American Cousins

American Cousins

Yes, it’s true…I’m one-quarter American (or one-sixth or some fraction thereof).  Maternal Gran emigrated to Youngstown, Ohio, married a distant cousin in Philly, PA (no Deliverance jokes, please!), moved to TO or Montreal (I forget which was first) but ended up, anyway, in Montreal, and bore seven children, one of the last two of whom was my mother.  Mum was a helluva dancer and singer…so much so that, in her heyday, she was spotted by a talent scout from New York who tried to persuade her father that she had a career waiting in New York.  It was a different era then, so of course, Grandpa felt that only hussies were actresses and singers, and so on.  Mum went on to marry my father, and I’ll save her story for another time.  In the present, let me say that this kind of mixed heritage adds an interesting element to all my contacts/relatives/friends in the US (I finally learned to speak French at the ripe age of seventeen, unlike my siblings who were polyglots long before I was).  That interesting element became abundantly clear as Bill C-322 was broached in our Canadian Parliament on October 5th of this year.  There does tend to be either a blind, groupie-like admiration for the US or an outright condescension aimed at their ostensible tilting-at-windmills.  We Canadians are known to be unctuously courteous or active in a phlegmatic kind of way, or suffering from an inferiority complex arising from, as Trudeau put it so well:  “we lie beside an elephant.  If the elephant so much as twitches in his sleep, it moves us.”  Something like that anyway…I’m sure you understand what I mean…very much like the Japanese Emperor after Pearl Harbour saying, “We have awakened a sleeping giant.”  Certainly our smugness increased as the US economy failed in the last three years while Canada’s not only remained stable (we have very officious bankers here), but was lauded by international organizations who pointed out that our banking (and mortgage) policies were exemplary.   I’ll get to my point in a moment.  Just this past week, I read an excellent article by Laura Allen, Esq., and Exec Director of the Animal Law Coalition in the US on how Canada might beat the US at banning horse slaughter (a bit misleading there since the US banned horse slaughter in 2007…but we all knew what she meant, given current conditions).  Only one commentator suggested that Americans inundate our government with their opinions, as their opinions carry much weight up here in the hinterland.  So, of course, I, mixed-race big-mouth and Canadian politico, had to express my own opinion…and that is that if anyone thinks that the US should not intervene in the horse slaughter issue in Canada and just stick to passing their own law in their country alone, then that person is, well, a short-sighted isolato, or (and this is worse) someone who doesn’t really care if Canada continues to slaughter its own horses, but very much cares if we, impolitely, continue to slaughter US horses.  You see the dilemma here?  Canada slaughtered horses long before the US banned slaughter on its own soil in 2007; we just didn’t slaughter as many (nor make as much money from it, eh, Quebec?).  I’ll give you an example of how views of horses and horse slaughter differ between our two countries.  At the Virginia Conference, which I say again, I was privileged to be a part of, there was a late night session.  I, anonymous Canadian though I was, tried to point out something which might restrict the US’ ability to stop the slaughter of their horses on Canadian soil; and that something was that our government had recently changed labelling policies whereby US horses slaughtered on our soil and rendered into horsemeat would not be identified on grocery store labels as horsemeat originating from US horses (this was in the middle of the animator suggesting they should get in touch with the EU…not Canada where their horses were being slaughtered every ten minutes, the EU).  Keith Dane (I’m pretty sure that was his name) of the HSUS flared up like a bee-bee gun and nearly shouted:  “there’s no such thing as US horsemeat!”  I was struck dumb by that strident (and inaccurate) howl.  In fact, nearly 60 percent of the horsemeat rendered in our abattoirs is constituted from meat from US horses, Mr. Dane, so though I commiserate with the emotion that gave voice to your erroneous statement, your noisy interruptus was, um, factually and substantively wrong.  This mis-statement was not useful in a room-ful of advocates who were trying to make a start on initiatives to stop the slaughter of American horses.  It’s also very politic and noble that groups like the CHDC and even the text of our Bill C-322 specify that we must stop importing American horses for slaughter, but American-born horses are not the only ones undergoing the torment of transport to slaughter and the final horror of slaughter while conscious.  So do our horses, and although, a horse whether he originates from Timbuktu, the States, Mexico or anywhere else, is precious to me, my first concern, as a Canadian and a Quebecker, is to stop our horses from being slaughtered.  No offense (that’s Br spelling, btw), my American cousins, but that’s got to be my first priority, as your first priority is your horses.  Our horses, their horses…it sounds territorial, sort of an inappropriate jingoism, doesn’t it?  The fact is that horse slaughter is a global problem, one that transcends borders.  Consequently, what I sent to Laura Allen of the Animal Law Coalition was an invitation to Americans to inundate Canadian parliamentarians with their fervent wish that we stop taking in their horses for slaughter on our soil, and even more, that international advocates do the same.  It seems simple to me.  Whatever you, as a Canadian or a Quebecker, think of the US (and don’t tell me you’re not ambivalent towards the US…even I get odd looks when I mention that my mother’s family is American.  Tell the truth and shame the devil, etc), the fact is that it is the most influential, (still) powerful country in the world, and sharing geographical space (among other things) with this exceptional people can neither be dismissed nor ignored.  Your own paycheque may originate from some head office somewhere in the US, so admit this at least:  Canada needs all the help it can get in getting this Bill passed.  We need the Americans; we need their unbridled passion; we need their voices.  The US is our most important trading partner, and if they refrain from expressing their opinion on horse slaughter to our politicians, we will fail to save their horses, much less our own.  I hope they get that (and stop looking across the ocean for associates…we’re just up yonder and we’re the ones slaughtering your horses) and I hope you do, too.  For the Horses…all of ’em.  Me.

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