Tag Archives: traceability

Bill C-571 – Between a Wedge and a Hard Place

Standard
Art by Jody Bergsman - www.bergsma.com

Art by Jody Bergsma – http://www.bergsma.com

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

It’s no secret that anti-slaughter advocates are disappointed to hear that Bill C-322 does not have support in the House, nor did it have support at NDP caucus meetings.  In addition, the new Safe Food for Canadians Act contains some wording that would not have been compatible with Bill C-322 moving forward.

The reality is that few Private Member Bills make their way up the ladder to become law.  We are so fortunate that MP Alex Atamanenko chose this Bill to present to the House,  but to have seen it fail would mean that we would have no hope that, in the foreseeable future, any MP would have picked up the cause.  Alex Atamanenko is retiring in 2015, and at this time we have no other MP who has given us this much support to enact legislation to end horse slaughter.

Our many friends and allies who wrote to their MPs can attest to the fact that Conservatives (who hold the majority of seats in Parliament) did not stand in support of the Bill.  So at the 11th hour, as we all know,  Alex and his staff drafted a new Bill that was more likely to succeed in the House,  yet it included concessions to the industry that no one wanted to see.  The Bill does not allow anyone to send or convey from one province to another, or import or export (a) a horse or other equine for slaughter for human consumption; or (b) horsemeat products – or meat products derived from any other equine – for human consumption.”

The biggest concession was that it allowed for the production of “meat” horses.  From the Bill: In addition to the other requirements of this Act and the Regulations made under this Act, no person shall send to a registered establishment a horse or other equine for slaughter for human consumption unless the horse or other equine was raised primarily for human consumption and unless they submit to the operator of the registered establishment a medical record for that horse or other equine that contains its standardized description and a complete lifetime record, in chronological order, of the medical treatments it has received.”

MP Alex Atamanenko states, We do not have a system that has stringent regulations right now, and in the name of food safety, the bill fits in with the new Safe Food for Canadians Act. It is an expansion of Bill C-322. It conforms with trade regulations and it tightens up the whole aspect of food safety.  I would urge all members of the House to support the bill, especially all of those hundreds of thousands of people who supported Bill C-322.”

With enactment of the new Bill C-571, horses would continue to cross the border but would NOT enter slaughter plants unless they have a vet-signed passport to accompany them.  How many horses coming across the border would have such passports with them, if they’re coming for slaughter from the U.S.?  Probably very few.  There’s always the possibility of fraud, and that’s why the humane groups would continue to remain watchful in the field.

Privately, this development is hugely disappointing to so many of us, especially those who lobbied for support of Bill C-322 and collected so many signatures.  But there are still reasons to support it publicly. Because the

A log splitter is a "wedge" that ultimately fractures or splits the log apart.

A log splitter is a “wedge” that ultimately fractures or splits the log apart.

effect of the Bill would have a negative effect on the economies of scale of the Canadian slaughter plants (by preventing privately owned pet and riding horses from entering the slaughter stream),  it serves to act as a “wedge” that can be used to enact further restrictions on the horse slaughter industry.  The “wedge” is a strategy most famously used as a manifesto by  Discovery Institute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. You’re probably wondering what intelligent design has to do with horse slaughter, and the answer is “nothing.” But the wedge strategy as used by Bill C-571 is a political and social action plan meant to sway public policy makers and ultimately make slaughter for 90% of all horses totally unfeasible, essentially putting kill buyers out of action.  So while privately we have great difficulty with the Bill,  many of us can find a way to support it politically.

The Bill might be more palatable once we understand that not all animal protection initiatives launched by Canadian organizations have protected all species across the country either.  Despite the work done by WSPA, Animal Alliance, Humane Society International, Mercy for Animals, and others, most results are made incrementally by lobbying. For example, some groups have achieved hunting or trapping bans in various municipalities but not others. Sometimes protecting animals in shelters has begun with a ban on the sale of lost pets for experimentation, but only in a select number of provinces.  While protecting some animals, these actions don’t save all the pets, but it’s another example of a wedge that can be used to advance legislation in other provinces.  How long have ethical people all over the world lobbied against the Canadian seal hunt?  A recent campaign resulted in the European Union implementing a European-wide ban that began in 2010.  And the boycott of Canadian seafood will continue until the Canadian government ends the commercial seal hunt. If you can shut down trade in bear galls by 50% by making concessions, is it better to do that than to make no concessions and achieve nothing?  It takes a long time to get bans on spring bear hunts in Ontario,  and they often aren’t permanent bans either – groups must continue to lobby for them. In many ways the new Bill C-571 can be viewed in the same manner.

Art by Jody Bergsma - www.bergsma.com

Art by Jody Bergsma – http://www.bergsma.com

Recently, the Canadian government announced a new program, seeded with $450,000, to “support animal welfare at slaughter.”  Of course this is also an ethical dilemma for many people, especially since it appears that horse slaughterhouses may be able to qualify for funding to better “restrain animals at slaughter.”  This program suggests that slaughterhouses already aren’t doing their jobs correctly or overseeing the slaughter process as well as they should. And improvement or not, perhaps this is an example of tossing money at a situation that cannot be made humane and should just be stopped outright  Only the reader can judge as to whether “improving restraint for slaughter” is ethical.  But it demonstrates that they are feeling the pressure.

It is easier (but not easy, as our American counterparts can attest) to keep an industry from restarting than it is to close an industry that has full government support.  The Americans are somewhat fortunate in that there are at least a greater number of individuals and groups that can impact legislation more easily than can Canadians.  Sadly, the Conservative Canadian government is a government that is beholden to big business, and one that makes every attempt to shape public policy to that end. It is a government that is more interested in keeping its corporate masters happy than in protecting animals or the food chain.

Advertisements

Silence of the CFIA Lambs….

Standard

passport medsWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

July 31st, the supposed EU deadline for implementing a traceability system for horses in Canada, is a date that has come and gone.  Although many pro-slaughter advocates maintained that we all made up that date, it clearly originated from the GAO report on horse slaughter – Horse Welfare – Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter.

“Furthermore, effective July 31, 2013, the European Union will require lifetime medication records for all horses slaughtered in non-European Union countries before accepting imports of horsemeat from those countries. According to APHIS and horse industry sources, these requirements could result in shippers certifying that their horses are free of medication residues without having first-hand knowledge or documentation of the horses’ status for the previous 180 days.”

cash paid for unwanted horsesEarlier in July I wrote to the CFIA to find out what was going down on July 31st.  While Dr. Alexander, Chief Veterinary Officer for the CFIA’s response did address some of the questions I posed in a letter, it also leaves some other questions completely unanswered or open to interpretation.  The most obvious acknowledgement by the CFIA is that the EU has apparently extended the date two or three years into the future, not that we will be ready by 2015 or 2016 either.  They’re really hedging their bets by including two possible implementation dates too!  Just in case they can’t get it together by 2015, well, there’s always next year!  Lather, rinse and repeat……..

Of course,  restrictions and deadlines hardly bothered the CFIA in the past,  but now they have this passport system with which to contend – a detailed electronic log of a horse’s lifetime veterinary record and the drugs it has been given— including, but not limited to phenylbutazone, which is banned entirely, must not have been given to the horse in at least the last 180 days prior to slaughter or they can not be imported into EU nations.  Canada tried to implement traceability for horses before,  and seemed to give up after spending almost $500,000 to find out that it was unworkable,  no doubt due in part to the fact that many Canadian horse owners just don’t seem to be interested in paying for microchips and barn calls to satisfy third party concerns about the eligibility of our horses for meat.

Click to embiggen and read the entire letter.

Click to embiggen and read the entire letter.

Also of interest is the fact that Dr. Alexander tells us that the horsemeat market in Canada is worth $36 million, while we’ve always known it to generate around $70 million in the recent past.  Exactly what happened to halve the revenue of this industry in 2012?

Put down any beverages you are currently drinking, because you’ll probably  choke when you read that Dr. Alexander believes that the EID system is just as effective as the passporting system!  Well, perhaps he’s not really wrong, since they are both completely falsifiable and corruptable.  We saw this during the EU lasagna adulteration scandal early this year, 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 as does buying meat off the street from a stranger.

missingNotice also that “technical support” is being offered to both Equine Canada and Canada’s #1 slaugherphile Bill DesBarres of the Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada.  Is that CFIA-speak for throwing money at both groups?  Apparently, Canada can’t learn from the EU’s mistakes – we’re going to have two separate and distinct databases?  The same problems in the EU system – lack of control over the inputs into the database and duplicated records would happen here, and it would be even worse with two systems.  The EU has since realized that there were too many opportunities for unscrupulous people to make changes to the database, and are tightening up controls in that respect.  What gives veterinarians the idea that they should have any business involving themselves in the architecture and implementation of databases anyway?

I love the closing paragraph on Alexander’s correspondence, – they’ve got an “action plan to not stop exporting equine meat products to the EU Market.”  That’s right,  no matter what,  they’ll jury-rig the system and bamboozle the EU in order to maintain the status quo.  Of course they don’t allude to what their plans entail.  Whatever could the CFIA have told the EU to make them think we have a system with any credibility whatsoever?

The CFIA was given the dual and conflicting mandate to promote agri-food trade and sales,  as well as ensure food safety. That agency has a role to play in preventing the crime of allowing adulterated

Agriculture Minister and failed ostrich farmer Gerry Ritz

Agriculture Minister and failed ostrich farmer Gerry Ritz.  Live export, horse slaughter, exploding sausages, lavish expenditures, and the downloading of responsibility for our food inspection to the un-elected private sector. Somebody stick a fork in Gerry Ritz. I think he’s done.

horsemeat into the market, but it’s clear that they should not be in charge of food protection whilst simultaneously sending the inexplicably still-employed Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz and others on missions around the world promoting trade.

Food safety in Canada has jumped the shark.  There’s just too much allegiance to old, outdated systems operating purely on faith.  Horses are not living beings exploited by this industry and its participants, but “products” to be exported like lumber.  Oh Canada, what have we got to be proud about when it comes to our treatment of horses?

Survey Results Reveal That Traceability Does Little to Alleviate Concerns About Horsemeat……

Standard

 

testing horsemeatWritten by Heather Clemenceau

First of all, thanks to everyone for completing the survey I launched in a previous blog,  and for sharing your opinions.  In this survey I don’t claim to provide options for pro-slaughters to render an opinion here, as most people following this blog are vehemently opposed to horse slaughter.  So the questions are mostly open and non-leading, but only if you’re of the anti-slaughter sentiment!

After numerous missed deadlines or the complete absence of functional plans and infrastructure,  we have about two months to go in Canada before we find out what happens with equine traceability.  We know Ag-Canada and Equine Canada won’t be ready, but what will the EU do about it?  They are well aware that the Canadian slaughter system  is  unreliable, dangerous to the global food supply and one to avoid emulating should the U.S. resume slaughtering horses for human consumption, as is being proposed. If the EU decides to continue with the status quo, they are no doubt aware that the EID does not prevent adulterated meat from reaching the consumer. It can’t, because the document doesn’t guarantee anything.   It’s also become more obvious to Canadians that the CFIA is populated with many veterinarians who are quick to respond to news articles to defend food safety practices – but unless they are trained in public health and willing to put public health front and centre, they should refrain from providing false assurances of safety or meddling in food processing operations.  This is certainly true for Dr. Ian Alexander,  who has an Honours B. Sc. degree in Biology and an M. Sc and Ph.D in Veterinary Pharmacology/Toxicology as well as a Doctorate of Veterinary of Medicine from the University of Guelph – but – apparently no public health experiences or epidemiological course of study. It’s absolutely astounding to me that with his education he can blithely dismiss the CFIA testing protocols for horsemeat as remotely accurate.

Traceability is “the ability to systematically identify a unit of production, track its location and describe any treatmenhorse-meatts or transformations at all stages of production,  processing and distribution.”  (Archipelago, 2005)

A takeaway from the food fraud/mislabelling scandal in the EU tells us that no amount of tracking without DNA species analysis at critical junctures would have prevented this fraud.  If all these big chains with their food-safety-is-first traceability schemes don’t know what’s in the products they’re hawking, how are mere mortals and consumers to know?

Equine Life Numbers Liz Brown

Journalist Liz Brown has researched equine traceability for Horse-Canada. Please click on the graphic to embiggen and read the entire article as a PDF.

The concerns with EU horsemeat scandal  and the North American experience have been reflected in the survey.  While 43.9% of the respondents believed that disease-tracking would be an important outcome of such a system,  66.7% of those same individuals would not voluntarily opt-in to a program.  Perhaps related to an earlier statement from Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis regarding slaughterhouses providing 72 hours to claim (and pay associated costs for) a stolen horse  from a plant,  63.2% of those surveyed do not believe a tracking program would significantly prevent horse theft.   I don’t believe attitudes towards traceability for horses result only from cost or other confounding elements of the program, but from past experience with and knowledge of players in the horse slaughter industry itself.  Traceability will do nothing to make slaughter humane,  assure them  food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which they are often seriously injured or killed in transit.

Recent high profile food recalls and enhanced consumer awareness have made traceability a high level issue across the supply chain, from manufacturer to consumer. Even though I have a philosophical objection to it,  journalist Liz Brown has written extensively about the inevitability of  traceability in Canada – her research on the program is available by clicking on the article to the left.

1233a44a5677a7b7c7d7e

Further reading:

Star Investigation:  Ottawa refuses to say whether drug-tainted horsemeat entered food chain

Star Investigation:  Drugged horses slipping through inadequate food system

Saving Holly:  Destined for dinner tables,  Star joins race to rescue drug-filled mare from slaughter