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.

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.

Recent Study Findings – 15% Of Horse Transports To Slaughter Exceed 36 Hour Limitation

ayache horse trailer
Dorian Ayache, Three Angels Farm owner and operator, received a shut-down order in 2012 from the DOT stating the motor carrier posed an imminent hazard to public safety. Three Angels Farm had two accidents over an eight month period involving poorly maintained vehicles and fatigued drivers, which not only endangered the public, but also resulted in the death of multiple horses. Ayache was cited for those accidents.

Because it is a business viewed by many as disreputable,  horse transport to slaughter is sometimes accomplished using sub-standard vehicles traveling under cover of darkness,  driven by persons who have already incurred transport violations.  Current regulations allow horses to be transported for up to 36 hours without food, water or rest. Unlike some other species,  horses do not travel well in the company of other unfamiliar horses and often kick, bite,  or trample each other,  leading to serious injury or even death enroute.

There have been many reported cases of animal welfare violations in Canadian horse slaughterhouses including failure to provide food and water, illegal unloading of animals, late stage pregnant mares shipped, and sick or injured animals denied veterinary care.

Not surprisingly, veterinary experts around the world and leading animal protection groups have denounced horse slaughter as inhumane.

For many,  the study below, published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal, merely validates what we have confirmed via Access-To-Information requests and Order Papers submitted to the government.

From the abstract of the study“Patterns and durations of journeys by horses transported from the USA to Canada for slaughter”

Roy RC1, Cockram MS1.

rotz horse transport fire
This truck caught fire with horses aboard, and the driver stopped but neither he nor first responders were able to extinguish the flames. No reason was given for keeping the horses trapped in the trailer as it burned. The truck was pulled over in New York on March 13, 2013 and ordered out of service until repairs and maintenance could be performed. Nine violations were noted in 2011, one of which was a discharged or unsecured fire extinguisher. The horses were reportedly destined for the Viande Richelieu Meat, Inc. slaughterhouse in Massueville, Quebec.

“Concern has been expressed over the welfare of horses transported from the USA for slaughter in Canada. United States Department of Agriculture owner/shipper certificates for the year 2009 were analyzed to provide quantitative information on the patterns and durations of these journeys. In 2009, horses from 16 states in the northern USA were transported to 6 equine slaughter plants in Canada. Thirty-two percent of loads were from auction centers, 33% from feedlots, and 35% from horse collection centers.”

The median duration of the journey was 19 h.  The actual time in transit for the horses was observed as follows:

  • 36% < 6 h
  • 11% for 6 to 18 h
  • 13% for 18 to 24 h
  • 25% for 24 to 36 h
  •  9% for 36 to 48 h
  • ….and apparently 6% > 48 h

“Some journeys exceeded those specified in regulations and, based on other research, would put these horses at risk of negative welfare outcomes, such as dehydration, injury, and fatigue.”

So,  despite the median journey being 19 hours,  a full 15% of the journeys exceeded the 36 hour limitation – 36 -48 hours without rest,  food or water.

 

 

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.”

Progressive Pet Simulation-Based Veterinary Learning Paradigms Expand

Pferde-Gyn-Simulator
Researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna have shown that simulator-based training can be extremely efficient to achieve learning outcomes in veterinary gynaecology.

What began with the world’s first robotic rescue dog for medical training is evolving into a new teaching paradigm in veterinary medicine.  Simulator-based training of students at Vetmeduni Vienna has been part of the curriculum since 2012. The Skills Lab is a simulated veterinary practice in which students have the chance to train in a variety of veterinary interventions in a near-realistic setup on animal dummies.

Simulations like this have been used to teach human doctors for decades. The idea is to bridge pre-clinical learning and actual clinical experience, letting students practice applying what they’ve learned in a safe setting before the stakes get high.

A study of the effectiveness of the simulator was based on recordings of the students’ heart rate and salivary cortisol concentration during the training sessions and tests. The results of that work were published recently in the scientific journal, Reproduction in Domestic Animals.

The results from these studies are encouraging and progressive,  and we hope that the curriculum will be adopted by other institutions.

Another topic we hope will be covered more progressively with veterinary students is the issue of horse slaughter.  Far too often we hear from veterinarians who are unfamiliar with food safety standards,  the inhumanity of transport,  and drug prohibitions in horses sent to slaughter.  Instead,  many equine veterinarians often let their clients’ opinion and prejudice determine whether they take a public stance on slaughter.  Respect and integrity shape the public perception of veterinarians – please know that in Canada,  64% of Canadians polled are opposed to horse slaughter.

Veterinary Viewpoints: Twelve Days Of Christmas For Your Horse

 

happy holidays snow globeWritten

On the first day of Christmas, give your horse your attention. Whether it is a good brushing or just a scratch in the ‘oh so favorite’ spot, your beloved friend will appreciate your time.

On the second day of Christmas, give your horse a safe barn and pasture. Check electrical wiring in the barn. Look for loose boards, nails and screw eyes that can be a source of injury. Check fencing for loose boards, posts and wires. Make sure all feed storage containers are clean and secure. Clever horses and ponies can open and unlatch doors and containers. Check your fire extinguisher. While you’re at it, check the trailer and the hitch on your vehicle.

On the third day of Christmas, schedule a visit with your veterinarian for a health checkup and suggestions for maintaining the well-being of your horse. While you’re at it, visit your physician for your own health checkup to be sure the entire family is healthy.

On the fourth day of Christmas, make your horse a warm mash. Some folks like to use wheat bran; however, rolled oats or beet pulp can also make a good base. Carrots, molasses, apples and applesauce make flavorful additions.

On the fifth day of Christmas, talk with your veterinarian about your parasite control program. Your veterinarian may recommend a fecal exam to determine the parasite load in your horse.

On the sixth day of Christmas, visit an equine therapy organization. We already know that horses are good for people. Find out what you can do to support your local organizations.

On the seventh day of Christmas, create an emergency response plan for your horses. Because of their size and specific transportation needs, horses require extra consideration for disasters. Consider your options for identification such as a tattoo, microchip, brand or bridle tags. Visit the AAEP website for Emergency Disaster and Preparedness Guidelines.*

On the eighth day of Christmas, visit the University of Guelph website for a bio security assessment of your facility. This tool provides information on equine health, infectious disease and infectious disease control.

On the ninth day of Christmas, buy your horse a ball. Many horses will amuse themselves in the stall or pasture with a ball. Some horses prefer the ones with a handle.

On the 10th day of Christmas, get your horse a slow feeder for grain or hay. The slow feeder makes mealtime more stimulating. Slow feeding keeps the horse amused for longer periods of time and encourages healthy digestion. Many ideas are available on the Internet for homemade slow feeders.

On the 11th day of Christmas, wash that saddle pad or blanket. You may even need to replace the saddle pad or blanket. Remember the blanket or pad helps to protect the horse’s back, which is critical for their comfort.

On the 12th day of Christmas, go through your veterinary medicine cabinet and toss expired and contaminated medications. Using expired or contaminated medications can do more harm than good. If you like to keep a dose of pain relief on hand, check with your veterinarian for the best product for your needs.”

Veterinary Viewpoints is provided by the faculty of the OSU Veterinary Medical Hospital. Certified by the American Animal Hospital Association, the hospital is open to the public providing routine and specialized care for all species and 24-hour emergency care, 365 days a year.

CVEWC wishes to inform our readership that the AAEP mentioned in Dr. Geidt’s post,  does not  oppose horse slaughter. We suggest two good alternative Canadian sites for disaster preparedness are the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team  and Pet Safe Coalition of Canada Society.

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

Is Canada Poisoning The World?

horse-drugsThis letter was sent to us by a CVEWC supporter,  who had plans to submit it to newspapers.  We think it is an excellent assessment of Canada’s involvement in the discredited business of horse slaughter:

“Why, yes, we are. Every year Canada exports thousands of tons of horse meat to Europe and other world countries for human consumption. The latest report from StatsCan shows that in 2014 Canada exported 13 Million tons of horsemeat valued at $78,422.525 million to different countries around the world.

Europe, specifically France, Switzerland, Belgium are the leading importers. Japan is also high on the list importing a little over 3 Million tons in 2014. Canada also live ships draft horses from Calgary and Winnipeg to Japan for human consumption.

Europe and Japan appear to continue to ignore the fact that the majority of horse meat from Canada is contaminated with drugs banned in food animals destined for human consumption.

Horses in North America have never been considered a “food animal”. The US ceased slaughtering horses in 2007 and now export horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.

Most horses slaughtered here in Canada originate from US auctions. It’s a well-known fact that horses sold at auctions have virtually no traceability back to previous owners. Most horses will have had many owners over their lifetime with each owner likely giving the horse drugs banned by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the EU.

These banned drugs include dewormers administered to horses about every 8 week or so as horses eat off of the ground and, subsequently, they always have worms. Worms in horses could be passed on to humans who eat the meat.

One type of illness from worms that can be passed on to horses is Trichinosis. The CFIA lists these as symptoms of Trichinosis:

Globally, outbreaks of human trichinellosis associated with pork from abattoirs operating under modern inspection systems rarely occur; however, cases which are associated with the consumption of undercooked meat from wild boars, horses, wildlife species such as walrus and bear, and outdoor-reared and home-processed swine continue to be reported.”

Further, the CFIA states on their web site:

“Clinical signs of trichinellosis in animals are not easily recognized.

The severity of human trichinellosis is dependent upon the number of infected larvae ingested, the species ofTrichinella, and the immune status of the human host. Commonly observed signs, which appear 5 to 15 days after exposure, may include:

  • abnormal fear of light;
  • facial swelling;
  • fever;
  • gastrointestinal upset;
  • headaches;
  • muscle pain; and
  • skin rash.

Inflammation of the heart muscle and the brain, if they occur, are serious and may be life-threatening.”

There have been documented cases in France and Argentina of Trichinosis infection.

Phenylbutazone is high on the list of banned medications but is given to horses as a common, inexpensive pain reliever. It’s also known as “bute”. Bute can cause aplastic anemia in children and cancer in adults. Because cancer can develop slowly, a person may not make the link to horse meat and their current battle with cancer whereas with Trichinosis signs can appear in 5 to 15 days after exposure.

The CFIA has a list of “Veterinary Drugs Not Permitted For Use in Equine Slaughtered for Food with Canadian Brand Name Examples” on their web site.

In their FAQs on the CFIA’s web site regarding horse slaughter one question is

Q7 Is Phenylbutazone is banned?

A7. The use of Phenylbutazone in equine for medical reasons is not currently banned in Canada. However; Phenylbutazone is not permitted to be used in equine animals that may be used for food.”

There are NO exceptions for bute in horses to be slaughtered for human consumption and horse owners continue to use it as horses in North America are not raised for meat.

The CFIA only requires that a horse be drug free for 180 days (6 months). They consider this a good withdrawal time for drugs given but as we’ve seen with dewormers they’re given usually every TWO months or so and bute has NO withdrawal time.

The only medical paperwork a horse bound for slaughter in Canada has is what’s called an Equine Identification Document. This piece of paper, yes, a single piece of paper has one question on it relating to drugs given to horses and that’s “has this horse had any banned drugs in the past 180 days”. That’s it. The EID is an honour system in a business that has no honour.

Created by the CFIA in 2010 who said at the time that   The EID is the first step in the development of a comprehensive food safety and traceability program for the Canadian equine industry – for both domestic and international markets.”

This has not been the case. The EID has proven to be a sham and there is no traceability program either in Canada or the US and the vast majority of horses going to slaughter here in Canada are from US auctions via what’s called kill buyers. These individuals who have contracts with the slaughter plants troll auctions and look for ads for free horses who they then sell to the slaughter plants for profit. The kill buyers do no tracing of a horse’s drug history at all.

The EID is supposed to be a truthful declaration as to what drugs the horse has had but when the kill buyer picks up a horse at an auction he has no idea what drugs the horse has had.   Kill buyers routinely lie on this document which becomes the property of the slaughter plant when the horse is killed and, so, cannot be publically releases under an Access to Information request.

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.”

The horses also endure very inhumane treatment until they are shot with either a .22 rifle or a captive bolt gun. There is much documentation available showing that both methods are equally cruel to horses.

The EU continues to ignore the failings of the EID system in Canada, however, in January 2015 the EU banned horse meat from Mexico because their audits of the Mexican slaughter plants revealed serious issues with the traceability of horses coming in from the US as well as horrendous cruelty in the Mexican slaughter pipeline.

Mexico had been audited in the past and were issued warning which they ignored.

Canadian slaughter plants including horse slaughter plants were audited by the EU in early 2014.

Many issues were found including traceability relating to drugs given to horses as well as operating practices that were not up to EU standards. Again, cruelty in the Canadian slaughter pipeline was noted by the EU. Traceability for horses being slaughtered in Canada is non-existent.

To date, the EU has failed to issue sanctions against Canada and the export of known contaminated drugged horse meat continues on unabated.

The Toronto Star’s Mary Ormsby has written several times about this issue with drugs in horse meat, the EU and the barbaric conditions in the slaughter pipeline.

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition has been working for many years to ban the horse slaughter trade in Canada both on ethical and human health grounds but, still, the government continues to allow and even promote this business overseas.

As noted above the export dollars for Canadian horse meat shows that in 2014 the slaughter business only made a little over $73 Million with most of this going to auction houses, kill buyers and the slaughter plant operators.

What the government ignores is how much the live horse industry contributes to the Canadian economy. In 2010 Equine Canada did a study on the live horse industry in Canada. Their data revealed that “The total economic contribution to the Canadian economy from horses and activities with horses is $19 BILLION.” making this writer wonder why this current Canadian government spends time and money promoting horse slaughter.”