Ohh, Radio-Canada (Mar 1st, 7pm)

I must apologize to Claude Brunet, interviewer/host of the recent Radio-Canada broadcast, Bien dans son assiette (see When Reporters Get it Wrong )–at least, in part, and I’ll tell you why shortly.  First, I’d like to address a few questions that have come my way, especially since so many are sharing this blog in cyberspace (and, it would be nice if some of you new visitors would actually buy or even read my novel because more than half of what I post here already appears in Ground Manners. A Novel …but I digress).

Q:  Why have the numbers of horses slaughtered in Canada decreased between the years 2008 and 2009?

A:  There were seven slaughterhouses killing horses in Canada; then there were five; then there were four.  In other words, as Canadian horse abattoirs closed, the US (our main source of slaughter-bound horses) had to regroup and send more horses to Mexico (which ultimately didn’t work out too well as soon as the European Union’s FVO became more stringent about the food safety of horsemeat…whence as the EWA reported, hundreds of horses were found abandoned to starve, having been refused at the Mexican border…but that’s another story).  In short, fewer Canadian abattoirs equals fewer horses being slaughtered on Canadian soil.  And then of course the US economy nose-dived during that period which meant that fewer horses went to slaughter because kill-buyers couldn’t get good prices for horsemeat (see Numbers Don’t Lie).  But that’s not the whole truth.

Q:  Why not?

Well because one of the tricks of the trade is to tag a horse for a feedlot (whereby he is not counted in the slaughter-bound statistics) but once he crosses the Canadian border, he goes directly to slaughter.  It’s not like there’s anyone there to follow the truck he’s in to ensure that he, in fact, goes to where’s he’s tagged for, a feedlot.  APHIS, a US oversight agency has addressed this sleight-of-hand (see the ALC site), and in Quebec at least, we know that most horses are unloaded at abattoirs in the dead of night making the whole process suspicious from the get-go.  All of this fly-by-night activity makes official numbers questionable.  Another curious anomaly:  if you compare Average Warm Carcass Weights (and you can get these stats from Agriculture Canada) for the year 2005 (326 kg) to the year 2009 (284 kg) there’s a difference of 42 kg.  Can we infer that fewer horses even make it to a feedlot and so are skinnier when slaughtered?  So many possibilities in that apparently minor statistic.

Finally, if you have a look at the Appendices of the CHDC’s recent report (the written one, accompanying the video), you’ll find scanned images of EID’s in which, for example, a mule is identified as a horse, with the wrong height, and so many other inaccuracies, lack of owner signatures, etc., that common-sense alone tells you that the official and reported figures are highly likely shorted, spiked or, overall, best guesses.

Q:  What is the ratio of purpose-bred horses (horses raised exclusively for human food purposes) in Canada to unwanted horses sent to slaughter?

A:  That’s a big question.  A commentator, Tanja, on my prior blog post (Where There’s Smoke) provided an eyewitness account of horses apparently being purpose-bred for the Japanese market.  According to the recent Equine Canada industry report, at least 4 % of horses sold in Alberta went directly to meat; 2 % went to a private broker and another 9 % went to auction/sale.  This will be like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon.  I will continue with this a little later.  But before I go, let me say that, as my friend Lonita says, there are only “temporarily homeless” horses…no horse is “unwanted”.  I like the ethic behind the semantics of that, but more to the point, “to keep” a horse means two things:  one, to hold ownership of him, and two, to be able to maintain him and his needs:  own and maintain.  You may desperately want to “keep” your horse but be unable, for whatever reason, to “keep” him.  Get it?  Thus, he is not unwanted just in transit to another “keeper” where he can serve another purpose (whether it be riding, dressage, racing, or pulling a plow or just being a companion).

As for the reporter/host of the previous Radio-Canada show on horsemeat, Claude Brunet, I must admit that, if he’d asked probing questions of his guest, kill-buyer, Francois Gelinas, he might have produced a much more revealing picture of what really happens between the time a horse is deemed un-owned to the time he’s unloaded at an abattoir.   Gelinas was not the right person to ask about the  food safety of horsemeat, but he could have been coaxed to tell the truth about that hellish journey, at least.  So Brunet had the right guest after all; he just didn’t ask the right questions.

Radio-Canada is broadcasting two more shows on horses: one, tomorrow (Mar 1st) at 7pm hosted by Claude Brunet, featuring the horse abattoir, La Petite Nation (the subject of the recent CHDC video investigation), and another on Saturday at 7am, called Samedi et rien d’autre, featuring Le Refuge Galahad.   Let’s tune in and see if Radio-Canada can be a little more objective and perspicacious in their interviewing this time.

Stay close…more later.

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