Tag Archives: CFIA

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

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

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

– standard form letter response from Conservative MPs – 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forms Are So Hard And Confusing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You may also download these documents here.

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Horse Welfare 2016 – The Year In Review

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2016-rocking-horse-christmas-cardWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Because most efforts at altruism are applied to human suffering, when it comes to horses and other animals, we still face the problem of convincing people that the suffering of horses is worth considering at all. Our legal and legislative efforts can be effective ways to achieve goals for the horses, but most campaigns are lower visibility when compared to shelter pets,  and they may only yield results if completely successful. After observing how horse advocacy functions for a few years now (but I am still a relative newbie compared to the seasoned experts who have been advocating for horses for decades)  I want to make the following observations on the year 2016:

To be effective, we must continually find the root causes of systemic problems, such as corrupt or indifferent government officials, hoarding issues, and our often reactionary approach to kill buyer sales programs, which are now entrenched methods of adopting horses.  This is no small feat considering how decentralized horse advocates are – each person is often doing their own thing and advocating for horses in their own way.  As a result, preventative approaches are sometimes overlooked within the movement.   Despite exhaustive work by many people, SAFE Act-type legislation, which could provide the best results for horses in the US, hasn’t passed.

We may best be able to capitalize on shifts in the way people think about all animals and their status in society.  Results in Canada have been achieved when contracts for horsemeat are lost due to the exposing of cruelty and food quality/feedlot issues.  Meat-swapping is also an issue that usually gets a lot of publicity.  The supply of horsemeat already exceeds demand otherwise we would see fewer substitution issues – many people are realizing that they are eating horse unintentionally and this causes them to reconsider buying meat in general.

Unfortunately, 2016 heralded in new administration that is not friendly to animals.  P-E Trump is known to receive advice from conspiracy theorists and the radical far right – it’s true that we have become a “post-fact” world. Knowing this, how can we best advocate for horses in 2017 and beyond? There mere suggestion that there may be jobs to be found in the horse slaughter industry could be incentive enough to resuscitate it in the US, even though it is a poor investment.

“Donald Trump…represents perhaps the greatest threat ever to animal protection policy making at the federal level. His campaign surrogates and the names being floated as possible Trump cabinet picks for the very agencies that oversee such policies include the most ardent anti-animal voices in the country. Advocates for puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and trophy hunting of rare species such as leopards and elephants would be at the steering wheel of a Trump administration.” ~ Michael Markarian, the Human Society Legislative Fund

Here’s my summation of 2016, with articles arranged in Storify:

The Chemical Horse:

  • Horsenetwork reported that Pfizer Canada has announced it will increase the amount of pregnant mare urine (PMU) it collects from its facilities in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan in 2016 and 2017. Demand for conjugated equine estrogens declined in recent years following a 2002 Women’s Health Initiative study that PMU drugs were linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. (In 2012, the North American Menopause Society released a position statement that continues to support hormone therapy).
  • Horse tendons are now being made into an anti-aging therapy to rival botox. The popularity of horse oil from slaughtered animals has increased exponentially and is sold extensively on Amazon, eBay and elsewhere.
  • A video released in October showed the appalling treatment of horses at antitoxin and antivenom manufacturing facilities in India.  The facilities draw blood from the horses, many of them multiple times a month with heavy gauge needles, to manufacture antitoxin and antivenom drugs.  The horses depicted in the video (link included below) had festering sores and low body weights.

Live Horse Shipments:

  • Throughout 2016, the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition continued to release footage of live horse exports to Japan and petitioned Atlas Air executives to stop the practice, which does not adhere to IATA regulations.

Anti-Soring Efforts:

  • In August, U.S. Department of Agriculture/APHIS proposed changes to the Horse Protection Act that could stop the soring abuse for good.
  • Anti-soring advocates got the Big Lick kicked out of the North Carolina State Fair

Food Adulteration:

  • In June, a butcher shop in Montreal was caught adding horsemeat to hamburger patties advertised as being entirely made of beef. An investigation by Radio-Canada found burger patties advertised as being 100 per cent beef from La Maison du Rôti, which supplied meat to many hotels and commercial establishments in Montreal.  This is consistent with a study from 2015 that found that nearly 5% of all ground meat products tested in California had horse meat in the product.
  • In Britain, two Britons and a citizen of Denmark appeared in court over allegations that they passed horsemeat off as beef. It took THREE YEARS after the horsemeat adulteration scandal in to get them this far.
  • Britain’s food-policing unit, which was created in 2014 following the horse meat scandal has still not resulted in any new prosecutions despite costing the taxpayer £4m. The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU)  has not brought any criminal charges against anyone.

Wild Horses:

  • Aaron Stelkia of the Osoyoos Indian Band, who has apparently provided no care to feral British Columbia horses, decided to claim them and began rounding them up early in the year.  On the heels of this event, the RCMP in Penticton B.C., at the request of the CFIA, began investigating horse rescuer Theresa Nolet after she treated a free-roaming horse with phenylbutazone, making him unfit for human consumption.  If the CFIA, the RCMP, or the SPCA actually had any concern for horses, they would require the Indian Bands to keep their horses contained and properly fed and medicated.  It’s clear the intent was to harass Ms. Nolet, since the CFIA has no problem importing American horses whose drug history is completely unprovable.
  • DNA genotyping of Alberta wild horses showed a connection to the Altai horse from Russia. These genetic markers permitted the placement of the horses on the endangered list by the Equus Survival Trust in North Carolina. 
  • Forty-five years ago the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (WFRH&B Act) was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 18, 1971. The WFRH&B Act created the sensation that wild horses were to be protected on public land, but as it did not create actual defined parameters it has been left open to interpretation and/or lack of enforcement by the US judicial system.

Decimation of the Donkeys:

  • Now that the West African black rhino is extinct and the elephant is well on its way, donkey skins are the new rhino horn, and just like the rhino, the Chinese demand is unsustainable. To that end, a $3,000,000 slaughterhouse has just opened in Kenya – dedicated and purpose-built to kill up to 100 donkeys a day. China is presently responsible for slaughtering four million donkeys a year for traditional medicinal products made from their skin. Already, countries in Africa are seeing their donkey populations drop at an alarming rate – the appetite for donkey skins has risen to such a degree that a worldwide crisis is unfolding for donkey populations around the world.  In the United States the population of donkeys is estimated to be between 250,000 and 400,000. The US’ wild burro population ranges between 4,000 to 10,000 total on all BLM public lands.  The entire US population of donkeys could theoretically be wiped out in a matter of weeks at the current rate of slaughter.

Cruelty Cases, Horse Seizures, Abandonments, and Hoarding:

  • The infamous Stanley Brothers have been shipping horses to slaughter for quite some time and also have a long history of animal welfare offenses, among other questionable activities.  Boots Stanley, the son of one of the Stanley Brothers, who became millionaires selling horses to be killed, was arrested along with his pal Steven Sadler, for aggravated animal cruelty after slitting a defenseless dog’s throat on the family’s kill lot in Bastrop, Louisiana. Someone who enjoys inflicting pain on an animal may well be a danger to their community soon.
  • “Big Lick” supporter Sandra Darlene Wood will be serving jail time for the crime of Animal Cruelty – starving Tennessee Walking Horses that were seized from her farm on April 6, 2015.
  • Logan Allen, a “horse trainer” who won 1st place in the 2013 Iowa Horse Fair found himself under fire after he posted pics to his Facebook wall of a horse with the caption “bad boy…”  The horse lay on the ground, his legs were bound, his tongue hung out of his mouth and he had been sprayed with a hose,  hence the treatment of the horse was referred to as “waterboarding.”  The dismissal of Allen’s case sends the clear message to those in Iowa that abusing animals is acceptable in the state.
  • The story of Lily, the little pony mare who appeared to have been shot up with a paintball gun and then abandoned at New Holland in Pennsylvania, was a simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking narrative.  The mare, who was rescued and subsequently endured an eye operation for painful uveitis inflammation and days of dental work, was elderly and in poor condition overall.  In May, Philip Price Jr. of Rhode Island, (previously convicted of animal abuse) was convicted on all counts related to transporting her to New Holland.  He was ordered to pay $13,000 in restitution for Lily’s recovery care costs.  Lily was then adopted by former Daily Show Host Jon Stewart and his wife.  Although her quality of life appears to have been quite low for some time, she knew kindness and care before she died a short time later in Stewart’s sanctuary.
  • In June, officials with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture charged trainer Maria Borell and her father, Charles Borell, each with 43 counts of second-degree cruelty to animals in connection with the apparent abandonment of horses at a 121-acre farm in Central Kentucky.
  • 40 deceased and decaying horses were found on a property near Melbourne Australia. Bruce Akers, was charged with 92 counts of animal cruelty and criminal damage.
  • Another 40 horses (and 15 dogs)  owned by a previously convicted mother/daughter team of animal hoarders were seized from a Virginia property.
  • In July, horse rescuers saved from slaughter several horses formerly owned by the Arnold Reproduction Center, which specialized in cutting horse breeding. A herd of horses bearing the brand of center ended up scheduled for shipment to slaughter, according to social media posts, which the business acknowledged in a statement last week, calling the slaughter designation unintended. Photos posted by the Kaufman Kill Pen Facebook page showed show at least a dozen horses bearing the brand and/or distinctive shoulder numbers, with some described as recipient mares.
  • Several horses that had been seized from the Peaceable Farm rescue in 2015 have again been taken by authorities from New Beginnings Horse Rescue, where they had little or no food and water.  Over 80 horses were originally removed from Peaceable Farm and 11 of those horses went to New Beginnings (the other horses were distributed to other rescues).  It’s been a horrible 2 years for some of the rescues in Virginia.
  • Approximately 550-650 “wild” horses of varying ages, some mares with foals, went up for auction in December when approximately 30 were found starving or eviscerated on the bare dirt pastures of the ranch belonging to the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros in South Dakota. With no plan in place to prevent breeding and insufficient range land for the number of horses, the pastures had been eaten down to dirt. Photos on social media show severely thin horses, some of them dead, with their ribs and hip-bones protruding. Some have grotesque wounds and injuries or wildly overgrown, untrimmed hooves. A few had been eviscerated, presumably by wild animals. Guidestar shows that despite the charity taking in $600 – $700K in donations per year, there were always feed emergencies – this appears to be another hoarding operation with charitable status.  Resources are finite everywhere – uncontrolled breeding with no place to go eventually means there will be a population crash.

Legislative and Public Relations Issues:

  • Of the most immediate concern to animal advocates may be the virtual certainty that a Trump administration will work to reopen horse slaughter in the U.S., to “dispose” of the 45,000 wild horses who have been removed as “surplus” from the  BLM.  Furthermore, in 2009 VP-Elect Pence voted against protecting wild horses and burros on America’s public lands. He opposed the “Restore Our American Mustangs Act,” which was introduced to amend the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.  Simply because you see a picture of someone on a horse,  it does not make them an advocate.
  • It has been announced that the European Commission is set to adopt stricter regulations on the import of horsemeat from non-EU countries following its latest audit, which found that Canadian horsemeat may not meet EU food safety standards.  Horses destined for slaughter in non-EU countries but for export to the EU, must undergo a minimum six-month residency requirement. It’s unclear how either the slaughterhouses or the CFIA will control for this requirement.
  • The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition met with MPs in Ottawa in October on the dangers of horse meat consumption. The CHDC was registered to lobby with Aaron Freeman of Pivot Strategic Consulting.  The CHDC continues to consult with legal counsel in a continuing effort to explore legal strategies to stop illegally-conducted live shipments of horses to Japan for slaughter.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the slaughtering license of KML Meats in British Columbia temporarily,  due to the absence of an effective HACCP program.
  • The CFIA proposed changes to the Health of Animals Act and Regulations, thereby recognizing that the transport of animals in Canada is not aligned with those of other countries (World Organisation for Animal Health – OIE) nor do they align with the National Farm Animal Care Council Codes of Practice (NFACC) or international trading partners such as the US and the EU.  Furthermore, transport guidelines, such as they are, do not reflect current science regarding the handling of animals by land, sea, and air.
  • The March to DC on behalf of the SAFE Act took place September 22nd. Thank you to the dedicated people who were able to attend.  Many SAFE-type bills have now died and alternative approaches are needed to make the rest of the US population  aware of the atrocities of horse slaughter.
  • The tall metal fences, chained gates, and decaying metal buildings that were an embarrassment and constant reminder of horse slaughter in Kaufman Texas are now gone.  The old Dallas Crown slaughterhouse was torn down.
  • In Ontario, “horse rustling” has received new attention after two horses, who were temporarily loaned/boarded, disappeared from the same farm and are presumed sold for slaughter.  Sargon, owned by Kim Wilson, and Apollo, owned by Kayla Whatling were loaned to the same individual, who told police she sold Sargon to a kill buyer for slaughter without permission and with a faked EID.

EQUUS Film Festival:

  • The EQUUS Film Festival, dedicated to equestrian-themed film, fine art and authors was subject to controversy in 2016. Noted Equine/Human Chiropractor Dr. Jay Komarek,  declined to accept the Equus Film Festival Award for “Best Documentary” Film citing festival organizers for accepting money from two corporate sponsors,  “Protect The Harvest” and “Farm Paint,”  as his reason for doing so.   The sponsor’s principals are Mr. Forrest Lucas (Protect The Harvest and Lucas Cattle Company) and Mr. Duke Thorson (Farm Paint and Thorsport Farm). Slaughtering and soring horses  do not create a better world for them and were therefore incompatible sponsors for the event.  Clant Seay, a reporter for Billygoboy.com, also had the microphone aggressively grabbed out of his hand by former Sue Wallis buddy Dave Duquette at EQUUS. A positive outcome was that the film “Kill Pen” signed a worldwide/international distribution agreement to circulate the film across the US and Canada, into Europe, and beyond.

 Please read more about these and other headlines from 2016, arranged chronologically, in Storify

 

 

Trail Of Tears For Missing Horses Sargon And Apollo

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Trail Of Tears For Missing Horses Sargon And Apollo

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Bad things sometimes happen to good people.  In particular,  people loaning horses out for therapy programs would never imagine stealing a horse so it’s incomprehensible if it happens to them.  It may seem obvious to us that someone who sells or gives away your horse without your permission has essentially stolen him or her,  it’s generally considered a civil matter,  quite unlike what happens when someone cuts your fence and steals your horse directly off your property.  In contrast,  a civil matter is considered a dispute between two parties – if the police decide your case is civil,  they will generally decline to treat it as a crime.  Durham police have  assigned a detective to the case of at least one of the two missing Ontario horses, Sargon and Apollo.  Since the same parties are allegedly involved in the disappearance of more than one horse, perhaps the police have taken the view that an investigation needs to be undertaken to satisfy public interests?

WHO IS LIABLE WHEN LOANED HORSES ARE NOT RETURNED TO THEIR OWNERS ON DEMAND?

Leasing or free board arrangements permit a horse owner who loves their horse, but cannot keep him or hasn’t time to ride him – to lend him to a rider that can maintain him while the owner still has control. “Sent out for training” is a common excuse given when horses disappear from the farms where they have been placed.  The chain of custody for many missing horses often cannot be more opaque, with horses changing hands several times without parties to these transactions necessarily being unaware of the status of the missing horse.  This is why it’s a good practice to check all horses out online when you are considering buying or adopting.

The RCMP website informs us that the police will only investigate alleged fraud under certain circumstances:

“Major fraud within the Commercial Crime Program mandate can be defined as fraud cases of provincial, national or international significance (having due regard for contractual obligations with the provinces) in which one or more of the following elements are present (Corporate Fraud,  credit fraud, investment fraud, securities fraud, mass marketing fraud):

  • one or more of the RCMP strategic priorities (i.e. Organized Crime)
  • substantial value or financial losses
  • substantial impact on victims
  • high degree of criminal sophistication
  • requirement for special investigative expertise
  • municipal, provincial, or federal governments as victim
  • satisfying public or national interest”

There’s an old saying that bears repeating – “you will never meet a con-man you don’t like.” While a lease agreement won’t prevent a horse from disappearing if someone has the intent, a written agreement may be a deterrent against someone who impulsively decides to help themselves after identifying a target.  If someone won’t agree to a contract in writing,  walk away.

TIME MARCHES ON QUICKLY WHEN HORSES GO MISSING…

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The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition publishes this document to help horse owners locate their horses or get word to the slaughterhouses that a horse has been stolen. Applicable to both Canadians and Americans. Click to view.

You wonder what is happening to the horse…  Is he or she OK;  is someone hurting them?  What is the horse thinking about where he or she now is?  It doesn’t matter if you are pro or anti-slaughter – both sides know that when a horse is taken from you all you can do is think of ways to bring your horse home.

The heartbreak of owners Kim Wilson and Kayla Whatling  is reminiscent of that experienced by American Vicky Johnson, who has invested years into her own personal search for her missing and much loved mares Suzy and Echo, who were apparently sold to a slaughter horse buyer after being promised a caring home. Almost everything told to Vicky about the whereabouts of her horses was a lie, but both had received phenylbutazone and other drugs and medications, prohibited from entering the food chain. No one was ever punished for this crime against Vicky and her horses either.

Unlike with the “traditional” farm animals, there is truly no verification system in place to ensure that horses who do go to slaughter are sent there by those with rightful legal ownership.  Horses sold to slaughterhouses or kill buyers without the owner’s knowledge or permission are sold with Equine Information Documents (EIDs) that were fabricated during the last leg of the horses’ journey to the plant, often by someone who has owned the horse for a few days or weeks if that. Such individuals have no basis to make any claim that the horse has not received any prohibited substances.  Saying you don’t remember whether you shipped a horse or that “many horses look the same” is not an excuse.  In fact, since many horses do look similar this is further testament to the fact that the EIDs do not sufficiently identify them or differentiate between them with any degree of certainty.

Here are scans of the Toronto Sun articles on the missing horses Sargon and Apollo – these articles from the newspaper contain additional information written by The Sun’s crime reporter Chris Doucette, which was not provided in the online versions. With these articles, Mr. Doucette joins the ranks of investigative journalists Mary Ormsby and Dale Brazao of the Toronto Star in addressing the profound shortcomings of the horsemeat trade in Canada.

In the past the Toronto Sun has featured various articles about “bad boy culinists” who promoted  the eating of horsemeat in their restaurants, so this series of articles is definitely a welcome divergence.  [I hope a few foodies and restaurateurs serving horsemeat in Toronto see these articles as well…]

 

[Click on each article to embiggen to read]

 

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Food Scientist Claims “Liquid Poured On Pigs” A Biosecurity Risk #PIGTRIAL

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toronto-pig-save-transport-11Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

“…. the actions of these activists simply aren’t safe – not only not for themselves, the truck drivers and their pigs. But also for the consumers,”  writes Keith Warriner,  Professor of Food Science at the University of Guelph.The seemingly humane gesture of feeding water to pigs can actually jeopardize the system and impact the food you serve to your family.The trial taking place in Toronto has touched upon various angles of this incident. But the key issue is the interference with food safety. For anyone who eats pork, this is a product of a food processing system. And it’s absolutely essential that it’s produced in a closed system that hasn’t been tampered with.”

Dr Warriner recently chose to write a guest column that appeared in the Toronto and Winnipeg Sun papers.  Instead of providing an evidence-based opinion on any one of the prevalent food-related pathways to disease and sickness in Canada,  he chose to write about the “unknown liquid” that Anita Krajnc and other Toronto Pig Save activists had given to pigs on the day Dr. Krajnc was charged. It doesn’t appear that anyone believes that there were contaminants in the water the activists have given to the pigs before or since Anita’s arrest – apparently neither Fearman’s Pork nor Van Boekel Hog Farms believes this,  otherwise,  the animals would not have been slaughtered for food.  Neither does the CFIA apparently believe the pigs were contaminated,  since they issued no recall that I could find.  If there was the slightest belief that the water was poisoned,  the bottles would have been confiscated and the water tested.  To the best of my knowledge,  there was no economic loss resultant to the watering of the pigs and NO CRIME HAD BEEN COMMITTED.

The CFIA classifies recalls based on the level of health risk associated with the food product being recalled. High risk triggers include illness outbreaks,  food test results, inspection img_0560findings,  and consumer complaints.  In 2014 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued 714 recalls, following 467 recalls  in 2013 and 595 in 2012, Undeclared allergens (unlisted ingredients or product mislabeling) and microbial contaminations make up the majority of recalls,  according to Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at the University of Guelph’s Food Institute.

The Red Meat Condemnation report from Agriculture Canada provides a testament to the true brutality of both the transport and slaughter operations.  In 2015, 20,244,822 pigs were slaughtered,  and 7.02 pigs per thousand slaughtered were found dead on arrival at the slaughterhouse.  That amounts to 14,221 pigs.  Almost as many pigs were condemned on ante-mortem inspection for abscesses, peritonitis, arthritis, pneumonia, septicemia, emaciation, hepatitis, bruising, hernia, fracture, and many other conditions, suggesting that perhaps more were in very poor condition upon arrival at the slaugherhouse.  According to CFIA prosecution notices for that same year,  no one was convicted of anything as a result.

kindness-to-pigs-on-a-cattle-trainI hope our food scientists will continue to bring attention to serious risks in the food supply,  rather than trying to pick off the “low-hanging fruit” that are the protests at slaughterhouses.  I would like to propose that Dr. Warriner write an article condemning the abuse of transport and the risks of veterinary drug contamination with horse slaughter in Canada.  Certainly horse slaughter is not a closed system – non-farmers are dealing in drugged meat with false and incomplete EIDs, concealing incompetence and deceit, often at the highest levels.  In fact,  I plan to send him an email asking him to do exactly that.

Those activists who wish to expose inhumane farming practices and give water to animals enroute to slaughter are not terrorists. Dr. Warriner,  I cannot respect your attempts to try and criminalize activism.  Please respect the right of thoughtful citizens to express what they see as a moral outrage. Videos of activists providing water to pigs have mobilized a movement towards improving the quality of life of pigs, chickens, and cows.  In the absence of the animal welfare movement, there is an obvious race to the bottom.

 

gerry-ritz-listeriosis-copy

When the news first broke that an outbreak of Listeriosis had resulted in the deaths of several Canadians, you might expect the minister responsible for food safety, to immediately step in, or at least take the matter seriously. Instead,  former Ag. Minister Gerry Ritz actually thought the whole matter rather funny, so much so that he immediately joked about the demise of the victims. Forget that it was under his watch – his funny bone was tickled and he wanted to share the feeling.

A look back at recent outbreaks and recalls in Canada,  courtesy of @Barfblog’s contributors, including Drs. Powell, Chapman, Hubbell and assorted food safety lecturers at Barfblog.com  – the unofficial internet gatekeepers on food-related illness and terrible reality cooking shows…

From toxic mothballs to blister beetles in food, there are no cautionary mentions of illness caused by the “tampering” of food by animal activists.

 

Horse “Passports” Come Up Lame At Saskatchewan Auction – Will CFIA Take Corrective Action?

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larry_the_cable_guy_health_inspector_xlgWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Hat Tip:  Debby

The Johnstone Auction Mart in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan sells over 1,000 equines per year  in lots or as riding horses – minis, yearlings, bucking stock, mares and geldings in both “medium” and “good” condition.   Selling prices range from about $25 up to $4,400 (more for lots).  The average prices for horses they advertise as “older” is $200-$400,  which of course are within the realm of slaughter prices.

Like most auction websites,  they provide a link to the Equine Information Document (EID) which the CFIA has always told us is mandatory for slaughter-bound horses.  But  auction management have a rather unique way of interpreting who needs to fill one out.

Their website states:

“Horses sold at Regular Horse Sales must have the following document filled out regarding  and drugs [sic] which may have been given to the horse in the previous 180 days.  Although not mandatory,  it is in the seller’s interest to fill one out for each horse so the price is not discounted.

Yearlings, and miniatures and donkeys do not need an EID form.”

johnstone-auction-mart

 

This statement struck me as extremely odd,  mainly because they touted the EID as a “mandatory,  yet optional” document,  and also because they indicated that it was not required for yearlings, minis, or donkeys.  It is the slaughterhouses’ responsibility to ensure that a valid EID has been submitted for each equine they receive,  but if it is only optional at any auction,  who will collect it if not the sale barn itself?  And why were some equines seemingly exempt?  Both the Meat Hygiene Manual of the CFIA and farming Codes of Practice,  when referring to equines,  consider that the term “horse” refers to all domestic equine species, namely horses, ponies, miniature horses, donkeys, mules and hinnies.

eid-from-meat-hygiene-manual

From the CFIAs Meat Hygiene Manual….

After navigating my way through the CFIA’s new phone system with 78 menu options and 7 levels,  designed to discourage all but the most indefatigible caller,  I was transferred to various people whose mailboxes were all full and there was no way to backtrack.  The whole idea of all the options and levels is to deter you from actually getting anything done. It cuts down on the number of complaints and support that must be provided.  Normally,  to get the fastest service I would press any number that indicates to the organization that I am likely to spend money on more service,  but that clearly won’t work with the CFIA. Ignoring the menu options and sitting on hold waiting for someone to answer won’t work either. When when I finally reached a live person they both grilled me to find out why an Ontarian would have any interest in something happening in Saskatchewan.  How about just answering the question?

Mini horses are uneconomical to ship long distances to slaughter. But if an opportunity presents itself, they are still considered to be “meat on the hoof.” Photo courtesy of Tierschutzbund (Switzerland) taken on a feedlot in Alberta.

Mini horses are uneconomical to ship long distances to slaughter. But if an opportunity presents itself, they are still considered to be “meat on the hoof.” Photo courtesy of Tierschutzbund (Switzerland) taken on a feedlot in Alberta.

I finally spoke with two veterinarians,  neither of whom appears to have any idea what really happens at a horse auction even though both were familiar with this particular business. Dr. Allison Danyluk Ross,  a supervisory veterinarian for the western operations of the CFIA  helpfully reassured me that not all horses at auctions go for slaughter.  She reiterated that it was not the auction mart’s responsibility to collect EIDs at all,  but that somehow,  they must arrive with horses presented for slaughter.  So it’s the owner’s responsibility to fill out the EID,  but it’s not mandatory, and it doesn’t have to be filled out at the actual auction, so by what other means would it arrive at the slaughterhouse if the horse is sold to a kill buyer? (that’s a rhetorical question,  dear readers).

Once again, any form that only asks for voluntary declaration of drugs is unlikely to be complied with when the seller wishes

These young mules were photographed by me at the OLEX auction in Waterloo Ontario on July 5, 2016. I was unable to stay to find our whether they went to a private home or were sold to a kill buyer. The fact that they are mules is not an impediment to slaughtering them, despite what the CFIA thinks.

These young mules were photographed by me at the OLEX auction in Waterloo Ontario on July 5, 2016. I was unable to stay to find our whether they went to a private home or were sold to a kill buyer. The fact that they are mules is not an impediment to slaughtering them, despite what the CFIA thinks.

to dispose of the horse for profit. I had to ask Dr. Danyluk Ross twice why minis, yearlings,  and donkeys do not require EIDs at this auction before she finally responded that she would pass my concern onto the Red Meat Specialist. Obviously Dr. Danyluk Ross believes everything is fine because the CFIA audits the paperwork – audit reports are only useful if someone in authority at the CFIA  reviews the results, understands the risks addressed by the standards and makes risk-reduction decisions based on the results.  Indeed,  Canada’s food safety system is a patchwork of third-party audits, personal assurances (like Dr. Danyluk Ross’ email), and profit before protection.

When veterinarian Dr. Harry King was asked why Johnstone Auctions would indicate on their webpage that minis, yearlings and donkeys brought to the auction would not require an EID,  he replied,  “because we don’t slaughter them in Canada.”  He also said that Johnstone Auctions focuses primarily on goats and cows and not horses,  and that they are not a “horse slaughter auction.”  Dr. King is dead wrong,  since the Donkey Sanctuary in Guelph acknowledges rescuing donkeys from slaughter (albeit,  in the province of Ontario) and kill buyer Eddie Kohlman is known to frequent the Saskatchewan horse auctions.

So much energy is spent on denial rather than enforcing legislation and regulations that already exist. Any belief or

suggestion that EIDs are consistently completed by owners invites some serious criticism.  In the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition’s investigation – “Pasture to Plate,” there can be no dispute that, when reviewing the EIDs included in the document, a pattern emerges and it is very clear to see that some EIDs have obviously been “pre-written” across the top with “Drug-free six months,” and the appropriate boxes checked to agree with this information.

Why did the CFIA inspectors and slaughter plant operators not flag this for concern? What remedial actions have the CFIA taken against auctions and owners that have submitted incomplete, incorrect or falsified EIDs?  In addition, what actions has the CFIA taken to ensure Canadian and American horses sold at auctions have EIDs that are filled in completely, correctly and truthfully by their owners?

Epiloque – September 21, 2016

Apparently the CFIA decided to act quickly on this one.  Johnstone’s horse auction page with incorrect EID instructions was quickly modified to remove the references to donkeys, minis, and yearlings.  You can see the change has been made here.  I believe someone at the CFIA intended to let me know of the outcome by phone,  as I had received a call,  but no one left a message.

Embryo Transfer – A Shadowy Market Ripe for Exploitation

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mare-services

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

We’ve known for many years that farm animals have been exploited to produce more meat, milk, wool etc.  Embryo transfer in horses is another technology that is unrivalled for its inefficiency and costliness.  There’s also some evidence that embryo transfer (ET) is exploitative because it can be painful, requiring analgesics.  We recently read about the cast-off recipient mares (the “gestational” carriers that give birth to foals of a different mare/stallion) from the Arnold Reproduction Center  who were consigned to the Kaufman kill pen/kill buyer Mike McBarron for eventual slaughter.   Once exposed on social media platforms, veterinarian Leea Arnold responded:

“I recently sent some mares to the Cleburne Horse Sale.  I certainly never intended for them to end up in the slaughter pen. Many of these mares came to me through the sale barn system, were sick, completely unbroken and certainly destined for slaughter at that time (15 or so years ago). As long as these mares are reproductively sound, they stay in my herd – many probably longer than they are useful. My staff and I have taken the time, money, and resources we have to help these mares become useful and give them a viable purpose.

“I will use another avenue to re-home these mares in the future. If you are a non-profit organization and have your 501(c)3 at hand, I would be more than happy to donate any older or reproductively unsound recipients to your facilities as they become available.”

Dr. Arnold did not otherwise offer to help the animals that were scheduled to be sent for slaughter.

gypsyIn addition to horses, mules are also being used in at least one euphemistically named “mule mom” program  using embryo transfers from gypsy vanner mares.  The Gypsy Gold breeding program  in Ocala Florida charges up to $14,000 for a purebred gypsy vanner foal carried by a mule, who is often shipped to and from the Gypsy Gold Horse Farm and the contractor of their service.  They also helpfully offer a service for purchasers of the gypsy foal who are not satisfied with the quality of their new purchase – they will connect you with an “appropriate buyer” – quite possibly the same buyer who will purchase the mule moms once their fertility wanes.  At the moment, this farm offers 11 mares for breeding, so one can only imagine how many times they are being flushed out and the number of “mule moms” that are being used as gestational carriers.

Currently, most equine breed associations permit embryo transfer. Notable exceptions include the Jockey Club (thoroughbreds), the United States Trotting Association, and the American Miniature Horse Association. Brazil and Argentina are currently the leaders in equine ET, although it’s believed that about 10,000 embryos were collected and transferred in the USA in 2014. The practice seems to have become more widespread in 2015, with more countries reporting embryo transfer activities, including Canada, South Africa, France, Poland, Switzerland, the USA, and Mexico.

Why is Equine Embryo Transfer Also A Welfare Issue?

Because veterinarians can only flush fertilized eggs (embryos) from the uterus of a donor mares at specific times the cycles of one or more recipient mares must be synchronized with the donor mare. This is why reproductive vet clinics tend to have a wide selection of recipient mares from which to choose. The number of mares that some vet clinics keep on hand for this purpose varies from dozens of mares to hundreds.   In many cases the donor mare is synchronized with two or more recipient mares in the event that multiple embryos are recovered from the donor mare.  Obviously,  these mares’ “jobs” come with no guarantee of a home placement after their careers are over and may easily fall into the wrong hands.

There are potential welfare issues for a donor mare, including those associated with the flushing procedure and with repeat injections to attempt to induce ovulation when used. Because more than two mares may be involved, the number of invasive rectal and ultrasound examinations is increased. Where recipient mare numbers are limited, greater pharmacological manipulation (often involving repeated injections) may also be used to achieve ovulatory synchronization between donor and recipient mares.

While there are apparently no studies on whether ET is painful in mares, it is known to be painful in other species, especially those in which embryo flushing is a surgical procedure. Perhaps because of this it is common practice to sedate mares both during flushing and ET.

Transvaginal ultrasound-guided follicular aspiration in women is known to be associated with pain, the severity of which is dependent upon needle design. In sheep and goats, repeated surgical egg retrieval has been associated with the development of adhesions. In a study of pony mares who were the subject of invasive follicular procedures, it was observed that heart rates and cortisol levels increased considerably as soon as a needle was introduced into the procedure.

Lastly, the development of the “super ovulation” protocol and the resulting production of more oocytes (cells that develop into an ovum/egg) will heighten the possibility of more foals using larger herds of recipient mares, greater numbers of horses born that aren’t needed,  and more slaughter after the recip mares are no longer required.

Drugs/Hormones  Commonly Used in Equine Reproduction Practices and Their Withdrawal Times

Sources for withdrawal times were the Meat Hygiene Manual of the CFIA or drug datasheets.  It is important to note that withdrawal times are often extended when drug

Most donor mares are sport horses, Arabians or Quarter Horses. It’s an appealing option for those who can afford it, since it allows the option of the owner taking their mare out of competition for only about a week in order to produce a foal.

Most donor mares are sport horses, Arabians or Quarter Horses. It’s an appealing option for those who can afford it, since it allows the option of the owner taking their mare out of competition for only about a week in order to produce a foal.

combinations are used. Drugs used off-label in unapproved species may have differing withdrawal times even though appropriate dosage is given and whether used in combination with other drugs. The dose itself along with the frequency of use (repeated oral administrations can greatly extend withdrawal times) are two of the most important factors.  Compounded drugs (as opposed to generic or branded drugs sold OTC or through veterinarians) can vary widely in potency as well.  The amount of body fat, the breed, gender and health of the horse are also factors that affect kinetic decay of drugs.  Lastly, the amount of stress that the horse is subject to may also affect withdrawal times.  And even though a pharmacological effect on the animal may be over, the drug and its metabolites may still be detectable, and those metabolites may also be prohibited. The CFIA manual doesn’t tell anyone this, nor could they expect the lay horse person to understand any of the factors that also affect withdrawal times and drug tests,

Altrenogest/Progesterone/ Medroxyprogesterone (synthetic variant of hormone progesterone)

  • Trade name: Regumate®, Depo-Provera® (medroxyprogesterone)
  • Class of Drug: Hormone
  • Use:   Clinical uses include synchronizing the ovulations of a donor mare with a specific recipient mare. It may also be used to alter or manipulate the estrous cycle of a mare for a scheduled breeding due to stallion availability.
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition:  42 days withdrawal

Flunixin meglumine

  • Trade Name: Banamine®
  • Class of Drug: non-narcotic, nonsteroidal, analgesic agent with anti-inflammatory and antipyretic activity
  • Use: Reduces moderate inflammation by stopping the formation of prostaglandins, which are mediators of inflammation.  They also reduce the formation of certain pain-causing products of inflammation.  Embryo recipients may receive flunixin meglumine i.v. at the time of transfer.
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition: IV – 10 days/IM 30 days

Vedaprofen

  • Trade Name:  Quadrisol, VETRANAL
  • Class of Drug: Analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory agent, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, NSAID
  • Use: For the control of inflammation and relief of pain associated with musculo-skeletal disorders and soft tissue injuries in horses
  • CFIA Withdrawal Prohibition: 21 days (oral and IV)

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)

  • Trade Name: Chorulon®
  • Class of Drug: Gonadotropin releasing hormone or GnRH
  • Use: Can also be administered to mares to accelerate ovulation selectively where needed to improve the degree of synchrony between the donor and recipient mares. Induces ovulation in mares. Induction of ovulation is advantageous if a mare is in a timed breeding, shipped semen, frozen semen or embryo transfer program.
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition:  0 days

Deslorelin Acetate

  • Trade Name: Ovuplant™ SucroMate™
  • Class of Drug: Gonadotropin releasing hormone or GnRH
  • Use: A potent, synthetic form of GnRH. The drug is administered as a subcutaneous implant.The most common use in a breeding program is the induction of a timed ovulation, such as when mares are being bred with cooled-transported semen or frozen semen
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition:  not on CFIA website but listed with a “WARNING: For use in horses (estrous mares) only. Do not use in horses intended for human consumption. For intramuscular (IM) use only. Do not administer intravascularly. Not for use in humans. Keep this and all drugs out of reach of children.”

Lidocaine Hydrochloride

  • Trade Name: Lidoject, Lidocaine HCI 2% etc.
  • Class of Drug: Local anesthetic and anti-arrhythmic agent.
  • Use:  Skin block for sutures and implants
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition: 7 days

Prostaglandins

Domperidone

  • Trade Name:  Equidone®
  • Class of Drug: Dopamine antagonist. Neurotransmitter
  • Use: Modulates or suppresses production of the hormone prolactin from the pituitary.  In breeding programs it stimulates lactation or the induction of lactation in nurse mares or the induction of follicular development. Also used as a preventative for fescue toxicosis.
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition: “no known manufacture for veterinary use in Canada”

Oxytocin

  • Trade Name: OxoJect™, Oxytocin-S
  • Class of Drug: Hormone
  • Use: Administered to mares for evacuation of uterine fluid and treatment of retained placenta. It may also be used for induction of labor in late term mares and milk let-down.
  • CFIA Withdrawal/Prohibition: not on website: 0 days

eFSH

 

The welfare of the animal is always compromised when greed is involved.  The ability for breeders to implant multiple embryos with no limits caters to the wealthy individuals in the industry. Rakhassa Bey While one might argue that ET is less risky than foaling for a mare,  horses should not have litters, especially since there is some question whether it is humane to repeatedly subject both recipient and donor mares to invasive procedures, after which many horses are dumped.  The worst  but hardly the only offender of this practice, the AQHA, allows multiple-embryo-transfer rules that facilitate overpopulation by allowing mares to have more than one foal per year. Rules about using frozen semen or eggs from long-sterile or dead animals  have allowed horses to breed from beyond the grave.  Consider that First Prize Dash,  a 1988 quarter horse mare – produced  44 offspring!  Her sire, Dash for Cash, sired 1,233 foals!  

It is also very doubtful  that either Canadian or Mexican slaughterhouses have tested for some of these lesser used or less obvious drugs or hormones.  Since some drugs/hormones are not even line items in the Meat Hygiene Manual, it would be easy for sellers of horses to plead ignorance of the requirement to disclose on an EID. Embryo transfer therefore facilitates  an already unsavory horsemeat industry in novel, previously unanticipated ways.

Bowmanville Zoo’s New Zebra Highlights Equine Disease Surveillance Concerns

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Zorro in his first Canadian home. He is a Plains/Burchell's Zebra. Health records and a Coggins test for EIA were done when he was imported to Ontario.

Zorro in his first Canadian home. He is a Plains/Burchell’s Zebra. Health records and a Coggins test for EIA were done when he was imported to Ontario in 2012.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

It’s no secret that the Bowmanville Zoo is on the receiving end of more negative publicity after Zoo Director Michael Hackenberger muttered some expletives at his mini-horse riding baboon Austin after the primate didn’t follow his “script” during a live television show. Hackenberger later apologized for his utterances after the TV show expressed its displeasure with his lack of impulse control towards his animals.

But the Alberta branch of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement have inadvertently put the Bowmanville Zoo in the spotlight again when they seized a tame Burchell’s Zebra named “Zorro” from a farm in Alberta, where he is a prohibited animal, and gave him to the Zoo while they were in town supplying animals for “Whoop-Up Days” in Alberta. Not only did Fish and Wildlife confound the issue with Zorro’s previous owners in a long chain of custody disagreement, they apparently did not test him for Equine Infectious Anemia before giving him to the zoo.

Timeline of Events

  1. June 2012 – Zorro imported to Canada
  2. February 2015 – Zorro sold to Newmarket, Ontario equine rescue/breeder who did not take possession of him immediately. He then spent some months at a different facility in Ontario
  3. July 2015 – Zorro flipped to new Alberta owner by the rescue
  4. August 2015 – Zorro seized by Fish and Wildlife Enforcement as a prohibited animal
  5. August 2015 – An offer was made by Fish and Wildlife Enforcement to return Zorro to his last owner in Ontario, who refused to accept him. He was then offered back to the owners of the farm who imported him, who agreed to take him. After arrangements were made, F&WE wrote back that they would be giving him to the Bowmanville Zoo, as “this  facility is CAZA accredited and we feel confident that they have the ability to provide the care for this animal.”
  6. August 2015 – The zebra was picked-up August 23rd

At one time earlier in the email chain Fish and Wildlife Enforcement proposed that Zorro be relocated to the Calgary Zoo, but something changed their minds. Did the decision have anything to do

Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch (to original Ontario owner on August 19th) – “A zoo in Ontario will be taking Zorro. They want a human friendly animal and we will be picking Zorro up at no cost.”

Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch wrote (to original Ontario owner on August 19th) – “A zoo in Ontario will be taking Zorro. They want a human friendly animal and we will be picking Zorro up at no cost.”

with the fact that the Bowmanville Zoo was touring in Alberta at the time and had available space in their trailer?

Ignoring all the issues with private ownership of exotic animals, the most concerning to me is the fact that Fish and Wildlife Enforcement (and probably other branches of the Alberta government) did not have concerns about shipping an equid to Ontario without testing for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), a disease which while rare, is devastating to horse owners when it does invade their barns, since equids must be permanently quarantined in a building with vigilant insect control (the vectors that spread the disease are flies and other insects that bite an infected horse before transferring it to another) or humanely euthanized. Also commonly called “swamp fever,” EIA is caused by a retrovirus, similar to the human HIV.  There is currently no vaccine against the virus, and once infected an equine carries the virus for the rest of its life.  Episodes of more severe signs can occur even years after the initial infection, and during these episodes an infected animal poses the greatest threat to other horses because the viral load in the bloodstream is very high with greater potential for being spread to other animals.

Fish And Wildlife Enforcment Branch (to former Ontario owner on August 17) “It is paramount that we establish the risk factor, if any, to Alberta’s Equine and Cattle industries…”

 

From the picture I can’t tell whether Zorro is completely partitioned off from the cats. Megaphones from across the street during zoo protests are stressful, but travelling with predators is not?

From the picture I can’t tell whether Zorro is completely partitioned off from the cats. The zoo complains that megaphones from across the street during protests are stressful, but travelling with predators is not?

The test for EIA is generally referred to as a Coggins test, although a more accurate ELISA-type test is lately being used to test for the disease, which is most frequently found in Saskatchewan and Alberta. In those provinces there’s a reservoir of infected horses that are still not being identified, and could continue to perpetuate the infection.

OMAFRA fact sheet on EIA

“Equine infectious anemia (EIA) ….. is a potentially fatal disease caused by a virus that can infect all types of equines, including horses, mules, zebras and donkeys. In most cases, the disease begins with an acute phase of illness, followed by chronic cyclical symptoms, which continue throughout the remainder of the horse’s life. Some horses do not show any symptoms but can still be a source of infection for other animals. EIA occurs throughout Ontario and is an ongoing concern for horse owners in the province.”

Control Measures in Canada

  • To conduct EIA testing in Canada, a veterinarian must be federally accredited and send samples only to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)-approved labs.
  • It is required by law that all suspected cases of EIA be immediately reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which investigates all reported cases. In Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) may at times provide assistance with the response.
  • If a horse is confirmed to have EIA, it may either be placed under a permanent CFIA quarantine (if it doesn’t have any symptoms) or ordered destroyed with paid compensation.
  • The CFIA also requires mandatory testing of imported horses and has strict regulations on import of animals and animal products.

Worms and Germs Blog – “EIA testing is required prior to travel to many places and prior to participating in many competitions or shows.  Regular testing of animals that travel frequently helps to identify infected animals more quickly.”

 

At this point in time testing for EIA is a voluntary program administered by the CFIA, but horse owners in Alberta and Saskatchewan are often cautioned to avoid proximity to horses of unknown

Zebras are preyed upon by Lions, Leopards, Hyenas and African Wild Dogs, along with numerous other large carnivores such as Crocodiles when they are crossing rivers or drinking. Hopefully he was fully partitioned off from the lions and tigers with a solid barricade.

This is the trailer Zorro travelled in after he was seized. Zebras are preyed upon by lions, leopards, hyenas and african wild dogs, along with numerous other large carnivores such as crocodiles when they are crossing rivers or drinking. Hopefully Zorro was fully partitioned off from the lions and tigers with a solid barricade so he would not be caused anxiety while on the long trip to Ontario.

EIA status.  This can be tough to do if your horse (or zebra) goes to shows where EIA testing is not mandatory. But with the current problems out west (or anywhere else that EIA may be circulating) testing for EIA prior to moving horses to other provinces is something that should be strongly promoted. This is especially important as the prairies are seeing the highest number of EIA cases in years, with many new cases emerging each year on different properties.

While the Fish and Wildlife people insist in emails that Zorro is a concern for the cattle and equine industry (which is not a frivolous concern) they don’t mention EIA in any emails to former owners of Zorro, nor do they evidently have any concern about the ONTARIO equine industry when they return him without any apparent Coggins test. Was he tested at all before embarking to Ontario? If so when? According to his Alberta owner, no one came to her farm to stick him with a needle at any point, and he was loaded directly on a trailer bound for Ontario with other animals.  It is a bit after-the-fact to be testing him once he’s arrived at the zoo isn’t it?  Rather like shutting the barn door after the horse has already escaped….According to CAZA (Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums) testing for EIA appears in their Accreditation Standards documentation, and equids must be quarantined, as a “best practice.”

I think it is very unlikely that Zorro has been exposed to EIA. He’s a good weight and looks very healthy in fact.  However, complacency is what contributes to the transmission of disease. The zoo equines as well as the horse industry should not be overlooked. I’ve always been required to provide a negative Coggins test even when changing barns within Ontario, because barn owners know that it could devastate their businesses if all the horses had to be destroyed.

It’s rather hypocritical for any level of the Alberta government to express concern only for their cattle and equines (by asking for vet records from previous owners),  but not show any basic common sense when sending Zorro to Ontario where we also have equines.  In any case,  veterinary records from 2012 wouldn’t prove much,  and are completely outdated.  Coggins is good for six months only.  Equines travelling from Alberta and Saskatchewan should automatically be tested before being transferred to the eastern provinces, IMO.

 

Godbout Express Access-To-Information Docs Reveal Horses In Transit 27+ Hours

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Justice

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The CFIA documents and slaughter records pertaining to the May 15th shipment of two tractor trailers of horses seen near Marysville, ON on a holiday weekend have now been received.  The enquiry was made to ascertain whether or not the horses would have been unloaded in a timely manner on a long holiday weekend in Canada. The paperwork reveals that, as expected,  Godbout Express was driving for Ohio Kill Buyer Fred Bauer and the 56 horses were shipped from Larue Ohio.  The horses were on the trailers for 27+ hours.  Please refer to the previous blog post and video.

Chronology and Summary

  • May 15th @ 5:00 AM  – horses loaded in Larue, Ohio
  • May 15th – border crossing to Canada at Sarnia, Ontario entry point
  • May 15th @7:00 PM – two trailers of horses documented by animal activist Rob Boisvert in Marysville, Ontario,  approximately 5 hours (with traffic) away from Richelieu slaughterhouse
  • May 16th – paperwork completed for Access-To-Information request and mailed to the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada*
  • May 16th @8:15 AM – horses were unloaded at Richelieu slaughterhouse in Massueville, QC on  – 27+ hours later (the regulation limit for transit time in Canada is 36 hours).
  • May 19th – as soon as the plant opened for operations on the Tuesday following the statutory holiday – Boom! – all 56 horses from the two trailer loads were fastracked to the express lane for slaughter
  • July 28th – ATI Request completed & returned to originator – USDA Form 10-13 lists horses as mostly quarter horses and standardbreds,  with the occasional appy or paint; no non-compliance orders indicated

*information was also requested as to the condition of the horses at the time of unloading, but this information was either withheld or simply not provided.

Although the manifests made note of several lip tattoos and brands, only a few were indicated and were sufficiently legible enough to trace.  Most horses with lip tattoos will be thoroughbreds and not standardbreds,  unless perhaps in their late 20s or 30s since the practice of lip-tattooing a standardbred has long been phased-out.  With a swipe of the pen,  no thoroughbreds are sent to slaughter!  Richelieu supposedly backed away from slaughtering thoroughbreds (at least on paper) as a result of the Cactus Cafe & Canuki fiasco with trainer Mark Wedig.  According to an email from Richelieu administrative technician Geneve Ethier,  the Canuki and Cactus Cafe case “did occur major problems to us and a lot of time, efforts, and money consuming. So to avoid that in the future, the plant advises all his suppliers to not BUY those thoroughbred[s] and overall not have them ship to us. . . . For us, thoroughbred[s] are definitely banned from our premises.”  The likelihood that this shipment of 56 horses, some with lip tattoos, contains no thoroughbreds, is quite improbable.  So of course, the paperwork is virtually without a doubt – not accurate,  or we dare say – FALSE.

In two conversations I had with CFIA veterinarians regarding this shipment, at no time did they tell me that veterinarians/inspectors at slaughterhouses worked any shift other than the standard top hat tip Debbyday shift.  According to a 2011 article in Better Farming,  “slaughter-bound shipments will be accepted only during the CFIA’s regular hours of operation…So miraculously perhaps,  an inspector was either working a Saturday as part of his/her normal job requirements (the day the horses were unloaded) or was called in especially to break the seal.  If the drivers make this trip twice a week (a statement made to Rob Boisvert when he quizzed them in Marysville) then it’s reasonable to assume that the horses are left overnight, packed together in stupefyingly hot July and August weather with no access to water, if the same driving schedule is followed.

Every attempt was made to determine the ID of the horses on these shipments. A few are questionable with more than one possibility due to the illegibility of the writing.  Judging by their ages, most of these STB mares could have been older broodmares whose services were no longer required.  The remaining 50 horses all had names at one time; to us they are unknown and untraceable, but not to be forgotten.

In Memoriam:

T4738 – STB Mare – “Gettinjiggywithit

5B159 – STB Gelding – “Snilloc Three

2B448 – STB Mare – “Spring Hill Mini

8A452? – STB Mare – “BC Firepan

L2415? – STB Mare – “Hawaiian Alumina” could alternatively be L2485? –  STB Mare – “Picupyosocs

6G525 – STB Mare – “Fast Bunny

 

The 9 Ethical Principles of the True Horseman

  1.  Anyone involved with a horse takes over responsibility for the living creature entrusted to him.
  2. The horse must be kept in a way that is in keeping with its natural living requirements.
  3. Highest priority must be accorded to the physical as well as psychological health of the horse, irrespective of the purpose for which it is used.
  4. Man must respect every horse alike, regardless of its breed, age and sex and its use for breeding, for recreation or in sporting competition.
  5. Knowledge of the history of the horse, its needs, and how to handle it are part of our historical-cultural heritage.  This information must be cherished and safeguarded in order to be passed on to the next generation.
  6. Contact and dealings with horses are character-building experiences and of valuable significance to the development of the human being – in particular, the young person.  This aspect must always be respected and promoted.
  7. The human who participates in equestrian sport with his horse must subject himself, as well his horse, to training.  The goal of any training is to bring about the best possible harmony between rider and horse.
  8. The use of the horse in competition as well as in general riding, driving and vaulting must be geared toward the horse’s ability, temperament and willingness to perform.  Manipulating a horses’ capacity to work by means of medication or other “horse-unfriendly” influences should be rejected by all and people engaged in such practices should be prosecuted.
  9. The responsibility a human has for the horse entrusted to him includes the end of the horse’s life.  The human must always assume this responsibility and implement any decisions in the best interest of the horse.

from “Tug of War” by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, dressage rider and veterinarian

 

 ATI Documentation

Godbout Express Observed Shipping Horses To Canada On Long Holiday Weekend

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Gadbout Express

It is permissible for horses to travel up to 36 hours enroute to slaughter

 

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Photos and video credit:  Rob Boisvert

On Friday, May 15th, two Godbout Express transports of horses were observed at an out-of-the-way truck stop in Marysville, Ontario by animal activist Rob Boisvert of Refuge RR in Alexandria Ontario. In listening to the video, it is evident that the drivers appear to be trying to mislead Boisvert and his friend, by telling them that they are enroute from Ohio (probably Sugarcreek Auction) to New Brunswick. They are actually headed to Quebec, and this is proven by a photo taken of one of the trailers which shows a CFIA seal – meaning that the truck cannot be opened until it reaches its destination at one of the two slaughter plants in that province. There are no provincially-registered horse slaughter facilities in New Brunswick.

 

 

 

 

Monday is a statutory holiday throughout most of Canada. The video was taken about 7 pm Friday. From Marysville (near Belleville, ON), it is possibly 5 hours drive or longer (with holiday weekend traffic) to either Les Petite Nations (in St. Andre-Avellin, PQ) or Richelieu ( in Massueville, PQ) slaughterhouses.  The horses would arrive very late the same day or possibly the next day.  We can only wonder what time they expected to get there?  Were the horses to be unloaded somewhere and rested?  According to a 2011 article in Better Farming,  “slaughter-bound shipments will be accepted only during the CFIA’s regular hours of operation…”  Therefore,  we can only take that to mean that unless arrangements were made to offload horses on Friday night, there would be no CFIA inspectors at the plant until TUESDAY, May 19th – more than three full days later!  The horses, unless unloaded somewhere (and by necessity breaking the CFIA seal), would have to stay on the trailer until that time – a horrifying possibility.  Would they be watered or fed? Already many of the horses are standing in the trailers with heads hanging low…

CFIA seal

CFIA Seal

Godbout Express is a repeat offender with the CFIA. The CFIA has most recently issued the company Notices of Violation  of Part XII of the Health of Animals Regulations for $7,800 during the period of October to December 2014, with total fines of $45,600 in both current and past reporting periods.

A check of US DOT #648752 reveals that Godbout Express has incurred two violations already in 2015 in the United States, with similar violations in 2014.

 2015 Violations:

HOS Compliance Violation:  395.3A3-PROP Driving beyond 11 hour driving limit in a 14 hour period. (Property Carrying Vehicle)
HOS Compliance Violation:  395.3A2-PROP Driving beyond 14 hour duty period (Property carrying vehicle)

Given the company’s propensity to incur violations,  further investigation with the CFIA will be necessary to determine when these horses arrived and were actually offloaded.

 

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CFIA Report

The CFIA site does not explain what species have been involved in these transport violations.

 

The Horse Sushi Sagas – Reblogged From “The Gadabout”

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This is a reblog from “The Gadabout,”  a blog by a pilot who writes of his flying experiences.  In these two blog posts written several years ago,  he gives his personal accounting of live horse shipments from Calgary, Alberta to Japan,  which have been previously documented by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition.  You will also notice in the original blog photos that the horses are shipped multiple animals to one container,  which is contrary to IATA regulations,  an issue the CHDC also brought to the attention of Transport Canada and the CFIA in 2012

It’s not possible to confirm or deny the claims made here about incidents with horse shipments at this time,  and some of the transport companies mentioned here may no longer be involved and other participants may have changed.  Atlas Air and Korean Air are the companies that have now been observed doing the shipments – Fedex is no longer involved.  Please do not leave negative comments on his blog,  but instead view it as a very revealing first person accounting of the logistics and tragedy of live horse shipments from Calgary to Japan, preceding a protest of the practice at YYC (Calgary Airport).  If you live in the Calgary area, please plan to attend this peaceful protest on April 16, 2015.

Head ’em Up! Move ’em Out! 

“Me and the boys are settled down around the campfire here in Fukuoka, Japan after a big day out on the range a-bustin’ broncs. (Please recall, gentle reader, a previous email where I informed you that “Fukuoka” is pronounced “Foo Ko Ka”. Let’s not have any frivolous mispronunciations here.)

Loading Horses in Calgary (5)

Loading the Horses in Calgary – From “The Gadabout”

OK, they weren’t doggies and they weren’t broncs. They were Percherons and Belgian Draft Horses. We moved 57 head of them critters from Anchorage to Fukuoka yesterday. That’s an 8 hour flight and let me tell you, pards, being stuck in a closed aluminum tube for 8 hours with 57 one-ton horses is an olifactory event. But I get ahead of myself.

There is evidently a big demand for horsemeat and horsey byproducts here in Mysterious Japan. Mitsui & Co, Ltd, Foodstuffs Division, is making enough money to pay FedEx handsomely to fly these behemoths from a ranch in Calgary, Canada to Fukuoka with a refueling stop in Anchorage. The ranch raises them for their first three years until they are full sized. We’re talking Budweiser Clydesdale size horses, here: they average 2000 lbs a piece on the hoof. Once they’ve achieved full horsey adult status, they go to Japan where they are evidently further fattened up before slaughter.

There were two horse charters flown yesterday for a total of 114 horses which is the maximum limit of the horse quarantine facility in Fukuoka. Fifty seven horses – my weight and balance sheet yesterday said they and their containers weighed 131,600 lbs – produce a lot of byproducts that have to taken into consideration when crammed into a wide body jet for many hours. First, there are the clever “Instone” Horse Containers. These cans keep the horses and the horse emanations from running around all over the back of the jet and the cargo hold. Makes the clean up process much more efficient, pards. Note the can does not have cute little yellow “dixie cup” oxygen masks that drop from the ceilings. If our aircraft “loses cabin pressure” – well, Pilgrim – them horses is screwed.

Please ignore the Atlas 747. FedEx has the charter now. Evidently other charters operators have let the horses get too hot and killed the whole plane load.

The charter comes with a certified “Horse Handler” – ours was from Ireland – and a FedEx loadmaster. The horse handler has a big ol’ syringe full of horsey tranquilizer and happy juice should one of those monsters grow too unruly.

There are several pages of instructions contained in the MD-11 flight manual that pertain to carrying livestock. We needed to take advantage of every one of them yesterday. Normally, we run the air system in the MD-11 on “Econ”, i.e, low air flow since there are at most only 5 people on the jet and running the air conditioners on full uses excess fuel. So I had to be sure to turn Econ off during preflight. Some jets have been modified with extra air lines and valves to be “High Flow” jets. Those airplanes had to be specifically tasked against this charter. Next, some of our jets only have a “Nine-G” cargo net and a flimsy plastic “vapor barrier” separating the courier and cockpit area from the cargo hold. Those won’t do. A horse charter has to have a rigid bulkhead system between the horses and the people. Operating out of Econ and in High Flow require increased fuel burn planning. So I and the dispatcher had to make sure we had enough gas to offset that.

Finally, all jets maintain cabin pressure by opening and closing an “outflow valve”. Conditioned Air from the A/C packs flow into the cabin. The outflow valves open and close automatically to maintain an exact cabin altitude. The problem is that 57 horses produce a lot more humidity than the aircraft designer planned for. That moisture can get in the outflow valves and at stratospheric cold temperatures they will freeze the valve in place. Being unable to control the cabin altitude half way across the Pacific with none or little divert options would be a bad thing. So every 30 minutes we had to go manual on the pressure controller and “exercise” the valve to keep it from freezing. Gotta tell you, pards, that gives the ol’ Eustachian tubes in the ears a work out, guarontee [sic] it.

What the book doesn’t tell you and you really need to know is that it is a really good idea to wrap your bags in plastic. If you don’t, your bag and it’s [sic] contents will smell of horse until you get to a time an place that will allow you to clean them. So, we spent and extra 10 minutes bagging all the stuff we wouldn’t need during the flight. Further, once we leveled off at cruise, the first thing we all did was to take off our uniforms and get into some old clothes. Then we bagged the uniforms too – hermetical seals, baby.

The cockpit wasn’t too bad, although you could tell that you had horses in the jet with you. But once you went back to the courier compartment for “physiological breaks” and to cook your meal, the odor of horse almost knocked you down. I’m sure my grandfather is laughing at me now: “That’s the smell of money, boy.” But, Popper could step out of the barn into the fresh air and we couldn’t.

Finally, we were supposed to hawk the temperature controls back in the cargo bay and keep the temperature right around 60 degrees. The packs were working just as hard as they could – I had them turned full cold – to keep them at 60 degrees.

What I didn’t expect – and I should have – was what happened during the approach and landing. Descent requires you to pull the power back – which significantly impacts the air coming into the packs. I tried to keep the power up a little, but there is only so much you can do and still descend, so the temps in the jet just shot up quickly. Elementary physics says that hotter air can’t hold as much humidity and by the time we landed we had moisture dripping off of the ceiling everywhere inside that jet. Yucky horsey moisture.

I wanted to go back and get some pictures of the horses but there wasn’t time before takeoff……and going past the rigid barrier during flight into the real miasma was counter indicated and I chose not to.

So the only pictures I got were of the unloading process at Fukuoka.

I was surprised at how calm the horses were during this process. It seemed like about every hour or so during the flight, one of the horses would start stamping back there in his can and it literally shook the whole airplane. During approach and landing it felt like they were doing a break dance back there. We tried to brake the minimum necessary and roll out the full length of the runway to keep from tossing them around. One or two really exuberant stomping episodes felt like a serious of small explosions to me.

As you look at these pictures, please note that these horse containers have seen some wear and tear and are not nearly the nice homey stalls that the thoroughbreds get when they travel. Certainly, none of these guys were Mr Ed.

Just a short layover here in FUK – yup, that’s Fukuoka’s identifier, I don’t make ’em up, I just have to live with ’em – but it’s a very nice hotel.

We had a really nice meal at a restaurant around the corner that served American style food: “Cafe George” was the name. All six of the two horse charter crews plus one load master all went together. All of us were ex Air Force and we told lies and swapped war stories for a couple of hours and a good time was had by all. Much better than eatin’ Cookie’s grub out the chuck wagon, I gotta tell you, Pilgrim.”

The Horse Charter Follies

“Howdy All,

About 6 months ago I wrote about flying a horse charter to Fukuoka, Japan. Evidently, there is a big market for horsemeat in Japan. Japanese restaurants evidently think Belgian Draft horses make really good sushi (Basashi) so there are ranches all over the landscape around Calgary and Edmonton that grow thousands of these huge horses. They weigh about 2000 lbs apiece by the time they are two years old and then we haul ‘em to Japan. We ship them three horses to a roll-on-roll-off ‘can’.

Unloading The Horses -

Unloading The Horses – From “The Gadabout”

Since we can not load enough horses and fuel to be profitable and fly non-stop, we fly them in two legs, the first to Anchorage to refuel and then on to Fukuoka where they are quarantined and then fattened for slaughter.

Gentle Reader, yesterday turned into yet another mechanical saga – the worst in fact of this two week stretch of work I’m on. First, 57 horses jammed into the aluminum tube of a widebody jet require some significant life support. You have to keep the air moving in and out for cooling and respiration. That many huge horses can generate a lot of body heat and a lot carbon dioxide. So, when we start loading them, we switch the airplane’s A/C packs to ‘high flow’ and crank the temperature as low as we can get it.

The next piece of information in this comedy of errors I’m relating is that Calgary is served by FedEx Airbus 300’s normally. The mechanic assigned to our flight was – on paper – qualified to work on MD-11’s but the most he’d ever done was top-off the ‘serviceables’ – fuel, oil, hydraulic fluid, oxygen and so forth. He might have changed a light bulb too…….

The airplane had just flown in from Hawaii and when it landed, the crew could not get one of the electrical buses to connect to the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). The APU is small jet engine turbine that sits in the tail and provided electricity and air to power, cool and start the airplane. If it can’t power the electrical buses, we are ‘hard broke’ – it’s got to be fixed or we can’t fly.

So a discussion occurs between the loadmaster and the mechanic: ‘How long will this take to fix? Can I start loading the horses?’ Without really thinking this through a decision is made to load them up. I am reminded of the scene in Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail where the bad guy drinks from the wrong cup and turns into dust. As the Knight Templar said: “He chose poorly.”

After the horses are loaded, the mechanic discovers that fixing the electrical problem is much more involved than he previously thought. It will require changing an electrical relay down in the electrical compartment between the landing gear. Further, we have to take all the electrical power off the airplane so it will be safe for him to switch out the relay. Since it is a ‘black box’ it shouldn’t be more than 30 minutes to change out.

Gentle Reader, it was a cool rainy day in Calgary – the temperature outside was just below 60 degrees and good strong breeze was blowing. If it had been normal Memorial Day weekend weather those horses would have been in big trouble because it took 5 hours to fix the jet.

First, our intrepid mechanic had to read the manual and follow it step by step. Evidently the compartment involved is very tight and it is tough to get the heavy black box in and out. Secondly, routing the cables involved is very tricky and requires some previous knowledge and this guy has none. He’s on the phone to the Maintenance experts in Memphis and they are talking him through this process.

I must start another aside here to further this tale. Several years ago, FedEx subcontracted one of these charters to Gemini Airlines. Gemini had some old, beat up 747 freighters that had bad air-conditioning systems in them. They were not up to the charter task and in fact they killed all the horses through lack of oxygen and carbon dioxide inhalation. My loadmaster on yesterday’s flight was also the unlucky loadmaster stuck with this tragedy. He’s really sensitive to horse mortality as he does not want his name associated with yet another incident.

So, about an hour into this process, it is getting steamy in the back of our jet. It’s dark, hot and you can’t see but two or three horse cans back. The loadmaster says to me the chilling words: “Geoff, this looks exactly how the Gemini disaster looked. We gotta do something.” So, we go down to the electrical compartment, get the mechanic out of there, put some power back on the jet so we can open up the aft doors on the main deck to let the breeze blow some air through the jet.

At this point a new problem arises. The only way to open the aft doors is to squeeze between the horse cans and the side of the jet all the back by the tail. When they get there, they discover that the wiring to the doors has been disconnected – since we never use those doors – as a security precaution. So, now they have to reassemble the wiring harness. This takes about 30 minutes and they are 100 feet aft of where I am up in the front of the jet and out of communication.

About 20 minutes into this process, I realize that if heat and CO2 inhalation can kill a horse, it can kill a person too. (I’m quick that way.) They did not take any kind of breathing equipment back with them. My imagination begins to work. So, I go back as far as I think I can safely go into the miasma. You can’t see 10 feet back…..and I begin shouting to see if they can hear me.

Gentle Reader, shouting near 57, large, hot, miserable horses is a bad idea. They begin kicking and stomping and generally making a fuss and shaking the whole airplane. If the loadmaster and the mechanic are answering me, I can’t hear it for all the uproar. I do feel somewhat better about the two guys since I’m thinking that if the horses still have energy to kick, then they are getting oxygen. But I’m still wondering if I’m going to have to call the fire department and have them go back there with breathing apparatus to resuscitate and rescue them. Finally, the horses settle down enough that I can hear them shout that they’ve just about got it open.

About the time they get the doors open, some more ground guys show up with an air-conditioning cart and they stick the big hose up in the doors and begin pumping cool air into the airplane. Now the mechanic can shut down the power again and go back to work fixing the jet.

In the meantime, the loadmaster starts working another issue. We have a ‘no later’ than time for the horses to arrive in Fukuoka. After that the airport is closed. If we go to Anchorage but can’t get to Fukuoka, there is no place to stable the horses. The horse handlers specifically state: “If we can’t get the horses to Fukuoka, we’d rather keep them here.’ They do have a temporary stable system in Calgary to get them off the jet. The Global Ops people say they understand this issue.

Finally, we are repaired and ready to go. The loadmaster makes one last call and confirms we are good to go all the way including the refueling stop and crew change in Anchorage and we blast off.

I have some aerodynamic information to share now, gentle reader. If you’ve ever listened closely to the Space Shuttle mission controller talking, he says as the shuttle passes through about 25000’ above sea level “Now entering the region of Max Q.” You can get the fastest subsonic speeds through the atmosphere in the region of Max Q but you burn a lot more gas. In order to expedite the trip up to Anchorage, I call Global Ops and get a new flight plan and fuel burn for staying that low and to make up some more time.

About halfway to Anchorage we discover that the air-conditioning can’t maintain the desired temperatures in the back at 25000 feet and we need to go higher where the air is colder. So we abandon the speed run and climb to 36000 feet.

The nasty weather around Calgary cleared up about 100 miles east of Juneau and we got some fantastic views. We were behind and above a United 777 that was going to Narita and it made a pretty picture.

Fifty miles further west, we saw this:

Juneau is in the little inlet in the upper right corner of this picture. Then north of Juneau we saw:

There is a cruise ship is right in the center of the picture.

About 200 miles north of Juneau is Mt St Elias and the Malaspina Glacier that I’ve written about before.

Just after that, the 777 veered left to continue to the Orient and we kept going to Anchorage.

Letting down into Anchorage we flew right over Prince William Sound where the sun was shining just right on the waves in the water to make a rainbow reflection:

Just after that we passed over Whittier and the harbor that is home to other day cruises and fishing tours.

If you look close, there is a cruise ship moored at the docks. The only way to drive to Whittier from anywhere is through a one lane tunnel that serves both trains and cars. I wrote about it back in September. In this picture you can see where the road disappears into the tunnel. I tried to show the tunnel from both sides here but the clouds obscure some of the view. You can see Whittier in the left side of the picture, the big mountain the tunnel goes under and on the right side of the picture, under the cloud is the road as it exits the mountain and goes next to the Portage glacier and river.

Clouds closed in right after this and we got busy landing. We got permission from the tower to roll the full length of the runway and minimized braking to keep from throwing the horses around and then taxied in.

That’s when we discovered that the next crew couldn’t get to Fukuoka in time before it closed and the horses had to spend last night in the jet parked on the ramp at Anchorage. The horse owner was more than a little miffed.

And that, Gentle Reader, ends this saga. Today is a flight to Fort Worth, Tx. As more fascinating sagas occur, I will share them.

Until then, I remain,”

Dad / Geoff

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