Tag Archives: “horse welfare”

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.

Rescue Reality

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Vinnie-aka-Executive-ShopperSeveral competitive markets for horses have emerged as a result of the opportunities gleaned from social media sites like Facebook. Kill buyers outbid private buyers at auctions on horses that they think they can flip. People are buying horses at outrageous prices and paying phenomenal amounts of money that could be used for feed and vetting, to ship them halfway across the country only to sometimes find that they are sick. In many cases the horses that arrive bear little resemblance to their photographs, may be misrepresented and sometimes must be euthanized upon arrival. After passionately giving themselves to their previous owners, these horses do not deserve to die.

We have largely forgotten about the horse rescues who have to confront this competition for resources and face challenges that surpass those of humane societies and shelters.  Most rescues and sanctuaries rely on public donations rather than government funding, and they require commitment, passion and business acumen in order that they be sustainable. Private rescues are often run by a single person or a small group rather than a large board of directors. Most of their expenses cannot be discounted, and veterinarians and farriers usually don’t work for free.

Many horses waiting for homes at rescues are registered, sound, very rideable, beautiful, kind, and healthy after months of care. Rescues restore horses to good health, evaluate them for a variety of different types of riders, put training on them, and often provide warranties for a price that doesn’t reflect the investment of time.  Yet the perception exists in public realm that rescued horses are devalued or marginalized as old or dangerous, when in fact they are usually quite the opposite.

I really believe that we need to be careful what we allow, as it is what will continue.  If we choose not to support rescues, they will all go away….

Tanya Boyd of Kindred Farm Rescue will no longer offer adoptions through her rescue.  In her own words,  she explains why she is decertifying her not-for-profit and her former rescue operations will now operate for-profit.  (We are trying Tanya….)

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“I have been running a horse rescue for just over four years. Effective today, that comes to an end. From now on, any horse that I “purchase” will be rehabbed and marketed as for sale for a price that is in line for their true value. I will no longer operate as a rescue, because, for some reason, potential buyers think that these horses/ponies are less than, and are not as valuable as horses of the same quality, advertised on the open market.

I cannot put in words, just how emotional this is for me…showing my horses to potential buyers…knowing full well the value of any of my “rescues”, on the open market…and I am singing their praises….and offering them up for free or for $500. and still no buyers. I will do this no longer. I am simply not going to give horses away for a song anymore.

If you were an orphan…or adopted…are you worth any less? Many horse rescues in this area, and beyond, are giving it up. Why? Because there is no funding…because acquiring and maintaining Not for Profit Status or Charitable Status….for horse rescues is extremely time consuming, in terms of the administrative requirements. I know…been there, done that…cannot commit the time required to fill out paperwork. So, I sent off my letter to dissolve my Not for Profit Status. Not worth the time and energy required. Sadly, horses do not rate, in terms of rescue organizations…they are still deemed as livestock…and livestock is butchered…..and that will not change until the public demands that it change.

Frustrated, yes. Sad, yes. But I do not see a move towards any change of status for horses in sight . They are indeed, the forgotten. Where would we be now without them?. I am truly heartbroken that in the four years I have been doing this, nothing has changed. And the public is no more aware now, than it was then, of the degree to which we subject horses to so much pain and abuse. It seems that it really doesn’t matter. I feel so defeated. What does it take to get people to understand that horses are not meant to be slaughtered so inhumanely….and transported so inhumanely. Along with many other animals that we ship in transport trucks, packed full, in 35 degree weather….for hours and hours.

What have we become, as a society, that we close our eyes to this abuse….it makes me so very sad. We are allowed to ship animals for 36 hours, without water, without feed….and in this heat. And that is considered to be ok. Again….in 4 years of doing this…this horse rescue…I have seen no change in our approach….no real concern about what we subject both horses, and other farm animals to in terms of humane handling…prior to being butchered for our consumption. Are we really that unfeeling? Or do we really not want to know.

Time to ask yourself these questions.”

Open Letter to Calgary Stampede Parade Marshal Jann Arden

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Photo Credit: Vancouver Humane Society Is this the horse you were thinking of when you wrote that you "want to be a rodeo horse?"

Photo Credit: Vancouver Humane Society
Is this the horse you were thinking of when you wrote that you “want to be a rodeo horse?”

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Dear Ms. Arden,

I’m writing this in response to your decision to accept the position of Calgary Stampede Parade Marshal and your various responses to people who remonstrated with you.  Many people are very concerned  about the treatment of animals, including horses,  who are forced to participate in the rodeo circuit.  These are all high-risk activities that often result in disastrous, unrecoverable injuries to the animals.

Many Canadian rodeo aficionados cite tradition, culture and athleticism as justification for events such as steer-riding, chuckwagon racing, and calf-roping.  In the face of increased public critique, animal welfare groups are helping to shed light on the cruelty of these events. Canada’s animal cruelty legislation is a disgrace – the laws have not been substantially changed since 1892.  Grassroots movements of Canadians say things need to change. There have already been at least 25 walks across the country and around the world, trying to bring awareness to Canada’s horrible animal cruelty legislation.

You previously tweeted in 2013 that you wished the Stampede would give the chuckwagon races a hard pass – I wish the entire rodeo itself J-Arden-tweet-against-chuckwagon-race-2would end.  I’m not alone, there are many humane organizations throughout the world who want to see rodeo-style events come to an end everywhere.

The ASPCA “recognizes the cruel treatment inflicted on many additional animals in the process of practicing to compete in rodeo events. Further, the ASPCA is opposed to children’s rodeo events such as goat tying, calf riding and sheep riding (“mutton busting”), which do not promote humane care and respect for animals.”  The Vancouver Humane Society was instrumental in bringing international focus to the issue of rodeos in Canada,  via the League Against Cruel Sports.  This is a first step toward internationalising opposition to rodeos in Canada and making it  harder for rodeos to justify their use of animals as “entertainment.”  The Vancouver Humane Society has had some success targeting rodeo events it considers cruel. It pressured the Cloverdale Rodeo, a major competition staged in the Fraser Valley just east of Vancouver, into dropping four events, including calf roping and steer wrestling, in 2007.

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals Struggling against many men and a thin rope around his neck before a stadium of thousands of enthusiastic onlookers.

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals
Struggling against many men and a thin rope around his neck before a stadium of thousands of enthusiastic onlookers.

“I treated saddle horses with wounds to their mouths from abusive use of the bit. One horse had half his tongue severed. I saw lots of so-called “minor” injuries, like cuts and abrasions, lameness, and eye injuries. I believe the callous attitude toward the calves added to their injuries; there was no concern for their welfare at all. I’ve seen injuries that ended in death, some resulting in death from euthanasia or a trip to the slaughter plant, broken bones, lameness, and minor scrapes and cuts.” ~ Dr. Peggy Larson, former Vermont State Veterinarian and Chief of Livestock and Meat Inspection, and former rodeo bareback bronco rider/large animal veterinarian

The breeding of bucking horses for entertainment is such an anachronistic practice – the only reason bucking stock exist is for the purposes of inhumane entertainment. They virtually all go to slaughter in the end, with a short stop at the Stampede before heading directly to Bouvry in Fort McLeod. That plant was the subject of an investigation by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition in 2010, which found evidence that horses were being killed inhumanely. The CHDC revealed video footage showing horses at the slaughterhouse being shot and then hoisted away by their legs while still fully conscious.

The fate of other horses at the Stampede is often not much better.  Consider that

  • More than 55 chuckwagon horses have died since 1986. This number excludes bucking and show horses.
  • At least nine rodeo horses died after becoming spooked while galloping across a bridge before they even got to the Stampede grounds. They jumped from the bridge and plunged 10 metres into the Bow River in 2005.
  • A post-mortem revealed the cause of the sudden death of a 10 year-old  outrider horse in 2013. Pathologists from the University of Calgary reported that the horse died almost immediately as the result of a pulmonary hemorrhage –  essentially a rupture of an artery in the lung.
  • In 2014, a 12-year-old thoroughbred chuckwagon horse collapsed during a training run. A post-mortem determined he died of a ruptured aorta near one of his kidneys, according to a news release from the Stampede organization. The University of Calgary veterinary school’s Dr. Gord Atkins, who chairs the Stampede’s chuckwagon committee, explained to reporters that the horse was afflicted with a common parasite that can damage blood vessels, creating an aneurysm that is undetectable until it lets go. The ex-race horse died quickly from massive blood loss.

Most thoroughbreds in the chuck races are older ex-racehorses who have already earned their retirement.  They’re retired for a reason – they’re too old to be charging around at

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals Post-race bleeding nose. All chuckwagon horses are required to submit to mandatory drug testing.

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals
Post-race bleeding nose. All chuckwagon horses are required to submit to mandatory drug testing.

breakneck speeds.  Note the age of the horses above who died – they were 10 and 12 years old – relatively young animals in absolute terms,  but far too old for these outdated Roman-style events.  In addition to age working against them, modern thoroughbreds have strongly muscled bodies and delicate legs that suffer stress fractures.  And we know what happens to horses with stress fractures – broken legs are the result.  And please note the veterinary comments about a horse with such a heavy parasite load that it caused an aneurysm.  I thought these horses were “family” to their owners, and worth as much as $50,000?  You know that a tube of wormer costs around $25?

“….the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) controls the camera shots that ESPN can use while filming rodeo. In calf roping, ESPN is not allowed by the PRCA to show the calf actually being dropped. The audience will never see the rope strangling the calf; they will never see the calf jerked off its feet, dragged, and choked. As soon as the loop settles over the calf’s head, the camera moves away from the calf and moves back only after the calf is tied.”  ~ Dr. Peggy Larson

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

Tradition and heritage are two very emotional words, heavy with meaning.  Yet, despite those historical connections, the Catalonians have banned bullfighting, which was intensely tied to their nationhood and heritage.  The British have outlawed foxhunting.  The scarlet coated riders are now gone, even though few things were more “British” than stately homes, country weekends, and The Hunt.  I wonder, with regard to Canadian tradition, how many settlers had to ride or wrestle steers and race chuckwagons at breakneck speeds across the prairie?  I don’t believe that calf roping has ever been a sport but it was made so for entertainment and prize-money, as was bull-riding. Think about it: why would anyone ride a bull? It was created for entertainment and was not something based on culture or tradition.  And what the rodeo industry wants is a way to make every last dime from all the horses they shock, beat, drag, and buck.

You joked that you “want to be a rodeo horse.” You may wish to re-think that, since the PRCA, the largest rodeo-

Nothing more than macho abuse of baby animals. You can see the terror in his eyes...

Nothing more than macho abuse of baby animals. You can see the terror in his eyes…which are rolled back up into his head.

sanctioning organization in the world, has come down unequivocally as pro-horse slaughter.  In any case,  I think we could both agree that none of the horses depicted in this blog post seem to be enjoying their “jobs.”  The 2015 corporate report published by the Calgary Stampede explains that Stampede Park hosted many animal “guests” last July, including 629 chuckwagon horses and 410 bucking horses and bulls that competed during the rodeo. So I honestly wouldn’t say it’s all about the music. I would also be willing to bet my next paycheque that most of those animals aren’t really having their best day while at the Stampede. And I love how the Stampede refers to them as “guests,”  as if they come of their own volition!

“Sometimes tradition and habit are just that, comfortable excuses to leave things be, even when they are unjust and unworthy. Sometimes–not often, but sometimes–the cranks and radicals turn out to be right.”  ~ Matthew Scully:  The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy

Jann, in closing, I wish that you could see that these issues aren’t merely being brought forward by “people wearing leather shoes and eating hamburgers.”  Ask yourself though, if these events that focus on livestock do not sufficiently concern you, would you subject your dog to the same treatment?  I’m sure you wouldn’t ever consider it. It would be illegal if you did. Yet you are promoting the Calgary Stampede and the misery of thousands of animals by appearing in their parade.  Therefore, you are giving tacit approval to everything they do, despite saying that you do not like the chuck races. There are many other ways that we can support Calgary,  Fort McMurray, and promote Alberta.

Thank you for the work that you have done for animals in the past.

 

jann arden statement

 

 

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

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may-12-percherons

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

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

deputy broad

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

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

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

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

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

 

Over-Breeding, Foal-Milling AQHA Posts Membership Results for 2015

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

While new registrations and memberships of all pedigree horse breeds have been in decline overall since the 2008 recession,  registrations for the AQHA are possibly the hardest hit, due in part to the dominance of the quarter horse breed. The AQHA’s 2015 membership results have been posted, and following the trend of previous years,  they’re down overall once again.   Canada’s overall membership numbers continue in a decade of decline, so too do Alberta’s numbers, which are typically in the top 10 of almost any AQHA stat.

 

Membership Change Overall From 2014 – 2015 (2,997) This decline represents a loss of over $100,000 in revenue

Membership Change for Canada From 2014 – 2015 (655)

Membership Change for Alberta From 2014 – 2015 (171)

 

It’s no secret that the largest non-profit breed association in the world takes the most destructive and inhumane approach to horse slaughter of any of the breed groups. On the one hand, they have a Mission Statement to “ensure the American Quarter Horse is treated humanely, with dignity, respect and compassion at all times.” However, the AQHA needs a system to make room for the continuing mass production, hence their business model is to breed as many horses as possible (thus maintaining new memberships and registrations thus ensuring that they are a self-perpetuating entity) while discarding older  or surplus horses and horses with undesirable conformation to slaughter plants.

AQHA  Executive Vice President  Craig Huffhines – (in reference to the S.A.F.E. Act):

“If we do not like unwanted horses being sent to processing facilities across our northern and southern borders, then perhaps Congress should allow our own USDA-regulated processing plants to reopen. The U.S. plants, with state-of-the-art monitoring technology, will assure humane handling and euthanasia as approved by AAEP and AVMA and a USDA-inspected safe and wholesome end product for export.”

Can I say how disgusted I am that Huffhines refers to quarter horses as an “end-product?”  I dislike references to the term “foal crop” on the 2015 Executive Summary (or wherever else I see it).  41655994_mlThe term “crop” has pleasant connotations of the nostalgic gathering of a produce that is planted and cultivated by collecting rainwater for irrigation.  Animals are not “crops” that can be ripened like turnips, although sending horses to slaughter does bring to mind the image of a combine harvester and a crop of living animals that are simply mowed down.  Despite what the AQHA claims, the goal of “treating horses humanely and with dignity” is one that’s incompatible with over-breeding and slaughter.

In addition to encouraging horse owners to dispose of their animals in the slaughter pipeline and strategizing against humane groups,  the AQHA’s multiple-embryo-transfer rule also facilitates 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 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!  Possibly these two horses are not the most obvious examples of this policy either. There were so many lines in the All Breed Pedigree record for Dash for Cash that I had to copy and past them into a spreadsheet in order to count them…

top hat tip DebbyInstead of trying to fight against animal welfare groups, the AQHA should be setting aside funds to care for unwanted horses that resulted from rampant over-breeding that the horse-riding public cannot absorb.

Fewer horses produced by responsible breeding practices would result in higher prices at the sale barn and private treaty sales. It’s not all about the membership numbers.

 

New Toronto Eatery “Parcae” Offering Horsemeat And Other Cruel Specialties

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Banksy slaughterhouseWritten By:  Heather Clemenceau

As an Anglophone from Quebec, it’s sometimes second nature to make fun of Quebecois chefs who not only make endorsements for eating horse in particular, but also promote other rather disgusting, gross, or cruelly derived animal products that may also be unsustainable examples of conspicuous overconsumption. Toronto restaurants are well known for flouting food safety regulations for the sake of flavour – raw horse and pork are readily available, even though Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act, frowns on raw meat in general, and requires that pork in particular must be served well-done.

The Templar Hotel has a new resto – Parcae, serving horse, bone marrow, sea urchin, and other notably and unapologetically cruel foods. The restaurant follows the “nose to tail,” method of preparing their cuisine, which has been said to include “everything but the oink.” Naturally, places such as this appeal to nihilistic gastromaniacs who like to patronize restaurants based on Instagram pics. Somewhat interestingly, the restaurant has a connection to M. Wells in NYC, which became infamous for trying to add horse tartare to its menu in 2012 (but did not do so after a huge outcry that included demonstrations). The chef at M. Wells, Hugue Dufour, is a Quebecker who worked at Au Pied de Cochon, where current Parcae sous chef Joseph Awad also discovered his métier. Just as corporate sponsors love to see their logos on t-shirts, there are potentially great business opportunities for individuals or groups to attach their names to these individual entrees, so I’ve decided to match up some of the most notorious brand owners and celebrities (real or not) for the most appropriate endorsements. Bon Appétit!

What’s On The Menu:

Horse Carpaccio

horse-carpaccioSuggested Sponsor – Merck

Suggested Spokesperson – The Geico Caveman

Carpaccio is thinly-sliced horsemeat served raw. I wonder if Parcae charges extra for pharmacologically active horsemeat containing veterinary residues that are barely screened-for by the CFIA? What wines are complementary with trichinosis? Cruelty issues aside, we should all refuse to eat any meal where there’s the remotest possibility that we may end up with parasites winding through our viscera (this is why I never get invited out to restaurants anymore – I’ve become a food safety asshole). Foodies who embrace the new and the outré, might also embrace a dose of trich as well, since it’s an acknowledged fact that horses on occasion carry trichinella spiralis, the parasite that causes the disease, which occurs with some commonality in France, where horsemeat is often consumed raw. That’s why I’m suggesting this is a sponsorship Merck might be interested in, since they manufacture Mectizan,  the human version of Ivermectin wormers we are all using on our horses.  You might need some if you’ve eaten a horse with trich. And our postmodern spokesperson, the Geico Caveman, would no doubt have eaten some raw meat, at least before the invention of fire.  At least cavemen knew how to progress beyond the Paleozoic era…..

 Chicken Leg

chicken-legSuggested Sponsor – The TV show “Fear Factor”

Suggested Spokesperson – “Kill It And Grill It” Author and avid predator, Ted Nugent

Points for creativity? Cuisine of the foot proves that the zombie apocalypse is real. Please pass the beans… Fear Factor once featured an episode of chicken foot and rat bobbing that resulted in at least a couple of people bowing out, if I recall correctly. The TV show would make a great sponsor, since they regularly featured animal abuse. Nugent, whose most enjoyable experiences in life seem to involve annoying all the right people, is our eloquent spokesperson here – he once slammed a chicken to death on his reality show “Wanted: Dead or Alive.”

Deep Fried Lamb Brains

deep-fried-lamb-brainsSuggested Sponsor – Boston Scientific

Suggested Spokesperson – Heart Attack Grill

Sorry foodies – eating brains won’t make you smart! Consuming the brain and other nerve tissue of animals may be hazardous to health. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and other prion diseases aren’t killed by the cooking process either. And too many deep-fried foods and a heart attack can’t be far behind. Enter the Boston Scientific Corporation: It has sold over a billion dollars worth of coronary stents since just 2009. The CPR inducting, defibrillating, Vegas-based Heart Attack Grill makes no bones about the danger its offerings pose to customers – their tagline is “Once you arrive you will have put on a hospital gown….” Better hope that sexy nurse at the next table isn’t just dressed up for Halloween!

Grilled Branzino

grilled-branzinoSuggested Sponsor – Fergus Henderson – Author of “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating”

Suggested Spokesperson – Anthony Bourdain

This particular offering looks like another a finalist for the “Cruellest Entrée” category. The chef who thought this one up was probably trying to represent it stylistically as ikizukuri, (another tradition that deserves no respect) where fish are seared in a pan and then eaten alive. First off let me say that even when I was a meat eater, I could never have overcome the mental barrier involved in eating something that was looking back at me on the plate. Fergus Henderson’s book suggests recipes with a Sweeney Todd’s list of ingredients including quarts of pigs blood, lamb hearts, lamb tongues and pigs tails, which are all parts which usually go to the pet food plants. Anthony Bourdain, renowned chef-author-famous-TV-bourbon-swilling-former-coke-addict, should stand up and personally endorse this entrée without hesitation. I once read an article where he described eating the still-beating heart from a snake. Bourdain looks like death warmed-over, quite frankly, so it’s a fitting match.

Braised Octopus with Bone Marrow

braised-octopusSuggested Sponsor – Bear Grylls

Suggested Spokesperson – Fred Flintstone

What a great big blessed matrimony of cruelty! Cephalopods are such intelligent creatures who use tools and have adaptive behaviours, but it shouldn’t take expressed human-like self-awareness to remove an animal from your menu. Since bones were certainly around during the Paleolithic period, and hence, are available for inclusion into the Paleo diet, I’ve chosen Fred Flintstone as the spokesperson.  Despite not having any dairy,  grains,  sugar,  legumes,  potatoes, processed oils,  or any other food grown after agriculture started,  Fred is still overweight and at least a 40 on the BMI scale. People who eat bone marrow frequently describe sucking the last bits of marrow out of the bones, so obviously, this isn’t a first-date kind of food (not that anybody should eat it otherwise. IMO).  It also brings out the food preparation OCD in me because I believe that one should be cautious about eating parts of cows that may carry BSE.  FSIS in the US considers these risky body parts to be the brain, tonsils, spinal cord, parts of the nervous system, and part of the small intestine.  In the past oxtails have been suspect, therefore so too is bone marrow.  There is some confusion about bone marrow because it has been reported to potentially carry the infection. Our suggested sponsor Bear Grylls is not only notable for eating virtually anything from spiders to grubs to worms, but to giving himself an enema with fetid water just to keep himself hydrated. No fear.

Clams Guanciale

clamsSuggested Sponsor – Flickr’s Food Porn Group

Suggested Spokesperson – The Journal Obesity

A hyper-concentration of fat in one dish. Guanciale is pork “cheek” or “jowl,” which gives new meaning to the term “your food has a face.” Bivalves serve as incredibly useful water filtration systems, and we should leave them in the ocean. They are often deployed in lakes where there is heavy pollution and bacterial counts. nutrients, and algae. Depending on where they have been living and what they’ve been filtering, bivalves can cause various toxic reactions in humans eating them. The typical method for cooking claims is to boil or steam them alive – hardly humane since studies have shown that clams, crabs, prawns, lobsters, and other crustaceans remember pain and avoid it in future. It really is time for shellfish, mollusc, and crustacean empathy.

Urchin with Sturgeon Cartilage

urchin-with-sturgeonSuggested Sponsor – Top Chef star and acid-reflux spokesperson Spike Mendelsohn

Suggested Spokesperson – Gordon Ramsay

Whoever decided that sturgeon cartilage was a thing? And I wonder what person looked at a sea urchin and decided to try to eat it? I watched videos of people picking urchins off of the coast at the beach, and cutting them open with scissors, and my heart just sank! Why it is necessary to add two more animals to the food chain?  We must collectively resist the foodie movement, which has played a role in normalizing horsemeat, foie gras, as well as popularizing other non-traditional animals or worse – the consumption of non-inspected meat or live animals, as popularized by wanna-be-known-for-sumthin’ chefs. Sea urchin and urchin roe have been in demand in Japan for many years, partially due to the belief that eating the sex glands makes one sexually potent. Like practically anything else the Japanese over-consume, there is now serious question whether the sea urchin population is being decimated as a result. “F” Word’s Gordon Ramsay is the selected spokesperson since he likes his uni (the Japanese term for urchin) with scrambled eggs.

Romanesco Guanciale

romanescoSuggested Sponsor – Total Gym

Suggested Spokesperson – Paula Deen

When I first looked at this I was challenged to understand what I was seeing. To me, it looks like a cat had barfed up a few pine cones or marijuana buds. Once again the chefs are using pig cheek.  Apparently pig cheek is very fatty as well, just like other cuts of bacon. This is another recipe that makes my arteries cry. Butter evangelist Paula Deen, famous for the super unhealthy Krispy Kreme burger, should endorse this one, because unhealthy eating has also made her arteries (and pancreas) cry. Total Gym sponsorship,  self-explanatory.

Food has replaced drugs in the aging food-fancier’s pantheon of pleasure. How about we just go back to a green salad with a tomato or two?  But if we did that what would happen to the celebrity chefs? Oh yeah, they might just go back to cooking decent food instead.  I’m ready for this cruel macho eating to finally go away – along with the restaurants and chefs responsible for it.

I doubt any foodies reading this will be tangentially distracted by the concept of any suffering they might inflict. Of course, it’s critical to the jejune gourmand that he/she be able to eat not only in an elitist fashion that may be cruel, but one that he also cannot truly afford. These foodies and their priests rationalize consuming foods that must be acquired and slaughtered in the most brutal fashion, almost to a sadistic degree.  Apparently greed and indifference to suffering are secondary values over the rightness of being able to gorge oneself. It truly leads one to beg the question, what is to be the next oral fixation?

If you’d like to send a polite,  fact-based communication to Parcae,  you may reach them:

On Twitter@parcae348

On FacebookParcae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter To The Editor: Overseas Markets Drive Horse-Slaughter in B.C.

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This commanding letter on horse slaughter in Canada was written by D. Fisher of Kelowna,  British Columbia. 

It’s simply magisterial in its eloquence! 

Please share…..

 

 

“Industry without ethics, capitalism without conscience – is tortured flesh the flavour of our times?

The Canadian horse slaughter industry is an abomination. Within its harrowing abyss exist the theft of liberty, unpardonable anguish and the dismemberment of a noble icon.

Advocates in favour of this industry present the following arguments for its existence:

  1. Horses are meat – tasty meat for man. I want some.
  2. Slaughterhouses humanely euthanize old, crippled and unwanted horses.
  3. Slaughter controls over-population.
  4. The industry provides employment.

Different perceptions and the high ground we call morality oppose these arguments:

  1. Horses are not meat to do with as we please. Throughout history, beside the footprints of man are the hoof prints of the horse. A pony is a child’s dream, a horse an adult’s treasure. This industry, however, transforms treasures and dreams into nightmares of betrayal.
  2. Slaughterhouses do not humanely euthanize. They orchestrate terror and suffering. Over 90 per cent of their victims are young and healthy. Slaughter is not the answer to solve the aged, infirm, unwanted horse debate. Rescue sanctuaries, veterans working with horses, responsible ownership, tourism co-ops and ethical veterinarian care are a few viable solutions.
  3. The slaughter business actually perpetuates over-population and callous kill buyers and unscrupulous profit mongers love it.
  4. The industry does provide jobs including degrading kill floor work and cash counting corporate accounting. However, we should use ingenuity to crate jobs that save rather than ones that kill.

Bottom line: An industry that is heartless and cruel, and industry without ethics, should be no industry at all.

Advocates for slaughter continue to define death at the slaughterhouse as humane euthanasia.

Propaganda. A load of fiction diction, bogus rhetoric and covertness are cornerstones of their industry.

The shipping of live draft horses to Japan so that their connoisseurs can enjoy freshly butchered horse sashimi is a national disgrace. Transportation to, and imprisonment in, slaughter house corrals is abusive, nefarious activity. And the final stages of the process – kill chutes, stun boxes, captive bolts to the head and dismemberment (of, at time, live horses) far overstep the boundaries of morality.

Our Canadian culture has never embraced the concept of horse meat for human consumption. We should not be part of the foreign-driven “meat-man’s trade” that ships befouled flesh overseas. Our horse is not a commodity to be exploited. This intelligent beast helped First Nations people survive, pulled our plows, laboured in mines, helped build our railroads. The horse stood beside – and died with – our soldiers on countless battlefields including the poppy-coated fields of Ypres and Flanders. Horses have entertained and joined us in recreational pursuits. They are a beloved companion. And, so often, they have provided hope and solace to troubled souls. The horse is the single most influential animal to affect mankind.

To be a nation of dignity we must not turn a blind eye to the actions of the undignified. Our action, or inaction, is a compass for our children and for morality. It is time to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves – time for citizens and our newly elected federal politicians to stare this oppressive industry square in the face and declaim: “Not in our country!” Time to listen with out heart to the desperate call unspoken of our friend – the horse.

It is the horse slaughter industry, not our ethics and our horses that should be in the graveyard.”

Former Equine Canada Employee Caught Dissing Horse Advocates…

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ComplaintsWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

I make no apologies concerning my utter disdain for Equine Canada’s pro-slaughter stance. Therefore, I rarely miss an opportunity to drag them for their varnished perspective of the horse slaughter industry.

On the rare occasion when Equine Canada have mentioned horse slaughter at all it is always a pre-rehearsed talking point that’s usually just plain wrong. And while there may be a schism within EC with regard to slaughter, you know on which side the group’s bread is buttered since they are funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

Who does the EC really represent except elite athletes and Agri-Food Canada anyway? Consider that Canada’s dichotomous pro-slaughter “horse welfare” group HWAC, along with the primarily pro-slaughter provincial horse federations, have been recognized by Equine Canada as their partner for horse welfare in Canada.  Of course HWAC makes known their alliance with American extreme pro-slaughter groups United Horsemen, United Organizations of the Horse, and the apparently defunct IEBA, one of many alphabet companies set up by Sue Wallis. EC doesn’t speak for the average rider, and certainly not for horses. So it is a paradox, that, despite the occasional horse welfare cheerleading by EC, they are utterly silent when it comes down to the issue of the dual commodity riding/meat horse.

The comment below was taken from a Facebook group – it was posted by a former Equine Canada employee. For the record, these incendiary comments about Canada’s National Horse Advocacy group are patently false. I wonder if this individual has ever given any consideration to any of the humane and consumer safety and traceability issues that remain unaddressed by their former employer, no matter how many people make up their various committees?

Commercial pressures will always tend to overwhelm safety concerns, unless there are individuals or groups that work to expose abuses – so who are the true radicals here?

Equine Canada radicals

No, if you’re promoting horse slaughter in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, then YOU are not coming from a good place, nor do you care about horses.

Pointing out industry infractions with information obtained through Access-To-Information requests and via government websites is not a personal attack. Publicizing video evidence of horrific feedlot neglect and egregious abuse in slaughter operations is a right-to-know issue. For example, Migros, Switzerland’s largest retail company & supermarket chain terminated its contract with Bouvry Exports – a decision made after Migros was confronted with horrific images from the Bouvry feedlots. The footage obtained by Animals Angels and Tierschutzbund in October of 2013 showed mares left to die and decompose inside the pen area as well as horses with apparent, contagious diseases and severely overgrown hooves. Video evidence obtained at Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation slaughterhouse in St. Andre-Avellin QC, resulted in the plant being shut down for several days for retrofitting. The live draft horse shipments from Calgary and Winnipeg airports to Japan where the horses are slaughtered, violates CFIA and International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations regarding the live shipping of horses by air by having 3 or more horses unsegregated in wooden crates. Despite receiving many letters of complaint to the CFIA and IATA, horses are still being shipped in violation of regulations. Does Equine Canada speak out against any of this?

CHDC’s slaughter stats are updated at least twice yearly, and are taken directly from Statistics provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Of course, the former EC employee doesn’t give an example that supports their accusations but expects those reading their comments to take them at face value. But if you want to examples of outdated stats and sneaky subterfuge, you can easily point a finger at Equine Canada, who sent this letter to MPs which included a justification for horse slaughter, based on the GAO report on horse slaughterHorse Welfare – Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter. Yet curiously, they did not post or promote this now thoroughly debunked GAO report anywhere else that I could see – not on Facebook or on their website. So why did they only include reference to the GAO report in the letter sent to MPs? Is it because they expected that the horse people who read their Facebook page and website would already know that it had been debunked by John Holland of the Equine Welfare Alliance? Whether knowingly or not, EC promoted debunked information  to politicians who were about to vote on Bill C-571 because they likely knew that most politicians are ignorant enough to believe it. However, MP Alex Atamanenko called them out on their incorrect statements:

“I find it troubling that, as an Equine Association concerned with the welfare of horses, you have resorted to the discredited argument that restricting the slaughter industry will result in increased horse neglect and abandonment. The US GAO report you have cited as supporting this argument has been exposed as having misrepresented or omitted relevant data to conclude an increase in abuse and abandonment following the closure of US abattoirs. To state the obvious, since slaughter continued to be available in Canada and Mexico, any rise in reported cases of abuse would necessarily have come from other factors. A critical analysis of the GAO report entitled “How the GAO deceived Congress” makes it glaringly obvious that little credence should be attributed to such a flawed report.”

Equine Canada (via the FEI) has classified approximately 1,000 different drugs as either “Banned” or “Controlled” in the 2015 Equine Prohibited Substances List. Our former employee almost certainly knows that if kill buyers and the owners of slaughter-bound horses had strict liability (as in the world of horse sport), practically no horse would be eligible for slaughter. EC has nothing to say when over 700 horses (450-500 going to slaughter, apparently all are drug-free with clean EIDs) were run through the Dawson Creek auction in British Columbia in September. These horses included registered, sound, very rideable, beautiful, kind, healthy horses. The EID hardly ensures a continuous medical record and certainly does not guarantee food safety, especially when one considers that the drug history of the horse can be completed at the auction and not by the actual owner.

This is a barbaric, unsafe, discredited business – one giant trash heap of cruelty and drugged meat. It’s also a facade of false and incomplete paperwork, concealing incompetence and often outright deceit at the highest levels. Indeed, Equine Canada are utterly silent on this issue of the adulteration of the food chain with undeclared drugs for financial gain,  while it falls upon horse advocates to ensure  that the facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics.

 

Safe Food! Safe Horses! Join The March2DC – September 29th

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horse drugsWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau,  with files from Nancy Watson

Each year spent fighting horse slaughter is proof enough that we live in a time of war – a constant struggle to maintain the de- facto ban on domestic horse slaughter in the U.S. We saw how corruptible and falsifiable equine passports were during the EU lasagna adulteration scandal two years ago, where meat has for years been extruded through a supply system that could hardly be more opaque, and foreign gangsters and mafia were secretly adulterating the food supply with profit as the main incentive.

Henry Skjerven, former director of Natural Valley Farms (defunct horse slaughterhouse) in Saskatchewan, Canada said:

“US and Canada were never geared for raising horses for food consumption. The system as it stood when we were killing horses was in no way, shape or form, safe, in my opinion.

We did not know where those horses were coming from, what might be in them or what they were treated with. I was always in fear – I think that it was very valid – that we were going to send something across there [to the EU] and we were simply going to get our doors locked after we had some kind of issue with the product.”

 

Please join the Grassroots Advocates March to the U.S. Capitol  The march and rally will take place along Independence Ave. to the US Capitol Building on September 29, 2015. The scheduled events on this day are intended to raise public awareness of the grave risks U.S. horse slaughter has created for the U.S. and global food supply, and to call upon Congress to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act of 2015 S.1214 / H.R. 1942 to ban the slaughter of U.S. horses. A recent report from Chapman University, published in August 2015, found horsemeat DNA adulterating mislabeled meat samples sold in the United States.

American horses receive any number of highly toxic drugs that are outlawed by the FDA for use in animals intended for consumption. American horses, including wild horses, live in uncontrolled situations for indeterminate periods of time, have inadequate health histories and may not have not been reliably vaccinated and monitored for illnesses such as rabies, brucellosis, anthrax, glanders, leptospirosis, Lyme disease, or ehrlichiosis.

Ann Marini, M.D., Ph.D., a featured speaker at the march, states American horses are not raised for food. The food safety issue that has been created as a result of sending contaminated horse drugs in meatmeat overseas and into the U.S. food supply is a huge liability for the United States, and needs to end immediately.”

The march, titled “SAFE Food, SAFE horses” will end on the west lawn of the Capitol Building where equine advocacy experts and scientists will discuss why U.S. horse meat contamination poses such a grave threat to our food supply, and how passage of the SAFE Act is crucial to keeping the food supply safe from contaminated horse meat and protecting U.S. horses from slaughter.

American horses are slaughtered for human consumption in Canada and Mexico at the rate of 1 every 5 minutes. Horse advocates want to put an end to the U.S. horse slaughter pipeline once and for all in order to stop contaminating the global food supply with meat from horses that have not been raised for human consumption.

Horse slaughter is a particularly cruel and horrendous death for American horses. As prey animals, horses are especially skittish by nature. They will not stand passively while the executioner attempts to hit a dime sized target on their forehead with a captive bolt gun. Multiple attempts with a bolt gun have been administered to horses in slaughterhouses. Horses who are not adequately stunned may be butchered while still alive and conscious. The only safe and humane way to end a horse’s life is through chemical euthanasia with proper disposal of the remains to avoid contamination of the food supply.

Surveys have shown that over 80% of Americans oppose horse slaughter. Yet, in 2011 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a fraudulent report indicating that horse slaughter is needed in order to prevent neglect and abuse. Several animal advocacy groups have debunked the GAO report, stating that “they have irrefutable evidence showing that the Government Accountability Office fraudulently misrepresented horse abuse and neglect data in their report GAO 11-228. There is both a video and white paper available on line debunking the fraudulent GAO report. Quarter horses make up 75% of US horses going to slaughter in Canada and Mexico due to breed associations such as AQHA promoting horse slaughter as a solution to dealing with overbreeding.

bad politiciansIrresponsible breeding is the single biggest contributor to the U.S. slaughter pipeline, with 70% of the annual Thoroughbred foal crop going to slaughter. Breeders are continually attempting to find the next Secretariat or Seattle Slew. Those horses that don’t make the cut are sent into the horse slaughter pipeline.

In light of all this, advocates are booking flights and making arrangements to participate in the march in a concerted plea to Congress to pass the SAFE Act. Bills calling for the ban of horse slaughter and horse slaughter transport have received overwhelming public and legislative support for many years, but have died an unseemly death in Committee, having never been released to the Floor for a vote. In the previous session of Congress, the SAFE Act S541/HR1094 had 183 cosponsors from the House and 29 from the Senate, but yet again it died in Committee.

The SAFE Act of 2015 S.1214/H.R.1942 has been reintroduced to the 114th Congress by Congressman Guinta of New Hampshire and Senator Menendez of New Jersey with the intent of finally passing this critical bill into law. Food Safety is an issue that concerns all governments. The horse meat scandal that rocked the European Union (EU) and United Kingdom in 2013 involved contaminated horses from North America. The EU Food Safety Commission has since banned all horse meat imports from Mexico, as these are known to be American horses. Current U.S. legislation allows contaminated horses to pollute the global food supply. This bill is sorely needed to ensure that our horses remain safe in the U.S. and off of dinner plates.

A preview of the movie “The Kill Pen” by Sharon Boeckle will be featured

 

Date, Time, Place:

September 29, 2015 at 10:00am (Please be on-site by 9:30). The meeting point will be in front of the USDA building at South Building 1400 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20250-9911. The march will be a planned route to the Capitol Building.  Directions to USDA Building.

Agenda:

We will meet promptly at 10:00am in front of the USDA building and have several speakers with opening statements about our mission and the importance of banning horse slaughter and closing our borders to horse slaughter transportation in the US. After opening remarks, we will march to the West Lawn of the Capitol Building.  Additional events will be announced soon. Sorry, no permits have been obtained for horses.  Please bring a sign in support of the SAFE Act S1214/HR1942, but there will be extras for those who cannot. Hand held banners will be placed throughout the march.  There will also be a Flashmob – please sign up here.

We are going to rally on the Capitol Grounds for the remainder of the day (please be on-site at 9:30):

  • 10:00Dr. Lester Friedlander will lead the march from the USDA building to the Capitol after addressing marchers
  • 11:00 – National Anthem on the Capitol grounds
  • 11:30 – Speakers: Jo-Claire Corcoran will discuss the chronology of US horse slaughter pipeline.  Dr. Ann Marini will discuss equine drugs and how harmful they are to humans and the global food supply. Dr. Friedlander will discuss equine diseases and the USDA and the contamination of our global food supply, and finally horse advocate Meghan Dixon will speak about her connection with horses and how they enrich our lives.
  • 12:00 – Our horse-themed playlist will play on our sound system
  • 2:00 –  Screening of Kill Pen trailer for Congress Members inside the Capitol (room CVC217 – refreshments will be served)
  • 2:00 –  Open Mic begins for those at the rally (content must be approved by the march team prior).  Open Mic sign-up here.
  • 5:00 – Rally on the Capitol lawn and closing remarks by Dr. Friedlander

 

For further info,  please contact Nancy or Rita,  or visit the event’s Facebook page:

Nancy Watson 631.742.4167 SAFEMarch2DC@gmail.com

Rita Reik 561.818.9664 SAFEMarch2DC@gmail.com

Safe March

 

The following is credited to Captain Paul Watson (useful message points to consider when preparing signage, writing, and speaking to media):

Media Laws
1.  The Media is not concerned with facts, statistics or scientific reports. The media is interested in drama, scandal, violence and sex.
2.  Without visuals, there is no story on TV, without photos, you have a weak story in the print media.
3.  Learn to use the media or you will be abused by the media. Media manipulation is merely a matter of survival in a media culture.
4.  Always talk in soundbites. Keep it simple. Do not clarify. Never underestimate the intelligence of the viewer, the listener or the reader.
5.  Ignore the question put to you if it does not serve your purpose. Say what you wish to say. Stay in control.
6.  Emotion will always triumph over fact. Emote. Use humor. Make the viewer like you.
7.  In a media culture, the medium is the message. TV and film are the message of the mind.
8.  Objectivity is a myth, an illusion, a con, and a trick. Objectivity in the media does not exist. The illusion of objectivity may work as a strategy but only a fool would believe that it is a reality within the media culture.
9.  The media defines reality. What is real is what is reported. The public believes what is real is what it has been told to believe.
10. Believe nothing that you read, be skeptical about what you hear and question all that you see. All your senses can be manipulated.

Saddle Up – Tour Of A Master Saddler’s Shop

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Suffering in Silence by Jochen SchleeseWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Scenes of whizzing conveyor belts and tool-wielding workers are the reason I love the TV show “How It’s Made.” Usually the show presents a behind-the-scenes look at many products we take for granted from bathtubs to belt buckles and other mass-produced items. It was originally created in 5 minute episodes that were used by broadcasters used to fill gaps in their schedules.

My favourite episodes are the ones that feature the hand-crafted or artisanal products, like stagecoaches, native drums, and jewelry. I love the back-to-back marathons in particular. I’d seen the episode on the making of english saddles, but I never made the connection that the factory that made the saddles in the episode – Schleese Saddlery, was only a few minutes from my house in York Region, Ontario. I had the opportunity to get a tour of the factory in July, and I was generously given master saddler Jochen Schleese’s book and DVD after the tour.

Have you ever wondered about the craftsmanship and precision that go into making a saddle? Craftspeople build about 15 custom-made saddles each week at the Holland Landing factory- these saddles are all designed and assembled from patterns using the rider and horse’s personal and often asymmetrical measurements.

The factory features modern industrial sewing machines and some “old world” craftsman and fabrication tools.  I am walked through the production line where polyurethane saddle trees are matched to individual saddle orders. To reinforce the saddle tree, steel plates are placed underneath the tree from the pommel to the cantle. The steel panels disperse the rider’s weight over a larger surface, thereby protecting the horse from the weight of the rider. The stirrup bars are bolted onto the tree. The stirrup bars are made of two pieces: the bar itself, and a movable piece that works on the premise that it can be opened when the stirrup leather is put in position and should open and release the stirrup leather if the rider should fall.

Layers of sculpted padding and foam, wool stuffing, girth straps, flaps, and other leather components are attached to the saddle next both by hand and machine sewing. The craftspeople are each working on specific components of the saddles today, but production manager Ben tells me that they are all expected to learn how to craft and attach all the parts of the saddle, as well as perform quality control on both their own work and on the saddle overall before it is ready for the client. On that day, there were also several saddles of different manufacture being re-stuffed or altered to accommodate changes in the horse’s musculature. It is paradoxical to expect to buy one saddle with the anticipation that it will never require adjustments. In a well-fitting saddle the horse should begin to muscle up and change conformation so that at least annual adjustments will be required to accommodate this growth or to simply add additional stuffing after the padding has flattened down due to riding.

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I’ve seen some pretty sketchy looking saddles offered for sale on Kijiji, Craigslist, and Facebook – some look like cast-off relics from the civil war era. Even if the saddles are made by a reputable company and the tree is the appropriate size, they will not necessarily fit all horses since the designs themselves vary and horses’ backs, ribs, and withers also vary widely in terms of size, shape, and muscling. I was not able to use my Stubben Roxane saddle on other horses I owned despite its quality and generic size. It still fit me and my high-withered Thoroughbred, but the cantle pitched backwards on my low-withered Arabian, and you only had to look at it to see that no amount of additional stuffing in the cantle area would make it sit flat or rest properly in the skapula area.

One of my takeaways from the plant tour and the book/video was how critical saddle fit was to a horse’s overall well-being. We should all know how to perform a basic evaluation of saddle fit when considering a new or used saddle, and the book and DVD explained how a poor-fitting saddle impinges on the shoulders, cartilage, skeletal muscles, and spine of the horse, to the animal’s detriment. Not only will the horse not move well, but he/she will be in physical pain.

Horse owners spend literal fortunes on veterinary attention, farrier work, pharmaceuticals, supplements, and physical therapies, all in an attempt to keep their horses healthy and sound. We invest time and money in finding boots, breeches, helmets, and chaps to ensure what we wear in the saddle is safe, comfortable,  and right for the job at hand. But horse people will often buy saddles without understanding that it is the most fundamental means of connection with the horse and it must have proper fit initially and thereafter.

Thanks to Sabine Schleese and Ben for generously accommodating me……..