Tag Archives: Canadian Federation of Humane Societies

Canadian Federation Of Humane Societies Conference Presentation Suggests Horse Slaughter Activists “Just Too Sensitive”

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may-12-percherons

This photo, original to the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, was used in a presentation critiquing horse advocates. The presenter claimed that criticism against feedlot owners was unjustified, they are really “not that bad.” The only criticism offered was towards the use of barb-wire fencing.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

In April I attended The National Animal Welfare Conference, offered by The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.  The CFHS represents all the humane societies and SPCAs across Canada.  So as you would expect, the presentation consisted of a broad range topics related to cat overpopulation, animal shelter stats,  hoarding issues, spay/neuter,  along with some coverage of farm animal issues,  including representation from OMAFRA and the Alberta SPCA on horse slaughter.  I had been looking forward to this event for weeks….

Within the various humane groups, welfare standards, which vary considerably, are reviewed and debated worldwide. The humane societies and SPCAs do not even agree on the issue of what constitutes good welfare, despite the existence of codes of practice.   This schism was made more obvious by the presence at the conference, of strict vegans juxtaposed against those who still justify eating animals but want to improve their welfare while doing so.

The treatment of several issues addressed at the conference was wildly inconsistent, IMO.  For instance, we had delicious vegan lunches and snacks, and panel discussions on the importance of developing food policies for animal events.  On the other hand, the conference content was generally delivered with a view to making animal use more comfortable for people rather than the animal.  By offering vegan fare there is the suggestion that perhaps we shouldn’t be eating animals,  and yet we have presentations that malign animal activists as well-meaning but utterly misinformed people who are just “too sensitive?”

The bulk of horses in Canada are found in Alberta and anti-slaughter advocates have had challenges appealing to many people in that province due to the ranching and Stampede culture. Protesters at the recent Bouvry slaughterhouse in Alberta were subjected to strong negative feedback, to put it politely. There is certainly a notable variation between the principles, opinions, sentiments regarding horse slaughter in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada.  Knowing that at least one of the speakers on horse slaughter was from Alberta, I expected them to graywash the issue of slaughter – I must be psychic because that’s really how it played out. I believe that presenting horse slaughter as acceptable, safe, or humane,  even grudgingly,  is inconsistent with the values of a humane group or SPCA.

There were two equine vets for this segment, each presenting for about 45 minutes.

Dr. Marion Anderson – Alberta SPCA, presented first.  She has a practice in Saskatoon and became President of the Alberta ASPCA in 2012.

The only real issue I had with Dr. Anderson’s presentation was that she depicted slaughterbound horses as generally being geriatric, poorly bred, of poor conformation; with behaviour issues, unrecoverable lameness or injuries – sort of a eugenics program for these horses.  The positives of her presentation were that she did provide valid points when addressing the backstory of horse overpopulation, along with a good breakdown of horse use in Canada:

  • horses are remaining healthier, living longer, and are therefore more difficult to find lifetime homes for;
  • society has an aversion to horse slaughter;
  • US “ban” on horse slaughter;
  • demand for the horses has lessened due to lower rural population, aging baby boomers, economic hardship
  • Indiscriminate and uncontrolled breeding
  • Inadequate and improper training methods lead to behaviour issues
  • Fewer people interested in riding and tend to prefer more sedentary and technological pursuits
  • In 2010 the median age of horse owners was 50- 59 years
  • 24% of all horse owners are over 60
  • Increasing costs associated with horse ownership

However, Dr. Anderson’s presentation conflicted with statements by the USDA and other groups that found that about 92% of all horses are young and healthy and capable of living longer lives. Her presentation can be viewed online at the CFHS site here and in PDF format here.

The second presentation was made by Dr. Bettina Bobsien – she’s a vet in private practice who has worked with the BC SPCA on farm animal welfare issues and was a member of the committee that drafted the current Equine Code of Practice.  Dr. Bobsien reminded the attendees that the new equine code of practice went from 25 statements up to about 75 statements which is obviously an improvement in welfare,  albeit one that has no teeth because it’s a recommendation rather than a requirement.

IMO,  Dr. Bobsien’s presentation was a lot more problematic – probably not just for me but for others in the audience as well.  The Dr. took the approach that horse slaughter is necessary and much maligned by activists who spread “myths.”  She spoke of unintended consequences for the US after the cessation of slaughter including starvation and abandonment, which have largely been debunked, perhaps most famously by John Holland of the Equine Welfare Alliance in the states.

deputy broad

Deputy Broad went from the stable to the table in not 180 days, but in 7 days!

As the presentation unfolded, I did a double-take when I saw on the projector, images from CHDC’s own website and blog being presented as “myths” about horse slaughter. Dr. Bobsien did not name the CHDC in her presentation though, and implored the audience to refrain from embracing “activist hysteria.” It is perhaps noteworthy that Dr. Bobsien’s conference slides have not been made available for downloading at the conference website.  Perhaps it was due to the pushback from some audience members (myself included) who sought to correct some statements, or maybe the CFHS felt the slides were too controversial.

So here are a few of Dr. Bobsien’s “Myths” of Horse Slaughter (the “myth” in bold, followed by Dr. Bobsien’s response in red,  and my response in grey italics).

  • Horses are or should be companion animalsWe Have a special relationship with them. “They are livestock.” I think many horse owners have special  relationships with horses just as they do with dogs and cats and other pets.  They happen to live on farms due to their size and range requirements, but we spend thousands on board or on tack that isn’t spent on livestock.  And we have a special relationship with horses historically that we simply don’t have with other animals. 
  • Horses treated with toxic chemicals mean that the meat is tainted – example: phenylbutazone: Horses given bute are clear in 21 days and meat is fine to eat.  The EU put restrictions on imported horse meat because of a claim about toxic meat in horses originating in Canada.” I did challenge Dr. Bobsien on this and she finally said that the science and the regulations don’t match up.  Dr. Bobsien spoke about bute being kinetically withdrawn from the tissues within 21 days, but made no mention of the fact that the CFIA prohibits its use in food horses entirely.  It’s the metabolized compound that can be found in tissues afterwards that can kill you In a survey, 96% of respondents said they used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to control the joint pain and inflammation in horses, and 82% administer them without always consulting their veterinarian. More than 1,400 horse owners and trainers were surveyed to better understand attitudes toward NSAIDs.  Additionally, 99 percent of horses that started in California last year raced on bute, according to the Daily Racing Form. The pro-slaughter doctors and veterinarians who attempted to refute Dr. Marini et al’s study a few years back expected everyone to accept their supposition even though it exemplified an argument from ignorancewhich started out as an appeal to authority, (not unlike Dr. Bobsien’s presentation).  Sue Wallis and Dave Duquette (of United Horsemen’s Group and the now-defunct IEBA) asked everyone to accept the word of a veterinarian who is an expert in his own field (Dr. Henneke – body scoring), but who is commenting on a field outside of his area of expertise. Dr. Henneke supports the assertion that bute exits the system completely.  So what?  He’s not a toxicologist.  When you want to discuss the Henneke scale, he is completely qualified to render an opinion.  Similarly, if Einstein makes a suggestion about relativity,  you’d better listen. If he tries to tell you how to ride a horse, you can tell him to keep his day job. In the US, Canada, and the EU, bute is not permitted to be used for food animals. PERIOD. That simple acknowledgement renders any other discussion on toxicology rather moot.  There are no safe levels for known carcinogens, which is why it’s pointless to discuss to what degree bute is or is not eliminated from the tissues. Harm is assumed.  Discussions of toxicity or “safe levels” are reserved for non-carcinogenic effects.  Furthermore, the “precautionary principle is recognized in international law, and it of course stresses that the absence of scientific certainty about a risk should not bar the taking of precautionary measures in the face of possible irreversible harm. First, do no harm.
  • Horses that are sold to slaughter go directly to slaughter. “No they are held for 180 days.” On the larger feedlots in Alberta there are probably situations where some horses are held for a period of time.  But If you look at the Health of Animals Regulations Import reference document, section 5, if imported horses (from the US) are going directly to slaughter they must be slaughtered within 4 days of their arrival.  If you have horses coming up from US auctions when does this drug withdrawal take place?  When horses arrive at LPN or Richelieu in Quebec from auctions in the US, they aren’t holding them for 180 days – they are killing them within days. 
  • Kill buyers, feed lot owners, and transporters are the ‘bad guys’. “Proper blame should be directed towards the persons who overbreed.  5 minutes of terror is better than months of starvation.”  Again, why are there only two choices – slaughter or starvation?  We can certainly cast blame in the direction of people who produce horses in a “puppymill” type of production line.  But everyone is complicit in this sordid business – from sale barn owners,  transporters, slaughterhouses,  and most definitely kill buyers – all have played a role in facilitating fraudulent transactions and abuse against horses.  Many of these individuals and businesses have been fined or packed off to prison for their crimes.
  • Horses should go to rescues instead of slaughter. “Rescues are overfull, unregulated.”  That is true even though some are registered charities, but so too are kill buyers totally unregulated, and they have input into the food chain. Sales barns sometimes fill out EIDs without input from former owners. I agree that rescues cannot possibly absorb upwards of 100,000 unwanted horses per year.  The answer lies in other solutions, including on-farm euthanasia, hay banks, financial support for rescues, and alternative disposal options such as rendering, mortality composting, and biodigestion. Dr. Bobsien herself also pointed this out.

From the presentation we could see that the Dr. appears to own a very nice dressage horse that is probably very well trained with nice conformation. If slaughter is not a good enough end for Dr. Bobsien’s own horses, why is it acceptable for others to suffer this fate?  This is what anti-slaughter advocates object to – we don’t think it’s an acceptable end for any horse.  Neither of the presentations we saw on this day gave any recognition or discussion to the suffering of non-food animals such as horses.  It’s obvious that most advocacy by humane groups and SPCAs is focused on advancements for the typical “food” animals such as chickens, cows, and pigs, while little effort is expended to the plight of the unwanted horse.  Plenty of criticism is lobbed at the negligent owners and backyard breeders or horses, where it also must lie, but kill buyers seem to get a pass.  Neither presenter touched on transport times, live export deaths, injuries, sickness, or pregnancy.

 

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Stuck On Stamps: Canada Post Issues Commemorative Stamps To Help Pets

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Pets deserve happiness, love and good health

Pets deserve happiness, love and good health

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The Love Your Pet stamps were developed by Canada Post with the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, to celebrate the importance of pets in our lives and raise awareness of responsible pet guardianship. The proceeds of stamp sales support the work of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies for animal welfare.

The five keepsake stamps remind us of the importance of responsible pet care, including spaying and neutering, regular veterinary visits, play and exercise, identification, and keeping pets cool and hydrated in the summer heat – all serious topics showcased with a lighthearted and whimsical artistry. These inspiring stamps were illustrated by Genevieve Simms and designed by Lara Minja of Lime Design. They can be ordered through Canada Post (you need an ePost profile) or via the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (Derek deLouche at derekd@cfhs.ca)

 

CFHS works to:

Demand changes to Canada’s shamefully inadequate animal cruelty laws

 

Ensure the vigorous prosecution of animal abusers

 

Increase adoption, decrease euthanasia and support homeless cats

 

Secure increased animal welfare for Canadian farm animals

 

Shut down puppy mills and end the suffering of thousands of dogs

 

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Grumpy Old Men – The Orchestrated Attack On Bill C-246

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31642869_lWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Since 1999, the Liberals have made numerous attempts to pass a much-needed update to the antiquated and inadequate animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada. There was Bill C-17, resurrected as Bill C-15 and then re-introduced as Bill C-15B, followed by Bill C-10, Bill C-10B, Bill C-22, Bill C-50, Bill C-274, Bill C-277 and, finally, Bill C-610. While the House of Commons has passed new animal cruelty legislation three times, those Bills were either prorogued by the government or blocked by the Senate before they made it past the finish line. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies provides an excellent overview of the Bills here.

M2Toronto-area Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, recently introduced a Private Members Bill (C-246)  – the Modernizing Animal Protections Act, to reinforce Canada’s public policy and legislative commitments to animal welfare (World Animal Protection ranks Canada’s animal welfare laws a “D” on a scale of A-G).  Only the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, and New Zealand scored “A” grades on the index.  The Bill will be debated in the House of Commons on May 9th.

Despite rampant paranoia, the law is focused on eliminating the loopholes that allow chronic hoarders, repeat abusers, puppy mill operators and dog fighting perpetrators to get off with a slap on the wrist. It would create a new offence for individuals who cause unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal through gross negligence of the animal’s welfare. The Bill also sets out to achieve several key measures that are entirely reasonable and should win broad support:

  • Prohibition of dog and cat fur importation
  • Banning of shark-finning
  • Prohibitition the use of live animals in target shooting
  • Establishment of penalties for the killing and injuring a police dog
  • Prohibition of the training or breeding of animals for the purpose of fighting, as well as making it illegal to profit from dog fighting.

Enter Robert Sopuck, the Conservative MP for Dauphin-Swan River-Neepaw. Sopuck and his cabal of trigger-happy, pre-Darwinian animal killers are so paranoid that hunting Brian_Skerry_Mako_Finning(1)and fishing activities will result in cruelty charges, (I wish!) they have created numerous websites and Facebook pages to spread false information and extol the mythical virtues of hunting while proclaiming their services as absolutely necessary for controlling wildlife populations and preserving the environment. These pages feature Sopuck and others dressed up in a variety of machismo fashions, exhibiting unusual levels of arousal while carrying an arsenal of weaponry as they blast into the forests and streams to conduct their primitive rituals.

Sopuck himself proceeded to write a preposterous Toronto Sun article claiming that Erskine-Smith’s Bill will give animals human rights. Clearly channelling former Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, he writes that “Canada already has adequate measures to protect animals and prevent cruelty. Furthermore, all animal uses are covered by veterinary-approved Codes of Practise that guide what you can do with your animals.”  Those “guides” are just that.  They are meaningless because they are not laws.  And they are not “veterinary approved” either – they are the result of inputs from the agriculture industry.  How is it that Sopuck believes we have adequate protections when there are hundreds of entries in the caselaw database of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, with many of those not prosecuted successfully.  Very few animal cruelty cases are prosecuted each year in comparison to the number of cases that are investigated. It is estimated that less than 10% of cases that warrant prosecution are successfully prosecuted.

Lawyer Peter Sankoff lobs a nuclear strike at Sopuck in this deconstruction of Sopuck’s Toronto Sun article.  In the end,  Sankoff finds that virtually all of Sopuck’s claims range from the merely overstated to the downright preposterous – finding none of his claims to be accurate:

 

 

Despite the hunting propaganda which I have read on the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters website, the reality is that most modern families do not embrace hunting as either a pleasurable pastime or a family adventure. In 2010, almost 3.3 million adult anglers participated in a variety of recreational fishing activities in Canada, the majority of whom fall into the 45-64 year age range (If the downward trend in hunting continues, by the year 2050, hunters will only comprise 1% of the population).   Depending on what source you read, about 2-7% of the population are hunters; of course this doesn’t include poachers or treaty hunters who don’t require licenses.  In any case both numbers represent a significant minority of Canadians.  So you have your acknowledged 2-10% of the population righteously informing everyone else that it is only they who are picking up the tab for wildlife conservation – part time at that.

That dog doesn’t hunt, sorry.

pigeonsdeadbirdCanadians have been signing animal welfare petitions for decades now, demanding that the values of fairness and justice that we’re known for are applied to the protection of animals and to the punishment of animal abusers. Laws are essential to both codify and enforce positive changes for animals. Why should we be one of the only countries that does not yet prohibit the importation of dog and cat fur, because self-serving groups and a few old conservative politicians, who are clearly a product of Stephen Harper, are arguing against reasonable updates to an ancient law.  The fact that Sopuck and the hunting/fishing groups believe that Bill C-246 seeks the “complete elimination of animal use in Canada” indicates that none of them can read. If the Conservatives feel the Bill is “fundamentally flawed,” why don’t they draft their own Bill as they frequently threaten to do?  Their objection is based on the desire to kill animals for the sheer delight it brings them – the rest of the world will move on into the next century without them. Compassion for the natural world is the new order.

You can read the details of Nate Erskine-Smith’s Bill below: