Category Archives: Uncategorized

Richelieu Slaughterhouse – Breaking Bad Again!

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

How often do you hear or see an ad that leaves you questioning the claims being made? Anyone who knows me knows that both online and IRL, I am a “super-complainer.” You really have no choice anymore, because “fake news” permeates literally every subject.

A few months ago I visited the Richelieu horse slaughterhouse website as I am wont to do every few months,  just to see what nonsense they are purporting.  There’s usually always something that can be used to launch an official complaint, and they didn’t disappoint.  Claims about horsemeat for pregnant women and for those prone to infection really drew my ire.  It’s not very smart to put out information that is so easily discredited. But nobody said horse killers are smart.

It took complaints to Ad Standards, Health Canada, and finally the CFIA (who acted upon the complaint) to do something about it.  The CFIA didn’t say exactly what they did or what they counselled Richelieu to remove or stop posting on their website, but I was very pleased that they looked at my materials and saw that the horse killers were using language that amounted to a murky sea of nutritional “advice.”

Our community of anti-slaughter advocates is strong and engaged! If you see questionable or false claims being made about the quality or nutritional value of horsemeat or indeed any animal product, please contact:

Ad Standards

The CFIA

Health Canada

Competition Bureau of Canada

READ THE CFIA Letter 

New Studies Confirm – Kitty Is A Predator Who Is On A Lifetime Atkins Diet

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Cats have evolved into a highly specialized hunter, who has been more lightly impacted by domestication relative to dogs.  As an obligate carnivore, they rely on their prey to supply most of their nutritional needs as they lack sufficient enzymes to synthesize their metabolic requirements. Cats are designed to extract their nutrients from meat, not from plants, and any nutritional deficiencies that may result from an inadequate diet often take months or years to manifest themselves, by which time a disease condition may be irreversible. This is why it’s important for cat owners to mimic the high-protein, low-carb diet cats would source for themselves (rather like the high protein,low-carb diet developed by cardiologist Dr. Atkins).

Cats – Evolutionarily Positioned To Eat Meat

What evidence do we have that cats are strictly meat eaters?  Cats are obvious hunters – they have high visual acuity and an acute sense of hearing.  Like all predator species, their ears and eyes face forward to detect prey.  Their claws are normally retracted while stalking, to mask their movements as much as possible. Cats teeth are ideal for immobilizing the spinal column of the small prey animals they would typically hunt in the wild, and their small stomachs are adapted for smaller meals, approximately the size of mice. They also prefer their food at roughly the same temperature as that of freshly killed prey.  Feeding behaviours evolved in cats include searching for food during both day and night, which corresponds with the activity of their traditional prey animals.

A wild or feral cat WILL eat some plant matter in the G.I. tract of smaller animals they kill and swallow mostly intact.  If they catch larger prey, like baby rabbits, they would likely not eat the grassy stomach contents.  The plant material in the guts of prey animals is a very small amount of their food intake and in any case, these plant materials are very different from the metabolically high-glycemic carbs offered in vegan cat food.

What It Means To Be An “Obligate Carnivore”

All protein is made from only 21 different amino acids. Cats are able to synthesize only 12 amino acids, so there are 9 amino acids that must be obtained directly directly from their diet. In the case of vegetarian and vegan diets, the amino acids, vitamins and minerals must be heavily supplemented, and thus come from synthetic or lab-created sources (because otherwise most would not be vegan). This is not ideal, since the food must be more highly processed than foods that naturally contain these amino acid requirements.  While dogs have evolved (thanks to living closely with humans for 10,000+ years) the ability to eat a more starchy diet comprised of about 30% from protein, cats require that their diet consist of about 52% from protein.  This requirement is similar to that of wild exotic cats.

A meat-based diet supplies abundant taurine; cereals and grains supply only marginal or inadequate levels of taurine for cats. Therefore, diets based on these types of protein sources will need supplementation. Three disease states have been identified related strictly to taurine deficiency; feline central retinal degeneration, reproductive failure and impaired fetal development and feline dilated cardiomyopathy. Clinical signs of taurine deficiency occur only after prolonged periods of depletion (from 5 months to 2 years).

Cats do not possess salivary amylase, which begins digestion of carbohydrates and starches in the mouth while chewing.  If they are forced to consume carbohydrates this places the burden on their pancreas, which can only produce amylase comparable to about 5% of that of dogs. Cats have very low liver glucokinase activity and therefore limited ability to metabolize carbs by this route either.

The cat is unable to convert beta-carotene to vitamin A due to a lack of intestinal enzymes necessary for the conversion, and therefore cats requires a dietary source of vitamin A. Because vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and is stored in the liver, any deficiencies are slow to develop, and are only seen in cats with severe liver failure. Cats also lack sufficient enzymes to meet the metabolic requirements for vitamin D photosynthesis in the skin; therefore they require a dietary source of vitamin D. Cats need increased amounts of many dietary water-soluble B vitamins, including thiamin, niacin, and other B vitamins.  The requirement for niacin and pyridoxine is four times higher than that for dogs.

Sweet Taste Receptors

Taste receptors reflect a species’ food choices.  Cats are missing the genes that code for part of the “sweet” taste receptors that recognize carbohydrates. This explains the indifference that domestic cats and their wild relatives lions and tigers, etc. show towards sweet foods. And it may also explain why they have evolved into such accomplished hunters. It makes sense that their taste preferences evolved to ensure they consume an appropriate source of the right calories and that they avoid unsuitable foods.

Nutritional Inadequacies in Vegan Cat Foods

When I first began blogging about vegan cat diets, there was a dearth of information about the long-term effects of carb diets for cats. But now, studies are being carried out as vegan diets increase in popularity. A study published in January 2020 tested several vegan pet foods for dogs and cats available in the Brazilian marketplace, for the purposes of evaluating the macronutrient composition, fatty acid and amino acid profiles, and essential mineral content. The results were then compared with FEDIAF (2019) and AAFCO (2019) recommendations.

“The cat food presented potassium content lower than recommended. The Ca:P ratio did not meet the minimum recommendation of FEDIAF (2019) and AAFCO (2019) in any of the dog’s foods analyzed, and the cat food also did not present the minimum recommendation based on FEDIAF (2019). Copper concentrations exceeded the legal limit in all foods. Zinc concentrations exceeded this limit in two foods (one for dogs and one for cats). the cat food did not meet the minimum recommendation for arginine. In addition, when the amount of nutrients consumed by animals with low energy requirements was simulated, in addition to the same non-conformities described above, it was observed that the cat food does not meet the minimum recommended of protein and taurine in unit/Kg0.67. therefore, these foods should not be recommended for dogs and cats, because dietary deficiencies found may lead to health risks for dogs and cats. Furthermore, manufacturers should review their formulations to ensure the nutritional adequacy of these foods.”

And Some Vegan Cat Foods Are Not Truly Vegan At All….

This 2016 study found that half of the vegan dog and cat foods tested (7/14) were positive for the undeclared DNA of cows, pigs,  and sheep.  Not only should this raise concern for vegans who believe they are feeding an entirely vegan diet, it tells us that food manufacturers have issues with quality control and adherence to diet profiles.  And this was not a one-off occurrence either – the tests were repeated some months apart and the same observations about unintentional adulteration were found.

So the lessons learned here are that vegan or supposedly vegan cat foods are a somewhat of a wildcard – food processing lacks control and food manufacturers evidently do not review their own products for compliance with recommendations for nutrition/protein.  Maybe cats are getting a subsistence level of nutrients from these not-vegan foods which is why more cats do not appear to be unhealthier, at least not initially.  But even so, it’s very doubtful that the cats can truly appreciate the carbohydrate-derived foods because they don’t have taste receptors for it.  To them, it might taste only marginally better than eating flavourless cardboard, which might be why Evolution Pet Food’s founder Eris Weisman advises that cats may need to be “starved” for a few days in order to appreciate his company’s food.  I hope that if you were considering giving your cat vegan foods that you at least read that statement and give it some serious reconsideration.

As a vegan, I can completely relate to the desire to minimize the environmental impacts of dog and cat food diets. While feeding a vegan diet to a carnivore is ethically consistent with animal rights philosophy, the specific physiological and behavioural requirements of cats mean that such long-term diets are really an uncontrolled experiment, with our cats as the test subjects.   Despite the dramatic anecdotal claims made by some proponents of these diets, there is STILL insufficient evidence showing a benefit (or lack of harm) in feeding vegan diets.

Smoke and Mirrors Campaigns Attempt To Demonize Short Hills Park Activists

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Please note that this blog contains graphic images

At one time an individual had to do something explicitly racist to be declared one. Now, anyone who chooses not to fall in line with prevailing “social justice” opinion about the Short Hills Park deer hunt can be smeared with this horrible epithet.  Agitators on Twitter and Facebook have attempted to silence the anti-hunt sentiment by doxxing posters, contacting their employers, sending threatening private messages, while simultaneously wasting the time and resources of the police by demanding that they investigate Facebook posts because they are tasteless, offensive, or demeaning.  While it is pretty clear when speech threatens violence to a specific person, it is less apparent that random offensive statements should be something the police should investigate.

In addition to amplified outbursts of hostility from “social justice warriors,” journalists and other media outlets now share increasingly diverse forms of disinformation with ease.  Additionally, there are few avenues to demand accountability, and there is a lack of skepticism about what is read and watched.  Inflammatory accusations about the anti-hunt demonstrators have long been deemed credible by people who have no first-hand knowledge of the hunts. It is therefore important to have a toolbox to evaluate claims independently.

The Freedom-Of-Information Requests Prove Police Conducted No Investigation Into Facebook Posters:

In response to several demeaning social media posts opposing the hunters, Grant LaFleche of the St. Catharines Standard wrote in November 2019 that:

“The Ontario Provincial Police are investigating racist and violent social media comments directed at Indigenous hunters in Niagara to determine if they break hate crime or other laws, The Standard has learned.

The OPP decided Wednesday to look into the Facebook comments posted on the page of the Niagara Action for Animals that directed racist slurs at hunters taking part in the annual deer hunt at Short Hills Provincial Park. Some of the comments also called for the deaths of the hunters, asking them to kill themselves, shoot each other or for them to be murdered.”

According to FOIA documents from both the OPP and the NRP, only one social media post was ever reviewed and it was dismissed straight-away as a non-issue.  These social media posts are not actionable – there are no credible, direct threats to any individual.  The OPP by their own admission, did not even open a case.  There was nothing to document.  Not even Facebook removed the posts (Niagara Action for Animals voluntarily removed them).

 

The Academic Paper that Accuses Police and Demonstrators of Assault (but fails to provide evidence):

In a paper titled “Fake Vegans,” Authors Legge and Taha make numerous claims about a Short Hills Park hunt and protest they observed, but without substantiation – namely that both police and protesters were assaulting the pro-hunt group.  When approached for a comment about this paper’s claims, St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik’s office could not find any evidence of police harassment or assault. The Mayor’s office even stated that the Haudensaunee hunters and their supporters have a dedicated police liaison with which to discuss pertinent issues related to the Short Hills hunt.  Anti-hunt demonstrators are quite used to being accused of assaulting people by now, but I’m sure the police were very interested to learn that they had been accused, in an academic paper of all things, of assaulting protesters.  Where is the proof?  If it’s as you say in your paper – you directly observed it first-hand – why can you not provide evidence?

 

 

 

Response from the Mayor Sendzik’s office when asked by email whether the NRP were aware that they had been accused of assaulting the hunt supporters.

Sea Shepherd’s Opposition To Hunting As a Philosophical Stance Against Anthropocentrism:

Captain Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is frequently accused of racism since some of that group’s anti-whaling campaigns target ethnic groups in various countries.  He recently addressed the proposal by the Makah to resume whaling.

“Sea Shepherd opposes the killing of whales by anyone, anywhere, for any reason.

The Makah have a treaty with the United States that they say allows them to kill whales.

Elizabeth Warren has stated that she supports to resumption of whaling in the United States by the Makah. These whales do not belong to Elizabeth Warren nor do they belong to the United States or the Makah. The whales belong to the Cetacean Nations, they belong to themselves, independent of any claims by any hominid population.

Killing a self- aware, highly intelligent, socially complex sentient being, is murder.

Sea Shepherd’s position has never been anti-Makah, our position has been and always will be pro-life for all species of whales.

Sea Shepherd presently opposes illegal whaling by Norway, Japan, Iceland, Denmark, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in the United States We have never discriminated on the basis of nationality, race or culture.”

Now clearly there is an obligation to protect vulnerable populations of whales, while deer are not endangered animals.  The best available science, which is available to the Haudenosaunee as it is to everyone else, is that hunting only temporarily decreases deer population, leading to an increase within a year or two, due to the compensatory rebound effect. Watson’s objection to whaling (or for our purposes, deer hunting) is completely agnostic – it includes opposition to all forms of whaling, whether committed by commercial whalers or tribal interests.  Sea Shepherd has undertaken campaigns against the Soviet Union, Iceland, Norway, pirate whalers in Portugal and Spain, the Faroe Islands, Canadian seal hunters, as well as the Makah.  It is a fact that Watson consistently insults all groups partaking in whale hunting with equal opportunity, regardless of race or origin.  Antagonists that aim to demonize both Sea Shepherd and other animal activists must invent non-existent emotionally charged accusations of racism and hate crimes where in fact none exists.

Video Footage of the Barricade at the Pelham Rd. Entrance to Short Hills:

Variously we’ve heard that the “stalls” that happen at the entrance to the park are 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or even that they are some kind of permanent blockade, as part of an effort to have those opposed to the hunt undemocratically removed from the protest. The “Fake Vegans” paper also claims that the stalls occur anywhere from “5 to 15 minutes.” The best evidence that these claims are exaggerations for effect comes from the pro-hunting faction themselves.  Their own video evidence from 2015 shows that the stalls are barely even 5 minutes, and sometimes hunters’ vehicles aren’t stalled at all. The video does not support any claims of foul, demeaning, or racist taunts levied at the pro-hunting group either.

The video clearly provides that the stalls are 5 minutes or less, and the helpful narrators even acknowledge this throughout this 29 minute video:

6:12 mark – “It’s been 5 minutes.”

8:00 mark – Vehicle arrives – is waived through at the 11:30 mark

11:30 mark – Vehicle arrives on camera – is waived through at the 12:43 mark

13:00 mark – Vehicle arrives on camera – is waived through at 14:11

14:30 mark – Vehicle arrives on camera – is waived through immediately

14:50 mark – Vehicles arrive 14:50 – are waived through at 16:50 mark

17:00 mark – Vehicle Arrives 17:00 – Helpful narrator announces at the 19:32 mark that “it’s been 5 minutes.” The vehicle waived through at 21:58

23:00 mark – Two trucks arrive simultaneously – they are waived through at 23:23.

23:40 mark – Truck arrives at 23:40 – It is waived through at the 24:20 mark on the video.

24:30 mark – Another truck arrives at 24:30 – it is waived through at the 27:40 mark.

 

As debunker Chris Hitchens’ famously wrote, “that which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”  With all the available smart phones recording every protest at Short Hills for 7+ years, why has no unequivocal and undeniable video evidence emerged of these alleged assaults? Several years’ worth of FOIA requests I ordered from the NRP and OPP have not revealed any assault charges levied against anyone.

We don’t own this rock. The choice is between endorsing suffering and death or opposing it – for all species. People have the freedom to object to the Short Hills deer hunt without being branded racists – hunting in the park is not an activity that’s traditionally been granted to ANYONE, therefore, no one is purporting that indigenous people should be denied an activity in which others are legally partaking. All concerns have been addressed not towards “who” is doing the hunting, but that it is occurring at all in a “No Hunt Park.” There is an urgent need to protect the integrity of the park; this cannot and does not always look like politeness.

Journalists are supposed to work in the service of truth.  Instead, they often promulgate disinformation. It’s unfortunate that some social media commenters chose to express themselves inappropriately and with poor impulse control, but these were deemed not criminally-actionable.  The hunt supports and media do not have any legitimate indictments against the anti-hunt demonstrators without hyper-partisan selection of “facts” at the expense of fairness. What their disinformation and doxxing campaigns seek is to impact agenda setting, muddy the informational waters, and intimidate critics of the hunt into silence.

 

 

The Meat You Eat in Canada May Have Been Produced By Torturing Horses

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Photo via Animal Welfare Foundation

Photo of horse with severely atrophied hind limb via Animal Welfare Foundation – https://www.pferderevue.at/aktuelles/sonstiges/2017/12/stutenblutfarmenstrafantraggegendeutschespharmaunternehmeneinger.html

Written by: Heather Clemenceau

Many horse advocates were as horrified as I was to discover that live pregnant mares were being used as hosts for Pregnant Mare’s Serum Gonadotropin (PMSG), extracted on blood farms in Argentina and Uruguay. PMSG, which is used in Canada to stimulate oestrus in livestock, creates many strange bedfellows in the agricultural industry, spanning species, supply chains, and nations.  Horses are once again are being commoditized, this time by biopharmaceutical supply chains, and these raw resources are obscured in the final product – primarily pigs, but also sheep, and cattle, farmed deer and elk, and even captive fur-bearing animals. PMSG is a compound designed to produce hyper-fertility in livestock for profit.

Trade in Animal Blood Products Heightens Risk of Disease

According to the World Health Organization, products derived from the international trade in animal products amplify the risk of pathogenic, harmful, or even zoonotic (transferrable to humans from animals and vice versa) disease. PED (porcine epidemic diarrhea) is considered to be epidemic in the U.S. Porcine blood plasma which originated from 10 different countries is generally considered to be the culprit that brought PED to Canada in 2014, via animal feed. And we have apparently learned nothing from the 2003 BSE crisis that arose when cattle were back-fed ground meat and bone from cows infected with the prion disease (or sheep infected with scrapie).  When the infected meat is eaten, it can lead to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans – psychiatric symptoms, immobility and death follow months or years afterwards.

2019 Study Found Horse Blood Supplies May Be Contaminated with Equine-Parvovirus-Hepatitis

A new study published in May 2019 found that Equine-Parvovirus-Hepatitis (EqPV-H) viral genomes were found in commercial equine serum pools in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Italy, and

PMSG is sold in Canada by Partner Animal Health under the name “Novormon.” https://partnaranimalhealth.ca/pages/novormon

Germany,”suggesting a worldwide distribution,” and urged that requirements for diagnostic tests be implemented immediately to prevent transmission of the disease. Quite apart from the suffering inflicted on blood donor mares, it seems obvious that the international trade of animals and animal products is responsible for the spread of zoonoses and other infectious diseases, creating permanent threats, particularly in developing countries with their organizational weaknesses. The USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics has also proposed that all licensed equine blood products be tested for Equine-Parvovirus-Hepatitis.  Equine blood from Argentina and Uruguay is being used to produce PMSG in Canada it’s unknown whether manufacturers of PMSG test for this virus or to what extent. Testing is important also because blood serum is also used for other applications within the equine veterinary field.

This Animal Welfare Foundation / Tierschutzbund Zürich video reveals that mares farmed for their blood are beaten, many are starved, suffer from untreated injuries, lack of shelter, may suffer from anaemia or hypovolemic shock, endure systematic abortions, and often death.

 

 

The breeding of pigs, sheep, and cattle in Canada have their own welfare issues, which are being negatively affected by the increase in productivity caused by PMSG-derived hormone treatments.  Since this virus exists in established equine blood serum pools, it is suggestive that the practice of blood collection itself may be advancing the spread of the disease.  Many pathogens stay on the farm/ranch, remain in manure, contaminate transport routes and vehicles, as well as in soil and water. This creates risk factors not only for horses and other livestock, but for wildlife as well.  Further evidence, if any were needed, that the animal agricultural industry casts a larger footprint than previously imagined – it increases the frequency and duration of suffering in other species in addition to traditional “food” animals – in this case, horses.

These practices give us deceptively cheap food that comes at a high price.

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition is running an active petition with approximately 117,000 signatories  – the respondents – Partnar Animal Health in Canada, the Canadian Animal Health Institute, and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association remain utterly mute on this cruel practice.

This issue should be paramount to all of us, so please sign the petition and send a polite, fact-based email to the Canadian Animal Health Institute and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association to register your disapproval. Ask that synthetic analogs to PMSG be used to eliminate equine suffering in the PMSG industry (unfortunately, this will not end all suffering inflicted on other species via the industry standard of invoking hyper-fertility in other livestock).

Jean Szkotnicki, President, Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI), jszk@cahi-icsa.ca,

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/contact/default.aspx

Mr. Greg Shewfelt, President, Partnar Animal Health, greg@partnaranimalhealth.com

 

 

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).

 

 

 

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.

 

Questionable CTV Reporting on “Roxy the Goldendoodle” Prompts Harassment of Vet Clinic

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The veterinary profession is often replete with occupational stress.  Research has suggested that people whose work involves making life-or-death decisions about suffering animals, experience higher levels of physical and psychological trauma, making them an at-risk population for post-traumatic stress.  Veterinarians, just like other healthcare professionals, also contend with compassion fatigue, defined as “the emotional burden that health care providers may experience because of overexposure to traumatic events that patients are experiencing.” These stressors are often compounded by the clinic’s own clients, who may exert unfair pressure for impossible levels of service, including at times, free or deeply-discounted pet care.  A 2008 U.K. study found veterinarians commit suicide at a rate of four times that of the general population and twice the rate of other medical doctors and dentists. One of the first mental health surveys of U.S. veterinarians, conducted in 2014, found one in six veterinarians may have considered suicide.

The recent story of Roxy, the goldendoodle who required emergency surgery for complications from a routine spay, was not some feel-good rescue effort that dog lovers engineered with the help of the media, against a “money-grubbing” pet clinic. It became a personal attack on veterinarians and vet technicians everywhere.

The Goodman family from Vaughan, Ont. recently praised a CTV reporter’s story that they claimed allowed them to get Roxy back after surrendering her to the Willowdale Animal Hospital when they couldn’t pay the $8,000 emergency surgery. To be sure, $8,000 is a lot of money, but the article that created a deluge of online hate and bad reviews for the clinic did not examine the possible reasons for such an estimate.  The public had zero information about the type of emergency care Roxy needed, yet enraged pet owners ran with the theory that the “big, bad” veterinary clinic was gouging her desperate owners. Spaying surgeries are usually routine but it is still a major surgery and as such, any complications can be serious, and may include:

  • Loose stitches
  • Incisional infection
  • Abscesses
  • Herniation
  • Sepsis
  • lacerated bladder or ureter
  • haemorrhage
  • Abdominal evisceration
  • Dehiscence of sutures
  • disseminated intravascular coagulation

All these possibilities can/may require:

  • IV fluids/colloids
  • Scans and radiographs
  • Blood transfusions
  • IV antibiotics
  • Pain control
  • Post-op lab work
  • Intubation/anaesthesia
  • Emergency clinic hospitalization of 24 hours or more
  • Sterile equipment

Clinics all have their own ways of breaking down these costs – they may have newer equipment and building rent may vary depending on where the clinic is located. An emergency clinic may also provide a fully stocked hospital that your regular veterinary clinic may not provide. Payment terms can be difficult to negotiate since you typically only see an emergency vet when you have an emergency, so you don’t have the same type of relationship as with your regular vet.  Because of this, many clinics may feel that it doesn’t make good business sense to give credit to people they don’t know. Consider also that the College of Veterinarians of Ontario publishes fee schedules and while each veterinary facility will determine their own fee schedule,  veterinarians cannot conspire to fix fees and it’s considered misconduct if a veterinarian charges fees that are excessive to what is normally charged.

Many people waded-into the online commentary about the CTV article, including this DVM who had some wise advice that was shared amongst nearly 3,000 people on Facebook:

“So there’s been a news story lighting up my social media today from CTV, about Roxy the goldendoodle. I don’t know all the details of the case, but I felt the need to weigh in to the folks at CTV who “broke” the story. For those who are interested, here is the email I sent them:

Hello, CTV news team.

I want to comment on a story you reported that has recently caught my attention, as well as the attention of many in my line of work. I am a veterinarian. I work in a small animal hospital north of Toronto.

My social media has been alive with conversation today about Roxy the goldendoodle. The first thing I want to bring to your attention is that this story, and others like it, are basically bullying. You heard me. Now hear me out.

Of course my heart goes out to this family. I’m sure it has been a very emotional ordeal. I am not privy to the details of the case, so I will speak here in relatively general terms.

It is always tragic and heart breaking when a family pet is facing a large vet bill. Whether the pet is experiencing complications, or a severe illness, or an injury, or whatever. It is painful and heart wrenching to have to sit down across from a person and have a very frank discussion with them about how sick or injured their pet is, and what it will take to try to heal them.

Here’s a piece of information that should not be a surprise to anyone. Medical care costs money. Sometimes, the medical care a patient needs costs a lot of money. We sometimes forget this, as Canadians, because we have the incredible privilege of seeking medical care whenever we need it, however minor or severe, and not have to sit down with the doctor beforehand and talk about what that care will cost. But OHIP doesn’t cover our furry (or feathered, or scaly) family members. And medical care costs money. It’s not a nice feeling, to have to have that conversation. Trust me, I know. In this particular case, likely because of social pressure and media attention ( #bullying ), this vet clinic opted in the end to do the work pro bono, and reunite this family with their dog. I am sure that made the dog, the family, and possibly even the veterinarian, very happy. But it doesn’t keep the lights on. It doesn’t pay the staff payroll. It doesn’t restock the shelves.

Will other pet owners, having seen this “feel-good” story now think that all they need to do is publicly shame their vet on news media/social media/etc, and they can get expensive medical care for free too?

Here’s a little fact you may or may not know; all vet hospitals in Canada, BY LAW, are owned by veterinarians. One must be a veterinarian to own a vet clinic. Most of us are small business owners. Why does it seem reasonable to so many people to ask for a line of credit from a small business owner? That’s what banks are for, what credit card companies are for, what credit unions are for. There is even a company called Pet Card that is specifically devoted to providing people with flexible payment plan options for veterinary bills. We don’t know if any of those options were mentioned to the family in this case, but I do think that most people are aware of the existence of these types of financial institutions, and a very simple and fast Google search could also have provided that information. And if the person in question does not qualify for credit from a large corporation whose job it is to provide credit, how can we ask a small business owner to take on the financial risk of providing them with credit?

If the option eventually offered in this case was to surrender the dog, I can only assume, as a veterinarian with 13 years of experience in general practice, that the vets were trying very hard to come up with some way that the end of this puppy’s story would not have to be euthanasia. That may be a tough pill to swallow, but there are many pets who end up being euthanized because there is simply no way that their people can afford whatever care it is that they need. This hospital was trying to find a way for the puppy to be treated, and survive, and hopefully then find a good home. Good on them. In return, they get bullied on national tv.

I can tell you,that in general practice, I see the whole human spectrum, from the very wealthy to the very poor, from the very caring to the very callous, from the very knowledgeable to those who know almost nothing about caring for animals. And we help them all. And, I can tell you that sometimes people are effusively grateful for my help, and sometimes people are downright abusive despite my help. I get accused regularly of being “only in it for the money”. Did you know that worldwide, veterinarians have now officially surpassed all the other health care professions in suicides? All too often, the challenges of either not being able to help, or being accused of being money grubbers when all we are trying to do is help, plays a role in many of those suicides. There is a movement called #notonemorevet. Look it up. Vets care. A lot.

Let me change tacks a little bit, and ask you, Pat Foran, will you come in to work for free? Will you, Ken Shaw and Michelle Dube? How about your camera operators, your producers, your executives, or the rest of the news team – will they come in to work for free? How about that family who so tragically almost lost their beloved pet – would they go in to work for free? Of course not. We all want to make a fair living, and there’s nothing shameful about that. As I mentioned before, medical care costs money. Shame on you, CTV, for bullying this vet clinic, just because they ask an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. For bullying them into giving away that honest work for free.

If you would like to contact me to discuss this further, I am more than happy to participate in the conversation.”

Aimee Gilbert, DVM

 

Emergency clinics are usually staffed with veterinarians and vet technicians who must perform literal miracles on desperately sick pets, 365 days of the year.  You should expect that off hours veterinary fees are typically higher than daytime fees. This is due to the increased costs of providing a dedicated staff who work at nights, on weekends and holidays, so clearly the service will not be cheap. And neither is pet ownership cheap in general – dog ownership over the lifetime of the pet is estimated by OVMA to be in excess of $28,000.

But in an increasingly cynical society, pet parents are committing emotionally-embroiled bribery when they blame clinics for not providing free or discounted services when clients cannot pay or don’t want to prioritize payment.  As we’ve seen with this particular example, dog lovers jumped on the social media band wagon in a campaign of harassment and psychological abuse, monopolizing the resources of the clinic and possibly jeopardizing other animal patients. Social media attacks on clinics are so common that both the AVMA and the CVMA publish guidelines for reputation management and cyberbullying.

“If you really loved animals, you’d do it for free.”

In the end, the clinic appeared to treat the whole unfortunate event with grace and aplomb, issuing a statement to CTV Toronto that “emergency surgery was performed, at no cost. We have been diligently and ethically working with Natasha Goodman… We are pleased to confirm that Roxy has been reunited with her family.”  We presume that Roxy,  who is blissfully unaware of the controversy, is on her way to a full recovery.  But few small businesses can afford to offer much pro-bono work.  The clinic in this case appears to have gotten nothing in return for their troubles, not even an offer of partial payment that I could find (it would be great if Roxy’s people offered to cover at least some of the cost).  Pet owners need to understand that expecting to be paid for your services is not the same thing as “being in it for the money.”  You should no more expect your veterinarian to offer free services than you would your general practitioner.  Your personal physician didn’t enter the field of medicine because he or she “loves” you either.

Crowdsourcing, discounted surgical procedures, and pet food banks are all options, and there are a number of resources for low-income pet owners in the province of Ontario,  but pet owners of more substantial means may have to give up a vacation or two in order to afford the care a pet needs.  That next trip to Switzerland, Mount Kilimanjaro or Italy may have to wait for another year or for your next Corporate bonus….