CHDC Responds to Western Horse Review, May/June 2012 Article, “Horse Meat Capital” http://www.westernhorsereview.com/
There are numerous horse-related magazines in Canada, some pro-horse and some pro-industry. It really shouldn’t be surprising that the concept of financial gain is pandemic in the world of horses, but somehow one wouldn’t expect the use of these beautiful, noble animals to extend to the flesh that their bodies can provide. Yet right here in Canada, some people who claim to love horses in their living state also seem to promote the profits that can be made from the deaths of their companions and working partners when their “useful” days are over.
Accordingly, certain magazines appear to promote the slaughter of horses almost as much as they support the live horse industry. Are they trying hard not to step on the toes of some of their advertisers and subscribers, or do they really believe that horse slaughter is humane and that horse meat is safe and acceptable for human consumption? Deanna Buschert’s article, Horse Meat Capital, is one of those that have caused raised eyebrows. The CHDC asked for permission to post the article in its entirety, so that non-subscribers could also read it, but our request was refused. Therefore, we will provide a short summary of Horse Meat Capital, including some excerpts and our commentary.
Perhaps we could give Ms. Buschert the benefit of the doubt and say that she is trying to promote awareness of the fact that equine slaughter exists in Canada. After all, an article title like “Horse Meat Capital” is likely to raise the hackles of anyone who truly loves horses in their living state, not as slabs of meat on dinner plates and handy cash in the pockets of those who raised and used them. Even the use of “Capital” is a play on words. Buschert could mean a prominent place where horse meat production exceeds that of many other places (Canada). Or by “Capital” she could mean accumulated wealth – what happens when horses get sold for slaughter. Clever.
Ms. Buschert tells of her visit to Bouvry Exports, Fort Macleod’s equine slaughter plant, one sunny morning in late winter. She sets the stage by describing smiling employees and a clean facility. Her photos depict no terror, no pain or suffering, as the horses who trembled in the stun box are now in tidy horse meat boxes ready for shipping. There are two such pictures of boxes, as well as one showing an area where “massive upgrades” are in progress at the plant. We see close-up photos of live horses, but never a whole face, and the only potentially troubling pictures show horses in a crowded holding pen. Again, the photo angles are such that we cannot see or connect with an entire equine face. All in all, one is led to believe that the world of Bouvry is a bustling but peaceful place for all concerned.
Buschert is not permitted to record the interview with Claude Bouvry, owner of Bouvry Exports, as he claims that “dealing with negative publicity has been difficult, especially when it comes to the handling of horses bound for slaughter”. They talk about Temple Grandin and how the Fort Macleod plant was designed by her. In other words, Ms. Grandin approved it, so all must be well. We are left to wonder why massive upgrades are required in order to conform to European Union regulations.
Bouvry takes Buschert on a tour of the plant, but of course she doesn’t mention witnessing the process of horse slaughter or if that option was even offered to her. Instead, she is permitted to take pictures of neatly stacked boxes “waiting to be transported from Alberta to all parts of the world”. Perhaps that concept should make us feel proud.
Interestingly, at the beginning of the article, Buschert admits that she might be curious enough to try horse meat herself. She wonders if any of her previously owned horses ended up at this slaughter facility.
She comments on an Angel Acres billboard that had been erected along an Ottawa highway. The billboard’s message is: “Stop Slaughtering Us”.
“At least one westerner applauded the billboard,” states Buschert, and then she goes on to talk about MP Alex Atamanenko’s media release regarding that initiative. If Ms. Buschert’s intention was to downplay western support for the banning of horse slaughter, she needs to study a 2004 Ipsos-Reid poll that showed 2/3 (64%) of Canadians opposed to the practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption: http://www.ipsos-na.com/news-polls/pressrelease.aspx?id=2252. Many, many westerners support an end to horse slaughter and applaud MP Atamanenko’s bill. A more recent poll by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in Februrary, 2012, showed that 80% of Americans are opposed to horse slaughter, perhaps reflecting the possibility that anti-slaughter sentiment is a generally growing trend:
Buschert’s reflections about the CFIA include, “Somehow, I have to have confidence in our slaughter and meat handling systems in Canada.” Oddly, it doesn’t appear to have occurred to her that footage from four separate equine slaughter plants has been aired between 2008 and 2011 and all showed appallingly cruel treatment of horses, including in the Bouvry plant in 2010. Yet “somehow” we should have confidence in the CFIA? A chilling thought.
If one had hoped for a non-biased article in Western Horse Review, there is now room for doubt. While Deanna Buschert raises questions like, “Can horses be slaughtered humanely?”, she answers it with Dr. Temple Grandin’s statement, “Yes…that goes back to management.” Yet, somehow, management didn’t pull through for the horses between 2008 and 2011, as covert video footage and CHDC reports have revealed. There is also no discussion about the flighty nature of horses and the inability of slaughterhouse personnel to properly restrain them.
Buschert hints that the undercover videos posted online are “sensationalized exception”. If she wishes to believe that, then that is her right. But…what if they are not? What if horses suffer like that in the stun box every single day of the week, and she’s not there to see it? It appears that Buschert believes what she is told by industry, not what her own eyes can tell her. Whole days’ events are captured on the videos provided, as well as reports covering four separate slaughterhouses. None of these are edited, pieced-together “sensationalized exception” – they are real time accounts of everyday occurrences depicting cruelties that horses are exposed to on a daily basis.
She also asks, “Are people around the world eating horse meat filled with bute from Canadian processing plants?” To answer that, she relies on the testimony of a slaughter plant owner, who maintains that rigorous testing is done for drug residues. Yet all horse owners know that the use of bute is widespread, and that horses destined for slaughter come from a variety of directions. Phenylbutazone is prohibited in food-producing livestock. As companion and working animals, horses have not traditionally been raised in accordance with meat production regulations. Logic must dictate here – if bute is not commonly found in Canadian horse meat, then testing is not performed on the correct body parts of the horse and is not frequent enough.
But perhaps it’s safer to defend industry rather than the horses themselves. After all, money makes the world go round. Doesn’t it?
Sinikka Crosland, Executive Director
Canadian Horse Defence Coalition