In September, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced that Dr. Brian Evans, who was making some sort of lateral move (perhaps closer to the door?) was being replaced by Dr. Martine Dubuc Chief Food Safety Officer and Dr. Ian Alexander Chief Veterinary Officer. Of course, no announcement from the CFIA can ever be made without the requisite statements about Canada having a “strong food safety system founded on sound science and aligned with international standards.” Yawn.
Of course, statements such as these seem contradictory when it’s realized that, even though it apparently takes two people to replace Dr. Evans, the CFIA is slashing jobs and budgets elsewhere. In April of this year, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair`s website foretold of the impending doom, when he wrote that “Less food inspection could mean another tainted food crisis, more serious illnesses or worse.“ Over 100 food inspectors, hired after the listeriosis outbreak (which Ritz mocked) in 2008 will now be slashed, which puts us at the pre-listeriosis levels in terms of staffing. In total, the CFIA will be jettisoning 308 jobs.
Malcolm Allen, NDP Critic for Agriculture and Agri-Food, wrote that “These cuts put Canadians’ lives at risk. We could have another listeriosis crisis on our hands. People could get sick, or worse, they could lose their lives.” A new food safety report released by the Conference Board of Canada says rates of food-borne illnesses in Canada are higher than the United States. Canadians suffer more often from salmonella, e. coli, campylobacter and yersinia than Americans, according to the report prepared by the Centre for Food in Canada.
Horse welfare advocates have no experience with these two replacements for Dr. Evans, who seems to be perpetually unaware of serious horse cruelty infractions occurring within his purview. Even though he appeared to be forthright on the CBC video “No Country for Horses,“ he is confronted about cruelty issues and accusations that the inspectors working in Bouvry and Richelieu were ordered to ignore their own rules. If you`re watching the video – check out the horse at the 1:55 minute mark – this horse is ineligible for slaughtering because it is exhibiting “stereotyping behaviour,“ – compulsive shaking of its head.
Of course, now that we have two new people replacing Dr. Evans, you might think that the organization might be a bit more responsive in issuing food hazard alerts, yet it was revealed that the CFIA waited nearly two weeksto issue a public health alert after learning that beef from an Alberta plant was contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria. Even then, it was not the CFIA that discovered the contamination, it was the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Agency that made the discovery. The plant with the contamination problem – XL Foods, has been suspended from operations for shipping 890,000 pounds of contaminated beef to the US. Looks to me like this has the potential to become the next listeriosis crisis, as foretold by Thomas Mulcair and Malcolm Allen.
Unfortunately, government inability to respond quickly to threats and challenges also doesn`t bode well for our horses. Most everyone in Ontario is familiar with the backstory here – seeking sources of funding to address a $15-billion deficit, the Ontario government decided to terminate a program that sent $345-million from slot-machine revenues to tracks and horsemen in 2011. The decision will result in the loss of up to 60,000 jobs, according to the draft of a government-commissioned report prepared by McKinsey & Company. By comparison, General Motors announced plans in June to shut down a consolidated line at its plant in Oshawa, Ont., a move expected to cost 2,000 jobs in June of 2013.
A week ago I sent a copy of a CHDC action-alert letter reflecting the concern for up to 13,000 racehorses being slaughtered with prohibited drugs in their system, to both Dr. Martine Dubuc and Dr. Ian Alexander, Dr Evans’ replacements. I figured that if you can’t interest them in the cruelty angle, at least try to get them to commit to following their own meat hygiene guidelines. I asked them to clarify how the CFIA intends to ensure that no racehorses enter the slaughter pipeline during this period of crisis when breeders, owners and trainers begin to offload their animals.
These drugs could include:
Table 1. Therapeutic Medications Routinely Used and Identified as Necessary by the Veterinary Advisory Committee — (Racing Medication and Testing Consortium [RMTC] draft list of therapeutic medications, 2005)
|1. Acepromazine||17. Dipyrone||33. Omeprazole|
|2. Albuterol||18. Flunixin||34. Pentoxifylline|
|3. Aminocaproic Acid||19. Fluprednisolone||35. Phenylbutazone|
|4. Atropine||20. Fluphenazine||36. Phenytoin|
|5. Beclomethasone||21. Furosemide||37. Prednisolone|
|6. Betamethasone||22. Glycopyrrolate||38. Prednisone|
|7. Boldenone||23. Guaifenesin||39. Procaine Penicillin|
|8. Butorphanol||24. Hydroxyzine||40. Pyrilamine|
|9. Cimetidine||25. Isoflupredone||41. Ranitidine|
|10. Clenbuterol||26. Isoxsuprine||42. Reserpine|
|11. Cromolyn||27. Ketoprofen||43. Stanozolol|
|12. Dantrolene||28. Lidocaine||44. Testosterone|
|13. Detomidine||29. Mepivacaine||45. Triamcinolone|
|14. Dexamethasone||30. Methocarbamol||46. Trichlomethiazide|
|15. Diazepam||31. Methylprednisolone||47. Regumate|
|16. DMSO||32. Nandrolone||48. Dermorphin|
Instead, what I received back from Dr. Alexander was this:
As you can read, it completely misses the salient points – those being that racehorses, the ones who are now being declined by Bouvry and Richelieu for complicated drug issues that do not pass muster with the CFIA`s own meat hygiene manual for horses, may be entering the food chain, and what was the CFIA going to do about it? As form letters go, I`ve seen more articulate letters to Santa Claus. To knowingly send a horse to slaughter for human consumption when that animal has been administered non-permitted drugs is a federal offence. This concern cannot be over-emphasized, as illustrated in a U.S. study performed on 18 American racehorses who were sent for slaughter after receiving phenylbutazone, Dodman et al, 2010 Association of Phenylbutazone usage with horses bought for slaughter: A public health risk. Food and Chemical Toxicology 48:1270-1274.
Phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory drug, is a carcinogen and even tiny amounts can cause aplastic anemia, particularly in children. Clenbuterol, a bronchodilator that is used in the racing industry not only to enhance breathing but to build muscle, can cause symptoms of acute food poisoning (gross tremors of the extremities, tachycardia, nausea, headaches and dizziness). Not only that, but how do the CFIA plan to explain away the existence of dermorphin (frog juice) in horses sent for slaughter in Canada? And why does it seem as if the racing industry can detect drugs in horses more expediently than can the CFIA?
I swear I would last a maximum of one week in a government job – I couldn’t stand the obfuscation. “Processing” is something you do to a roll of Kodak film, not to horses! With talk like that, Dr. Alexander is about as credible as Bill DesBarres and his BFF’s Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis and Dave Duquette.