Monthly Archives: November 2013

CFIA Finally Metes Out (Some) Punishment to Horse Transport Firms


judgeWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Auditor-General Kenneth Ferguson has been critical of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and now that Health Minister Rona Ambrose has taken over responsibility from Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz for the CFIA’s food safety programs, she has promised swift action to correct the deficiencies Ferguson has identified.

A few days after the AG report, Ambrose announced that the CFIA would increase fines and expand the compliance program.  This is probably a good thing, since, in my opinion, the Ministry of Agriculture has shown that they are only interested in promoting food and Big-AG interests,  and are not tremendously interested in protecting public health, and it was therefore an obvious conflict of interest.  Food safety obviously has to come first, otherwise there is no market.  When it comes to meting out fines and jail terms, I don’t care who does the regulating and inspection, as long as the action is taken as quickly as possible and the results are available for public scrutiny.

One of the more useful things the CFIA have taken to doing in the last few years is posting the names of individuals and companies against whom a conviction has been obtained for non-compliance with the various Acts and Regulations.  Anyone following horse slaughter issues knows that the transport trade is infested with people of low character who knowingly participate in the inhumane treatment of these animals.

The CFIA has had the power to dispense fines, which they call “administrative monetary penalties” for years.  The penalties were used against truckers who failed to meet standards for humane treatment, or for farmers and feed mills who fail to meet other standards. The CFIA says “every person responsible for transporting animals in Canada must ensure that the entire transportation process including loading, transit and unloading, does not cause injury or undue suffering to the animals.  The federal requirements for animal transport are set out in the Health of Animals Regulations, Part XII.”

In reviewing four years of fines levied as per the CFIA prosecution bulletins website, it becomes apparent that there are lots of smaller companies and individuals fined, varying from animal transport companies right down to olive oil producers.  Fines range from low four figures right up to low 5 figures and occasionally the odd jail sentence, usually to be served on weekends.  I saw only two horse transporters who were convicted for improper or dangerous transport conditions. Many violators may never be effectively penalized because the CFIA has no jurisdiction over transporters from the US.

auditorIn April 2010, veterinary inspectors of the CFIA conducted a routine inspection of a shipment of horses at the Windsor, Ontario port of entry. As a result, Loerzel Farm Transport Inc., operating as Ontario Corporation number 2023424, was inspected at the Windsor crossing. The inspection resulted in company fines totalling $40,000, while operations manager Manfred Loerzel was fined another total of $6,000 and received a six month conditional sentence.  A conviction was finally entered on September 17th, 2013 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Windsor.  Note that it took almost 3 ½ years to secure a conviction against this company after two horses died in transit and others were injured by the sharp interior of the company’s trailer, which they operated from April 2009 – May 2010.

Earlier in September 2012, another conviction was obtained in Manitoba Provincial Court against 5133831 Manitoba Ltd., (doing business as Shadow Creek Transport) which entered a guilty plea for one count of contravening Section 143.(1)(b) of the Health of Animals Regulations.  In accepting a joint recommendation proposed by Crown and the Defence Counsel, the judge imposed a $7,000 fine on the company.

The incident that gave rise to the charge occurred on November 7th, 2007, when a livestock trailer carrying down or dead horses owned by 5133831 Manitoba Ltd. arrived at the Canadian port of entry at Emerson, the clashManitoba.  Again,  please note that it took almost 5 years to get a conviction against this company and the driver.  What were they driving during those five years?

Upon examination of the load, numerous draft horses were found down or dead with blood observed inside and outside the trailer and numerous scrapes and abrasions also noted on the horses.  Fourteen of the 22 draft horses either died during transport or were euthanized by CFIA veterinarians.

A related court case held in Manitoba Provincial Court on June 4th, 2010, resulted in the driver of the load, Geoffrey Giesbrecht, being found guilty of contravening Section 138(4) of the Health of Animals Regulations. This charge related to the transportation of animals that were injured or unfit for transport.  Giesbrecht pled guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in jail – on weekends.

Both of the transport companies and their staff were/are Canadian, transporting horses from within Canada.  Possibly some of these were American horses though.  Sadly, we will probably never read about any convictions related to the full-term pregnant mare that delivered in a trailer enroute to slaughter at Les Viandes de la Petite Nation, in a consignment from Leroy Baker.

CFIA officials recommended action be taken against Baker or Sugar Creek auction for this gross transgression,  which occurred in 2011,  but it never appears in any  CFIA prosecution bulletin,  probably because CFIA authorities must rely on the USDA to initiate even more convictions and  fines that Leroy Baker simply won’t pay.  The ATI documentation received and translated by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC)  indicates that the foal in this incident was euthanized shortly after his brief life began, and the mare was shot on schedule a few hours after giving birth, at LPN.

Loerzel Transport CFIA fine

Loerzel Farm CFIA fines2

Shadow Creek Transport CFIA fines

Provincial Oversights Continually Fail Animals in Ontario


horse_5.jpg.size.xxlarge.originalWritten by Heather Clemenceau

There are two types of animal cruelty across the spectrum of animal abuse.  Active cruelty is inflicted with intent to cause harm to an animal and therefore cause suffering.  On the other hand, passive cruelty is inflicted through disinterest in the well-being of animals and usually occurs over long periods of time.

Sometimes passive cruelty happens to our companion animals or sport animals via hoarding or food production.  It is all happening to sentient creatures and can no longer be considered a peripheral concern.  The American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty as one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder. The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines conduct disorder as “a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age appropriate societal norms or rules are violated.” Conduct disorder is found in those who abuse animals and abuse people.

The link between animal abuse and personal violence is becoming so well established that many communities now cross-train social-service and chiefs-worldanimal-control agencies in how to recognize signs of animal abuse as possible indicators of other abusive behaviours.

In York Region (and indeed across Canada) we’ve seen the police consistently fail to take action against passive cruelty.  They seem bewildered that they are called to attend to cruelty issues that are not related to dogs and cats.  While they are justifiably concerned that the Stouffville cat-killer may turn to harming people,  they have a clear disconnect when it comes to passive cruelty.

While we’re seeing a gradual shift in mentality, activists in York Region Ontario have found that, more often than not, the perpetrators of passive abuse are looked upon with disinterest or scepticism by the authorities, from the OSPCA to the police. In the absence of the OSPCA presence on weekends, the police have consistently refused to act to protect farm animals, despite having the Criminal Code quoted directly to them – seemingly because they do not view these animals as deserving of the same care and protection because they are “products.” There are also concerns about whether police officers have sufficient specialized knowledge of animal husbandry to recognize distress, and whether the police service has enough resources to take on this extra role. In a letter responding to a complaint by me,  they seem to be admitting as much……..

Spent Hens

York Region Police respond to my complaint about police refuse to take action at Saturday livestock sales at the Stouffville Livestock Auction

York Region Police respond to my complaint about police refusal to take action at Saturday livestock sales at the Stouffville Livestock Auction.  Deeds Speak,  indeed.

Compounding the issue of identifying and acting on passive cruelty is the fact that Canada only has only a 1% animal cruelty case conviction rate, due to the absence of adequate legislation.  It`s more important that ever for the police to understand their role in interpreting the Criminal Code as it applies to animals,  since they may be called upon to act more frequently.

horses in poor conditionMPP Jack MacLaren of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario introduced The Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 2012 (Bill 37) in March 2012.  Fortunately,  the Bill did not survive a second reading.  This new bill would have handed over inspection rights for farm animals to members of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). This would undermine the protection of farm animals by giving the inhumane farming industry the right to maintain their own inadequate standards.  It is unconscionable to hand over the welfare of farm animals to any group that has vested interests in the agriculture industry.

Also under Bill 37, farmers would have been allowed to call in their own veterinarians to determine whether abuse exists. Veterinarians who are paid by these farmers and make a living through servicing these farmers’ animals will, in many cases, not want to cause trouble and “bite the hand that feeds them,“  so there will be little imperative to report abuse.  This is an unacceptable conflict of interest.

Inspectors would no longer have had the power of a police officer and will not be able to inspect without the permission of the land owner.  And only the police would be able to lay cocoa-dead-in-the-fieldcharges under the Provincial Offences Act or the Criminal Code of Canada.  Enforcement would be done by the OPP or local police force only after abuse has been substantiated and reported on by the inspectors.

Without OSPCA officers having the authority to intervene directly at the time they witness the offence, that enforcement branch becomes completely useless,  and animals would suffer until and unless enforcement finally arrives by the action of the police. Experience has shown us that the likelihood of police taking action to uphold Criminal Code of Canada (or any other action) on behalf of animals is poor.  While OSPCA inaction directly contributed to the death of this horse,  could we expect much more from the police,  had they been engaged in this case? Fortunately,  the bill is now dead,  otherwise,  these changes would have meant that the public would have even less transparency than under the current system,  where the OSPCA reports next to nothing and due to privacy laws,  and will not give the average citizen any details about an investigation.  Investigation results should be made public.

On this issue even OSPCA chair Rob Godfrey agrees.

Mares’ Milk: A Trojan Horse


Arabian mare and foalWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

The story goes that Cleopatra famously bathed in ass’s milk to keep her skin young and beautiful, so I guess I’m not surprised to learn that horse milk is being promoted as a beautifying treatment and a medicine. That’s because I long ago realized that the human power of belief is inexhaustible.  It seems that the obscure horse milk industry claims to cure or benefit people with stomach and G.I tract problems, eczema, psoriasis, various neuroses, and all manner of infections.  I looked at several websites shilling for horse milk, and it struck me that Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis might be reaching out to a new, wider audience by moonlighting as a copywriter for these companies.

Apparently, horse milk was popular in Germany that during the First World War – this, despite reading accounts that indicated that mares were never likely to become dairy animals for several reasons including the small quantities of milk they could produce.  Yet now there are dozens of small and medium-scale operations in France, Belgium and Holland, in addition to Germany and Austria.  And now in the United States as well.

KoumissI checked the Pubmed database to see what studies had been conducted on horse milk and mare’s milk, and found a total of 81 studies, most of which had no direct application to humans.   This is actually a pretty small number of studies,  most of which were done in Russia and the Middle East,  where drinking unpasteurized milk is more common.  These handful of studies are all preliminary studies that typically report the results of using horse milk rather than using a blinded control. There are also a few small, poor quality studies suggesting a possible benefit in mare’s colostrum to improve wound healing and fermented mare’s milk to reduce the toxic effects of mercury. Yet another study seems to show that children allergic to cows milk might be able to tolerate horse milk.  All in all, the research doesn’t amount to much, and there was nothing suggesting that horse milk had been studied for properties that it could cure skin conditions – sorry Cleopatra.  There was certainly nothing that suggested horse milk had therapeutic properties that could reduce or eliminate serious disease.  Therefore,  based on the evidence at hand, horse milk “therapy” could probably be classed as experimental treatment at best. The existing studies justify doing more (and better quality) research, but they don’t justify prescribing it to treat patients for disease.

There were a couple of studies that suggested reasons for caution, although not for horse milk specifically.  Brucellosis is endemic in parts of the Middle East, and one of the main sources brucellosis infection was unpasteurized milk.  While this study refers to camel milk, the imperative to avoid drinking unpasteurized milk of any species is clear, since unpasteurized milk can promote bacterial growth.

Undeterred by the lack of scientific evidence, the horse milk marketers, perhaps not dissimilar to the horse meat marketers, have found a niche though.  Skeptics regularly critique pseudo-scientific and often anti-scientific donkey and foalideas – ideas that are irrational and not based on evidence commensurate with the extraordinary nature of the claim.  These are ideas that usually rely on magical thinking, are rarely tested to see if they are real, and they are usually resistant to reason and contrary evidence.  Irrational beliefs and magical thinking, sometimes referred to in the sceptics community as “woo,” should be ridiculed.  In a not-so-ironic coincidence, the Chinese word “Wū” (巫) means a shaman, usually with magic powers. So it’s within the alt-med or “woo” community that horse milk purveyors have found their target market.

Here’s some of the completely unsubstantiated and unbelievable claims about mare’s milk from the Horsemilkery de Lage Wierde, a company in the Netherlands.  All grammatical and spelling mistakes are their own:

“I am also taking a cure of horse milk, I have very bad eczema on my head for two years and there was nothing that helped. But now I drink that horse milk I notice a lot of difference. It is not going away all but it is getting less a lot. So it really is an absolute must. To my opinion it tastes very filthy. For people who agree with me, you can use orangeade so it will taste better.”

horse milk bottleLyon
“I am having the sickness of Chrohn for  eight  years and I am drinking horsemilk since six years because it went really bad with my bowels so I started drinking horsemilk. The first two weeks I had some trouble to get used to the horsemilk but after  that the complaints decreased. Now I only have to go once a day to the toilet and do not have complaints any longer. Now I only drink horsemilk three times a week to keep myself in a proper condition, so despite the chronical sickness of Chrohn  it continues to go well with me.”

“I have trouble with eczema on my hands for the last six months. I was becoming desperate. I have tried various kinds of creams, but nothing really helped. Continuously I walked with damaged fingers with band-aid on them.  For almost two weeks now I drink horse milk. Already after one week I saw clearly a result and the eczema is as good as gone. I can hardly believe it myself, but it really happened. So it works for me!”

“I am using horse milk for six weeks now for I have serious psoriasis, really bad. It is getting a lot better. I am not yet clean like they call it, but I will continue using horsefly because it really works. You just have to be patient (sometimes)”

“Horse milk is a wonder cure for me! I have trouble with serious eczema for years and after drinking horse milk for four months is my eczema almost entirely disappeared. I will continue using it, perseverance pays. But I am not longer embarrassed by it and it doesn’t itch any longer! Before I used horse milk I tried dozens of ointments and cures without any result. I recommend everyone to use horse milk!”

‘’yes, I drink horsemilk regularly. I have  Colitis Ulcerosa (chronic bowel sickness) and when I read that horsemilk would help real good, I started trying it. And it really helps indeed! Chevalai Mares on the production lineWhen I had this period again with lots of cramp, pain, diarrhoea ( with blood),  bloated feeling then the horsemilk relieved me after one day already! Horsemilk is so special because the compilation of it is comparable with mothermilk. Drinking horsemilk stimulates the growth of the good bacteria of the intestinal flora and purifies the blood. (so it is also good for a smooth skin!). Furthermore it is stamina enlarging as well. Eczema, hayfever or cowmilk allergy will also disappear or decrease mostly by drinking the horsemilk. I benefit a lot of of it, but I do not drink it every day, because horsemilk is rather expensive for me. But as soon as I notice trouble I drink horsemilk for a week!’’

“Since one and a half year I drink  horse milk every day and I am very satisfied about the results. Before that I had trouble with eczema and paroxysm. My symptoms became a lot less. They are not completely gone, which I notice mostly in time of stress. But when I stop drinking horse milk my symptoms return. Unfortunately it is very expensive, a cure of four weeks is 45 Euros, but I think it is really worth it. I recommend it to everybody who has eczema!”

The horsemilk that released me of my annoying, troublesome ailments!
“About five years ago I got infections to my left eyelids. The advice of my specialist was: ‘’cleanse it several times a day with warm water!’’ Soon my right eyelids got also infected. Reading, just as watching television became a big problem, because of the dirt out of the infection ruffled the sight of my eyes and it also changed shapes. This gave me big trouble riding my car, traffic signs where only readable when I was very close by. ….. After  using different kinds of salves and cures for my eyes and even after going to the hospital a couple of times to have my eyes cleaned with petrol, the ailment had been found chronic and they told me I just had to learn to live with it. It is hard when it feels like you have sand in your eyes continually. One of my friends had heard of horsemilk.  On internet we found out what a magic-cure this could be. Horsemilkery ‘De Lage Wierde’ from Cor and Ina de Winter at Wirdum was the closest in the neighbourhood. An appointment had been made fast and with twenty-eight quarter liters milk I went home, starting the cure. One cup of a quarter a litre a day. It took four months before I could notice and feel any result.”

peer reviewAfter reading all these so-called testimonials, a few things stand out.  The translations are so botched that you really don’t know what they’re saying.  Surely there is at least one person in the Netherlands who doesn’t have to rely on Google Translate?  Pubmed has nothing on horse milk and Crohn’s disease – no clinical studies on psoriasis or eczema or paroxysm.  Even if these testimonials are true, how did they rule out spontaneous remission?  And to the woman who has problems with her fingers from “walking” on them, perhaps she wouldn’t need to experiment if she just walked on her feet? And eyes cleaned with petrol?  In a hospital?  No wonder the guy was looking for an alternative treatment.

Then we have these purveyors of woo (a site which also contains ads for Russian girlfriends)  They claim that:

“… the food eaten by wild horses come from natural forests and it is considered more useful. Wild horse’s milk is good for digestion because its protein chains is more easily digested by the body. With healthy digestion, people will become more fit.”

“Horsemilk stimulates the imuum system, helps to build a good intestinal flora and has a positive influence on a dry and sensitive skin.”

And somewhat surprisingly,  according to the Draft Horse Journal:

The first reason for drinking horse milk is, of course, not cosmetic but medical, especially for metabolical, gastrointestinal and liver problems, but also for recovering after surgery and severe illness, cholesterol problems, allergy to cows’ milk, stress, skin problems, stiff joints or just to keep fit and well. Horse milk strengthens the body, boosts the immune system and increases a person’s energy and vitality. In the case of metabolic disorders, it stimulates internal cleansing.”

Best of all, taste test show that consumers clearly prefer horse milk to dog and cat milk,”

A thousand WTFs.  What consumers participated in taste tests on dog and cat milk?  Does this seem like a legitimate article that we’d expect to find in the Draft Horse Journal?

And you knew the fetishists would get in on the action too – From the Burleson Arabians website:

“The adrenaline rush from milking a high-strung Arabian mare is like nothing else, and milking any horse can be very dangerous.  Unlike cows, mares have the placement of their teats centered directly between their powerful rear legs.”chugging horse milk

Somebody better go back to the barn and have a good look at a cow.  Or perhaps they’re inferring that you can never be kicked by a cow while milking?  Makes you wonder where the term “cow kick” originated……..

A French company – Chevalait advertises that they provide “jobs” for 100 Percheron & Trait du Nord Mares.  The current production of mare’s milk at Chevalait is around 70,000 liters (18,424 gallons) a year. Of this, 40,000 liters is fresh milk that is distributed all over France and Europe, and even as far as Singapore, through a network of organic stores, and the rest is used for powdered milk and to produce a range of cosmetic products that includes soap, shampoo and body milk. The efforts of Chevalait were recognized in 2011 when they were awarded first prize in the Development, Innovation and Technical Know-How category of the annual Prix de la Dynamique Agricole (Agricultural Dynamism Prize) sponsored by the Banque Populaire.  Sounds like another Ag-industry award to me…….

God help horses and their foals. How many foals are produced out of the production of 70,000 litres of milk?  No mention of what happens to them though.

The attraction some have for horse milk seems to be because horses eat a more natural diet,  at least relative to cows and other “farmed” animals. Health scares such as BSE, and the desire to avoid antibiotics and recombinant bovine growth hormones normally dispensed to cows are probably part of the attraction too.  The fact that these companies are apparently viable and able to expand and produce multiple product lines is why Sue Wallis and other slaughter profiteers might try to get in on the ground floor of this one. In one of her manifestos published in one of her multiple companies, she promoted the consumption of horse milk.

Dairy mareRains Natural Meats is not able to kill horses at this time, but they are located in close proximity to Elmer Beechy, an Amish kill buyer in Jamesport, Missouri.  Apparently the Amish in Jamesport are raising horses for milk production, and this is one of the markets that David Rains probably intended to exploit – slaughtering “spent” dairy mares and their unwanted foals, along with other horses who’ve had the misfortune of ending up at an auction in or near Missouri.

Ooh La Leche appears to be that Amish horse dairy located in Jamestown.  The c.v. for their CEO, Jan France, includes a consultancy with the State of Wyoming, preceded by some runway modelling, followed by a stint as a copywriter, a teacher of marketing classes,  a writer of commercials, technical advisor for movies, Texas House Representative, and Founder / CEO of America’s Disaster Relief.  Sounds like Jan is more than one person or a conglomeration of several people! What’s odd is that her Linkedin Profile indicates that she left the company in September 2013 after being with Ooh La Leche for just 3 months.  Another red flag is that no matter where you look on the website, you will not be able to determine where this company has its bricks and mortar office – but apparently this has not prevented many gullible or uninformed people from purchasing edibles off the internet without even enquiring where the company is based.

Consistent with all the horse milk producers noted previously, Ooh Lla Leche claims that its horse milk:

“will reduce symptoms of”

  • Crohn’s disease

  • IBS

  • Colitis

  • Diverticulitis


  • stimulate internal cleansing

  • stiff joints, headache pain, and stress

  • naturally increase energy and vitality

  • boost the immune system

  • reduce cholesterol levels

  • stomach, digestion, and liver problems

Again, it seems science hasn’t yet bothered to test any of the above claims.  However, I gave the company the opportunity to prove otherwise and wrote to them asking for proof of any case-controlled, co-horted, double-Chevalait mare's milkblinded studies that show a correlation between horse milk and the cessation or lessening of any of these ailments.  So if there is a response, it will likely be ridiculous enough to function as a stand-alone blog subject. Stay tuned……..

Some people may question, what is the harm in letting people try these “cures?”  These testimonials are really  problematic because they suggest to the uninformed reader that horse milk cures all these things,  including bloody diarrhea, which could be a symptom of a life-threatening disease.  The harm is that,  while they’re drinking milk under the belief that they are curing themselves, in actuality they may be facilitating death by not properly treated a bona fide disease.  This is not only true of mare’s milk but of any quackery or “woo” therapy.

Time will tell if we see more false claims about horse milk in the coming year in the US. I guess it’s only a matter of time before someone decides mares’ milk cures erectile dysfunction or cancer. But the marketing of horse milk means that another species of animal is going to suffer even more. I’m sure that if some of these unscrupulous entrepreneurs could figure out a way to get milk from a California condor, they would do it.  These companies don’t indicate whether foals are kept by the mother’s side during the milking process, or whether they are removed at some point.  But it’s clear that there will be excess animals produced, just as in the PMU industry, because horse slaughter is not just for old, sick, and lame animals.

These companies are pulling the wool over the eyes of the consumer.  Not only that, they are promoting and defending all the same misdeeds associated with the traditional dairy industry, along with horse slaughter. Just as in the case of any other harmful or worthless drug or therapy,  horse advocates need to alert the FDA to the deceptive and misleading claims of efficacy made by these horse milk companies operating in the US.

Rain's Meat

Spontaneous Combustion – A Brief History of the Grassroots Anti-Horse Slaughter Movement


Cavalcade west frieze Parthenon

I’m a relatively new advocate against horse slaughter.  Although I was an equestrian,  I never frequented auctions and kept my horses well into their retirement years.  I never sold a horse to anyone either. So I was sheltered from the reality that an entire industry existed to brutally kill horses.  I didn’t know of any other method to deal with an unwanted, infirm,  or terminally ill horse other than humane euthanasia,  which I thought everyone partook of. In late 2010 my world view sure changed abruptly when I found out that some could shoot a horse a dozen times in the head with a captive bolt and still call it “humane.”

I launched myself into the issues of horse slaughter when the TV show “Top Chef” featured an episode with horsemeat,  which led to my first blog post and my subsequent adventures protesting against restaurants in Toronto serving horsemeat.  So although I feel I have a fairly good grasp of the lawsuits,  secret deals, and defunding provisions of the present-day American (and Canadian) slaughter industry (at least from late 2010,  when I became active in this issue), I’ve struggled with the historical aspect of horse slaughter,  because I don’t have any reference points earlier than that year.

When I’m faced with an issue that happened pre-2010,  I realize that I don’t know much about the mechanics of the grassroots anti-slaughter movement that preceded this time.  While I know that there have been conscientious objectors to horse slaughter for decades,  I admit to not knowing a lot about the history of horse activism after Wild Horse Annie was active. Velma Bronn Johnston (March 1912 — June 1977)  led a campaign to stop the removal of wild mustangs and burros from public lands. She was instrumental in passing legislation to stop using aircraft and land vehicles to capture wild horses and burros and to cease branding and causing their death.

Wild Horse Annie’s grassroots campaign involved mostly school children, and it outraged the public and ultimately got them fully engaged in the the exploitation of wild horses and burros.  Most slaughterphiles believe that HSUS and PeTA drove the campaign through the 90s and early 2000’s,  (and every other year too, because they automatically attribute every animal welfare advancement to them) but there were other groups and individuals who played key roles and made many inroads,  sometimes with great personal sacrifices.

horse frieze2John Holland  of the Equine Welfare Alliance put together a short perspective,  which he wrote in March 2011,  in attempt to identify those people and groups who had historically been responsible for much  of the anti-slaughter movement and the closure of the US plants.  I’m sure John wanted to dispel the all-too-frequent and biased dialogue from the slaughterphiles that HSUS and PeTA are wholly responsible for launching the anti-slaughter movement in the U.S.  John briefly breaks down the progression of the movement in the US during the 1990s point-by-point, in general chronological order (although it cannot possibly be all-inclusive).

These are John’s words:

“I hate to provide such a brief recounting of the battle, because I will only be able to mention a few folks out of the hundreds who deserve mention. But here goes…

  • The California law was the work of Cathleen Doyle and the California Equine Council who started the “Save the Horses” campaign that eventually led to Proposition 6 and the slaughter ban in California in 1998.
  • Humane Farming did one of the most powerful early videos inside a horse slaughter plant which galvanized a lot of the early opposition to slaughter.
  • Rescues began forming in increasing numbers to try to save horses from slaughter during the late 90s. In time, these became more active in opposing slaughter.
  • The Texas plants were closed largely as the result of a woman named Mary Nash. Mary owned a horse farm adjoining the Dallas Crown plant property and originally started the web site called to try to get the plant closed. She watched the beautiful horses being brutally killed every day and it spurred her into action.
  • Mary had friends, including Mayor Paula Bacon, Jerry Finch (Habitat for Horses and Julie Caramante (HfH), now with EWA) who became involved and they teamed up with folks from the Boggy Bottom neighborhood.
  • They studied Texas law trying to find something to use to stop the plant. That is how the 1949 law was discovered. They went to the State Attorney General who took some time to determine that the lhorse friezeaw was in fact still in effect. He ordered the plants to close.
  • Meanwhile, the Kaufman Board of Adjustments ordered the plant to close because of its countless sewer and other health violations. The plant managed to tie that order up in court and to stay open.
  • Mary died of cancer before the plants were closed but she fought them to the very last day she drew breath. Her web site is still the best single repository for information about the struggle.
  • The plants filed a suit against the State of Texas to stay open and got a TRO (temporary restraining order) for a considerable time.
  • During the early 2000’s the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) had worked to introduce the first federal anti-slaughter bills. They also helped start one of the first national anti-slaughter web groups called “Against Slaughter” which is still active today.
  • In Illinois, Gail Vacca (a TB trainer) and her friends worked on Illinois legislation that failed the first time it was introduced. AWI worked relatively closely with Gail and others.
  • HSUS first became significantly involved in 2006 as I recall. In fact, they were a relative late comer to the battle. By then, even I had been in it for 4 years.
  • The two Texas plants had a TRO (pending a Supreme Court appeal) at the time of their closings, but it was us advocates who discovered it did not cover the Airlines hauling the meat and when we passed this to HSUS, horses in art ink drawingthey got the Airlines to stop shipping and the plants closed. Their appeal was eventually refused by the Supreme Court, closing the issue.
  • AWI and DDAL (Doris Day Animal League) also sued the Illinois Cavel plant for its sewage discharge violations. That suit was based on records uncovered by a different group of folks who were working in DeKalb studying plant’s operations. That suit never got to court because the state law closed them first.
  • PETA has never taken an active role, partially because the anti-slaughter community asked them not to (for fear they would bring their enemies to the battle). Of course, pro-slaughter people could not leave them out, so they have continually argued that PETA is behind everything.
  • PETA took an undercover video of horse slaughter in Japan, but that is about their only participation.”

Thank you, John Holland……I’m glad to have some of these gaps filled in for me.  Now, when I see some of these names on the internet,  I’ll be able to better associate the participants with their actions.  The individual people identified in John’s post serve to remind us that anyone can become a champion if they possess tenacity and perseverance. There are dozens of horse advocacy groups I can think of now that probably sprung out of the efforts by these individuals and groups.  And a few “dark-sided” ones emerged that we all wish we could forget…..

Passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act will reduce animal suffering, hence its wide support throughout the equestrian and veterinary world, as well as the humane community.  This bill would ban horse slaughter in the United States, while ensuring American horses are not exported to Canada or Mexico for the same purpose. Please take action to get S.A.F.E passed!


© Jolanda Beima

“People lie.  And for so many years they’ve been lying about this horse slaughter plant.  They’ve been saying, ‘Oh, all the horses over there   are old and sick and crippled.’  Well that’s not right.  They’re just saying that so that nobody will question what they do.”   ~ Mary Nash ~ RIP

The Elephant in the Room

Frances Bull African Elephant

© Frances Bull

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Toronto has, in the last year, been a hotbed of controversy when it comes to wild animals.  First the city saw the media circus that surrounded Darwin “the IKEA monkey,” who escaped from a crate in a car – an oversight that led to an unjust lawsuit against the sanctuary who cared for him afterwards.  Since Darwin’s former owner has not finished giving grief to the sanctuary or making a laughing stock of herself, there will be a subsequent appeal in 2014 or 2015.  Most recently, the Toronto Zoo elephants (the TZ-3) were relocated to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in California two weeks ago, amid outcry from zoo aficionados and exotics owners across Canada and the US.

Suffice it to say that all is not well with the charismatic megafauna in Canadian zoos –vitriolic controversy has erupted over Limba, the Bowmanville Zoo elephant, who by most accounts, is ready to retire from standing on stools,  attending weddings, and launching wineries.  After animal activist Michael Sizer proposed a direct action protest against the Bowmanville Santa Claus Parade,  the parade organizers uninvited Limba,  to avoid becoming a battleground between the activists and others who insisted that it was their right to see this aging elephant entertain them.

In response to the un-vitation, Zoo Director Michael Hackenberger withdrew all the animals from the parade out of spite, prompting outrage from zoo proponents who claim their holiday is now ruined.  I don’t quite understand how the parade is “ruined” since it hasn’t featured Limba since approximately 2009 anyway?  Nevertheless,  nastygrammers, rabblerousers and Facebook spammers made veiled threats about the possibility of spontaneous tire damage to protesters vehicles (got the screen caps to prove it) while attempting to strongarm protesters into abandoning the right to freedom of peaceful assembly (section 2c), as accorded in The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is entrenched in Canada’s constitution.

elephant carousel

© Heather Clemenceau

Protests at the zoo over the summer have focused on Limba,  while Hackenberger claims that the protesters use of megaphones is in conflict with his “stance to maintain animal welfare.”  Not so fast!   While I agree that inconsiderate use of a megaphone near flight animals would indeed be a foolish undertaking, I’m reluctant to accept his assertions that animals are being spooked.  But now the Durham Region Humane Society is involved, and to my mind, this is a good thing.

“Tuesday night’s council resolution came in response to a request from zoo owner Michael Hackenberger for the municipality to ban megaphones and other voice amplifiers within 50 metres of the zoo entrance.

It directs staff to work with the Durham Region Humane Society, police and the zoo to “help regulate any activity that may cause giraffes or other animals to be in distress.”

Protesters have held two recent rallies in front of the facility about 50 kilometres east of Toronto, calling for the retirement of Limba, a 50-year-old elephant.”

Well,  these directions are hardly revolutionary;  the police have typically been in attendance at zoo protests and know that the protesters are well-behaved individuals who responsibly limit the use of the megaphone to sporadic incidents.

“The young ungulates are a “consummate prey species” and naturally skittish, he said. A megaphone blaring the apparent evils of zoos could send one into panicked flight, risking injury if it crashes into a fence or falls. “

I visited Bowmanville zoo for the first time a few months ago.  I paid my $23 admission and walked the entirety of the park for one main reason – to see if the megaphone use was disturbing the animals – any animals.  If there was any evidence that animals were panicking, I know that these very conscientious protesters would have simply ceased using the megaphone.  Because the weanling giraffes were the subject of Hackenberger’s complaint about the megaphone use, I loitered around the giraffe area to the point where it was probably attracting attention.  But Hackenberger might want to ban screeching children from the zoo before he gets too overwrought about megaphones – I had to strain to hear any voices coming from the street a few hundred feet away – at various times I would not have been able to hear someone speaking beside me due to the noise the kids were making right next to me.  And you can’t hear the megaphone on the video I recorded below either.  Neither apparently,  can the giraffes…..

“Hackenberger said the racket, particularly megaphones, can distress animals. He’s particularly worried about a pair of giraffe youngsters who arrived several weeks ago and live at the front of the complex.”

VME catchphrase

This truth-challenged individual simply cannot be honest about the parade protest. The animal rights community recognizes some of the same people from the Darwin IKEA monkey case as chronic, habitual liars.  It’s quite clear from reading Michael Sizer’s manifesto that neither he nor anyone else has any intention of causing harm to animals or people.

Note from the video that Michael Hackenberger really had every opportunity to mention problems or concerns about “de-spooking” the young giraffes to the sounds of the megaphone – I specifically asked him what concerns he had about the new giraffes.  He feels open enough to discuss the issues with parasitic infestations of the various species at the zoo and the zoos’ preventative maintenance protocols.  He didn’t even mention the megaphone.  Also note that when the giraffes are out of quarantine, their paddock will encompass the most southerly part of the zoo and the giraffes will be right next to the street.  Also notice that there is a backhoe in the same general area as the quarantine paddock.  I guarantee you that the first time a flight animal hears a backhoe roar to life, they will take notice!   However,  after they are desensitized to the noise,  they will take no further notice of it since they don’t see it as a threat.  In my opinion,  a backhoe is far more likely to induce fear in flight animals than a megaphone that’s almost impossible to hear.  That’s because the protesters are standing across the street from a fairly busy roadway while conducting their protests.  They are not even situated on the same side of the street as the zoo.

Mr. Hackenberger indicates in the conversation that the giraffes are slowly being acclimatized to ambient noises, which is why they’re in a small fenced-in paddock – so they don’t hurt themselves if they are startled.  People might think it’s unfair to house them in a tiny space,  but it’s a actually a common-sense solution – for the short term.  But the whole time I’m interviewing him, the activists were out on the street using the megaphone, and neither Hackenberger nor the giraffes reacted to it.  So I can only agree with zoo protest organizer Nicholas Wilvert that the attempt to silence the megaphone is a tactic to squelch free speech.

Zoo Groups spread false info

How I wish the pro-zoo zealots would quit making shit up. There are no children set loose to run in the zoo and create havoc on behalf of the protesters (certainly not at $23 a pop either). The only screaming comes from children inside the zoo with their parents. The only truthful remark here is that Hackenberger asked for a moratorium on the use of the megaphone. Everything else is complete and utter fiction. Disruption on the zoo opening day was actually caused by a man who appeared to be a zoo supporter,  objecting to an audience member asking pointed questions.  He diverted the Q&A period,  so please get your facts straight!

I’m actually in complete agreement with the town of Clarington’s council – I agree that the Durham Region Humane Society should evaluate the use of the megaphone.  I hope any review they conduct will be impartial and accurate, and in the best interest of the animals whilst balancing the rights of the protesters.  At this time, there seems to be a lack of evidence that animals are being spooked by protesters at the zoo,  despite the outrageous stories you may read on pro-zoo boards to discredit the animal rights activists.

Blogger Laura Templeton describes the attempts to discredit the animal rights community.  I’ve also observed this phenomenon reaching a fever pitch over the TZ-3 elephants transfer to PAWS – during and after which so many outright fabrications surfaced about activists!  If the animal rights community in Durham Region and the GTA committed ¼ of the horrible acts that are attributed to us, many of us would have been jailed and completely ostracized from our communities.

Even if there is disagreement over Limba’s care or her long-distance trips,  we must acknowledge that animals just do not belong stuck in our world irrespective of how well we treat them. I am not anti-zoo myself, since many animals do well in captivity or are capable of thriving in carefully constructed enviros.  But Canada is not geographically suited to animals that evolved in equatorial climates or evolved to travel long distances as part of their routine or foraging habits.  Elephants’ bodies were designed to shed heat and not struggle to maintain it.  Cold climates and tight enclosures – they’re a far cry from the vast hot expanses of elephants’ natural environments.

taj mahal and elephants

© Heather Clemenceau

It cannot be said that because Limba seems to be a gentle elephant that she is therefore predictable in her behaviour either.  Behaviour can change unexpectedly as these animals may eventually snap from years of stress.   Limba has apparently hurt several trainers in the past.  When I saw her at the zoo a couple of months ago, she stood at the extremity of her paddock with her head faced as far away from gawkers as possible.  Even if Limba is treated well when she is travelling to circus events, wedding promotions, or winery outings, seeing her at these types of events desensitizes people to the plight of performing animals and encourages people to visit Ringling Brothers circus which has a nightmarish reputation for abusive practices.  This perpetuates the breeding of animals that will only have to endure captivity, unsuitable environments, and abusive training methods in circuses.

I don’t personally doubt that Limba has accepted her caretakers, but again, she really had little choice.  Humans are a poor substitute for members of an animals’ own species.  It cannot be said to be free will when there is an absence of choice.