Viking: Quebec’s Poster Horse

Joël Le Bigot, who hosted the Radio-Canada broadcast today featuring Chamie Andorette, owner of Refuge Galahad, is a deft interviewer with an impish sense of humour.  More to the point, Mr. Le Bigot asked pertinent questions of each guest–and, best of all, he had clearly done his own research (in contrast to the reporter on Bien dans son assiette’s recent two shows on horse slaughter).

Chamie did a good job describing how Refuge Galahad works with, and gives financial support to, selected, supervised foster homes.  There is a great deal of support for Galahad in Quebec which is great.  However, I would have liked Joël to know that there is another horse rescue in St-Agapit (where this May’s Salon du Cheval will be held) run by Céline Tremblay of les écuries Diabolo.  Céline has rescued 400 horses in a two-year period alone.  Refuge RR, run by Rose Gergely Blickstead, has been operating for over 20 years, and although she moved to Alexandria, Ontario, from Quebec about eight years ago, she has never stopped taking in QC horses. QC rescues make up 98 per cent of her overall total, proving once again that horse abuse transcends all boundaries even geographical ones.

A real treat for all QC horse lovers was guest, Sonya Renaud of Equi’SR, a NH trainer, who recently rescued Viking, an almost-near-death yearling whose signs of severe negligence were so numerous and horrifying to even look at, that, at the start, euthanasia seemed the only palliative.  Madame Renaud, who believes that all horses should be given a chance, no matter what their condition, gleefully told the listening audience that Viking has improved so much that now, not only can he stand up by himself, he can actually horse around a bit in the paddock…a very little, but enough to show this little sweetie’s will to live.  I urge you to visit Sonya’s FB, although I warn you that the initial photos of  little Viking are extremely disturbing.  Not mere hundreds, but thousands of Quebecois have been following little Viking’s progress.  He is, as Sonya says, “a real fighter” !  Also see Evelyne Villers’ blog on Viking’s progress.

As with Ferdinand, Eight Belles, Deputy Broad and so many other horses whose tragic ends mobilized the public in different parts of the country to defend horses, Viking has become, as Evelyne put it, Quebec’s “symbol of national hope”.  The movement in Quebec to find ways to stop horse abuse, neglect and slaughter is gaining momentum, and coalescing into a constituency of concern and compassion, a grassroots constituency whose parameters may fill the entire province one day.  We can only hope, and we can see that hope in the image of Viking, given a voice by Sonya who says:  “He did not ask to be neglected and left to die…we must speak for him…and it’s pretty clear by his efforts to get better that he wants to live!”

January 2013 via Sonya Renaud:



  1. Evelyne Villers
    Mar 3, 2012

    Very interesting Radio-Show this morning as you say. I agree with you as far as Chamie and Sonya are concerned. However, I did find the first part with Renée Lévesque less accurate or twisted if you see what I mean. Even Le Bigot’s questions with Mrs. Lévesque were directed in one way. I guess a good reporter knows to whom he speaks. Also, all questions are prepared in advance (yes, even on a Radio-Shows like this one). You recall when Le Bigot said: ‘yes, but horses must die one day’. They were speaking about abattoirs. I was pretty upset! Yes, every horse will die one day, obviously! But can we choose how? As for Renée Lévesque, I did not appreciate the fact that she said the ‘activists’ in the USA never asked people’s opinion on the issue before closing the slaughterhouses and that their argumentation was only emotional. Funny thing – health concerns was not raised about eating horse meat! She never talked about an alternative either for old or unwanted horses (euthanasia).

    • Cynthia
      Mar 3, 2012

      I agree completely, Evelyne. I purposely left out Madame Levesque’s comments because, as usual, nothing she had to say was useful or valid vis a vis the treatment of horses in Quebec. As a matter of fact, both she and the interviewer were ignorant of the obvious fact that horsemeat is, in fact, eaten by Quebeckers. The last time I checked, Viandes Richelieu reported that 30 per cent of its sales go to Quebec supermarkets and butchers. And, as you mentioned, neither mentioned euthanasia as an option, nor the fact that chemical humane euthanasia is the only viable end-of-life resort for horses–and that this is so, both in terms of respecting the environment and avoiding the sale of toxic meat at home and abroad; nor was retirement or re-purposing mentioned–all three options preferable at any time to slaughter.
      As a journalist of top calibre yourself, you know that Joel “chose” questions for Mme Levesque, Development Officer of the Federation Equestre Quebec (FEQ) which, as you say, “were directed in one way” only. Joel was deft–very clever, in fact, and in that way, was head and shoulders above Claude Brunet who asked questions of an apple which only an orange could answer.
      As for your most excellent point, Evelyne: Levesque’s claim that US activists never asked the public’s opinion before closing down US abattoirs…well, you and other readers of this blog know that slaughter was never actually “banned” in the US; rather, each State, beginning with California, began to, stop funding for, or downsize, the peripherals surrounding actual slaughter, such as the food safety supervision required (whence the worrisome re-emergence recently of the no “de-funding” section by a US committee). Stopping the slaughter of American horses on American soil was one of the most democratically produced changes I’ve ever heard of.
      Finally, Madame Levesque, by quoting 117,000 horses in QC–a number guesstimated in 2007–completely ignored the 2008-2009 purge of harness racing here, whereby hundreds of QC-bred-and-owned horses went to slaughter just before their owners and trainers packed up their saddles and moved to Ontario and the US.
      The “emotion” that drives horse advocates to put an end to horse slaughter is at the very heart of every important movement in history. Current industry dismisses and denigrates the passion for change to its own inevitable detriment, downfall, and ultimate removal. We are many and we are watching. Thank you for sharing with me, Evelyne.

  2. Cody Leblanc
    Mar 4, 2012

    Interesting to hear on radio That old and sick horses should be turned in meat. Sick horse That you Will eat ?

    • Cynthia
      Mar 4, 2012

      I hear ya, Cody. Who wants to eat the meat of a sick horse?! It’s this kind of stupidity that drives an industry of greed before food safety, truthfulness, and anything else! Thanks for sharing!

  3. SAM
    Mar 5, 2012

    I guess also this Mme Levesque (FEQ) had nothing good to say, only jaw dropping comments. And yes, we must not forget Les Ecuries Diabolo and Refuge RR or J&M Horse rescue B.C canada, ect…. Horse-Slaughter shouldn,t be an option as Dr. Evans (CFIA) once told me in a reply letter. Its all for money $$$ and greed. Its only an easy button, to overbreed equines. There should be a (LICENCE) to breed horses, don,t know how many times we stress that?? Just like the excess of dogs and cats. Support the equines, (Bill C-322) and responsibility will then have to be taken into consideration!

  4. Evelyne Villers
    Mar 5, 2012

    Thanks Cynthia for the complementary information.


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