Tag Archives: phenylbutazone

Horse Welfare 2016 – The Year In Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chemical Horse:

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

Live Horse Shipments:

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

Anti-Soring Efforts:

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

Food Adulteration:

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

Wild Horses:

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

Decimation of the Donkeys:

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

Cruelty Cases, Horse Seizures, Abandonments, and Hoarding:

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

Legislative and Public Relations Issues:

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

EQUUS Film Festival:

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

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

 

 

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

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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.

 

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.”

Doping Fail: Performance Drug Prohibitions For Horses Are Stricter Than Slaughter Regs…

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Wilful BlindnessWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

The rule of strict liability, under which athletes have to be solely and legally responsible for what they consume, remains supreme in the world of horse sport. The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) promote “Clean Sport” for athletic competitions, as does the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international governing body for equestrian sport.

The FEI credits their Clean Sport initiative as being responsible for the completely drug-free 2012 Olympic Games in London, during which no equestrian athlete or horse tested positive for any banned substance. Equine Canada governs Canada’s official relations with the FEI, as well as Canada’s equestrian relations with the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee. It also governs relations between the government of Canada and Canadian equestrian athletes, coaches, judges, competition organizers and other professionals. Equine Canada (via the FEI) has classified approximately 1,000 different drugs as either “Banned” or “Controlled” in the 2015 Equine Prohibited Substances List. As of January 1, 2015, any individual who is temporarily suspended for a doping violation is prohibited from participating in the sport in any capacity, both at and away from competition.

Equine sport organizations that govern horse sport always encourage participation in anti-doping measures and fair medication control ostensibly because horse welfare is the principal rationale for a zero tolerance drug policy. This is an admirable achievement surely, since horses in particular should not be drugged in order to mask pain or to enhance performance to the degree that it may entail a risk.

It is a paradox though, that despite horse welfare cheerleading by Equine Canada, they are utterly silent when it comes down to the issue of the dual commodity riding/meat horse. Of course, Equine Canada supports the Canadian horse slaughter industry, causing conflict within its own ranks as well as with Canadian horse welfare advocates.  In 2012, Equine Canada’s then President Michael Gallagher caused outrage when he issued a press release thanking the FEI after it had disqualified Canadian show-jumping rider Tiffany Foster forked tongueunder controversial and unproven circumstances that did not even involve the possibility of drugs. The FEI Veterinary Commission did not even bother to take her horse out of his stall to examine him further or to test his movement for any signs of discomfort. So, a superficial scrape on a horse’s coronet that did not even make him lame (unless poked repeatedly by veterinarians perhaps) was cause for a lot of rah-rah-rahing about horse welfare by Gallagher, who said, This is an important testing procedure for the fairness of our sport and for the welfare of the horse which must always be paramount.” So while there are apparently few ethical conundrums for Equine Canada when it comes to firing a four-inch nail into a horse’s head, they supported the FEI decision to disqualify a horse due to a trivial and totally survivable scrape of indeterminate origin on his foot. The irony – it burns!

I think it’s absurd that suspensions can be levied over scratches or even the use of a topical cream containing capsaicin for a skin injury (which is banned because it can serve as a mild stimulant) whilst ignoring the issues of inhumane transport and slaughter as well as the possibility of potentially harmful drugs in the food chain. While horse sport veterinarians are busy taking skin swabs from horses to test for capsaicin, the CFIA tests less than 1% of horse carcasses for the prohibited drug phenylbutazone. If the CFIA held kill buyers and the owners of slaughter-bound horses with strict liability as done in horse sport, practically no horse would be eligible for slaughter.

Doping is contrary to the spirit of sport. Yet so too should be the betrayal of sending horses to slaughter.

Death In The Fast Lane: Reaction to PeTA Exposé

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peta - horses aren't machines

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

It used to be that phenylbutazone was what got a horse disqualified from a race. Dancer’s Image became the only winner in the Kentucky Derby’s 134-year history to be disqualified for using a banned substance, when bute was found in his urine sample after the race in 1968. Two years after Secretariat’s recordbreaking US Triple Crown took the sport to a new level of popularity, the breakdown and death of Ruffian brought on a new era of safety concerns.

Analysis of horse carcasses submitted to the CHRB Postmortem Program revealed that 40.9% of all fatal injuries occurred during racing and training in 3-4 year old racehorses. Injuries, unlike accidents, do not happen by chance. The science of injury prevention has demonstrated that injuries and the events leading up to injuries are not random. Like disease, they tend to follow a general pattern. Studying these patterns has made it possible to learn to predict and prevent injuries from occurring, Yet this type of knowledge is ignored when pitted against the profit incentive of racing.

PETA-Kentucky-Derby-3As a result, many fallen jockeys have found that their mounts eventually became wheelchairs after they were paralysed in falls by their horses or horses they were trailing who should have been scratched from races. In 1990, apprentice jockey Benny Narvaez was paralyzed from the chest down after his horse threw him while jumping over another horse who had broken down directly in front of him during a race at Tampa Bay Downs. A jury found that Tampa Bay Downs was responsible for Narvaez’s injury because the track veterinarian failed to perform an adequate pre-race examination on the horse he was trailing. That horse’s pre-existing conditions had been cloaked by drugs a few days before the race.

So the recent PeTA expose of trainers Steve Asmussen and Scott Blasi in the New York Times wasn’t all that surprising, except in how quickly it went viral and how many racing fans jumped into the fray to excoriate PeTA. This wasn’t just about anyone – these guys who are accused are at the top. Asmussen has built one of horse racing’s largest operations. He ranks second in career victories, with more than 6,700; has earned more than $214 million in purses. But now they are accused of subjecting their horses to cruel and injurious treatments, administering drugs to them for nontherapeutic purposes, and having one of their jockeys use an electrical device to shock horses into running faster. Asmussen and Blasi are also accused of employing undocumented workers, requiring them to use false names on Internal Revenue Service forms, producing false identification documents, according to the complaints filed with state and federal agencies. Asmussen also paid the PeTA investigator $5.95 an hour — less than minimum wage — and did not pay proper overtime wages, according to complaints filed with the labour departments of Kentucky and New York. In 2012 the Asmussen Horse Center dumped 10 of their bred mares at one of the biggest kill buyer auctions in Texas, so they hardly sound like an upstanding group of people.

Sport of Kings,  or exercise in controlled chaos?

Nehro, the horse in the surveillance video, was acknowledged to be in pain and needed to be retired, yet still he continued to train. On the morning of last year’s Kentucky Derby, Nehro got sick on the backside of Churchill Downs and later died from colic in a van on the way to the hospital. In all likelihood,  he may have had ulcers from excess medication with bute,  which may have contributed to his colic.  Blasi and the farrier spent so much time conspiring in that barn that they were unaware everything they said and did was being recorded by an investigator who used a hidden camera to record terrible mistreatment. Ultimately, PeTA filed 10 complaints with the state and federal authorities.

I’m surprised at the vitriol hurled against PeTA for this undercover work. Lots of defensiveness and doubling-down, shoot-the-messenger type comments on the various message boards, including that of the New York Times. Lots of 1111111_1024debate also as to whether the farrier was referring to Nehro not having a pulse in either his legs or his feet being as  good thing or not. A horse’s foot is highly vascularized – circulation is needed to help them function and repair damage. A healthy pulse in either foot or leg is faint, but discernible, especially to an experienced vet. In the context of the video, Blasi and the farrier are complaining about Nehro’s foot being a “nub” with an enormous painful hole in the frog and hoof walls held together by glue. A horse with such extensive hoof damage should have an strong bounding pulse due to inflammation. The lack of pulse despite such physical evidence of damage suggests heavy duty dosages of painkillers that are numbing both blood flow and pain responses to the feet. It sure seems medically unlikely that a horse could have such holes in the frog and hoof wall and simultaneously have no pulse unless drugs are being used to mask the pain.

While PeTA has always had some serious credibility issues for me, I’ve always thought that their investigative work was first-rate. Problematic for me is that they’ve long been accused of objectifying women for their cause. Between a banned Super Bowl ad claiming that vegetarians have better sex and their “Save the Whales, Lose the Blubber” campaign, it often felt to me as if PeTA was promoting animal rights at the cost of the women’s movement – issues that are both paramount for me. A quick browse through their print campaigns clearly shows that while women are often depicted naked, with few exceptions, men are depicted clothed. The problem is that, after looking at half-naked celebrities, few people want to sign a petition or take action. And aggressive and often misguided attempts by various Huffington Post authors to discredit PeTA have had some impact – I’m seeing the oft-repeated mantra of their articles perpetuated in other social media channels. These so-called journalists are confusing the provision of a quick and painless end to what would otherwise be a miserable life, with a gleefully murderous objective. PeTA is not killing animals for amusement or for profit.

peta quote 1

Another huge gaffe for PeTA caused intense frustration amongst horse people who were lobbying furiously against horse slaughter in the US in 2013, when they misguidedly proclaimed that slaughter should return to the US as it was the “lesser of two evils” – the other evil being long transport to slaughter in Canada or Mexico. Imagine how shocked horse advocates were to hear pro-Ag and pro-slaughter mouthpieces quoting PeTA back to us! Exasperatingly, the PeTA statement in favour of a return to horse slaughter was one of the main reasons the Oklahoma horse slaughter law passed. The legislators used that statement as a banner. Yet PeTA is an anti-slaughter group and they promote the passage of the S.A.F.E. Act.

I’ve included some of their print campaigns against racing in this blog post. I think these ones are a lot more thought provoking than the ads featuring naked celebs. But it was a few undercover campaigns that really put them on the map. Whatever you think of them, you’d probably have to acknowledge that they have really demonstrated their ability to create dialogue about things that many people hold sacred, such as circuses and animal labs. Over the past 30 years, PeTA has aggressively assailed corporations for the way they treat animals. But the Asmussen/Blasi investigation was PETA’s first significant step into advocacy in the horse racing world.

The Silver Spring Monkey Investigation

One of PeTA’s founders, a student named Alex Pacheco, set out to gain some experience in a laboratory and began working undercover at the Institute for Behavioral Research.   IBR was a federally funded laboratory in AB004594Silver Spring, Maryland, run by psychologist and animal experimenter Edward Taub, a man with no medical training. There, Pacheco found 17 monkeys living in tiny wire cages that were caked with years of accumulated feces.

“The monkeys were subjected to debilitating surgeries in which their spinal nerves were severed, rendering one or more of their limbs useless. Through the use of electric shock, food deprivation, and other methods, the monkeys were forced to try to regain the use of their impaired limbs or go without food. In one experiment, monkeys were kept immobile in a dark chamber made out of a converted refrigerator and then repeatedly shocked until they finally used their disabled arm. The inside of the refrigerator was covered with blood. In another experiment, monkeys were strapped into a crude restraint chair—their waist, ankles, wrists, and neck held in place with packing tape—and pliers were latched as tightly as possible onto their skin, including onto their testicles.”

The trauma of the monkeys’ imprisonment and treatment was so severe that many of them had ripped at their own flesh, and they had lost many of their fingers from catching them in the rusted, jagged cage bars. Workers often neglected to feed the monkeys, and the animals would desperately pick through the waste beneath their cages to find something to eat.

PeTA gathered meticulous log notes detailing what was happening inside IBR and secretly photographed the horrible living conditions. Then, after lining up expert witnesses and showing them around the laboratory at night, PeTA took the evidence to the police—and an intense, decade-long battle for custody of the monkeys ensued. Their investigation led to the nation’s first arrest and criminal conviction of an animal experimenter for cruelty to animals, the first confiscation of abused animals from a laboratory.

Peta quote 5

The Japanese Horse Slaughter Investigation

As many as 20,000 horses are slaughtered each year in Japan, partly because of overbreeding of thoroughbreds in the U.S., where racehorses are exploited as disposable commodities.

PeTA’s 2009 horse slaughter investigation took place inside Japan’s largest horse slaughterhouse in Kumamoto. Horsemeat from Claude Bouvry’s plant also makes its way to Kumamoto. Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand was sold to a Japanese breeder and a few years later, when they were done with him, he was unceremoniously slaughtered. PeTA also discovered that Derby and Preakness winners Charismatic and War Emblem are at breeding farms in Japan right now. With their useful breeding days winding down, they are likely to share the fate of Ferdinand. For all I know,  War Emblem may in fact already be dead, since he was something of a failure as a stud and he would now be 15 years old.

peta quote 4

Articles about animal abuse always bring out both the best and the worst of internet posters. In this scenario, racing fans were quick to come up with some flimsy reason why the investigation is bogus, or perpetually ask why we care more for animals than people, make protestations about edited video and the need to provide context, complaints about PeTA’s methods, and any number of other defensive reactions that illuminate how little we want to actually examine our role in the ongoing suffering of animals.

Peta quote 3

The lawyer for Asmussen and Blasi is apparently shocked that someone would go undercover to actually expose the relentless abuse, avarice and greed they visited on these horses. Ironically, Blasi and Asmussen are probably going to see the greatest censure visited on them as a result of the identity falsification charges; after 9/11, this is probably going to be taken pretty seriously – probably more so than the abuse charges. So, an investigation about mistreatment of horses also involved the mistreatment of the human beings who took care of the horses. And If a horse needs electric shock to run faster, then it is no longer the “sport of kings,” but a matter of chaos, controlled by whoever has the biggest cattle prod.

Northern Dancer

Northern Dancer won the American Eclipse Award as Three-Year Old Male Champion of 1964 and the Sovereign Award for Horse of the Year. In 1965, he became the first horse to ever be voted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, an honour he held for thirty-one years and now shares with Canadian Equestrian Champion Big Ben. On its formation, he was part of the first group of inductees into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1976. In 1977, Northern Dancer won three world sires’ premiership titles being for the number of international stakes winners, international stakes wins and progeny stake earnings. He was retired from stud in 1987 at the age of 26. He died in 1990 and is buried at Windfields Farm in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Windfields Farm has subsequently been abandoned, and Northern Dancer’s burial site is not publicly accessible. This is the life-sized bronze statue of him outside Woodbine Race Track in northwest Toronto. While tenderness in a tendon ended his career, he belongs to an “old-school” period when horses weren’t run on thyroxine or frog juice.  He did not continue to race on drugs for years with broken-down legs or feet.  Nor was he sent to slaughter after his breeding days were over.

 

 

Mainstream Magazine “Horse-Canada” Wrestles Tough Slaughter Issue

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mom and babyLast year I was interviewed by journalist Liz Brown,  who writes for the Canadian publication Horse-Canada.  Sinikka Crosland,  Executive Director of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition was also interviewed.  This was a months-long writing/research project for Ms. Brown that was temporarily derailed when Canada stopped accepting imports of American horses briefly in October 2012.

I had wondered whether it would ever be published when a couple of people mentioned that they had seen it in the print version of the magazine.  As far as I know,  it’s not available online but I’ve reproduced it here.  It’s a fairly balanced piece that covers feedlot issues,  the ever-present spectre of horsemeat purveyor La Palette Restaurant in Toronto and our protests there,  toxicology issues,  the lack of testing protocols at the CFIA,  and the falsification of EIDs.  Of course,  horsemeat pimp Bill “Slaughter is a Wonderful Option” DesBarres is quoted as well.

You can’t read the article without arriving at the inevitable conclusion that this multi-million dollar industry is incredibly problematic,  quite apart from the actual cruelty involved.  Hopefully this article resonates with the audience of Horse Canada,  which primarily features more “fluff” pieces on topics such as coronary band injuries and dietary supplements.

Please click on the graphic to open the article in PDF format.

Horse Canada's Expose Stable to Table - please click to read the full article in PDF.

Horse Canada’s Expose Stable to Table – please click to read the full article in PDF.

Radio Hosts Eat Horsemeat On Air Despite Facebook Outrage

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horse_butchering_map.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxWritten By:  Heather Clemenceau

Today’s post is dedicated to horsemeat propaganda,  courtesy of Canada’s famous slaughterphile Bill DesBarres,  who recently appeared on one of two radio episodes on horsemeat coming out of Saskatoon on the Round Table News Talk 650 CKOM.  DesBarres was interviewed by David Kirton in one podcast,  while Craig Silliphant and David Kirton sampled horsemeat in a second podcast, with Angela Hill representing the “pescatarian” abstainer.  Although their Facebook page was inundated with criticism and countervailing facts about horses, it was only a fraction of the outrage that was reserved for the hosts of “Top Chef Canada” which created a challenge featuring horsemeat in a segment two years ago.

Bill DesBarres - singing the praises of happy horse slaughterhouses

Bill DesBarres – singing the praises of happy horse slaughterhouses

When the show’s producers saw the posts on their Facebook page and realized that there might be humane issues with slaughtering horses, they  apparently mistookthe Horse “Welfare” Alliance of Canada as an actual welfare group advocating for horses and invited DesBarres to participate by providing awkward, one-sided small talk.  Both shows were very formulaic in that they glossed over the real issues and asked “not-so-challenging” questions of DesBarres, who invariably presented horse slaughter as a joyous theme park of happiness where horses willing go to be slaughtered and eaten, not unlike the pig at the Restaurant at the end of the Universe.

DesBarres did not fail to deliver his usual derp for the CFIA either, and steadfastly maintained that he has never heard of any Canadian horsemeat that has tested positive for phenylbutazone.  Unfortunately for the audience, host David Kirton wasn’t aware of any examples either, and so was unable to delve any deeper into the discussion.  And the audience was not served by the lack of commentary from a knowledgeable person or group such as the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, a true horse advocacy group.

DesBarres will NOT tell these radio hosts that his welfare claims of happy slaughterhouses and comfortable travel to them are almost meaningless. The Federal Health of Animals Act is not enforced, which would protect sick, pregnant and unfit horses, and prohibit overcrowding; the Recommended Code of Practice for Care and Handling of Farm Animals: Transportation of Horses. is not enforced. The CFIA does not enforce their own weak rules that slaughter bound horses must not be transported for longer than 36 hours straight and must be provided with feed, water and rest at required intervals. Double-decker trailers are still allowed in Canada. Horses are shipped in crowded trailers over long distances, and often arrive injured, sometimes fatally. Horses, unlike most livestock, do not travel well.

Mark McEwan was criticizied on Top Chef Canada for serving horsemeat

Mark McEwan was criticizied on Top Chef Canada for serving horsemeat

So, suffice it to say, they don’t always respond well when being transported from kill auctions in the U.S. to federally licensed slaughterhouses in Quebec and Alberta. Since 2007, inspectors have been banned from the kill floor for their own safety, since the adoption of firearms has been implemented to stun animals, so their role is basically an administrative one now. So how could inspectors intervene when humane incidents have occurred, as revealed by a CBC probe and in undercover video by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition?

He also won’t tell anyone that the HWAC’s solution for the traceability issues in horsemeat will never be accepted by the general population of horse owners,  because we will not pay for any system for our animals just so the Europeans or Japanese can be assured of a bute-free gastronomic experience.  And he did not tell the hosts (at least not on air) that he is a paid representative of Claude Bouvry and his slaughter empire.  Nor will he acknowledge that HWAC has no real horse welfare programs,  and if he or the HWAC board members were genuinely concerned about horse welfare,  DesBarres would not try to discredit video evidence produced by the CHDC.  That speaks volumes.

You can listen to the DesBarres Interview here

The eating of horsemeat took place in a second episode, where the hosts generally face-planted onto various issues, never quite getting it right.  For instance, they clung to the false notion that in order to justifiably complain about the philosophy of eating horsemeat, you must be vegan.  They didn’t truly grasp the notion of the “non-food animal” issue, instead choosing to

Anthony Bourdain - the bad boy of overindulgence. and food porn

Anthony Bourdain – the bad boy of overindulgence and food porn

ask why slaughter remains “acceptable” for the traditional food animals.  It’s a fair enough question, but one I’ve grown really weary of attempting to answer.  Indeed, some vegans I know have wondered why it seems to be so wrong to eat horses, because their beloved and much maligned farm animals are already being cruelly treated.  Much of the vegan message is “what about cows and pigs?” as if to advocate for horses somehow invalidates the suffering of other animals or makes us into some sort of animal “racist.” Again, in my opinion, this is the wrong question.  Instead, we should all be asking why it is necessary to add another animal 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 Anthony Bourdain and other wanna-be-known-for-sumthin’ chefs (caution – semi-graphic video – start watching at 3:00).

Gordon Ramsay has long promoted horsemeat to Britons

Gordon Ramsay has long promoted horsemeat to Britons

The hosts also assumed that deer and elk are not farmed (Bouvry and others are doing it), that all horses going to slaughter were old, and east Indians don’t eat cows.  They may also have assumed that horse slaughter is only cruel if it DOESN’T use the same process as with cows.  Using a process for cows is one more reason why it IS NOT HUMANE for a horse.   The hosts also bought into the false dilemma that, based on the relationship between predator and prey animals in the wild, the slaughter of an animal by us in a factory setting is humane by comparison. It’s a false dilemma because the horse that became their luncheon meat probably was someone’s pleasure horse at one time, and had no natural enemies to prey upon it.  And why did they assume that you must eat anything that is put in front of you, otherwise you’re being disrespectful of your host?  Is it rude to refuse alcohol if you’re abstaining?  Why then could it be rude for vegetarians or vegans to refuse animal protein provided by a host?  I guess one must never spoil a dinner party for mere religious or ethical reasons.  It was Anthony Bourdain who said, “taking your belief system on the road—or to other people’s houses—makes me angry.” The sight of vegetarian tourists waving away a Vietnamese pho vendor fills him with “spluttering indignation.” That’s right – apparently guests have a greater obligation to please their host, than vice versa. There’s really no civilized value left that foodies  (or radio hosts) cannot destroy.

You can listen to the horse-eating broadcast here

Bute poster august 22-2012

The Disquieting Truth About Drug Exposures in Horsemeat

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laboratory-011Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The most recent news surfacing today is that Nestlé, one of the largest food companies in the world, has now been entangled in the EU horsemeat scandal.  Major supermarket chains Tesco and Aldi were found to be selling beef products that contained horse meat. Burger King sourced thousands of burgers from the same Irish beef supplier, Silvercrest, and Findus “beef” lasagna was found to contain 100% horse meat.

Liffey Meats in Ireland and Dalepak in Yorkshire have both been fingered as well.  Silvercrest and Dalepak are both subsidiaries of ABP Food Group, one of the largest beef processors in Europe.   Huge blocks of frozen meat in cold storage in Northern Ireland – Freeza Foods, which had been quarantined by officials suspicious of its labelling and state of packaging, were found to contain 80% horse.

There is now evidence that both Polish and Italian mafia gangs are running multimillion-dollar scams to substitute horsemeat for beef during food production. There are claims that vets and other officials working within slaughterhouses and food production plants are intimidated into signing off meat as beef when it is in fact cheaper alternatives such as pork or horse.

europe-crisisWhat this multi-level fraud has done is remove informed consent from the public – people believed they were paying for and consuming beef products.  The public also had no idea that they were at risk for consuming minute quantities of veterinary drug phenylbutazone(“bute”) as a result of massive quantities of horsemeat of unknown origin entering the food chain.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced that there are at least eight known cases of horse carcasses that tested positive for phenylbutazone in the EU out of 206 samples.  British Environment Minister David Heath told the House of Commons that of these eight horses, “three may have entered the food chain in France. The remaining five have not gone into the food chain.”

Phenylbutazone or “bute” was at one time marketed for humans use under the trade name of butazolidin.  It was a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (NSAID) used for arthritis and other inflammatory ailments that worked by inhibiting an

Butazolidin

Butazolidin – trade name for the human version of the drug phenylbutazone

enzyme that synthesizes chemical mediators called prostaglandins.  It was ultimately withdrawn by the FDA for causing a wide range of serious side-effects including blood dyscrasias which damage the bone marrow.  It remains however, on the market for treatment for horses and is an effective anti-inflammatory.  It is also prohibited in the food chain as residues of bute and its metabolite, oxyphenbutazone are not known to have safe limits.

Horse welfare advocates and the inadvertent consumers of horse meat have been repeatedly reassured by various government agencies and horse slaughter proponents that any residues of bute or its metabolite are harmless.  We know that the pro-slaughters aren’t relying on science when they tell us this, but what about government agencies?   On what do they base this reassurance?

Professor Tim Morris, veterinary surgeon and Vice Chair of the British Horse Industry Confederation, said:

“It is important to note that the levels of Bute in horsemeat, even if it is found, will be very low, and greatly below the doses following medical treatment in people that have been associated with occasional rare adverse reactions; therefore whilst this is unacceptable the actual risk to consumers is very small.”

Professor Peter Lees, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Pharmacology, Royal Veterinary College, wrote that:

“The main toxicity concern in humans is that some people developed (very rarely – 1 in 30,000 to 1 in 50,000 persons) an anaemia which was life threatening, when the drug was used clinically in humans. This occurred when the drug was used therapeutically in humans at a dose rate of some 2 to 6 mg/kg, similar to the current dose for the horse of 4.4 mg/kg.”

The question is whether the presence of bute in horsemeat can present a risk to human health even in small amounts.  In the above noted tests, the highest amount of bute found in a horse carcass was 1.9 mg.  If a human had been taking butazolidin in the 50s, they might have taken 200-400 mg a day in total, if we compare it to the current-day dosage of Tylenol or Advil.  Obviously, we would have to consume a significant amount of contaminated horsemeat in order to reach the level of a therapeutic drug dosage.

9601_fig1What is not clear, despite reassurances, is the level that is necessary for the average person to consume in order to experience a toxic effect.  The basis for determining toxicity levels to inform public policy decisions has been the dose-response relationship, which is central to defining “safe” and “hazardous” levels and dosages for drugs, potential pollutants, and other substances to which humans are exposed.

If a therapeutic does of butazolidin was once considered “safe” at 200-400 mg, then how do we know that some individuals are safe at 1.9 mg?  If butazolidin was withdrawn from the market as being unsafe for some people at that dosage, we don’t know whether sensitive individuals may have experienced toxicity at lower levels as well.  What about drug interactions?  There is an acknowledged interaction between phenylbutazone and the anticoagulant drug warfarin, and patients taking warfarin can suffer severe gastrointestinal bleeding if they also take phenylbutazone.  This complicates arguments about safety of bute in horsemeat.  Bute also metabolizes to oxyphenbutazone,  which has been shown to have similar toxicity.  Have any of these horse carcasses been tested for oxyphenbutazone?  Both bute and oxyphenbutazone bind to human serum albumin (HSA) as does warfarin and so they “compete” with each other.  For more information on this interaction, please read this study by the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Western Australia.

Indian vultures poisoned by diclofenac after eating scavenging livestock treated with the drug

Indian vultures poisoned by diclofenac after scavenging livestock treated with the drug

If it still seems as though a negligible trace of bute in meat might not be enough to cause harm,  there is an analogous cautionary tale of another NSAID – diclofenac, which was also used in human medicine for decades,  and was recently introduced for veterinary use in India.  Obviously, the dynamics are not the same, but vultures appear to have been exposed to the drug while scavenging livestock carcasses, their main food source, and this has accounted for death by renal failure of many vultures examined in a three-year study by the scientific journal Nature.  Further investigation showed that diclofenac was fatal to vultures at 10 percent of the recommended dose. Tissue residues in livestock treated at the labelled dose rate were sufficient to cause death in vultures. These findings confirmed that diclofenac is the primary cause of the Asian vulture decline.

“As few as one in 760 carcasses containing diclofenac at a dose lethal to vultures would be sufficient to cause the observed decline in vulture numbers (30% per year). Clearly, even small-scale usage of the drug can have catastrophic consequences.”

The traceability issues with this untraceable horse/donkey meat also bears some similarity to the problem of kangaroo meat diverted into the human food chain in Australia.  Kangaroo meat is often obtained from animals that were shot with machine guns via helicopters and therefore not slaughtered humanely and not bled by conventional standards either.  Possibly also introduced into the food chain dubiously as well.

The ability to treat horses with bute is very important for their welfare.  The EU scandal has also revealed that the passporting system there is subject to fraud, despite strict rules regarding the regulation of medicines.  The fault lies not with horse owners but with individuals or organizations who are motivated by greed and willing to manipulate the system, allow their controls to fail, or commit outright fraud.

Food safety laws are clear.  Companies that produce, trade or sell food or food ingredients are legally obligated to implement a quality assurance system called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point house-of-cards(HACCP), which maximizes food safety by minimizing chemical, physical and microbiological hazards.  There is something wrong with a food system whereby the food animal must sit on a feedlot for six months in order that veterinary drugs “degrade,” and 100% of the “raw material” must pass a negative test before they can enter the food chain.

In the final analysis, no one is really in a position to make broad statements about the safety of this horse/donkey meat.  Conrad Brunk,  the co-chair of the 2001 Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology, wrote that:

“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.”bute  - High res

Scandal Stokes Curiosity: Is There Horsemeat In Imported US Beef Products?

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horse-meat1Written By:  Jaime Cowan

Package Photos By:  Jaime Cowan

In June of 2012, I moved from a small town to Topeka, Kansas.  That meant I had to find new, local places to do my regular shopping.   I have not eaten meat in almost a year.  But I live with my mother and she does eat meat, and for the time being, so do my daughters.  But during one of the first visits to the store my mother frequents, I noticed something in the meat cooler that gave me serious cause for concern.

Sent after a pound of hamburger, I found myself shuffling through the packages looking for one that did not read Canada/Mexico on its labeling.  Of course the fear of meat imported from Canada and/or Mexico stems from the fear (and paranoia, according to others) that maybe those countries could in some way or another, let the tainted meat of horses they inhumanely slaughter, seep into the meat they prepare and market for export.  In my opinion, if a company is killing and selling animals they know have a reputation for containing banned substances, and they sell these products without concern for the potential illnesses their product could cause their consumers, then who can guarantee their honesty in any other regard? The following photos are taken from a Dillon’s store clearly showing the labels for the country of “origin.”   “The label shall list all countries contained therein or that may be reasonably contained therein in any order.”

meat package1

Country of Origin is “USA/Canada/Mexico”

It’s possible that this package actually contains beef from all three countries, and it might also contain beef from just two countries; perhaps Mexico and Canada. It’s also possible that this package actually contains beef sourced only from Mexico but was produced in a US plant that typically also sources raw materials from Canada and the US for other products. Unfortunately, the consumer still won’t know the country of origin from such a label. Ground beef may be sourced from different countries to be processed in one US plant and the label need only reflect the countries from which the company typically sourced its raw materials for products over the past few months.”

I also found a list of Mexican plants approved to export meat to the United States.  Of course,  Mexico also slaughters horses and I wonder what guarantees are made to ensure we receive only beef?  And if there are any assurances made,  are they worth more than the paper they’re printed on?

Here is an explanation of the labeling process and the requirements that are supposed to be met in order for import/export.  Of course, as we all are seeing unfold in the UK, these requirements can exist, but there is really no guarantee they are being completely complied with unless every piece of meat is inspected.

meat package 2 - Copy

Country of Origin is “USA/Canada/Mexico”

When visiting the website of Kroger/Dillon’s we see that there are many links to importation and other info containing product origination that are dead or inactive. This made me even more suspicious.  I was unable to find any information with regards to the origin of their meat products other than the most generic information.  Plenty of other information is provided though.  I believe the origin of products that we eat is very important and should be available for consumers to have access to, especially with the meat scandal actively taking place overseas.

I agree with  B.J. Rickard. During his regular live internet broadcast called “Stall13” via his website The World of Horses, he questioned why more people, including the “hot rod information sources” aka big news companies here in the United States, are not questioning the contents of the meat sold on the shelves of grocery stores nationwide.  We are obviously accepting meats imported from countries that slaughter horses,  so why isn’t the imported meat here being audited or DNA tested?   Maybe it is known that if meat is inspected and found to have a trace of any animal other then what is listed, the reputation and reliability of the U.S. meat inspection and food safety would be in shambles.  “It is only about money, and nothing else.”

meat package 4

Another Product of Unknown Origin

Now that the dangers of horse meat are being discussed in mainstream news articles and brought to everyone’s attention, why is it even a consideration to legalize horse slaughter in the State of Oklahoma (For Export Only)?  What kind of government would allow the slaughter, sale and export of a product (animal, pet) that is so dangerous, unregulated and inhumane that consumption of it is not even allowed in its own state?  It just further confirms the belief that the government officials suggesting such ideas are nothing other than selfish, irresponsible and dishonest.  In my opinion they are recklessly participating in an act of agro-terrorism by slaughtering companion animals for food.

All of my horses have been given a medication from this list in the last 3 months. They are also given regular dewormers.  Any horse that has been given a medication or product from this list is automatically banned from entering the food chain.  In October of 2010 and March of 2011, my horse Rhapsody was given Banamine as well as being on a regular deworming schedule.  She had multiple drugs in her system, but was illegally and fraudulently sold to a horse auction owner, who in turn sold her to a kill buyer to be shipped to Mexico.  Documents were forged and falsified, stating that she had no banned substances in her body.   If you are unsure of your stance on horse slaughter, please take the time to read and educate yourself

meat package 3I am not so concerned for myself, but for the lives of my children, my horses and the rest of the world that places trust in the food system. It takes a special type of idiot to condone the preparation of a food source that they personally do not dare eat.   I have sent my faxes and made my phone calls and will continue to do so.

We’ve presented a loud and unified voice in other states,  and now we must stop the process taking place in Oklahoma, where slaughter would be legalized for horses both wild and domestic.  Please read the following sources of information and take action now!  Oppose SB375 and HB1999. Vote NO to Legalizing Horse Slaughter and Horse Meat Consumption in Oklahoma and Vote NO on the Export of Horse Meat to Outside Entities including other U.S. States or Foreign Countries.

Wild Horse Protection on Facebook

Oppose Horse Slaughter In Oklahoma on Facebook

Horse Welfare 2012 – The Year in Review….

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© Heather Clemenceau

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Horse advocates have had a busy year working to prohibit the importation or exportation of horses for slaughter for human consumption. Horse protection groups released many damning reports of abuse and drug contamination,  and took aggressive legal action to discourage slaughter.

Undercover footage helped support our position,  and numerous investigations were publicized.  Citizen advocates monitored illegal trucking activities and for the first time,  retrieved horses directly from slaughterhouses. Pro-slaughters proved,  via their own (in)actions,  that slaughter does not prevent starvation.

We were also aided by the improved sensitivity of testing protocols in the EU,  which continued to reveal drug contamination of horsemeat,  a finding which is continually met with silence by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency,  although the subject of drug contamination is making its way into the food webs.  We’ve told restaurants in both Canada and the US that we don’t want horses on the menu.

Horse killers,  kill buyers and their enablers did not have a good year – several were charged with felonies.  Slaughterhouse Sue and Dave Duquette were unable to open any of their proposed slaughterhouses, despite performing an endless kabuki dance around the true status of the plants.  Duquette also forgot to send a cheque to renew his own domain name on the web and subsequently lost www.daveduquette.com to a pro-horse HSUS site.

We’ve grown more media  savvy too,  with PSAs and billboards getting the message out.  We are mobilizing via different social media platforms to petition lawmakers. Numerous examples of “horse hoarding” received publicity as well,  with advocates rallying to promote horse adoptions through the increased use of Facebook groups.  We’ve also demanded that horse killers and those who fail to protect horses and humans be justly punished.  However,  despite our best efforts to keep Senate bill 1176 and House resolution 2966 active,  they both died without ever being brought to a vote.

The challenges in 2013 will be even greater,  as the EU moves to ban importation of North American horsemeat and the full force and effect of the ending of the slots program in Ontario are felt.  HWAC,  Equine Canada and the FEI are also launching “prototype” chipping programs,  ostensibly to ensure compliance with 2013 EU regulations.  As we fine-tune all our programs and advocacy efforts,  we look forward to a most challenging year,  but no doubt one filled with hope that we might be seeing the final death throes of the horse slaughter industry.  Happy Holidays indeed!

Read the entire chronological recap on Storify:

horse welfare 2012

 

Happy New Year