Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Hat Tip: Debby
The Johnstone Auction Mart in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan sells over 1,000 equines per year in lots or as riding horses – minis, yearlings, bucking stock, mares and geldings in both “medium” and “good” condition. Selling prices range from about $25 up to $4,400 (more for lots). The average prices for horses they advertise as “older” is $200-$400, which of course are within the realm of slaughter prices.
Like most auction websites, they provide a link to the Equine Information Document (EID) which the CFIA has always told us is mandatory for slaughter-bound horses. But auction management have a rather unique way of interpreting who needs to fill one out.
Their website states:
“Horses sold at Regular Horse Sales must have the following document filled out regarding and drugs [sic] which may have been given to the horse in the previous 180 days. Although not mandatory, it is in the seller’s interest to fill one out for each horse so the price is not discounted.
Yearlings, and miniatures and donkeys do not need an EID form.”
This statement struck me as extremely odd, mainly because they touted the EID as a “mandatory, yet optional” document, and also because they indicated that it was not required for yearlings, minis, or donkeys. It is the slaughterhouses’ responsibility to ensure that a valid EID has been submitted for each equine they receive, but if it is only optional at any auction, who will collect it if not the sale barn itself? And why were some equines seemingly exempt? Both the Meat Hygiene Manual of the CFIA and farming Codes of Practice, when referring to equines, consider that the term “horse” refers to all domestic equine species, namely horses, ponies, miniature horses, donkeys, mules and hinnies.
After navigating my way through the CFIA’s new phone system with 78 menu options and 7 levels, designed to discourage all but the most indefatigible caller, I was transferred to various people whose mailboxes were all full and there was no way to backtrack. The whole idea of all the options and levels is to deter you from actually getting anything done. It cuts down on the number of complaints and support that must be provided. Normally, to get the fastest service I would press any number that indicates to the organization that I am likely to spend money on more service, but that clearly won’t work with the CFIA. Ignoring the menu options and sitting on hold waiting for someone to answer won’t work either. When when I finally reached a live person they both grilled me to find out why an Ontarian would have any interest in something happening in Saskatchewan. How about just answering the question?
I finally spoke with two veterinarians, neither of whom appears to have any idea what really happens at a horse auction even though both were familiar with this particular business. Dr. Allison Danyluk Ross, a supervisory veterinarian for the western operations of the CFIA helpfully reassured me that not all horses at auctions go for slaughter. She reiterated that it was not the auction mart’s responsibility to collect EIDs at all, but that somehow, they must arrive with horses presented for slaughter. So it’s the owner’s responsibility to fill out the EID, but it’s not mandatory, and it doesn’t have to be filled out at the actual auction, so by what other means would it arrive at the slaughterhouse if the horse is sold to a kill buyer? (that’s a rhetorical question, dear readers).
Once again, any form that only asks for voluntary declaration of drugs is unlikely to be complied with when the seller wishes
to dispose of the horse for profit. I had to ask Dr. Danyluk Ross twice why minis, yearlings, and donkeys do not require EIDs at this auction before she finally responded that she would pass my concern onto the Red Meat Specialist. Obviously Dr. Danyluk Ross believes everything is fine because the CFIA audits the paperwork – audit reports are only useful if someone in authority at the CFIA reviews the results, understands the risks addressed by the standards and makes risk-reduction decisions based on the results. Indeed, Canada’s food safety system is a patchwork of third-party audits, personal assurances (like Dr. Danyluk Ross’ email), and profit before protection.
When veterinarian Dr. Harry King was asked why Johnstone Auctions would indicate on their webpage that minis, yearlings and donkeys brought to the auction would not require an EID, he replied, “because we don’t slaughter them in Canada.” He also said that Johnstone Auctions focuses primarily on goats and cows and not horses, and that they are not a “horse slaughter auction.” Dr. King is dead wrong, since the Donkey Sanctuary in Guelph acknowledges rescuing donkeys from slaughter (albeit, in the province of Ontario) and kill buyer Eddie Kohlman is known to frequent the Saskatchewan horse auctions.
So much energy is spent on denial rather than enforcing legislation and regulations that already exist. Any belief or
suggestion that EIDs are consistently completed by owners invites some serious criticism. In the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition’s investigation – “Pasture to Plate,” there can be no dispute that, when reviewing the EIDs included in the document, a pattern emerges and it is very clear to see that some EIDs have obviously been “pre-written” across the top with “Drug-free six months,” and the appropriate boxes checked to agree with this information.
Why did the CFIA inspectors and slaughter plant operators not flag this for concern? What remedial actions have the CFIA taken against auctions and owners that have submitted incomplete, incorrect or falsified EIDs? In addition, what actions has the CFIA taken to ensure Canadian and American horses sold at auctions have EIDs that are filled in completely, correctly and truthfully by their owners?
Epiloque – September 21, 2016
Apparently the CFIA decided to act quickly on this one. Johnstone’s horse auction page with incorrect EID instructions was quickly modified to remove the references to donkeys, minis, and yearlings. You can see the change has been made here. I believe someone at the CFIA intended to let me know of the outcome by phone, as I had received a call, but no one left a message.