Monthly Archives: November 2014

This Is Horse Slaughter In Canada

bouvry protest

October 2013 protest at the Bouvry horse slaughter plant just outside of Fort Macleod, Alberta

Written by: Brian

I’m not sure which horse is haunting me the most. There was Jack. Big part draft gelding, 23 years old. Skinny as skinny, with large white saddle sore scars. Someone used him hard and threw him away.

Ginger was 26, from the same place as Jack. Friendly and gentle. She came to the fence to say hello.

The Percheron filly was a black beauty. After her trip to Alberta she might be one of the chosen ones to be shipped live from the Calgary airport. If she survives the trip (sometimes all the horses arrive dead), she’ll be slaughtered in Japan and served up raw as a high priced delicacy.

Twenty year old Copper won’t be as tender. He had some hard miles on him.

The dunn mare was in her prime, eleven years old, trained to pull a cart. She came into the sale ring with a rider on her back for the very first time, and handled it like a pro. It wasn’t enough.

The sturdy paint horses and the chunky six year old sorrel were typical slaughter horses, with their whole lives ahead of them. Not any more.

Usually it’s the young ones the kill buyers go for, not the old and feeble, despite what the industry tells you about horse slaughter being a “humane end of life option.” The kill buyers didn’t get as many as usual, but this auction was especially brutal, because most of the ones they did get were older.

Thin horse at OLEX

A thin horse stands alone in the kill pen at OLEX in St. Jacob’s Ontario – even the sweltering July heat cannot dry out the permanent muck

Bucky was the most memorable. His hip bones jutted out from his emaciated body, and a swollen wound on his cannon bone was heading towards proud flesh. He’d spent his 25 years teaching children to ride. But why put him down humanely when you can make a few bucks?

Bucky nickered softly to us as we left the yard after the sale. He was probably hoping we’d give him some hay and water after hours of going without. He’d have to wait for that.

The meat horses would be shunted into a pen together, and Bucky would take a few kicks before being chased from his scrap of hay. If anyone bothered to feed them. Regulations say horses can go 36 hours without food or water.

Who knows how many doses of bute Bucky had in his long life. Like all the horses, he was dropped off with no questions asked. One dose of bute carries a lifetime ban for human consumption.

But Bucky ain’t never had no bute! Even though that festering wound was fresh and he was a jumping horse, Bucky never had no drugs! No wormers, no pain killers, no bute…

He arrived at Bouvry with a fresh, clean EID, filled out by the kill buyer stating that “to the best of my knowledge” Bucky was drug free. Him and all them others that came with no medical information. Hell! They ain’t never had nothin!

Gerry Ritz Flag

Failed ostrich farmer Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture – bureaucratic idiot and exasperating obfuscator. Activists exist largely because our civil servants, who are responsible for safeguarding animals and supervising the inputs into the food chain, do so in a questionable or disrespectful manner towards their own citizens and those of countries to whom we export foodstuffs.

That’s the CFIA’s story and they’re sticking to it. Once at the slaughterhouse the EIDs become the plant’s property and go into cold storage where even a Freedom of Information Request can’t get them out.

I’ve been thinking about Bucky and the others all week. And I still remember Sky from 11 years ago. Pretty young Arab. She was a playful thing, jousting with her pasture mate in the stock pen. After the sale her lifetime friend was led away by a new owner, and Sky was left standing alone in the cold rain, confused. They always know when something’s not right.

The two sleek four year old geldings hid their heads in the corner. The bidding didn’t last long for them. Next.

A teenage girl came in proudly leading her childhood love, and left with a stunned look on her face when he sold for $100. She probably preferred boys now and her parents said, “That horse has to go!”

The sick mare with firehose diarrhea could barely walk. She’d be a downer for sure, but even trampled to death she’d be worth a case of beer.

Of course I’ll never forget the load of full term pregnant wild mares being prodded onto a double decker with 50 other horses, falling and thrashing and banging. The noise was something else! The CFIA sure wanted to shut me up about that illegal shipment.

The auction claims there are no kill buyers at their sales. Only “horse brokers,” who train them ponies up for resale. Ask for yourself. The guy who sits up in the corner with a calculator will tell you where they’re going. “To a friend in Alberta.”

Arriving at Bouvry with their squeaky clean EIDs, the horses were probably unloaded right into the kill line. So much for the six month holding period required by law. They don’t even pretend to follow the rules. I sure wish the EU was paying attention.

I wonder if Bucky’s had his turn yet? I imagine him smelling the fear as he’s driven closer to the stun box, his ears flickering back and forth, the smell of blood overpowering and the noise

Bucky - The Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada’s formation began in response to Canada’s anti-slaughter movement, prompted by the CHDC’s first investigative report, “Black Beauty Betrayed” in 2008. The true purpose of HWAC, headed by Bill DesBarres, is not horse welfare, but the promotion and support of North America’s horse slaughter industry.

Here is Bucky. It’s important to acknowledge that the Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada’s formation began in response to Canada’s anti-slaughter movement, prompted by the CHDC’s first investigative report, “Black Beauty Betrayed” in 2008. The true purpose of HWAC, headed by Bill DesBarres, is not horse welfare, but the promotion and support of North America’s horse slaughter industry.

deafening. Saws whining and a radio blaring. The humans Bucky grew up trusting shouting and laughing, prodding him with a white stick that sends a jolt through his old bones as he stumbles forward into a blood soaked metal cage, looking frantically for a way out.

He’s a big horse. Maybe the first few shots glanced off his high head, taking out an eye or hitting him in the ear as the shooter casually took his time reloading his gun. I wonder if Bucky has figured out yet that humans are no longer his friend?

Horse “welfare” advocate, Bill DesBarres (HWAC), claims that without slaughter Canada would be overrun with unwanted horses. But almost 70% come from the US. They trickle into the system, one by one, like Bucky and Jack, from owners who are not desperate but just want an easy way out. (By the way, Bill and Claude Bouvry go way back.)

The biggest misconception of all is that banning horse slaughter in the US caused a surge of neglect. The crashed economy, drought and skyrocketed hay prices caused the neglect, not the slaughter ban. The number of horses slaughtered never changed. Owners could ditch them at an auction same as always.

You won’t hear that from Equine Canada. They’ve latched onto the neglect myth and people believe it. They pushed it hard on MPs too, trying to get them to vote against Bill C-571.

Kill Pens at OLEX

The horses are healthy, as are over 90% of all slaughter-bound horses, contrary to statements made by Equine Canada

The horses are healthy, as are over 90% of all slaughter-bound horses, contrary to statements made by Equine Canada

If people would quit breeding so many the numbers would drop pretty quick. Even the responsible breeders don’t break even, driven out of business by everyone who has a mare thinking she should be bred.

All those beautiful babies, in every colour of the rainbow, selling for as little as $100. The breeder brought them from Alberta, knowing that if he sold them there they’d all go for meat. But how many years before they end up back at the auction?

Yesterday a slaughter bound semi carrying 27 horses crashed in Saskatchewan, killing the driver of an SUV and 12 of the horses. How many Jacks and Buckys were on that load?

The CFIA chased reporters away and won’t divulge what happened to the surviving horses. But there are rumors of a Clyde and a pony being reloaded onto a fresh slaughter truck. No matter their terror and broken bones. The production line was waiting.

The ones that died in the crash were the lucky ones. At least their death was kinder than the one they were headed for at Bouvry.

Back at the riding school there’s probably a new horse. The children will stroke him and feed him carrots, and never forget him. Like I’ll never forget Bucky.

Why do I torture myself by going? Because knowledge is power, and maybe when enough people find out the truth about horse slaughter, they’ll care. I hope someone who once knew Bucky sees this post. Or someone in the EU.

Please share.

famous rescues copy

We Will Remember Them…

Good-bye, Old Man

“Good-Bye, Old Man.” This image of a soldier bidding farewell to his fatally injured horse is in the Board Room at Victoria Hospital, London. It was commissioned by the Blue Cross in 1916 to raise money to help horses on active service. The artist is Fortunino Matania and it is one of the most famous war-time illustrations. The artist played an important role in defining people’s mental image of what Great War battlefield scenes looked like.

Written By:  Heather Clemenceau

Along with horses, the types of animals employed in war is extensive, from birds and rodents sent into tunnels to detect poisonous gas, to donkeys, mules, dogs, carrier pigeons, camels, reindeer and elephants used to carry heavy loads. Even animals as small as glow worms have been used in war. In World War 1 alone, approximately eight million horses, mules, and donkeys were killed and another 2.5 million were injured transporting soldiers, arms and supplies into battle.  It is estimated that there were twenty million animal casualties during this dark period of human history.

The demise of most equines in the war was largely due to the modern invention of the machine gun that cut them down unmercifully. Many died from disease, starvation, or exposure; horses were often reduced to shivering bags of skin and bones, even resorting to chewing on their own blankets for food. Exploding mortars, barbed wire, mange, thirst, wounds, and parasite infestation, were all contributing factors to injury and death. Exhaustion and disease such as Grass Sickness and bouts of colic claimed many victims. To add insult to injury, unwanted warhorses were auctioned off and sold to butchers at the war’s conclusion.

The war had seriously depleted all horse stocks around the world, claiming some of the finest horses of its time.   Farmers and families on the home front endured great hardship when their best horses were taken for use in the war. Generations of “blue blood” stock would be lost.

Since World War II there’s been a huge desire to recognize the role animals played in conflict. The Dickin medal, the equivalent of the military’s Victoria Cross, was established in 1943 to honour the work of animals in war.  Canadians taking part in Remembrance Day now have a memorial in Ottawa that recognizes the wartime sacrifices of animals. Located at the foot of the South African War monument in Confederation Park, the Canadian Animals in War Dedication was unveiled on November 3, 2012.

The concept and funding of the memorial can largely be attributed to Lloyd Swick, a spry, kayaking, golfing, piano-playing senior who

Lloyd Swick,  now in his 90s,  was inspired by the memorial for war animals in Hyde Park.  Some panels of the eventual memorial are on display at the Ottawa School of Art.

Lloyd Swick, now in his 90s, was inspired by the memorial for war animals in Hyde Park. Some panels of the eventual memorial are on display at the Ottawa School of Art.

campaigned to raise the $100,000 needed to launch the project. Swick is a veteran of the Korean War, serving 30 years with the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry. His inspiration came from the memorial to war animals in London’s Hyde Park as well as the mule train that brought ammo to Canadians on the front line in the Battle of Passchendaele.

Of course, everyone loved both the idea and Lloyd Swick. In short order, local artist David Clendining, of Summit Studios in Wakefield, was commissioned to create the memorial. One plaque is based off of the wartime artwork of Fortunino Matania entitled “Good-Bye, Old Man.”

All these animals, great and small, chosen for their natural instincts, contributed their strength, endurance, energy, and ultimately their lives in times of war and conflict to the Allied forces. This Memorial is a fitting tribute to them all.  Well done Lloyd Swick.


Horse Slaughter Trends Across Borders – Google Trends Analysis


Magnifying GlassWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

As a result of their market domination, Google has become more of an institution than a search engine. Therefore, Google’s search data is incredibly indicative of public opinion and interests. Google Trends is an application that’s particularly useful as a timely, robust, and sensitive surveillance system. While it is useful to advertisers looking to create keywords to market their products, we can also use it to create charts that show how often horse slaughter issues and phrases are searched for over time by all Google users interested in acquiring more information on this subject.

An analysis of the term “horse slaughter” in Google Trends shows us how popular the search term is currently as well as in the recent past. I’ve compared the stats from 2004 to 2014 year-to-date for the United States (blue), Canada (gold), and the United Kingdom (red).  Initially I compared these countries to France, Japan, Switzerland, Mexico and China, expecting to see some tangible increase over time yet Google Trends yielded no measurable activity.

From the chart we can see that horse slaughter in the US was trending long before the United Kingdom or Canada, which began trending mid-2007 and 2008 respectively. The uptick in slaughter keyword trending activity in Canada began a few years after the launch of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition in 2004, and seems to be linked to that group’s 2008 publication of Black Beauty Betrayed, an Early Investigation at Natural Valley Farms, and the issue of Illegal Dumping of Horse Blood at Natural Valley Farms.

horse slaughter stats

Click on the graph for a link to the live data


Key points in the graph also register the heightened activity in the US and Canada due to:

  • House votes on horse slaughter in the US (2006)
  • Anti-horse slaughter bills advancing in Congress (2007)

There was a huge spike in late 2011 likely due to:

  • The US “ban” on domestic horse slaughter being lifted when Congress passed, when Obama signed into law a USDA spending bill that reinstated federal funding for inspection of horse meat intended for human consumption
  • Developing interest in Rick De Los Santos horse slaughter plant in New Mexico
  • Valley Meats first application for a grant of inspection with the USDA in December
  • The CHDC releasing footage and photos obtained by an anonymous source at Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation in St. Andre-Avellin Quebec (Pasture to Plate)

Also note the increased interest in horse slaughter search terms as a result of the horse meat adulteration scandal in the EU (January – March 2013)

Currently we see that horse slaughter as a keyword search appears to be tapering off in 2013 and 2014 YTD, perhaps due to the cessation of slaughter in the US, the subsiding interest in the horse meat adulteration in Great Britain, and the failure of the anti-slaughter bills in Canada.  At the present time,  interest in “horse slaughter” as a keyword appears to be in decline relative to the heightened activity from 2006 – early 2013.



The Flower Of Remembrance…….


Remembrance Day2-5

Written by:  Catherine Sampson – Trillium Equine Complex

THE POPPY SYMBOL MADE FAMOUS BY DR. JOHN MCCRAE’S poem “In Flanders Fields” was written as he sat on the step of a horse drawn ambulance wagon after performing a burial service for his good friend and former student, 22 year old Alexis Helmer.  Helmer died the previous day during the Second Battle of Ypres. Dr. McCrae, the Canadian soldier and surgeon whose love of animals and his dedication to medicine, evokes strong emotion from those words written so long ago on the battlefield while honouring the sacrifice of his fallen friend.

Dr. McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario on November 30, 1872 and served in the Second Boer War in South Africa and subsequently World War I. His letters home to nieces and nephews were signed using his faithful mount’s hoof print and written in his horse’s name. Bonfire, the grand chestnut, carried him throughout the war; a gift to Dr. McCrae by his friend John Todd.

John McCrae died on January 28, 1918 from a combination of pneumonia and meningitis. His funeral was led by his steed Bonfire in the traditional manner of fallen mounted soldiers. Dr. McCrae’s boots were placed in the stirrups backwards.

So next time you place that poppy on your lapel, think of John McCrae whose poem inspired its symbol of remembrance worldwide.

*Of interest, read the story of Bonfire in the book “Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman” by Susan Raby-Dunne

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields 

When Animal Advocates Fall Victim To Disinformation….


hoaxWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Twice within a few days, the otherwise exemplary Facebook advocacy group “In Defense of Animals” succumbed to sensationalism and posted two articles sourced from satirical websites believing them to be factual. The Empire News article, which saw over 2,000 shares on the IDA Facebook page, claimed that “the gambling industry has been quietly seeking a controversial betting offshoot – legalized and industry regulated dog fighting.” Of course this is carefully tailored nonsense since dog-fighting is a felony across the United States. Wonkette is a online magazine of topical satire and political gossip, and the IDA mistakenly posted this article entitled “The National Rifle Association Paves The Way For Dogs and Cats To Be Eaten.” The article actually discusses the NRAs vested interest in the continuation of pigeon shoots, which is true, but they add a layer of falsity to their writing by suggesting that the failure of House Bill 1750, which opposes dog/cat consumption as well as pigeon shoots, now paves the way to eating these animals, courtesy of the NRA. The Wonkette article was not really wrong, but it rather stretched the truth until it was elliptical. There are so many credible descriptive sources of information that could have been used to highlight the fact that the extremist NRA came out in full force against the Bill, which sought to stop birds from being launched out of traps in front of awaiting shooters.

In Defense of Animals finally took down the Empire News post about dog fighting, but it was up for at least 12 hours, during which time thousands of posts were publish it on the webmade by outraged people who were planning to start petitions and cancel travel plans to Vegas. Unfortunately, IDA did not issue a retraction or clarification for either article, which means that some, if not most of  these people, will be left with the belief that dogs and cats are about to be put on the menu in Pennsylvania and that dog fighting is imminent in Las Vegas.

Had these topics not been so serious, the internet would have erupted in laughter. But instead, some of the 270,000 followers of the IDA page erupted in sheer rage or utter sadness. The dog fighting article was not remotely funny, certainly not in a way that The Onion is funny, and was easily mistaken for an actual news article. With such a huge number of followers, the group had a duty to fact-check articles from unknown or relatively unknown sources. Even more aggravating is the fact that some people posted to IDAs timeline imploring them to remove the dog fighting story, and instead saw their posts removed while the sharing continued without abatement, making it appear as though the IDA was engaged in some sort of traffic grab.

Both Wonkette and Empire News (among other satirical sites) are loaded with click-bait generating links and stories that suck in those persons with a keen immunity to irony. I’ve occasionally been caught forwarding some of these articles, albeit rarely, but I don’t feel so badly (and others shouldn’t either) when we find out that The Washington Post fell for a report that Sarah Palin was joining Al Jazeera America. How many people were taken in by an article reported via The National Report: America’s #1 Independent News Team, (sounds official,  right?) that Cliven Bundy is being considered as a GOP candidate for president in 2016? And if you see an article claiming North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was pronounced the “sexiest man alive” you would probably question the source, amirite?

instructions for internet useThe imitation of The Onion, The Daily Show, or The Colbert Report has spawned a legion of poor facsimiles – websites which are devoid of entertainment value or are even harmful as we’ve just seen. Most of these websites are stuffed with high trending keywords associated with current news stories. The way they make money is all in the headlines— they’re designed to be inflammatory but just believable enough to entice readers to click on them and share them without thinking too much about the content. Some of these satirical sites also publish real news alongside outright fabrications, which has the obvious effect of making all their stories seem real, thus confusing the reader. The internet’s viral bullshit culture actually rewards the creators of these bogus articles if they have an ad-saturated website, which most do. But would you repeat a story you heard from a random person on the subway without independently corroborating it elsewhere?

To avoid becoming a victim of satire news, be sure to read the “about” section of the news site you’re visiting. Or check out the comprehensive list of satirical news sites on Wikipedia. Both Empire News and Wonkette make such acknowledgements on their websites, probably for legal reasons. Sadly these disclaimers were missed and the posts in question negatively impacted the reputation of the group who are on the front lines trying to make the world a better place for animals.

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization dedicated to ending the exploitation and abuse of animals by raising the status of animals beyond that of mere property, and by defending their rights, welfare and habitat. IDA’s efforts include educational events, cruelty investigations, boycotts, grassroots activism, and hands-on rescue through sanctuaries in Mississippi and Cameroon, Africa.

IDA India - displaced rescue dogs

Pictured here are well-disciplined rescue dogs at In Defense of Animals (India) at meal time.