Category Archives: Horsemeat

The Science Is In: Exposure To Bute In Horsemeat Still A Big Problem

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Phenylbutazone or “bute” was at one time marketed for humans use under the trade name of Butazolidin.  It was a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (NSAID) used for arthritis and other inflammatory ailments that worked by inhibiting an enzyme that synthesizes chemical mediators called prostaglandins.  It was ultimately withdrawn by the FDA for causing a wide range of serious side-effects.  It remains however, on the market for treatment for horses and is an effective anti-inflammatory.  It is also prohibited in the food chain as residues of bute and its metabolite, oxyphenbutazone are not known to have safe limits.  None of this is new information to experienced horse advocates.  Therefore, it’s always personally surprising to me when I come across another horse advocate who takes the position that we needn’t be concerned about bute adulteration in food. It’s a pretty rare position to take, IMO, and reaffirms  to me that not all champions of the horse are on the same page when it comes to advocacy. This position not only harms our advocacy,  it’s also scientifically illiterate IMO.

Writing in a recent blog post, Founder and President of the Equine Rescue Network Janine Jacques goes all-in and on the record as being in doubt that bute is harmful to people.  Jacques also assumes that the only possible toxic result from consuming bute or metabolites can be aplastic anemia.

How did the consumption of over 16 million pounds of horsemeat impact the health of those who consumed horse meat tainted with bute? ~ If Google search deaths from phenylbutazone you will find no relevant deaths for humans.”  

While investigation and surveillance of overdoses and poisonings by phenylbutazone are available, there is a tendency to believe that, in order to be hazardous to health, only large amounts of a chemical are needed to cause poisoning. This is not necessarily so. A highly toxic chemical can have a low health hazard if it is used with proper precautions and care. On the other hand, it is possible that a chemical of low toxicity may present a high health hazard if it is used inappropriately, such as in the food supply.  The domain of published works in the field of toxicology contain many presuppositions such as this; regulators have always had difficulty establishing acceptable levels of chemicals and they are expected to show evidence that a level of exposure is harmful before they can ban its use.

Virtually all evidence we have about harmful dosages of drugs come from animals where extrapolations are made from high doses (LD50, Draize, and ADME – Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism, and Excretion tests for example) .  It is also said that effects found in animals in relatively short-lived species cannot necessarily be used to estimate the effects in a long-lived species such as human.  Humans live much longer than most of the species used for drug testing, so we have a longer period of time in which to manifest disease.  Compounding this, we know that much of human disease is idiopathic in nature – without known causes.  Forensic toxicology testing can detect drugs in the blood stream or urine and overdoses in the emergency room, but it can’t predict the cause of idiopathic disease.

What makes chemicals poisonous?

There are several factors which can influence the degree of poisoning caused by a chemical.

  • Route of entry into the body – orally, inhalation, etc
  • Amount or dose entering the body
  • Chemicals that are weakly toxic require large doses to cause poisoning, Strongly toxic chemicals only need small doses to cause poisoning
  • Chemicals that are broken down by the body into sub-products before being excreted may be more or less toxic than the original chemical
  • Biological variation in the person consuming the chemical/drug determines response – slow metabolizers may be affected in addition to those who have susceptibility to phenylbutazone due to different metabolic genes (polymorphisms) that encode enzymes that are involved in the metabolism of drugs.People who are poor metabolizers of a drug may overdose while taking less than the recommended dose. Altered or enhanced drug metabolisms in individuals have been known to cause fatal drug reactions.

PBZ Molecule

Another layer of complexity is added when humans are exposed to chemicals at very low doses – the chemicals may reside in certain regions of the body that are more susceptible to organ damage  which is impossible to measure directly.  Studies have shown that many chemicals impact cancer-causing pathways at low doses. Taken directly, phenylbutazone is associated with various hematologic disorders, including aplastic anemia. Bute is also a cause of agranulocytosis, which can also be fatal. Hypersensitivity reactions can include anaphylactic shock, arthralgia, fever, angiitis (polyarteritis), vasculitis, serum sickness, adenitis, hepatotoxicity, allergic alveolitis, lymphadenopathy, Lyell’s syndrome, activation of systemic lupus erythematosus, and aggravation of temporal arteritis in patients with polymyalgia rheumatica. Asthma may be precipitated or aggravated by phenylbutazone, especially in aspirin sensitive patients. We also know that phenylbutazone interacts with many other drugs.  When administered to lactating cows, it was found that phenylbutazone was distributed into their milk.

When the drug was used therapeutically in humans as Butazolidin, the dose rate would have been around 2 to 6 mg/kg, similar to the current dose for the horse of 4.4 mg/kg. The question is whether the presence of bute in horsemeat can present a risk to human health even in small amounts.  Around the time of the 2013 horse meat adulteration scandal in the EU, the highest amount of bute found in a horse carcass was 1.9 mg.  If a human had been taking Butazolidin in the 50s, they might have taken 200-400 mg a day in total, if we compare it to the current-day dosage of Tylenol or Advil.  Obviously, we would have to consume a significant amount of contaminated horsemeat in order to reach the level of a therapeutic drug dosage. What is not clear, despite reassurances, is the level that is necessary for the average person to consume in order to experience a toxic effect.  If a therapeutic dose of Butazolidin was once considered “safe” at 200-400 mg, then how do we know that some individuals are safe at 1.9 mg?  If Butazolidin was withdrawn from the market as being unsafe for some people at that dosage, we don’t know whether sensitive individuals may have experienced toxicity at lower levels as well.

If it still seems as though a negligible trace of bute in meat might not be enough to cause harm,  there is an analogous cautionary tale of another NSAID – diclofenac, which was also used in human medicine for decades,  and was recently introduced for veterinary use in India.  Obviously, the dynamics are not the same, but vultures appear to have been exposed to the drug while scavenging livestock carcasses, their main food source, and this has accounted for death by renal failure of many vultures examined in a three-year study by the scientific journal Nature.  Further investigation showed tissue residues in livestock treated at the labelled dose rate were sufficient to cause death in vultures. These findings confirmed that diclofenac is the primary cause of the Asian vulture decline.

“Diclofenac is toxic to vultures even in small doses, causing kidney failure. That results in uric acid accumulating in the birds’ blood and crystallizing around their internal organs—a condition called visceral gout.”

Food safety laws are clear.  Companies that produce, trade or sell food or food ingredients are legally obligated to implement a quality assurance system called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), which maximizes food safety by minimizing chemical, physical and microbiological hazards.  There is something wrong with a food system whereby the food animal must sit on a feedlot for six months in order that veterinary drugs “degrade” before it can be eaten.

For years, regulators relied on the old adage “the dose makes the poison, which still holds true for many drugs and chemicals.  But one key message there is that source or origin of a chemical usually tells you very little if anything about its toxicity or ability to cause harm.   We now live in a time where exposure to chemicals is unavoidable and we can’t evaluate these chemicals in isolation.  Having said that, bute is not a chemical that is ubiquitous in the environment like other toxins we are exposed to – we can avoid it by not eating horsemeat and not killing horses for food.  In the final analysis, no one is really in a position to make broad statements about the safety of horse meat.  Conrad Brunk,  the co-chair of the 2001 Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology, wrote that:

“When it comes to human and environmental safety there should be clear evidence of the absence of risks;  the mere absence of evidence is not enough.”  This is the essence of the Precautionary Principle, which states that “when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment,  precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.” The toxicity of a chemical cannot be changed, but the hazard it presents can be controlled.

Have Your Say In The “Safe Food For Canadians” Public Consultation!

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wall2Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

“The increasingly global marketplace for food commodities has created more opportunities for the introduction and spread of contaminants that may put Canadian food safety at risk. Food-borne illness continues to impose significant health and economic costs on Canadians and recent food safety incidents in Canada have demonstrated where the current federal food regulatory framework must be strengthened.” ~ Canadian Food Inspection Agency

The Government of Canada has recently launched a public consultation on new rules to strengthen food safety – the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. The proposed regulations are supposed to better identify and manage food safety risks before products are sold to consumers. As members of the public, we are stakeholders in this process and entitled to send comments on the proposed regulations.  I’ll be writing to Dr. Arsenault (contact info below) and each of us should take this opportunity to give input.  The consultation process closes on April 21, 2017, so we need to get our letters written before then. If you would like background reading on this consultation process, here are some links:

What topics should you address?  Here are a sampling of issues that are derived from recent events and longstanding issues that have been identified by horse advocates and advocacy groups:

  • The presence of drugs in meat (the CFIA refers to these as “non-food agents”) and the low testing rate of carcasses.  Focus should be testing kidneys and liver rather than skeletal muscle.  Carcasses must be held until all laboratory results are received.
  • Transport issues – horses can remain in transport for up to 36 hours with no food, water, or rest. Transport guidelines, such as they are, do not reflect current science regarding theb1f handling of animals by land, sea, and air.  Late term pregnant mares are sent to auctions and subsequently to slaughter, and sometimes foals are born in transit (this information was obtained through CHDC Access-To-Information documents).  Were any penalties meted out to the transgressors?
  • Live shipment of horses not following IATA regulations
  • No traceability.  Horse owners will not pay for a system to track horses from cradle to grave in order to satisfy a food safety requirement.  The fact that no group in Canada – neither Equestrian Canada  or  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has so far developed a workable system for horses is a testament to how unworkable such a system would be.  Horses are not food.
  • In June 2016, a butcher shop in Montreal was caught adding horsemeat to hamburger patties advertised as being entirely made of beef. An investigation by Radio-Canada (and not the CFIA) found the meat sourced from La Maison du Rôti, which supplied many hotels and commercial establishments in Montreal, advertised as being 100 per cent beef.  This is consistent with a study from 2015 that found that nearly 5% of all ground meat products tested in California had horse meat in the product.  What did the CFIA do to address this adulteration? It does not appear that the company was ever fined or had their operations suspended – if not, why not?
  • Wild horses ending up in the food supply – in 2014, 3 wildies from the Williams Creek cull were sent to the Bouvry plant.  Complaints to the CFIA resulted in an investigation, because a permit holder cannot determine if he has captured a truly wild horse, or a barn yard escapee. The CFIA, concluded that Bouvry did slaughter two of the Wildies, and that a kill buyer purchased the horses from the permit holder without having the required 6 month history as required by the EID (Equine Information Document). The third horse could not be verified (lack of traceability once again).  If punishment has not been meted-out against these two individuals, ask the CFIA why?  How will the CFIA prevent this from happening in future?
  • Native owned horses in British Columbia are rounded up and sent to slaughter periodically despite roaming free on private land and being unaccounted for during much of the year.
  • I do not wish to throw any animals under the bus, but unlike “traditional” farm animals, there is truly no verification system in place to ensure that horses who do go to slaughter are sent there by those with rightful legal ownership.  Horses sold to slaughterhouses or kill buyers without the owner’s knowledge or permission are sold with Equine Information Documents (EIDs) that were fabricated during the last leg of the horses’ journey to the plant, often by someone who has owned the horse for a few days or weeks if that. Such individuals have no basis to make any claim that the horse has not received any prohibited substances.  EIDs do not sufficiently identify horses who look similar and it cannot differentiate between them with any degree of certainty.  Once again, any form that only asks for voluntary declaration of drugs is unlikely to be complied with when the seller wishes to profit from the sale of that horse.
  • EIDs (Equine Information Documents) are property of slaughterhouses.  Some EID forms are even branded with the name of the slaughterhouse and not the CFIA.  This is a food safety issue and should not be 1569ba4db68ad332267e02f5e74bd3badecentralized to the slaughterhouse – the CFIA needs to exert control over EIDs and publish the results of audits in the interest of transparency.
  • The recent and well-publicized  cases of missing horses Sargon and Apollo (Sargon was sold to slaughter by someone other than his legal owner).  Urge the CFIA to take action against false statements made on EIDs and to report the results of audits to satisfy public interest.  Send them information on the impact on victims of stolen horses.
  • EIA (Equine Infectious Anemia) has now appeared in Quebec after a years-long  absence.  Are the presence of slaughterhouses in Massueville and Saint-André-Avellin, in Quebec risk factors?  Private owners of horses are required to have a Coggins test when moving practically everywhere, but slaughter-bound horses are not.  Now that there is an expectation by the EU that American horses will need to reside in Canada for six months prior to slaughter, you may feel that this residency requirement increases the risk of disease transmission in Canada.  Do you feel that slaughterbound horses from the US should require a Coggins?  Why should slaughter haulers be allowed to evade what amounts to a biosecurity issue for every place they travel through, since Equine Infectious Anemia is incurable and biting insects the principal vector? We live in an era where animals are hauled long distances and to’from different countries – large numbers of unvaccinated and untested animals are coming into Canada. This is surely a threat to any responsible horse owner and this law could be easily changed though the slaughter buyers would have to bear the costs (as everyone else already does) when purchasing and transporting a horse for any purpose.

 

Call To Action:

Write now to Dr. Richard Arsenault before April 21st!

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Contact

Richard Arsenault
Executive Director
Domestic Food Safety Systems and Meat Hygiene Directorate
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
1400 Merivale Road, Tower 1
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0Y9
Telephone: 613-773-6156
Email: CFIA-Modernisation-ACIA@inspection.gc.ca

 

 

Canadian Horses Being Served Up In Exclusive, Members-Only “Supper Clubs” in Japan

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roast-horse

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Hat Tip:  Lisa

In Japan, “premium consumption,” a philosophy in which consumers do not mind spending large amounts of money on trendy products or services, is on the increase.  The Japanese are embracing “members-only” clubs and resorts to the tune of ¥355 billion ($4,176,200,000 CDN), up 13 percent from 2015.  Horsemeat is increasing in popularity in Japan due in part to a boom in sushi restaurants and exclusive dining clubs, and is sold as sakura nikku (cherry blossom meat) or raw as basashi.

3db52bea97fbff03b135df5fdd9c5da3The English language paper The Japan News, provides a first look at these exclusive and often very secretive restaurants serving what must be our Canadian draft horses, who are live exported almost every week on 16-18 hour flights during which time they are neither fed nor watered, generally by Atlas Air. Prior to shipment to Japan, our “gentle giants” are fattened up to gross proportions, and at risk for laminitis. Each horse is worth approximately $20,000 CDN.

In Tokyo, The Roast Horse is a members-only restaurant that has a set course menu of ¥7,500 ($88.00 CDN). The Roast Horse solicited its clientele via crowdfunding to collect money for a custom-made stone oven. The restaurant was able to generate about ¥6 million ($70,000 CDN). Membership at the restaurant is considered a privilege for the investors.

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Photo from an Acess-To-Information Request by the CHDC. We know that horses are dying while enroute to Japan, where horsemeat is preferred “fresh,”  hence the live export.  These flights are illegal as Canada is in breach of two sections of our own Health of Animals Regulations and IATA Live Animals Regulations.

“As the door opened, all 30 or so seats in the restaurant were occupied. Owner Mineyoshi Hirayama was serving customers a series of horse-based dishes, such as raw and roasted horse meat, while describing the details of the horseflesh he bought and the cooking methods. “What’s great about this restaurant is that it is exclusively members who can book a table. What’s more, we can taste horse meat that can’t be eaten at any other places,” said information technology journalist Masakazu Honda, who is a member. “All the people I have brought here have been delighted. This is a special restaurant.”

Please read more here.

If you’re not familiar with the entire sordid live horse export business to Japan,  please read the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition’s comprehensive investigative report here.

 

Call To Action:

Please sign and share the active petition to Atlas Air to end the horrid practice of live export to Japan.

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Horse Welfare 2016 – The Year In Review

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2016-rocking-horse-christmas-cardWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Because most efforts at altruism are applied to human suffering, when it comes to horses and other animals, we still face the problem of convincing people that the suffering of horses is worth considering at all. Our legal and legislative efforts can be effective ways to achieve goals for the horses, but most campaigns are lower visibility when compared to shelter pets,  and they may only yield results if completely successful. After observing how horse advocacy functions for a few years now (but I am still a relative newbie compared to the seasoned experts who have been advocating for horses for decades)  I want to make the following observations on the year 2016:

To be effective, we must continually find the root causes of systemic problems, such as corrupt or indifferent government officials, hoarding issues, and our often reactionary approach to kill buyer sales programs, which are now entrenched methods of adopting horses.  This is no small feat considering how decentralized horse advocates are – each person is often doing their own thing and advocating for horses in their own way.  As a result, preventative approaches are sometimes overlooked within the movement.   Despite exhaustive work by many people, SAFE Act-type legislation, which could provide the best results for horses in the US, hasn’t passed.

We may best be able to capitalize on shifts in the way people think about all animals and their status in society.  Results in Canada have been achieved when contracts for horsemeat are lost due to the exposing of cruelty and food quality/feedlot issues.  Meat-swapping is also an issue that usually gets a lot of publicity.  The supply of horsemeat already exceeds demand otherwise we would see fewer substitution issues – many people are realizing that they are eating horse unintentionally and this causes them to reconsider buying meat in general.

Unfortunately, 2016 heralded in new administration that is not friendly to animals.  P-E Trump is known to receive advice from conspiracy theorists and the radical far right – it’s true that we have become a “post-fact” world. Knowing this, how can we best advocate for horses in 2017 and beyond? There mere suggestion that there may be jobs to be found in the horse slaughter industry could be incentive enough to resuscitate it in the US, even though it is a poor investment.

“Donald Trump…represents perhaps the greatest threat ever to animal protection policy making at the federal level. His campaign surrogates and the names being floated as possible Trump cabinet picks for the very agencies that oversee such policies include the most ardent anti-animal voices in the country. Advocates for puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and trophy hunting of rare species such as leopards and elephants would be at the steering wheel of a Trump administration.” ~ Michael Markarian, the Human Society Legislative Fund

Here’s my summation of 2016, with articles arranged in Storify:

The Chemical Horse:

  • Horsenetwork reported that Pfizer Canada has announced it will increase the amount of pregnant mare urine (PMU) it collects from its facilities in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan in 2016 and 2017. Demand for conjugated equine estrogens declined in recent years following a 2002 Women’s Health Initiative study that PMU drugs were linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. (In 2012, the North American Menopause Society released a position statement that continues to support hormone therapy).
  • Horse tendons are now being made into an anti-aging therapy to rival botox. The popularity of horse oil from slaughtered animals has increased exponentially and is sold extensively on Amazon, eBay and elsewhere.
  • A video released in October showed the appalling treatment of horses at antitoxin and antivenom manufacturing facilities in India.  The facilities draw blood from the horses, many of them multiple times a month with heavy gauge needles, to manufacture antitoxin and antivenom drugs.  The horses depicted in the video (link included below) had festering sores and low body weights.

Live Horse Shipments:

  • Throughout 2016, the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition continued to release footage of live horse exports to Japan and petitioned Atlas Air executives to stop the practice, which does not adhere to IATA regulations.

Anti-Soring Efforts:

  • In August, U.S. Department of Agriculture/APHIS proposed changes to the Horse Protection Act that could stop the soring abuse for good.
  • Anti-soring advocates got the Big Lick kicked out of the North Carolina State Fair

Food Adulteration:

  • In June, a butcher shop in Montreal was caught adding horsemeat to hamburger patties advertised as being entirely made of beef. An investigation by Radio-Canada found burger patties advertised as being 100 per cent beef from La Maison du Rôti, which supplied meat to many hotels and commercial establishments in Montreal.  This is consistent with a study from 2015 that found that nearly 5% of all ground meat products tested in California had horse meat in the product.
  • In Britain, two Britons and a citizen of Denmark appeared in court over allegations that they passed horsemeat off as beef. It took THREE YEARS after the horsemeat adulteration scandal in to get them this far.
  • Britain’s food-policing unit, which was created in 2014 following the horse meat scandal has still not resulted in any new prosecutions despite costing the taxpayer £4m. The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU)  has not brought any criminal charges against anyone.

Wild Horses:

  • Aaron Stelkia of the Osoyoos Indian Band, who has apparently provided no care to feral British Columbia horses, decided to claim them and began rounding them up early in the year.  On the heels of this event, the RCMP in Penticton B.C., at the request of the CFIA, began investigating horse rescuer Theresa Nolet after she treated a free-roaming horse with phenylbutazone, making him unfit for human consumption.  If the CFIA, the RCMP, or the SPCA actually had any concern for horses, they would require the Indian Bands to keep their horses contained and properly fed and medicated.  It’s clear the intent was to harass Ms. Nolet, since the CFIA has no problem importing American horses whose drug history is completely unprovable.
  • DNA genotyping of Alberta wild horses showed a connection to the Altai horse from Russia. These genetic markers permitted the placement of the horses on the endangered list by the Equus Survival Trust in North Carolina. 
  • Forty-five years ago the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (WFRH&B Act) was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 18, 1971. The WFRH&B Act created the sensation that wild horses were to be protected on public land, but as it did not create actual defined parameters it has been left open to interpretation and/or lack of enforcement by the US judicial system.

Decimation of the Donkeys:

  • Now that the West African black rhino is extinct and the elephant is well on its way, donkey skins are the new rhino horn, and just like the rhino, the Chinese demand is unsustainable. To that end, a $3,000,000 slaughterhouse has just opened in Kenya – dedicated and purpose-built to kill up to 100 donkeys a day. China is presently responsible for slaughtering four million donkeys a year for traditional medicinal products made from their skin. Already, countries in Africa are seeing their donkey populations drop at an alarming rate – the appetite for donkey skins has risen to such a degree that a worldwide crisis is unfolding for donkey populations around the world.  In the United States the population of donkeys is estimated to be between 250,000 and 400,000. The US’ wild burro population ranges between 4,000 to 10,000 total on all BLM public lands.  The entire US population of donkeys could theoretically be wiped out in a matter of weeks at the current rate of slaughter.

Cruelty Cases, Horse Seizures, Abandonments, and Hoarding:

  • The infamous Stanley Brothers have been shipping horses to slaughter for quite some time and also have a long history of animal welfare offenses, among other questionable activities.  Boots Stanley, the son of one of the Stanley Brothers, who became millionaires selling horses to be killed, was arrested along with his pal Steven Sadler, for aggravated animal cruelty after slitting a defenseless dog’s throat on the family’s kill lot in Bastrop, Louisiana. Someone who enjoys inflicting pain on an animal may well be a danger to their community soon.
  • “Big Lick” supporter Sandra Darlene Wood will be serving jail time for the crime of Animal Cruelty – starving Tennessee Walking Horses that were seized from her farm on April 6, 2015.
  • Logan Allen, a “horse trainer” who won 1st place in the 2013 Iowa Horse Fair found himself under fire after he posted pics to his Facebook wall of a horse with the caption “bad boy…”  The horse lay on the ground, his legs were bound, his tongue hung out of his mouth and he had been sprayed with a hose,  hence the treatment of the horse was referred to as “waterboarding.”  The dismissal of Allen’s case sends the clear message to those in Iowa that abusing animals is acceptable in the state.
  • The story of Lily, the little pony mare who appeared to have been shot up with a paintball gun and then abandoned at New Holland in Pennsylvania, was a simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking narrative.  The mare, who was rescued and subsequently endured an eye operation for painful uveitis inflammation and days of dental work, was elderly and in poor condition overall.  In May, Philip Price Jr. of Rhode Island, (previously convicted of animal abuse) was convicted on all counts related to transporting her to New Holland.  He was ordered to pay $13,000 in restitution for Lily’s recovery care costs.  Lily was then adopted by former Daily Show Host Jon Stewart and his wife.  Although her quality of life appears to have been quite low for some time, she knew kindness and care before she died a short time later in Stewart’s sanctuary.
  • In June, officials with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture charged trainer Maria Borell and her father, Charles Borell, each with 43 counts of second-degree cruelty to animals in connection with the apparent abandonment of horses at a 121-acre farm in Central Kentucky.
  • 40 deceased and decaying horses were found on a property near Melbourne Australia. Bruce Akers, was charged with 92 counts of animal cruelty and criminal damage.
  • Another 40 horses (and 15 dogs)  owned by a previously convicted mother/daughter team of animal hoarders were seized from a Virginia property.
  • In July, horse rescuers saved from slaughter several horses formerly owned by the Arnold Reproduction Center, which specialized in cutting horse breeding. A herd of horses bearing the brand of center ended up scheduled for shipment to slaughter, according to social media posts, which the business acknowledged in a statement last week, calling the slaughter designation unintended. Photos posted by the Kaufman Kill Pen Facebook page showed show at least a dozen horses bearing the brand and/or distinctive shoulder numbers, with some described as recipient mares.
  • Several horses that had been seized from the Peaceable Farm rescue in 2015 have again been taken by authorities from New Beginnings Horse Rescue, where they had little or no food and water.  Over 80 horses were originally removed from Peaceable Farm and 11 of those horses went to New Beginnings (the other horses were distributed to other rescues).  It’s been a horrible 2 years for some of the rescues in Virginia.
  • Approximately 550-650 “wild” horses of varying ages, some mares with foals, went up for auction in December when approximately 30 were found starving or eviscerated on the bare dirt pastures of the ranch belonging to the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros in South Dakota. With no plan in place to prevent breeding and insufficient range land for the number of horses, the pastures had been eaten down to dirt. Photos on social media show severely thin horses, some of them dead, with their ribs and hip-bones protruding. Some have grotesque wounds and injuries or wildly overgrown, untrimmed hooves. A few had been eviscerated, presumably by wild animals. Guidestar shows that despite the charity taking in $600 – $700K in donations per year, there were always feed emergencies – this appears to be another hoarding operation with charitable status.  Resources are finite everywhere – uncontrolled breeding with no place to go eventually means there will be a population crash.

Legislative and Public Relations Issues:

  • Of the most immediate concern to animal advocates may be the virtual certainty that a Trump administration will work to reopen horse slaughter in the U.S., to “dispose” of the 45,000 wild horses who have been removed as “surplus” from the  BLM.  Furthermore, in 2009 VP-Elect Pence voted against protecting wild horses and burros on America’s public lands. He opposed the “Restore Our American Mustangs Act,” which was introduced to amend the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.  Simply because you see a picture of someone on a horse,  it does not make them an advocate.
  • It has been announced that the European Commission is set to adopt stricter regulations on the import of horsemeat from non-EU countries following its latest audit, which found that Canadian horsemeat may not meet EU food safety standards.  Horses destined for slaughter in non-EU countries but for export to the EU, must undergo a minimum six-month residency requirement. It’s unclear how either the slaughterhouses or the CFIA will control for this requirement.
  • The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition met with MPs in Ottawa in October on the dangers of horse meat consumption. The CHDC was registered to lobby with Aaron Freeman of Pivot Strategic Consulting.  The CHDC continues to consult with legal counsel in a continuing effort to explore legal strategies to stop illegally-conducted live shipments of horses to Japan for slaughter.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the slaughtering license of KML Meats in British Columbia temporarily,  due to the absence of an effective HACCP program.
  • The CFIA proposed changes to the Health of Animals Act and Regulations, thereby recognizing that the transport of animals in Canada is not aligned with those of other countries (World Organisation for Animal Health – OIE) nor do they align with the National Farm Animal Care Council Codes of Practice (NFACC) or international trading partners such as the US and the EU.  Furthermore, transport guidelines, such as they are, do not reflect current science regarding the handling of animals by land, sea, and air.
  • The March to DC on behalf of the SAFE Act took place September 22nd. Thank you to the dedicated people who were able to attend.  Many SAFE-type bills have now died and alternative approaches are needed to make the rest of the US population  aware of the atrocities of horse slaughter.
  • The tall metal fences, chained gates, and decaying metal buildings that were an embarrassment and constant reminder of horse slaughter in Kaufman Texas are now gone.  The old Dallas Crown slaughterhouse was torn down.
  • In Ontario, “horse rustling” has received new attention after two horses, who were temporarily loaned/boarded, disappeared from the same farm and are presumed sold for slaughter.  Sargon, owned by Kim Wilson, and Apollo, owned by Kayla Whatling were loaned to the same individual, who told police she sold Sargon to a kill buyer for slaughter without permission and with a faked EID.

EQUUS Film Festival:

  • The EQUUS Film Festival, dedicated to equestrian-themed film, fine art and authors was subject to controversy in 2016. Noted Equine/Human Chiropractor Dr. Jay Komarek,  declined to accept the Equus Film Festival Award for “Best Documentary” Film citing festival organizers for accepting money from two corporate sponsors,  “Protect The Harvest” and “Farm Paint,”  as his reason for doing so.   The sponsor’s principals are Mr. Forrest Lucas (Protect The Harvest and Lucas Cattle Company) and Mr. Duke Thorson (Farm Paint and Thorsport Farm). Slaughtering and soring horses  do not create a better world for them and were therefore incompatible sponsors for the event.  Clant Seay, a reporter for Billygoboy.com, also had the microphone aggressively grabbed out of his hand by former Sue Wallis buddy Dave Duquette at EQUUS. A positive outcome was that the film “Kill Pen” signed a worldwide/international distribution agreement to circulate the film across the US and Canada, into Europe, and beyond.

 Please read more about these and other headlines from 2016, arranged chronologically, in Storify

 

 

Trail Of Tears For Missing Horses Sargon And Apollo

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Trail Of Tears For Missing Horses Sargon And Apollo

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Bad things sometimes happen to good people.  In particular,  people loaning horses out for therapy programs would never imagine stealing a horse so it’s incomprehensible if it happens to them.  It may seem obvious to us that someone who sells or gives away your horse without your permission has essentially stolen him or her,  it’s generally considered a civil matter,  quite unlike what happens when someone cuts your fence and steals your horse directly off your property.  In contrast,  a civil matter is considered a dispute between two parties – if the police decide your case is civil,  they will generally decline to treat it as a crime.  Durham police have  assigned a detective to the case of at least one of the two missing Ontario horses, Sargon and Apollo.  Since the same parties are allegedly involved in the disappearance of more than one horse, perhaps the police have taken the view that an investigation needs to be undertaken to satisfy public interests?

WHO IS LIABLE WHEN LOANED HORSES ARE NOT RETURNED TO THEIR OWNERS ON DEMAND?

Leasing or free board arrangements permit a horse owner who loves their horse, but cannot keep him or hasn’t time to ride him – to lend him to a rider that can maintain him while the owner still has control. “Sent out for training” is a common excuse given when horses disappear from the farms where they have been placed.  The chain of custody for many missing horses often cannot be more opaque, with horses changing hands several times without parties to these transactions necessarily being unaware of the status of the missing horse.  This is why it’s a good practice to check all horses out online when you are considering buying or adopting.

The RCMP website informs us that the police will only investigate alleged fraud under certain circumstances:

“Major fraud within the Commercial Crime Program mandate can be defined as fraud cases of provincial, national or international significance (having due regard for contractual obligations with the provinces) in which one or more of the following elements are present (Corporate Fraud,  credit fraud, investment fraud, securities fraud, mass marketing fraud):

  • one or more of the RCMP strategic priorities (i.e. Organized Crime)
  • substantial value or financial losses
  • substantial impact on victims
  • high degree of criminal sophistication
  • requirement for special investigative expertise
  • municipal, provincial, or federal governments as victim
  • satisfying public or national interest”

There’s an old saying that bears repeating – “you will never meet a con-man you don’t like.” While a lease agreement won’t prevent a horse from disappearing if someone has the intent, a written agreement may be a deterrent against someone who impulsively decides to help themselves after identifying a target.  If someone won’t agree to a contract in writing,  walk away.

TIME MARCHES ON QUICKLY WHEN HORSES GO MISSING…

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The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition publishes this document to help horse owners locate their horses or get word to the slaughterhouses that a horse has been stolen. Applicable to both Canadians and Americans. Click to view.

You wonder what is happening to the horse…  Is he or she OK;  is someone hurting them?  What is the horse thinking about where he or she now is?  It doesn’t matter if you are pro or anti-slaughter – both sides know that when a horse is taken from you all you can do is think of ways to bring your horse home.

The heartbreak of owners Kim Wilson and Kayla Whatling  is reminiscent of that experienced by American Vicky Johnson, who has invested years into her own personal search for her missing and much loved mares Suzy and Echo, who were apparently sold to a slaughter horse buyer after being promised a caring home. Almost everything told to Vicky about the whereabouts of her horses was a lie, but both had received phenylbutazone and other drugs and medications, prohibited from entering the food chain. No one was ever punished for this crime against Vicky and her horses either.

Unlike with the “traditional” farm animals, there is truly no verification system in place to ensure that horses who do go to slaughter are sent there by those with rightful legal ownership.  Horses sold to slaughterhouses or kill buyers without the owner’s knowledge or permission are sold with Equine Information Documents (EIDs) that were fabricated during the last leg of the horses’ journey to the plant, often by someone who has owned the horse for a few days or weeks if that. Such individuals have no basis to make any claim that the horse has not received any prohibited substances.  Saying you don’t remember whether you shipped a horse or that “many horses look the same” is not an excuse.  In fact, since many horses do look similar this is further testament to the fact that the EIDs do not sufficiently identify them or differentiate between them with any degree of certainty.

Here are scans of the Toronto Sun articles on the missing horses Sargon and Apollo – these articles from the newspaper contain additional information written by The Sun’s crime reporter Chris Doucette, which was not provided in the online versions. With these articles, Mr. Doucette joins the ranks of investigative journalists Mary Ormsby and Dale Brazao of the Toronto Star in addressing the profound shortcomings of the horsemeat trade in Canada.

In the past the Toronto Sun has featured various articles about “bad boy culinists” who promoted  the eating of horsemeat in their restaurants, so this series of articles is definitely a welcome divergence.  [I hope a few foodies and restaurateurs serving horsemeat in Toronto see these articles as well…]

 

[Click on each article to embiggen to read]

 

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Horse “Passports” Come Up Lame At Saskatchewan Auction – Will CFIA Take Corrective Action?

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larry_the_cable_guy_health_inspector_xlgWritten 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.”

johnstone-auction-mart

 

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.

eid-from-meat-hygiene-manual

From the CFIAs Meat Hygiene Manual….

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?

Mini horses are uneconomical to ship long distances to slaughter. But if an opportunity presents itself, they are still considered to be “meat on the hoof.” Photo courtesy of Tierschutzbund (Switzerland) taken on a feedlot in Alberta.

Mini horses are uneconomical to ship long distances to slaughter. But if an opportunity presents itself, they are still considered to be “meat on the hoof.” Photo courtesy of Tierschutzbund (Switzerland) taken on a feedlot in Alberta.

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

These young mules were photographed by me at the OLEX auction in Waterloo Ontario on July 5, 2016. I was unable to stay to find our whether they went to a private home or were sold to a kill buyer. The fact that they are mules is not an impediment to slaughtering them, despite what the CFIA thinks.

These young mules were photographed by me at the OLEX auction in Waterloo Ontario on July 5, 2016. I was unable to stay to find our whether they went to a private home or were sold to a kill buyer. The fact that they are mules is not an impediment to slaughtering them, despite what the CFIA thinks.

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.

What Is The Truth Behind One Of The Most Brutal Horse Slaughter Images On The Internet?

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What Is The Truth Behind One Of The Most Brutal Horse Slaughter Images On The Internet?

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

How many times have we seen the picture below depicted as gruesome evidence of horse (and foal) slaughter?  I’ve no doubt that many people have been disturbed or reduced to tears by what it depicts,  a dead mare and foal on a cold floor,  seemingly devoid of any sort of compassion in their final moments.  Ever since I first saw the picture, I wondered what was happening – was it a picture of a slaughter operation?  If so, it seemed to be uncharacteristic in many ways from what we’ve seen elsewhere and know about slaughter, stunning and evisceration.

Google and Tin Eye’s reverse image search engine are great tools that can be used to find the date that any image first appeared on the internet.  This image first appeared on a Polish website  in 2011, and has been copied on many social media channels since then.  Because the entire site is in Polish, and the video in question no longer seems to work, I wouldn’t advise visiting it because I don’t know if there’s anything malicious about the website itself in terms of viruses or harmful codes. But if you want to view the original video that has been recently copied to Youtube, you can see it here [graphic and disturbing].

But back to my search for the truth behind the image…….The following may be hard for many to read so proceed with caution…

I shared this picture with a veterinarian and asked that person to comment on what they saw.  Because this image was captured in a foreign country we can’t be absolutely certain what we’re looking at, but our veterinarian found the image to be inconsistent with a slaughter operation and more likely to be an example of a necropsy  or possibly an effort at an emergency caesarian.

Horses are generally stunned in a chute, then hoisted with one rear leg and hung from the line where they are bled out.  They then travel along the line where they reach the evisceration area.  As mare and foalmany of us have seen from the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition youtube videos, it’s a brutal operation where horses are left bloody and covered in excrement and urine.

In this screen cap, there’s no chute, the mare has not been hung and is instead shackled.  She is still wearing a halter, which in a slaughter operation would have been long removed. There is a channel in the floor for removing bodily fluids.  There is no evidence that the mare’s throat was slit and no evidence that she was bled out.  We don’t know how she died, whether her death was natural or sudden in a large animal clinic, or whether she was euthanized with barbiturates.

We know mares and foals are dying in feedlots and slaugherhouses in real life in Canada. Through Access-To-Information requests, the CHDC has publicized evidence that pregnant mares are being shipped to slaughter, sometimes delivering in trailers or in the actual slaughterhouse itself (both are issues of non-compliance and/or violations of Canada’s Health of Animals Regulations).  We know mares  are enduring transport in late stage pregnancy and giving birth to their foals in these places of death.  We don’t really know the context in this sad photo, but the above clues suggest (but don’t confirm) that this is not a photo of a horse being slaughtered for food.  At least this is what I am going to choose to believe based on my conversation with a veterinarian who is familiar with commercial slaughter operations.  Despite all the evidence of cruelty toward horses already available and assaulting us every day,  I want to believe that this is one less example.

Embryo Transfer – A Shadowy Market Ripe for Exploitation

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mare-services

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

We’ve known for many years that farm animals have been exploited to produce more meat, milk, wool etc.  Embryo transfer in horses is another technology that is unrivalled for its inefficiency and costliness.  There’s also some evidence that embryo transfer (ET) is exploitative because it can be painful, requiring analgesics.  We recently read about the cast-off recipient mares (the “gestational” carriers that give birth to foals of a different mare/stallion) from the Arnold Reproduction Center  who were consigned to the Kaufman kill pen/kill buyer Mike McBarron for eventual slaughter.   Once exposed on social media platforms, veterinarian Leea Arnold responded:

“I recently sent some mares to the Cleburne Horse Sale.  I certainly never intended for them to end up in the slaughter pen. Many of these mares came to me through the sale barn system, were sick, completely unbroken and certainly destined for slaughter at that time (15 or so years ago). As long as these mares are reproductively sound, they stay in my herd – many probably longer than they are useful. My staff and I have taken the time, money, and resources we have to help these mares become useful and give them a viable purpose.

“I will use another avenue to re-home these mares in the future. If you are a non-profit organization and have your 501(c)3 at hand, I would be more than happy to donate any older or reproductively unsound recipients to your facilities as they become available.”

Dr. Arnold did not otherwise offer to help the animals that were scheduled to be sent for slaughter.

gypsyIn addition to horses, mules are also being used in at least one euphemistically named “mule mom” program  using embryo transfers from gypsy vanner mares.  The Gypsy Gold breeding program  in Ocala Florida charges up to $14,000 for a purebred gypsy vanner foal carried by a mule, who is often shipped to and from the Gypsy Gold Horse Farm and the contractor of their service.  They also helpfully offer a service for purchasers of the gypsy foal who are not satisfied with the quality of their new purchase – they will connect you with an “appropriate buyer” – quite possibly the same buyer who will purchase the mule moms once their fertility wanes.  At the moment, this farm offers 11 mares for breeding, so one can only imagine how many times they are being flushed out and the number of “mule moms” that are being used as gestational carriers.

Currently, most equine breed associations permit embryo transfer. Notable exceptions include the Jockey Club (thoroughbreds), the United States Trotting Association, and the American Miniature Horse Association. Brazil and Argentina are currently the leaders in equine ET, although it’s believed that about 10,000 embryos were collected and transferred in the USA in 2014. The practice seems to have become more widespread in 2015, with more countries reporting embryo transfer activities, including Canada, South Africa, France, Poland, Switzerland, the USA, and Mexico.

Why is Equine Embryo Transfer Also A Welfare Issue?

Because veterinarians can only flush fertilized eggs (embryos) from the uterus of a donor mares at specific times the cycles of one or more recipient mares must be synchronized with the donor mare. This is why reproductive vet clinics tend to have a wide selection of recipient mares from which to choose. The number of mares that some vet clinics keep on hand for this purpose varies from dozens of mares to hundreds.   In many cases the donor mare is synchronized with two or more recipient mares in the event that multiple embryos are recovered from the donor mare.  Obviously,  these mares’ “jobs” come with no guarantee of a home placement after their careers are over and may easily fall into the wrong hands.

There are potential welfare issues for a donor mare, including those associated with the flushing procedure and with repeat injections to attempt to induce ovulation when used. Because more than two mares may be involved, the number of invasive rectal and ultrasound examinations is increased. Where recipient mare numbers are limited, greater pharmacological manipulation (often involving repeated injections) may also be used to achieve ovulatory synchronization between donor and recipient mares.

While there are apparently no studies on whether ET is painful in mares, it is known to be painful in other species, especially those in which embryo flushing is a surgical procedure. Perhaps because of this it is common practice to sedate mares both during flushing and ET.

Transvaginal ultrasound-guided follicular aspiration in women is known to be associated with pain, the severity of which is dependent upon needle design. In sheep and goats, repeated surgical egg retrieval has been associated with the development of adhesions. In a study of pony mares who were the subject of invasive follicular procedures, it was observed that heart rates and cortisol levels increased considerably as soon as a needle was introduced into the procedure.

Lastly, the development of the “super ovulation” protocol and the resulting production of more oocytes (cells that develop into an ovum/egg) will heighten the possibility of more foals using larger herds of recipient mares, greater numbers of horses born that aren’t needed,  and more slaughter after the recip mares are no longer required.

Drugs/Hormones  Commonly Used in Equine Reproduction Practices and Their Withdrawal Times

Sources for withdrawal times were the Meat Hygiene Manual of the CFIA or drug datasheets.  It is important to note that withdrawal times are often extended when drug

Most donor mares are sport horses, Arabians or Quarter Horses. It’s an appealing option for those who can afford it, since it allows the option of the owner taking their mare out of competition for only about a week in order to produce a foal.

Most donor mares are sport horses, Arabians or Quarter Horses. It’s an appealing option for those who can afford it, since it allows the option of the owner taking their mare out of competition for only about a week in order to produce a foal.

combinations are used. Drugs used off-label in unapproved species may have differing withdrawal times even though appropriate dosage is given and whether used in combination with other drugs. The dose itself along with the frequency of use (repeated oral administrations can greatly extend withdrawal times) are two of the most important factors.  Compounded drugs (as opposed to generic or branded drugs sold OTC or through veterinarians) can vary widely in potency as well.  The amount of body fat, the breed, gender and health of the horse are also factors that affect kinetic decay of drugs.  Lastly, the amount of stress that the horse is subject to may also affect withdrawal times.  And even though a pharmacological effect on the animal may be over, the drug and its metabolites may still be detectable, and those metabolites may also be prohibited. The CFIA manual doesn’t tell anyone this, nor could they expect the lay horse person to understand any of the factors that also affect withdrawal times and drug tests,

Altrenogest/Progesterone/ Medroxyprogesterone (synthetic variant of hormone progesterone)

  • Trade name: Regumate®, Depo-Provera® (medroxyprogesterone)
  • Class of Drug: Hormone
  • Use:   Clinical uses include synchronizing the ovulations of a donor mare with a specific recipient mare. It may also be used to alter or manipulate the estrous cycle of a mare for a scheduled breeding due to stallion availability.
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition:  42 days withdrawal

Flunixin meglumine

  • Trade Name: Banamine®
  • Class of Drug: non-narcotic, nonsteroidal, analgesic agent with anti-inflammatory and antipyretic activity
  • Use: Reduces moderate inflammation by stopping the formation of prostaglandins, which are mediators of inflammation.  They also reduce the formation of certain pain-causing products of inflammation.  Embryo recipients may receive flunixin meglumine i.v. at the time of transfer.
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition: IV – 10 days/IM 30 days

Vedaprofen

  • Trade Name:  Quadrisol, VETRANAL
  • Class of Drug: Analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory agent, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, NSAID
  • Use: For the control of inflammation and relief of pain associated with musculo-skeletal disorders and soft tissue injuries in horses
  • CFIA Withdrawal Prohibition: 21 days (oral and IV)

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)

  • Trade Name: Chorulon®
  • Class of Drug: Gonadotropin releasing hormone or GnRH
  • Use: Can also be administered to mares to accelerate ovulation selectively where needed to improve the degree of synchrony between the donor and recipient mares. Induces ovulation in mares. Induction of ovulation is advantageous if a mare is in a timed breeding, shipped semen, frozen semen or embryo transfer program.
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition:  0 days

Deslorelin Acetate

  • Trade Name: Ovuplant™ SucroMate™
  • Class of Drug: Gonadotropin releasing hormone or GnRH
  • Use: A potent, synthetic form of GnRH. The drug is administered as a subcutaneous implant.The most common use in a breeding program is the induction of a timed ovulation, such as when mares are being bred with cooled-transported semen or frozen semen
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition:  not on CFIA website but listed with a “WARNING: For use in horses (estrous mares) only. Do not use in horses intended for human consumption. For intramuscular (IM) use only. Do not administer intravascularly. Not for use in humans. Keep this and all drugs out of reach of children.”

Lidocaine Hydrochloride

  • Trade Name: Lidoject, Lidocaine HCI 2% etc.
  • Class of Drug: Local anesthetic and anti-arrhythmic agent.
  • Use:  Skin block for sutures and implants
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition: 7 days

Prostaglandins

Domperidone

  • Trade Name:  Equidone®
  • Class of Drug: Dopamine antagonist. Neurotransmitter
  • Use: Modulates or suppresses production of the hormone prolactin from the pituitary.  In breeding programs it stimulates lactation or the induction of lactation in nurse mares or the induction of follicular development. Also used as a preventative for fescue toxicosis.
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition: “no known manufacture for veterinary use in Canada”

Oxytocin

  • Trade Name: OxoJect™, Oxytocin-S
  • Class of Drug: Hormone
  • Use: Administered to mares for evacuation of uterine fluid and treatment of retained placenta. It may also be used for induction of labor in late term mares and milk let-down.
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition: not on website: 0 days

eFSH

 

The welfare of the animal is always compromised when greed is involved.  The ability for breeders to implant multiple embryos with no limits caters to the wealthy individuals in the industry. Rakhassa Bey While one might argue that ET is less risky than foaling for a mare,  horses should not have litters, especially since there is some question whether it is humane to repeatedly subject both recipient and donor mares to invasive procedures, after which many horses are dumped.  The worst  but hardly the only offender of this practice, the AQHA, allows multiple-embryo-transfer rules that facilitate overpopulation by allowing mares to have more than one foal per year. Rules about using frozen semen or eggs from long-sterile or dead animals  have allowed horses to breed from beyond the grave.  Consider that First Prize Dash,  a 1988 quarter horse mare – produced  44 offspring!  Her sire, Dash for Cash, sired 1,233 foals!  

It is also very doubtful  that either Canadian or Mexican slaughterhouses have tested for some of these lesser used or less obvious drugs or hormones.  Since some drugs/hormones are not even line items in the Meat Hygiene Manual, it would be easy for sellers of horses to plead ignorance of the requirement to disclose on an EID. Embryo transfer therefore facilitates  an already unsavory horsemeat industry in novel, previously unanticipated ways.

Rescue Reality

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Vinnie-aka-Executive-ShopperSeveral competitive markets for horses have emerged as a result of the opportunities gleaned from social media sites like Facebook. Kill buyers outbid private buyers at auctions on horses that they think they can flip. People are buying horses at outrageous prices and paying phenomenal amounts of money that could be used for feed and vetting, to ship them halfway across the country only to sometimes find that they are sick. In many cases the horses that arrive bear little resemblance to their photographs, may be misrepresented and sometimes must be euthanized upon arrival. After passionately giving themselves to their previous owners, these horses do not deserve to die.

We have largely forgotten about the horse rescues who have to confront this competition for resources and face challenges that surpass those of humane societies and shelters.  Most rescues and sanctuaries rely on public donations rather than government funding, and they require commitment, passion and business acumen in order that they be sustainable. Private rescues are often run by a single person or a small group rather than a large board of directors. Most of their expenses cannot be discounted, and veterinarians and farriers usually don’t work for free.

Many horses waiting for homes at rescues are registered, sound, very rideable, beautiful, kind, and healthy after months of care. Rescues restore horses to good health, evaluate them for a variety of different types of riders, put training on them, and often provide warranties for a price that doesn’t reflect the investment of time.  Yet the perception exists in public realm that rescued horses are devalued or marginalized as old or dangerous, when in fact they are usually quite the opposite.

I really believe that we need to be careful what we allow, as it is what will continue.  If we choose not to support rescues, they will all go away….

Tanya Boyd of Kindred Farm Rescue will no longer offer adoptions through her rescue.  In her own words,  she explains why she is decertifying her not-for-profit and her former rescue operations will now operate for-profit.  (We are trying Tanya….)

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“I have been running a horse rescue for just over four years. Effective today, that comes to an end. From now on, any horse that I “purchase” will be rehabbed and marketed as for sale for a price that is in line for their true value. I will no longer operate as a rescue, because, for some reason, potential buyers think that these horses/ponies are less than, and are not as valuable as horses of the same quality, advertised on the open market.

I cannot put in words, just how emotional this is for me…showing my horses to potential buyers…knowing full well the value of any of my “rescues”, on the open market…and I am singing their praises….and offering them up for free or for $500. and still no buyers. I will do this no longer. I am simply not going to give horses away for a song anymore.

If you were an orphan…or adopted…are you worth any less? Many horse rescues in this area, and beyond, are giving it up. Why? Because there is no funding…because acquiring and maintaining Not for Profit Status or Charitable Status….for horse rescues is extremely time consuming, in terms of the administrative requirements. I know…been there, done that…cannot commit the time required to fill out paperwork. So, I sent off my letter to dissolve my Not for Profit Status. Not worth the time and energy required. Sadly, horses do not rate, in terms of rescue organizations…they are still deemed as livestock…and livestock is butchered…..and that will not change until the public demands that it change.

Frustrated, yes. Sad, yes. But I do not see a move towards any change of status for horses in sight . They are indeed, the forgotten. Where would we be now without them?. I am truly heartbroken that in the four years I have been doing this, nothing has changed. And the public is no more aware now, than it was then, of the degree to which we subject horses to so much pain and abuse. It seems that it really doesn’t matter. I feel so defeated. What does it take to get people to understand that horses are not meant to be slaughtered so inhumanely….and transported so inhumanely. Along with many other animals that we ship in transport trucks, packed full, in 35 degree weather….for hours and hours.

What have we become, as a society, that we close our eyes to this abuse….it makes me so very sad. We are allowed to ship animals for 36 hours, without water, without feed….and in this heat. And that is considered to be ok. Again….in 4 years of doing this…this horse rescue…I have seen no change in our approach….no real concern about what we subject both horses, and other farm animals to in terms of humane handling…prior to being butchered for our consumption. Are we really that unfeeling? Or do we really not want to know.

Time to ask yourself these questions.”

We All Matter – A Sermon About The Moral Value of Animals

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This is a sermon delivered by Earthsave Canada president David Steele at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, July 31st, 2016.  It was originally published on Earthsave Canada`s website.

dreamstime_s_54024506Six years ago today, on July 31st 2010, one of the closest friends I’ve ever known died. Her name was Tasty. Tasty the Sky. She was a canine person. An Australian Shepherd.

Tasty was born in early September 1993 in a research facility at the University of Virginia. She was bred to be deaf. It turns out that a common mutation in Australian Shepherds is an analog to similar mutations in humans – these mutations are behind the most common genetic cause of deafness in our species.

Once the study of her deafness was done, she was sent to another lab where the nerves to her heart were cut. The idea was to mimic one of the effects of a heart transplant. Her heart rate from then on was very low. Didn’t interfere with her health overall, though.

But the next event planned for her very definitely would have. Because she was no longer of any use to the institution, she was slated to be killed. Fortunately for her – and, as it turned out, for me – a brave veterinary student named Jessica Levy couldn’t let that happened. She spirited Tasty out of that place. After a short chain of events, Tasty found her new home with me.

I tell you about this because I think that it is through our pets that we often get insight into the internal lives of animals. We can learn from them how similar they often are to us – in their basic wants and desires; in their curiosity; in their problem solving, even.

Tasty would hug people she loved. She would remember how to navigate complex paths in places she once lived – years before – to find old friends or to get a treat that she expected would be at the end of the line. She was very bright. There’s no doubt about it. But really, she was unexceptional. The vast majority of creatures on this planet have amazing capabilities.

That’s in very large measure because, like you and me, they share a very basic and mysterious trait. They are conscious.

And wow is consciousness amazing!

To me, consciousness is the essence of what it is to be a person. It is awareness, the ability to experience. We all know we’ve got it, but we don’t really understand what it is. Physicians assess it by simple test, ranking humans’ consciousness on a scale ranging from full alertness and responsiveness, through states of delirium, and all the way to what they consider a complete lack of consciousness, defined by a complete lack of responsiveness to painful stimulation. Still, this is just a practical definition. It doesn’t get to what consciousness really is.

It’s a question that has eluded the greatest of minds for millennia. Philosophers have puzzled over it and scientists, too, haven’t been able to figure it out. Some claim consciousness is an illusion. The vast majority of us would disagree with that, I think – and with good reason. I include myself on that one. But still, try and tell me just what it is.

Some say that mind and body are separate; others say mind and body are the same. “Consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe”; “it’s a side-effect of how our brains are organized”; “it works like a machine”; “it works because of the spooky properties of quantum mechanics.” The list goes on and on. Put the theories together and what do you get? An unintelligible mess that still doesn’t explain what consciousness is.

Me, even though I don’t understand it, I think it’s physically based. We know that we can modify it by drugs – even eliminate it, e.g., for surgery, then bring it back at will. It disappears every night, too, as we sleep. That, to me, says that it arises as a property of our brains.

And again, looking around, as my experience with Tasty showed me so very well, we humans are obviously nothing like the only creatures on this planet who experience it.

Dogs and cats, cows and pigs, chickens and crows all clearly share the basic experience of life that we do. Fish, too, show clear signs of conscious awareness. Charles Darwin saw it even in the lowly earthworm. I’m not so sure that he was right about that, but I do know that they can be trained to solve very simple mazes. Fruit flies are much better at solving mazes, though; and they can even learn from each other.

We humans have our biases, so most of what we know about animal consciousness comes either from tests of animal intelligence or studies on a trait that is medically useful to humans: pain. We look into intelligence because we value that in others; we look into pain mostly because we want to use the understanding we get from pain in animals to figure out how to alleviate pain in us.

On intelligence, know, for example, that orangutans are relative geniuses. They have been known to steal canoes and paddle them away and even to put on humans’ clothing, if given the chance. Returning to dogs for a second, we have good evidence they can recognize the emotions in other dogs’ faces and in our faces, too.

That animals feel pain is obvious.

We use rats in experiments on pain because we know that they will react to it like we do and that drugs that blunt pain in them almost always do the same in us. They recognize pain in each other as well, and will try to help when they see another rat in distress. Lots of studies have shown this! We’ve even learned that fish feel pain and react similarly to us when confronted with it.

Some scientists claim that fish are not actually feeling pain; their brains are too different from ours, they say. That, to me, speaks of irrational arrogance. One doesn’t need a similar brain to have fundamentally the same experience and ability. Different structures may well take on different roles in different species. Just look at the intelligence of a crow or a parrot! Or even a chicken!

Birds’ brains are very different from those of humans and other mammals. They lack the neocortex that so many scientists tell us is necessary for intelligence. Yet, they are clearly intelligent. Crows make tools – both in the lab and in the wild. Just last week, scientists reported observing New Caledonian crows make long hooks so that they could carry more than one item away from a scene at once. Clearly ‘bird brain’ doesn’t mean what we once thought it did!

I speak of this not only because consciousness is such an amazing mystery, but also because of its moral dimension.

Beings with consciousness feel joy and pain; excitement and disappointment. They have wants and desires. What we call good can befall them; so can ill.

In short, animals – like us! – have moral value.

I am not saying that there are not differences in the ways the we and dogs and sharks and elephants experience consciousness. I’m not saying that the vast majority of other animals we share this earth with are anything like as aware as we are of their place in the world, or of the consequences of their actions.

What I am saying is that they are very much worthy of our moral consideration. That their experiences of life are sufficiently similar to our own that we should do our best to avoid causing harm to them.

We love our dogs and cats and do our very best to ensure that their lives are pleasant. Other animals are similarly deserving.

And those animals may be more aware of us and our abilities than you may think.

Many sure are aware that we are not beings to be trusted. We hunt them, pave over their habitats and otherwise disrupt their lives.

One study that I read about this week highlights this reality very well.

Scientists at the University of Western Ontario studied the fear responses of small predators. I confess that I haven’t read the study yet, so I don’t know the details. What I do know – reported in New Scientist Magazine – is that that badgers, foxes and raccoons evidently fear humans much more than they fear bears, wolves and dogs.

In one experiment, the scientists played badgers, in the wild, the sounds of bears, wolves, dogs and humans over hidden speakers. While hearing bears and dogs had some effect – reducing the likelihood that the badgers would feed, simply hearing the sound of people conversing or reading passages from books completely prevented the badgers from feeding.

A lot of animals, I would guess, if they think about it – think of we humans as terrible threats.

Clearly, from the animals’ points of view, we are perpetrators of horrors. We can’t say just how aware any specific animal is of the dangers we pose, but clearly they avoid us to the extent that they can.

There is one major way that we differ big time from at least the vast majority of the other animal species on earth.

We have highly developed abstract language. We can learn from others over great distances; we can learn from ancestors long dead.

What a huge advantage that is!

And with that advantage comes great opportunity for improvement – and in my view, great responsibility as well.

We have developed thoughtful, sophisticated theories of ethics and morality. We understand the world to a degree unimaginable in the rest of the animal kingdom. We know dreamstime_xs_7168047that others feel pain and fear when we do harm to them, just as we know that they can feel joy and belonging when we treat them well.

So let’s live according to the better angels of our nature. Let’s look objectively both at the good we do in the world and at the ill. Let’s strive to enhance the good and eliminate the bad.

To do that well at that, we need to look carefully at our own actions in our own lives. We need to consider their effects, even whether our actions are warranted at all.

I’m going to focus now on one part of the moral universe that we should be considering. It’s one of the easiest for us – in this rich Western world – to deal with. And it is one with among the greatest consequences.

For the last few minutes of this homily, I’m going to focus on animal agriculture.

From just a human point of view, this is an extremely important issue.

Animal agriculture is a huge contributor to global warming. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization pegs it as responsible for between 15 and 18% of global warming. That’s more than the 14% associated with all of the cars and planes and trains and ships in the world, combined.

Animal agriculture is responsible also for other egregious environmental effects.

The vast majority of corn and soy grown in North America is grown for animal feed. The corn, especially, requires enormous amounts of fertilizer. One result of the use of so much fertilizer is that it runs off into our waterways. This results in massive algal blooms and dead zones. One of the worst examples is the dead zone that forms at the mouth of the Mississippi every year. Every year, about 20,000 square kilometers of the Caribbean becomes an oxygen-depleted zone where all of the fish and lobsters and other sea life go belly up for lack of oxygen.

Animal agriculture is responsible for most of the ammonia pollution in North America. The majority of our fresh water goes into raising animals – mostly to grow the feed corn, soy and alfalfa.

It’s even a major contributor to the antibiotic crisis that the World Health Organization is now warning us about. Over 80% of the antibiotics we use in North America aren’t used to treat humans. No, they’re added to the feed of factory farmed animals. In such tight quarters, they’re necessary to prevent the rapid spread of disease and – to boot – they somehow speed up the growth of the animals.

And that’s not all.

Modern animal agriculture steals food from the poor.

As Vaclav Smil at the University of Manitoba has well documented, animal agriculture is outrageously inefficient. The way we raise animals today, it takes some 14 lbs of corn and soy, etc., to get back one pound of edible pork. Over 30 lbs of corn and soy and alfalfa go into a pound of beef that we actually eat.

In terms of protein, we are similarly careless. Whereas we could get all of the protein in the corn and soy if we just to eat the corn and soy itself, we instead throw most of it away, mostly in animal feces, urine and bones.

Again, referring to Vaclav Smil’s work, we throw away 60% of the plant protein we fed to the cows when we drink a glass of milk. We throw away three quarters of what we could have gotten when we eat chicken or eggs. And we throw away a whopping 87 to 95% of the protein we could have had when we eat pork or beef. It’s outrageous, really!

Throwing away that much corn and soy – and wasting the land on which other forage is grown – necessarily raises the price of grain. That wastage limits the supply of grains, often pricing them out of the reach of the world’s poor. These days biofuels, too, are contributing to that injustice.

Even more outrageous is the way we treat the animals we are so wastefully using.

When we think of farmed animals, we tend to think of animals in pasture; chicken coops; pigs wallowing in the mud. But that is not the reality for the vast majority of animals raised for food today.

Today, the vast majority of our animal foods come from factory farms. Some 98% of eggs come from hens packed 6 to 8 to a cage – each chicken with the equivalent of an 8 ½ x 11” sheet of paper to her – but it’s a wire mesh floor on which she lives. Her brothers, perhaps luckier than her, were ground up alive or suffocated in giant garbage bags on the day they hatched.

Broiler chickens live their 7 week lives on the floors of giant barns. Their badly manipulated bodies growing all out of proportion to the ability of their legs to support them.

60 years ago, it took broiler chickens almost twice as long to reach ‘market weight.’ And ‘market weight’ in those days was one quarter of what it is today. To satisfy our desire for white meat and to meet the financial demand for more meat per bird, the chickens have been bred to grow into near-Frankenstein monsters. They can’t be rescued. Their bodies will soon do them in.

Female pigs are confined to so-called gestation crates. They can stand up and lie down. That’s all. There is not enough room to turn around. Every few months they are forcibly impregnated.

Dairy cows, too, are forcibly impregnated. Like humans, cows give milk only after they give birth. So, they are are artificially impregnated once a year. Her calf will either become another dairy calf or, if male, either be immediately killed or raised for veal. Neither will be allowed to suckle from his or her mother. That milk is for us; the calf gets an artificial formula.

None of this is necessary. Humans do not need to eat meat and other animal products. In fact, there is lots of evidence that avoiding them does us good. Study after study finds dramatically lower rates of heart disease and type II diabetes in vegetarians and especially vegans. Rates of colon cancer and some other cancers are lower, too.

And it’s easier and easier to forgo the stuff. There are plant-based meat substitutes galore. One recently developed burger even has heme in it – evidently the secret ingredient for making beef taste like beef. Plant-based milks are easy to find, too.

We humans are conscious, just like the other animals around us. We have a huge advantage, though. We can learn from others via our abstract language. We can reflect on our actions with the benefit of knowledge no other species that we know of could even dream of – or even imagine exists.

Let’s use our amazing gift for good. We’ll be better off as individuals. We’ll improve our health. Poor people will eat better. Animals will not have to suffer so.