Monthly Archives: March 2013

Who Knew? Horse Industry Groups Still Lying About Horse Abandonment

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© Heather Clemenceau

© Heather Clemenceau

Written By:  Heather Clemenceau with contributions by Kathy Gregory

There are those who tell the truth. There are those who distort the truth.  And then there’s the pro-slaughter myths and lies. You just know that whenever you see an article on “equine agriculture” that includes references to the Farm Bureau, you need to deploy your very best fact-checkers to keep them on their toes.  We’re seeing a lot of falsehoods in the news concerning animal welfare activists,  not that this is anything new – remember the claim by Charlie Stenholm that horse slaughterhouses were necessary to dispose of 9,000,000 unwanted horses per year,  while employing  400,000 people (in three slaughter plants,  no less)?

You’d think that an editor at one of the Big-Ag or Meat News Daily websites would cast a jaundiced eye on that claim, because it would mean that the number of people employed in the horse slaughter industry was roughly one third as large as everyone employed in the US military.  Or, you could say that, comparatively speaking, those 400,000 people employed in horse slaughter  are equivalent to 70% of the population of Wyoming and also more than the number of McDonald’s employees worldwide.  Since these numbers were picked up by multiple news channels I can only assume that Stenholm’s office gave them bogus numbers.

I wrote earlier about the perpetuation of these bogus stats in a blog post, but there’s always a new campaign of lies and myths with corresponding inconvenient truths for the slaughter promoters. Refuting lies about horse abandonment, despite being proven to be largely without merit by the Equine Welfare Alliance,  is as difficult as figuring out how to get smoke back in a cigarette (as one smart pro-horse person so cleverly put it).

The News Gazette of Illinois brings us an article about a group of so-called horse aficionados that starts out fairly well, but degenerates into standard fare horse slaughter truth-o-meter_nope_2001propaganda.  The group has about 450 members, but none of them ever heard the term “humane euthanasia.”  And you know if the Farm Bureau has anything to say about horse slaughter, they’re going to be about as impartial as David Duke’s critical review of Alex Haley’s “Roots.”

After describing how much love the group has for horses, Illinois horse breeder Nancy Strunk then starts in with the pro-slaughter dogma……“If you have an old, broken-down horse that can’t be ridden, horse owners don’t know what to do with them. The owners used to take them to a market to produce meat, and now you have to take them to Mexico.”  Strunk then went on to say that horse owners have resorted to setting their horses loose in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois and other places. Ms. Strunk then invited people interested in the equine committee and its activities to call the Farm Bureau.  She lives in Illinois,  so there’s really no excuse for ignorance,  but a real horse lover on a fact-finding mission can uncover this fraud without much effort. Horse advocate Kathy Gregory saw her claim about abandonment in the article and actually picked up the phone and called the management at the Shawnee National Forest for clarification.  Kathy presents a solid bit of sleuthing and fact checking that pulls the veil from the pro-slaughter efforts to mislead the public.

mythbusters-final2“Just for the heck of it, I called the Public Affairs office at the Shawnee National Forest Park, and spoke to a woman in Amanda Patrick’s office. She was completely puzzled by this statement from Ms Strunk, as she had heard nothing about any “abandoned horses”, but asked if she could call me back after checking with a couple people in the field offices. Later in the afternoon, she returned my call with the not-surprising-report that nobody in the Shawnee National Forest Park system had seen or heard about any “abandoned horses” on their land. Since the article ends by saying “Strunk invites people interested in the equine committee and its activities to call the Farm Bureau at 352-5235” I think I will.”

Here is an email response from the Shawnee National Forest Park:

“Mailroom R9 Shawnee | Mailroom_R9_Shawnee@fs.fed.us | Add to Contacts
Today, Tuesday, Mar 26 09:30 AM | Show Details | View source

Re: WWW Mail: abandoned horses?

Good morning,

Presently, we are not aware of any abandoned horses on the Shawnee National Forest lands.

Thanks, Rebeccah

Rebeccah Lampert Williams
Information Assistant-Shawnee National Forest
50 Highway 145 South
Harrisburg, IL 62946
1(800) 699-6637 1-(618) 253-7114”

So I think that about puts this little myth to rest.  But Kathy’s “truthiness-o-meter” is always on alert for lies passing as facts as they pertain to horse abandonment.  As we know,  breed associations are often pretty guilty of spinning their own pantsfirereality to justify slaughter.  This includes the inevitable abandonment and suffering stats that they are prone to pulling out of their asses.  Read the first half of an exchange Kathy had with the President of a breed association justifying slaughter with pants-on-fire lies:

“I have been a breeder for over 35 years and support the preservation of [redacted] horses. The problem with actions taken to ban horse slaughter are manifold and growing at an alarming rate, and it is not directed specifically at the [redacted] breed.  It involves all breeds.  The main problem is many people who have owned the “back yard pet” have lost interest or their children have quit riding, or thew [sic] parents have lost their job and can’t afford to feed their animals and can’t afford or won’t afford the cost of having the animals put down humanely by a vet.  The net result is these unwanted horses are being dumped on public and military lands so the irresponsible owners don’t have to deal with the problem.  We recently helped in the round up of dumped horses on the Ft. Lewis military reservation in the state of Washington.  We ended up with over 1500 horses, all of which were put down at public expense because the military was not prepared to deal with such a major expense on a long term basis.

What our Board of Directors did was to endorse the re-establishment of USDA controlled slaughter houses authorized to humanely deal with old, sick, and otherwise unwanted horses.  This endorsement provides a once viable disposal procedure to be re-established and remove the financial burden from the tax paying public. In really simple terms, the BOD said, “Be personally responsible for your decision to obtain a horse….don’t be a burden to the public because you made a bad decision”.

Name Redacted

bull_meterThis man is apparently not describing something told to him about 1,500 abandoned horses – he claims to have been directly involved in a rescue effort.  So I guess the BOD endorsed horse slaughter based in part on this man’s assertions that 1,500 horses were abandoned and euthanized at public expense.  We all know how much the pro-slaughters are loathe to waste anything,  so the idea that thousands of dollars of public money was used to euthanize these non-existent horses must have sent them clutching their coin purses! Presumably, he thought he could make this claim with zero evidence and coast by without being called on it due to his status as President. How many people repeated this claim in the absence of evidence of news reports? Kathy explains that…

“I attended one of the Region 5 meetings a number of years ago, and the then director stood at the podium and told the audience that there were so many “abandoned horses” being turned loose on the Fort Lewis military base, that soldiers were under orders to shoot them. Totally untrue, but can you imagine repeating this kind of thing?!  A report of 1500 horses ‘dumped’ on a military reservation and euthanized at taxpayer expense is a very serious allegation, so I wanted to gather more facts before I made any comments public or otherwise.

I have made several calls like this in the past on behalf of [redacted] when we were attempting to get the [redacted] Association BOD to rescind their endorsement of slaughter. Unbelievably, the Secretary of the [redacted] had made similar claims about her homestate park and people “abandoning their horses” — it of course, like this assertion by Ms Strunk, was false. Deliberately so, it seems. The really outrageous claim was made by a Director (who was defending the pro-slaughter postion) in my state who claimed he had participated in a 1500 abandoned horse “round up” on a military base in Tacoma; he went even further stating all the horses had to be euthanized “at taxpayer expense”. After many phone calls to authorities on the military base, the local Humane Societies, Vet Clinics, and local media, it turned out to be one of the MOST outrageous fabrications I have ever personally dealt with.

Yes, I said “1500” — lol!!

ISEEKathy responds to the unnamed President:

Part of the most successful rhetoric put forth by the pro-slaughter advocates has been the myth of ‘abandoned, starving, and neglected’ horses. 
Just prior to the 2007 closure of the last horse slaughter facility in Illinois, speculation by opponents to the closure began.  In an attempt to create anxiety among the general horse-owning public, they predicted a glut of horses would be abandoned and neglected by their owners as a result of the slaughter plants closing.  Predictably, and soon after, rumors began to circulate about horses being ‘abandoned’ in state parks, forests, and even on private land.  According to these rumors, horses were sometimes being abandoned on highways, creating hazardous conditions for drivers, they were left tied to trees, and even loaded into strangers’ empty horse trailers by their desperate owners.

I have called and spoken with:

1.) Dave Clouse, Biologist and Branch Chief of the Ft Lewis Fish and Wildlife Dept.  (responsible for monitoring and managing any/all animals wild or domestic on the reservation)
2.) The Pierce County Humane Society.
3.) Fort Lewis Military Police Department
4.) Fort Lewis Animal Control
5.) NCO Martha Parker at the Ft Lewis/McChord Veterinary Treatment Facility.

None of the people I have spoken with have any knowledge of the ‘round up’ you have described. Myself, along with several others did a great deal of research trying to verify this report.  We spoke with several local media outlets, locals who live around the base, military personnel, local veterinarians and even the nearest rendering company.   As a resident of Washington State, I thought it odd that none of the local news outlets had picked up on this story.  One station in particular, KOMO 4, dedicates a significant amount of time reporting on animal-welfare issues; surely they would have been aware of a story like this.  Myself, along with several others did a great deal of research trying to verify this report.  We spoke with several local media outlets, locals who live around the base, military personnel, local veterinarians and even the nearest rendering company.  Ultimately, the story presented at the Region V convention turned out to be an absolute, total, fabrication.The onlypants-on-fire thing we were able to verify was that this rumor has continued to circulate since 2007, just after the closure of the last horse slaughterhouse in Illinois.”

The bottom line is, the President was caught misrepresenting the horse abandonment issue, and when the statements were brought to his attention in no uncertain terms, he refused to acknowledge any  of it.  Of course after this the conversation went deadly silent,  and like many pro-slaughter Pinocchios, the President slunk away after his claim was proven to be utterly unsubstantiated.

The more these stories were repeated, the more we saw them take on a life of their own.  They became truth to many in the horse industry who were saddened to hear of such reports, and while conflicted about slaughter, began to believe that it was the better alternative for horses facing such neglect and abuse.  As a result, many compassionate horse owners who do not want horse slaughter have been convinced that it is necessary.  And I’m puzzled, to use a diplomatic euphemism,  why the Farm Bureau,  which supports farming,  agriculture, and corporate interests, can endorse the slaughter of a non-food animal which is not raised for food under food safety guidelines.

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Stouffville Livestock Market – New Protest and “Letters To The Editor”

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A great turnout on a very cold day....

A great turnout on a very cold day….

Written by: Heather Clemenceau

Today was our second protest against the Stouffville Livestock Market,  which re-opened for the 2013 season.  Fortunately the protest was uneventful, despite some early signs that there might be some hecklers.  At the end of our three-hour protest,  we were delighted to meet a kind gentleman who regularly rescues and rehabs some of the birds from the livestock market.  I’ve included pics of today’s rescue,  and I hope you’ll compare this to the Toronto Star video and make note of the fact that these particular birds show some sparse feathering and bloody scabs,  which is not atypical for many of the birds sold here.

Today,  I’m also taking the opportunity to respond to a couple of Letters to the Editor that appeared as follow-ups to the original article.

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Re: Farmers’ market runs afoul of activists, March 16

 “I applaud Bill Fletcher and the vital part he plays in providing an option for folks who choose to take control of their food source. Heather Clemenceau appears to favour factory farmed chicken because “there is a somewhat consistent method of killing,” as if that could make up for the atrocities of a poultry factory floor.

Conscientious protest is a right to be encouraged, though in this instance the OSPCA and Canadian Food Inspection Agency did not find the alleged cruel, outdated mistreatment of animals at the Stouffville Country Market.

I would encourage Ms Clemenceau to watch the episode of CBC TV’s www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2011/02/10/cons-supermarket-superbugs.html.MarketplaceEND that investigated superbug bacteria on supermarket chicken — the same chicken that most carnivores are familiar with, the same chicken described in the article as “plastic-wrapped packet of boneless, skinless breasts from a refrigerated grocery store aisle,” the chicken that the people who buy from Bill Fletcher do not want to eat.

Researchers bought 100 samples of some of the most popular brands of chicken, labelled and photographed them and sent them off to a lab for testing. Two thirds of the results showed bacteria — not simply E. coli, salmonella or

SPCA Regulations are only one set of regulations pertaining to animals.  Criminal Code may also apply.

SPCA Regulations are only one set of regulations pertaining to animals. Criminal Code may also apply.

campylobacter often present on raw chicken, but bacteria that antibiotics cannot kill.

Some bacteria were resistant to as many as eight types of antibiotics. Canadian poultry farmers are allowed to use the full range of antibiotics including those used exclusively when treating pregnant women and children.

Unless consumers buy chicken raised without the use of antibiotics (and clearly labelled as such), they are purchasing factory-farmed chicken that has consumed a lifetime of antibiotics, given for little reason other than delivering a weightier product, faster.

Why should this concern people like Ms Clemenceau? Because the day may (some on the front lines of medicine say will) come when superbug bacteria will infect our population — vegetarian and omnivore alike — and our arsenal of antibiotics will be of no use.

And that is where Bill Fletcher and choice comes into play: by offering his beautiful birds for sale, he is helping to provide a varied system of food delivery. It seems to me that petitioning to close the livestock stalls at the Stouffville Country Market is a mistake that plays right into the hand of industrialized (and not so healthy) food.

Perhaps vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores could unite — as all are at risk of future bacterial infection without antibiotic relief — and demand that the use of antibiotics in animal feed be outlawed across Canada. This protection is already offered throughout much of Europe.

Now that is a petition that I’d sign.” Linda Muir, Toronto

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When you call the OSPCA after hours, you are directed to contact the police.  Yet today,  despite police presence,  they seem unwilling to even inspect the market when provided with the regulations.

When you call the OSPCA after hours, you are directed to contact the police. Yet today, despite police presence, they seem unwilling to even inspect the market when provided with the regulations.

‘Heather Clemenceau and Nic Wilvert have the right cause, but the wrong target. Small livestock dealers at the Stouffville farmer’s market, following a centuries-old tradition of selling live animals to individuals, are not committing atrocities toward animals. Neither are the buyers.

Instead, these animal activists should be directing their energies toward improving the mega-sized, highly commercialized food system in Ontario where animal welfare is really in question. Do these do-gooders not know about the living conditions and transport of most factory farmed animals?

And the huge processing facilities where thousands of antibiotic-infused chickens are mass executed daily in a mechanized fashion? Is the “consistent method of killing” frenzied, stressed animals en masse that Clemenceau refers to in her blog, a preferred fate to the killing of individual animals by humans who end their lives quickly and humanely?

The cellophane wrapped, Styrofoam-tray mounted, chemical-laced poultry product most of us now buy in our box stores is a far cry from what our families used to purchase just a generation ago. I can’t see this as progress.

We all need to be more mindful of where our food comes from. Farmer’s markets are an excellent source of real, genuine food and need to be supported.”  Denise Sheedy, Pefferlaw

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I would like to respond to Ms. Muir and Ms Sheedy’s Letters to the Editor,  published on March 23rd,  the day of the opening of the Stouffville Livestock Market for 2013.  I wish to clarify that Heather_ppat no time during my interview with the writer Rachel Mendleson did I state that I preferred CAFO farming of any animal.  What I did say was that, with the vendor disclosure that many clients were buying these birds, likely for halal or kosher slaughter, a system with controls and inspectors,  however flawed,  is better than none at all.  That does NOT have to be large scale slaughter – a licensed butcher would be much more appropriate,  as would a mobile slaughter truck.  Halal and Kosher slaughter (or other inept methods of killing) are cruel in that they do not stun the animals beforehand, so they are completely conscious when slaughtered,  which I’ve discussed in a blog post and therefore won’t address it here again.  The average person killing an animal purchased at the market will be unable to determine whether the vertebral arteries have been severed to the brain (unless of course the animal is completely and immediately decapitated).

Insofar as antibiotics are concerned, this is a separate issue that is not directly related to the issues at the market, which I’ve discussed in several blogposts:

Our meeting with Mayor Emmerson

Our first protest of the market and the resulting assaults in December 2012

First blog post discussing the conditions at the market

The livestock industry uses the majority of antibiotics sold today – and it’s quite true they are slowly losing their effectiveness in fighting bacterial infections .  I’m honestly surprised that the writer cannot make the connection between antibiotic use and the mass production of animals.  Surely the writer recognizes that the increase in overall meat consumption has been facilitated by the low cost of meat, due to the mechanization of meat processing, increased economies of scale, and antibiotic use?  Without the ability to slaughter hundreds of animals per hour, the craving for meat cannot be satisfied, especially by the small scale producer. Mechanized dis-assembly of animals occurs as a result of the demand for cheap meat, which we’ve also seen result in the horsemeat adulteration scandal in the EU.  The only way to avoid this is to stop patronizing the industry.

Any producer,  large or small can be a contributor to unethical animal handling, and yes, often the biggest culprit is factory farms.  But small scale farmers can hardly be excused because their product “may” be less adulterated.  The true pressure on small farmers are not the activists asking that blatant cruelty stop, but on farmers themselves to establish CAFOs in order to compete with the larger corporations.  These are not issues we are exploring in our protests.  Therefore, discussion of antibiotics in food has little bearing on the deplorable practice of putting animals in the trunks of cars in any climate.  Causing undue suffering such as this is in contravention of the SPCA act and Criminal Code.  Again, our issue is cruelty,  plain and simple.

These birds show a reality that is somewhat different from the video of Mr. Fletcher's establishment. Notice the small scabs. Today they were rescued by a compassion man who will rehab them.

These birds show a reality that is somewhat different from the video of Mr. Fletcher’s establishment. Notice the small scabs and blood-tinged sparse feathering. Today they were rescued by a compassionate man who will rehab them.  Also notice that he has them in a box and not an onion bag!

I do believe that the battery hens at the market, which comprise a sizable majority, are raised in battery cages, with artificial sunlight, for about 72 weeks before slaughter.  In Canada anywhere from 70-90 percent of them are raised this way.  Beyond seeing Mr. Fletcher’s video, we have no idea how the other vendors raise their birds.  Mr. Fletcher is also one of several vendors on this site and when I visited and photographed the market,  I saw no guarantees from any of them as to what meds if any, are used in their animals directly or via feed.  I saw no disclaimers that these animals were “free range,”  or any of the other semi-meaningless descriptors used for animal farms.  I have never seen any signage posted or warranties provided that these animals are organic.  Indeed, the government of Canada has very specific requirements for registering a farm as “organic.”

Ms. Sheedy decries the “Styrofoam-tray mounted, chemical-laced poultry product most of us now buy in our box stores is a far cry from what our families used to purchase just a generation ago.” What we’ve actually done in the last 100 years is trade one form of cruelty – the unregulated abattoirs,  for another – the mass dis-assembly of animals on a production line.  The way in which we view animals has changed dramatically over the last 100 years.  We experience tension and clashes in this era due to  a growing fondness of some animals and the consumption of others.  Most abattoirs 100 years ago where situated in slums characterized by extreme poverty, filth,  delinquency, and crowded conditions.  Today,  it is generally acknowledged that sentient creatures being killed are worthy of protection.  If you have a market such as this where neither OMAFRA nor the OSPCA are willing or able to direct changes, you have the same institutionalized “forgetting” that creates the conditions for cruelty hidden in a quiet country town.

We received this message via a circuitous route - thankfully the heckler did not emerge. More of an issue perhaps is why adults encourage minor children to engage with adults and encourage harassment.

Come at me ‘bro.  We received this message via a circuitous route – thankfully the heckler did not emerge. More of an issue perhaps is why adults encourage minor children to engage with adults and encourage harassment.  And harassment is not a skill that will take your kids anywhere in life.

Even in the eighteenth century , reformers argued that “public slaughterhouses” would be preferable to “private slaughterhouses” (the term referred to any structure in which animals were slaughtered for human consumption, e.g., a butcher’s shed) because they would remove the sight of animal slaughter from public places and indiscreet private slaughterhouses, they could more easily be monitored, they were generally considered to be cleaner as well.  Our argument is not so much different from that.  That is not to say that industrialization or mechanization of slaughter is somehow preferable to what could be a humane end by a licensed butcher.

In conclusion, a more relevant video embedded in the Star article would have consisted of footage of the actual conditions at the market and not at one vendor’s establishment.  I’m gratified that Mr. Fletcher’s birds are indoors and protected from the elements, but again, is he is only one of several livestock vendors that service the market with different species of animals.  While the video gives the impression that Mr. Fletcher’s establishment IS the market, the animals at the market have zero protection from the elements for at least six hours unless they remain in a trailer.  Today at the protest of the re-opening of the market for 2013, the temperature is in the negative numbers and with wind chill is it even colder.   If the protesters at the market are freezing for 3 hours, imagine how these birds must feel,  particularly the “spent” hens who have  very limited feathering.  They don’t all look like Mr. Fletcher’s birds.  Thank you to another writer responding to The Star article,  Ms. Featherby,  who “gets it.”  Please read her letter below:

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“Rodger Dunlop’s “hope” that the slaughter of farmers’ market purchases is humane is inadequate. That the manager of regulatory compliance for the Ontario Agriculture Ministry “hopes” that these animals will be treated without cruelty by a public whose methods of ending an animal’s life are not monitored, nor guided by definable regulations is an unfortunate guarantee that many short lives will have horrific endings.

If witnesses are observing animals being carelessly tossed into trunks and having their little bones broken in plain view of the public, one wonders what goes on upon arrival home. Indeed, as these animals end up in the care of individuals who clearly want to do the killing themselves, it does make one question just how much kindness and dignity they are afforded in death, and why the absence of regulation continues.”  Mercedes Featherby, Toronto

Where Will All The Horses Go?

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© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

Those who profess to care seem to clearly outnumber those who evidently do not, yet those who are uncaring prevail far too often. It is not the numbers that determine the outcome, but whether those who claim to be good are willing to do something about it.  I wanted to reblog Kevan’s thoughtful article challenging the equestrian community to creatively end North America’s reliance on  horse slaughter, after reading it on Facebook last year.

Not only was I was impressed with the quality of the writing and the solutions he proposed,  but also impressive is his commitment to being one of those caring individuals who simply does not pass by by a horse in need thinking, “that’s too bad. But s/he’s not my horse.”  Of course,  Kevan’s also an amazing photographer,  whose work can be viewed on his Facebook page – Maneframe Im•age•ry

Written by:  Kevan Garecki (reproduced with permission)

All Photography © Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

“Strictly by definition there are over 100,000 “unwanted” horses who enter the processing end of the industry every year. There are no hard figures for how many others await something better, but the “sighted mouse” theory may apply; if you see one, there are undoubtedly far more hidden from view.

Rescues turn away exponentially higher numbers of horses than they actually take in; SPCA offices strain their resources to depletion & beyond; and fewer & fewer private individuals are producing viable rescue alternatives, despite the rising head count. In other words; we’re trying harder & getting nowhere faster. It’s time to take a harder look at feasibility & be accountable for what we give.

There are too many “unwanted” horses for us to reasonably expect to save all of them. The market is so saturated that this situation is not likely to improve for some time to come. Unscrupulous breeders & sales agents, uneducated buyers & a plethora of other influences will continue to sway the market until the product it offers improves. With 100,000+ horses annually heading to slaughter, the only way we can hope to get a handle on salvation is to elevate education & awareness, and to severely curtail foal crops in years to come.

Prevailing economies are not likely to pass any time soon; so instead of expecting more money to rain from the heavens we must make more effective use of the

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

resources we have at present, and expect those resources to shrink before they flourish once again. More importantly, we must work smarter; networking to improve availability of resources, focused fundraising that targets donations in kind in addition to cash, sponsorship programs for groups instead of individuals, & structuring of volunteer programs to maximize results from their efforts are but a few areas that need revising. The current rescue landscape must change; we can no longer willy-nilly “rescue” every horse we see. We must inject another dimension into the process; looking farther into the future. In essence, we must re-invent rescue, or else “salvation” will become semantically equal to “stockpiling”.

Breeders, buyers, trainers, agents equine service providers, & government must now take the responsibility to assume the “bleeding edge” of control over this unacceptable situation. Responsibility (or lack thereof) is a major contributor to the issue; because not enough people took that stance and resultantly flooded the market with the horses we are now faced with rescuing or inevitably, slaughtering.

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

I have a series of challenges for the equestrian community, and there are some tangible perks for those who pick up the gauntlet:

Veterinarians are in the soup along with the rest of us; you helped the vast majority of domesticated horses into this world, you can help us fix the problem now. I have repeatedly tried to launch gelding programs to prevent marginal stallions from entering breeding programs, & to offer free euthanasia for cash-strapped owners. These efforts have met with disdain from the medical community. You have education on your side, share it with the public, even if it means taking an unpopular stance. Many of you took an oath to actively work towards the greater good of the equestrian communities that support you; those words are knocking …

~

Breeders are the most oft attacked for the current problem, but those with experience hesitate to share their knowledge. It’s not enough to hold onto a valued breeding philosophy; you need to explain to the masses why you breed the way you do, and take responsibility for your get. If you end up with a foal that fails to further the breed ideal, then do the right thing then & there instead of trying to recover your losses. You owe this & nothing less to the breed you purport to uphold.

~

Trainers make money training horses, and to do so they must occasionally assume the role of agent, advisor & guide for their clients when the chequebooks come out. You want to be in a position of authority? Then act like you deserve it! If you see a horse that is incapable of meeting the clients’ needs, then be the professional we need you to be and pass that horse up rather than shovelling unheard of sums of money into your bank accounts only to watch the horse be shuffled off from one home you know damn well won’t work to another.

~

During an era of prosperity, equine service providers flocked to the calls for everything from horse-sitting & equine chiropractic to haute couture grooming & dinner parties for stud

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

services. Once the public was suitably fleeced and money drained out faster than gas through a luxury SUV, we were left holding the bag with the bill in it. Now that the barest necessities such as hay & shelter are scarcely affordable, the herd of “unaffordable” horses joins the ranks of the “unwanted”. Yes, some of the more gullible owners may have needed a swift kick in the bank account, but others were just trying to make a dream come true, or help a kid learn to ride, or maybe just make a home for a horse they could barely afford. Still think it was funny to charge $500 for a clipping … ?

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Owners! Instead of discarding that horse because s/he cannot perform to your expectations or needs, look into retraining for alternate jobs. Look not to the breeder for a shiny new foal, but to the current get for matches to your quest. We recycle metal, glass, forest products & much more to save the planet; but make little effort to finding alternate productive service for the horses who serve us. Stewardship assumes many guises, and holds a multitude of responsibilities; not the least of which is that life you took on when you bought that horse …

~

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

Education must be the precursor to enforcement, so to those in the echelons of the enforcement community I pose this; if you are not in the position to educate, then you cannot morally enforce. Informed officers are your single best resource to stem the tsunami of neglect & abuse. Teach your officers how to spread the word, be seen as the source for information, be the “go to” for help instead of cringing under self-imposed Damoclean legerdemain. There are resources you can tap into, I can & have offered this and much more to many SPCA offices. Time to be all you can be.

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A tip o’ the hat to the American politicians who waded into battle for the sake of a few influential constituents & laboured long to rescind anti-slaughter legislation in their own states. When the highest power in the land said “No”, you conspired with other power brokers to create your own island of nepotism! Didn’t the KKK try something like that a while back … ? Apparently the wants of the few outweigh the needs of the many in the Land of the Free. Government is supposed to be of the people, for the people as I recall in my history classes; or perhaps that was re-written along with the outcome of the War of 1812?

~

If we can’t viably save a horse, then the only moral thing to do is to release him/her from further suffering. Vets, breeders, trainers & owners alike must all accept the very real possibility of having to euthanize a horse if their prospect of adoption or homing is less than ideal. We can’t save them all, so let’s concentrate on the ones we can look after; but in order to do that we must educate ourselves in making intelligent choices, and be ready to release the rest so as to prevent them from a life of depravity & neglect. Is “life without possibility of parole” better or worse than “death row”?

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

No one is innocent in this situation; you are either part of the solution or you reside squarely in the realm of the problem; by allowing the problem to persist you procreate it through inaction. Those who care can only outnumber those who do not because they prove their devotion by working actively towards the solutions. Those who profess to care yet do nothing are little more than agents of the ones who care not.

I don’t believe anything constructive comes from posing a problem without offering solutions to it, so here are my attempts at blazing a trail out of the mess:

I am not a fan of regulation, but one look at the flood of foals every year proves we cannot be trusted to police our own ranks so some form of continuity must be enforced upon us. I propose licensing for breeders, and a qualification process to prove fitness. Fees should include a levy that goes directly into a fund administrated for the benefit of rescues & animal welfare.

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Breed associations could provide a point system based on breeders’ past crops & performance. Potential buyers could purchase compilations of breeding activity & shortlist based on a breeder’s rating. The higher the quality of foals, the more points a breeders gets. The better their earnings, the more points they get. Breeders should also receive substantial recognition for responsibility towards recovering or recycling horses who may not make the grade and are retrained or otherwise assisted at the breeder’s own expense. In short, good breeders would benefit exponentially, poor breeders would no longer be able to finance the equine equivalent of “puppy mills”.

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Breeders should be required to post a performance bond on their foal crops. Failure to ensure welfare of their get would bring about enforced support, be it in the form of care or euthanasia.

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© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

Trainers cannot morally represent their clients in the purchase of new horses. They can advise but ultimately it’s up to the owners to educate themselves when looking at a horse. If you have to ask a barber if you need a haircut, maybe you need to look in the mirror instead. Immerse yourselves in the transaction; make an informed decision based on all available information. Your vet, farrier, chiro, trainer or miracle-working cowboy cannot “fix” a horse that is conformationally unfit, unsound or otherwise debilitated. Buy what you need, buy smart!

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Major players must be made accountable for the demands they put on the industry & provide alternatives, such as supporting adoption foundations for these ex-athletes. The racing community places 2-year old horses into competitive service, but then provides little or no support for the burnt out 4-year olds that practice creates.

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Major venues & breed/discipline associations should donate a percentage of their income to welfare & support. This doesn’t mean you get to raise the rates for next year’s shows or memberships, take the money out of your own pocket; like the rest of us do …

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

© Kevan Garecki and Maneframe Im•age•ry

Does this anger you? Do my words inspire ire & rage? Good! Then you’re just the person we need, for you have passion & passion is what is needed to chip through the crust of apathy. Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”

Mainstream Magazine “Horse-Canada” Wrestles Tough Slaughter Issue

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mom and babyLast year I was interviewed by journalist Liz Brown,  who writes for the Canadian publication Horse-Canada.  Sinikka Crosland,  Executive Director of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition was also interviewed.  This was a months-long writing/research project for Ms. Brown that was temporarily derailed when Canada stopped accepting imports of American horses briefly in October 2012.

I had wondered whether it would ever be published when a couple of people mentioned that they had seen it in the print version of the magazine.  As far as I know,  it’s not available online but I’ve reproduced it here.  It’s a fairly balanced piece that covers feedlot issues,  the ever-present spectre of horsemeat purveyor La Palette Restaurant in Toronto and our protests there,  toxicology issues,  the lack of testing protocols at the CFIA,  and the falsification of EIDs.  Of course,  horsemeat pimp Bill “Slaughter is a Wonderful Option” DesBarres is quoted as well.

You can’t read the article without arriving at the inevitable conclusion that this multi-million dollar industry is incredibly problematic,  quite apart from the actual cruelty involved.  Hopefully this article resonates with the audience of Horse Canada,  which primarily features more “fluff” pieces on topics such as coronary band injuries and dietary supplements.

Please click on the graphic to open the article in PDF format.

Horse Canada's Expose Stable to Table - please click to read the full article in PDF.

Horse Canada’s Expose Stable to Table – please click to read the full article in PDF.

What’s On Your Plate Stouffville? Livestock Advocacy Efforts Continue Into 2013…

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Chickens at the Stouffville Market

Photo by Laura Templeton

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Yesterday, in anticipation of the 2013 opening of the Stouffville Livestock Market, we met with Mayor Emmerson and a representative of the Town of Stouffville.  Our intent has been to highlight the perceptions of livestock markets in general by both the local community and the world at large,  and explain that our position on the livestock handling and sale is supported by evidence and law.  We acknowledge that the Mayor does not necessarily have jurisdiction over all aspects of the market,  but nevertheless,  should be made aware of the “other side” of the story that is not being told by the market operators or necessarily the media.  The Mayor also invited members of the OSPCA,  but unfortunately they were unavailable/failed to present for the meeting.  At the same time, a Toronto Star article was published comparing/contrasting activist claims with vendor and government assertions about care and handling of the animals.

First on the agenda was to present the Mayor with the petition, which now reflected between 1,500 and 1,600 signatures from all over the world.  I also gave the Mayor a page of signatures for the Stouffville area alone.

We brought printouts from the  “Health of Animals” Regulations – Livestock Handling,  Transport,  Segregation…  from the Justice Laws website of the Government of Canada:

141. (1) Subject to this section, no person shall load on any railway car, motor vehicle,  aircraft or vessel and no carrier shall transport animals of different species or of substantially different weight or age unless those animals are segregated.”

143. (1) No person shall transport or cause to be transported any animal in a railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, crate or container if injury or undue suffering is likely to be caused to the animal by reason of

(a) inadequate construction of the railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, container or any part thereof;

(b) insecure fittings, the presence of bolt-heads, angles or other projections;

(c) the fittings or other parts of the railway car, motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel or container being inadequately padded, fenced off or otherwise obstructed;

(d) undue exposure to the weather; or

(e) inadequate ventilation.

Good to see you Bob and Anita!

And from the Criminal Code of Canada:

Section 446 of the Criminal Code sets out the offence of causing damage or injury to animals and birds. Everyone who by:

…wilful neglect causes damage to animals or birds that are being conveyed or everyone who is the owner or has custody or control of an animal or bird wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food water, shelter and care, is guilty of an offence.

A person convicted of this offence is liable to imprisonment for not more than two years if the prosecution proceeds by way of indictment. If convicted of an offence where the Crown proceeds by way of summary conviction, the person faces a maximum punishment of a fine not exceeding $5,000 or six months in jail or both.

Section 446(3) states that:

…evidence that a person failed to exercise reasonable care or supervision of an animal or bird and thereby caused injury or damage to it, is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, proof that the injury or damage was caused by “wilful neglect”.

Animal Health Regs

In our opinion, the livestock market cannot simultaneously operate and meet all of these conditions.  As identified in my previous blog on the market, animals of all species are placed in an onion bag(s) – this may consist of rabbits, chickens, quail, or ducks.  It is the market’s responsibility to segregate the animals by species.  OMAFRA handed down a decision at the Woodville auction whereby onion bags were not permissible and the animals were placed in cardboard boxes.  We verified that this was happening at the Woodville auction in January 2013.  OSPCA senior inspector Steven Toy did not only  insist that the vendors supply water to the animals,  but he also told them that they could only place one animal per onion bag,  although that wasn’t mentioned in the Toronto Star article covering our protests.  However, it seems to be that the only animals receiving any water are those on display – animals constricted in the yellow/red cages are not offered water unless they are put out on display in smaller metal cages.

While a spokesman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency stated that “Onion bags allow the animals to be calm and breathe comfortably,” I wonder if he would arrive at the same conclusion if he saw multiple species of animal stuffed into the bag and placed into the trunk of a car?  I also spoke with a CFIA source on March 11th and asked him whether it could be construed that placing animals in the trunks of cars could be considered “undue stress” and he did agree.  Therefore,  we hold that the market or possibly its customers may also be in contravention of section 143 (1) of the “Health of Animals” regulations since animals placed in the trunks of cars, particularly on the hottest months of the year will indeed experience “undue suffering.”  This is no different that leaving a dog in a locked car without appropriate ventilation – the police would likely be called and the owner may be charged.  We discussed with the Mayor the possibility that persons storing the animals in trunks could be charged under the Criminal Code.

Wind Chill Factors

Wind Chill Factors – the effect of cold and speed on the interior temperature of a livestock trailer with open slats.

Holding a market in March and November/December is unduly cold for many of the animals, especially chickens who have lost much of their feathers and have little protection from the elements.  This is exacerbated by transporting them in trailers with open slats – the chicken cages are loaded directly against the slats, and open slats in winter  coupled with the speed of the vehicle can often bring the interior temperatures of the trailer into negative numbers.  You can see from the various blog pictures that the trailers all have open slats, and these pictures were taken in November.  It’s amazing to me that the OSPCA apparently overlooked this.  National Farm Animal Care Council codes of practice indicate that “Ventilation should be adjustable from the outside of the vehicle in response to temperature changes during a trip.”

Again, despite vendor claims to the contrary,  various protesters  have actually seen chickens being killed at the market.  Most of the activists have seen chickens get their necks snapped – how can this be construed as “taking things out of context?”  I would honestly say that a great many of the birds on sale at the market hardly look “1,000 times better” than what’s produced on factory farms,”  since many of them are spent battery hens at the end of their productive lives.

What would be the interior temperature of this trailer in November with slats open?

What would be the interior temperature of this trailer in November with slats open? Photo By Laura Templeton

Also not mentioned in the Toronto Star article was the outstanding issue whereby 3 people were assaulted at the market on December 15th.  Two people were pushed, one person’s phone was nearly knocked out of their hand, and another was physically restrained by the wrist.  We were not discouraged from filing police reports by the Mayor’s Office either.  Does anyone other than the conscientious objectors to the market believe that assault,  particularly by a man of a woman,  is a telling indicator of how some of the vendors might behave towards their animals?

Of course it’s better for the purchasers of the animals to take them to a licensed slaughterhouse, but how many purchasers do that?  If they didn’t want to

Animals of various species loaded into onion sacks.  There is significant weight to these sacks and the animals on the bottom are being crushed.

Animals of various species loaded into onion sacks. There is significant weight to these sacks and the animals on the bottom are being crushed.

slaughter animals themselves, they would likely go to their local butcher and still be able to claim they’re a “locavore.” Third-generation chicken farmer, Fletcher, as quoted in the Star article, acknowledges that the animals are being killed at home: “…..his customers, who range from immigrants accustomed to slaughtering their own meat to families seeking a source for fresh eggs.”  Religious or kosher/halal slaughter techniques are cruel and should be ended, says a scientific assessment from animal welfare advisers. The Farm Animal Welfare Council in the UK says that slitting the throats of the animals most commonly used for meat, chickens, without stunning, results in “significant pain and distress”.  Throat cutting associated with religious slaughter may fail to sever the vertebral arteries supplying the brain.

Spent Hens

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

We came away from our meeting  having reached consensus on some issues with the Mayor.  Smoking around flammable material by vendors and customers is to be addressed with signage and inspection from the Fire department.  We were not dissuaded from filing police reports as a result of the assaults.  The Mayor agreed to asking the market to use cardboard boxes, so that the market is “on spec” with the practices being used at Woodville.  I sense that the Mayor was uncomfortable with the past practice of putting goats in the trunks of cars – I say “past practice” because we assume that they will no longer be sold at the market since per the CFIA, hoofstock is not permissible.   Mayor Emmerson also didn’t really offer any resistance when we suggested that purchasers who put animals in the trunks of cars on hot days might be subject to charges of animal cruelty either.  Is it so difficult to put an animal into the climate-controlled passenger compartment?

At this time, our protest of the market re-opening is still a go for March 23rd, despite conflicting information about the official start of the livestock market.  It will be interesting to see what policy changes “stick” with the market in 2013.  We thank the Mayor for agreeing to meet with us and will follow-up with the other agencies as discussed.

Soylent Green Is Horses…..

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lunapic_136306162820000_8Written By:  Heather Clemenceau

How good is your memory – do you remember the cult sci-fi movie Soylent Green?  I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly good movie – it was released in the same decade that gave us the Village People, but it’s got some surpsingly durable themes.  It was based on the book “Make Room!  Make Room!  By Harry Harrison.  The book was actually based on a population of 7 billion,  pretty much what we have right now.  Part of what made the movie so popular was its somewhat plausible and proximate horrors about synthetic food sources.  The  movie depicted the year 2022, when the world was suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and the greenhouse effect.  Most housing was dilapidated and overcrowded, and the homeless filled the streets and lined the fire escapes, stairways of buildings, abandoned cars, subway platforms, etc. with little to occupy them due to high unemployment. Much of the population in this future world survived on processed food rations, including one named “Soylent Green,” which is said to be manufactured from plankton harvested from the oceans.  Charlton Heston plays the part of detective Robert Thorn who disobeys orders from his superiors  and investigates the Soylent Corporation.

e9aa_soylent_green_crackersThe main character’s investigation reveals that Soylent’s oceanographic reports are fraudulent and that the oceans no longer produce the plankton from which Soylent Green is reputedly made. Thorn’s friend Roth is a former college professor whose job is to sort through the now-disordered remnants of written records in order to assist Thorn with his investigation.   Roth realizes that that the reports indicate a horrible truth which they find nearly impossible to believe; Soylent Green isn’t made from plankton, it’s made from something far more sinister. Unable to live with what he has uncovered, Roth opts for assisted suicide at a government clinic (in the former Madison Square Garden, which had been converted to a clinic for mass euthanasia).  As Roth is dying, he watches video clips of Earth long ago when farm animals, deer, and horses were thriving and there was no mass suffering.  During his final moments, he begs Thorn to follow his body to the processing centre for absolute proof of the scheme. So detective Thorn stows himself aboard a garbage truck to a human body disposal-centre, where he sees (HUGE SPOILER ALERT!) humans being converted into Soylent Green. Thorn then retreats into a cathedral filled with homeless people, wher5197320220_e3e47c5e81e he is attacked by agents from the corporation and is seriously injured. When the police arrive, the dying Thorn urges those around him to spread the word that “Soylent Green is people,” which is of course the film’s most recognized tagline.

We’re less than 10 years away from the decade depicted in the movie and already experiencing all the symptoms of the dystopia of the movie. One of the ethical issues posited by the movie (but not the book) was that in death was to be found a valuable commodity, so valuable that the government would go to almost any lengths to conceal it.  The theme of euthanasia being a preferable transition to death also featured predominantly since people had the option of their own humane euthanasia – to sell their body in exchange for a more peaceful death.  This option was certainly preferable to being picked up by the city via huge vans with scoopers as occurs in the movie.  Just as most people are unaware of what happens to horses sent to auctions, the moviegoer is left to wonder where these people are taken after they are picked up from the city’s streets.

none_of_your_businessIn early 2013 the food safety scandal sweeping Europe brought details of how tainted our food production is.  Consumers of “beef” products have had informed consent removed by fraudulent corporations that show utter disregard for their customers’ autonomy and right to choose what they eat. The scandal actually bears a lot of similarity to the plot line of Soylent Green,  in that the scandal uncovered the mysterious supply chains, industrial scale adulteration, smuggling, organized crime and outright fraud – not to mention the usual finger-pointing, cover-ups and protestations of shock that accompany food crises.  As in the movie, corporations have deceptively disguised a product to serve a global food market.

Just as the character Roth struggles to uncover documentation to support the hypothesis about Soylent Green, we see that there is no record-keeping mechanism for tracking the administration of drugs to horses.  We now know that equine passports are duplicated or made fraudulent.   Moreover, in the movie, it looks like the Soylent product  is produced according to high quality control requirements,  but the reality is quite different.  Recent audits conducted by the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office in Canada and Mexico found that these countries are not in compliance with the E.U.’s food safety standards with regard to their medical records, even though non-E.U. parties have had two years to amend their residue control programs. North American horses do not even have passports as in the EU.

Despite these important food safety policies and standards, every year thousands of animals are routinely given prohibited substances; MOV_dbc9824d_bracehorses, show horses and carriage horses regularly end up as meat intended for human consumption imported into the E.U. Last year well over 100,000 American horses were transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, with the meat going primarily to the E.U. and Japan. These animals were never bred or raised for the table, but for other purposes, and they should be disqualified from the meat trade. In the movie, protagonist Thorn’s final warning “soon they’ll be breeding us like cattle” reminds us of what has already happened with “meat” horses bred specifically for other markets such as Japan.  The movie also assumes a large variety of countermeasures simply don’t exist or were rejected – just like abandoned HACCP critical check points and government officials who either know what is going on or are complicit in burying the findings of whistleblowers who warned about horsemeat becoming prolific in food in 2011.  We’ve also seen that other countries have found drugs in horsemeat from Canada, which is hardly surprising since the CFIA only tests less than 1% of horsemeat for phenylbutazone contamination.

Experience has shown that those who tend to defraud the system designed to protect humans generally have even fewer qualms about the welfare of the animals they slaughter. Food fraud also extends beyond the trade in horses.  A recent two-year study on American seafood found compelling evidence of “seafood fraud.” Researchers found fish sold as snapper and tuna were likely to be mislabelled, 87 and 59 percent of the time, respectively.  Overall, one-third of all samples used for the study were misidentified out of over a thousand samples taken.

This scandal has caused us to openly question what is on our plates and how it got there, and given horse advocates the opportunity to open up dialogue on the cruel treatment of horses. The public imagesis beginning to realize that corporate food manufacturers and producers are only concerned with maximizing profits and thus, do not deserve our unquestioning trust.  Emerging from the scandal is a new buzzword, “traceability” – consumers knowing where the food on their plate has come from.

By nature of the genre, science fiction has to be somewhat prophetic, or at least convince audiences that if something isn’t likely, it is at least plausible. Some of the salient points Soylent Green made back in the 70’s definitely feel like they’re already upon us 10 years too soon.

“He who controls the food supply, controls the people”  ~Henry Kissinger

Radio Hosts Eat Horsemeat On Air Despite Facebook Outrage

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horse_butchering_map.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxWritten By:  Heather Clemenceau

Today’s post is dedicated to horsemeat propaganda,  courtesy of Canada’s famous slaughterphile Bill DesBarres,  who recently appeared on one of two radio episodes on horsemeat coming out of Saskatoon on the Round Table News Talk 650 CKOM.  DesBarres was interviewed by David Kirton in one podcast,  while Craig Silliphant and David Kirton sampled horsemeat in a second podcast, with Angela Hill representing the “pescatarian” abstainer.  Although their Facebook page was inundated with criticism and countervailing facts about horses, it was only a fraction of the outrage that was reserved for the hosts of “Top Chef Canada” which created a challenge featuring horsemeat in a segment two years ago.

Bill DesBarres - singing the praises of happy horse slaughterhouses

Bill DesBarres – singing the praises of happy horse slaughterhouses

When the show’s producers saw the posts on their Facebook page and realized that there might be humane issues with slaughtering horses, they  apparently mistookthe Horse “Welfare” Alliance of Canada as an actual welfare group advocating for horses and invited DesBarres to participate by providing awkward, one-sided small talk.  Both shows were very formulaic in that they glossed over the real issues and asked “not-so-challenging” questions of DesBarres, who invariably presented horse slaughter as a joyous theme park of happiness where horses willing go to be slaughtered and eaten, not unlike the pig at the Restaurant at the end of the Universe.

DesBarres did not fail to deliver his usual derp for the CFIA either, and steadfastly maintained that he has never heard of any Canadian horsemeat that has tested positive for phenylbutazone.  Unfortunately for the audience, host David Kirton wasn’t aware of any examples either, and so was unable to delve any deeper into the discussion.  And the audience was not served by the lack of commentary from a knowledgeable person or group such as the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, a true horse advocacy group.

DesBarres will NOT tell these radio hosts that his welfare claims of happy slaughterhouses and comfortable travel to them are almost meaningless. The Federal Health of Animals Act is not enforced, which would protect sick, pregnant and unfit horses, and prohibit overcrowding; the Recommended Code of Practice for Care and Handling of Farm Animals: Transportation of Horses. is not enforced. The CFIA does not enforce their own weak rules that slaughter bound horses must not be transported for longer than 36 hours straight and must be provided with feed, water and rest at required intervals. Double-decker trailers are still allowed in Canada. Horses are shipped in crowded trailers over long distances, and often arrive injured, sometimes fatally. Horses, unlike most livestock, do not travel well.

Mark McEwan was criticizied on Top Chef Canada for serving horsemeat

Mark McEwan was criticizied on Top Chef Canada for serving horsemeat

So, suffice it to say, they don’t always respond well when being transported from kill auctions in the U.S. to federally licensed slaughterhouses in Quebec and Alberta. Since 2007, inspectors have been banned from the kill floor for their own safety, since the adoption of firearms has been implemented to stun animals, so their role is basically an administrative one now. So how could inspectors intervene when humane incidents have occurred, as revealed by a CBC probe and in undercover video by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition?

He also won’t tell anyone that the HWAC’s solution for the traceability issues in horsemeat will never be accepted by the general population of horse owners,  because we will not pay for any system for our animals just so the Europeans or Japanese can be assured of a bute-free gastronomic experience.  And he did not tell the hosts (at least not on air) that he is a paid representative of Claude Bouvry and his slaughter empire.  Nor will he acknowledge that HWAC has no real horse welfare programs,  and if he or the HWAC board members were genuinely concerned about horse welfare,  DesBarres would not try to discredit video evidence produced by the CHDC.  That speaks volumes.

You can listen to the DesBarres Interview here

The eating of horsemeat took place in a second episode, where the hosts generally face-planted onto various issues, never quite getting it right.  For instance, they clung to the false notion that in order to justifiably complain about the philosophy of eating horsemeat, you must be vegan.  They didn’t truly grasp the notion of the “non-food animal” issue, instead choosing to

Anthony Bourdain - the bad boy of overindulgence. and food porn

Anthony Bourdain – the bad boy of overindulgence and food porn

ask why slaughter remains “acceptable” for the traditional food animals.  It’s a fair enough question, but one I’ve grown really weary of attempting to answer.  Indeed, some vegans I know have wondered why it seems to be so wrong to eat horses, because their beloved and much maligned farm animals are already being cruelly treated.  Much of the vegan message is “what about cows and pigs?” as if to advocate for horses somehow invalidates the suffering of other animals or makes us into some sort of animal “racist.” Again, in my opinion, this is the wrong question.  Instead, we should all be asking why it is necessary to add another animal to the food chain?  We must collectively resist the foodie movement, which has played a role in normalizing horsemeat, foie gras, as well as popularizing other non-traditional animals or worse – the consumption of non-inspected meat or live animals, as popularized by Anthony Bourdain and other wanna-be-known-for-sumthin’ chefs (caution – semi-graphic video – start watching at 3:00).

Gordon Ramsay has long promoted horsemeat to Britons

Gordon Ramsay has long promoted horsemeat to Britons

The hosts also assumed that deer and elk are not farmed (Bouvry and others are doing it), that all horses going to slaughter were old, and east Indians don’t eat cows.  They may also have assumed that horse slaughter is only cruel if it DOESN’T use the same process as with cows.  Using a process for cows is one more reason why it IS NOT HUMANE for a horse.   The hosts also bought into the false dilemma that, based on the relationship between predator and prey animals in the wild, the slaughter of an animal by us in a factory setting is humane by comparison. It’s a false dilemma because the horse that became their luncheon meat probably was someone’s pleasure horse at one time, and had no natural enemies to prey upon it.  And why did they assume that you must eat anything that is put in front of you, otherwise you’re being disrespectful of your host?  Is it rude to refuse alcohol if you’re abstaining?  Why then could it be rude for vegetarians or vegans to refuse animal protein provided by a host?  I guess one must never spoil a dinner party for mere religious or ethical reasons.  It was Anthony Bourdain who said, “taking your belief system on the road—or to other people’s houses—makes me angry.” The sight of vegetarian tourists waving away a Vietnamese pho vendor fills him with “spluttering indignation.” That’s right – apparently guests have a greater obligation to please their host, than vice versa. There’s really no civilized value left that foodies  (or radio hosts) cannot destroy.

You can listen to the horse-eating broadcast here

Bute poster august 22-2012

Canada’s Live Export of Horses For Slaughter – Do Canadians Care?

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Written By:  Terry Stanislow

THIS IS AN INTERACTIVE RANT. IF YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO READ THIS, PLEASE TAKE THE EXTRA THREE SECONDS AT THE END TO REGISTER YOUR RESPONSE TO THE QUESTION.

This video shows Canadian horses – which have been bred and fed for this purpose – being loaded from sterile feed lots onto trucks, brought to Calgary airport, put into enclosed boxes like they are toasters, and onto planes destined for Japan. This is the kind of shameful trade that seemingly inept Canadian legislators, useless bureaucrats at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and a few greedy, wealthy business people are getting away with while we are not looking.  All this is being driven by the demand of rich, gluttonous Japanese people who want to eat our horses on a plate.

I submit that horses are not produce – they are living, feeling, sentient beings and this is WRONG on a few different levels.

No point in writing to the CFIA about it because you will get the same form letter back that I got, basically justifying the jobs of people who work there. They aren’t even doing their jobs to the fullest extent on a daily basis, (evidence in the video) so not likely they will be able to handle any kind of demand for extra or quality work.

No point in communicating with any of the organizations responsible for animal welfare either because they have convinced themselves that they are fine with this. The people who run this business are seemingly so much smarter then them Horse-Meat-Sashimi-Japanthat it looks like they can’t even figure out a way to deal with it – accept to call it normal and avoid the issue as much as possible.

It’s probably also no coincidence that horses are being shipped from Alberta, the province where horses can be raised more easily like livestock and the population is most likely to accept the practice, being the most acclimatized to a livestock paradigm. This business would stand out like a sore thumb in most provinces.

Transport Canada and Canadian Airport Authorities have the power to stop this as well. Good luck with that. They would be as bureaucratic as the CFIA and it would take five years just to strike up a task force to consider the question.

Who you gonna call? I don’t know – the Canadian system, as always, is a wasteland of inaction, mindlessness and reactive bad decision making. Those responsible are like that famous bull who just “goes where he’s pushed” and at the moment, those who are getting rich off of this brutal industry are pushing harder than other Canadians who claim to be “animal lovers” or “horse lovers”.

Horses under pressureIt would appear that these slimy characters are getting away with carrying on this business because, it appears that, although most Canadians love THEIR OWN animals or horses, they are not truly “horse lovers” in the larger sense of the word.  Or perhaps they don’t have a minute or two to consider the plight of the horses in this video or they don’t care to speak out against it, sign a petition, write to a legislator, or anything else. There are many around the world openly opposing and fighting against this kind of activity – apparently not many in Canada, where we slaughter the American horses because their population doesn’t want it – and don’t mind telling their legislators that – over and over again.  Ultimately though,  the business interests just won’t take their mitts and bats and go home. They keep introducing new legislation to re-open slaughterhouses – which we valiantly beat down – it’s a vicious circle and never-ending game, but it CAN be won if enough people care to do something about it.

So, what I am interested in knowing – are there enough Canadians who care enough about this practice to take the first step and admit that they think it is wrong and publicly say that, or is the real problem simply that Canadian “horse lovers” really just don’t give a hoot – or maybe think that this is OK, and not something to get excited about? Is it possible that people just don’t know about it? Really – what is going on here?

If you have three seconds, please select one of the following options in the poll:


Thanks to those who respond – whether or not you play along, I will get my answer, because those who don’t are obviously either 1 or 4.

Have the Tentacles of Horse Slaughter Touched the Set of Heartland?

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Horseshoe in the grassWritten By:  Heather Clemenceau

After a night of careful deliberation and a rigorous boxing match between each direction of my moral compass, I’ve finally decided to write about this issue.  I’ve written about Alberta a few times before – Canadian slaughterphile and HWAC Chair Bill DesBarres, the Calgary Stampede, and our anti-slaughter billboard have featured predominantly in the past.  DesBarres is also the paid public representative of Claude Bouvry – the owner of Bouvry Exports.  Horse slaughter seems to be almost an entrenched tradition in Alberta, with Bouvry’s two plants and the Stampede setting the tone for institutionalized animal abuse and neglect.

horseshoes

The various feedlots nearby and the Bouvry slaughter plant were part of an investigation by Animals Angels in October 2012; you can read the full report here.   There is also additional footage of the various Alberta feedlots by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition as part of “The True Faces of Horse Slaughter” investigation.

Another staple in Alberta is the television show “Heartland,” a family series based on the Heartland books by Lauren Brooke. The series chronicles the highs and lows of ranch life and it is filmed in Alberta – feedlot capital of Canada.  The Facebook page is filled with perpetually optimistic fans pleading for better love lives for the characters,  and it’s a place where “True Heartlanders” are never bored with reruns.  As far as I know, the closest this series has come to treading on the topic of slaughter is an episode where a dozen wild horses are found in a “feedlot,” which the scriptwriters tell us is a “place where they keep cows before they kill them.”  I’m wondering if the producers have ever seen a real feedlot,  where thousands upon thousands of horses are waiting to be slaughtered,  not a dozen.   They’re not difficult to find in Alberta!  But realistically,  that’s just too much reality for a family show….

A few days ago the television show became embroiled in something of a scandal – it’s the only time I ever saw harsh words exchanged on that Facebook page.  And it was reserved for horse welfare advocates after several individuals recognized one of the trailers photographed at the Bouvry slaughterhouse as belonging to a well-known contractor and animal wrangler for the show.  John Scott Productions supplies horses for this show and others, as well as sets, props,  wagons and buggies.

It’s a working ranch with over 100 horses, as well as buffalo and longhorns,  according to their website. Although the Animals’ Angels investigation took place in October,  the connection wasn’t made until recently and then the Heartland producers were forced to deal with the reality of the incriminating photos and investigation posted on their Facebook wall.  While some threads were left up,  others and comments were quickly deleted.  Finally, it seemed as though the people handling their social media accounts decided that the appropriate response was to cease the heavy-handed deleting and give the impression that the situation was being addressed.

As you can see from the Animals’ Angels investigation, two of John Scott’s trailers were tagged at Bouvry’s on October 18th.

“10/18/12 –  Investigators arrived at 7:30 am.

The parking lot was already crowded. Two pickup trucks with stock trailers were parked at the unloading ramp. At 7:46 am, they both left and investigators followed. On the back of the trailers was written: Movie Horses –John Scott – Longview, Alberta. “

Scott Productions Trailers photographed by Animals' Angels investigators immediately after leaving the Bouvry plant

Scott Productions Trailers photographed by Animals’ Angels investigators immediately after leaving the Bouvry plant

Fans of the show were simultaneously shocked and/or in denial about the possibility that horses were taken to slaughter.  It’s an awkward situation for the producers of the show because the show’s entire premise is based on rescuing horses as an homage to the main character’s deceased mother.  Even though they cannot control what their contractors do outside of their business relationship with the show, it presents as an extreme conflict.  And it’s largely an unresolved conflict, at least to me and a few others, because we’ll never truly know which animals were taken to the plant on that day.

 “John’s horses are not abused.”

“Heartland is not going to stop working with him – he’s the only movie wrangler around.”

Because the investigators arrived at the plant at 7:30, the Scott trailers had already been unloaded.  The show posted a status on Facebook to indicate that these were buffalo that had been dropped off, which isn’t inconsistent since buffalo are present on the ranch according to the website.  But it gets interesting because the investigators have stated that the buffalo seen in the pens at Bouvry werheartland1e there THE DAY BEFORE as well as on the same day that Scott’s trailers were photographed – October 18th.   There was also some speculation as to whether the two trailers, small stock trailers, were large enough to haul buffalo.  Were these also Scott’s buffalo?  Who knows.  Bouvry doesn’t slaughter buffalo every day.

The producers maintain that the entire shipment was a herd of buffalo, and not horses.  Apparently there is a manifest that supports their statement.  I will say that, if these two trailers represent several head of buffalo,  they must have been very tiny indeed.  The producers stipulate that:

“No horse that has appeared on Heartland has ever been sent to a slaughterhouse. Mr. Scott invites visitors and fans of the show alike to stop by his ranch and see how well his horses are cared for. John takes pride in the way his operation trains and cares for his horses, as this has been a lifelong passion for him. Mr. Scott personally owns the horses that play Spartan, Paint, Pegasus, Harley as well as much of the equines appearing on the series.”

Crisis averted?  Perhaps not.  It may be absolutely true that none of the Heartland horse actors have ever been sent to slaughter, and no one accused Scott or his company of abusing animals.  It doesn’t guarantee however, that none of their supplier’s horses have never been shipped to Bouvry;  as we know,  healthy,  young,  viable and trained horses also get sent to slaughter and most of them aren’t abused beforehand either.  HWAC Chair Bill DesBarres,  like a sausage forever sputtering in its own grease,  will be the first person to proclaim that he cares about his horses as well.  He’ll also tell you that he sends each and every horse that is of no use to him directly to slaughter,  because “it’s a wonderful option,”  while simultaneously and inexplicably  describing humane euthanasia as an “awful experience.”

heartland2This entire situation is interesting because it addresses the need for or the appropriateness of industry accountability and governance.  While I personally object to talking heads attempting to direct off-work activities and morals, there is a great need for the horse industry to improve its image and more importantly, share their ideas on what can be done to improve horse welfare.  The racing industry for the most part has tried very hard to improve its image and necessitate aftercare for former racehorses.  Many employers require a minimal degree of off-work behavioural compliance with permits and laws,  and may stipulate that employees must “govern themselves accordingly” outside of work and not attract negative attention to their employers.  What can be required of 3rd party contractors is another matter entirely.  In the end,  the producers quickly squelched the possibility of further discussion, primarily because they are approaching their 100th episode:

“There are 10s of thousands of fans who are unaware of any of this and there is no reason to make this a key post on the blog.  We have a 100th episode to promote this Sunday. :-)”

Yes, it’s transparently clear where their priorities lie, although truthfully, I can’t really blame them under the circumstances.  But I seriously think the show must address the issue of slaughter in an episode,  perhaps in a manner more consistent with the original book.  I think it can be handled sensitively in a manner appropriate to their audience.  Another issue the show management should address is the mysterious phone call placed to a horse advocate from “Alberta Klondike Productions,” seeking contact information for posters on the Heartland Facebook page.heartland response

I sincerely hope that the statements of the TV producers are not part of a campaign of self-deception,  intended to conceal a possible ethical breach in killing animals whilst purporting to save them in a television show.  I hope that Mr. Scott does not send horses to slaughter – any horses, not just the ones performing on this show.  The reality is that we do not know what species of animal was unloaded that day in Fort McLeod  as the investigators did not see them.

Heartland SetSlaughterhouse operations violate nearly every principle of the humane treatment of animal ownership. Unfortunately,  the leadership within the horse industry has grown to lack empathy and compassion for horses that do not meet their expectations.  Horses do not understand why their colour matters, that they are not the correct size or shape, nor do they contemplate their appearance in a television show. In the unfortunate circumstance that a horse’s life does indeed need to be ended, it should be done as humanely as possible by humane euthanasia.

Heartland