Cross-posted from the original Horse-Canada article. Author uncredited.
Bute and the (dead, soon to be eaten) Beast
Did anyone catch the 16 minutes of infamy the Canadian horse slaughter industry garnered from Global TV’s show 16×9 last weekend? It was so awesome, and I mean that in the worst possible sense. As most of us were getting ready to greet the chocolatey and biologically impossible leavings of the Easter Bunny on Sunday morning, along with some gorging on tryptophan-saturated turkey on Sunday evening, we were treated to graphic video images of horses suffering – and I mean suffering on an epic level – as they failed to be mortally wounded by stun guns designed for bovines. I’m not recommending you watch the show for any other reason than it’s your civic duty as a member of the horse loving community to be aware of what is going on, right here in this country of Canada.
Something else that’s going on which was exposed in the Global piece was the appalling lack of compliance and enforcement when it comes to the histories of the horses being slaughtered. Give your horse a nice bute-banamine-Ace cocktail (I’ve heard it’s like having a Tylenol 3 and a double scotch) as a send off before he heads to the knacker man? No problem. He might be on some hapless novelty-seeking carnivore’s plate a couple of weeks later. Yes, that’s right. There are rules that forbid the administration of drugs to horses destined for human consumption, but it’s like that wonderful saying, ‘light’s on but nobody’s home’. The CFIA, an organization for which I could have quite a lot of fun coming up for new words to represent the acronym, isn’t paying very much attention to horse slaughter.
So little, in fact, that one fellow named Henry Skjerven went on camera on the Global piece and said (quite colourfully I thought), “have they [the CFIA] got their ostrich ass in the air and their head in the sand? Yeah.” That fellow is the former director of a Saskatchewan slaughter house that dealt in extinguishing moos and whinnies. It’s bankrupt now, but that’s okay. There are five other equine killing facilities in Canada that are currently responsible for ‘processing’ almost 90,000 horses a year. Quite a few of those horses are from the US, because Canada has so little regulation in the industry that we happily take care of the dirty business the Americans can’t stomach on their own turf – at least that business that is closer for the shippers than Mexico.
The unloved horses have a white knight in the form of Alex Atamanenko, an NDP MP from BC who took up the cause when he was approached by the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition to champion a bill to end horse slaughter in Canada, but he’s getting precious little love from EC in return for his concern for horse welfare and food safety. Click here to see the letter EC wrote Mr. Atamanenko, and click here to see his eloquent and thought-provoking response. Mr. Atamanenko confirmed to me yesterday that he has heard no more from Mr. Al Patterson, the unnamed penman of the EC letter (Al told me so himself, right before he clammed up – see rant below).
I’m an EC member. I don’t recall ever being asked what I thought of the fact that in Canada tens of thousands of horses are killed every year for the sole purpose of becoming someone’s dinner. The letter that EC sent to Mr. Atamanenko may have been a (misguided and ill-thought-out) attempt to defend the interests of EC members, but in my opinion it failed – partly because in the letter the proposed bill was cherry picked for heinous implications that don’t exist – mainly the notion that if I drive my horse across the border near Field, BC on my way to a horse show in Calgary, some meat inspection officer will materialize out of the bushes and demand proof that I, with my hundred grand rig and obvious intentions of riding my horses (you know, saddles, bridles and the like), am not headed to the killing floor.
I don’t know why Al Patterson wrote the letter to Atamanenko, or why he chose to represent a position on behalf of thousands of unconsulted members that pitches us all AGAINST the welfare and food safety issues addressed by the bill. You know why I don’t know? Because Mr. Al Patterson decided not to answer my questions for the article that you will read in the June 2014 issue of Horse Sport. When I first contacted him about the topic earlier this week, he told me he would either answer my questions or get the answers. But when I sent the actual questions, he passed the lot onto Carmen Marsden-Awad, EC’s recently promoted Manager of Marketing and Communications (no, there was no announcement, never mind that this is Marketing and COMMUNICATIONS). I waited 24 hours to hear from Carmen, but being on a deadline (I’m what you would call a deadline junkie) I emailed her twice this morning in a failed attempt to get the information that would enable me to provide a fair and balanced article. Imagine my surprise when, for the first time in all my years writing about equestrian sport and politics in Canada, I was told that EC would not be providing any responses to my questions. Now, the reason I was given was that my deadline was too short. But I’m willing to bet an umbrella drink that my questions were not cherished. Here they are, copied and pasted from my email to Herr Patterson:
1. what was the date you sent the letter to the minister? If there was a date on your letter it was wiped, along with your name, from the copy I have.
2. What was your principle aim in writing the letter? As Alex points out in his reply to your letter, there doesn’t seem to have been any consultation with EC members on EC’s position regarding slaughter.
3. You seem to be arguing for the treatment of horses as potentially food for humans, but the membership of EC would almost certainly not agree with that position (as the minister obliquely suggested in his reply to your letter). How can you explain to members of EC why EC would take the position that effectively supports continuation of horse slaughter in Canada? There are two central issues at play: welfare issues with the transport of horses, particularly those from the US (as stated in the GAO document you cited), as well as the treatment and killing methods of those horses at facilities; the other issue is food safety, which according to the GAO document, as well as other studies, is not adequately addressed through lack of enforcement and compliance of existing rules regarding the disclosure and withdrawal time of medications. Why would EC take a position that effectively blocks progress in both of these areas, welfare and safety?
4. Can you define EC’s position in regard to the slaughter of horses for human consumption? How has this position been arrived at?
Herr Patterson didn’t even answer my first question, which surely wasn’t such a tough question to answer. I’m pleased to report that Alex Atamanenko (I’ve added his name to my spell checker as a word so I don’t misspell it) was rather more forthcoming with answers to questions and defenses of his position. You can read what he had to say in my At Issue column in June, and then again in July after it’s been learned if Bill C-571 will remain alive long enough to get the public exposure it deserves. You will also learn whether or not bute-tainted cheval steaks are an effective method of eliminating the sector of our population that enjoys dining on equines.
Official EC emails have a confidentiality statement at the bottom of them, so I’m not at liberty to disclose the exact wording of Carmen Marsden-Awad’s last communication to me. Let’s just say that what she said to me contained a fine blend of snark and sarcasm that, as a paid up member of EC, I found so offensive that I’m still catching flies.