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Horse Welfare 2014 – The Year In Review

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2014 seasons greetings graphic© Heather Clemenceau

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

So we’re concluding the “Year of the Horse,” which technically ends on 02/18/2015, until the next YOTH, in 2026. Will we see the “end times” for horse slaughter before then? While on the subject of the Chinese zodiac, I’m reminded of the phrase “may you live in interesting times,” which according to Wikipedia, is an English expression purporting to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. The nearest related Chinese expression is “宁为太平犬,莫做乱世人” which conveys the sense that it is “better to live as a dog in an era of peace than a man (woman) in times of war.”

Each year spent fighting horse slaughter is proof enough that we live in a time of war – a constant struggle to maintain the de facto ban on domestic horse slaughter in the U.S. With the signing of the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, the U.S. will continue to forbid the domestic slaughter of horses for human consumption. Horse slaughter was effectively blocked via an injunction in New Mexico,  and after exhausting all legal avenues, Valley Meat owner Rick De Los Santos gives up.  As a testament to the durability of the pro-slaughter mindset,  a new owner is still expressing interest in slaughter in that state.

There is continued support for the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, which would ban both the slaughter and export of American horses for human consumption. Despite the support of 308 Representatives and 60 Senators behind the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act to stop the inhumane practice of “soring” show horses, a small group of obstructionists in Congress prevented a vote on the PAST Act, so this must be revisited in 2015. There is increased outrage against the drugging of horses in the racing industry and TWH soring and attendance at “Big Lick” shows is declining.

The mismanagement of wild horses and burros in the west continues to be predominant, as is the BLM continuing to conduct inhumane round-ups and removals while failing to move decisively toward humane on-the-ground population management strategies built around fertility control. Criticism of Premarin® and Prempro® and similar drugs derived from conjugated equine estrogens continues to be made in 2014.possible impossible

Reverberations of the 2013 horsemeat adulteration scandal are still felt – we are occasionally hearing of instances whereby horsemeat has infiltrated the food supply.  The EU is in the process of revising rules on horse passports, and horsemeat was withdrawn various markets in the EU, resulting in the loss of a contract that was of tremendous importance to Claude Bouvry in Alberta.

An unpopular wild horse capture goes ahead in Alberta, and the protest received a celebrity endorsement by singer Jann Arden.  After months of uncertainty for the hardy protesters who were arrested near the capture site,  the charges were later dismissed.

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) and its supporters continue to ensure that bad press for the slaughter industry reaches the public. The Global News 16X9 investigation is made with the assistance of the CHDC and supporter/horse rescuer Mindy Lovell and others. The CHDC continues to publish the results of ATI (FOIA) requests, each one revealing grievous departures by the CFIA from established procedures..

Despite intense lobbying, press conferences and huge pushes for Bill C-571, Canadian anti-slaughter advocates were ultimately let down by the NDP party. As a result, the anti-slaughter Bills in Canada ultimately failed.

The poor economic results in the last 6 years helped ensure that all breed organizations experienced a decline in the number of foals, registrations and memberships. If fewer horses are being bred (and ultimately slaughtered), the prospect of turning around the problem of North American horse slaughter is on the horizon. This has not gone unnoticed by those with a vested interest in seeing horse populations increase and the convenience of slaughter continue.  The Ontario Racing Commission recently announced that the province’s standardbred racing industry is about to get a substantial $12 million infusion to its program to encourage breeding, after the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Programs resulted in the slaughter of thousands of horses, including foals and broodmares. The declining number of horses (rightsizing?) continues to be a hot topic in the U.S as well, where the American Horse Council wondered aloud at their 45th annual meeting what they could do to increase registration (and breeding) from the various equestrian disciplines. The Jockey Club too, are concerned about the drop in racehorse starts.  And lastly, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the AVMA suddenly have a problem with the aspect that fewer horses mean less income for veterinarians and other equine practitioners. If these professional groups were more forward-thinking, they might have given greater consideration to building relationships with their clients rather than promoting slaughter at the expense of humane euthanasia…….

Perhaps the most promising news this year though comes in confirmation that the European Commission, after a recent audit, decided to suspend horsemeat imports from Mexico due to food safety concerns. If Canada is not far behind (indeed our slaughter industry presents the same concerns as Mexico), then the loss of these markets could prove devastating to the horse slaughter industry in Canada, preventing plants from achieving economies of scale and therefore continuing to thrive.

Click here to review some of the highlights (and lowlights) on Storify, in chronological order.

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Horse Welfare 2013 – The Year in Review

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2014 Christmas Horse copy© Heather Clemenceau

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

2013 certainly became the year of the adulterated horsemeat scandal!  “Filler product,” comprised of horse meat and beef, is believed to have been unwittingly sourced from Poland and Romania, and used in the manufacture of the burgers and other ready-to-eat products.  Millions of products were removed from supermarket shelves in the EU.  The impact on industry trust on consumer confidence and ultimately on ready-meal volumes has been severe, and we are still occasionally hearing of instances whereby horsemeat has infiltrated the food supply.  Promises to tighten up the traceability systems in the UK should serve as foreshadowing to other nations such as Canada,  where it seems likely that some form of traceability will be pushed on the horse owner in the distant future.

There were certainly other big stories centering on animals, and the publicity surrounding the release of “Blackfish” was perhaps the most notable one, generating massive concern over the plight of captive marine mammals. Will any of the movies produced to highlight the plight of wild and slaughterbound horses be able to achieve similar popularity in 2014?  There are “lessons learned” from the success of this movie that can be used to bring horse issues to the mainstream public….

In the U.S., there were maneuvers to open slaughterhouses in Iowa, Missouri, and New Mexico, even though these businesses have almost no chance of being profitable and may not even be able to sell their product in the EU. Thus far, they have been staved off in court, but what happens in 2014 is uncertain.  HSUS and other advocates have secured language in the House and Senate 2014 spending bills to bar USDA inspections of horse slaughter plants, but the Congress has not given final approval to the measure.  Sadly, in Canada, a 5th horse slaughter plant opened in British Columbia.  which has become the subject of strenuous protests by horse advocates in that part of the country.  The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition also brought to the forefront the issue of non-compliant transport of live horses to Japan for meat.

In New York, grassroots animal advocates put carriage horses on the media radar screen during the mayoral contest there, and recently a carriage driver was charged with animal abuse after a horse was observed by police to be lame from serious thrush.  Cruelty to Tennessee Walker Horses was brought out of the stable and into the sunlight.  Trainer Jackie McConnell was sentenced for his abuses,  and trainer Larry Wheelon was indicted.  The PAST Act, legislation to upgrade the federal law against soring, received significant support with more than 250 House members signing on to the bill. The former leader of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association came out in favour of the bill, as did other prominent leaders within the industry.

Coins offered by the Royal Canadian Mint celebrate 2014 as the Year of the Horse

Coins offered by the Royal Canadian Mint celebrate 2014 as the Year of the Horse

As most of us know, 2014 is the Year of the HorseA article on Chinese elements describes those born in the Year of the Horse as:

“Those born under the Sign of the Horse are said to be graceful, eager, impetuous, sharp, fashionable, hardworking, intelligent, friendly, cheerful and popular folks. People born in the Year of the Horse are excellent talkers, and can charm just about anyone. They are clever, kind to others, and like adventure. It is easy for them to fall in love. They are cheerful, perceptive, talented, and earthy. They like entertainment and large crowds. Horses are not comfortable with authority; they prefer to be the One in charge. They prefer a constantly changing, challenging environment. They are adventurers, scientists, poets, and politicians.”

Recent Horse Years are: 1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990 and 2002. A few famous people born in the Year of the Horse: Frédéric François Chopin (1810), Davy Crockett (1786), Paul McCartney, Harrison Ford , Aretha Franklin, and Barbara Streisand (1942), Teddy Roosevelt (1858), Sir Isaac Newton (1642)  and Oprah Winfrey (1954)

Click to review highlights of the entire year on Storify:

storify 2013