons may vary – from farmers not being aware that animals are pregnant, to considerations linked to animal health and welfare or economic reasons.”  Horse advocates may be shocked to discover that this also occurs with slaughterbound horses, and there’s really no good explanation for the “why” here, when horses are slaughtered in the last few weeks or days of gestation. Indeed, probably many horse people are convinced that kill buyers and slaughterhouses as a rule, allow mares to “foal-out” on idyllic pastures worthy of a John Constable painting.

The Health of Animals Act (138 (2)(c)) stipulates that any animal that is likely to give birth during the trip is considered to be “unfit.” While the CFIA veterinarians are responsible for ensuring that transport is compliant, there are not enough of them and it’s highly questionable whether the organization has the will or fortitude to fine or penalize shippers.  We already know that they don’t enforce their own regulations and any existing regulations we have in Canada do not reflect the current science regarding care and handling.

Slaughterhouses are profiting off the suffering of horses, and in particular, pregnant mares and their foals, which are often only discovered upon evisceration of the mare on the slaughter dis-assembly line. Please be advised that the translated sequences of events contain graphic and disturbing accounts of suffering and despair:

Pregnant mare (USDA tag #2976) – Mare gave birth in trailer, and both mare & foal were slaughtered the following day

Mare #2976 with foal. ATI Documents

Translation of CFIA Remarks from French:

“On March 9, 2011 at 9:00 a.m., a load of 30 horses from (name withheld) arrived at establishment 505. During unloading, (name withheld) inspector at establishment 505 discovered that there was a foal with its mother in the first section of the trailer. Here is the sequence of events before the foaling and a declaration collected by the Inspector at establishment 505: While parked in a rest area around 1:15 am on the morning of March 9, 2011, the driver was awakened to noises coming from the trailer. When he checked, he saw that there was a mare lying down.

He continued to observe the mare and around 2:00 am, he witnessed the birth of the foal noting that it came out with no problems. At around 6:00 am, he called his boss to ask him what to do. The ‘boss’ contacted establishment 505. At 9:00 am the load arrived at the slaughterhouse. The seals were removed. The colt was in the first section of the trailer with his mother and other horses. He seemed in good health. (Name withheld) noted placenta residues and traces of blood where the mare and foal were (see photos: placenta and traces of blood in the trailer, trailer traces of blood). (Name withheld), employee of the slaughterhouse, carried the foal in his arms and brought him into the barn with his mother. The rest of the load were fine. On March 10, 2011 at 8:00 am, I looked at the mare and foal. They seemed in good health. I discussed the case with (name withheld). Around 13:30 (1:30 pm), the foal was euthanized for humane reasons. The mare was shot, in normal fashion, around 14:45 (2:45 pm).”

Pregnant Mares (USDA Slaughter Tags – 4937 and 4439) – Mares arrived at slaughter plant in late stage pregnancy

Translation of CFIA Remarks from French:

“A journey of horses imported from the United States arrived at (Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation) establishment designation #505. These horses

Bouvry feedlot – Why aren’t pregnant mares separated? What will be the outcome for this mare and her foal? Photo credit – Animals’ Angels & AWF

left on June 3, 2011 at 22:00 (10:00 p.m.) and arrived on June 5, 2011 at 9:10 am after 35 hours and 10 minutes in the trailer. At first glance, the horses are thirsty and hungry. They are fed and kept awaiting slaughter, to take place on June 6, 2011. On June 6, 2011, during the evisceration, we have 2 mares #4937 USDA and #4439 USDA who have a very large uterus and which each contain a foal I describe as almost to term. The first foal of the mare was black, measured 38.5 inches (98 cm) and weighed 44.8 kg. The second foal of the mare was beige, weighed 56.4 kg and was 40.5 inches long (103 cm). Their weight and length measurements indicate that the mares were in the last 10% of gestation, pregnant more than 300 days. To be precise, I would say that the 2 foals were between 325 to 330 days of gestation, 330 days being the normal time of gestation for mares. A pregnant mare in the last 10% of gestation is considered to be an animal that is fragile and unfit for transportation. Its resistance to the stress of transport is weakened. Article 138 (2) (c) of the Health of Animals Regulations states that it is prohibited to load or to transport to load in a motor vehicle an animal that is likely to give birth during the journey. The hazards related to the stress of the trip, the hazards associated with the travel itself, the lack of drinking water for long hours and the duration of the trip are among the many possible causes of complications in the pregnancy in the transported mare.”

“I recommend that the offender be prosecuted. The owner of the horse should be aware of the state of gestation of the mare before sending to the livestock auction. Lately, I noticed almost full-term fetuses during my post-mortem examinations. People should be made aware of this.”

Mare suffering from dystocia. Neither mare nor foal survived. Video here, courtesy of Animals’ Angels – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GapQaGm4XRo

Pregnant Mare (USDA Slaughter Tag #4617) – Weakened and dehydrated mare is slaughtered, and her live foal is discovered upon evisceration

Translation of CFIA Remarks from French:

“A journey of horses from the United States arrives at (Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation) establishment designation #505. This journey of horses left on June 9, 2011 at 22:00 hours (10:00 p.m.) and arrived on June 11, 2011 at 9:45 a.m. At first viewing, the horses are thirsty and hungry. They are fed and kept until the next day when they will be slaughtered, June 14, 2011.

During my first visit to the pen in the morning of June 13, 2011, I noticed that the mare with USDA #4617 is isolated along the wall and does not move (although) another horse bit her regularly for ten minutes. She is abnormally still. She looks sick. She is dehydrated over 12%, this is evident in the skinfold, and this represents a very serious situation and we could expect an eminent death if action is not taken immediately. (Her) temperature is normal. The mucous membranes of the mouth have a nice colour. Its sides are obvious. (Name withheld) a specialist in animal transport examined this horse. In summary, the mare #4617 is severely dehydrated.

I isolated her from the other horses with unlimited access to water and good hay for her to regain strength. The next day, June 14, 2011, I reexamined her and I find that she is moderately dehydrated to 8%, which represents some improvement. She proceeded to slaughter and at evisceration we have a very large uterus containing a foal that I would call almost to term. Its eyes are open, it weighs 34.8 kg and is 92 cm long. Weight indicates that the mare was in the last 10% of gestation, is pregnant for more than 300 days. The normal length of gestation in the mare is 330 days. A pregnant mare in the last 10% of gestation is considered to be a fragile animal and unfit for transport. Its resistance to stress is weakened. The hazards related to the stress of travel, hazards related to the travel itself, the lack of drinking water for long hours and the duration of the trip are among the many possible causes of complications of pregnancy of the conveyed mare.

This is even more evident, since the mare USDA tag #4617 was deprived of water for transportation and her proximity to a dominant horse was prevented from drinking in the pen at the slaughterhouse. The consequence of the severe dehydration could bring suffering to her and her foal until death ensures. Luckily, I perceived the signs of weakness. She regained strength, which enabled her to have a dignified and painless death. Article 138 (2) (a) of the Health of Animals Regulations states that is prohibited to load or to cause to load an animal for reasons of infirmity, sickness, fatigue or any other cause that cannot be transported without undue suffering (unjustified and unreasonable) during the planned trip.” The inspector also recommended a pecuniary sanction.

This is what “foaling out” looks like on a feedlot in winter. Photo credit – Animals’ Angels & AWF.

Probably one of the most reprehensible aspects of the horse slaughter industry is the slaughter pregnant mares (and as a result, their foals), which occurs in violation of Canada’s Health of Animals Act. Slaughter plants in Canada do and will continue to butcher them; the only provision on both sides of the border is the transportation issue, which is largely ignored. Enforcement at auctions, border control and at the slaughter plant is minimal and questionably enforced.

The idea that horse welfare and CFIA oversight correlated in a linear way is just false.  There is a point of diminishing returns where increased welfare and attempts to hold individuals’ responsible costs more than any potential “market quality” you could get out of it. Notice also that while one inspector notes that “people should be made aware of this,” a second CFIA inspector congratulates him/herself on re-hydrating the mare #4617 sufficiently so that she can “have a dignified and painless death.”

Kill buyers, slaughterhouses, and the CFIA itself are all  financially incentivized to kill animals while providing little to no welfare oversight.

 

There are 16 Codes of Practice for animals but they are all voluntary, lack legal status, and are developed by industry dominated committees. They are out-of-touch relative to other standards elsewhere in the world.
https://www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/equine-code

No Charges Laid In NOTL Carriage Horse Accident – February 23, 2019

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No Charges Laid In NOTL Carriage Horse Accident – February 23, 2019

Written by: Heather Clemenceau

According to a General Occurrence Report by Niagara Regional Police, no charges were filed following the carriage horse accident at King and Picton that resulted when the horse, “Ethan,” spooked and the carriage he was put to subsequently collided with a parked 2017 Lexus RX5. According to the police report, obtained by FOIA request,  there are two explanations for what happened, one provided by a witness, who claimed that a second carriage pulled out and clipped Ethan’s carriage, startling him, while the second explanation was provided by the carriage owner, who claimed the accident occurred when “the shaft to the carriage broke off.”

“The horse then went diagonally toward the median on King Street hitting the curb and the horse then bucked its hind legs 3-4 times. The horse then turned 90 degrees and went directly toward the front of the Prince of Wales Hotel (on Picton Street) where the carriage struck a parked (unoccupied) vehicle in the valet stand area.  The driver of the carriage fell off the carriage and the horse came to rest and sat on the ground adjacent to the struck vehicle.” ~ FOIA Report

Insofar as the two explanations are concerned,  both show that it is not necessary for a third party vehicle to be involved as a cause for a

Ethan, in a photo credited to Richard Harley/Niagara Now

carriage horse accident.  It’s often claimed by supporters of the carriage trade in NOTL that “drivers need to respect carriages,” and that perhaps “cars should be prevented from driving in the tourist areas of NOTL,”  as if cars are the sole reason for a carriage accident.  It is the law that cars must respect horse carriages of course, but this incident shows that a horse and carriage can get into an accident without any other influential factors, unless you consider a parked car a factor in the accident.

I don’t know which of the two explanations for the cause of the spooking is the more accurate one (perhaps an element of truth to both – clipping one carriage *could* damage the shaft on the other).  It’s ironic that two carriages operated by the same company may have had a small altercation causing a huge explosion in the horse (bucking and bolting),  or that one of the two shafts on the carriage spontaneously broke off for no apparent reason,  as per the police report.  By either official explanation,  there appears to be no cause to blame anyone else other than the owner/operator for this accident that left one driver injured and Ethan sitting stunned on the lawn next to the Prince of Wales Hotel.

Original FOIA Documents Below:

 

New Technology May Enable Detection of Transport Injuries In Slaughter Bound Horses

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

A new study, published January in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, has found that digital thermography can be used in the detection of ante-mortem injuries sustained by horses en route to slaughter.  While digital thermography (DT) itself is not a “new” technology, (it has been previously used in the detection of lameness in horses); the authors of the study used DT to assess bruising by identifying areas of the body where there were elevated skin temperatures (consistent with non-visible injuries).  The high predictive rates for detecting unseen injuries means that CFIA inspectors or other welfare assessors could use DT as a diagnostic tool to identify injured horses up arrival at slaughterhouses.  The obvious relevance of DT here is that it could be used to assign responsibility for transportation injuries to the appropriate offenders – not just for horses,  but for other species of animals transported to slaughter as well.

Full text of the study found here.

2019 Roy, Riley, Stryhn, Dohoo and Cockram – Department of Health Management, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PE., Canada, and the School of Veterinary Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

“The transport of horses for slaughter and related management practices may cause externally visible and non-visible injuries due to trauma including fractures, swelling, excoriations, and bruising. The welfare assessments of livestock undertaken following transport to slaughter plants include visual/clinical evaluations by plant personnel or official inspectors. However, horses may have non-visible injuries unrecognized until post-mortem carcass examination. The lack of suitable methods to identify bruised horses ante-mortem limits the ability to differentiate injuries occurring during transport, from those that occur at the slaughter plant itself. It is important to determine which stage of the process is responsible for bruising, so that appropriately directed measures are taken to reduce this risk. Reliable and objective tools to detect non-visible injuries in horses following transport could empower regulatory authorities and plant operators to improve animal transport welfare.

Digital thermography (DT) is a non-invasive imaging technique that records superficial infrared emission patterns. When tissue is damaged, localized hypo- or hyper-perfusion due to vascular injury and inflammation occurs that may be detectable by DT. In horses, DT has been used to detect musculoskeletal and neuromuscular injuries, and to monitor skin lesions. It also has been used for the ante mortem and post mortem detection of blunt force trauma in humans. The authors hypothesized that a qualitative methodology using DT imaging implemented at slaughter plants may identify horses with bruising ante-mortem after transport. The objective of this study was to estimate the sensitivity and specificity of DT images as a diagnostic test for detecting bruising ante-mortem when compared to post-mortem visual examination of carcasses.”

 

Ante-mortem digital thermography images provided as supplementary materials in the study. Lack of symmetry between the right and left side of the horse suggests “hot spot” in second image is transport bruising.

Far too often we have seen the devastating, often fatal, effects of horses transported to slaughter plants in Canada with few individuals ever held accountable.  While we collectively work to get horse slaughter shut down, digital thermography is one tool that we can insist the CFIA implement in order to improve welfare.  Violators who are found to consistently deliver loads of horses with soft tissue injuries should be assessed the same administrative monetary penalties that the CFIA already applies in the case of non-compliance with the Health of Animals Act (HAA) and Health of Animals Regulations (HAR).

Some Talk, All Action – Commercial Carriage Protests in #NOTL

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The peaceful protest, Operation Rolling Thunder, took place on December 16th in the town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, to protest the commercial horse carriage industry.

Written By:  Heather Clemenceau

Photography: Me

Horse carriages delay traffic which cannot easily or safely pass, and on occasion, they are involved in motor vehicle accidents (carriages themselves are considered vehicles within the Highway Traffic Act).
Drivers often don’t understand that they need clear sight lines for hundreds of feet in order to safely pass a horse and carriage.

Most people who oppose urban carriages are used to being told that they have “limited horse knowledge” or that they don’t live in the country or work with horses, and therefore have no right to render an opinion. But much of the propaganda being churned out in favour of the commercial carriage industry takes the form of attesting to the carriage horses’ overall “happiness” and wonderful working conditions, and this is something we can all fact-check.

The insistence that “horses love to have jobs” is an oft-repeated statement in the carriage trade;  I’ve heard it uttered many times in defence of working horses for 8-12 hour days.  It’s derivative of the old “christian work ethic,” which every true believer is supposed to apply in the realm of their employment – everyone should work to support themselves and idleness is to be abhorred.  For horses and those individuals who used horses for their labour, it would be rare to find evidence of real friendship, because the primary relationship to the horse with an actual job was usually exploitative. It is more accurate to say that horses, because of their compliant nature towards humans, do not actively show aversion to the many things humans ask them to do.  They may like interaction with humans very much, but there’s no indication that they “love having jobs.”

According to carriage operators, protests are both “good for business,” yet simultaneously frustrating for carriage operators – https://www.niagarathisweek.com/news-story/8708125-sentineal-carriages-owner-frustrated-by-notl-protests/

A publication by European equitation scientists suggested that, when given the choice, horses prefer not to work at all; in fact, it appears that they’d rather be back in their resting place with their food and equine pals. It’s not a big stretch of the imagination to assume that horses might prefer not to have to be bitted for long periods of time either.  Some equestrians have found that feeding horses with bits in their mouths may also be a choking hazard, but the bridle, and therefore the bit, can’t be removed from horses while they are put to carriages for safety reasons.

When we keep horses engaged in work or put to a carriage for as long as 8-12 hours, whether we think they like it or not, we overcome horses’ innate responses and thus ignore their behavioural preferences. We need always to bear in mind that its the “tractability” of draft horses in particular that makes them easygoing animals, but that characteristic also makes them vulnerable.

Other people feel that the carriages themselves are at odds with the traffic in an urban environment – which has resulted in sharp, civic discontent in the town of Niagara-On-The-Lake.  Horses and cars do not mix well wherever you find them and if there is a collision it is always the horse (and passengers) who will be worse off for it.  Most carriage companies typically represent their industry as accident-free or low risk, but even in a quaint town like NOTL that isn’t the case.

Yes, there was a carriage accident in NOTL.

Click to open PDF document

It was reported to the Niagara Regional Police and requested by FOIA. According to the NRP, the horse appears to have been thankfully unhurt. For understandable privacy reasons, the report does not identify any individuals or circumstances of the accident, or whether any charges were laid. The dates in my original FOIA (2014 – 2018 – provide only a 5 year “snapshot” in a 30 year history of carriages in the town), did not cover the exact date of the accident, but my contact at NRP helpfully provided that one was on record in 2013.  The incident demonstrates that even with the slow pace in the quaint town of NOTL, accidents with carriages will still occur.

 

The Big Give

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I hated my mom’s fur coat. A few months ago, it became mine.

Mom’s raccoon coat was, to her, a symbol of class and status. But for many more people, fur coats don’t represent either of these things.  After my mom passed-away in April, I found that being left the coat created something of a moral dilemma – I didn’t want to wear it, and both my aversion to waste and sentimental attachment to something belonging to my mom prevented me from throwing it away outright. We’re urged to recycle whatever we can, but hate the fashion-driven consumerism of cruelly derived animal fur coats, so we don’t want to create further demand by putting the coat back into the marketplace either. Although the deadly deed has long been a fait accompli, we can still try to make amends to the animals who lost their lives to become vanity pieces.  Until you inherit a fur coat that you don’t know what to do with, you don’t realize that it’s much more of a grave stone than a fashion statement.

Websites are replete with tips on how to recycle unwanted furs, including turning them into re-purposed teddy bears or donating them to wildlife rehabilitation centres. You would think that the answer to this conundrum is easily solved because it seems orphaned babies who have lost their mothers like to snuggle up to fur, according to some rescuers. The familiarity of fur likely plays a key role in the animals’ overall health and well-being, and may improve their chances of survival when they are eventually released back into the wild.

What was once brutally taken from them can now be used as a source of warmth and compassion. But despite the encouragement from most SPCAs and groups like the Humane Society, most rehabbers don’t actually want fur coats because they are difficult to clean. Even Born Free USA has updated its website to advise that it currently has “too much fur” to send to sanctuaries.  In addition, the coordination of the donation was off, because by the time I took possession of the coat in June, most rehabbing animal babies have grown and are ready to leave on their own, and there is little demand for fur scraps for warm nesting materials in the summer.

Procyon Wildlife rehabbers in Beeton, Ontario, who have more than 200 animals to take care of, from skunks, turtles, chipmunks, raccoons, fawns, and coyotes, agreed to take the coat off my hands.  Various people I exchanged conversations with promised they could cut it up in short-order and send me a few photos of the coat’s new beginnings as an enrichment item for rehabbing animals. A win-win for all!

~Epilogue~

Dear readers, I wish I could tell you what ultimately happened to this coat.  Despite the good intentions of a few people, I wasn’t able to determine if it was ever used as intended. I was really looking forward to seeing a few pics of it being used somehow!  But at this time, no one at Procyon seems to know where it is or what happened to it after I dropped it off.  I could have asked my husband or a friend to cut it up in smaller pieces in advance if it was too time-consuming for volunteers to manage.

I firmly believe that once you give away something, you have little right to complain about what does or doesn’t happen to it.  That said, philanthropic giving is about developing relationships.  If you can’t use the donation, no matter what it is, then communicate with the donor and explain that you can’t use the gift at this time, due to a lack of personnel, time, or whatever.  It’s always a good idea to use in-kind gifts in the way suggested, especially when they are intended not for people but animals, and that by not doing so could disappoint or alienate the donors of such gifts. They would not have donated to your organization if they didn’t have some interest what you do….

 

Questionable CTV Reporting on “Roxy the Goldendoodle” Prompts Harassment of Vet Clinic

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The veterinary profession is often replete with occupational stress.  Research has suggested that people whose work involves making life-or-death decisions about suffering animals, experience higher levels of physical and psychological trauma, making them an at-risk population for post-traumatic stress.  Veterinarians, just like other healthcare professionals, also contend with compassion fatigue, defined as “the emotional burden that health care providers may experience because of overexposure to traumatic events that patients are experiencing.” These stressors are often compounded by the clinic’s own clients, who may exert unfair pressure for impossible levels of service, including at times, free or deeply-discounted pet care.  A 2008 U.K. study found veterinarians commit suicide at a rate of four times that of the general population and twice the rate of other medical doctors and dentists. One of the first mental health surveys of U.S. veterinarians, conducted in 2014, found one in six veterinarians may have considered suicide.

The recent story of Roxy, the goldendoodle who required emergency surgery for complications from a routine spay, was not some feel-good rescue effort that dog lovers engineered with the help of the media, against a “money-grubbing” pet clinic. It became a personal attack on veterinarians and vet technicians everywhere.

The Goodman family from Vaughan, Ont. recently praised a CTV reporter’s story that they claimed allowed them to get Roxy back after surrendering her to the Willowdale Animal Hospital when they couldn’t pay the $8,000 emergency surgery. To be sure, $8,000 is a lot of money, but the article that created a deluge of online hate and bad reviews for the clinic did not examine the possible reasons for such an estimate.  The public had zero information about the type of emergency care Roxy needed, yet enraged pet owners ran with the theory that the “big, bad” veterinary clinic was gouging her desperate owners. Spaying surgeries are usually routine but it is still a major surgery and as such, any complications can be serious, and may include:

  • Loose stitches
  • Incisional infection
  • Abscesses
  • Herniation
  • Sepsis
  • lacerated bladder or ureter
  • haemorrhage
  • Abdominal evisceration
  • Dehiscence of sutures
  • disseminated intravascular coagulation

All these possibilities can/may require:

  • IV fluids/colloids
  • Scans and radiographs
  • Blood transfusions
  • IV antibiotics
  • Pain control
  • Post-op lab work
  • Intubation/anaesthesia
  • Emergency clinic hospitalization of 24 hours or more
  • Sterile equipment

Clinics all have their own ways of breaking down these costs – they may have newer equipment and building rent may vary depending on where the clinic is located. An emergency clinic may also provide a fully stocked hospital that your regular veterinary clinic may not provide. Payment terms can be difficult to negotiate since you typically only see an emergency vet when you have an emergency, so you don’t have the same type of relationship as with your regular vet.  Because of this, many clinics may feel that it doesn’t make good business sense to give credit to people they don’t know. Consider also that the College of Veterinarians of Ontario publishes fee schedules and while each veterinary facility will determine their own fee schedule,  veterinarians cannot conspire to fix fees and it’s considered misconduct if a veterinarian charges fees that are excessive to what is normally charged.

Many people waded-into the online commentary about the CTV article, including this DVM who had some wise advice that was shared amongst nearly 3,000 people on Facebook:

“So there’s been a news story lighting up my social media today from CTV, about Roxy the goldendoodle. I don’t know all the details of the case, but I felt the need to weigh in to the folks at CTV who “broke” the story. For those who are interested, here is the email I sent them:

Hello, CTV news team.

I want to comment on a story you reported that has recently caught my attention, as well as the attention of many in my line of work. I am a veterinarian. I work in a small animal hospital north of Toronto.

My social media has been alive with conversation today about Roxy the goldendoodle. The first thing I want to bring to your attention is that this story, and others like it, are basically bullying. You heard me. Now hear me out.

Of course my heart goes out to this family. I’m sure it has been a very emotional ordeal. I am not privy to the details of the case, so I will speak here in relatively general terms.

It is always tragic and heart breaking when a family pet is facing a large vet bill. Whether the pet is experiencing complications, or a severe illness, or an injury, or whatever. It is painful and heart wrenching to have to sit down across from a person and have a very frank discussion with them about how sick or injured their pet is, and what it will take to try to heal them.

Here’s a piece of information that should not be a surprise to anyone. Medical care costs money. Sometimes, the medical care a patient needs costs a lot of money. We sometimes forget this, as Canadians, because we have the incredible privilege of seeking medical care whenever we need it, however minor or severe, and not have to sit down with the doctor beforehand and talk about what that care will cost. But OHIP doesn’t cover our furry (or feathered, or scaly) family members. And medical care costs money. It’s not a nice feeling, to have to have that conversation. Trust me, I know. In this particular case, likely because of social pressure and media attention ( #bullying ), this vet clinic opted in the end to do the work pro bono, and reunite this family with their dog. I am sure that made the dog, the family, and possibly even the veterinarian, very happy. But it doesn’t keep the lights on. It doesn’t pay the staff payroll. It doesn’t restock the shelves.

Will other pet owners, having seen this “feel-good” story now think that all they need to do is publicly shame their vet on news media/social media/etc, and they can get expensive medical care for free too?

Here’s a little fact you may or may not know; all vet hospitals in Canada, BY LAW, are owned by veterinarians. One must be a veterinarian to own a vet clinic. Most of us are small business owners. Why does it seem reasonable to so many people to ask for a line of credit from a small business owner? That’s what banks are for, what credit card companies are for, what credit unions are for. There is even a company called Pet Card that is specifically devoted to providing people with flexible payment plan options for veterinary bills. We don’t know if any of those options were mentioned to the family in this case, but I do think that most people are aware of the existence of these types of financial institutions, and a very simple and fast Google search could also have provided that information. And if the person in question does not qualify for credit from a large corporation whose job it is to provide credit, how can we ask a small business owner to take on the financial risk of providing them with credit?

If the option eventually offered in this case was to surrender the dog, I can only assume, as a veterinarian with 13 years of experience in general practice, that the vets were trying very hard to come up with some way that the end of this puppy’s story would not have to be euthanasia. That may be a tough pill to swallow, but there are many pets who end up being euthanized because there is simply no way that their people can afford whatever care it is that they need. This hospital was trying to find a way for the puppy to be treated, and survive, and hopefully then find a good home. Good on them. In return, they get bullied on national tv.

I can tell you,that in general practice, I see the whole human spectrum, from the very wealthy to the very poor, from the very caring to the very callous, from the very knowledgeable to those who know almost nothing about caring for animals. And we help them all. And, I can tell you that sometimes people are effusively grateful for my help, and sometimes people are downright abusive despite my help. I get accused regularly of being “only in it for the money”. Did you know that worldwide, veterinarians have now officially surpassed all the other health care professions in suicides? All too often, the challenges of either not being able to help, or being accused of being money grubbers when all we are trying to do is help, plays a role in many of those suicides. There is a movement called #notonemorevet. Look it up. Vets care. A lot.

Let me change tacks a little bit, and ask you, Pat Foran, will you come in to work for free? Will you, Ken Shaw and Michelle Dube? How about your camera operators, your producers, your executives, or the rest of the news team – will they come in to work for free? How about that family who so tragically almost lost their beloved pet – would they go in to work for free? Of course not. We all want to make a fair living, and there’s nothing shameful about that. As I mentioned before, medical care costs money. Shame on you, CTV, for bullying this vet clinic, just because they ask an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. For bullying them into giving away that honest work for free.

If you would like to contact me to discuss this further, I am more than happy to participate in the conversation.”

Aimee Gilbert, DVM

 

Emergency clinics are usually staffed with veterinarians and vet technicians who must perform literal miracles on desperately sick pets, 365 days of the year.  You should expect that off hours veterinary fees are typically higher than daytime fees. This is due to the increased costs of providing a dedicated staff who work at nights, on weekends and holidays, so clearly the service will not be cheap. And neither is pet ownership cheap in general – dog ownership over the lifetime of the pet is estimated by OVMA to be in excess of $28,000.

But in an increasingly cynical society, pet parents are committing emotionally-embroiled bribery when they blame clinics for not providing free or discounted services when clients cannot pay or don’t want to prioritize payment.  As we’ve seen with this particular example, dog lovers jumped on the social media band wagon in a campaign of harassment and psychological abuse, monopolizing the resources of the clinic and possibly jeopardizing other animal patients. Social media attacks on clinics are so common that both the AVMA and the CVMA publish guidelines for reputation management and cyberbullying.

“If you really loved animals, you’d do it for free.”

In the end, the clinic appeared to treat the whole unfortunate event with grace and aplomb, issuing a statement to CTV Toronto that “emergency surgery was performed, at no cost. We have been diligently and ethically working with Natasha Goodman… We are pleased to confirm that Roxy has been reunited with her family.”  We presume that Roxy,  who is blissfully unaware of the controversy, is on her way to a full recovery.  But few small businesses can afford to offer much pro-bono work.  The clinic in this case appears to have gotten nothing in return for their troubles, not even an offer of partial payment that I could find (it would be great if Roxy’s people offered to cover at least some of the cost).  Pet owners need to understand that expecting to be paid for your services is not the same thing as “being in it for the money.”  You should no more expect your veterinarian to offer free services than you would your general practitioner.  Your personal physician didn’t enter the field of medicine because he or she “loves” you either.

Crowdsourcing, discounted surgical procedures, and pet food banks are all options, and there are a number of resources for low-income pet owners in the province of Ontario,  but pet owners of more substantial means may have to give up a vacation or two in order to afford the care a pet needs.  That next trip to Switzerland, Mount Kilimanjaro or Italy may have to wait for another year or for your next Corporate bonus….

 

 

Horsemeat Adulterated Sausages – Where Deception and Detection Intersect

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Horsemeat Adulterated Sausages – Where Deception and Detection Intersect

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

A few months ago the CFIA funded a study of sausages that determined that 20 per cent of samples from grocery stores across Canada contained meats that weren’t on the label. The study, which was prompted by the European horsemeat scandal of 2013, was conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph, and DNA profiling was used to detect the species found in sausages that were labelled as containing just one ingredient – beef, pork, chicken or turkey.

Seven of 27 beef sausages examined in the study were found to contain pork. One of 38 supposedly pure pork sausages contained horse meat. Of 20 chicken sausages, four also contained turkey and one also contained beef.  The contamination isn’t exactly surprising (if processing  facilities have horsemeat, they need to find a way to get rid of it).  The CFIA investigated all cases of mis-labelled sausages and in the case of the chicken labelled as turkey, it was able to find issues with a manufacturer’s “traceability program” – incoming meat and production records were not properly maintained. The incident concerning horsemeat was not investigated because the company responsible voluntarily ceased operations (the way all slaughter operations should end).  Explanations for the adulteration of the remaining sausages appears to be more complex.

There are usually two kinds of food adulteration – where the butcher/supplier deliberately or accidentally adds another species, or simple cross-contamination – meat can also come into contact with knives or preparation materials.  Since the CFIA reported that the contamination was not found at trace amounts, we should assume the adulteration occurred as a result of either outright fraud or incompetency in handling/labelling meats.

My initial ATI to the CFIA requested the brand/store names where the sausages had been purchased – this is, IMO, one of the most important details that was never published in any report.  The CFIA complied with the paperwork included below, but the open-records request remained only partially complete.  After much follow-up,  the CFIA indicated that they were prepared to release this information,  but their attempt to disclose identifying details about the sausage supply chain was met was met with a refusal to comply by the named companies.  According to the provisions of the Access to Information Act (ATIA), respondents are asked to agree to disclose information to the requesters in an open-records request.  So an application was made for judicial review in order to attempt to remedy this refusal to disclose.  Judicial review of an administrative action is only available for decisions made by a governmental or quasi-governmental authority. The practice is meant to ensure that powers delegated by government to boards and tribunals are not abused, and offers legal recourse when that power is misused, or the law is misapplied. Judicial review is meant to be a last resort for those seeking to redress a decision of an administrative decision maker.

It’s alarming that the identity of the companies who failed to protect consumers from this food adulteration may end up being concealed from the public, depending on the findings of the judicial review.  Food adulteration, whether unintentional or fraudulent, is not victimless.  What is at stake is the entire food economy.  Consumer trust is being lost – the industry also hurts itself since it’s unlikely that consumers will pay more for a product they suspect may be adulterated.  The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) recommends that voluntary audit and improved detection programs are a deterrence to food transparency issues. Suppliers are encouraged to facilitate appropriate testing procedures and retailers to partner with academia to forecast risk, and with suppliers and manufacturers to verify authenticity of the products they receive.  It sure sounds like the retailers who distributed these sausages have no testing/audit programs of their own to verify that the labelling accurately represents the contents of the products they purchase!

We know that despite horsemeat being consumed in Quebec and a few restaurants throughout the country, the only way to sell large quantities of it is to disguise it as something else.  Clearly the demand for horsemeat is not there in the marketplace, otherwise it could be sold as-is.

Let’s hope that the protection of brand integrity does not supercede the rights of consumers.

 

 

The 10 Commandments of Riding for Roy Moore

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When do the other 3 horsemen arrive?

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

A few days ago, alleged pedophile, bigot, and misogynist Roy Moore rode his horse, Sassy, to the Alabama Senate polling station and got roasted extra crispy by the internets for his poor riding ability and silly Gunsmoke cosplay.

The “10 Commandments” judge loves traditions from the 1800s, including slavery and child brides, so it’s fitting that we present him with a set of commandments that he should adhere to when considering torturing riding horses in future.

Roy Moore’s 10 Commandments for Riding Horses

  1. Thou shalt not sit like a lumpy sack of potatoes despite having a gaited

    All hat, no cattle

    horse. When you can barely stay level on a TWH, that is a clear sign you should not be anywhere near a horse.

  2. Thou shalt not jerk and flail your arms about like you’re trying to pull-start a gas lawnmower. Curses on whoever set you up with a long shanked bit that isn’t even positioned correctly. I don’t like them but I will say that leverage bits belong in educated hands only.  Period.
  3. Thou shalt not let the daylight show between your ass and the saddle
  4. Thou shalt not ride with such a heavy hand that you make your horses ewe-necked – both horses shown with Moore have prominently developed muscling on the underside of the neck. Both horses show how their physicality has changed with poor riding and hollowed out backs.
  5. Thou shalt not inflict one’s ignorance and poorly fitting tack on any animal.  Always use a saddle pad under the saddle.
  6. Thou shall shorten thy reins and stirrups and get your legs under you.
  7. Thou shall take lessons if for no other reason than the sake of the poor horse.  Moore doesn’t even ride as capably as someone at a trail ride who is riding for the first time, so he needs to give some thought into strapping on a helmet.

    At least he kept his shirt on….

  8. Thou shalt not use horses as props and photo ops when your riding is so poor that you have no business being up there.  Moore didn’t care that Sassy might have been spooked by photographers and as she was nervous,  he had not the skill set to calm her and instead kicked and jerked on her sensitive mouth. His riding clearly showed that he does not care about the pain of any other creature.
  9. Thou shalt not dress as one of the Village People.
  10. And lastly, If you’re an accused pedo,  thou shalt not name your horse after a now-defunct magazine aimed at teenage girls #Sassy.

Moore’s appearance at the voting station was not exactly my idea of a tableau of vintage America.  Is anyone surprised that he has heavy hands?  Both horses look uncomfortable with Moore touching them.  And Moore riding a filly that can’t get away from him is so totally on-brand, isn’t it?

Another ewe-necked horse by Roy Moore, which is hardly surprising considering the vise-like grip he has on all his mounts.  Here’s he’s almost as lifelike as Bernie in “Weekend at Bernie’s in a classic “chair seat” stance.

Everything about his riding demonstrates a lack of understanding about how one’s body impacts the horse – which appears to mirror his lack of understanding of how his actions impact the lives of others. His horses are merely objects fulfilling their purpose. As with both the law and religion, Moore appears incapable of considering anything beyond manipulating objects to his benefit. Roy Moore is no more qualified for the US Senate than he is to ride a horse.

Next time take the car pardner….

Someone please take these horses away from this man!

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Seeks To Close Bestiality Loophole After Liberals Drop The Ball

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Written by: Heather Clemenceau

Finally, someone is proposing to fix the loophole in the Canadian criminal code that allows bestiality.

After Nathaniel Erskine-Smith’s private member’s  Bill C-246 — the Modernizing Animal Protections Act — was defeated in second reading by a vote of 198 to 84, it was left to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould  to do something to improve animal protection laws. Despite it being a Liberal bill that would have seen the first substantive change to Canada’s animal protection laws in over 100 years, a total of 177 Liberal MPs voted against it.  Only two Conservative MP’s voted in favour of it, and one of them was the MP for Calgary Nose Hill,  Michelle Rempel.

Rempel has now introduced her own private members Bill C-388An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (bestiality).  While it’s not as comprehensive as Erskine-Smith’s bill, it is intended to respond to the 2016 R. v. D.L.W. Supreme Court ruling that  upheld the acquittal of a British Columbia man who was charged with bestiality after compelling the family dog to sexually abuse his 16-year-old stepdaughter.

MP Rempel issued the following statement after presenting her private members bill (full text available here):

“The Supreme Court has clearly indicated that this is a legal grey area that can only be corrected by legislation. I am disturbed that the government has not yet corrected this glaring void in our criminal code.

This is a non-partisan issue that is clearly needed to keep both humans and animals safe. The current law is reflective of an archaic understanding of sex, and the change that I am seeking to make with my bill both reflects the language of the Supreme Court ruling, and frankly is a no-brainer. The Liberals should have introduced legislation to correct this issue immediately after the ruling. Nearly a year and a half later, I hope that tabling this bill will encourage the Prime Minister to stop dragging his feet and take action to make this common sense change.”

Animal welfare and rights have long been considered a fairly liberal and left-wing issue.  The current Liberal government has not, however, supported its party’s own bill; the ramifications of this disappointing result were felt by animal rights/welfare advocates across Canada.  It left little doubt that we have our work cut out for us.

Call To Action!

Please ask your MP to support this bill – Find your Member of Parliament here.  You can also offer support to Rempel’s Facebook thread on the bill here.