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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.

 

Heart Of Darkness

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bludgeoned heartWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Is eating out in trendy restaurants in Toronto supposed to be enjoyable any more? Or has it just become another display of gluttony and disordered behaviour, where people obsess over the hunt for the perfect dish of raw meat and take pictures of their food rather than who they are dining with? Pop culture is now overrun with the fetishization of food; cooking shows, celebrity chefs and blogs. In a piece by Rebecca Fleming, whose Valentine’s Day Special is rife with foodie-related nose-to-tail misery for animals, Toronto Life ensures that dining has never been more joyless to read about.

The article, entitled Eight Ways To Eat Heart In Toronto On Valentine’s Day must surely have been written by someone gunning for a PhD in grand master trolling. The premise of this pretentious article is that trendy hipsters should be eating animal hearts on V-Day, because, according to the author, it’s far more romantic than Orville Redenbacher’s and a rom-com.” It’s an article where eating prioritizes cachet above humanity.

On the menu at these restos (The Black Hoof, Bar Buca, Zakkushi, and Antler Kitchen Bar),  are chicken hearts, bison hearts, raw kitchen bitcheshorse hearts, and duck hearts – heart-shaped or “skewered just like Cupid would do!” If I could say one thing to consumers of these foods is “please think about what you’re looking at for a moment. “ Each of these animals used the heart to pump blood through their bodies. The heart (also a symbol of romantic or courtly love) is a hard-working muscle, and as with all organs, they have “weird” shapes, textures, and colours, and perhaps to a greater extent than skeletal muscle, it should remind you that this was once a living creature.

No matter what they themselves may say, people who patronize restaurants offering such gruesome fare are not, IMO animal lovers. They may profess to love individual species, such as dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals, but they don’t mind participating in the torture of the “less cute” animals. Not only are they meat-eaters, but they’re unethical meat-eaters. They patronize these restaurants for the sake of trendiness, so they support a system that exacts unnecessary cruelty on animals – breeding them to be weak and sickly, giving them a miserable life, and then delivering the low-quality product to their table.

And sorry (not sorry) restaurateurs, but most of the entrées depicted in the article are utterly indistinguishable from something that comes out of a hospital vending machine or a McCain’s Tasti-Taters bag. Not exactly consistent with my stock image of Valentine’s Day realness.

Jen Agg, proprietor of The Black Hoof, tweets that her customers are douches. The tweet represents a growing "culture war" between restaurant owners and their patrons. Of course they are douches - if they think it's cool to eat these tiny little heart as some sort of celebration of Valentine's Day, they certainly don't care about your staff...

Jen Agg, proprietor of The Black Hoof, tweets that her customers are douches.  Of course they are douches – they’re eating raw meat in your restaurant,  maybe it’s a primal thing?  They certainly don’t care about your staff…

Horse Welfare 2015 – The Year In Review

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Dream of horses

© Heather Clemenceau

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Each year spent fighting horse slaughter is proof enough that we live in a time of war. Although there will always be people and groups with a vested interest in seeing horse populations increase and the convenience of slaughter continue, 80% of Americans and 64% of Canadians say “no” to these injustices:

  • Despite the deterrent of jail terms for several key operatives in the 2013 horsemeat scandal, authorities in France are still investigating new horsemeat trafficking which now includes government officials and veterinarians.
  • There are still no charges against kill buyer Tom Davis or the BLM who sent horses to slaughter. Once again the BLM failed to follow its own policy of limiting horse sales and ensuring that the horses sold went to good homes and were not slaughtered. $140,000 of taxpayer money was used to transport the horses to Davis, who earned more than $150,000 in profits.
  • Obscene numbers of horses were run through auctions, often with up to 80% of them being bought by kill buyers. Prospective purchasers and bidders of horses hoping to rescue them from slaughter are being harassed at auctions.
  • Unpopular and unnecessary round-ups are still occurring in both the US and Canada.
  • In Great Britain, Dartmoor ponies are now being eaten in an attempt to “save” them.
  • The AQHA continues to be one of our biggest adversaries, and in 2015 they continued to wonder aloud what they could do to increase registration (and breeding). The AQHA braintrust created a super PAC designed to fight against horse owners, defeat the SAFE Act, and keep the breeding (and slaughter) going. To our dismay, Lucas Oil was named Title Sponsor of the AQHA World Championship Show.
  • With the demise of AC4H, which pulled in $800,000 in profit in two years of its operations, other brokered programs have sprung up or been expanded upon. Like a hydra, when one head is cut off, several more appear to take its place. Several markets have emerged as a result of the opportunities gleaned from Facebook, providing a very lucrative business, and kill buyers outbid private buyers at auctions on horses that they think they can flip using “the truck is coming” ploy.  Immense pressure is placed on rescuers,  who are continually told by kill buyers, “hang with me or the horses hang.” 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 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.
  • There have been several large scale seizures of horses at both rescues and private farms, sometimes occurring too late to benefit many horses. In the US, approximately 80 horses were seized from Peaceable Farm, a charity in Virginia. The owner marketed herself as a charity not to take care of horses, but to breed warmbloods, while letting dozens of other horses starve in the barn. She took in millions in donations. Emaciated horses and carcasses were removed from Larry Browning’s farm in Kentucky – he only had to wait 9 months before he could acquire more horses… Jerry Earls was charged with 100 counts of cruelty in Copiah County but evaded the charges related to injured, starving, and dead horses under his care and control. And in British Columbia, Canada, about 100 of Gary Roberts’ horses were seized by the SPCA and auctioned at Valley Auction – and thanks to rescuers, none went to kill buyers. The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition successfully pre-empted the possibility that they would go to kill buyers when they wrote a letter to Donald Raffian (Valley Auction owner) to advise him that the herd had been treated with bute and therefore did not have a drug-free history.

We also saw substantial victories in 2015:

  • Horse slaughter will remain defunded in the U.S. as part of the new $1.1 trillion Omnibus Bill, which is expected to be signed into law in January 2016.
  • At the present time, Americans have 183 sponsors in the House and 28 in the Senate for the SAFE Act S1214/HR1942.
  • Those found guilty this year for their participation in the EU lasagne horsemeat scandal of 2013 are now being jailed.
  • A slaughterhouse was closed in Alès, southeastern France, after video obtained by L214 Éthique & Animaux were released for public viewing, showing scenes of horrible cruelty. The slaughterhouse killed about 3,000 horses per year, in addition to cattle, sheep, and pigs.
  • The EU banned horsemeat from Mexico and Canadian Premium Meats ceased slaughtering horses in Canada.
  • Some two years after the first reports from Animals’ Angels and our European partners at TSB (Tierschutzbund Zurich) exposed the cruel conditions horses face in Canada in feedlots and slaughterhouses, GVFI, which purchased from both Bouvry and Viande Richelieu, scuttled their imports of horsemeat from Canada. This is the second major contractual loss for Bouvry.
  • We also fought back against the PMU industry, and Canadian HRT users were eligible to claim compensation from a $13.6 million dollar fund. A US Summit also called for an end to the Premarin Industry.
  • The Canadian Veterinary Equine Welfare Council, to represent the collective voice of veterinarians in Canada who are opposed to horse slaughter, was launched.
  • September 29th was the date of the very well attended Safe Food! Safe Horses! March2DC
  • There were maneuvers to keep the option of horse slaughter open in New Mexico. However, a judge ruled against the Valley Meat horse slaughter plant by expanding a 2014 injunction to include owners of D’Allende Meats, a firm launched by an investment group which purchased the Roswell plant from Valley Meats. The trial in the original 2013 case is slated for August 2016.
  • The Salt River horses received a reprieve. Soon after federal officials announced the imminent capture of 100 or so horses within the boundaries of a national forest near Phoenix — to be sold at auction, “condemned and destroyed, or otherwise disposed of” — horse advocates issued a call for action. They were supported by Arizona officials who joined in the chorus of protests, outlining the boundaries of a dispute that encompasses an old political battle between state and federal governments over the stewardship of public lands in the West.
  • Now that we have a new Liberal government in Canada, we may have more success for anti-slaughter initiatives, since the Liberals were, for the most part, favourably inclined towards the last anti-slaughter Bill C-571.
  • We are fortunate that we have investigative reporters who are willing to write about the injustices meted out to horses in Canada. Journalist Mary Ormsby of the Toronto Star (home of the best investigative reporting in Canada) continued to write about the serious concerns with horsemeat intended for human consumption. W5 and Zoocheck collaborated on an exposé that revealed that Alberta’s previous Progressive Conservative government did not commission its own studies of wild horse populations, preferring instead to take ranchers’ “analysis” at face-value about population levels and claims of damage to grasslands, which were not substantiated.

In 2015 we said farewell to several of our horse advocates. One of our greatest allies in Canada, MP Alex Atamenenko, decided to retire after drafting 3 anti-slaughter bills. A truly great advocate, we can only wish the best for him in his retirement. On a much sadder note, we also lost advocates Marie Dean, Lee Earnshaw, and Dana Lacroix.

 

 

Please read more about these and other headlines from 2015, arranged chronologically, in Storify

 

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New Phenylbutazone Study Found To Have Toxic Potential For Scavenging Birds Of Prey

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27565927_mWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

A new peer-reviewed South African study that evaluates the toxicity of carprofen, flunixin and phenylbutazone in Cape vultures has found evidence of toxicity for al three non-steriodal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). While there were no deaths as a result of the exposure, the study found that long half-life elimination times and the presence of toxic clinical signs were strong indicators of toxicity. The study was conducted to determine whether these three NSAIDS were similar in toxicity to diclofenac, another NSAID, which was also used in human medicine for decades, and was recently introduced for veterinary use in India.  Diclofenac was determined to be a primary causal factor in the decline of the Asian vulture when the vultures predated on the carcasses of animals treated with the drug.

Methodology:

Plasma samples were analysed and after the 48 hour monitoring period, the birds with euthanized for post-mortem evaluation. While no mortalities resulted from the treatment itself, clinical signs of lethargy and depression (drooping heads) were noted in the 1 CRP treated bird, 2 FXN treated birds, and 1 PBZ treated bird while no signs were reported for the control (untreated) birds. The exposure doses used for this study are also considered to be realistic as they were based on either a worst case scenario of the birds being exposed to high tissue concentration of the drug in recently dead cattle, horses or pigs which would represent their primary food source.

PBZ Molecule

PBZ Molecule

While the study concluded that the three NSAIDs evaluated are not as toxic as diclofenac is to vultures, the three drugs were not considered to be safe. The elimination half-life of phenylbutazone was found to be 18.1 in the horse (PBZ has a half-life of 70h for people). Phenylbutazone is certainly not without toxicity or contraindications in horses either. While dose-dependent, both phenylbutazone and oxyphenbutazone cross the placenta and are excreted into milk, and the drug binds irreversibly to cyclooxygenase, thereby inducing Cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 gene expressions.

Study Conclusion:

“From the specific study design used, it was concluded that CRP, PBZ and FXN are not as toxic to vultures as diclofenac. We are unable to conclude on the general safety of these tested drugs, as they all show some indication towards toxicity.”

When it comes to human and environmental safety there should be clear evidence of the absence of risks; the mere absence of evidence is not enough.  This is the essence of the precautionary principle, which states that “when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment,  precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.  Phenylbutazone is not permitted to be used in equine animals that may be used for food – there are NO exceptions. Mark Markarian, who is chief program and policy officer for the Humane Society of the United States and president of The Fund for Animals, said recently that:

“There is currently no system in the US to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe for human consumption. It’s a free-for-all when this tainted and contaminated meat is dumped on unsuspecting consumers through their dinner plates and supermarket shelves, either overseas or here at home.”

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.

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.

 

Richelieu EID Exposes Profound Shortcomings Of Food Chain

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meat with horseshoeWritten by: Heather Clemenceau

We picked up a copy of the EID currently being used at the Ontario Livestock Exchange (OLEX) in Waterloo, Ontario. For a document that supposedly exerts “quality control” over horsemeat, notice that there are no CFIA headers or logos; it is however, “branded” with the name Richelieu and replete with embarrassing spelling errors and typos in both English and French.  It is missing a fair bit of information that is present on the sample EID in the CFIA Meat Hygiene Manual for equines as well,  including an indicator of the primary use of the horse (recreation/companion animal/ pleasure riding, breeding, ranch/farm work, public work, private industry work, performance/sport/show, racing, rodeo, urine production, food production.)  I guess they don’t want high risk animals to be unnecessarily flagged for drugs.  Note that on the first page, Richelieu refers to the document itself, not unironically, as “DIE.” It is due to moments like these perhaps, that humorists were born.

As with any other paper version of the EID, the owner is expected to complete the column “withdrawal period.”  There is little likelihood

that anyone will follow the obscenely long URL at the bottom of the page,  and if they did,  they wouldn’t likely understand it since it directs the form user to the French version of the CFIA’s Meat Hygiene Manual – on an English form.  It’s completely misleading to provide a link to French guidelines on an English form that is mostly used by english-speaking horse people.  So under the circumstances, how would anyone find the withdrawal time for a specific drug even if they knew what it was?

Withdrawal times also vary depending on drug delivery methods – whether oral/IV/IM 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,  so the person completing the form,  even if honest,  is never provided with the appropriate information.

 

 

Of course, the system isn’t designed to encourage former owners to give too much thought to what drugs a horse may have been given on or off-label during the course of its life. It’s to the benefit of the slaughterhouses that short-term owners will be unaware of the existence of a list of prohibited drugs or drugs that must be withdrawn for days or months, since this means fewer declarations of drug administrations,  and allows the CFIA to crow about a “98% compliance rate for drugs.” If there were adherence to the Meat Hygiene manual, the majority of horses would be disqualified outright because of Phenylbutazone and other drug usage, including virtually all former race horses. Those that were not disqualified outright would probably need to be held for six months for withdrawal.  You couldn’t even immediately slaughter a horse that had recently been wormed.

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.  This is hardly much different than what happens currently In Canada, (minus the organized crime connection) where the EID system provides as much traceability and drug-free conclusiveness as does buying meat off the street from a stranger – because official ID isn’t required in order to complete an EID.  Yet the CFIA perversely insists that the paper EID is just as good as the falsifiable passports that allowed the EU horsemeat scandal to happen.

Henry Skjerven, former director of Natural Valley Farms in Saskatchewan, 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.”

 

Eat Your Words: Toronto Horsemeat Restaurant La Palette Public Health Disclosures

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"La Palette", protest, toronto, "Queen Street West" , "french restaurant", horse, horsemeat

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The summer of 2012 was one where activists demonstrated almost every week against horsemeat restaurant La Palette on Queen St. West.  During that time we started paying attention to La Palette’s food safety evaluations under the “DineSafe” program operated by Toronto Public Health.  The program features an Interactive map of every restaurant,  grocery,  cafe and take-out joint that’s been closed by Toronto Public Health since 2001. If we hadn’t been watching, we would have missed a wonderful exercise in schadenfraude – partway through our demonstrations we read on the DineSafe website that Palette received a “conditional pass,” results of which are in the public domain. Restaurants are required to prominently display this information on the front of their entrances (known to Torontonians as “Scores on Doors”),  and when arriving one evening to protest, we were amused to see that a potted plant

La Palette Toronto Public Health Report - courtesy of a protester

2012: La Palette Toronto Public Health Report – courtesy of a protester (notice plant partially obscuring the sign on window)

appeared out of nowhere and partially obscured the signage. La Palette appears to be a restaurant that’s now regularly considered to be “medium/high risk” by the Health Department since in 2014, two years after that conditional pass, they are still being audited 3 times a year. That in itself is probably not atypical for a resto serving multiple meat dishes, some of which are served raw,  but the findings are interesting none the less.

Jim Chan, head of Toronto Public Health’s food-safety program, explains that Toronto Public Health uses a risk-assessment system to figure out how frequently to inspect any given establishment, whether it’s a hot dog cart or a hotel kitchen. Here’s how it works:

HIGH-RISK PREMISES (Inspected three times a year or more): “The more complicated the food preparation, the higher the food-safety risk. “Think of a restaurant with multiple items on the menu, with raw food and ready-to-eat food,” says Chan. “Think of a hospital kitchen, or a long-term-care-home kitchen. If these operators are not careful, it increases the risk of food poisoning.”

MEDIUM-RISK PREMISES (Inspected twice a year or more): “Lots of people think McDonald’s would be high-risk, but it’s medium-risk,” says Chan. “Everything is generic: You have frozen patties, and there’s one way to cook them and one way to serve them.” Other medium-risk establishments: most pizza places, bakeries, sub shops and cafés.

LOW-RISK PREMISES (Inspected once a year or more): “When you look at a 7-Eleven, where all they have is a few hot dogs on a rotisserie, or they sell chips, pre-packaged sandwiches, stuff like that, they’ll be low-risk.” Ditto for Starbucks and most convenience stores.”

"La Palette", horsemeat, protest, "Toronto restaurant" , "french restaurant" , horse

Shamez Amlani,  co-owner of La Palette,  engages a protester

A typical tactic of La Palette during protests was to go out into the street and start serving raw horsemeat to passersby.  In some respects this isn’t entirely a bad thing – when they give away food it means they aren’t selling it.  But whenever I think about eating raw meat, I feel an eating disorder coming on.  I get a little panicky when I think that people, perhaps unknowingly, are eating food I’ve been taught to avoid – even moreso because it’s horsemeat. Personally I don’t get it. It is clear that there are absolutely no critical control points to minimize the risk of infection with the consumption of raw horsemeat.

Here’s last year’s summary of audit findings served up online along with an inspection from 2015 (some of which are highlighted as “significant”).  All findings seem confined to washing, sanitizing, preventing contamination of foods/surfaces – all actions you’d want a restaurant to have figured out after years in operation and several previous cautions by Toronto Public Health.

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  •  OPERATE FOOD PREMISE – FAIL TO EQUIP FACILITY WITH WASTE RECEPTACLE O. REG 562/90 SEC. 68(3)(D)
  • Operator fail to properly wash equipment  (mutiple observations)
  • Operator fail to properly wash surfaces in rooms (multiple observations)
  • Operator fail to sanitize garbage containers as required
  • OPERATOR FAIL TO ENSURE CAP WILL PREVENT CONTAMINATION OR ADULTERATION O. REG 562/90 SEC. 59(C)(II)
  • OPERATOR FAIL TO ENSURE SINGLE-SERVICE CONTAINERS KEPT IN MANNER PREVENTING CONTAMINATION O. REG 562/90 SEC. 59(D)
  • OPERATOR FAIL TO ENSURE COVER WILL PREVENT CONTAMINATION OR ADULTERATION O. REG 562/90 SEC. 59(C)(II)
  • FAIL TO PROVIDE THERMOMETER IN STORAGE COMPARTMENT O. REG 562/90 SEC. 21

None of the above issues mean that La Palette will get anything less than a green “Pass” evaluation,  and unless a diner takes the time to look up the last audit on the DineSafe website they will not be aware of the  individual infractions.   Since the inception of the program however, only 4 restaurants in Toronto have actually lost their license.

I doubt that any pretentious,  self-indulgent, horse-eating foodies will be tangentially concerned with food hygiene anyway – chefs are some of the least reliable people to ask about safely cooking food to eliminate bacterial (or parasitic) contamination.  And trendy executive chefs like former heroin addict Anthony Bourdain have long popularized the idea that eating”good” food needs to involve some element of risk.  And raw horsemeat = trichinosis roulette.

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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