Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Kim Craitor, Ontario Liberal MPP for Niagara Falls, Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, came forward recently to applaud the “Stop Slaughtering Us” billboard erected on August 19th in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The billboard, located near the US/Canadian border, informs viewers that horses are being slaughtered in Canada for their meat when they are not raised as food-producing animals.
MPP Craitor stated that “In conversation with the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) and after reviewing materials on horse slaughter in Canada, I was shocked to discover the scope of the issues and concerns within this industry.” He continued, “I fully support NDP MP Alex Atamanenko’s Bill C-322 that would prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption. It was very troubling to learn that over 80,000 horses were killed for their meat last year in Canada, and that the majority were transported here from the U.S.”
Toronto City Council has also voted in support of federal Bill C-322 and is calling for the Province of Ontario to prohibit the sale, movement and shipment of horses in Ontario for the purpose of slaughter. NDP Whip and MP for Hull-Aylmer, Nycole Turmel is onboard and opposed to horse slaughter. We hope that Liberal MPP Craitor’s support is just the beginning, as more horse advocates continue to promote factual information to their political representatives.
Despite the hard-won advances we’ve made in Canada with various postcard and email campaigns, the scintillating truth of our beliefs doesn’t always mean that it will be obvious to other politicians. I can only wonder why so many Liberal and Conservative politicians continue to hold contrary and downright incorrect viewpoints about horse slaughter. What could their motivations be? Cognitive limitations? Perhaps they are simply lying to themselves (denial) – that is my gut reaction. Perhaps they’re trying to save their skins after being vested in their belief system for so long that it would be embarrassing to admit that their opinions deserve instantaneous and categorical dismissal. And what other information have they provided to their constituents that is just plain wrong?
When John Stuart Mill labeled British Conservatives “the Stupid Party” in the 19th century, he apparently started a long-term trend. Ronald Reagan, after all, was an “amiable dunce,” and Vice President Dan Quayle told a student in a spelling bee that potato had an “e” at the end of it. Numerous commentators questioned George W. Bush’s intellectual capacity, and Sarah Palin has long been criticized as a dim bulb. And Canadian Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper has said that he enjoys “twerking” but only does it with close friends and “every now and then with President Obama.”
While the US zoos close, the Congressional zoo remains open. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has once again shuttered Parliament, proroguing the Commons until mid-October in a move that ensures he won’t face opposition questions on the Senate expenses scandal for an extra month. But of all the Canadian politicians you may have the opportunity to reach out to, there are few more exasperatingly devoid of the facts on horse slaughter than MP Bruce Stanton of Simcoe North, Ontario. MP Stanton will delete any messages and block you from his FB page if you are not a constituent – no matter what you write. As a result of posting horse slaughter info on his page, I am now blocked. I can understand that he won’t have time to address non-constituents, but to BLOCK Canadians from his page is really outlandish behaviour for a politician. However, Facebook isn’t “all that” and we can still reach MP Stanton (and see what he’s up to) via OpenParliament.ca You can also track MP statements in House debates via this site. He doesn’t appear to care much for the facts of horse slaughter, but he’s quite enamoured with men’s curling and speaks very eloquently about Valentine’s Day.
As you can read from his communications with horse advocate and constituent Ann Marie, he adamantly insists that “horsemeat producers raise horses for the sole purpose of human consumption.” And he refuses to respond to her requests for information on these direct-to-market meat horses. Not only that, Stanton also insists that horsemeat is the “third largest exported meat in Canada,” and provides about $2 billion to the Canadian economy every year. This is very odd indeed, especially since Dr. Ian Alexander of the CFIA wrote to me in August of this year and specifically indicated that the horsemeat market in Canada is worth $36 million. Even if you mistakenly assumed that all slaughtered Canadian horses were “farmed,” you still couldn’t stretch the truth far enough to turn a $36 million dollar industry into a $2 BILLION industry. Looks to me like MP Stanton has stretched the truth until it’s elliptical in order to further the anti-animal Conservative party agenda. It’s time to throw MP Stanton under the bus for making these claims.
There appear to be various ways to evaluate Stanton’s statement that horsmeat is Canada’s third largest meat export, but none of them make any sense when compared to beef and pork exports. For instance, do we include animals sent for “finishing” to other countries in those export numbers? Or do we consider only processed meats as part of those numbers? In any case, it’s completely unclear to me how horsemeat ranks as a $2 billion dollar export market, especially when Canadian beef exports to all countries are estimated at $1.21 billion, with almost 600,000 head of feeder and fed cattle being exported to the US for finishing and slaughter. Somehow, MP Stanton expects us to believe that horsemeat exports EXCEED those of BEEF? Additionally, in 2012, 21.1 million pigs went to market in Canadian plants. In addition, 804,000 head went to processing facilities in the United States and 4.79 million head of feeder hogs went for feeding and finishing on United States farms. In 2012, Canada exported in excess of 135 million chicken carcasses and parts, and over 19 million turkey carcasses and parts. These numbers for other species are of course, not even remotely comparable to the roughly 100,000 horses of both American and Canadian origin slaughtered in Canada each year. And so we continue to whittle away at MP Stanton’s statistics on meat exports.
Sadly, Stanton’s opinion is only a symptom of what is wrong with Whip politics. A Whip is an official in a political party whose primary purpose is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. Whips are a party’s “enforcers,” who typically offer inducements and threaten punishments for party members to ensure that they vote according to the official party policy. A whip’s role is also to ensure that the elected representatives of their party are in attendance when important votes are taken. The usage comes from the hunting term “whipping in”, i.e. preventing hounds from wandering away from the pack.
Votes on Private Members’ bills such as Bill C-322 are supposed to be free votes, thus making “dissent” (or rebellion) impossible since there is nothing to rebel against. The fact that such votes are considered “dissent” only serves to illustrate how pervasive the use of the Whip is in the House of Commons. Simply put, party discipline reigns supreme, and both Conservative and Liberal MPs tow the party line. So it’s reasonable to assume that MP Stanton’s incorrect statements on horse slaughter and horsemeat exports are probably just an overall symptom of the Conservative party malaise.
We do know that MP Alex Atamanenko will be debating Bill C-322 soon, once Parliament resumes later this month. Please join the Facebook campaign to email Canadian City Councillors, MPPs, and MP’s. Ask them for their support, and to put forward a Motion for their cities to support Bill C-322, as was done in Toronto. And props to Ann Marie for so tenaciously correcting MP Stanton.