Monthly Archives: October 2013

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

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inigo montoyaWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Unless you’ve been living in a van down by the river, you already know that United Horsemen’s Group collects donations basically to promote horse slaughter. Somehow, UH president Dave Duquette believes this qualifies as a “charity” with the IRS.  Duquette, along with Wyoming Rep Sue Wallis, maintain that there is a growing market for horsemeat in the U.S. although the only example they can cite is the Harvard University’s Faculty Club which had horsemeat on the menu before 1985.

In this latest Constant Contact email to their faithful horde, Dave Duquette is  wah-wah-wahing  about efforts to stop horse soring and tripping in addition to slaughter,  thus ratcheting their usual foolery all the way up by suggesting that horse advocates are comparable to Nazis.  While not everyone appreciates the deep thoughts that ejaculate unfiltered out of Duquette’s brain, if you need some theatre today, click to read his discussion of Mein Kampf while invoking the “N” word.  I’m starting to feel like Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride – “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

UH cites the famous “First they came…,” prose, usually attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller, who goes on to list the groups the Nazis came for, but says he didn’t speak up because he wasn’t part of that group.  Niemöller himself barely made it out of WWII alive, so it’s an appropriate cautionary tale.  But Nazi analogies are almost never acceptable, unless in reference to actual, systematic mass torture, murder or genocide. And in this case, it’s downright asinine, because nothing we advocates have done is remotely comparable to what happened in Auschwitz in 1945. Is Duquette really likening us to Dr. Mengele, who performed experiments on live, fully conscious human beings to determine just how much pressure it would take to crush a skull?Angry mob

It’s not the first time I’ve seen some of the more prominent members of UH compare us to Heinrich Himmler.  One of Duquette’s biggest fangirls, Willing Servants’ Theresa Manzella, is under the impression that everyone around her is a vegetarian or vegan, which is un-godly according to her.  Furthermore,  she cites Hitler as a vegetarian,  perhaps to further her thought process that vegetarians are also Nazis.  People who inject Hitler into conversations about godliness would do well to start by googling the phrase imprinted on the belt buckles worn by the Nazis. It says “Gott mit uns” (God with us).  No, the Nazis were not atheists – one important Nazi slogan was ‘Kinder, Kirche, Kueche” ( Children, Church, Kitchen).  In any case, comparisons to Nazis are irrelevant in this example; it is also similarly fallacious to use the Nazis as an example of what might be wrong with Christianity.

Comparing anything that is not a dictator/mass-murderer to another dictator/mass-murderer is a logical fallacy known as the Reductio ad Hitlerum.   In other words – you don’t get to call people Nazis just because you want to inflame or incite. Hitler’s vegetarianism was not a foregone conclusion but so what if it was? What if he was also left-handed, or a Taurus? Is that somehow a significant or relevant argument? Not eating meat, or being left handed does not contribute to their ideology to slaughter millions. What about Stalin or Pol Pot? Maybe they ate meat?

Reductio ad Hitlerum is also closely associated with Godwin’s Law, which is an internet adage named after Mike Godwin who actually wrote a short article about it for Wired Magazine back in 1994.  Although the article was more about the power and danger of memes, it’s worthnazi-jokes-hitler-memewhile reading for anyone interested in discussions on invalidating an argument or logical fallacies.  The law was derived from the days of Usenet,  which pre-existed the internet as we know it, and states that  “if you mention Adolf Hitler or the Nazis within a discussion thread, you’ve automatically ended whatever discussion you were taking part in.”  It means that, as a discussion gets longer it tends to get more heated; as more heat enters the discussion, tensions get higher and people start to insult each other over anything they can think of.  Godwin’s Law merely notes that those tensions eventually cause someone to find the worst insults that come to mind – which will almost always include a Nazi comparison as a desperate last measure to insult someone before leaving the argument completely.

Hitler and the Nazis have a very special place in the pantheon of monsters. inigo_montoya Duquette doesn’t realize how offensive this massmail is – “Godwinning” your argument just makes you look like a desperate fool, but “invoking the Holocaust” is completely polarizing while also being a deeply offensive comparison.   It’s uber-offensive because while some things might approach it in terms of scale, nothing else is like THE Holocaust in terms of genocide, eugenics, racial superiority or totalitarian regimes. In addition to that,  most Jews are offended when people claim something is as bad as the Holocaust or the Nazis,  because they are justifiably offended when perpetrators of relatively minor evils are compared to Hitler. So, by invoking the Holocaust, perhaps we can assume that Duquette and United Horsemen’s Group are culturally insensitive to these observations about Nazi references and have realized that they are at the end of any factual discussion.  I think they are also quite desperate – you might say that they are begging for money just like those rescues they abhor!  Therefore,  they know that they have nothing germane to add and are now flaming us and flinging shit up against the wall to see what will stick. Anyway,  any person that can go so low as to over breed a sentient living being and then say, the colour is wrong, it’s too slow, it’s too old, and send it off to a horrific death for a pittance probably shouldn’t be dropping the “N” word on others in the first place.

I honestly wonder what the Anti-Defamation League would think of United Horsemen’s analogy.  Sun Tzu once said: “All of warfare is deception. One must pretend to be weak while one is strong, and pretend to be strong while one is weak.”  When your opponents invoke the Holocaust, they would be under the impression that they had won the argument, and lower their defenses. That is when you strike.

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Will To Win

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JLC Jenn

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

For hundreds of years, the horse has been recognized as one of nature’s strongest and most noble animals.  Throughout history, horses have carried generals across miles of war zone, led armies into countless battles, and survived with their riders against unbeatable odds.   Although modern technology removed the need for horses to go into battle, some horses have found other jobs in the barn rather than on the battlefield.  Many horses have a personality that inspires solace.  They are large flight animals but they choose to stand beside us.  When you are making an internal life transition, being in the presence of horses can be an incentive to embrace change.

Why do some bounce back from major and minor losses more quickly than others?  One of the main factors in building resilience is to connect with a purpose that is larger than you yourself.  Having a goal beyond the present, often one such as starting a foundation or taking care of an animal, can be the impetus that helps one grow in resiliency.

horse medalsJennifer Cutting started Justice Love ‘n Care Animal Rescue,  in June 2012, after realizing that most horses at a local auction went to slaughter rather than finding homes. Since then, 31 horses, 2 donkeys, a sheep, a duck, and a pot bellied pig have come to JLC, have been rehabilitated, and most rehomed.  JLC  volunteers include children, youth, and adults, people from very diverse backgrounds and experiences. There are no paid staff, and everyone donates their time and resources.

Jennifer and the rescue are enrolled in the Aviva Community Fund program, as they are now ready to move onto their next project  – the W.I.N.N.E.R. Program for at-risk youth, ages 12-25. Securing funds via the Aviva program will mean that the rescue can hire two full-time staff. Their  vision is to offer an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning Program (EAGALA), which also includes programs for art and nature,  which encourage creativity,  environmental stewardship,  and an appreciation for life and nature. Equine assisted learning (EAL) takes place from the ground, with no riding involved.  Youth would be encouraged by an EAL leader, through a series of activities with the greatest teacher, their horse. The entire program promotes self- awareness, problem solving skills, empathy, compassion, and an awareness of body language, along with many other characteristics.  The EAGALA program (along with a mental health professional and equine specialist) is designed to address specific goals for the participants,  so that youth will have key “take-away” experiences that can help them to make lifelong changes,  all while adhering to a specific code of ethics.

The JLC W.I.N.N.E.R. acronym stands for:

be Well,
get Inspired,
find New opportunities and ideas.
Now
feel Empowered,
Reach out & Share Change with your community

Jennifer plans to become a certified instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH, Int.) to teach at-risk youth how to interact with horses in unmounted activities. In addition, Jennifer’s husband Trevor is a natural environment technician who has training for wilderness life skills, plant and tree identification,  wildlife observation,  as well as surveying and survival skills.

Broker sponsored newspaper ad

Aviva Insurance Broker ad taken out for Justice Love ‘n Care

“I have worked with youth in group homes, in a youth detention centre, as well as with women in federal prison,” says Jennifer, who currently works as a community facilitator with people who have acquired brain injuries.  While volunteering at the prison, Jennifer was part of a healing circle, as well as the community integration team with the Canadian Mental Health Association.  She developed a group that was approved by Corrections Canada called LAM – “Looking After Me.”  LAM’s focus included establishing healthy relationships, reaching one’s dreams with a realistic plan with small steps, finding supports, budgeting, volunteering and giving back to the community, understanding triggers for different feelings and behaviours,  and maintaining physical health via nutrition and exercise.

The milestones have not stopped.

Jennifer also wants to create awareness of the horrific horse slaughter industry – a morass of cruelty and corruption – where animals that are unfit for human consumption and never designed to be part of the food chain are slaughtered mostly for export from Canada.  To that end, she diligently attended the Ontario Livestock Exchange auctions (OLEX) in Waterloo, Ontario most weeks for several months and began gathering statistics that showed who was buying these horses and other animals, and what breeds were either being rehomed or sold to kill buyers and sent to slaughter.  Minis, standardbreds, drafts, arabs, quarter horses, haflingers , fjords,  paints, donkeys, llamas and alpacas are all sold at OLEX – an auction where many weanlings and yearlings are also sold and,  according to her stats,  roughly 50-80% of all the equines go to slaughter.  Sadly,  Jenn has made note of quite a few “meat only” horses,  including mares heavy in foal.  Baby colts are often sold for $5 to kill buyers,  who sell them to slaughterhouses.   She has become well known for these very-detailed statistics that also capture the average prices for horses that are sold every week.

poppy and jazz

Poppy and Jazz were adopted in the most serendipitous way! One Saturday, a woman by the name of Sandra called. She knew these girls. They used to belong to a friend of hers named Judy. Several years ago Judy was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. Judy fought for her life, and even went to Mexico for treatment in hopes of being cured. Judy died from this horrible disease. Before she left his world, Sandra promised Judy to find a home for her beloved donkeys. Friends of Judy said that she felt relieved her donkeys would be safe. That was her biggest concern before she passed away. Sandra did find a home, but there was only a verbal contract. The new family was not able to keep the donkeys any longer. They were sold to a couple who ended up sending them to auction at OLEX.
At first Sandra cried tears of sadness for what Poppy and Jazz have been through together- moved, separated previously for a few weeks due to an emergency with Poppy. Now she is excited and happy- to keep a promise.
Sandra explained that it was a fluke that she was on Kijiji. Her pony had just passed away a few days before, and she was looking on Kijiji. Her pony passed- giving the gift of two lives. Yes Judy, if you are looking down from above, your girls are safe. They are now at their true forever home.

Jennifer is in the process of applying for her non-profit status, and once that has been approved, she will apply for charitable status – part of the requirements for registering as a charity with the Canada Revenue Agency requires the creation of Guiding Principles:

JLC Guiding Principles (in development)

Our W.I.N.N.E.R. program for Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning shall be guided by our desire to instill confidence in clients, while ensuring safety, by maintaining the highest standards of ethics and integrity.  We will honour the dignity of the client in a respectful manner, always preserving their privacy and confidentiality.  We will constantly evaluate our program and the progress of our clients and will refer them to other professional services if and when this is in the best interest of the participant.  The W.I.N.N.E.R. program will be a place where all views, ideas, and opinions shall be respected.  We will promote the development of programs that serve challenged persons and educate the public about equines.  We will endeavour to facilitate the re-homing of equines that would otherwise be abused, neglected, or sold to meat dealers.  We will safely match both program participants with horses as well as screen and match foster homes and adopters when considering homes for the horses.  We shall adhere to all provincial and federal laws and will always strive to improve our professional strengths.

In some ways you could say that Jennifer’s program to help youth and horses was made easier by the difficult road to get there.  Jennifer felt helpless throughout her grade school and high school education as a result of being bullied for years until she finally moved away.  Today, she advocates that bullying be addressed in schools or workplaces, and on the internet.  Some of her worst bullying experiences happened in places where children and young adults are supposed to be protected.  “That is part of the reason I went into Social Services – to help people find empowerment and to better themselves regardless of obstacles or the actions of others.  And that’s why I really want to start the W.I.N.N.E.R. Program for At-Risk Youth. “AVIVA

Jennifer has also had some recent setbacks while promoting the Aviva Community Fund and her rescue,  when Facebook deleted several of the groups she was using for networking – completely wiping out her base of friends and associates who were all voting for the rescue.  Jennifer is,  however,  well practiced at prioritizing stressors in her life – while she is competing for the AVIVA Community Fund,  she is also in the midst of a move.

Through the soft nicker of a horse,at-risk youth can find healing at the barn. Although the horses can offer us immeasurable therapeutic benefits, programs wouldn’t survive without the dedication and support of the volunteers at JLC, who are gratefully acknowledged.

Competition for the Aviva Community Fund is fierce.  Please help this rescue by voting everyday through to November 4th.

JLC volunteers

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
  ~ Maya Angelou

The Right Time?

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horse trio

Photography,  Writing,  and Artwork by:  Heather Clemenceau

“Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation” ~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

If I could choose, all my animals would peacefully die the day after I did,  because arriving at the decision to euthanize and coping with the deaths is just overwhelmingly difficult. The one thing about our attachments to animals that seems horribly unfair is that we almost always outlive our pets too. The short lifespan of cats, dogs, and even horses virtually assures that we will almost always face the loss of our companions. Yet,  we still plan for their continued existence even in death, in the event that they do outlive us.  This is even more true if you own a long-lived animal such as a donkey; the possibility that they might outlive you by many years is highly likely.

For most pet owners, the most difficult part of the decision to euthanize a beloved pet is deciding when. But there is no exact right time, and even if there were, we could never know when it was. So that leaves us with only two possible times for euthanasia: too early or too late. The worst thing we can do is to prolongue humane euthanasia because we are not ready to let our animal go.  Therefore, we have to  find the “ golden mean” between too soon and too late, between premature and overdue.

Bookmark made of braided mane hair

Bookmark made of braided mane hair.  Reading is one of my favourite activities,  so having a bookmark made of Dalrahza’s mane hair always keeps me mindful that she’s still with me and we’re together forever. She’s gone to the Rainbow Bridge,  but I can still touch a part of her.

But if death is not imminent, our conscience tells us we should not euthanize.  This is such a great problem for all pet owners,  but especially horse owners, since horses are more difficult to place into forever homes and costly to maintain if we can’t afford them.  Yet it is so profoundly difficult to contemplate euthanizing healthy horses, even to avoid sending them to slaughter.

Yet the fear of horses going to slaughter is sometimes seen as the impetus to euthanize.  Consider the case of Rosie and June, Percheron draft horses who worked for 15 years at the DuPage County Forest Preserve and are now retirement age.  They have been put up for adoption, but commissioners at the preserve are faced with the moral dilemma of giving them to people who might allow them to ultimately go to slaughter.  If the money cannot be found for their retirement, euthanization remains a possibility, even though they are completely healthy.

The Ministry of Defence in Wales recently defended a decision to put down two guard dogs used to protect the Duke of Cambridge, days after he left his military base for the last time. The dogs were euthanized immediately following Prince William’s final shift as a search-and-rescue pilot at RAF Valley.  The MoD said it always tried to rehome dogs but that it had not been possible in this case. The Dogs Trust charity responded by objecting that dogs were not “disposable kit that can be decommissioned at the end of their useful military life.” Apparently these dogs had some medical or behaviour issues that prevented them from being reassigned to other duties or being retired.  Yet the dogs were somehow able to perform their duties just days before the Duke left his job in Wales.  To me,  putting them to sleep is rather comparable to putting down a bomb-sniffing dog who had worked for years in the field just because there were no more bombs found in that particular area.

Killing a pet, even a problem pet, is a difficult decision.  “Do no harm & relief of suffering” are ethical standards for veterinarians. There are also many pet owners that do not have spare Fall at Deb's 8 x 10 copy_tonemappedthousands of dollars, nor have ability for credit.  And on the flip side, there are many owners that do not value their pet any more than a broken appliance.  Slaugterphiles tell us all the time that they have “killer” horses that must go and many of them will not even begrudge that horse a bullet.

Even with the possibility of slaughter looming, a veterinarian approached to perform euthanasia on a healthy horse would likely be concerned, since they are charged with the humane treatment of animals and are guardians of their welfare – in their own discretion they may refuse such a request.  They would be concerned whether the horse was suffering from a non-obvious life-threatening ailment or just being put-to-sleep out of convenience.  A progressive disease that is not (yet) life threatening or causing discomfort may not warrant euthanasia. They would be correct, but horses are a special circumstance……..

It has always struck me as bizarre to choose the moment of your animal’s death, to make an appointment to have them killed. Yet this is exactly what we often do if and when we decide that euthanasia is needed.  Farmer and horse breeder Rose Reid from Whitby, Ontario euthanizes 4 of her horses for the documentary film “A Century of Horses,” by filmmaker Stefan Morel.  The film is currently showing on Documentary Channel / CBC. It’s both moving and disturbing in that while it’s humane, the viewer is left wondering what prompted the decision to euthanize all these seemingly healthy horses all at once.  She appears to have other horses on her property,  so why did she choose to “triage” these four?  While watching the video, I found myself grappling with the belief that she had made an unforgivable mistake and that her whole thought process was stupid.  Yet I was not faced with her decision-making process, and can’t blithely negate her feelings since I didn’t have to make the decision.

“Morning without you is a dwindled dawn” ~ Emily Dickinson

When I thought back to the euthanasia of my horse Dalrahza, almost four years ago on October 19, 2009,  I realized that anyone looking at her would have seen a horse that appeared healthy in all respects,  good condition and body how long until my retirementscore, clean and well-tended,  and still eating well.  But what they couldn’t have known was how utterly drugged she was in order that she be able to move much at all – the night before I had given her, with veterinary approval, both bute, banamine, and Previcoxx, a powerful NSAID usually given to dogs with arthritis.  I needed her last day on earth to be as pain-free as possible,  and knowing she liked to lie down in her stall at night,  I needed her to be able to get up again. Putting her to sleep meant that I was putting an end to her falling down in the pasture and being unable to rise without help, injuring herself over and over, turning what should have been a few months of lay-up from a deep-digital flexor tendon injury into years of rehab with veterinary specialists but no real result.

I’ve played the timing of her euthanasia in my head over and over many times, wondering whether it was too soon or too late. I was convinced that as long as I continued putting money into treatment,  something would “click” and she’d spontaneously recover. If she could have been safe on her own in the pasture I would have been happy to leave her in retirement. But her age was working against us,  and winters in Ontario are even more difficult for horses that are not steady on their feet.

When we’re faced with making a decision, we always think that the presence of pain is the deciding factor in every case. Surprisingly, pain is a component of only a minority of terminal illnesses.  A horse that cannot be made to be pasture-sound is a rather obvious reason to euthanize,  and they are probably also in pain, but there are other non-specific ailments that are not really painful but are uncomfortable or are situations where the animal has no hope of recovery.  Obviously one justification could be the buildup of toxins in the blood due to the impaired ability of diseased kidneys or liver to remove them from the body, intense fear, or serious depression or refusal to eat.

The minute we learn that our pet has an illness that will progress either to death or unrelievable discomfort, we have to ask ourselves, would we want this operation or therapy, and what about the additional or prolonged pain such treatments may bring? A natural death at the end of many surgeries is rarely kind if it means prolonged pain.

Mane and tail hair saved before euthanasia

Dalrahza’s mane and tail hair saved before euthanasia

For many people, the special significance of death provides a basis for the belief that natural death is preferable to euthanasia. There’s a spiritual impulse to allow nature to “take its course” with one’s pet. A natural death seems to make the pet once again a part of nature. But humane death is one gift that we can give our animals that cannot be given to wild animals,  who often suffer terribly in death.  In nature,  death is often not quick either.

Consider the likely outcome for a rabbit that is attacked by a coyote, or a baby bird that has fallen out of its nest. If it was our animal that was the victim, we would never allow nature to take its course. When natural processes create suffering in our pets that we can relieve, allowing that suffering to continue simply because it is natural seems pretty hard to justify.

In my opinion, perhaps we should not criticize Rose Reid for euthanizing what appear to be healthy horses.  Maybe we should take note of her horses’ good condition as a testament to the exemplary care she seems to have provided.  Losing 4 horses in one day is surely anguish enough. And although she may have been making a business decision in euthanizing 4 horses at once (including a relatively young horse),  she could have sent them to an auction or slaughter instead of providing them with a good death.Driving at Beaverwood5A_tonemapped

At some point in every horse’s life, they get too old to be ridden. They simply don’t enjoy it any more, and even if they do, they are physically unable to continue to carry a rider safely. Being put “out to pasture” is an expression that suggests that the horse is always going to enjoy being out on pasture, when in fact, for some horses, pasture in old age is too hard on them. They may need the mental and physical stimulation that being exercised has provided.

Our most caring option is to subordinate our own interests in favour of the interests of our animal. Sometimes, the inevitability of the aging process can prevent our objective of ensuring everlasting good health for all animals.  But if we are going to err in our timing for euthanasia,   too soon is far better than too late. It makes sense when you realize that it’s better to help a friend a month too soon than an hour too late. This is because “too late” can be really awful for the animal. When all efforts to relieve discomfort fail to provide a reasonable amount of comfort for a pet, it is time to consider euthanasia. If you can consider euthanasia as part of the total care of an animal, euthanasia is not an act to end a life. It is, rather, an act to end your animals’ discomfort.

A Vow to Make to Your Companion Animal

“I will be your loyal companion from this day forward. Even more important, I will be your protector. You have my solemn promise that I will, to the absolute utmost that my strength and resources permit, protect you against all the hurts that life can hold, whether they be physical or emotional. You can depend on me for this. I will never let you down.

And when any hurts become such that all of my efforts cannot effectively alleviate them, I will place your needs above mine, your suffering over my own, and use the only means left to protect you from those hurts. I will deliver you comfort by bringing your pains to an end, not because I will be ready to let go, but because, to protect you, I will have to say goodbye. I know you will count on me at that difficult time to protect you, and I will be there for you, right by your side.

Should my passing come first, you need not worry, because I will have made all the provisions for your care, safekeeping, and happiness.

Fear not, because when death ends our physical togetherness, our emotional bond will never end. You will be a part of my heart forever. I promise.”

dalrahza copy

Destructive, Damnable, Deceits and Denials

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Newspaper

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Kim Craitor, Ontario Liberal MPP for Niagara Falls, Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, came forward recently to applaud the “Stop Slaughtering Us” billboard erected on August 19th in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  The billboard,  located near the US/Canadian border,  informs viewers that horses are being slaughtered in Canada for their meat when they are not raised as food-producing animals.

MPP Craitor stated that “In conversation with the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) and after reviewing materials on horse slaughter in Canada, I was shocked to discover the scope of the issues and concerns within this industry.” He continued, “I fully support NDP MP Alex Atamanenko’s Bill C-322 that would prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption.  It was very troubling to learn that over 80,000 horses were killed for their meat last year in Canada, and that the majority were transported here from the U.S.”

citycouncilToronto City Council has also voted in support of federal Bill C-322 and is calling for the Province of Ontario to prohibit the sale, movement and shipment of horses in Ontario for the purpose of slaughter.  NDP Whip and MP for Hull-Aylmer, Nycole Turmel is onboard and opposed to horse slaughter.  We hope that Liberal MPP Craitor’s support is just the beginning, as more horse advocates continue to promote factual information to their political representatives.

Despite the hard-won advances we’ve made in Canada with various postcard and email campaigns, the scintillating truth of our beliefs doesn’t always mean that it will be obvious to other politicians. I can only wonder why so many Liberal and Conservative politicians continue to hold contrary and downright incorrect viewpoints about horse slaughter.  What could their motivations be? Cognitive limitations? Perhaps they are simply lying to themselves (denial) – that is my gut reaction. Perhaps they’re trying to save their skins after being vested in their belief system for so long that it would be embarrassing to admit that their opinions deserve instantaneous and categorical dismissal.  And what other information have they provided to their constituents that is just plain wrong?

When John Stuart Mill labeled British Conservatives “the Stupid Party” in the 19th century, he apparently started a long-term trend. Ronald Reagan, after all, was an “amiable dunce,” and Vice President Dan Quayle told a student in a spelling bee that potato had an “e” at the end of it.  Numerous commentators questioned George W. Bush’s intellectual capacity, and Sarah Palin has long been criticized as a dim bulb.  And Canadian Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper has said that he enjoys “twerking” but only does it with close friends and “every now and then with President Obama.”

While the US zoos close, the Congressional zoo remains open.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper has once again shuttered Parliament, proroguing the Commons until mid-October in a move that ensures he won’t face opposition Bruce Stantonquestions on the Senate expenses scandal for an extra month. But of all the Canadian politicians you may have the opportunity to reach out to, there are few more exasperatingly devoid of the facts on horse slaughter than MP Bruce Stanton of Simcoe North, Ontario.  MP Stanton will delete any messages and block you from his FB page if you are not a constituent – no matter what you write.  As a result of posting horse slaughter info on his page, I am now blocked.  I can understand that he won’t have time to address non-constituents, but to BLOCK Canadians from his page is really outlandish behaviour for a politician. However, Facebook isn’t “all that” and we can still reach MP Stanton (and see what he’s up to) via OpenParliament.ca  You can also track MP statements in House debates via this site.  He doesn’t appear to care much for the facts of horse slaughter, but he’s quite enamoured with men’s curling and speaks very eloquently about Valentine’s Day.

As you can read from his communications with horse advocate and constituent Ann Marie, he adamantly insists that “horsemeat producers raise horses for the sole purpose of human consumption.”  And he refuses to respond to her requests for information on these direct-to-market meat horses.  Not only that, Stanton also insists that horsemeat is the “third largest exported meat in Canada,” and provides about $2 billion to the Canadian economy every year.  This is very odd indeed, especially since Dr. Ian Alexander of the CFIA wrote to me in August of this year and specifically indicated that the horsemeat market in Canada is worth $36 million.  Even if you mistakenly assumed that all slaughtered Canadian horses were “farmed,”  you still couldn’t stretch the truth far enough to turn a $36 million dollar industry into a $2 BILLION industry.  Looks to me like MP Stanton has stretched the truth until it’s elliptical in order to further the anti-animal Conservative party agenda.  It’s time to throw MP Stanton under the bus for making these claims.

bruce letter

There appear to be various ways to evaluate Stanton’s statement that horsmeat is Canada’s third largest meat export, but none of them make any sense when compared to beef and pork exports.  For instance,  do we include animals sent for “finishing” to other countries in those export numbers?  Or do we consider only processed meats as part of those numbers?  In any case,  it’s completely unclear to me how horsemeat ranks as a $2 billion dollar export market,  especially when Canadian beef exports to all countries are estimated at $1.21 billion,  with almost 600,000 head of feeder and fed cattle being exported to the US for finishing and slaughter.  Somehow, MP Stanton expects us to believe that horsemeat exports EXCEED those of BEEF?  Additionally, in 2012, 21.1 million pigs went to market in Canadian plants. In addition, 804,000 head went to processing facilities in the United States and 4.79 million head of feeder hogs went for feeding and finishing on United States farms.  In 2012,  Canada exported in excess of 135 million chicken carcasses and parts, and over 19 million turkey carcasses and parts.  These numbers for other species are of course, not even remotely comparable to the roughly 100,000 horses of both American and Canadian origin slaughtered in Canada each year.  And so we continue to whittle away at MP Stanton’s statistics on meat exports.

NDP MP Alex Atamanenko in front of Calgary Animals' Angels Billboard

NDP MP Alex Atamanenko in front of Calgary Animals’ Angels Billboard

Sadly, Stanton’s opinion is only a symptom of what is wrong with Whip politics.  A Whip is an official in a political party whose primary purpose is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. Whips are a party’s “enforcers,” who typically offer inducements and threaten punishments for party members to ensure that they vote according to the official party policy. A whip’s role is also to ensure that the elected representatives of their party are in attendance when important votes are taken. The usage comes from the hunting term “whipping in”, i.e. preventing hounds from wandering away from the pack.

Votes on Private Members’ bills such as Bill C-322 are supposed to be free votes, thus making “dissent” (or rebellion) impossible since there is nothing to rebel against. The fact that such votes are considered “dissent” only serves to illustrate how pervasive the use of the Whip is in the House of Commons. Simply put, party discipline reigns supreme, and both Conservative and Liberal MPs tow the party line.  So it’s reasonable to assume that MP Stanton’s incorrect statements on horse slaughter and horsemeat exports are probably just an overall symptom of the Conservative party malaise.

We do know that MP Alex Atamanenko will be debating Bill C-322 soon,  once Parliament resumes later this month.  Please join the Facebook campaign to email Canadian City Councillors,  MPPs,  and MP’s.  Ask them for their support, and to put forward a Motion for their cities to support Bill C-322, as was done in Toronto.    And props to Ann Marie for so tenaciously correcting MP Stanton.

“Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to.” ~ Alfred A. Montapert

Please support Bill C-322 to end horse slaughter in Canada

Please support Bill C-322 to end horse slaughter in Canada

Putting the Cart After the Horse

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Main Ring at TraleeWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

All photos except interior of Tralee by:  Heather Clemenceau

Photos at Westfield Heritage village by Robin Burkimsher

It is hard to imagine a more diverse (or more beautiful) property than the Tralee estate, which, as an operating horse farm, has hosted international events in dressage, eventing, and carriage driving and also is home to a significant special events/wedding venue.  For several years it was host to the Canadian Carriage Driving Classic. Set on 110 acres, the estate features multiple houses, stables, office, indoor arena, a working veterinary surgery, outdoor sand rings, and beautiful grounds with multiple ponds.  Tralee was the property of Dr. George Raymond Cormack, a veterinarian who was a lifelong collector and major benefactor of equestrian sports in Canada.  Dr. Cormack had 2 impressive display buildings built to showcase Tralee’s fine carriage collection, which were auctioned off about 2 years ago around the time of his death.

Small covered bridge which forms part of cross-country courseTralee has long been admired as one of the best maintained horse farms in Ontario.  It is a carriage driver’s dream, as it features many groomed carriage driving trails which wind picturesquely around several large ponds.  No doubt the Dr., of Irish descent, felt that the outstanding Caledon property was just as magnificent as its namesake town in the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland.

Dr. Cormack served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, completing twenty-six overseas missions.  He graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1949 and opened his practice and clinic in his parent’s home in what is now the City of Mississauga.  The young veterinarian’s business flourished and within a year, he purchased a 352 foot by 140 foot piece of property, upon which he built a house and worked from there until he further expanded into a 19 room hospital behind his home – the Cormack Animal Hospital –  which was opened in 1956. His business continued to expand until he had seven clinics in operation in Lakeview, Agincourt, Rexdale, Scarborough, Oakville, Newmarket and Caledon.  Dr. Cormack was also the veterinarian for the Toronto Stockyards, the Canadian National Railway, the Canadian Pacific Railway and Hartford Insurance Company.  He was active in the College of Veterinarians of Ontario and chaired its Building Committee for the construction of a new head office in 1992.

Dr. Cormack’s practice expanded to include the ownership and/or operation of several farms and other businesses, including the Burdette Gallery in Orton, Ontario.  The gallery holds the artwork of many Canadian, American and European artists. The Gallery, purchased in 1999, is located on 70 acres of a natural sanctuary that harbors woods, ponds, trails, picnic areas and wildlife.

On September 29th, Dr. Cormack hosted the Tri-County Carriage Association’s fall driving show posthumously.  The show included reinsmanship classes, cones, and a cross country course for horses, ponies and VSE’s (Very SmallA view across the small lake Equines), and was filmed for a documentary show on the carriage association produced by Rogers Television. It was well attended by both Tri-County club members as well as some members of my former driving club, the Central Ontario Pleasure Driving Association (COPDA).

Drawing on the tradition that envelops the sport of driving, the various classes evaluate everything from the shine on the buckles to the grooming of the horses and the gleam of the carriage.  The event also gives spectators an opportunity to have a close look at the numerous variations of horses and equipment that carriage driving bring together.  The precision and elegance of carriage driving can be likened to the required movements of figure skating or dressage. The goal is to produce what appears to be an effortless test despite its difficulty. Driving a horse involves a combination of verbal commands, light pressure on the inside and outside reins appropriately, and the use of the whip, which replaces the pressure of the leg in a horse under saddle.  A “made” driving horse becomes used to doing the same type of movements that he would do under saddle, but “remotely” from behind, a skill that requires a horse to become comfortable both in a closed bridle and without a rider on his back to guide him.  When all these aids are used properly, we see the horse arch his or her neck, round the back, and come “on the bit,” engaging the powerful hindquarters to reach underneath his/her body and really propel themselves and the carriage forwards with power and grace. The transformation from horse to “show horse” is immediate and amazing!

Competitors in the Cones phase of competition must drive through up to twenty sets of cones with balls set on the top. Hit a cone and dislodge the ball, and you draw penalty points. The course is timed, therefore the driver must be fast as well as accurate.  The most challenging and exciting phase of combined driving is the cross-country marathon,  which at Tralee today features water hazards,  hills,  covered bridges, and other visual obstacles.  Many drivers change from the lovely carriage and formal clothing they used in the other classes to a marathon vehicle equipped with disc brakes and short turning radius. Drivers must carry a groom/navigator for this segment of the competition. The groom/navigator helps to stabilize the carriage through tight turns in the obstacles and helps the driver on course with directions and time.

The courtyard showing the main barn entranceDr. Cormack’s enthusiasm put Caledon on the international driving map during the Canadian Classic period, when competitors came from everywhere to participate in the annual event. Now, the focus at the estate, which is offered for sale at $3,300,000, has been on the Tralee wedding facility. In the summer months, the Tralee facility manager can be found hitching Tralee’s horses to the estate’s classic landau, an elegant four-wheeled convertible carriage, after which he transports brides between the chapel and reception hall.  The participants to Sunday’s events enjoyed them all the more knowing that,  perhaps with short notice,  the estate could be sold or its 110 acres subdivided,  therefore becoming unavailable for public carriage driving events in the future.  So today,  we make the most of the unhurried welcome Tralee offers…….

“Horses make a landscape look beautiful” ― Alice Walker