Bill C-571 – Between a Wedge and a Hard Place

Art by Jody Bergsman -

Art by Jody Bergsma –

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

It’s no secret that anti-slaughter advocates are disappointed to hear that Bill C-322 does not have support in the House, nor did it have support at NDP caucus meetings.  In addition, the new Safe Food for Canadians Act contains some wording that would not have been compatible with Bill C-322 moving forward.

The reality is that few Private Member Bills make their way up the ladder to become law.  We are so fortunate that MP Alex Atamanenko chose this Bill to present to the House,  but to have seen it fail would mean that we would have no hope that, in the foreseeable future, any MP would have picked up the cause.  Alex Atamanenko is retiring in 2015, and at this time we have no other MP who has given us this much support to enact legislation to end horse slaughter.

Our many friends and allies who wrote to their MPs can attest to the fact that Conservatives (who hold the majority of seats in Parliament) did not stand in support of the Bill.  So at the 11th hour, as we all know,  Alex and his staff drafted a new Bill that was more likely to succeed in the House,  yet it included concessions to the industry that no one wanted to see.  The Bill does not allow anyone to send or convey from one province to another, or import or export (a) a horse or other equine for slaughter for human consumption; or (b) horsemeat products – or meat products derived from any other equine – for human consumption.”

The biggest concession was that it allowed for the production of “meat” horses.  From the Bill: In addition to the other requirements of this Act and the Regulations made under this Act, no person shall send to a registered establishment a horse or other equine for slaughter for human consumption unless the horse or other equine was raised primarily for human consumption and unless they submit to the operator of the registered establishment a medical record for that horse or other equine that contains its standardized description and a complete lifetime record, in chronological order, of the medical treatments it has received.”

MP Alex Atamanenko states, We do not have a system that has stringent regulations right now, and in the name of food safety, the bill fits in with the new Safe Food for Canadians Act. It is an expansion of Bill C-322. It conforms with trade regulations and it tightens up the whole aspect of food safety.  I would urge all members of the House to support the bill, especially all of those hundreds of thousands of people who supported Bill C-322.”

With enactment of the new Bill C-571, horses would continue to cross the border but would NOT enter slaughter plants unless they have a vet-signed passport to accompany them.  How many horses coming across the border would have such passports with them, if they’re coming for slaughter from the U.S.?  Probably very few.  There’s always the possibility of fraud, and that’s why the humane groups would continue to remain watchful in the field.

Privately, this development is hugely disappointing to so many of us, especially those who lobbied for support of Bill C-322 and collected so many signatures.  But there are still reasons to support it publicly. Because the

A log splitter is a "wedge" that ultimately fractures or splits the log apart.

A log splitter is a “wedge” that ultimately fractures or splits the log apart.

effect of the Bill would have a negative effect on the economies of scale of the Canadian slaughter plants (by preventing privately owned pet and riding horses from entering the slaughter stream),  it serves to act as a “wedge” that can be used to enact further restrictions on the horse slaughter industry.  The “wedge” is a strategy most famously used as a manifesto by  Discovery Institute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. You’re probably wondering what intelligent design has to do with horse slaughter, and the answer is “nothing.” But the wedge strategy as used by Bill C-571 is a political and social action plan meant to sway public policy makers and ultimately make slaughter for 90% of all horses totally unfeasible, essentially putting kill buyers out of action.  So while privately we have great difficulty with the Bill,  many of us can find a way to support it politically.

The Bill might be more palatable once we understand that not all animal protection initiatives launched by Canadian organizations have protected all species across the country either.  Despite the work done by WSPA, Animal Alliance, Humane Society International, Mercy for Animals, and others, most results are made incrementally by lobbying. For example, some groups have achieved hunting or trapping bans in various municipalities but not others. Sometimes protecting animals in shelters has begun with a ban on the sale of lost pets for experimentation, but only in a select number of provinces.  While protecting some animals, these actions don’t save all the pets, but it’s another example of a wedge that can be used to advance legislation in other provinces.  How long have ethical people all over the world lobbied against the Canadian seal hunt?  A recent campaign resulted in the European Union implementing a European-wide ban that began in 2010.  And the boycott of Canadian seafood will continue until the Canadian government ends the commercial seal hunt. If you can shut down trade in bear galls by 50% by making concessions, is it better to do that than to make no concessions and achieve nothing?  It takes a long time to get bans on spring bear hunts in Ontario,  and they often aren’t permanent bans either – groups must continue to lobby for them. In many ways the new Bill C-571 can be viewed in the same manner.

Art by Jody Bergsma -

Art by Jody Bergsma –

Recently, the Canadian government announced a new program, seeded with $450,000, to “support animal welfare at slaughter.”  Of course this is also an ethical dilemma for many people, especially since it appears that horse slaughterhouses may be able to qualify for funding to better “restrain animals at slaughter.”  This program suggests that slaughterhouses already aren’t doing their jobs correctly or overseeing the slaughter process as well as they should. And improvement or not, perhaps this is an example of tossing money at a situation that cannot be made humane and should just be stopped outright  Only the reader can judge as to whether “improving restraint for slaughter” is ethical.  But it demonstrates that they are feeling the pressure.

It is easier (but not easy, as our American counterparts can attest) to keep an industry from restarting than it is to close an industry that has full government support.  The Americans are somewhat fortunate in that there are at least a greater number of individuals and groups that can impact legislation more easily than can Canadians.  Sadly, the Conservative Canadian government is a government that is beholden to big business, and one that makes every attempt to shape public policy to that end. It is a government that is more interested in keeping its corporate masters happy than in protecting animals or the food chain.

About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic plant-based eater, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

21 responses »

  1. Thank you for another excellent post, Heather. I cried and agreed…sadly… all the way through it. I understand compromise, but it is our horses we are compromising and their horrific suffering and treatment will continue, only fewer. People need to think and realize we need to remove the most conservative from government. For now, I will have to concede because there is no other alternative. I would be very pleased and relieved if there would no longer be horses exported. I also believe the passport program will fail, as we know passports will be fudged by kill buyers. So, I give my support to Bill C-571 and my sincere thanks to Mr. Atamanenko for agreeing to take on C-322, and for his efforts to get it passed.

    • Hi Claudia, thanks for reading. I firmly believe we must get rid of Harper. The bottom line is that I’m grateful that we’ve had Alex, who cared enough about horses to try and rework a Bill that has a chance to save some animals. I feel that I have to support the work of his office – they are all truly exceptional people dedicated to the horses. That’s my own motivation.

  2. Thank you, Heather, for further explaining Bill C-571.
    Horse slaughter has been a Canadian industry for decades upon decades and kept alive by both political parties in power at the time, the Liberals and the Conservatives. Up until a few years ago, no legislation was being done to protect our horses. It took a man such as MP Alex Atamanenko to step forward and introduce C-544 (which morphed into C-322) in June of 2010 to finally do something, to touch a subject neither of the powerful and governing parties would ever touch.
    In politics, sometimes change comes slowly and concessions have to be made.
    Cudos to MP Alex Atamanenko for sticking to his guns and finding a way to move forward with his commitment to ensure some legislation for the protection of our horses is enacted.

  3. Pingback: Bill C-571 – Between a wedge and a hard place | Canadian Horse Defence Coalition's Blog

  4. With MP Alex retiring in 2015 and unless a government champion for horses comes forward real soon, this bill is the only shot we have at protecting the majority of horses both here and in the U.S. That’s it.

  5. Being from the States, this gives me hope for the ones here that make this trip north to their doom. It is better than nothing. I don’t know how any records can be kept though. When I bute my horse, I am not in the habit of notifying my vet and making anything official, most of us don’t.

    • There is NO way to keep health records for US horses – no one keeps detailed records like that for horses – not even the vets themselves. BUT, the kill buyers can and do forge documentation. I don’t know if an authentic looking passport will be harder to fake than an EID, but if no one cares if it’s authentic or not it doesn’t matter.

      What Canada – and Mexico too of course – need to do is just ban US horses period. None of them have been raised with the intention of slaughtering them for human consumption, and we do not have a traceability system at all for horses. Guess I won’t hold my breath on that.

      I do agree that this is better than nothing. We had a bunch of advocates wailing that the defunding didn’t stop the export of horses for slaughter so what good was it. These are newbies who just don’t know what it took to close those places the first time. We cannot allow them to reopen because I doubt we could ever close them again. We have plenty of legislators on both sides of the aisle in Congress who are owned by Big Ag as well.

      Keep fighting the good fight – as I know you will!

      • Yes, although the details would have to be debated at the 2nd reading of the Bill, that’s how it is hoped to work – it seems like an admission of defeat but it isn’t. Alex knows that the US cannot readily comply with the requirements of the Bill.

  6. Heather, as a supporter of the CHDC and of Alex whose dedication to the banning of Horse slaughter is what has gotten us this far there are a few things I do not clearly understand and wonder if you could help.
    1- Do all Canadian Horse owners have to register their animal into aTracibiliy\ Passport Program?
    2- If U.S. Horses continue to come into Canada for slaughter, how is this possible considering the fact that Horses in the U.S have no such program as Tracibility\Passport and would therefor not qualify for slaughter under the new Canadian requirement?
    3- Does Tracibility\ Passport superseed the imfamous fraudulent EID that essentially opened the door wide for slaughter of U.S. Horses and accomodated slaughter plants and the E.U.?
    4- Are there any enforcable requirments that compel the CFIA or Slaughter house operators to provide documentatio of Tracibility\ Passport information on the animals they kill? EG. Freedom of information act
    Thanking you in advance
    Sincerly Dennis

    • I’ll get back to you on some of these points Dennis…… The horses could come up from the US if they had a signed veterinary certificate – so yes, that’s a problem that they don’t have in place and would have to enact. That’s part of what would make it so difficult to slaughter American horses (or Canadian horses moving between provinces). Currently, slaughter plants keep the EID for one year. That’s all they keep – it’s like they don’t want to be bothered with issues after one year – you could get a copy of it via ATI/FOIA I believe if you knew the hip number of the horse. Traceability/passport (such as the one being considered by Equine Canada) would in theory replace the EID. Ian Alexander wrote to me last year and indicated that they thought Ag-Canada could implement it in 2014 or 2015, but we’re two months into 2014 already with no system. The intention of the traceability program is that all horse owners would register and premises too. But, I wrote a blog post about Belgium, where they have traceability, and something like 40% of all horses were still unregistered several years after making it mandatory. Traceability should make most horses ineligible though, due to rules on bute.

      • Our horses might come up with a veterinary certificate, but it would not be a genuine one because no vet has a medical history detailed enough – even on his/her own patients. It could always be forged I guess just like the EID.

    • Dennis, more of these issues would be fleshed out as the Bill goes for a second reading. There will be more information coming out of Alex’ office in the next short while as the Bill gets debated. Don’t forget that this proposed Bill would stop even the majority of Canadian horses moving between provinces for slaughter without the signed veterinary form attesting to drug history.

      • Heather: this would slow biz down for the majority of kill buyers? That is the point of this.

        Adding cost to this trafficking does make sense. The White House tried with rigid transport rules a while ago (USDA) plus all the various efforts made to stop it here. As everyone knows, the US is now fighting Congress to pass bills HB1094 and S541. If those bills do not go through, we will have slaughter here again. We have a year or two window and that is all we have now. Congress is so corrupt that getting anything done is nearly impossible. We will persist.

        As you know there are people in the US who are suggesting that horses be marked in some way as having been given bute. US owners give bute upon need. It is kept onsite by owners for minor injuries and any time need calls for it. I thought the idea of marking horses as having had bute was a little extreme but maybe the idea has some merit. It would be hard to disprove since any testing would have to be paid for. Killbuyers do not pay for anything and everyone is lying anyway, esp at auctions killbuyers frequent. The US only demands a Coggins and a form for the final destination. Everything else is up for grabs. Give the horse bute or not and mark the horse anyway as having had bute. Why not? At US auctions, what killbuyer will bother with a horse who had bute as vs others who have been sent to die without any marking? It kind of makes sense if you look at this idea. Would Canadians want to consider that as an option? I think kill plants would take any healthy and useful equine and kill them anyway. If there is genuine verification going on in Canada, these marked horses would be rejected. The question then would be where would the horses go from there? Who would take on these “bute horses” and other equines? That is not a cost-free solution for the Canadians who would rescue all these horses sent to die despite regulations.

        (Mexico would be slammed with most US horses if Canada enforced. This battle would then go to Texas and then to Mexico which is also anti-horseslaughter. If Rick Perry stays as Gov of Texas, there would be no way to enforce any laws.)

        Re Canadian enforcement: I do know that a thoroughbred was sent to Canada to die in 2012 and the FDA here in Cincinnati caught that one. The bay gelding was killed in Canada anyway. There must have been some checking going on somewhere in Canada for that warning to have been sent to Ron Andio of Patron Farms in Canfield Ohio. Of course, this was a Thoroughbred and that was supposed to matter to the US killers.
        Let’s bear in mind that not all Thoroughbreds are tattooed for racing. It is also hard to determine any breeds upon sight. A grade horse can resemble any breed.
        Here is the report about Ron Andio: :
        If Canadians are not enforcing, how did Andio get caught by the FDA?

      • Andio got caught because the EU caught Canada. Of course then Canada had to pay it on down the line and traced the carcass to Andio. That’s how Andio got his letter. I’ve read about the branding movement in the US, but it doesn’t seem to have caught on in Canada. We aren’t big on branding horses at all, except in Alberta. They get around brands by cutting them out too. I think the whole movement has merit though, but I’m not sure how to ensure it would be enforced in Canada. If horses from the US or moving between provinces in Canada require a signed veterinary statement, yes, it would squeeze out the kill buyers, except those working in a province where there is a slaughter house – BC, Alberta, QC – they don’t need that paperwork to transport horses from within the province.

  7. Horses aren’t made to be food.Their what this country was built on.The horses gas carried some of our bravest men and founding fathers.

  8. Interesting about the ‘raised for meat’ point in the new Bill. What I don’t understand is that it isn’t financially feasible to raise horses for meat as they eat more than one would get for them at the slaughter plant, or so I have been told by breeders. Certainly my horse would eat in 2 months what she would be worth at the plant. Therefore, the slaughter houses will always be full of former pets who are buted up. So if that ‘raised for meat’ clause is in there, would it really matter, because no one is actually doing that? Nevertheless, we are all probably getting quite frustrated with this lack of action. I know I am and I have to give myself regular pep-talks to keep fighting this deaf government.

    • Karen, did you see the CHDC expose on horses raised for meat and shipped live to Japan? This is happening in Canada and these are the horses that would be exempted. It is profitable if one has the land and they can be fed mostly grass, and it’s suspected to be quite lucrative with the Japanese.

  9. Great post Heather! While neither the revised Bill or the ‘new program’ are not out-right victories – they are positive steps in the right direction and so I am a firm believer that it is important to support change when it is for the greater good. It doesn’t mean we are surrendering the fight, just celebrating baby steps!

  10. I would rather save 90% of the horses then slaughter 100% of the horses. You described our present government quite well. You can’t get sympathy from a Capitalist who has had his head stuck in an oil pipe line for the past 7 years. Hopefully we will do better with a new party. As for the US they also have the backing of lots of celebrities who are behind the AHS and other animal rights group. Unfortunately we here in Canada only have Justin Beiber! Anybody want to recruit him to help with our cause???

    • I think what we have to come to grips with is that the Bill itself is not designed the way it is because of some flawed way of thinking on behalf of the person drafting it – it has been designed to capitalize on weaknesses with the current system and with the knowledge that it would be profoundly difficult for the Canadian and American slaughter industry to comply. Yes, I agree that it’s better to save more horses and drive KBs out of business that to try to craft a perfectly humane, perfectly equitable law that covers all horses and all possibilities but will fail.

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