8.15.2010

it's about time: private member's bill seeks to end horse slaughter in canada

Bill Siksay - who seconded Bill C-440, the private member's bill in support of US war resisters in Canada - has sponsored a historic private member's bill to include the rights of transgendered people in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Bill C-389 is only one of Bill's many excellent private member's bills, which include calling for the establishment of a Department of Peace, and supporting conscientious objection to paying taxes for military purposes.

Yvon Godin's private member's bill would require justices on the Supreme Court of Canada to be bilingual.

Libby Davies continues to work on behalf of people with AIDS, sex workers, murdered and missing women, substance abusers, and members of other marginalized and invisible communities.

I could go on. There are many other examples. I have my problems with federal NDP leadership and the direction the party is going - what progressive Canadian doesn't? - but individual New Democrat Members of Parliament are out there fighting the good fight.

Now Alex Atamanenko (also a stalwart supporter of war resisters from the very beginnings of the campaign) is sponsoring a private member's bill to curtail (and hopefully end) the disgusting and unnecessary practice of horse slaughter in Canada by banning the sale of horse meat for human consumption.

Horse slaughter isn't only cruel to horses, it's dangerous for humans. None of the safeguards or food safety practices, such as they are, for meat production for human consumption apply to horse meat. Horse meat often contains the drug phenylbutazone or "bute". Bute is a known carcinogen and causes a toxic reaction in humans.

At least half the horses slaughtered in Canada originate in the US, where horse slaughter has been banned. (For some background, see this old wmtc post.)

From HSI Canada:
Horses are our loyal companions, and they captivate us with their spirit and grace. But too often, these sensitive creatures face the ultimate betrayal at the hands of people.

I'm talking about Canada's horse slaughter industry, which in 2009 alone killed nearly 94,000 horses to produce products nobody needs. Pending legislation would put an end to this cruel Canadian industry -- please act today!

Horses suffer horribly in slaughterhouses. They are an extreme example of a "flight" animal -- the panic and instinctive desire to escape that horses experience in the kill chute causes them to thrash frantically, making it very difficult to stun them. Video footage from a recent undercover investigation reveals the kind of cruelty that horses are routinely subjected to in Canadian slaughterhouses.

And the horses aren't the only ones who need protection. Consumers are at serious risk of ingesting a banned chemical found in horse meat. Horses are not raised as food animals, and many of them come into contact with a drug called phenylbutazone, commonly known as bute. Phenylbutazone is banned for use in any animal intended for human consumption because it can cause toxic reactions in humans. Mechanisms to ensure the removal of horses treated with substances such as bute from the food chain are inadequate at best.

For years, Canadians have called for a national ban on horse slaughter in our country. At long last, we have a historic opportunity to achieve this win for horses.

Last month, NDP Agriculture Critic Alex Atamanenko put forward a bill that would shut down the cruel and dangerous horse meat industry in Canada. Please help increase support for this crucial legislation.

First, send an email to your Member of Parliament, urging support for this bill.

After sending the email, you'll see instructions for downloading our petition. Gathering signatures in your electoral district, mailing them to your MP and asking that he or she read it in the House of Commons will be a huge help in this effort to safeguard horses.

Together, we can build enough support for Bill C-544 to stop the cruel Canadian horse slaughter industry for good.

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition calls Bill C-544 "a huge step forward in the movement to abolish a cruel, archaic and unnecessary industry".

Please support Bill C-544 by going here and sending a message to your MP. If you want to get further involved, you can download a petition (English, French), gather signatures, and speak to your MP about presenting it in the House of Commons.

I realize that few wmtc readers will gather signatures on a petition for this bill. But let's all ask our MPs to support the bill.

15 comments:

johngoldfine said...

I certainly don't want to ingest bute (or all the antibiotics endemic to US feedlots and chicken farms). Michael Pollan and Temple Grandin have left me no illusions about slaughterhouses.

But neither chemicals nor cruelty are inherent parts of raising animals for meat. Michael Pollan is quite eloquent about that in 'Omnivore's Dilemma.'

Horses do have an emotional pull on us we don't feel with, say, a hog or a sheep. They are indeed "our loyal companions, and they captivate us with their spirit and grace."

True enough, but when they have reached the end of their usefulness, they can either be retired, as we have been able to afford to do with ours--or they can be turned into usable protein.

Apart from the safety and cruelty issues, which certainly will be made moot by a total ban on slaughter but which less drastic laws and regulations could also address, I don't see the harm in horse slaughter.

L-girl said...

Within a practice that exists wholly for expendiency and efficiency, in an attempt to wring one last profit from animals who are no longer profitable alive, cruelty and suffering will always be inherent.

There is no possibility of reforming this practice. No one will spend the money on slaughterhouse redesign, or proper transport, or proper feeding, for those marked for slaughter.

There is no possibility of reform here. That's why the practice must be abolished.

But neither chemicals nor cruelty are inherent parts of raising animals for meat.

I agree. I frequently write about that. But these animals are not being raised for meat. They are being raised for other reason, then dumped for meat in the fatest and most expeditious manner possible.

And the antibiotics - and many other drugs - will always be the horse meat, precisely for that reason.

johngoldfine said...

It's just that a total ban is too total. As I say, I would not want to eat a Premarin horse or a horse off the track. And, working with horses every day, I really hate to imagine them in a mechanized slaughterhouse. That would be very bad.

Anything the Canadian government can do to stop bad food and cruelty to animals I am all in favor of.

But what about the small outfitter who needs to cull a few older horses? Last month in Iceland I rode horses--horses treated humanely and living on nothing but grass--and ate the older relatives of these same horses.

What about people living at a subsistence level? In northern British Columbia more than 40 years ago, I ate bannock, canned butter, moose liver, and horsemeat prepared by the Dunne-za I was staying with. The horse was another grassfed animal, and the slaughter was as humane as could be.

So, if the economics are not there for reform, ban slaughter-for-profit by all means.

L-girl said...

I just realized this post wasn't at the top, because it was dated wrong. Now fixed.

This ban doesn't touch any of the scenarios you mention. This is the systematic, mechanized, wholesale slaughter of horses shipped en masse from the US in inhuame conditions and slaughtered under unthinkably brutal conditions.

If someone needs to kill a horse to eat, or to kill a few horses humanely and sell the meat privately as food, this bill won't stop them.

(In all likelihood this bill won't stop anybody from doing anything, since private member's bills [opposition bills - not legislation from the sitting government] usually don't pass. But it's an important step at putting in on the agenda, and it might pass.)

Andrea said...

Sorry I cant support this.
There is a reason why Equine Canada will not support it - you can not ban horse slaughter if there is no other alternative.
It leads to TONS more abuse, neglect and over filled rescues.
There are a lot of horse people out there (I am one of them) who dont like horse slaughter and would do everything in our power to not use it BUT.....
It is a necessary evil.

Here is some info.
Here is a very very interesting article - The state of the horse industry.
http://extension.usu.edu/equine/files/uploads/horse%20harvesting%20paperno%20ext.pdf

that sparked this debate on a popular web forum
http://www.bestofhorses.com/go.php?id=1475

No we are not evil people - we are actual horse owning people who deal with the ins and out of an industry that is hit by meteor showers daily.
Just two days ago the Standarbred industry in BC got told that the track was being shut down. NOW WHAT. Thousands of horses and hundreds upon hundreds of people all the way down the line out of work.

L-girl said...

Thanks for the info, Andrea. I'll certainly read what you posted.

Are you saying that without this mass slaughter, people could not euthanize horses the way we do for our dogs and cats?

PS I never thought you were evil. :)

Dharma Seeker said...

I'm a little surprised by my fellow readers reactions.

when they have reached the end of their usefulness, they can either be retired, as we have been able to afford to do with ours--or they can be turned into usable protein.

Would that line of reasoning apply to, say show dogs? Once they can no longer show or produce offspring they should be sent to a slaughterhouse and end up on the dinner table? Or taken out behind the shed and shot and end up on the dinner table?

One of the differences between cow and horses is that horses are not raised for their meat. Cows could not survive in the wild. Horses do, quite nicely, unless they're plucked out to be part of a rodeo.

The subsistence argument doesn't hold much water for me either. I can't imagine someone in Canada needing to eat horse meat to survive. Deer, moose, and fish can be hunted at a fraction of the cost of feeding and raising raising horses.

L-girl said...

Thanks, DS. Good stuff.

johngoldfine said...

DS--the logic of what I'm saying would also apply to dogs in places where dogs are considered usable protein.

Mind you, I am deeply against any cruelty in either the keeping or the killing of animals.

The horse I ate in Canada had not been raised for meat but for use and had had a long life carrying people and their posessions through muskeg and williwags. There came a time when he was old, lame, and beyond help.

Horses and cows (with a little back-breeding and natural culling) could certainly live in the wild, just as they did before they were domesticated. But the unpleasant fate of many large animals in Africa and in North America suggests that the world has become too small for large successful herds of grass-eating mammals and, for that matter, their predators.

I'd be very glad to see fewer people and more animals on the Earth, but that does not seem to be the direction we are heading.

Andrea said...

euthanizing a horse is very expensive. First the vet bill is considerably more than that of a dog or cat and it includes a minimum $75 call out fee. Then there is the burial. MAJOR. in most cases not allowed. In some cases on private property is allowed but permits required so you dont get in trouble. Backhoe to dig the hole amd a legally deep enough hole.
A large majority of horse owners dont own property - they board.
So the horse is off to a rendering plant anyway. Not able to consume for meat but the hide is used, as well as the feet.
Death is not pretty.
It never is.
And the worst is that by shutting down the USA plants these animals are now being hauls considerably long distances and suffering far more before hand. Not pretty.

And it is a myth that horses survive in the wild. Horses that have been domesticated DO NOT survive the winters in the wild. The internal instincts have been breed out of them. The true wild horses that we see in those evil gov't round ups do not experience human contact until they are "round up".
the first year after the USA plants closed saw a considerable number of horses abandoned by well meaning horses owners hit by the economy smack down. They thought their PETS could survive. Horses were found dead or dying all over. Rescues in the states are so over full they dont even advertise their addresses because they wake up with stray animals on their door steps and no money to feed them.

L-girl said...

They thought their PETS could survive. Horses were found dead or dying all over. Rescues in the states are so over full they dont even advertise their addresses because they wake up with stray animals on their door steps and no money to feed them.

Oh, I think we're all aware of that, especially Dharma Seeker, who works directly with those animals.

But I'm under the impression that this has little bearing on the tens of thousands of horses being shipped from the US to Canada for slaughter. These numbers are too large to be pets. For the most part, as I understand it, they are service animals that are now no longer profitable.

L-girl said...

Also, those folks may know very well their pets can't survive. They are simply destitute and desperate.

Dharma Seeker said...

Comparing wild horses and domesticated horses is like comparing apples and oranges.

My point was that cows are in this country for the sole reason of providing milk and being slaughtered for meat.

So the horse is off to a rendering plant anyway.

The debate isn't about how to dispose of a carcass. It's about the manner in which the animals live and die.

Death is not pretty. It never is.

Death is natural and part of life. In some circumstances it is far from ugly, it is a release from suffering.

And the worst is that by shutting down the USA plants these animals are now being hauls considerably long distances and suffering far more before hand. Not pretty

I totally agree, which is why Canada needs to tighten its lax standards on how long animals slated for slaughter are transported. There was a brilliant documentary on Global of all networks called Canada: no place for animals about a month ago that explored this issue pretty thoroughly.

My view is that if a person can't provide an animal with a comfortable life and humane death he/she oughtn't acquire it. This applies to companion animals and animals acquired for hobbies and competitions. If euthanasia is too expensive find a different hobby. $75 is negligible relative to the overall cost of keeping a horse and it's also the going rate for an "exam fee" for companion animals in my area. Any services provided during the exam are billable.

Once the horse is dead the choice of what to do with the carcass is entirely the owner's.

L-girl said...

I also took exception with the idea that death is "never pretty". My animals have all died dignified deaths, released from suffering, and surrounded by love. I've never owned a horse, but I know people who have been with their horses to the end as well.

My view is that if a person can't provide an animal with a comfortable life and humane death he/she oughtn't acquire it.

I agree strongly with this. A person who has fed and sheltered a horse owes it a humane death. It costs a lot? What kind of reason is that? It's your horse. You're responsible for it.

Of course, people who see animals only as profit-making machines aren't going to think this way. (I don't mean Andrea or John, I mean companies shipping truck loads of horses to Canada for slaughter.) We have to make it more difficult and less profitable for people to mistreat animals.

Dharma Seeker said...

This is very timely http://www.causes.com/causes/508228/about?m=e2196e1f