To Eat or Not to Eat… your Horse?

To Eat or Not to Eat…   your Horse?

If you read my last blog about the CFIA asking to consult the Canadian public on traceability requirements for food animals (which includes horses),  you also read Roxanne’s comment.  Roxanne sums up everything so well that this blog post is devoted to her comment alone.  Please click the link and read the CFIA’s original notice so you can fully appreciate her excellent points.

How different we are here. A national animal identification system was much protested and rejected in the United States. Implementing an NAIS will be much more difficult for horses. Horses rarely stay on the farm like other animals because they are not “like” other animals, or perhaps better said, other food or dairy animals. Horses go out and off the farm, sometimes every weekend, sometimes daily for trail rides, to riding lessons, to clinics, to horse shows, to see the vet. Horses live a long time and often have several owners. Horses often live in urban environments, in boarding stables. How will that be monitored, Will it further push the cost of horse ownership away from the average person? How will it affect rescues? Local horse clubs? 4H? Pony Club? Wild horses? If they choose a microchip, will that mean another chip for breeds that already have microchip identification? What if it’s retinal scanning? Who is going to pay for all the equipment? This is a strategy for food animals, not companion animals. There is no such strategy for dogs and cats. Along with traceability, what is chosen now will formally define the status of the horse in our society and in our country. It was hashed over for years in the U.S. and rejected. I can’t believe how apathetic the horse community in Canada is to all this, but I’m sure they will complain when it happens. My vote is for choice and for a passport system like the U.K. has, that allows the owner to choose if their horse will ever go to slaughter or not, with tracking necessary only for those who choose that possible end. Let those who would permit their horses to go to slaughter pay the costs of supporting the coming requirements for that industry. Leave those of us who don’t choose that end alone.

 

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Bear Witness to the Facts

Recently, I’ve received emails saying that I should have been clearer about the non-relationship between abattoir closures in the US in 2007 and the phenomenon of horse abandonment.  (I don’t know about that.  I thought my Primers on Horse Slaughter on this blog and published on The Stablewoman Gazette clearly showed that there was no relationship.  But I tend to live in my head, so I may be wrong about how clear my writing was.)

So, according to the US government’s Government Accountability Office (GAO) report:  “The total number of US horses sent to slaughter in 2006, the last full year of domestic slaughter [the last abattoir closed in late 2007, thus not giving a full year’s numbers. my italics]…(gives) a total of 137,688 horses.  Taken together, the 137,984 US horses that were sent to slaughter in Canada or Mexico in 2010 is approximately equal to the total number of horses slaughtered in 2006.”  GAO Report

Again, look at the numbers:  (2006)  137, 688    (2010) 137,984   A difference of 296 equines. For 2011, go to the EWA site; they always update their stats.  Now the GAO is no friend to horses, which perhaps is as it should be.  It is an agency which, in this case, was mandated by the US government to study the distaff side of the US horse industry, so it must be objective and neutral on the subject under its scrutiny.  We can safely say, then, that its figures are accurate as far as numbers legally recorded by authoritative agencies can be–especially since, if you collate numbers gathered by non-governmental, industry-specific, and advocacy groups, the numbers are readily corroborated (at least on paper).

The report is flawed, however, in other respects, and I invite you to read the Position Paper co-authored by the EWA and the Animal Law Coalition (ALC) called:  An Analysis of the GAO Report on Horse Welfare:  Disturbing Omissions and Cover-up.  (visit the EWA site)

See…a difference of 296 equines.  As a horse advocate, I cry for one just as I do for ten, for tens of thousands.  They are all precious to us.  But in terms of keeping the record straight and arguing from a strong position, the numerical difference is clearly insignificant.  Most importantly, it refutes the pro-slaughter argument that the closing of US abattoirs increased horse abandonment.  It didn’t; there is no such relationship.  People have always abandoned their pets (illegal, to begin with); people have always overbred horses; and those specific pathologies are social phenomena unrelated to food slaughter.

 

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A Primer on Horse Slaughter (A)

First published in early November of 2011 – I have put this post up front because it has become buried beneath my more recent posts and readers often have to search for it.  Enjoy and don’t forget to check Primer part B, part B+,  part C (The Last Part – Possibly) and appendices, as well as the ‘Slaughter Stats and Facts’ category for updates. I have also created a ‘Featured Articles’ page to display popular blog posts.

Before I set up the Q&A format, let me say that, at no time, does this primer refer to animals traditionally raised for, and used as, food for human consumption.  Horses fall into a unique category, as North American pets such as dogs and cats fit into their own special category, justified by the place horses have always held in the history of civilisation, the building of nations; service, military and sport roles.  Even if (or especially if) you don’t agree with that statement, stay with me anyway and see if your pro-horse slaughter argument still stands in the face of the facts presented.  So, if you’re clear that we are not, at any time, talking about animals purposely bred for food, and that we are only talking about equines (vegetarians, leave the room and go have a smoke), let’s start with a few questions and then some definitions:

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The CFIA Hedges its Bets on Our Health (Revised)

You have to wonder what the CFIA did before now.

 

UPDATE: In answer to that question, Roxanne (whose comment appears below) supplied the answer. Her remarks are laden with useful information which puts this post in a new light…so I have inserted her comment here. And pls read her comments below as well. (In fact, I may completely rewrite this post at a later date.)

Roxanne:

The CFIA is only 10 years old. Canada Border Services is only 8 years old. Prior to that there were several different agencies responsible for several different things at the border. Canada had international agreements with the United States where the U.S. was supposed to inspect loads of slaughter horses BEFORE they crossed the border and then because of both our laws, mutual agreements, and the risk of spreading disease, these loads were to remain sealed until they reached their destination.Obviously, we know that wasn’t a good policy, but it was like that for 50 or so years. Regulations, especially ones made in conjunction with other countries can’t just be changed overnight. So while everyone was raising h+%#, without knowing WHY things were the way they were, and the steps that needed to be taken to change laws, others were quietly going about their business and changing the regulations, And don’t forget you need staff to do all this and that only certain crossings could be designated because there are only facilities to unload horses at certain crossings. They do not inspect horses for drug residue ante-mortem. It is done post mortem.

 

[What follows is my original post from November 2011.]

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