Category Archives: Horsemeat

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.

Open Letter to Calgary Stampede Parade Marshal Jann Arden

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Photo Credit: Vancouver Humane Society Is this the horse you were thinking of when you wrote that you "want to be a rodeo horse?"

Photo Credit: Vancouver Humane Society
Is this the horse you were thinking of when you wrote that you “want to be a rodeo horse?”

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Dear Ms. Arden,

I’m writing this in response to your decision to accept the position of Calgary Stampede Parade Marshal and your various responses to people who remonstrated with you.  Many people are very concerned  about the treatment of animals, including horses,  who are forced to participate in the rodeo circuit.  These are all high-risk activities that often result in disastrous, unrecoverable injuries to the animals.

Many Canadian rodeo aficionados cite tradition, culture and athleticism as justification for events such as steer-riding, chuckwagon racing, and calf-roping.  In the face of increased public critique, animal welfare groups are helping to shed light on the cruelty of these events. Canada’s animal cruelty legislation is a disgrace – the laws have not been substantially changed since 1892.  Grassroots movements of Canadians say things need to change. There have already been at least 25 walks across the country and around the world, trying to bring awareness to Canada’s horrible animal cruelty legislation.

You previously tweeted in 2013 that you wished the Stampede would give the chuckwagon races a hard pass – I wish the entire rodeo itself J-Arden-tweet-against-chuckwagon-race-2would end.  I’m not alone, there are many humane organizations throughout the world who want to see rodeo-style events come to an end everywhere.

The ASPCA “recognizes the cruel treatment inflicted on many additional animals in the process of practicing to compete in rodeo events. Further, the ASPCA is opposed to children’s rodeo events such as goat tying, calf riding and sheep riding (“mutton busting”), which do not promote humane care and respect for animals.”  The Vancouver Humane Society was instrumental in bringing international focus to the issue of rodeos in Canada,  via the League Against Cruel Sports.  This is a first step toward internationalising opposition to rodeos in Canada and making it  harder for rodeos to justify their use of animals as “entertainment.”  The Vancouver Humane Society has had some success targeting rodeo events it considers cruel. It pressured the Cloverdale Rodeo, a major competition staged in the Fraser Valley just east of Vancouver, into dropping four events, including calf roping and steer wrestling, in 2007.

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals Struggling against many men and a thin rope around his neck before a stadium of thousands of enthusiastic onlookers.

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals
Struggling against many men and a thin rope around his neck before a stadium of thousands of enthusiastic onlookers.

“I treated saddle horses with wounds to their mouths from abusive use of the bit. One horse had half his tongue severed. I saw lots of so-called “minor” injuries, like cuts and abrasions, lameness, and eye injuries. I believe the callous attitude toward the calves added to their injuries; there was no concern for their welfare at all. I’ve seen injuries that ended in death, some resulting in death from euthanasia or a trip to the slaughter plant, broken bones, lameness, and minor scrapes and cuts.” ~ Dr. Peggy Larson, former Vermont State Veterinarian and Chief of Livestock and Meat Inspection, and former rodeo bareback bronco rider/large animal veterinarian

The breeding of bucking horses for entertainment is such an anachronistic practice – the only reason bucking stock exist is for the purposes of inhumane entertainment. They virtually all go to slaughter in the end, with a short stop at the Stampede before heading directly to Bouvry in Fort McLeod. That plant was the subject of an investigation by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition in 2010, which found evidence that horses were being killed inhumanely. The CHDC revealed video footage showing horses at the slaughterhouse being shot and then hoisted away by their legs while still fully conscious.

The fate of other horses at the Stampede is often not much better.  Consider that

  • More than 55 chuckwagon horses have died since 1986. This number excludes bucking and show horses.
  • At least nine rodeo horses died after becoming spooked while galloping across a bridge before they even got to the Stampede grounds. They jumped from the bridge and plunged 10 metres into the Bow River in 2005.
  • A post-mortem revealed the cause of the sudden death of a 10 year-old  outrider horse in 2013. Pathologists from the University of Calgary reported that the horse died almost immediately as the result of a pulmonary hemorrhage –  essentially a rupture of an artery in the lung.
  • In 2014, a 12-year-old thoroughbred chuckwagon horse collapsed during a training run. A post-mortem determined he died of a ruptured aorta near one of his kidneys, according to a news release from the Stampede organization. The University of Calgary veterinary school’s Dr. Gord Atkins, who chairs the Stampede’s chuckwagon committee, explained to reporters that the horse was afflicted with a common parasite that can damage blood vessels, creating an aneurysm that is undetectable until it lets go. The ex-race horse died quickly from massive blood loss.

Most thoroughbreds in the chuck races are older ex-racehorses who have already earned their retirement.  They’re retired for a reason – they’re too old to be charging around at

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals Post-race bleeding nose. All chuckwagon horses are required to submit to mandatory drug testing.

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals
Post-race bleeding nose. All chuckwagon horses are required to submit to mandatory drug testing.

breakneck speeds.  Note the age of the horses above who died – they were 10 and 12 years old – relatively young animals in absolute terms,  but far too old for these outdated Roman-style events.  In addition to age working against them, modern thoroughbreds have strongly muscled bodies and delicate legs that suffer stress fractures.  And we know what happens to horses with stress fractures – broken legs are the result.  And please note the veterinary comments about a horse with such a heavy parasite load that it caused an aneurysm.  I thought these horses were “family” to their owners, and worth as much as $50,000?  You know that a tube of wormer costs around $25?

“….the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) controls the camera shots that ESPN can use while filming rodeo. In calf roping, ESPN is not allowed by the PRCA to show the calf actually being dropped. The audience will never see the rope strangling the calf; they will never see the calf jerked off its feet, dragged, and choked. As soon as the loop settles over the calf’s head, the camera moves away from the calf and moves back only after the calf is tied.”  ~ Dr. Peggy Larson

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

Tradition and heritage are two very emotional words, heavy with meaning.  Yet, despite those historical connections, the Catalonians have banned bullfighting, which was intensely tied to their nationhood and heritage.  The British have outlawed foxhunting.  The scarlet coated riders are now gone, even though few things were more “British” than stately homes, country weekends, and The Hunt.  I wonder, with regard to Canadian tradition, how many settlers had to ride or wrestle steers and race chuckwagons at breakneck speeds across the prairie?  I don’t believe that calf roping has ever been a sport but it was made so for entertainment and prize-money, as was bull-riding. Think about it: why would anyone ride a bull? It was created for entertainment and was not something based on culture or tradition.  And what the rodeo industry wants is a way to make every last dime from all the horses they shock, beat, drag, and buck.

You joked that you “want to be a rodeo horse.” You may wish to re-think that, since the PRCA, the largest rodeo-

Nothing more than macho abuse of baby animals. You can see the terror in his eyes...

Nothing more than macho abuse of baby animals. You can see the terror in his eyes…which are rolled back up into his head.

sanctioning organization in the world, has come down unequivocally as pro-horse slaughter.  In any case,  I think we could both agree that none of the horses depicted in this blog post seem to be enjoying their “jobs.”  The 2015 corporate report published by the Calgary Stampede explains that Stampede Park hosted many animal “guests” last July, including 629 chuckwagon horses and 410 bucking horses and bulls that competed during the rodeo. So I honestly wouldn’t say it’s all about the music. I would also be willing to bet my next paycheque that most of those animals aren’t really having their best day while at the Stampede. And I love how the Stampede refers to them as “guests,”  as if they come of their own volition!

“Sometimes tradition and habit are just that, comfortable excuses to leave things be, even when they are unjust and unworthy. Sometimes–not often, but sometimes–the cranks and radicals turn out to be right.”  ~ Matthew Scully:  The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy

Jann, in closing, I wish that you could see that these issues aren’t merely being brought forward by “people wearing leather shoes and eating hamburgers.”  Ask yourself though, if these events that focus on livestock do not sufficiently concern you, would you subject your dog to the same treatment?  I’m sure you wouldn’t ever consider it. It would be illegal if you did. Yet you are promoting the Calgary Stampede and the misery of thousands of animals by appearing in their parade.  Therefore, you are giving tacit approval to everything they do, despite saying that you do not like the chuck races. There are many other ways that we can support Calgary,  Fort McMurray, and promote Alberta.

Thank you for the work that you have done for animals in the past.

 

jann arden statement

 

 

In Pursuit Of Humanity At Auctions In Western Canada

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12604698_1661362140781773_4399257378087269268_oWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Research Assisted by: Debby

Thousands of horses have been filtered through British Columbia and Alberta auctions in the last few months, often with up to 80% being purchased by kill buyers at some auctions. I’ve chosen to focus on resources for rescuers attending auctions in these two provinces due to the magnitude of criticism and complaints, and because the sheer volume of horses being sent to auctions in BC and Alberta is surely on a par with the biggest horse auctions in the US, such as Billings.

Many horses are registered, sound, very rideable, beautiful, kind, and healthy, while others are unhandled, thin or emaciated, unwell, pregnant, or are injured. Those with injuries will endure unspeakable torture once jammed in a trailer with unfamiliar horses on their final trailer ride. The corruption at these auctions has created an intense divide between the horse rescuers who have been organizing to save these horses – abuse and neglect are untended or unreported, poor quality hay is the rule rather than the exception, and bidders are routinely ignored in favour of kill buyers. Because of negative publicity, photography has been forbidden at most auctions. Many rescuers want to object to the treatment of horses and bidders at the auctions, while others are adamant that the general public will be banned from attendance if they upset the proverbial apple cart.  We’re used to taking photographic evidence freely in public spaces but sale barns are private property.  They do however, have their own “codes of conduct, ethics, and constitution” that they are supposed to adhere to, in theory at least.  Service Alberta also produces a tip sheet on auctions that clearly states that The business is responsible for the actions of its employees and agents.”

I really believe that we need to be careful what we allow, as it is what will continue.  In many ways we teach others how to treat us (and the horses).  While auctions aren’t responsible for the condition in which horses arrive, they and the appropriate SPCA or veterinarian should be prepared to act in the event horses meet the requirements for being “unfit for transportation.”

Transport Decision trees by the National Codes of Practice for Equines.

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Even if we are willing to overlook how the auctions treat us individually as patrons, we should not overlook the care of animals in their custody. My own opinion is that I would report neglect and abuse of an animal not only for that animal and future animals, but because it sometimes involves domestic violence on another level.  Many animal abusers have records for other crimes.

Auction houses are *supposed* to conduct auctions transparently and in particular they should announce how the sale of an animal or tack is completed – it could be the bang lead_largeof a hammer or the word “sold.”  Until the sale is completed you can retract a bid, however, once the sale is completed you are responsible for paying.  While employees of the business are allowed to bid on items, they are not allowed by bid on items they do not intend to buy.  Auctions should make an announcement at the beginning of a sale if an employee will be bidding. And finally, if you purchase a horse and need to keep him temporarily on site until shipping is arranged, do make sure that any administration charges, pricing arrangements, and commissions are in writing.

There is ample recourse for patrons of livestock markets to remonstrate against abuse or refusal of bids within the national and local auction networks in Canada and Alberta/British Columbia (and other provinces) and separate processes by which complaints about animal mistreatment can be made.

The Livestock Markets Association of Canada

The Livestock Markets Association of Canada is a non-profit association of livestock marketing businesses.  Members of the Livestock Markets Association of Canada: (Alberta) Includes Westlock, Dawson Creek, and Innisfail auction houses among others. Vold Jones Vold (VJV) operates Dawson Creek, Beaverlodge, Ponoka, Rimbey, and Westlock. The British Columbia members include Valley Auction among others.  Please see the website for information on other provinces.

The LMAC tells us that their members support the following code:

Code of Ethics and Mission Statement

“As a member of the Livestock Markets Association of Canada, this marketing business pledges to uphold the following marketing standards and principles. We pledge to:

  1. To promote the Auction Method of livestock marketing as an integral part of the Livestock Marketing business.
  2. To promote the auction method as open competitive price discovery. (To me this suggests that they, in least at theory, would not close off their auctions to the public)
  3. To promote fair and open competition while providing factual, accurate and honest market reporting, with actual volume and prices.  To strive to accurately describe and represent all animals consigned.
  4. To provide proper training to employees to ensure humane handling and the proper care of all livestock consigned. To develop safe handling practices that ensure both animals and market staff are treated under the best possible safety standards, ensuring a safe working environment for all employees, buyers, and/or consignors.
  5. To work in co-operation with all government bodies, at all levels to advocate the enactment of appropriate laws, whether statute, regulation, or policy, affecting the marketing of livestock. To ensure that regulations that apply to the marketing sector are market neutral. To protect the marketing industry from over regulation that would negatively affect the speed of commerce and needlessly harm the industry.
  6. To provide and maintain the highest standards of honesty and integrity in all transactions while treating all contributors and buyers in a fair and equal manner.
  7. To maintain a sound financial basis by assuring that full payment is made to sellers and received from buyers, in accordance with the provincial payment regulations.
  8. To protect the producers’ right and freedom to choose what method, manner, means and location they use to market their livestock.”

Is there recourse here for auction attendees who have not been treated fairly?  Possibly.  Without testing this creed we simply don’t know how responsive to complaints they are or how seriously they will consider them.

Alberta Auction Markets

In addition to this national group, there is also an Alberta based association – Alberta Auction Markets Association and they also have a Code of Ethics in which they state that they will give “honest service to all patrons of auction markets.”

“AIMS – OBJECTS – ETHICS

  1. To promote the general welfare of the members in regard to business, social, recreational and all other activities pertaining to the general improvement of the Auction Markets.
  2. Factual, accurate and honest market reporting with actual volume and prices.
  3. To provide open and fair competition.
  4. To give equal treatment to all contributors and buyers.
  5. To work in co-operation with all governing bodies, at all levels.
  6. Honest service shall be given to all patrons of auction markets.”

Also available are a number of government resources that outline the responsibilities of public auction businesses:

Province of Alberta Animal Health Act Livestock Market Regulation 

For those who would like to complain about the conditions of paddocks, feed, and water at an auction,  here are the relevant regulations:

“7(1) The operator shall keep an accurate record of each transaction relating to livestock that takes place at a livestock market,including(a) the livestock owner’s name, address, telephone number and premises identification number, (b) for horses, cattle and sheep, the number, colour, kind and brand or identifier as recorded in the livestock manifest required under the Livestock Identification and Commerce General Regulation (AR 208/2008),

(c) for livestock other than the livestock referred to in clause (b), the number, species, sex and livestock identifier, if available, and if the livestock identifier is unavailable, a description of each head of livestock, and (d) the name, address and telephone number of each purchaser of livestock.

Sanitation and other requirements

14 The operator of a livestock market shall, with respect to that livestock market, (a) provide an area where vehicles used to transport livestock to the livestock market may be cleaned by removing manure and bedding, (b) keep the livestock market free of all litter, refuse and weeds to the satisfaction of an inspector, (c) provide an area for the storage of all manure and soiled bedding in such a manner that livestock cannot have contact with it, (d) dispose of all manure and soiled bedding in such a manner that livestock cannot have contact with it for a minimum of one year, (e) provide suitable bedding that is clean, dry and adequate to meet the needs of the species and age of the livestock using it, (f) comply with the requirements of the Disposal of Dead Animals Regulation respecting the disposal of dead animals, and (g) control the fly population to the satisfaction of an inspector.

Cleaning and disinfecting

15(1) An operator must thoroughly clean the areas of the livestock market that are used by livestock, which includes scraping out or removing bedding and manure after each sale or assembly of livestock.

(2) An operator must clean the livestock market if ordered to do so by an inspector.

(3) An operator must thoroughly disinfect the livestock market if ordered to do so by an inspector

Misleading statements

20 No operator shall make or require or permit an employee or a person who is under contract to the operator to make any statement or representation or publish information in any form that misrepresents or misleads any person or is likely to misrepresent or mislead any person with respect to the health or condition of livestock at a livestock market.”

horses in pens at Claremont

Additional resources that may respond to complaints about conduct or animal neglect at auctions:

Alberta Fair Trading Act

Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (British Columbia)

The Better Business Bureau of Central and Northern Alberta or Southern Alberta and East Kootenays.

The Better Business Bureau of the Lower Mainland, Thompson – Okanagan, Northern, Central and Southern Interior BC, and the Yukon 

Alberta Office of the Chief Veterinarian

Animal Health Office of British Columbia

Alberta SPCA

British Columbia SPCA

11891979_486949478138355_2324220209730095838_nIf you are considering reporting you must let conscience be your guide. It’s possible that auctions can be prevailed upon to correct some issues on their own when approached.  If you’re planning to report, consider the number of problems, the severity/urgency, and the duration of the problem.  What is the attitude of the staff if you do approach them?  Are they indifferent (or worse)?

It may be impossible to obtain photographs if the sale barn has banned them and are watching (while they can ask you to leave, they cannot confiscate your camera or phone or detain you against your will).  If reporting an incident, contact your local humane authority or provincial/national regulatory authority.  Lastly, familiarize yourself with the the Criminal Code, National Codes of Practice for equines, and the Health of Animals Act.  Thank you horse warriors……

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

~ Albert Einstein

Over-Breeding, Foal-Milling AQHA Posts Membership Results for 2015

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

While new registrations and memberships of all pedigree horse breeds have been in decline overall since the 2008 recession,  registrations for the AQHA are possibly the hardest hit, due in part to the dominance of the quarter horse breed. The AQHA’s 2015 membership results have been posted, and following the trend of previous years,  they’re down overall once again.   Canada’s overall membership numbers continue in a decade of decline, so too do Alberta’s numbers, which are typically in the top 10 of almost any AQHA stat.

 

Membership Change Overall From 2014 – 2015 (2,997) This decline represents a loss of over $100,000 in revenue

Membership Change for Canada From 2014 – 2015 (655)

Membership Change for Alberta From 2014 – 2015 (171)

 

It’s no secret that the largest non-profit breed association in the world takes the most destructive and inhumane approach to horse slaughter of any of the breed groups. On the one hand, they have a Mission Statement to “ensure the American Quarter Horse is treated humanely, with dignity, respect and compassion at all times.” However, the AQHA needs a system to make room for the continuing mass production, hence their business model is to breed as many horses as possible (thus maintaining new memberships and registrations thus ensuring that they are a self-perpetuating entity) while discarding older  or surplus horses and horses with undesirable conformation to slaughter plants.

AQHA  Executive Vice President  Craig Huffhines – (in reference to the S.A.F.E. Act):

“If we do not like unwanted horses being sent to processing facilities across our northern and southern borders, then perhaps Congress should allow our own USDA-regulated processing plants to reopen. The U.S. plants, with state-of-the-art monitoring technology, will assure humane handling and euthanasia as approved by AAEP and AVMA and a USDA-inspected safe and wholesome end product for export.”

Can I say how disgusted I am that Huffhines refers to quarter horses as an “end-product?”  I dislike references to the term “foal crop” on the 2015 Executive Summary (or wherever else I see it).  41655994_mlThe term “crop” has pleasant connotations of the nostalgic gathering of a produce that is planted and cultivated by collecting rainwater for irrigation.  Animals are not “crops” that can be ripened like turnips, although sending horses to slaughter does bring to mind the image of a combine harvester and a crop of living animals that are simply mowed down.  Despite what the AQHA claims, the goal of “treating horses humanely and with dignity” is one that’s incompatible with over-breeding and slaughter.

In addition to encouraging horse owners to dispose of their animals in the slaughter pipeline and strategizing against humane groups,  the AQHA’s multiple-embryo-transfer rule also facilitates 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 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!  Possibly these two horses are not the most obvious examples of this policy either. There were so many lines in the All Breed Pedigree record for Dash for Cash that I had to copy and past them into a spreadsheet in order to count them…

top hat tip DebbyInstead of trying to fight against animal welfare groups, the AQHA should be setting aside funds to care for unwanted horses that resulted from rampant over-breeding that the horse-riding public cannot absorb.

Fewer horses produced by responsible breeding practices would result in higher prices at the sale barn and private treaty sales. It’s not all about the membership numbers.

 

Alberta Wildies: Aerial Surveys Used To Substantiate Culls Are Prone To Extreme Inaccuracy

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Spirit of the Basin by Melody Perez

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Artwork by:  Melody Perez

Whether it’s conducted for horses, bison, wolf, or deer, aerial surveys usually precede a savage end for our free-roaming,wild, and migratory animals. It usually becomes apparent that a cull is being considered whenever an aerial survey is conducted.  But the process of conducting aerial counts to justify a cull is profoundly flawed.  The scientific evidence to support arguments against the horses just isn’t there.  Counts require low flying and intensive and systematic coverage of the landscape that are more likely to motivate, and less likely to detect, horse escape behaviour.  The anti-predator behaviour of the horse (and other prey animals such as deer) is characterized by grouping together and running to escape, which compounds observers’ ability to make accurate counts, as does aircraft altitude, weather conditions, season, vegetation, and animal mobility. At least one study of wild horse behaviour in New Zealand’s Kaimanawa Mountains has shown that aerial sampling, which is then extrapolated to the entire population, can be highly inaccurate and imprecise: 

“Comparisons between the records of the counters and two observers show that, of the 136 marked horses located immediately prior to the helicopter count, 34 (25%) were counted more than once, a further 23 (17%) may have been counted more than once, and 13 horses (9.6%) were not counted. The helicopter count yielded 228 horses and was 16.9% larger than the estimate of 195.

Untamed Longing by Melody PerezIn addition, counts that are made only once a year for 2-3 days are not generally considered to be a robust form of wildlife management when compared to counts done 3 times a year, such as in the spring after what is often a harsh winter, after the foals are born, and before a capture is being considered.   Reliable methods to estimate wild horse populations should be important to Alberta Environment & Parks (formerly  Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development – ESRD)  because otherwise they will continue to make programmatic decisions that aren’t supported by science.  A single aerial census is not terribly useful since the horses are pretty scarce and elusive when spread out over 6 million acres, which results in a weak inference about horses that are neither abundant nor widespread in the Equine Zones. Not only is the aerial count slipshod because it is only one sample, E&P doesn’t know how many horses are too many.    E&P allow the “Feral Horse Advisory Committee,” with representation from several stakeholder groups, such as oil and gas, forestry, cattle ranchers, capture permit holders and hunters, (groups with a vested interest in removing wild horses) input into culls.

By most accounts there are somewhere between 850-980 wild horses currently grazing a vast area close to six million acres in 6 Cimmaron stallion of the Sand Wash Basin in Colorado by Melody Perezequine zones in Alberta Canada.  The cattle being grazed consist in numbers about 10 times the number of equids in the 6 zones.

It is falsely claimed by E&D that wild horses have no predators.  These wild horses, like all other ungulates, do have natural predators.  If not, why then would the E&P (ESRD) advertise on their website hunting and trapping licence for cougars, wolves and bears?  It’s also falsely claimed by the Feral Horse Advisory Committee that horses compete with wildlife and cattle for forage.  If so,  how many skinny cattle come off the range each year?  The government’s own study by R.E. Salter, who has a master’s degree in zoology – did not document forage or behavioural competition with either wildlife or domestic cattle.  Studies in British Columbia showed that overgrazing and erosion were caused by too many cattle and not horses.

The New Zealand Study On Aerial Surveillance:

Burro Baby Blues by Melody PerezBy the grace of (insert the deity of your choice), a cull was not held this year. The decision to cull any of these horses should not lie in the interpretation that they are feral rather than wild; feral is a human construct that serves only to stigmatize the horses.

You only have to look at these horses to see that they are almost evolving into a distinct breed, rather like the Canadian horse.  They deserve heritage status and advocates should demand that “managing” these unique and iconic herds be conducted using a biological basis which should never include inputs from groups that seek to eliminate them.

There should be a ban on selling captured horses to slaughterhouses (in part because there is not six months worth of drug history on any of them) therefore those doing so should be heavily fined.

 

 

 

 

Contact:

Minister Shannon Phillips
323 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-2391
Email: AEP.Minister@gov.ab.ca

Heart Of Darkness

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bludgeoned heartWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Is eating out in trendy restaurants in Toronto supposed to be enjoyable any more? Or has it just become another display of gluttony and disordered behaviour, where people obsess over the hunt for the perfect dish of raw meat and take pictures of their food rather than who they are dining with? Pop culture is now overrun with the fetishization of food; cooking shows, celebrity chefs and blogs. In a piece by Rebecca Fleming, whose Valentine’s Day Special is rife with foodie-related nose-to-tail misery for animals, Toronto Life ensures that dining has never been more joyless to read about.

The article, entitled Eight Ways To Eat Heart In Toronto On Valentine’s Day must surely have been written by someone gunning for a PhD in grand master trolling. The premise of this pretentious article is that trendy hipsters should be eating animal hearts on V-Day, because, according to the author, it’s far more romantic than Orville Redenbacher’s and a rom-com.” It’s an article where eating prioritizes cachet above humanity.

On the menu at these restos (The Black Hoof, Bar Buca, Zakkushi, and Antler Kitchen Bar),  are chicken hearts, bison hearts, raw kitchen bitcheshorse hearts, and duck hearts – heart-shaped or “skewered just like Cupid would do!” If I could say one thing to consumers of these foods is “please think about what you’re looking at for a moment. “ Each of these animals used the heart to pump blood through their bodies. The heart (also a symbol of romantic or courtly love) is a hard-working muscle, and as with all organs, they have “weird” shapes, textures, and colours, and perhaps to a greater extent than skeletal muscle, it should remind you that this was once a living creature.

No matter what they themselves may say, people who patronize restaurants offering such gruesome fare are not, IMO animal lovers. They may profess to love individual species, such as dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals, but they don’t mind participating in the torture of the “less cute” animals. Not only are they meat-eaters, but they’re unethical meat-eaters. They patronize these restaurants for the sake of trendiness, so they support a system that exacts unnecessary cruelty on animals – breeding them to be weak and sickly, giving them a miserable life, and then delivering the low-quality product to their table.

And sorry (not sorry) restaurateurs, but most of the entrées depicted in the article are utterly indistinguishable from something that comes out of a hospital vending machine or a McCain’s Tasti-Taters bag. Not exactly consistent with my stock image of Valentine’s Day realness.

Jen Agg, proprietor of The Black Hoof, tweets that her customers are douches. The tweet represents a growing "culture war" between restaurant owners and their patrons. Of course they are douches - if they think it's cool to eat these tiny little heart as some sort of celebration of Valentine's Day, they certainly don't care about your staff...

Jen Agg, proprietor of The Black Hoof, tweets that her customers are douches.  Of course they are douches – they’re eating raw meat in your restaurant,  maybe it’s a primal thing?  They certainly don’t care about your staff…