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.

 

Clinical Crisis: Why Are So Many Veterinarians Committing Suicide?

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Written by: Liz Brown

Republished from an article in Horse Network.  Please click here to read the original.

Veterinarians are taking their own lives at a rate four times the general population and the profession is finally starting to talk about it.

It was after midnight on New Year’s Eve when Dr. Carlin Jones stepped outside her mother’s house into the frigid Maine air. She sat on the deck. In her hands she cradled a syringe containing 2 cc of the horse tranquilizer xylazine—enough to make the average 1,000 lb. horse groggy and cause respiratory arrest in humans.

“I thought 2 ccs would be swift. I planned to hit my vein. I am often told I have great veins,” she says. “I remember it was freezing cold. Ridiculously cold. But I was going outside because I didn’t want to make a mess in my mother’s house.”

Earlier in the day Jones had spent hours crafting suicide notes. There was one for her mother, another for her sister. There was one for her husband and one for her young daughter. She had double checked her life insurance policy to make sure it would still pay her family if she died by suicide, because she didn’t want to leave them responsible for her student loans.

“I was very pleased with myself for being so proactive. I figured it was the least I could do, but that’s because in my mind, I was doing this to make my family’s lives easier,” she says.

That New Year’s Eve in 2010 was a culmination of a professionally and personally trying year for the 34-year-old Jones. After months of job related stress and unhappiness, the equine reproductive veterinarian had just been fired from a workplace she describes as toxic. She had also been dealing with serious health problems—an unexplained neurologic issue doctors suspected was Multiple Sclerosis.

“I was told if it was multiple sclerosis it was probably the primary progressive type that is pretty aggressive and I would be in a wheelchair within 10 years,” she says.

“I felt like if I was physically disabled I’d be a burden, and then there was the thought of not being able to practice veterinary medicine. Even though practicing caused me so much stress and unhappiness at that time, when I thought of not being able to do it, I couldn’t think of my life without it,” she says.

Jones sat with the vial of horse tranquilizer for several hours in the freezing cold. She sat there until the sun began to peek over the horizon, then walked back inside. “I was hypothermic,” she says.

“I came inside and sat on the couch for a while, and went to bed around 6 a.m. I woke up a few hours later and went about New Year’s Day like everything was fine.”

“I don’t know why I didn’t do it. I’m just grateful I didn’t.”

A familiar story

Jones’ story is not an unfamiliar one in the veterinary profession. In the last decade there has been an explosion of research into mental health and suicide within veterinary medicine. A 2008 U.K. study first raised alarm bells when it found veterinarians commit suicide at a rate of four times that of the general population and twice the rate of medical doctors and dentists.

Numerous high-profile suicides have shaken the veterinary community in the last few years. In 2014, Dog training pioneer Dr. Sophia Yin took her own life, as did New York City veterinarian Dr. Shirley Koshi, bringing the topics of job stress and mental health to the forefront of professional conferences.

“That’s what we’re taught—when the pain is too bad, euthanasia is the one thing left we can do.”

One of the first mental health surveys of U.S. veterinarians, conducted in 2014 by Dr. Randall J. Nett and Dr. Tracy Witte, found one in six veterinarians may have considered suicide, and one in 10 have experienced serious psychological distress.

Witte, a suicide researcher at Auburn University, first became interested in the topic in 2010 when she saw the alarming U.K. study showing the abnormally high suicide rate among veterinarians.

“I thought that was interesting, but as I dove into the literature, I noticed that there was a lot of gaps in knowledge,” she says.

She is now working to fill those gaps and also looking at the job stress levels of other workers employed in the veterinary field, including vet techs and vet assistants, who she says show similar job stress levels to veterinarians. The research is twofold: identify why veterinarians are at risk for suicide, and identify what interventions will help reduce the suicide rate.

Based on the data Witte has collected, work overload is one of the most commonly cited causes of psychological distress in veterinarians. Dr. David Bartram, author of the 2008 U.K. study, says his findings are similar. He cites work-life conflict, conflict with animal owners and staff management responsibilities as the major stressors veterinarians face.

“We’ve got a lot of vets saying they’re not interested in managing staff,” says Bartram. “They want to be vets but they are temperamentally ill-suited or don’t have the training or resources required [to manage an office].”

“People go to vet school not because they want to be a small business owner and entrepreneur, but because they want to work with animals, and managing a small business causes stress,” added Witte.

For Jones, her identity was wrapped up in being a veterinarian, so when work conflict arose it was that much harder psychologically to deal with. During her vet school years she had even resigned herself to the fact she might never have a partner or family.

“I wasn’t going to have kids or a family. Just work-work-work. I thought I was content with that direction, I was ok with doing nothing but working, but then I ended up meeting my husband and realizing that might not be the best course in life and there were other things than just work.”

“Sometimes my husband has said to me, ‘I’m jealous because I have a job, but you have a career, it’s part of you,’ and I say to him, ‘that’s not always a good thing.’”

The other contributor to suicide and psychological distress, according to research, is the exposure to euthanasia and access to drugs used in euthanasia, coupled with the knowledge of how to use them effectively.

“As veterinarians, we do view death as the end of pain,” agrees Jones. “That’s what we’re taught—when the pain is too bad, euthanasia is the one thing left we can do. So when we’re in that much psychological pain we’re going to look at it that way.”

What is being done

According to Dr. Bartram, professional veterinary bodies throughout the English speaking world are taking notice and beginning to talk about these issues.

“It still has a tremendously long way to go, but it has changed considerably. There’s hardly a veterinary conference in the English speaking world when wellness isn’t on the program somewhere. That’s a seachange,” he says.

Indeed, the stigma around talking about mental health and suicide and reaching out for help is lifting. In 2015, two veterinary students—Taylor Gaines and Amanda Carlson—started the blog Beasts Unburdened, offering support and tips for handling stress and looking after mental health. They even have a space on the site where students can share their experiences anonymously.

Gaines was moved to create the blog following the suicide of a second year Ohio State veterinary student. He wanted a place where students and veterinarians could share their experiences anonymously and lift some of the stigma and isolation associated with mental health issues and suicide.

Gaines says that veterinarians need to talk about these issues in “a real way.”

“Not just a vague ‘sometimes people feel sad’, but people need to step up and say ‘I have felt like I wanted to/have tried to kill myself. I am still here, here is why,’” he says.

“I can’t say I know exactly how it will get better, why it gets better, but it does and I’m incredibly grateful I didn’t do it.”

Last year, they informally surveyed veterinary students at the University of Wisconsin and Virginia-Maryland College about sleep and study habits. The average respondent reported sleeping 6.74 hours per night and studying 4.1 hours per day, not including class time. Participants reported on average working 37% more than they thought was reasonable.

At the veterinary school level Carlson says some schools have organized retreats for faculty to attend that focus on promoting wellness within the profession. “The momentum for these projects continues to pick up steam, but a lot of dismantling of the previously established stigma need time to be effective.”

For practicing vets, Witte says that state veterinary bodies are implementing wellness programs with support and hotlines veterinarians experiencing psychological distress can contact. Alabama, where Witte lives, has one of the oldest of such programs in the country. And there is a similar program in the U.K. with a 24 hour hotline that veterinarians can access if they are feeling psychological distress.

Gaines says that clients need to be aware of the stress and struggles associated with the veterinary profession as well. “I can tell you, vets are not in this for the money,” he says. “Ask them how their day is going. Tell them thank you and you appreciate them and what they do for you and your animals.”

For Dr. Bartram, something as simple as ensuring an hour lunch break in the work day can reap myriad rewards in the psychological health of veterinarians.

“Actually book a lunch hour and force everyone to take their lunch and sit together for half an hour. Something where you can chat to your colleagues informally can produce a great return on investment in terms of mental health,” he says.

Moving on

Six years after coming so close to ending her life, Jones is in a much better place. Her neurologic issues have cleared up and she has found new employment at a clinic in New York State with the “greatest group of people.”

To keep herself mentally healthy, Jones periodically checks in with a counsellor and now ensures she sets aside time each week—no matter what her workload—to spend time with her husband and daughter. Learning to navigate that work life balance wasn’t something she was taught in veterinary school, it was something she had to stumble across herself.

It was just two weeks after her brush with suicide that she was offered her new job.

“The biggest thing I would want any person in that same position I was in to remember is that it does get better. I can’t say I know exactly how it will get better, why it gets better, but it does and I’m incredibly grateful I didn’t do it.”

 

 

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.”

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

Veterinary Students From Across Canada Visit Alberta To Observe Wild Horses

Photo Credit:  Sandy Bell
Photo Credit: Sandy Bell

“An important aspect of the course is to strive towards taking a leadership role as a veterinarian in the local community, in pulling together community experts required to best address the question or problem at hand and to work towards a solution that is acceptable to as many stakeholders as possible.”

Bob Henderson, president of WHOAS, says, “It’s a valuable experience for the students to be able to come out here and witness the program, and be able to observe the wild horses to get a better understanding of all the issues that surround them.”

Read more here……

New Video Footage Released Showing Live Shipment of Horses at Quarantine Station in Kagoshima, Japan

dyk_yycAs a follow up to our August post on the live draft horse shipments out of Calgary, Alberta, new footage of the Kagoshima quarantine station in Japan is now being released.

This footage was taken in March 2015. In the first segment we see video of horses on a feedlot, followed by footage of horses being unloaded from crates after the long flight to Japan. These crates are smaller than the average horse stall and designed for three (but loaded with up to 4 horses) which is contrary to Canada’s Health of Animals regulations.

Petition Atlas Air to discontinue live shipments

At the quarantine station, the horses are unloaded to the concrete, bunker-like quarantine station where they will stay for a few weeks before being slaughtered. In the background you can hear Atlas Air taking off, no doubt to return with another shipment of horses on their next flight from YYC.