Category Archives: Horses

Viandes Richelieu – Lost in Translation (Again)

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

It can be a daunting challenge for consumers to separate true advertising claims from false ones. This is especially true with industries that slaughter animals – in the interest of public image, they are anxious to avoid any terminology that suggests that animals in the food chain die horrible deaths. The term “processing” is now to be used instead of “slaughter,” because of the latter term’s association with mass murder.  And while the CFIA heavy-handedly enforces decades old product descriptions that don’t take into consideration the proliferation of newly available plant-based foods, no one is minding the store at the Viandes Richelieu website, where the company makes claims, without evidence, that horsemeat is “good for pregnant women and anemics” and is advisable for individuals with “an increased risk of infections.”  It looks like VR’s marketing department could use a good proofreader, or as they say in French, un bon relecteur.  So what’s going on here?  Is this a faux pas, or a jeu de mots gone wrong?

These types of random statements are pretty risky claims for a slaughterhouse to make.  Health Canada has some pretty onerous “Guiding Principles” for product labels and advertising about food characteristics and related health benefits – obviously, because these types of claims influence people’s buying habits.  And Health Canada’s standards of evidence are generally consistent with those of other scientific and regulatory authorities, including the European Food Safety Authority.

Consider that “a health claim is a statement or representation that states, suggests or implies that a relation exists between a food or component of that food and health” in Health Canada’s guidance documents on nutrition. These types of claims (about infection and health in pregnancy) fall under “Disease risk reduction claims” and “function claims.” When someone advertises a claim about their product’s ability to treat a health condition, mitigate a disease, or about restoring, correcting or modifying body functions – they must be prepared to back it up.  Ideally, the company is supposed to submit these claims to Health Canada so they can be reviewed BEFORE publishing them anywhere. Neither can a company typically make non-specific or general claims (for example, “horsemeat is beneficial to health” or “horsemeat supports immune health”) since these are subject to multiple interpretations and are potentially misleading.

Making health claims are totally optional for a food product. But if and when a claim is made, it must be truthful and not misleading, according to Subsection 5(1) of the Food and Drugs Act. This means that producers must have scientific evidence to substantiate a food health claim prior to its use. Subsection 3(1) of the FDA goes on to state that no person shall advertise any food, drug, cosmetic or device to the general public as a treatment, preventative or cure for any of the diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states referred to in Schedule A.

There are some great precedents whereby manufacturers have been slapped down for making dubious or unsupported claims in the past. One of the most famous examples occurred when, in 2011,  the Kellogg Co. paid $5 million back to consumers for making the common claim that its Rice and Cocoa Krispies can help a child’s immune system, shortly after a similar settlement concerning its Frosted Mini-Wheats.

The marketing folks at Viandes Richelieu must be under terrible pressure – they blame activists for the unpopularity of their product in an article published in the French language Journal de Montréal.

“There is no restaurant that wants to use it because of the threats. We, too, have it continuously. Our equipment must be monitored 24 hours a day,” declared spokesperson Marc Bouvry in a translated statement about the Bouvry operations in Alberta (VR is also part of the Bouvry horse slaughter empire).  Hey Marc, maybe this industry isn’t worth it – at least, that’s the consensus of about 69% of Canadians.  Time to find more socially acceptable work. So that’s why I’ll be writing to Health Canada, to ask them to make a determination about the appropriateness of these claims made by Viandes Richelieu. Not too long after sending a letter to Advertising Standards Canada about statements made on Richelieu’s website in 2011,  I received a response from ASC indicating that the company had revamped their website to remove the misleading claims.

 

I didn’t realize that you could request a purebred horse steak (or an “old half-bred” for that matter either).

 

 

 

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Slaughter of Pregnant Mares – An Inconvenient Truth

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This Temple Grandin quote hangs in a slaughterhouse to remind workers to be “respectful.” Source – Modern Farmer https://modernfarmer.com/2013/04/this-is-what-humane-slaughter-looks-like-is-it-good-enough/

 

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau (with files from the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)

Dear friends,

Many people are shocked to find out that pregnant animals are routinely slaughtered.  According to the European Food Safety Authority, “on average 3% of dairy cows, 1.5 % of beef cattle, 0.5% of pigs, 0.8% sheep and 0.2% of goats in the EU are slaughtered during the last third of gestation. Reasons may vary – from farmers not being aware that animals are pregnant, to considerations linked to animal health and welfare or economic reasons.”  Horse advocates may be shocked to discover that this also occurs with slaughterbound horses, and there’s really no good explanation for the “why” here, when horses are slaughtered in the last few weeks or days of gestation. Indeed, probably many horse people are convinced that kill buyers and slaughterhouses as a rule, allow mares to “foal-out” on idyllic pastures worthy of a John Constable painting.

The Health of Animals Act (138 (2)(c)) stipulates that any animal that is likely to give birth during the trip is considered to be “unfit.” While the CFIA veterinarians are responsible for ensuring that transport is compliant, there are not enough of them and it’s highly questionable whether the organization has the will or fortitude to fine or penalize shippers.  We already know that they don’t enforce their own regulations and any existing regulations we have in Canada do not reflect the current science regarding care and handling.

Slaughterhouses are profiting off the suffering of horses, and in particular, pregnant mares and their foals, which are often only discovered upon evisceration of the mare on the slaughter dis-assembly line. Please be advised that the translated sequences of events contain graphic and disturbing accounts of suffering and despair:

Pregnant mare (USDA tag #2976) – Mare gave birth in trailer, and both mare & foal were slaughtered the following day

Mare #2976 with foal. ATI Documents

Translation of CFIA Remarks from French:

“On March 9, 2011 at 9:00 a.m., a load of 30 horses from (name withheld) arrived at establishment 505. During unloading, (name withheld) inspector at establishment 505 discovered that there was a foal with its mother in the first section of the trailer. Here is the sequence of events before the foaling and a declaration collected by the Inspector at establishment 505: While parked in a rest area around 1:15 am on the morning of March 9, 2011, the driver was awakened to noises coming from the trailer. When he checked, he saw that there was a mare lying down.

He continued to observe the mare and around 2:00 am, he witnessed the birth of the foal noting that it came out with no problems. At around 6:00 am, he called his boss to ask him what to do. The ‘boss’ contacted establishment 505. At 9:00 am the load arrived at the slaughterhouse. The seals were removed. The colt was in the first section of the trailer with his mother and other horses. He seemed in good health. (Name withheld) noted placenta residues and traces of blood where the mare and foal were (see photos: placenta and traces of blood in the trailer, trailer traces of blood). (Name withheld), employee of the slaughterhouse, carried the foal in his arms and brought him into the barn with his mother. The rest of the load were fine. On March 10, 2011 at 8:00 am, I looked at the mare and foal. They seemed in good health. I discussed the case with (name withheld). Around 13:30 (1:30 pm), the foal was euthanized for humane reasons. The mare was shot, in normal fashion, around 14:45 (2:45 pm).”

Pregnant Mares (USDA Slaughter Tags – 4937 and 4439) – Mares arrived at slaughter plant in late stage pregnancy

Translation of CFIA Remarks from French:

“A journey of horses imported from the United States arrived at (Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation) establishment designation #505. These horses

Bouvry feedlot – Why aren’t pregnant mares separated? What will be the outcome for this mare and her foal? Photo credit – Animals’ Angels & AWF

left on June 3, 2011 at 22:00 (10:00 p.m.) and arrived on June 5, 2011 at 9:10 am after 35 hours and 10 minutes in the trailer. At first glance, the horses are thirsty and hungry. They are fed and kept awaiting slaughter, to take place on June 6, 2011. On June 6, 2011, during the evisceration, we have 2 mares #4937 USDA and #4439 USDA who have a very large uterus and which each contain a foal I describe as almost to term. The first foal of the mare was black, measured 38.5 inches (98 cm) and weighed 44.8 kg. The second foal of the mare was beige, weighed 56.4 kg and was 40.5 inches long (103 cm). Their weight and length measurements indicate that the mares were in the last 10% of gestation, pregnant more than 300 days. To be precise, I would say that the 2 foals were between 325 to 330 days of gestation, 330 days being the normal time of gestation for mares. A pregnant mare in the last 10% of gestation is considered to be an animal that is fragile and unfit for transportation. Its resistance to the stress of transport is weakened. Article 138 (2) (c) of the Health of Animals Regulations states that it is prohibited to load or to transport to load in a motor vehicle an animal that is likely to give birth during the journey. The hazards related to the stress of the trip, the hazards associated with the travel itself, the lack of drinking water for long hours and the duration of the trip are among the many possible causes of complications in the pregnancy in the transported mare.”

“I recommend that the offender be prosecuted. The owner of the horse should be aware of the state of gestation of the mare before sending to the livestock auction. Lately, I noticed almost full-term fetuses during my post-mortem examinations. People should be made aware of this.”

Mare suffering from dystocia. Neither mare nor foal survived. Video here, courtesy of Animals’ Angels – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GapQaGm4XRo

Pregnant Mare (USDA Slaughter Tag #4617) – Weakened and dehydrated mare is slaughtered, and her live foal is discovered upon evisceration

Translation of CFIA Remarks from French:

“A journey of horses from the United States arrives at (Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation) establishment designation #505. This journey of horses left on June 9, 2011 at 22:00 hours (10:00 p.m.) and arrived on June 11, 2011 at 9:45 a.m. At first viewing, the horses are thirsty and hungry. They are fed and kept until the next day when they will be slaughtered, June 14, 2011.

During my first visit to the pen in the morning of June 13, 2011, I noticed that the mare with USDA #4617 is isolated along the wall and does not move (although) another horse bit her regularly for ten minutes. She is abnormally still. She looks sick. She is dehydrated over 12%, this is evident in the skinfold, and this represents a very serious situation and we could expect an eminent death if action is not taken immediately. (Her) temperature is normal. The mucous membranes of the mouth have a nice colour. Its sides are obvious. (Name withheld) a specialist in animal transport examined this horse. In summary, the mare #4617 is severely dehydrated.

I isolated her from the other horses with unlimited access to water and good hay for her to regain strength. The next day, June 14, 2011, I reexamined her and I find that she is moderately dehydrated to 8%, which represents some improvement. She proceeded to slaughter and at evisceration we have a very large uterus containing a foal that I would call almost to term. Its eyes are open, it weighs 34.8 kg and is 92 cm long. Weight indicates that the mare was in the last 10% of gestation, is pregnant for more than 300 days. The normal length of gestation in the mare is 330 days. A pregnant mare in the last 10% of gestation is considered to be a fragile animal and unfit for transport. Its resistance to stress is weakened. The hazards related to the stress of travel, hazards related to the travel itself, the lack of drinking water for long hours and the duration of the trip are among the many possible causes of complications of pregnancy of the conveyed mare.

This is even more evident, since the mare USDA tag #4617 was deprived of water for transportation and her proximity to a dominant horse was prevented from drinking in the pen at the slaughterhouse. The consequence of the severe dehydration could bring suffering to her and her foal until death ensures. Luckily, I perceived the signs of weakness. She regained strength, which enabled her to have a dignified and painless death. Article 138 (2) (a) of the Health of Animals Regulations states that is prohibited to load or to cause to load an animal for reasons of infirmity, sickness, fatigue or any other cause that cannot be transported without undue suffering (unjustified and unreasonable) during the planned trip.” The inspector also recommended a pecuniary sanction.

This is what “foaling out” looks like on a feedlot in winter. Photo credit – Animals’ Angels & AWF.

Probably one of the most reprehensible aspects of the horse slaughter industry is the slaughter pregnant mares (and as a result, their foals), which occurs in violation of Canada’s Health of Animals Act. Slaughter plants in Canada do and will continue to butcher them; the only provision on both sides of the border is the transportation issue, which is largely ignored. Enforcement at auctions, border control and at the slaughter plant is minimal and questionably enforced.

The idea that horse welfare and CFIA oversight correlated in a linear way is just false.  There is a point of diminishing returns where increased welfare and attempts to hold individuals’ responsible costs more than any potential “market quality” you could get out of it. Notice also that while one inspector notes that “people should be made aware of this,” a second CFIA inspector congratulates him/herself on re-hydrating the mare #4617 sufficiently so that she can “have a dignified and painless death.”

Kill buyers, slaughterhouses, and the CFIA itself are all  financially incentivized to kill animals while providing little to no welfare oversight.

 

There are 16 Codes of Practice for animals but they are all voluntary, lack legal status, and are developed by industry dominated committees. They are out-of-touch relative to other standards elsewhere in the world.
https://www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/equine-code

No Charges Laid In NOTL Carriage Horse Accident – February 23, 2019

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No Charges Laid In NOTL Carriage Horse Accident – February 23, 2019

Written by: Heather Clemenceau

According to a General Occurrence Report by Niagara Regional Police, no charges were filed following the carriage horse accident at King and Picton that resulted when the horse, “Ethan,” spooked and the carriage he was put to subsequently collided with a parked 2017 Lexus RX5. According to the police report, obtained by FOIA request,  there are two explanations for what happened, one provided by a witness, who claimed that a second carriage pulled out and clipped Ethan’s carriage, startling him, while the second explanation was provided by the carriage owner, who claimed the accident occurred when “the shaft to the carriage broke off.”

“The horse then went diagonally toward the median on King Street hitting the curb and the horse then bucked its hind legs 3-4 times. The horse then turned 90 degrees and went directly toward the front of the Prince of Wales Hotel (on Picton Street) where the carriage struck a parked (unoccupied) vehicle in the valet stand area.  The driver of the carriage fell off the carriage and the horse came to rest and sat on the ground adjacent to the struck vehicle.” ~ FOIA Report

Insofar as the two explanations are concerned,  both show that it is not necessary for a third party vehicle to be involved as a cause for a

Ethan, in a photo credited to Richard Harley/Niagara Now

carriage horse accident.  It’s often claimed by supporters of the carriage trade in NOTL that “drivers need to respect carriages,” and that perhaps “cars should be prevented from driving in the tourist areas of NOTL,”  as if cars are the sole reason for a carriage accident.  It is the law that cars must respect horse carriages of course, but this incident shows that a horse and carriage can get into an accident without any other influential factors, unless you consider a parked car a factor in the accident.

I don’t know which of the two explanations for the cause of the spooking is the more accurate one (perhaps an element of truth to both – clipping one carriage *could* damage the shaft on the other).  It’s ironic that two carriages operated by the same company may have had a small altercation causing a huge explosion in the horse (bucking and bolting),  or that one of the two shafts on the carriage spontaneously broke off for no apparent reason,  as per the police report.  By either official explanation,  there appears to be no cause to blame anyone else other than the owner/operator for this accident that left one driver injured and Ethan sitting stunned on the lawn next to the Prince of Wales Hotel.

Original FOIA Documents Below:

 

New Technology May Enable Detection of Transport Injuries In Slaughter Bound Horses

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

A new study, published January in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, has found that digital thermography can be used in the detection of ante-mortem injuries sustained by horses en route to slaughter.  While digital thermography (DT) itself is not a “new” technology, (it has been previously used in the detection of lameness in horses); the authors of the study used DT to assess bruising by identifying areas of the body where there were elevated skin temperatures (consistent with non-visible injuries).  The high predictive rates for detecting unseen injuries means that CFIA inspectors or other welfare assessors could use DT as a diagnostic tool to identify injured horses up arrival at slaughterhouses.  The obvious relevance of DT here is that it could be used to assign responsibility for transportation injuries to the appropriate offenders – not just for horses,  but for other species of animals transported to slaughter as well.

Full text of the study found here.

2019 Roy, Riley, Stryhn, Dohoo and Cockram – Department of Health Management, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PE., Canada, and the School of Veterinary Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

“The transport of horses for slaughter and related management practices may cause externally visible and non-visible injuries due to trauma including fractures, swelling, excoriations, and bruising. The welfare assessments of livestock undertaken following transport to slaughter plants include visual/clinical evaluations by plant personnel or official inspectors. However, horses may have non-visible injuries unrecognized until post-mortem carcass examination. The lack of suitable methods to identify bruised horses ante-mortem limits the ability to differentiate injuries occurring during transport, from those that occur at the slaughter plant itself. It is important to determine which stage of the process is responsible for bruising, so that appropriately directed measures are taken to reduce this risk. Reliable and objective tools to detect non-visible injuries in horses following transport could empower regulatory authorities and plant operators to improve animal transport welfare.

Digital thermography (DT) is a non-invasive imaging technique that records superficial infrared emission patterns. When tissue is damaged, localized hypo- or hyper-perfusion due to vascular injury and inflammation occurs that may be detectable by DT. In horses, DT has been used to detect musculoskeletal and neuromuscular injuries, and to monitor skin lesions. It also has been used for the ante mortem and post mortem detection of blunt force trauma in humans. The authors hypothesized that a qualitative methodology using DT imaging implemented at slaughter plants may identify horses with bruising ante-mortem after transport. The objective of this study was to estimate the sensitivity and specificity of DT images as a diagnostic test for detecting bruising ante-mortem when compared to post-mortem visual examination of carcasses.”

 

Ante-mortem digital thermography images provided as supplementary materials in the study. Lack of symmetry between the right and left side of the horse suggests “hot spot” in second image is transport bruising.

Far too often we have seen the devastating, often fatal, effects of horses transported to slaughter plants in Canada with few individuals ever held accountable.  While we collectively work to get horse slaughter shut down, digital thermography is one tool that we can insist the CFIA implement in order to improve welfare.  Violators who are found to consistently deliver loads of horses with soft tissue injuries should be assessed the same administrative monetary penalties that the CFIA already applies in the case of non-compliance with the Health of Animals Act (HAA) and Health of Animals Regulations (HAR).

Some Talk, All Action – Commercial Carriage Protests in #NOTL

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The peaceful protest, Operation Rolling Thunder, took place on December 16th in the town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, to protest the commercial horse carriage industry.

Written By:  Heather Clemenceau

Photography: Me

Horse carriages delay traffic which cannot easily or safely pass, and on occasion, they are involved in motor vehicle accidents (carriages themselves are considered vehicles within the Highway Traffic Act).
Drivers often don’t understand that they need clear sight lines for hundreds of feet in order to safely pass a horse and carriage.

Most people who oppose urban carriages are used to being told that they have “limited horse knowledge” or that they don’t live in the country or work with horses, and therefore have no right to render an opinion. But much of the propaganda being churned out in favour of the commercial carriage industry takes the form of attesting to the carriage horses’ overall “happiness” and wonderful working conditions, and this is something we can all fact-check.

The insistence that “horses love to have jobs” is an oft-repeated statement in the carriage trade;  I’ve heard it uttered many times in defence of working horses for 8-12 hour days.  It’s derivative of the old “christian work ethic,” which every true believer is supposed to apply in the realm of their employment – everyone should work to support themselves and idleness is to be abhorred.  For horses and those individuals who used horses for their labour, it would be rare to find evidence of real friendship, because the primary relationship to the horse with an actual job was usually exploitative. It is more accurate to say that horses, because of their compliant nature towards humans, do not actively show aversion to the many things humans ask them to do.  They may like interaction with humans very much, but there’s no indication that they “love having jobs.”

According to carriage operators, protests are both “good for business,” yet simultaneously frustrating for carriage operators – https://www.niagarathisweek.com/news-story/8708125-sentineal-carriages-owner-frustrated-by-notl-protests/

A publication by European equitation scientists suggested that, when given the choice, horses prefer not to work at all; in fact, it appears that they’d rather be back in their resting place with their food and equine pals. It’s not a big stretch of the imagination to assume that horses might prefer not to have to be bitted for long periods of time either.  Some equestrians have found that feeding horses with bits in their mouths may also be a choking hazard, but the bridle, and therefore the bit, can’t be removed from horses while they are put to carriages for safety reasons.

When we keep horses engaged in work or put to a carriage for as long as 8-12 hours, whether we think they like it or not, we overcome horses’ innate responses and thus ignore their behavioural preferences. We need always to bear in mind that its the “tractability” of draft horses in particular that makes them easygoing animals, but that characteristic also makes them vulnerable.

Other people feel that the carriages themselves are at odds with the traffic in an urban environment – which has resulted in sharp, civic discontent in the town of Niagara-On-The-Lake.  Horses and cars do not mix well wherever you find them and if there is a collision it is always the horse (and passengers) who will be worse off for it.  Most carriage companies typically represent their industry as accident-free or low risk, but even in a quaint town like NOTL that isn’t the case.

Yes, there was a carriage accident in NOTL.

Click to open PDF document

It was reported to the Niagara Regional Police and requested by FOIA. According to the NRP, the horse appears to have been thankfully unhurt. For understandable privacy reasons, the report does not identify any individuals or circumstances of the accident, or whether any charges were laid. The dates in my original FOIA (2014 – 2018 – provide only a 5 year “snapshot” in a 30 year history of carriages in the town), did not cover the exact date of the accident, but my contact at NRP helpfully provided that one was on record in 2013.  The incident demonstrates that even with the slow pace in the quaint town of NOTL, accidents with carriages will still occur.

 

The 10 Commandments of Riding for Roy Moore

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When do the other 3 horsemen arrive?

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

A few days ago, alleged pedophile, bigot, and misogynist Roy Moore rode his horse, Sassy, to the Alabama Senate polling station and got roasted extra crispy by the internets for his poor riding ability and silly Gunsmoke cosplay.

The “10 Commandments” judge loves traditions from the 1800s, including slavery and child brides, so it’s fitting that we present him with a set of commandments that he should adhere to when considering torturing riding horses in future.

Roy Moore’s 10 Commandments for Riding Horses

  1. Thou shalt not sit like a lumpy sack of potatoes despite having a gaited

    All hat, no cattle

    horse. When you can barely stay level on a TWH, that is a clear sign you should not be anywhere near a horse.

  2. Thou shalt not jerk and flail your arms about like you’re trying to pull-start a gas lawnmower. Curses on whoever set you up with a long shanked bit that isn’t even positioned correctly. I don’t like them but I will say that leverage bits belong in educated hands only.  Period.
  3. Thou shalt not let the daylight show between your ass and the saddle
  4. Thou shalt not ride with such a heavy hand that you make your horses ewe-necked – both horses shown with Moore have prominently developed muscling on the underside of the neck. Both horses show how their physicality has changed with poor riding and hollowed out backs.
  5. Thou shalt not inflict one’s ignorance and poorly fitting tack on any animal.  Always use a saddle pad under the saddle.
  6. Thou shall shorten thy reins and stirrups and get your legs under you.
  7. Thou shall take lessons if for no other reason than the sake of the poor horse.  Moore doesn’t even ride as capably as someone at a trail ride who is riding for the first time, so he needs to give some thought into strapping on a helmet.

    At least he kept his shirt on….

  8. Thou shalt not use horses as props and photo ops when your riding is so poor that you have no business being up there.  Moore didn’t care that Sassy might have been spooked by photographers and as she was nervous,  he had not the skill set to calm her and instead kicked and jerked on her sensitive mouth. His riding clearly showed that he does not care about the pain of any other creature.
  9. Thou shalt not dress as one of the Village People.
  10. And lastly, If you’re an accused pedo,  thou shalt not name your horse after a now-defunct magazine aimed at teenage girls #Sassy.

Moore’s appearance at the voting station was not exactly my idea of a tableau of vintage America.  Is anyone surprised that he has heavy hands?  Both horses look uncomfortable with Moore touching them.  And Moore riding a filly that can’t get away from him is so totally on-brand, isn’t it?

Another ewe-necked horse by Roy Moore, which is hardly surprising considering the vise-like grip he has on all his mounts.  Here’s he’s almost as lifelike as Bernie in “Weekend at Bernie’s in a classic “chair seat” stance.

Everything about his riding demonstrates a lack of understanding about how one’s body impacts the horse – which appears to mirror his lack of understanding of how his actions impact the lives of others. His horses are merely objects fulfilling their purpose. As with both the law and religion, Moore appears incapable of considering anything beyond manipulating objects to his benefit. Roy Moore is no more qualified for the US Senate than he is to ride a horse.

Next time take the car pardner….

Someone please take these horses away from this man!

Access-To-Information Docs Reveal Auctions and Feedlots are “Bad at Paperwork”

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

“…all horse meat producers must obtain the health and medical history – complete with information on all drugs and vaccines used – of each horse for the 180 day period before consumption.”

– standard form letter response from Conservative MPs – 2016.

Whenever I read documents obtained through an Access-To-Information request, I think the bar for this industry cannot go lower. The ATI documents included here covered all Equine Lot Inspection Audits for the years 2015-2017 year-to-date, and captured conversations between CFIA veterinarians and feedlot/auction staff.  These Lot Inspections are audits that are carried out approximately once a year, although it appears that our favourite Farmville operators, Bouvry Exports’/Prime lot is being audited more frequently. When you read the audit reports, you’ll understand why – the CFIA appears to be doing a fair bit of manual checking of their record-keeping.

It should really come as no surprise that feedlots and auctions have a perpetual struggle with the paperwork required to track horses from receipt to slaughter.  Kill buyers are bottom level feeders who travel from auction to auction picking up horses. They have no idea where these horses come from, nor do they care.  Auctions and feedlots typically will complete just enough paperwork so that can scrape by, and they’re going to fill it out in the way that it needs to be filled out so that it meets the CFIA criteria. Sometimes though, they can’t even meet the minimum standard and even the CFIA has to write them up when uncomplicated record management tasks are turned into Sisyphean clusterfucks.

So what is the Lot Program and how does it work?

The lot program is used by high volume accumulators of horses for the purpose of slaughter.  It’s really a sort of “express lane” in that these producers use a group declaration (the Lot-EID or LEID) in lieu of individual EIDs. The program requires at least a 180 day recorded history prior to slaughter. Lot inspections review the procedures maintained in Lot Programs for equine feedlots – this covers the control of EIDs (Equine Information Documents), vaccines, medications, movement of horses in and out of each lot and a few other criteria.  Please note that the lot program does not verify the health of any equines or the condition of the feedlot itself. The CFIA describes the process in more detail if you need it.

If you’re new to the horse slaughter issue, here’s a bit of history on the EID – its implementation  was announced by then-Director of the Meat Programs Division of the CFIA, Dr. Richard Arsenault, in a response letter to the European Commission on October 23, 2009.  Arsenault announced that, in order to meet EC requirements for exporting horsemeat, every equine presented for slaughter as of July 31, 2010 would be accompanied by an Equine Information Document.

Fast forward to 2014 when the European Commission’s Food and veterinary Office released an audit in 2014 that raised concerns about the tracking process.  In 2011 the same issues were raised, so you could say there’s little evidence of improvement. You can read the final reportthe response, and the CFIA proposed changes.

The audits reveal that, shockingly, Bouvry Exports/Prime Feedlot holds anywhere from 7,000 – 10,000 horses at any given time.  According to the audit reports,  a total of 52 lots of horses are sent to their deaths each year (1 lot per week).  Additionally, horses who receive any medication while on the lot are subjected to painful branding and re-branding as part of the record-keeping process.

Forms Are So Hard And Confusing!

The February 2016 audit of Bouvry’s Prime Feedlot (where the report indicated 10,000+ horses were on-hand) contained some findings flagged as “unacceptable” by the Veterinarian-in-Charge:

Finding #6 and #7 (see pages 31 and 35): – “…drug list was changed in August but not updated.  CFIA wasn’t informed.  Instead of Derapen (penicillin G Procain) which is no longer available, Biomycin is used since August 2015.  Biomycin is not authorized to be used yet.“ At the time of writing, Biomycin is not even listed on the Meat Hygiene manual for equines.  The manufacturer of Biomycin states that is has a withdrawal time of 28 days (for cattle).

Finding #20 (see page 32 and 36): – “One of the records reviewed was not transferred from daily vaccine application records (lot records) to a Lot Equine Information Document.  Fluvac vaccine application was missing.  All other records verified during the audit were accurately transcribed.”

Finding #25 (see page 33 and 36): – “No EIDS on file, none reviewed.  [Redacted] said the horse [kill] buyers did not supply any of EIDS [SIC] along with horses purchased.  This issue was discussed at the previous audit and Prime Equine Lot.”

So there were no EIDs on file for an entire lot of horses?  What happened to slaughter-bound horses without them?  There is no mention of what became of them, or whether anyone attempted to locate the missing paperwork, although I presume the horses were slaughtered anyway, no matter how laughably incomplete or non-compliant the paperwork was.

“It is the responsibility of the Lot Program management to request EIDS and verify for non-permitted drugs.”

Supplemental Export Reports for a May 2016 visit that summarizes communications with regards to an Operational Guidance protocol distributed in February 2016. (page 45-47)

Perlich Bros. Auction  gets called out for not collecting EIDs:

“[Redacted] contacted [redacted] of Perlich auction market over the phone in April 2016 (specific date unknown). The purpose of the call was explained, and [redacted] was asked about the creation of EIDs at his auction market.  [Redacted’s] response was that, while [redacted] staff were happy to handle any EIDS that are submitted with equines for sale, no effort is made to ensure that horses enter auction with complete EIDS, that is is [SIC] “not their job,” and that the responsibility for obtaining valid EIDS lies with the buying agent.  Very few are thus processed at [redacted] auction.”  At this late stage (7 years after the implementation of the EID), how is it that the incomprehensibly stubborn auction staff can give the standard disclaimer, “that’s not my department?”

CFIA resorts to googling kill buyers/plant management for follow-up information:

“On 12 April [redacted] received a list of buying agents for the Bouvry plant from [redacted] who was, at the time, a CFIA meat hygiene inspector at the plant. When contact information was requested for these individuals, so that upcoming verifications could be discussed, it was requested that an explanation/reasoning for the request be sent directly to plant management.  This was done by [redacted] on 13 April.  Having not received a response by early the next week, a Google search was conducted to find a contact number for [redacted] spoke to [redacted] over the phone on 18 or 19 April.  The potential for CFIA presence at upcoming horse auctions was discussed, as was the method with which he goes about obtaining EIDS for slaughter horses.  [Redacted] reply was that [redacted] no longer buys horses for this purpose (slaughter) at Perlich auction because of the difficulty of obtaining EIDs.  [Redacted] rather focuses on the Innisfail Auction Market (IAM) where all horses enter auction with EID unless explicitly declared by the owner that the animal is not for meat sale. There [redacted] is able to enter the ring and verify that the EID is acceptable before bidding on the horse.”

So who is “redacted” in this scenario?  Clearly there is more than one person whose name has been concealed.  Either this person is a kill buyer(s) or plant management, in which case, if they didn’t respond to the CFIA enquiry,  that’s pretty inexcusable.

“[Redacted] encouraged the CFIA to audit [redacted] activities at the IAM.”

CFIA to Bouvry – EIDs must accompany all horses to the feedlot:

“It was felt that in order to conduct the verification task correctly, the district needed to be clear on whether or not it was permissible for horses bought in Canada to enter the feedlot system without an EID…”  “The response was that unless there was some other auditable means (on file) of ensuring a history of no non-permitted substances in the horse(s) no horse without a valid EID is allowed to enter the feedlot, despite a six-month waiting period.”

The CFIA’s attempt to enforce what must seem like an unfathomable bureaucracy apparently perturbed staff at Bouvry’s, who sent an inquiry to the CFIA asking why [redacted] was “asking so many questions.” Due to the difficulties with paperwork at the Perlich auction, the CFIA discussed attending their auction on overtime and it was decided that this was not a valuable use of CFIA resources. Recommendations were passed to the Red Deer CFIA office for a vet inspector presence at Innisfail.

The confusion that continues to this day over the EID and other paperwork is evidence that inputs into the food chain are not something to be taken casually, yet that is exactly what is happening.  The doubts highlighted in these reports leave another cloud over the already sordid industry – something policymakers need to pay attention to.

Despite this, Dr. Richard Arsenault, former director of the meat programs division for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), thinks that the regulations are working“It’s extremely well respected in terms of compliance” – a statement that he has continually championed throughout the years. This is basically the same feeble confirmation that is echoed by anyone in charge of any aspect of the meat program at the CFIA. Downstream, MPs may take months before they reply to our complaints about horse slaughter, and if they do it’s usually nothing more than the standard form letter that doesn’t even address the concerns raised by the constituent.  Instead, the response parrots the same impotent reassurances put out by the CFIA.

The horse slaughter pipeline is one of the most unregulated livestock venues in North America. There is absolutely no desire or motivation on the US side to enforce EID authenticity because Americans do not eat horsemeat. There is no resolve on the Canadian side because they are importing horses for the purpose of (primarily) exporting the meat. Regulating this paperwork would cost everyone money, and no one wants to do that.

You may also download these documents here.

New ASPCA Study Examines The Availability Of Homes for Unwanted Horses in the United States

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Simply offering a horse for sale is no guarantee of finding a suitable home for that animal,  even if young and sound.  The process is even more challenging if the horse is older, untrained, or has behavioural or physical issues, or if the economy is poor.  While most shelters and rescues are likely at capacity,  a study conducted by the Research and Development/Community Outreach arm of the ASPCA found that there do appear to be untapped resources that could be called upon to re-home horses within the general public.

The question posed by the study is whether there are enough private homes to accommodate the number of unwanted American horses currently being sent to slaughter.  Using Edge Research to conduct a telephone survey, the researchers attempted to pre-qualify people who would be willing to adopt unwanted horses, determine what characteristics were required of horses to be considered “adoptable” in the respondent’s opinion, and whether potential adopters thought they had adequate resources to keep a horse. The criteria for establishing initial interest was that the respondent currently owns a horse,  has owned a horse in the past 5 years, or is interested in acquiring a horse in the near future.

From the Abstract: “Estimating the Availability of Potential Homes for Unwanted Horses in the United States”

 

“There are approximately 200,000 unwanted horses annually in the United States. This study aimed to better understand the potential homes for horses that need to be re-homed. Using an independent survey company through an Omnibus telephone (land and cell) survey, we interviewed a nationally projectable sample of 3036 adults (using both landline and cellular phone numbers) to learn of their interest and capacity to adopt a horse.

Potential adopters with interest in horses with medical and/or behavioral problems and self-assessed perceived capacity to adopt, constituted 0.92% of the total sample. Extrapolating the results of this survey using U.S. Census data, suggests there could be an estimated 1.25 million households who have both the self-reported and perceived resources and desire to house an unwanted horse. This number exceeds the estimated number of unwanted horses living each year in the United States.

This study points to opportunities and need to increase communication and support between individuals and organizations that have unwanted horses to facilitate re-homing with people in their community willing to adopt them.”

 

The ASPCA estimates that a more realistic, true count is more likely to be about .72 million households. Still, these numbers may not reflect an objective set of adopters though, since people often overstate or overestimate their ability or available resources to care for a horse properly, or their circumstances change after the survey.  Nevertheless, the study results suggest that new channels of communication between potential horse owners and organizations/rescues are needed to grow the horse industry by engaging new audiences and creatively promoting horse adoption.

 

By The Numbers: Study Reviews 13 Years of Ontario Racing Commission “Death Registry” Data

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Barbaro is held by jockey Edgar Prado and a track worker after injuring his leg at the start of the 131st running of the Preakness Stakes, in this May 20, 2006 file photo, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Barbaro was euthanized Monday, Jan. 29, 2007, after complications from his breakdown at the Preakness last May. (AP Photo/Matthew S. Gunby, file)

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Beneath the facade, commercial horse racing subjects horses to catastrophic injuries and sudden deaths. Young thoroughbreds, standardbreds, and quarter horses die every week on racetracks from injuries sustained while training and racing. Remember Barbaro? He was euthanized at 3½ years old due to an injury he sustained at the Preakness. Eight Belles was euthanized at 2½ years old due to catastrophic breakdown after a second place win at the Kentucky Derby. And when Rachel Alexandra lost her last race she was shipped off to be a baby making machine. She suffered grave complications at the birth of her first foal.

The majority of racehorses will not survive past the age of 10 and only a small fraction will ever be “good enough” to race.  Approximately 70% +/- of all racehorses are thought to end their lives in a slaughterhouse.

A  new study was just published using 13 years of data from the Ontario Racing Commission Death Registry.  The ORC database was implemented on January 1, 2003; owners, trainers and veterinarians were, from that point forward, required to notify the Commission within two days of the death of any racehorse (Thoroughbred. Quarter horse, or Standardbred) where the death occurred within 60 days of the horse having been entered or qualified to race in Ontario Canada. If the death occurs within 14 days of the horse having been entered or qualified, post-mortems are mandatory and may include gross pathological examination results, histopathology, parisitology, bacteriology, mycoplasmology, virgology, and toxicology.

Of the 963 horses in the database, a postmortem was carried out on 56% of those or approximately 539 horses (presumably those horses who died within 14 days of a race or during a race).  Of these 539 horses:

68% died/were euthanized due to musculoskeletal injury (such as tendon or ligament injuries/broken legs/pelvic fractures/spinal cord injuries etc).  This represents approximately 367 horses.

16% died suddenly due primarily to cardiopulmonary lesions (possibly cardiac failure/pulmonary failure/pulmonary haemorrhage/blood vessel rupture). Approximately 86 horses examined by post-mortem died spontaneously.

4% died following an injection (possibly IV injection/performance-enhancing compound/anaphalactic shock).  Approximately 22 of the 539 horses were killed by an injection.

Of the 963 horses in the ORC database, post-mortems were not completed for about 424 of them, since presumably this was not a requirement by ORC rules.  The cause-of-death is unknown,  but they will not be forgotten.

The fact that these injuries and deaths occur are not surprising – the suffering of these and many other racehorses represents all that is detrimental to their welfare. Studies that break down the injuries and deaths are always useful for showing how healthy horses are pushed beyond their physical capabilities.  Since the profit motive is priority, horses are drugged so they can race while injured and physically compromised. Naturally,  these statistics do not include any horses who died or were euthanized outside of the 60 day window established by the ORC or were sent to slaughter at any point after their racing career ended.  The database reflects the fact that the approximately 74 horses who died each year in Ontario alone were only those that were required to be reported to the ORC according to the regulations noted above.

The racing industry promotes false imagery of race horses retiring to lives of luxury as pets, well-cared-for riding horses, or studs. While some race horses find good homes, the vast majority are slaughtered for meat even though virtually all of them contain veterinary drug residues prohibited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

 

Eight Belles suffered compound fractures of both front ankles at the 2008 Kentucky Derby and was euthanized immediately. At just over 3 years old, she was far too young to be racing.

Hitting Kill Buyers In The Pocketbook

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Death came to this horse after agony and fear. How many other horses have been subjected to this new form of “euthanasia” – injected with amphetamines until they are allegedly flipped over backwards? After all his suffering, his bladder was then cut out of his body post-mortem, likely to avoid collection of illicit substances.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Everyone knows that abuse, neglect, and disease are embedded in the trading of horses by unscrupulous buyers and flippers, beginning with the kill buyer and ending with the killing process.   But despite the number of sick or suffering feedlot and broker horses documented on Facebook, few purchasers contact authorities to report abuse, neglect, or contractual fraud.  Some people even choose to protect the kill buyer while praising him (or her) in being so kind as to offer to sell them the horse in the first place.  Quite understandably, many people may reasonably be afraid of further alienating the kill buyers and brokers and being unable to purchase more horses. But in March, two plaintiffs initiated a civil litigation against kill buyer Don Nowlin of Washington-based Outwest Livestock, alleging the torturous September 2016 death of “Brad Pitt”, an approximately 20-year-old thoroughbred stallion they purchased in August of that year.

In the Statement of Claim, the plaintiffs alleged that the conditions at the feedlot were heart-rending – horses “bore significant injuries, such as fist-sized scabby wounds, a pregnant mare bleeding from her vagina, a horse with a broken leg and overgrown hooves…”   Before the plaintiffs could collect Brad Pitt, they were told that he had broken his back leg and was “put down” via a “cocktail” and “hit the ground” within thirty seconds, all evidently without veterinarian oversight.   The plaintiffs had the forethought to insist upon taking the remains of the horse with them after being notified of his death, so he was hauled out of the bushes where he lay decomposing, and loaded into a U-Haul for a necropsy.

Above is a strictly professional, notarized message from Facebook lawyer/kill buyer Don Nowlin from 2016 (previously unnoticed by me). For some reason he objects to my screen-shotting his Facebook page showing that he was following various cock fighting groups. https://heatherclemenceau.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/kill-buyers-faux-rescues-and-cockfighters-oh-my/

The homemade amphetamine concoction (see necropsy and toxicology report) alleged to have been injected into the stallion by layperson Nowlin certainly wasn’t one of the two recommended forms of euthanasia, namely barbiturate overdose with sedation or shotgun.  Amphetamines  stimulate the nervous system – breathing and heart rate speed up and energy levels and anxiety may be increased.  Amphetamines are controlled substances in the US and are sometimes used in the manufacture of other illicit drugs.  These drugs are banned across racetracks internationally because they can excite an animal to a degree to which they are uncontrollable and are very likely to hurt either themselves or anyone near them. They certainly have no business being injected into a horse. It does not appear that the “euthanasia” drugs administered actually killed Brad Pitt outright either, since the cause-of-death was determined to be traumatic injury to the central nervous system due to fractured cervical vertebra.

The most soul-crushing aspects of this case are the injuries to Brad Pitt, which are described in Sean Tuley DVM’s report, and expanded upon by Victoria L. Smith DVM.

Findings by Tuley Equine Sports Medicine:

“Grossly, Brad Pitt, was covered in flies, as well as dried mud, he had multiple excoriations as well as impalements covering his entire body. No evidence of predation by scavengers was evident. A post mortem evisceration was most notable beginning at the left paralumbar fossa, extending ventrally, through the perineum and ending 6 cm short of the anus. The wound was deep to the pelvic floor, created via sharp dissection and showed no evidence of bleeding or bruising. This wound was created post-mortem.

The left hind pelvic limb was completely luxated and was only attached by the gluteal muscles and dorsal skin. On the ventral sagittal abdomen at intercostal 17 an eviscerating lesion of 4 cm was present. A deep puncture wound on the medial left radius of 10 cm was noted. Located on the left lateral antebrachium a sharp excision of 12 cm was noted.

The left elbow joint was completely dislocated. Blunt force trauma, with dried stained blood was present near the lateral canthus of the right eye. The gum tissue was hyperemic and a vesicular lesion on the gum tissue was consistent with aggressive use of a lip chain war bridle. On gross appearance the cervical vertebrae appear to be luxated. Upon sharp dissection, a large hematoma approximately 8 cm in diameter appeared deep to the Splenius mm. and dorsal to the longissimus mm. near the C6-C7 junction. Upon further dissection the Cervical joint between C6 and C7 was completely luxated.  This appears to be an antemortem finding.”

Dr. Tuley  continues….

“In four years of veterinary school, performing routine necropsies, and 6 years of private practice-having now euthanized over 50 cases personally, (this figure does not include my training at WSU-VTH or with Traber Bergsma Simkins inc., where significantly more euthanasias and necropsies were performed) I have yet to see an animal present so poorly, in as bad of condition as I saw Brad. Injuries stemming from the lip chain, battered right eye and broken neck, all occurred while Brad was still alive. These findings are evident by the fact that bleeding and other signs of inflammation were present. Given the presence of multiple eviscerations and leg dismemberment, even after death, Brad was not treated with much regard.”

Findings by Victoria L. Smith DVM

  • Blunt force trauma to the right side of the head and right eye. Aggressive use of lip chain
  • Left elbow completely luxated and spinal cord trauma possibly caused by a rotational fall at high speed or by the horse rearing up and falling backwards
  • “Severe intentional penetrating injuries to the horse post-mortem”
  • “An incision had been made into the abdominal cavity, eviscerating the horse, sharply luxating the left pelvic limb, and the bladder had been removed.”
  • “The horse Brad Pitt’s injuries are consistent with intentional and painful abuse by a human.”

Dr. Smith’s comments suggest that the horse may have been “drugged with intravenous amphetamines via an aggressive lip chain to restrain the head during injection.  Dr. Smith explored the possibility that, for cruel sport, someone proceeded to rope Brad Pitt’s forelimbs, “tipping the horse and causing a rotational fall which luxated the elbow and luxated the cervical vertebrae.  The horse’s eye and perioribital area could have been injured by a closed fist or by self-trauma, as a frantic, traumatized, painful horse may slam his head into the ground in terror. “

Below is a copy of the Complaint filed against Donald Nowlin and Outwest Livestock in Yakima County Superior Court concerning the torture and killing of Brad Pitt, an approximately 20-year-old thoroughbred purchased by Rebecca Thorley and Monica Baxter in August 2016. This document contains the allegations and claims made against Nowlin, et al. The plaintiffs are also suing for severe emotional distress and the recovery of actual damages and out-of-pocket expenses.

The sharing of the Amended Complaint and Tuley/Smith reports was done with the permission of  Adam P. Karp Esq,   All documents are public records. Documents originally posted on the “Justice for Brad Pitt Thoroughbred” Facebook page.

Amended Complaint filed April 4, 2017

 

 

Necropsy reports prepared by Sean Tuley, DVM and Victoria Smith, DVM.

 

 

“Did Brad experience stress and anxiety while under the influence of these illicit compounds? Did Brad experience pain and suffering while accumulating these ante mortem injuries? My visceral reaction is yes on both instances. However, I cannot conclude for how long the suffering endured.” Sean Tuley, DVM

Americans who threaten to sue Canadians will be told that they must have sufficient assets within the jurisdiction (Canada) as security for costs BEFORE proceeding with the action. The amount that would need to be posted is equal to the attorney’s fees and any awards that the defendant might receive if and when they prevail in the action.
In any case, truth is a defense against libel.

Who cannot relate to the anguish that Brad Pitt’s owners felt not only in discovering that he was dead, but how he died? Imagine collecting his body in the condition described in the necropsy report – and later reading how he was purported to have been killed. Not only was there a lack of care given to him – he is alleged to have been deliberately abused. Do any of Nowlin’s feedlot horses end up at the “horse tripping” establishment next door to him where they are “smoked” (roped by their back legs)?  What do you think?  I say,  if you can’t put them in jail, you take their money. Civil lawsuits act as an important tool because fighting them requires time and money that could be used for other purposes – like collecting horses to be killed.

I know there is a very good argument for continuing to deal with unscrupulous people in order to get horses off lots like this. All horses in peril deserve saving regardless of where they have landed, but please don’t facilitate these horrors by providing kill buyers with this lucrative revenue stream.  By making kill buyers more profitable, we are guaranteeing they will stay in business and more of them will pop up.  Save your money by buying locally and preventing a horse from ending up going to an auction in the first place; there are needy horses everywhere that you can actually lay your eyes on, and they deserve help too.  No, the truck is not coming for broker horses – it already left and they weren’t on it.  The slaughter truck came for a horse that you never saw.

 

 

If you are interested in helping and want your money to make a difference, you may donate to support the Friends of Brad Pitt.

Donations will be used for legal bills related to the civil suit.