Research – How Does Transport Impact Senior Horse Immune Function?

Original article – The Horse – written by Erica Larson, July 25, 2017

Transporting horses is stressful,  particularly so for the senior horse,  who may experience a compromised immune response, elevated stress hormones, and decreased body weight.  Weakened immune responses as a result of transporting the senior horse may explain the frequency of respiratory illnesses in feedlots etc.  These findings are yet another reason why senior horses should not be transported for the “humane end of life option” of slaughter.

“Researchers have long known that transportation can be stressful for horses—not only for their minds but also for their bodies. Still, scientists haven’t yet zeroed in on all the ways travel impacts horses’ body systems. They have proven that transport negatively impacts the immune function of other species, including cattle and swine, but little is known about the horse, and there’s no work investigating the impact on senior horses.

…the team hypothesized that, following short-distance transportation:

  • Stress hormone (cortisol) levels would increase;
  • Cell-mediated immune responses (which protect the body against intracellular organisms, such as viruses, using special white blood cells called T-cells; the T-cells recognize when a cell has been infected by a pathogen and act to eliminate it before the pathogen can replicate) would decrease; and
  • Inflammatory cytokine production would increase.

The team used 16 senior horses with an average age of 25 years. They collected baseline blood samples and evaluated clinical parameters a week before a 1.5-hour trip. They gathered the same samples and data 15 minutes before the trip, 15 minutes after, and on Days 3, 7, 14, and 21 after transport.

Some of the team’s key findings included:

  • Horses had decreased INF-γ (interferon-gamma, an inflammatory mediator produced by lymphocytes) production starting 15 minutes after travel and through Day 21;
  • After transport, lymphocyte gene expression showed reduced INF-γ, TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor alpha, a cytokine involved in mediating systemic inflammation), and IL-10 (interleukin-10, another anti-inflammatory cytokine) levels;
  • Cortisol levels were increased 15 minutes after travel;
  • There were no differences in whole blood gene expression before and after transportation; and
  • Horses’ body weights decreased on Day 3 post-transport.”

Please read more here.

When Rescues Go Bad, Veterinarians Should Be Ready To Help

Here’s a good article by Natalie Voss from the Paulick Report, on the importance for veterinarians to recognize and act upon neglect in horse rescues. Veterinarians are in a position to observe occasions of animal abuse and have a moral obligation to report suspected cases.  That obligation has increased with the recognized link between abuse in animals and abuse in people and the recognition in some provinces (Quebec) of animal sentience. The rapid increase in the number of equine rescues and the number of horses under their control also means that increased vigilance and scrutiny must be made.

For Canadian veterinarians,  there is a Canada-specific resource produced by the CVMA that can be used for reference purposes.  Please click here to read the Microsoft Word document.

From the Paulick Report:

“As social media brings together more animal lovers and homeless horses than ever, authorities across the country are seeing an increase in the number of rescue situations gone bad. At the recent American Association of Equine Practitioners convention in Orlando, Fla., a panel of experts devoted an entire afternoon to helping veterinarians understand the legal and ethical implications involved in reporting cruelty cases and helping investigators document them.

There is no centralized authority keeping track of the numbers of horses reported neglected by owners each year, but the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests the number is growing. ASPCA is often called in large-scale neglect cases of all species to provide volunteer manpower and veterinary expertise.

It’s also becoming more common than ever to receive reports of large-scale neglect from farms operating as non-profit horse rescues. Dr. Jennifer Williams, president and co-founder of Blue Bonnet Equine Humane Society, pointed out the number of rescues has grown with the number of unwanted horses. When she began working in horse rescue 18 years ago, she was one of very few in that role in the state of Texas.

“Now you can’t hardly walk down the road without stumbling into a rescue. They’re everywhere,” said Williams, who noted there are now more than 400 organizations listed with the Internal Revenue Service as being a “horse” or “equine” rescue/humane society.

It’s only logical that some of those organizations will be ill-equipped to handle the unending need for their services, the panel agreed.

This means veterinarians need to be aware of the laws governing animal cruelty and neglect in their state and county and have an idea of who to call before they need to report a case. Some vets hesitate to report cases because they assume if the owner is ordering medical care for an animal, they can’t be considered to be abusing the animal. Others may believe they have to know who is responsible for abuse or neglect before reporting it (they don’t), or feel uncomfortable reporting a case in which the animals belong to someone who’s not a client. It’s also important for veterinarians to know the language of their state’s animal welfare laws, and the difference in “cruelty” (an act of commission, like beating an animal) versus “neglect” (an act of omission, like withholding feed).
 

“Just because you or I may feel something constitutes abuse, doesn’t mean the law recognizes it as such,” said Dr. Rachel Touroo, director of veterinary forensics at the ASPCA. “Therefore, you need to familiarize yourself with these laws to form an opinion of what constitutes cruelty or neglect.”

In fact, the non-reporting of a potential abuse case can pose a legal problem for veterinarians; some 11 states require them to report suspicions of abuse. (Kentucky, Florida, and New York have no such requirement; California does.)

Touroo indicated neglect is seen more often in horses than outright abuse and can be attributed to a variety of factors. Some owners (or rescues) run out of funding, others don’t have the necessary education to understand how to feed or care for animals. Others could experience depression or other emotional issues related to caregiver stress. Still others, Touroo said, have physical or mental health issues limiting their capacity to provide care. Mental health issues often manifest in the form of hoarding both animals and objects. In Touroo’s experience, people involved in these cases have lost touch with reality, and insist their crowded, starving, or ill animals are happy and healthy, even if it’s obvious they are not.

“They often will remain vigilant with this defense, all the way through court, even if they’re found guilty,” said Touroo. “They will insist they were providing the best care for these animals and no one else could care for these animals like they do.”

Despite this odd defense, people with overcrowded farms can also be aware enough of the horse’s physical appearance to hide the worst-looking animals on the back of the property, so veterinarians are encouraged to keep their eyes open. People operating rescues with this issue are sometimes known to refuse visitors to the facility, seem to focus on acquiring more animals rather than adopting out from their herd, and may insist upon accepting donated horses at a remote location.

Once a case has been identified and reported, veterinarians were encouraged to volunteer their support to local law enforcement. Some areas have dedicated animal control officers who may have training in identifying symptoms of malnourishment or untreated disease, but others are completely unprepared.

If veterinarians are brought in to help with an investigation, ASPCA has a suggested protocol for getting neglected horses treated without disrupting the legal case. Vets should take photographs of each horse throughout the treatment process from all angles, and establish identification numbers and descriptions of animals early on. Horses with contagious diseases should be quarantined and those diseases reported to the state’s animal health department if required. Medical records belong to the veterinarian and cannot legally be released without a subpoena (or permission from the animal’s owner), but should be maintained extensively for use in prosecution. This includes notes on normal findings or on vital signs and even means veterinarians shouldn’t delete blurry or out-of-focus photos from their phones. Dr. Nicole Eller, field shelter veterinarian, noted this causes gaps in metadata which could provide a defense lawyer a line of questioning in court.

Law enforcement should be tipped to any unusual equipment on the property such as veterinary drugs or surgical supplies. Possession of these items could constitute additional charges and could help identify accomplices.

Vets should also not refrain from billing the appropriate party for their treatment of the animals, since this demonstrates to the court the financial impact of restoring animals to health (though they shouldn’t expect speedy payment, either).

Ultimately, veterinarians’ role is to provide clarity, and hopefully in turn, justice and safety for the animal.

“We are advocates, in these cases, for the truth,” said Eller. “We as vets are used to being advocate for the animal, and in a lot of cases it should probably be the same thing. You don’t need to describe guilt or innocence; you just need to describe your findings.”

University of Saskatchewan Develops Endoscopy Capsule (Camera Pill) For Horses

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Julia Montgomery, from the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, holds up an endoscopy capsule designed for humans but tested on the thoroughbred horse, Mama. The camera in a pill is able to take pictures for nine hours throughout the horse’s abdomen. | William DeKay

Endoscopy capsules are already available for human patients,  and aid in the diagnoses of inflammatory bowel and other conditions.  The capsule is the size and shape of a large pill and contains a tiny wireless camera.  After a patient swallows the capsule, it takes pictures of the inside of the gastrointestinal tract. 

The University of Saskatchewan has developed a prototype capsule for horses based on the capsule already in use for humans.  The capsule will be inserted via stomach tube and will contain lenses that send digital colour images attached to a receiver located in a belt wrapped around the horse’s rib cage.

Please read more here:

Access-To-Information Documents Reveal Horse Death On Atlas Air Flights To Japan

The attached Access-To-Information documents, relating to live shipments from  the Calgary Airport in Alberta in March 2015, describe the conditions under which several horses went down once loaded or prior to being loaded on a flight to Osaka Japan via Atlas Air.

Of the horses that were taken back to be assessed,  one horse was found to be deceased in the crate.  Note that the brand has been obscured.  No explanation was provided for the cause of death,  and it`s unknown whether a necropsy was performed on the deceased horse.

 

From Equine Guelph: The Equine Biosecurity Risk Calculator

shutterstock_268534550Originally published in Equimed, June 2, 2016

“Equine Guelph has named 2016 the Year of Biosecurity.  Find out if there are extra steps your farm could be implementing to help reduce the risk of infectious disease.  With a simple 10 minute survey, the Biosecurity Risk Calculator, sponsored by Vétoquinol Canada Inc., provides a starting point to protecting your horse’s health with easy to implement practices for infectious disease control.”

The calculator is a series of 42 questions in 10 categories and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete.  The categories are:

  • General Facility
  • Housing Materials
  • Movement of Resident Horses
  • New Horses
  • Vaccination/Deworming
  • Movement of People On/Off The Horse Facility
  • Pest Control
  • Infection Control
  • Sick Horses
  • Isolation

After completing each section you will be able to calculate your score at the end of the exercise.

 

Welfare Of Horses Transported To Slaughter In Canada: Assessment Of Welfare And Journey Risk Factors Affecting Welfare

shutterstock_268534550This study  was published in the Canadian Journal of Animal Science. The findings of injury to horses are hardly surprising considering the number of unfamiliar horses travelling together in close confines and the rough handling involved whenever animals are being transported to slaughter.

Abstract:

“Injuries in horses transported to slaughter in Canada. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 95: 523–531. Horses transported in groups on long journeys to slaughter are at risk of injury. Injuries can occur following trauma and aggression from other horses. This study quantified injuries in 3940 horses from 150 loads that arrived at a slaughter plant in Canada. Surface injuries were quantified using visual assessment. Digital thermography was used to detect areas of raised surface temperature. Carcasses were assessed for bruising. Multivariable regression analysis was used to examine the associations between journey characteristics and the risk of injury. There was a significant association between journey duration and the number of horses per load with surface injuries (P<0.001). In 100 horses from 40 loads studied in detail, 33% had surface injuries identified by visual assessment, 48% had areas of raised surface temperature identified by thermography and 72% had bruising identified by carcass assessment. The levels of agreement between identification of injury by thermography and that by identification of visible injuries and carcass bruising were low. Pre-transport assessments could not be performed and hence injuries could not be linked causally to the transport conditions alone. However, the detailed assessments of injury and the use of multivariable regression analysis showed that long journeys were associated with injuries.”

The full text of the study,  available here,  makes several interesting observations:

“On the basis of changes in the behaviour and physiology of horses during a 30-h journey, Friend (2000) considered that journey durations in hot conditions, without water, should not exceed 28 h and they should be shorter if there was aggression between horses, the stocking density was high, and the fitness of the horses was less than ideal.”  This suggests that the 36 hour transport limitation is inhumane.

“There are many anecdotal reports and graphic images available on the internet and the effectiveness of the enforcement program in the USA has been called into question (United States Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General 2010; United States Government Accountability Office (2011).”  This comment seems to question the ability of the USDA and other groups to police slaughter and transport infractions while slaughter was operating in the US.

“Some loads of horses were slaughtered immediately upon arrival, some were lairaged overnight and others were kept for up to 2 d (if they arrived during a weekend).”  This observation refutes statements made by pro-slaughter advocates that there is a “holding period for withdrawal” at slaughter plant lots.  Since most of these horses will arrive from US-based auctions  where they were previously  owned by private individuals,  we can only ask slaughter apologists where the holding time occurs in the chain-of-custody for horses.  Indeed, Under the Health of Animals Regulations Import reference document, section 5, if imported horses are going directly to slaughter they must be:

1. Accompanied by a USA-origin health certificate.

2. Inspected by CFIA at the border on entry into Canada. The load is sealed at this point

3. Licensed by CFIA to be taken directly from the border entry point to a federally registered slaughter plant. The transporter must proceed directly to the plant. The horses may only be transported to the plant designated in the license.

4. CFIA inspectors at the plant will open the sealed load upon its arrival.

5. The plant operator must slaughter the horses within 4 days of their arrival

“For journey origins associated with long journey durations the majority of horses arrived at the slaughter plant with a plasma total protein concentration that was greater than normal and indicative of dehydration.”

“Lameness and poor body condition were not identified as potential issues affecting the fitness of many of the horses that were transported to slaughter. If many very low value horses and/or geriatric horses had been purchased for slaughter then a greater percentage of the horses would have been expected to have been in poor body condition and have shown signs of lameness (Cary and Turner 2006).”  This finding supports observations elsewhere and by the USDA that 92% of horses sent to slaughter are healthy are able to lead productive lives.  It is also suggestive that most horses are not sent to slaughter as a last resort before starvation and that injuries incurred enroute are less likely to be due to poor condition at the outset and more likely to be attributed to travel itself.

Veterinarians And The ‘Duty To Report’

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Our fight for the horses would be quickly accomplished if there were more veterinarians, farriers and trainers who would stand their ground and speak out.  We need a united front of professionals whose clients are the horses.

Very good analysis from Faunalytics – please also read  the study – Breaking the Silence – the Veterinarian’s Duty to Report by Martine Lachance, Professor,  Department of Juridical Sciences, Université de Québec à Montreal.

“When it comes to the safety and security of companion animals, veterinarians obviously play a crucial role. They are who we turn to when our companions are sick or otherwise need medical attention. In some cases, veterinarians may notice things about the human-animal relationship that is troubling or indicates abuse. While it is common to say that animals can’t speak for themselves, veterinarians may be able to identify abuse or neglect over the course of regular checkups or other procedures. Medical, legal, and other such professions often have a code of professional confidentiality in place that is meant to foster trust with patients, but in the case of veterinarians, this code of confidentiality may be more of a curse than a blessing.

This paper examines the code of professional confidentiality in the veterinary field and discusses how that code may not apply in the same ways because veterinarians have dual clients — the animals and their guardians. This tension between animal welfare and professional secrecy is largely due to the need to “minimize needless animal suffering” and to “provide full legal protection to the client-practitioner relationship,” respectively. What happens, though, if veterinarians notice something where the client-practitioner relationship needs to be set aside to protect the interests of the animal? In this sense, veterinarians are often the first line of defence for animals as they are the first people who are in a position to detect abuse. And so, we arrive at two important questions:

“Is a practitioner morally justified to report suspected cases of abuse to the appropriate authorities? If so, is the professional legally authorized to report the case even when bound by the rule of professional secrecy?”

While the answers may seem simple to animal advocates, the implications for veterinary practice could be profound. The right to professional secrecy is considered by many to be a “fundamental right” and an essential component of the medical legal framework. Still, this does not mean there aren’t exceptions, even in the human world. The field of pediatrics has long recognized the importance of putting in provisions where a doctor has a “duty to report” in situations of neglect or abuse of a child.

Some states in the U.S. (North Carolina, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, New York, and Oregon) have laws stating that veterinarians have a “moral obligation” (which is not the same as a legal obligation) to “report suspicious cases of mistreatment” of animals. In Canada, only Ontario has provisions for this, though they are also voluntary. With mandatory reporting, it may “appear to resolve the ethical dilemma of the practitioner,” but enforcing this mandatory reporting is also difficult. Practitioners may feel that they have a duty of conscience to report, but not a legal duty.

What’s more, the failure to report abuse often “does not expose professionals to any disciplinary consequences: any resulting professional penalties, being neither physical nor monetary, do not seem to carry the same weight as legal penalties.” While the legal duty to report abuse is currently in place in eight U.S. states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia) and two provinces (Newfoundland/Labrador and Quebec), “the actual exercise of the duty to report occurs almost as infrequently in the United States as the actual exercise of the right to report under voluntary disclosure.”

Where does this leave companion animal advocates and, more importantly, companion animals? The author doesn’t have solutions, per se, as creating provisions for the duty to report and enforcing those provisions are both very difficult legal tasks. The author does put forth the hope that codes of silence around reporting animal abuse can be broken down and that, as societies around the world become more attuned to the suffering of animals, we will see increasing importance placed on the duty to report. Professional veterinary associations, the author notes, may have an especially important role to play, to “help practitioners gain a better understanding of animal cruelty, the legal rules of disclosure, and the most appropriate response in such cases.” For animal advocates, this article gives a great deal to think about how we might also do our part in raising awareness of these issues.”

Veterinarians Need To Earn Respect By Rediscovering Original Mission

12992387_mlHere is a compelling article on the true value and merits of an animal-centric veterinary practice – from India, of all places.  We wish that North American veterinarians would read this and take this to heart.

Originally sourced here:

By Maneka Gandhi

“Once a week I get an application from people who want to join my hospital/shelter as a veterinary doctor. They come without experience and completely raw, unable to diagnose anything. After several months of training, one fine day, the vet will simply vanish — usually it’s the day after he gets his salary. Or he will say his mother is sick and take leave for a few days, never to return. Investigations reveal he has been chosen for a government job.

What do they do in the government? Do they heal animals? Do they go into the villages and teach villagers how to look after their animals? No. The ones that are unlucky enough to be posted to mofussil district clinics, while away their time playing cards or sitting in the winter sun. Those that are posted to city desk jobs become clerks and go into becoming teachers in government veterinary colleges. They have to look after the stray animals on the road and those that are taken to kanji houses. Not one of them does that and the kanji houses are simply a place where confiscated cattle are sold to butchers at night. Those that go to government laboratories to look after the “animal houses” – the animals that are used for experimentation – hardly ever go to work since their only job is to supply the poor animal to the experimenter. No one asks them how many die and whether they die of experimentation or starvation. The most prized posting that all government vets want is to slaughterhouses. Under the law every slaughterhouse has to have one vet for 96 animals. In reality, the slaughterhouses including the government ones in the capital, kill thousands of animals illegally. No vet can check the health of hundreds of animals with a cursory look. They have worms, broken limbs, tuberculosis, brucellosis, leukosis, sores, many are pregnant, most of them are underaged, and most of them are deeply wounded from being overloaded onto trucks and have gangrenous limbs. Many cannot walk and are dragged by the tails to the place of slaughter; breaking the rules that no sick animals can be killed. No vet checks any of this– most of them stay at home and receive a weekly packet from the butchers to stay away. In the history of slaughterhouses in India, not a single vet has rejected an animal for slaughter.

Another lucrative way is to certify private meat export companies without checking the meat. Many meat companies have been raided. What has been found is hundreds of pre-signed forms for years ahead in which the government vet has written that he has checked the meat and it is the meat of a buffalo, healthy, fresh and conforming to the rules. The meat has been found to be of cows and bulls. The vet gets paid per form without even being in the same city. A meat export company in Kanpur has its head office in Delhi – a small locked room that is the official “registered office”. Why do they keep it? They keep it so that the Delhi vet can sign for the Kanpur consignments.

The Supreme Court ordered an inspection of all slaughterhouses. By law, abattoir vets have to be on site to check that animals arriving and being unloaded are in a fit state to be slaughtered. They are also required check how animals are handled before slaughter. The other part of their job is leading a team of meat inspectors who monitor cleanliness and the processing of carcasses to control risks to health and hygiene. The inspections showed no vets on the premises and every kind of barbaric, terrible form of killing was common. Their excuse is they are threatened with knives by dangerous and volatile slaughterers if they object to anything. After a few days vets become immune to being surrounded by death, noise, shit and concrete, blood and screams.

Does this only happen in India? No. Across the world, the nature of the vet has changed. Very few are interested in animal welfare or health. Most now see animals as a route to a lot of money. A growing number opt to work in factory farms, poultries, and piggeries. They work in dimly lit, smelly, overcrowded sheds to prop up the factory farming system. Their aim is to keep animals alive long enough to be slaughtered profitably or to ensure they keep churning out enough milk or eggs to be commercially viable.

Instead of contributing to the development of sustainable, healthy farming systems, they have become servants of the industrial farming machine. They are the technicians that are called in to patch things up and keep the system going. They cannot afford to upset their bosses by accusing them of institutional cruelty. So they support a system that is inherently bad for animal welfare. They support the mass production of broiler chickens, caged production of eggs, the large-scale permanent housing and artificial insemination of dairy cows and highly intensive pig production where mother pigs are kept in confinement where they can’t turn around for weeks. Vets no longer see animals as their clients; they see the person who signs their salary check.

Where they are at their worst is the use of antibiotics. Seventy percent of the world’s antibiotics are fed to farm factory animals and it is vets who prescribe the medicines. Instead of demanding a different agricultural system where animals roam free and eat natural, they are complicit in the cramming of animals into a small space causing disease. Antibiotics are used prophylactically to tackle the disease and keep the animal alive and growing.

All over the world, and especially in India, vets support farming practices that inflict unnecessary suffering. The American Veterinary Association ignored the slaughter of lame cows for food, force feeding of geese for foie gras, starvation of hens to extend their laying cycle, or confining calves for veal, until the industries began to change on their own in response to public opinion. In fact, the AVMA has actively lobbied in favour of the mass use of antibiotics that allows farmers to cram livestock into small buildings, and vehemently opposed legislation to stop the slaughter of horses for human consumption, and bills that would outlaw all battery cages in poultries; one of the most cruel and inhumane practices in modern agriculture where hens are forced to live in a cage, smaller than a letter size sheet of paper, their entire life. Why? Because a cage free environment means less sickness and about “1500 vets would lose their jobs”.

The German government regularly fines vets for selling huge quantities of drugs and dispensing medications to animals which should never have been administered. Investigators with the public prosecutor’s office say that veterinary clinics are essentially a mail-order operation for drugs, and that the pharmaceutical industry expresses its gratitude with giving the vets money and perks. In India the pharmaceutical industry does the same with our vets. When a veterinarian finds a sick chick among 20,000 other chicks, he treats the discovery as justification to preventively treat the entire flock with antibiotics. Flock or herd health monitoring is the code name for the generous administration of drugs. In many cases fake diagnoses are used to provide a justification for the use of antibiotics. Veterinarians are allowed to both prescribe and sell medications — with no supervision whatsoever. After testing 182 flocks on commercial chicken farms, German authorities found that over 90 percent of the animals were being fed a constant diet of drugs, raising suspicions that the drugs were being used to fatten poultry rather than to fight disease. 900 tons of antibiotics were fed to animals in Germany in 2010; 116 tons more than in 2005 and three times more than the entire German population takes annually. India uses even more. The mass dosing of intensely-confined animals on factory farms with antibiotics by vets is linked with the growth of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as “superbugs.” This overuse of antibiotics also allows animal cruelty — cramming animals into dark, filthy, crowded spaces on factory farms — to continue.

We need vets to rediscover their original mission; animal welfare. Vets have the power to change the system for good. It’s hard to understand why medical professionals, who specialize in treating animals, actively contribute to their pain and terror. Vets in India command no respect. They need to earn it by stopping their immoral practices that are killing both animals and people.”

W5 Exposé Reveals Lack of Independent Scientific Wildlife Management Plan For Wild Horses

Robert Keith Spaith Sculpture
Breakaway bronze statue of wild horses by Robert Keith Spaith in Calgary International Airport terminal

In the first of a two part exposé by investigative journalists from W5,  it was revealed that Alberta’s previous Progressive Conservative government did not commission its own studies of wild horse populations,  preferring instead to take ranchers’ analysis at face-value.  When independent wildlife biologists and animal advocates sought to review that evidence through freedom-of-information requests, the government and ranchers’ association denied access.

In studies that have suggested that there is damage to grasslands,  these findings were observed in areas where access is shared by both horses and cattle,  which are being grazed in orders of magnitude over that of horses in Alberta.

From the W5 article “Born Free”:

“There are now, by the government’s admittedly limited count, around 700 left to roam free in the province, 200 fewer than this time last year. A tough winter and the occasional predator took most of them, while government-licensed trappers took 50. Some of those were sent to a no-kill auction in Innisfail. The government doesn’t know what happened to the rest, as it doesn’t track the horses’ well-being after they’re captured.

The capture and cull has been happening regularly in Alberta, almost every year as the number of wild horses fluctuates.

Ranchers, particularly in the Rocky Mountain foothills of Central Alberta, collect evidence they then turn over to the government, which they claim shows wild horses are over-eating the grazing grasslands needed for domesticated cattle. But the reports are not routinely released to the public……”

Letter: Canada Mired In A Graveyard Of Animal Ethics

Ken McLeod foal photo
Photo Credit: Ken McLeod

The following letter to the editor appeared in the online version of the Kelowna (British Columbia) Daily Courier on October 20th.  Letters such as these show that public awareness of the horse slaughter and food safety industries are being taken up on a mass scale….  Please read on and share.

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

The Canadian horse slaughter industry is an abomination.

Within its harrowing abyss exist: the theft of liberty, unpardonable anguish and the dismemberment of a noble icon.

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

— Horses are meat.

— Slaughterhouses euthanize old, crippled and unwanted horses.

— Slaughter controls over population.

— The industry provides employment.

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

— Horses are not meat to do with as we please. Throughout history, beside the footprints of man are the hoofprints of the horse. A pony is a child’s dream, a horse an adult’s treasure. This industry, however, transforms treasures and dreams into nightmares of betrayal.

— Slaughterhouses do not humanely euthanize. They orchestrate terror and suffering. Over 90 per cent of their victims are young and healthy. Slaughter is not the answer to solve the aged, infirm, unwanted horse debate.

Rescue sanctuaries, veterans working with horses, responsible ownership, tourism co-ops, and ethical veterinarian care are a few viable solutions.

— The slaughter business perpetuates over-population and callous kill buyers and unscrupulous profit mongers love it.

— The industry does provide jobs, including: degrading kill-floor work and cash counting corporate accounting. However, we should use ingenuity to create jobs that save rather than ones that kill. The bottom line is this, an industry that is heartless and cruel, an industry without ethics, should be no industry at all.

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

Rhetoric and covertness are cornerstones of their industry. The shipping of live draft horses to Japan so that their connoisseurs can enjoy freshly butchered horse sashimi is a national disgrace.

Transportation to, and imprisonment in, slaughterhouse corrals is an abusive, nefarious activity. And, the final stages of the process — kill chutes, stun boxes, captive bolts to the head and dismemberment (of, at times, live horses) far over-step boundaries of morality.

Our culture has never embraced the concept of horse meat for human consumption. We should not be part of the “Meat-Man’s Trade” that ships befouled flesh overseas. Our horse is not a commodity to be exploited. This intelligent beast helped First Nations people survive, stood beside — and died with — our soldiers on countless battlefields including the poppy-coated fields of Ypres and Flanders, transported pioneers westward, pulled our plows, helped build our railroads.

Horses have entertained us and joined us in recreational pursuits.

They are a beloved companion.

And, so often, they have provided hope and tranquillity to troubled souls. The horse is the single most influential animal to affect mankind.

There should be no place in our society for foreign-driven horse slaughter. Canadians need to stare this oppressive industry square in the face and declaim, “Not in our country.”

It is time to write federal politicians and demand action that terminates the atrocities, time to listen with our heart to the desperate call unspoken of our friend, the horse.

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

D. Fisher, Kelowna