European Commission monitors have “serious concerns” about Canada’s ability to track health and treatment of horses
MICHAEL BURNS / MICHAEL BURNS PHOTO Thoroughbred race horse Backstreet Bully finished first in this August 2008 race at Fort Erie. The race horse changed ownership after retirement and was sent to slaughter, despite frantic last-minute pleas to save his life by people who knew the horse had been given veterinary drugs over his lifetime that made him unsafe for human consumption.
Exported Canadian horsemeatintended for human consumption cannot be trusted to be free of toxic drugs, according to a recently released European audit that cites “serious concerns” about the integrity of Canada’s food safety measures.
Among the reported findings, auditors discovered that slaughterhouse tests conducted two years ago on horse carcasses poised to enter the human food chain showed residues of prohibited substances, including a commonly used veterinary medicine called “bute.” Phenylbutazone, or bute, has been linked to bone-marrow disease in humans if eaten in meat.
“It cannot be guaranteed that horses (slaughtered in Canada) have not been treated with illegal substances within the last 180 days before slaughter,” the audit states.
The report also described the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the country’s food safety watchdog, as having “shortcomings” in its ability to accurately trace horses’ identities and complete medical histories.
All horses butchered in Canada for export as human food, including horses imported from the United States, must be accompanied by an equine identification “passport” completed by the animal’s last owner. Owners must truthfully declare on these signed affidavits that their slaughter-bound animals have not been given prohibited drugs for the previous six months and are, therefore, eligible to become human food.
A 2013 Star investigation found these passports, called Equine Information Documents, are open to fraud and error. In European countries, in contrast, horse ownership and medical histories are tracked from birth.
European auditors, who police the meat coming into their market, gathered information from Canadian slaughter facilities during a two-week inspection in May of 2014. In their report, auditors expressed doubt about the ability of Canada’s food safety regulator to always provide untainted horsemeat to European Union markets.
“There are serious concerns in relation to the reliability of the controls over both imported and domestic horses destined for export (to EU markets),” the European report states.
Auditors also found that in Canada “there are no official checks to verify the veracity of the (equine passports) or whether the horses actually match the identifications registered” on the passports.
“The information contained in several (equine passports) checked by the … audit team appeared incomplete, unreliable or false. It can therefore not be ensured that horses slaughtered in Canada for export to the EU have not been treated with substances which are not permitted in the EU, in particular hormonal growth promotants.” Testosterone was mentioned as a prohibited growth hormone in EU meat.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, responding to written questions from the Star, declared that horsemeat exported from Canada is safe to eat.
“Canada has a strong and robust food safety inspection system in place,” the agency said in statement.
“This includes effective ante and post mortem verification and frequent sampling and testing of meat to detect residues with CFIA inspectors and veterinarians present on a daily basis. The number of samples taken is consistent with international standards.”
The federal food safety agency also stated it “welcomes feedback from the audit and is committed to addressing opportunities for improvement identified within the report.”
Horsemeat is Canada’s top red meat export to European countries.
The audit team attached to the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office evaluated the sanitary measures and control systems in place for fresh meat exports (including horse, bison and cattle) from Canada to Europe.
With respect to horses, the European team visited unnamed slaughterhouses, feedlots and one border crossing (the majority of horses killed annually in Canada are imported from the United States).
The vulnerability of Canada’s Equine Information Document was also a key concern in a 2010 European audit. That report found Canada’s ability to trace prohibited drugs in food-bound horses “is inadequate” to protect consumers.
Canada’s equine document is the first step in protecting the public from drug-tainted horse meat. A previous Star investigation found the horse passport that Canada relies upon to keep toxic meat off dinner tables around the world is easily compromised. The Star obtained 10 passports in 2013; nine were incomplete or error-riddled.
The 16 carcasses with bute residues identified in the recent audit were tested in 2013 at one unnamed slaughterhouse. The auditors noted the slaughterhouse operator conducted its own investigation of the owners of the 16 horses who submitted the non-compliant equine passports.
Auditors noted that while “the CFIA puts the responsibility for follow-up of non-compliances largely on the shoulders of the slaughterhouses, the CFIA does not always fulfill its obligations for verifying and ensuring the effectiveness of the follow-up investigations and corrective actions.”
A European Commission audit released this week warns that horsemeat imported from Canada does not fully meet European food safety standards. A similar audit from the Commission last year found similar problems with horsemeat from Mexico – most of it from American horses, cruelly hauled across the border by predatory kill buyers. After the audit, the European Union suspended further imports of horsemeat from Mexico.
The suspension dealt a huge blow to the North American horse slaughter industry. And this audit of the other big horse-slaughtering nation in North America could turn into a devastating second blow.
Every year, kill buyers haul more than 100,000 American horses—working, racing and companion horses and even children’s ponies—across the border to Canada and Mexico in cramped trailers, typically without food, water, or rest. The majority of these horses are young, healthy animals, sold at auctions by owners who either didn’t know, or didn’t care, about their fate. In Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses, these horses—who are naturally very anxious and respond to threats by fleeing—are often inhumanely handled and slaughtered, before being shipped overseas for human consumption.
During the six months prior to slaughter, Canada allows the use of various substances that would automatically exclude horses from the food chain in the EU. Several audits conducted by the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office have echoed our concerns about the inherent weaknesses in the Canadian and Mexican control systems, and concluded that the veracity and reliability of vendor statements on the medical history of the U.S. horses cannot be guaranteed.
The European Commission’s audit also pointed to similar problems with U.S. horses that are sent to Canada for slaughter. The European Commission noted that official export certificates that accompany live horses from the United States do not include any statements relating to public health. This casts further doubt on the controls that Canada has in place.
For years, The HSUS and Humane Society International have repeatedly said that the horse-slaughter industry is predatory and reckless, unwilling, and perhaps unable to establish sufficient controls to meet the basic food safety standards called for in processing chicken, pork, or beef. The fundamental problem is that horses in North America are not raised for food, but for companionship and for recreation or work. That means that most owners administer a wide variety of veterinary drugs forbidden for use in animals destined for the table – practices you’d never see in other industries where animals are specifically raised for consumption.
Recognizing that veterinary drug residues can be an issue, the European Union has since July 2010 required that only properly identified horses with a known lifetime medical treatment history, and whose medicinal treatment records show they satisfy the federal Food and Drug Administration-mandated withdrawal periods, are allowed to be slaughtered for export to the EU. The countries exporting horsemeat say they’ve taken steps to implement measures to preclude contaminated horsemeat from ending up on the EU market, but we have repeatedly pointed out to the European Commission that these measures are fundamentally flawed and virtually impossible to enforce.
Shutting down this cruel trade will also force the U.S. horse industry and owners to take greater responsibility for their animals, and think more carefully about how they will care for them throughout and at the end of their lives. It is a barbaric, opportunistic, and unsafe trade, and it should end not only in the United States, but throughout North America. If the European Commission suspends the Canadian horsemeat trade as it should, we’ll have taken one more big step toward achieving that long-overdue goal.
Horses, riders and runners crossed three streams in the course of their 22-mile race through the hills of central Wales. The average finish time was the same for both species — four hours. Ryan Kellman and Adam Cole/NPR’s Skunk Bear
The Man v. Horse Marathon starts out like a typical cross-country race. Hundreds of runners stream past the starting line, through the town of Llanwrtyd Wells and then up into the Welsh hills.
But 15 minutes later, a second set of competitors takes off. Fifty horses and their riders chase the runners up and down ridges, across streams, and past hundreds of bewildered sheep.
This bizarre race was created in 1980 to settle an argument between a local pub owner and an opinionated customer. The outcome seems obvious — horses are bigger, stronger and much faster in a sprint. They’ve been bred for centuries to help humans get around faster.
Humans, on the other hand, aren’t that speedy. Sprinter Usain Bolt — the world’s fastest man — would have trouble outrunning a lot of house cats, let alone a cheetah.
But scientists say when it comes to marathon distances, humans might actually have an edge.
“We’re essentially the tortoises of the animal world rather than the hares,” says Dan Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. “We have a series of adaptations that are literally from our heads to our toes that make us superlative at long distance running.”
Specialized structures in our inner ears keep us balanced as we lope along; our springy arches and long elastic tendons make running more efficient, and our big muscular bottoms help stabilize our trunks. And then there’s the way we keep our cool. Millions of years ago we traded in fur for a naked body covered in sweat glands. The result: We can lose heat while we run.
Losing heat’s not so easy for quadrupeds like antelopes, zebras and horses. They need to pant to really cool off, and that’s difficult to do when they’re moving at top speeds.
“The guts — the huge viscera — slams into the diaphragm with every step and prevents the animal from panting while galloping,” Lieberman says.
When it’s hot out, quadrupeds need to slow down to cool down. Humans sweat and keep going. And all that sweating probably helped our ancient ancestors survive.
“Running was important because it helped us become better hunters,” Lieberman says.
His research supports the theory that early humans were “persistence hunters.” On hot days, he says, people would chase animals across the African savanna. Unable to rest, the animals would eventually collapse from heat exhaustion, and the hunters would have fresh meat.
The Man v. Horse Marathon is a less violent analogue of persistence hunting. Horses are the ones chasing humans over a 22-mile trail, but temperature still plays an important role.
“The few occasions where humans have beaten the horses have been on hot days,” Lieberman says. “And that makes total sense.”
This year, the Man V. Horse Marathon took place in a light, refreshing rain — bad news for humanity. Still, the first racer to reach the finish line was human: a 30-year-old civil servant named Hugh Aggleton.
This was Aggleton’s third time entering the race, and in previous years he’s had some close encounters.
“When you are overtaken by horses you can feel the ground sort of start to shake, as the galloping horses come up behind,” Aggleton says. “Then you hear their breathing and you think, ‘All right, gotta get going.’ ”
This year, Aggleton managed to stay ahead of the cavalry, completing the course in 2 hours and 30 minutes. But that wasn’t quite fast enough. Leo the horse, ridden by Geoff Allen, reached the finish just five minutes after him. After subtracting the human’s 15-minute head start, the horse had a time of 2:20, and it was crowned this year’s champion.
Still, Aggleton managed to beat a lot of the other horses in the race.
“I might make that a sort of tag line,” Aggleton says. “Faster than 46 out of 50 horses.”
That means if he had lived long ago, he probably would have been able to chase down dinner.
“A reader and fellow wild equine advocate brought this story to our attention and we definitely feel that it bears both repeating, here, and action taken upon. Please review the information at the bottom of the post” ~ R.T.
Audio Player: Click here to listen. Larry Gibson is a third-generation rancher in Heber, Arizona. His barn is lined with dozens of haystacks – food for his 900 head of cattle. They also graze in the forest, but in recent years, Gibson says there hasn’t been as much to eat.
Cattle-rancher Larry Gibson (far right) sits inside his barn with fellow eastern Arizona ranchers. They argue the Heber Horses are overgrazing the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and need to be removed. Credit Aaron Granillo/KNAU
Cattle-rancher Larry Gibson (far right) sits inside his barn with fellow eastern Arizona ranchers. They argue the Heber Horses are overgrazing the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and need to be removed. Credit Aaron Granillo/KNAU”A lot of these areas, we go and measure the grass before the cows ever get there. There may be 80-percent usage before we ever get there,” Gibson says. “If the horses have eaten the feed, you can’t bring your cattle up.”
In his own lifetime – 57-years – Gibson claims that the wild horse population increase exponentially. He pays the Forest Service about $1,600 a month for grazing rights, and feels he’s not getting his money’s worth. Gibson believes there’s one solution to protect livelihood and land.
“So in my opinion, the best thing to with these up here would be remove every one of them. Whether they go to adoption, or, you know, I hate to say it, euthanized or to a slaughter plant,” Gibson says. “I mean that sounds kind of harsh, but something has to be done with them.”
That’s something horse advocate and photographer Mary Hauser won’t accept.
“I don’t have any problem with these ranchers. They’re making a living.” Hauser says. “But I don’t think that our land should be stripped of our heritage and our wild horses.”
Hauser has been taking pictures of the Heber horses for the past 14-years. On a recent afternoon, she drives to their official territory, established after the Federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. It’s meant to protect them from sale or slaughter.
Hauser believes the horses she sees through her camera lens are related to a herd of Spanish mustangs brought to the Southwest centuries ago.
“Characteristically, they have an almond shaped eye. The shorter back. Their nostrils are thinner as far as the texture and thickness of the skin,” Hauser says. “And that’s all the Spanish look. So that tells me that these horses really are carrying the blood of those Spanish horses.”
Historian Jo Baeza suspects that may have been true at the time the Federal horse act was established.
“In 1540, Francisco Vázquez De Coronado came through the White Mountains with a huge entourage. Thousands of horses,” Baeza says. “I believe that those were the original horses of the Mogollon Rim — the descendants of Coronado’s herd.”…(CONTINUED)
The Rest of the Story
Welfare Rancher Larry Gibson works for the Seibert Cattle Company LLC which has federal lands grazing leases in several states. Gibson runs Seibert cattle on the Heber Grazing Allotment where many of the Heber wild horses live. Part of the grazing allotment covers nearly half of the dedicated Heber Wild Horse Territory in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in Arizona.
Gibson claims the wild horse population has increased exponentially over the years. However, the last two USFS aerial counts from 2014 and 2015 show the population of the herd in and around the Heber Wild Horse Territory to be approximately 202, which is down over 100 horses from 2005 when a previous wild horse roundup was stopped by a court order. According to USFS the total 2015 count for the entire 2.7 million acre Apache-Sitgreaves Forests was 320.
The Heber grazing allotment renewal EA coincidentally was just recently released and calls for increasing the amount of cattle to be grazed. This grazing allotment calls for structural and non-structural improvements costing approximately $4 million dollars without saying how much of that economic burden will be placed on the American tax payer. Public comments are now open through Friday, June 12, 2015.
Please take a look at the Heber Allotment Draft Environmental Assessment
“It’s ‘Feel Good Sunday’ and today’s tale simply warms the heart; that so many good people care…It’s all good!” ~ R.T.
Dr. Terry Kern of Pawsitive Steps Rehabilitation & Therapy in Rochester hills fits Miss Daisy Donkey’s right hind leg for prosthesis. Photo submitted by Pawsitive Steps Rehabilitation & Therapy.
Miss Daisy is a mellow, easy going miniature donkey who lives in Independence Township.
She has long, brown hair, loves people, is about 30 inches tall and weighs less than 200 pounds.
She is also missing a hoof.
With the help of local veterinarians and her owners, Miss Daisy will soon be able to run without a hobble, thanks to a relatively new process of fitting of an animal prosthesis on her hind leg.
She will be the first donkey in Michigan to have this procedure done, according to experts.
Daisy’s owner, Independence Township resident Joette Kunse, said she and her husband, Bill, have had horses for 30 years.
“Last year we had two horses, and one passed away at 32 years of age,” said Kunse, a retired educator.
“A horse is a herd animal and likes to have company. We had looked at purchasing another horse, a goat and then we saw a miniature donkey and thought — cheap friend for our horse Scooter.”
The couple purchased Miss Daisy from equine veterinarian Austen Epp in November, and have made her part of the family since. But somewhere along the line, Miss Daisy suffered a cut near her right hind hoof.
An infection from the cut proved to be nearly fatal, said Kunse.
“Dr. Epp was taking care of her … (and) told us she may not live through this and she had a less than 50-50 chance,” Kunse said.
“During this time, Miss Daisy Donkey continued to eat, walk around and seemed to not know she was sick.
“One morning, we went out to the barn and found the bandage off Miss Daisy’s foot and the hoof was inside, but (she) was standing, eating and seemed oblivious to her predicament.”
Dr. Epp, owner of his own equine veterinary practice in Holly and partner in Michigan Equine Surgical Associates in Bridgeport, said: “Her wound scabbed, but it didn’t heal all the way. It basically fell off due to the lack of blood flow to her foot.”
So what are the options when a family member becomes ill?
“What else do you do? You do what you can,” said Kunse.
IN THE HANDS OF KILL BUYERS! When horses are purchased at auction by buyers intending to kill them, they're hauled away in double- decker tractor trailers where they are beaten and often blinded with baseball bats to mollify them. After crossing the border into Mexico, the animals are stabbed on each side-an act to tenderize their meat-and immobilized. Workers, then saw the horses legs off, at the knee and hang them to bleed out-all while the horses are ALIVE! (This is an excerpt, from an article written by Missy Diaz, crediting Victoria Mc Cullough and Sen. Joe Abruzzo for bringing awareness of horse slaughter, to Florida. In 2010 Florida Legislation unanimously passed the Horse Protection Bill, making it a felony to slaughter horses for personal or commercial use.)