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.”