Tag Archives: “Bill C-571”

Horse Welfare 2014 – The Year In Review

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2014 seasons greetings graphic© Heather Clemenceau

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

So we’re concluding the “Year of the Horse,” which technically ends on 02/18/2015, until the next YOTH, in 2026. Will we see the “end times” for horse slaughter before then? While on the subject of the Chinese zodiac, I’m reminded of the phrase “may you live in interesting times,” which according to Wikipedia, is an English expression purporting to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. The nearest related Chinese expression is “宁为太平犬,莫做乱世人” which conveys the sense that it is “better to live as a dog in an era of peace than a man (woman) in times of war.”

Each year spent fighting horse slaughter is proof enough that we live in a time of war – a constant struggle to maintain the de facto ban on domestic horse slaughter in the U.S. With the signing of the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, the U.S. will continue to forbid the domestic slaughter of horses for human consumption. Horse slaughter was effectively blocked via an injunction in New Mexico,  and after exhausting all legal avenues, Valley Meat owner Rick De Los Santos gives up.  As a testament to the durability of the pro-slaughter mindset,  a new owner is still expressing interest in slaughter in that state.

There is continued support for the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, which would ban both the slaughter and export of American horses for human consumption. Despite the support of 308 Representatives and 60 Senators behind the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act to stop the inhumane practice of “soring” show horses, a small group of obstructionists in Congress prevented a vote on the PAST Act, so this must be revisited in 2015. There is increased outrage against the drugging of horses in the racing industry and TWH soring and attendance at “Big Lick” shows is declining.

The mismanagement of wild horses and burros in the west continues to be predominant, as is the BLM continuing to conduct inhumane round-ups and removals while failing to move decisively toward humane on-the-ground population management strategies built around fertility control. Criticism of Premarin® and Prempro® and similar drugs derived from conjugated equine estrogens continues to be made in 2014.possible impossible

Reverberations of the 2013 horsemeat adulteration scandal are still felt – we are occasionally hearing of instances whereby horsemeat has infiltrated the food supply.  The EU is in the process of revising rules on horse passports, and horsemeat was withdrawn various markets in the EU, resulting in the loss of a contract that was of tremendous importance to Claude Bouvry in Alberta.

An unpopular wild horse capture goes ahead in Alberta, and the protest received a celebrity endorsement by singer Jann Arden.  After months of uncertainty for the hardy protesters who were arrested near the capture site,  the charges were later dismissed.

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) and its supporters continue to ensure that bad press for the slaughter industry reaches the public. The Global News 16X9 investigation is made with the assistance of the CHDC and supporter/horse rescuer Mindy Lovell and others. The CHDC continues to publish the results of ATI (FOIA) requests, each one revealing grievous departures by the CFIA from established procedures..

Despite intense lobbying, press conferences and huge pushes for Bill C-571, Canadian anti-slaughter advocates were ultimately let down by the NDP party. As a result, the anti-slaughter Bills in Canada ultimately failed.

The poor economic results in the last 6 years helped ensure that all breed organizations experienced a decline in the number of foals, registrations and memberships. If fewer horses are being bred (and ultimately slaughtered), the prospect of turning around the problem of North American horse slaughter is on the horizon. This has not gone unnoticed by those with a vested interest in seeing horse populations increase and the convenience of slaughter continue.  The Ontario Racing Commission recently announced that the province’s standardbred racing industry is about to get a substantial $12 million infusion to its program to encourage breeding, after the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Programs resulted in the slaughter of thousands of horses, including foals and broodmares. The declining number of horses (rightsizing?) continues to be a hot topic in the U.S as well, where the American Horse Council wondered aloud at their 45th annual meeting what they could do to increase registration (and breeding) from the various equestrian disciplines. The Jockey Club too, are concerned about the drop in racehorse starts.  And lastly, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the AVMA suddenly have a problem with the aspect that fewer horses mean less income for veterinarians and other equine practitioners. If these professional groups were more forward-thinking, they might have given greater consideration to building relationships with their clients rather than promoting slaughter at the expense of humane euthanasia…….

Perhaps the most promising news this year though comes in confirmation that the European Commission, after a recent audit, decided to suspend horsemeat imports from Mexico due to food safety concerns. If Canada is not far behind (indeed our slaughter industry presents the same concerns as Mexico), then the loss of these markets could prove devastating to the horse slaughter industry in Canada, preventing plants from achieving economies of scale and therefore continuing to thrive.

Click here to review some of the highlights (and lowlights) on Storify, in chronological order.

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Bill C-571 – Between a Wedge and a Hard Place

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Art by Jody Bergsman - www.bergsma.com

Art by Jody Bergsma – http://www.bergsma.com

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

It’s no secret that anti-slaughter advocates are disappointed to hear that Bill C-322 does not have support in the House, nor did it have support at NDP caucus meetings.  In addition, the new Safe Food for Canadians Act contains some wording that would not have been compatible with Bill C-322 moving forward.

The reality is that few Private Member Bills make their way up the ladder to become law.  We are so fortunate that MP Alex Atamanenko chose this Bill to present to the House,  but to have seen it fail would mean that we would have no hope that, in the foreseeable future, any MP would have picked up the cause.  Alex Atamanenko is retiring in 2015, and at this time we have no other MP who has given us this much support to enact legislation to end horse slaughter.

Our many friends and allies who wrote to their MPs can attest to the fact that Conservatives (who hold the majority of seats in Parliament) did not stand in support of the Bill.  So at the 11th hour, as we all know,  Alex and his staff drafted a new Bill that was more likely to succeed in the House,  yet it included concessions to the industry that no one wanted to see.  The Bill does not allow anyone to send or convey from one province to another, or import or export (a) a horse or other equine for slaughter for human consumption; or (b) horsemeat products – or meat products derived from any other equine – for human consumption.”

The biggest concession was that it allowed for the production of “meat” horses.  From the Bill: In addition to the other requirements of this Act and the Regulations made under this Act, no person shall send to a registered establishment a horse or other equine for slaughter for human consumption unless the horse or other equine was raised primarily for human consumption and unless they submit to the operator of the registered establishment a medical record for that horse or other equine that contains its standardized description and a complete lifetime record, in chronological order, of the medical treatments it has received.”

MP Alex Atamanenko states, We do not have a system that has stringent regulations right now, and in the name of food safety, the bill fits in with the new Safe Food for Canadians Act. It is an expansion of Bill C-322. It conforms with trade regulations and it tightens up the whole aspect of food safety.  I would urge all members of the House to support the bill, especially all of those hundreds of thousands of people who supported Bill C-322.”

With enactment of the new Bill C-571, horses would continue to cross the border but would NOT enter slaughter plants unless they have a vet-signed passport to accompany them.  How many horses coming across the border would have such passports with them, if they’re coming for slaughter from the U.S.?  Probably very few.  There’s always the possibility of fraud, and that’s why the humane groups would continue to remain watchful in the field.

Privately, this development is hugely disappointing to so many of us, especially those who lobbied for support of Bill C-322 and collected so many signatures.  But there are still reasons to support it publicly. Because the

A log splitter is a "wedge" that ultimately fractures or splits the log apart.

A log splitter is a “wedge” that ultimately fractures or splits the log apart.

effect of the Bill would have a negative effect on the economies of scale of the Canadian slaughter plants (by preventing privately owned pet and riding horses from entering the slaughter stream),  it serves to act as a “wedge” that can be used to enact further restrictions on the horse slaughter industry.  The “wedge” is a strategy most famously used as a manifesto by  Discovery Institute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. You’re probably wondering what intelligent design has to do with horse slaughter, and the answer is “nothing.” But the wedge strategy as used by Bill C-571 is a political and social action plan meant to sway public policy makers and ultimately make slaughter for 90% of all horses totally unfeasible, essentially putting kill buyers out of action.  So while privately we have great difficulty with the Bill,  many of us can find a way to support it politically.

The Bill might be more palatable once we understand that not all animal protection initiatives launched by Canadian organizations have protected all species across the country either.  Despite the work done by WSPA, Animal Alliance, Humane Society International, Mercy for Animals, and others, most results are made incrementally by lobbying. For example, some groups have achieved hunting or trapping bans in various municipalities but not others. Sometimes protecting animals in shelters has begun with a ban on the sale of lost pets for experimentation, but only in a select number of provinces.  While protecting some animals, these actions don’t save all the pets, but it’s another example of a wedge that can be used to advance legislation in other provinces.  How long have ethical people all over the world lobbied against the Canadian seal hunt?  A recent campaign resulted in the European Union implementing a European-wide ban that began in 2010.  And the boycott of Canadian seafood will continue until the Canadian government ends the commercial seal hunt. If you can shut down trade in bear galls by 50% by making concessions, is it better to do that than to make no concessions and achieve nothing?  It takes a long time to get bans on spring bear hunts in Ontario,  and they often aren’t permanent bans either – groups must continue to lobby for them. In many ways the new Bill C-571 can be viewed in the same manner.

Art by Jody Bergsma - www.bergsma.com

Art by Jody Bergsma – http://www.bergsma.com

Recently, the Canadian government announced a new program, seeded with $450,000, to “support animal welfare at slaughter.”  Of course this is also an ethical dilemma for many people, especially since it appears that horse slaughterhouses may be able to qualify for funding to better “restrain animals at slaughter.”  This program suggests that slaughterhouses already aren’t doing their jobs correctly or overseeing the slaughter process as well as they should. And improvement or not, perhaps this is an example of tossing money at a situation that cannot be made humane and should just be stopped outright  Only the reader can judge as to whether “improving restraint for slaughter” is ethical.  But it demonstrates that they are feeling the pressure.

It is easier (but not easy, as our American counterparts can attest) to keep an industry from restarting than it is to close an industry that has full government support.  The Americans are somewhat fortunate in that there are at least a greater number of individuals and groups that can impact legislation more easily than can Canadians.  Sadly, the Conservative Canadian government is a government that is beholden to big business, and one that makes every attempt to shape public policy to that end. It is a government that is more interested in keeping its corporate masters happy than in protecting animals or the food chain.