Monthly Archives: December 2012

Horse Welfare 2012 – The Year in Review….

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© Heather Clemenceau

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Horse advocates have had a busy year working to prohibit the importation or exportation of horses for slaughter for human consumption. Horse protection groups released many damning reports of abuse and drug contamination,  and took aggressive legal action to discourage slaughter.

Undercover footage helped support our position,  and numerous investigations were publicized.  Citizen advocates monitored illegal trucking activities and for the first time,  retrieved horses directly from slaughterhouses. Pro-slaughters proved,  via their own (in)actions,  that slaughter does not prevent starvation.

We were also aided by the improved sensitivity of testing protocols in the EU,  which continued to reveal drug contamination of horsemeat,  a finding which is continually met with silence by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency,  although the subject of drug contamination is making its way into the food webs.  We’ve told restaurants in both Canada and the US that we don’t want horses on the menu.

Horse killers,  kill buyers and their enablers did not have a good year – several were charged with felonies.  Slaughterhouse Sue and Dave Duquette were unable to open any of their proposed slaughterhouses, despite performing an endless kabuki dance around the true status of the plants.  Duquette also forgot to send a cheque to renew his own domain name on the web and subsequently lost www.daveduquette.com to a pro-horse HSUS site.

We’ve grown more media  savvy too,  with PSAs and billboards getting the message out.  We are mobilizing via different social media platforms to petition lawmakers. Numerous examples of “horse hoarding” received publicity as well,  with advocates rallying to promote horse adoptions through the increased use of Facebook groups.  We’ve also demanded that horse killers and those who fail to protect horses and humans be justly punished.  However,  despite our best efforts to keep Senate bill 1176 and House resolution 2966 active,  they both died without ever being brought to a vote.

The challenges in 2013 will be even greater,  as the EU moves to ban importation of North American horsemeat and the full force and effect of the ending of the slots program in Ontario are felt.  HWAC,  Equine Canada and the FEI are also launching “prototype” chipping programs,  ostensibly to ensure compliance with 2013 EU regulations.  As we fine-tune all our programs and advocacy efforts,  we look forward to a most challenging year,  but no doubt one filled with hope that we might be seeing the final death throes of the horse slaughter industry.  Happy Holidays indeed!

Read the entire chronological recap on Storify:

horse welfare 2012

 

Happy New Year

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Horsemeat – Hiding in Plain Sight

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Butchers_Boy1Written by Heather Clemenceau

In South Florida, 18 horses have been found slaughtered since the beginning of the year – and many more have been stolen – making it obvious that many in our international community don’t view the consumption of horse meat as taboo.  While many countries have no qualms about depersonalizing North American horses and horsemeat, it appears that horsemeat permeates the food chain in ways unimagined.   In fact, European consumers may be eating horse meat without realising it, due to inadequate labelling, a recent survey for the Humane Society International (HIS) revealed.  Not only have Europeans been eating horsemeat without realizing it,  but it can also be found in the most innocuous of places,  including picturesque country bakeries and dog food outlets attempting to capitalize on the BARF (Bones And Raw Food) craze.  Not only is it available at various Italian butchers as I’ve previously identified,  I’ve found that horsemeat is available in Dutch bakeries in southern Ontario,  and offered for sale for dog food on Kijiji and Craigslist.

I think it’s fair to say that the purchasers and consumers of these products believe that the horses are raised locally and humanely and would be surprised to learn that they are not raised for consumption and certainly do not meet European and even Canadian standards in many cases.

“Horse meat imported to Europe from third countries may also pose a risk to human health,” said Joanna Swabe, HSI Europe’s director. “Horses in the US are companion, race or work horses routinely given veterinary drugs banned for use in food-producing animals in Europe. Current measures are failing to stop these drugs from entering the food chain.” Dutch activist group Wakker Dier commissioned a study that shocked international media with the news that up  to one-third of all dutch snacks contain horsemeat (also know as rookvlees).  Although horsem2010-07-20-1butchersstalleat consumption is declining in the Netherlands and the Dutch overall do not have a problem with horsemeat, the activist group maintains that labelling is critical so that people who do not want to eat non-food companion animals are able to distinguish via proper labelling.

As a rash of horse killings plague South Florida, the odds of consumers unknowingly ingesting horse meat increases, especially if purchasing meat from an unlicensed meat vendor selling mystery meat from the back of their vehicle. Purchasers might not be able to tell the difference between horse and cow meat because they look very similar.  The slaughtered horsemeat is said to sell for up to $40 a pound. These horses are not bred for consumption, meaning they have almost certainly been treated with equine medications, resulting in contaminated meat – and that’s 50 shades of toxicity.  Not only that, but the horses have often been stolen from family farms or acquired by duplicitous means and cruelly slaughtered often while conscious.  Horsemeat is also a conduit for trichinosis, where there have been fatal outbreaks in Europe.  The dewormer that is effective against trich is also prohibited in animals used for food consumption.  Wormers are often not effective once a parasite encysts in the horse’s muscle.  So there the parasite waits, waiting to be eaten and colonized by a gourmand.  If that fact alone doesn’t result in late-night visits to WebMD,  I don’t know what will.

siftingthepast_kitchen-with-pieces-cook-and-kitchen-maid_unknown_16th-centuryWe must act to stop illegal slaughter..  Jorge Ortega, who was arrested for selling horsemeat in Florida, has made a plea deal – under this deal he will serve 18 months probation and will pay more than $1,000 in restitution to the USDA. He also must not have any contact with any horses, and after successfully completing probation, the charges will be dropped.

Dropping the charges sends the WRONG message about horse slaughter in Florida, an issue that puts horses and humans lives in danger.  We must send a strong message to law-makers in Florida that these types of lenient sentences are not acceptable! To quote Richard Couto of ARM – “Ortega had his hand in many of those farms, as far as killing the animals and selling their meat.” These slaughter farms are violent places that no one should have to live near.”  Please take action to encourage lawmakers to appropriately punish people who illegally slaughter horses!

Canada K-9

From Kijiji – Canada K-9 sells raw horsemeat for dogs. The proprietor claims that he has a “license” to obtain horsemeat or horses “when available.”

Across Canada, there appear to be a shocking number of potential suppliers of horsemeat.  I have no way to quickly authenticate or vet these links,  and it’s been some time since they were updated,  but this site lists 99 possible suppliers of horsemeat across Canada – far more than I ever imagined if the list is accurate.  A truly heartbreaking compilation of companies. Restaurants serving horsemeat are found in Calgary,  Toronto,  and British Columbia,  the site of the latest “Stop Slaughtering Us” billboard.  Horsemeat is also available variously throughout Quebec as well,  in grocery stores as well as restos.

horsemeat dog food

From Kijiji – Raw horsemeat available “government inspected.”

The Norwich Deli of Norwich, and the Dutch Village Bake Shops in Orono and Whitby sell smoked horsemeat sourced from Roos Meat in Brownsville, Ontario, which is supplied by Claude Bouvry in Alberta.  While that meat will be  legal for resale throughout Canada,  horsemeat is also advertised on Craigslist and Kijiji as dog food,  where it’s origin seems more than a little uncertain.  I wrote to two Kijiji advertisers offering horsemeat for dog food.  I figured there’s no pointing in mentioning the cruelty issue,  so I sent an attachment from a veterinary news article citing Ivermectin residues in horsemeat as being dangerous for collie breeds, with no response from the proprietor, although the ad is still running,  suggesting that the pursuit of profit trumps both science and good business practices.  I also contacted the propsiftingthepast-u_boy-with-sausages-and-dog_pieter-snyers1681e280911752_rietor at Canada K-9 dog foods in Oshawa, to ask where he sources his raw horsemeat supply.  His mysterious response?  “Well its not easy, but I have a licence to be able to get it when available.”  Sounds like someone with occasional access to a secret stash of Zyklon B….Recent discoveries in Ireland also revealed that horsemeat has been found in beef burgers,  in the case of Tesco burgers,  a DNA analysis revealed that the product contained 29% horsemeat.

Please take action in the Jorge Ortega case as outlined in the links above.  Please send a polite,  fact-based message to the delicatessens mentioned (on the web and on Facebook) as well as any horsemeat suppliers you may find on Kijiji or Craigslist.  The EU’s expanded residue testing program will eventually yield worse than anticipated results for North American horsemeat, if it has not already.  Businesses selling North American horsemeat need to be told why more than 100,000 horses slaughtered each year should never be consumed as food for humans or animals.

 

Shooting the Messenger? Why We Need to Enable Whistleblowers

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Many people love to romanticize the role of the whistleblower.   After all, they play a unique and critical role in ferreting out fraud and government malfeasance, and they provide great social value to the public.  But in Canada there is no whistleblower protection for private sector workers, who are uniquely positioned to spot gaps in public safety.  While Ken Terpenning, former owner of slaughtered racehorse Silky Shark, didn’t expose an employer, I’m sure he gave great consideration to the cost/benefit analysis that all potential whistleblowers must make – what happens after speaking out?  After reading about the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition publication “Slaughterhouse Six,” Ken stepped forward  with Silky Shark’s drug records,  and subsequently wrote his own article in Harnesslink,  where he described Silky Shark’s slaughter  as personally devastating.  With the gaps filled in by Ken, the slaughter of this horse now became a right-to-know issue.  While owned by Mr. Terpenning,  Silky Shark was given phenylbutazone – “bute,” an NSAID  which is known to be a human carcinogen,  which while entirely legal, is completely banned from entering the food chain if given at any time during a horse’s lifecycle.  The CHDC followed up with the article “Proof of CFIA Failure.”

rightvswrongKen’s disclosure about Silky Shark’s  phenylbutazone use essentially confirmed yet more CFIA and slaughterhouse misfeasance, a lack of enforcement which could jeopardize the lives of others or the well-being of the public when non-food animals are used in the food chain.  The CFIA’s virtually non-existent testing protocols for phenylbutazone and other veterinary drugs are compounded by a sampling frequency too low to be meaningful for public health purposes.  The drug records certainly put the lie to the belief by the CFIA that they are running one of the world’s best food safety systems.  On numerous occasions,  journalists and watchdogs have exposed the CFIA for being  in violation of its own safety protocols. Phenylbutazone has a laundry list of grave effects in humans: According to an FDA newsletter from 2003, “Phenylbutazone is known to induce blood dyscrasias, including aplastic anemia, leukopenia, agranulocytosis, thrombocytopenia and deaths. In addition, phenylbutazone is a carcinogen, as determined by the National Toxicology Program.”

If you think that Canada’s EID system is an efficient or accurate program to identify horses who have received prohibited drugs, then you must also believe that kill buyer Tom Davis really did find good homes for 1,700 wild horses. The EID The Acme Whistle A British Classic And The Referees Favouritesystem hardly ensures a continuous medical record and certainly does not guarantee food safety, especially when one considers that the drug history of the horse can be completed at the auction and not by the owner, using a stamp instead of an original signature. It’s a barbaric, unsafe, discredited business – one giant trash heap of cruelty and drugged meat. It’s also a facade of false and incomplete paperwork, concealing incompetence and often outright deceit at the highest levels. Both the Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue have petitioned the USDA and the FDA to have horsemeat declared “tainted” and unfit for human consumption. In addition to the use of legal drugs, illegal horse drugging (including dermophin),  and slaughter are each inherently wrong, and both are worthy of staunch opposition.  What protocols exist to test for other drugs, especially illegal ones like “frog juice?”  I’ve asked the CFIA, but they’re certainly not talking to me.  I also asked them on what basis would they go public with anything? In fact, when providing their typical non-response to my last communication to them, Dr. Ian Alexander let slip that they’ve “got a file” on me.  Maybe I should get a FOIA on myself?  Go FOIA yourself!

whistleblower-green1Anticipated or not,  there was of course some backlash against Ken on both Latitude News and Marketplace where some readers (due to the similarly of the comments,  quite likely the same individual) took Ken to task  for “not loving Silky Shark enough” or “letting him escape through the cracks.”  A thinking person should see these types of criticisms as the vacuous nonsense that they are – Ken played no role in sending Silky Shark to slaughter, but the horse disappeared into the Amish community, which is well-known for trading in horseflesh in addition to being major puppymillers. The Amish, along with many other horse slaughter supporters, are probably not overly concerned with a European’s dinner.  On the other hand,  “the Europeans have been well-justified in placing restrictions on American-produced meat products, such as hormone-laced beef, Ractopomine-treated pork, and chlorine-washed chickens. It’s time for them to restrict imports of drugged-up horses, where the food safety case is even more obvious.

karen123

A poster on Marketplace criticizes Ken Terpenning instead of laying the blame where it belongs – with the last owner of Silky Shark, Leroy Baker (who signed EID) and the CFIA

This is a disappearing market, and EU will lay down the law in 2013. American and Canadian horses will NOT be on their menu. There is increasing evidence that horsemeat originating in the U.S. poses a public health threat to the domestic and foreign markets that fancy it. A recent notification made by the Belgian authorities to the European Commission confirmed the presence of two unauthorized substances, Clenbuterol and Phenylbutazone, in horsemeat that was imported into the European Union from Canada in June.

If a firm becomes negligent and the regulators are not up to the job, there’s another line of defence left – the whistleblower.  Whistleblowers might have changed the outcome of the listeriosis outbreak and the XL Foods recall.  Both were almost certainly preventable. As in all such incidents, those responsible would have us believe it was some kind of fluke, unforeseeable and beyond human control.  The systems used to protect food safety in modern facilities work superbly,  if they are actually implemented. They are based upon Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), a system devised by NASA to safeguard the food of its astronauts. But when sloppy practices are allowed to creep into production and there is no immediate consequence, they become the accepted norm: a process referred to as “risk normalization.” This erodes safety margins so that disaster will inevitably strike,  as it most surely will.

The CFIA reports directly to a Minister – Gerry Ritz, whose main job it seems is to promote the commercial success of the CFIA and Agriculture Canada whilst not taking food safety seriously enough by allowing non-food animals to enter the thank_you1food chain. The reality is that commercial pressures will always tend to overwhelm safety concerns, unless there is some mechanism to keep the operator honest – if this is not going to happen within the organization then let whistleblowers lead the charge.  Now if only we could hear from former owners of Hurricane Jeff,  Major Baby, Spill the Ink,  Elite Din Pach,  and Promising Lucia……

“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,–
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

Macbeth

 

Activism Happens – Stouffville’s Dirty Little Secret – The Protest

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Stouffville's Dirty Little SecretWritten by Heather Clemenceau

All Photos by Heather Clemenceau unless otherwise indicated.

The way we treat our animals is a direct reflection of our society. Animals raised for food have little protection against cruelty.  It speaks to a prejudicial attitude towards certain animals,  which is not based on a rational assessment of their ability to feel pain and sense fear,  but on our intended use for them.   As a result of these prejudicial attitudes,  the abuse of animals traditionally thought of as “farm animals” usually merits little attention, while the loudest outcry is reserved for the abuse of suburban pets.

On December 15th, we held our peaceful, planned protest of the Livestock Market in Stouffville, Ontario.  Saturday’s protesters appeared to be an eclectic mix of all ages from Toronto and both York and Durham Regions.  Some brought babies in their arms, others brought their enthusiastic dogs.

Since the initial blog postings by myself and Photojournalist Laura Templeton, we’ve heard that there have been some changes at the market.  It seems that water dispensers have made an appearance for some animals.  While this is clearly an improvement, we wonder about all the other animals in plastic cages who are not on display?  The pigs that I photographed on an earlier visit are now to be contained within plastic bags rather than exposed to airborne particles from the chicken pens.  This is clearly a win for everyone,  since all raw meat products,  whether pork,  beef,  poultry or fish – have the potential to carry bacterial pathogens,  such as Salmonella or E. coli.  No need to facilitate it either by having meat uncovered near live poultry.

MP McMeekin responds to my tweet about the market

MP McMeekin responds to my tweet about the market

While these changes are positive, I can’t help but wonder how long they will last?  Will the old, entrenched habits of the market reappear once the management and vendors think they have escaped public scrutiny?  What the management should have done years ago is take a leadership role – the sudden presence of water in some of the cages and the packaging of the dead pigs are a sign that the management knows that something is amiss,  but for whatever reason they have lacked the initiative required to put such welfare improvements in place.  A proactive management would have done this and a lot more without the presence of activists.

Additionally,  all livestock sellers who display chicks, ducklings and other live poultry should provide health-related information to owners and potential

Spent Hens

“Spent” hens, now with water as a result of social media publicity – Photo courtesy of Lynne Barrington

purchasers of these birds.  This should include information about the possibility of acquiring a Salmonella infection from contacting live poultry.  Platitudes about handwashing stations at petting zoos and washing hands when dealing with potentially risky things are nice but never enough. I wrote about this in the previous blog post about the market,  but it bears repeating,  especially since Martha Stewart of all people famously became infected with Salmonella due to cross-contamination. Both food producers and consumers themselves are billed by the Center for Disease Control as the CCP (Critical Control Point)  where contamination might occur.  And I will also add that none of these live animals can be sold or prepared for public consumption – private consumption only.

The protest was marred by some unforeseen events.  At the close of our 3 ½ our protest/vigil some of the protesters encountered physical hostility by some vendors inside the market.  You can read more about the physical altercations and the gentleman we call “The Self-Appointed Historian”  on Laura Templeton’s blog.  There is no justification for this physicality, as there is no justification for hurling homophobic slurs at the protesters either.  The real problem is the direct link between animal and human violence. It is repeatedly proven that abuse of animals is a rock-solid sign of trouble. Domestic violence and violence in schools are both two main areas in which potential problems could realistically predicted by looking into the implications behind animal and human violence. The individuals who grabbed or shoved the protesters have got some serious issues – even more so in the case of men accosting females.   While most of the sellers at the market wouldn’t start such a confrontation,  it’s unfortunate that a small minority of vendors chose to take this initiative; if one has no empathy towards animals,  it’s not exactly surprising that some express their frustrations in undesireable ways.  Ditto for the homophobic man and his homophobe-in-training child.  The “parent” has not only taught his child to hate/bully others but directly brought her into an altercation with adults and encouraged it!

In a free society, the best tool that we have in moving forward and making social change is knowledge, and by making the general public aware of these happenings; currently there is significant pressure on the management and owner of the market to end the outdated practice of selling live animals who are transported inhumanely and face a death by possibly unskilled or unpracticed hands.  The public are not aware of potential disease risks either,  and these cannot be eliminated without the cessation of live poultry sales completely.