Friday, April 9, 2010

Interview with Canadian Horse Defense Coalition Executive Director

Barn Mice

Following up on the recent release of undercover videos of horse slaughter practices at Viande Richelieu in Quebec and Bouvry Exports in Alberta by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC), Barnmice reporter Katy Moran interviewed Coalition Executive Director Sinikka Crosland. Moran also attempted to contact Viande Richelieu and Bouvry Exports regarding the videos but has not received a response.

The following is the original statement from the CHDC website:
In late February 2010, the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) received hidden camera footage of horse slaughter practices at Viande Richelieu in Quebec and Bouvry Exports in Alberta - the latter known as the largest exporter of horsemeat in North America. The CHDC has compelling proof that puts into question the effectiveness of the assembly-line slaughter of horses. The evidence demonstrates that both the facilities in Alberta and Quebec fail to meet humane slaughter standards used by the CFIA to audit Canadian slaughterhouses.
Barnmice Question: Which rules currently in place are being broken in these videos?
Crosland Answer: There are two different slaughter houses shown in the videos: at Bouvry Exports there are numerous misplaced shots resulting in prolonged suffering of the horses; you see them kicking out, proper restraints are not used, then they are slipping and falling in the stun box. At both facilities, they are using a .22 rifle. In the Richelieu video, you can see that the man is shooting from an awkward angle from below, rather than from above and shooting downward to hit the specific target spot. According to Nicholas Dodman*, who is an expert on these matters, and who has already put out a statement on what's happening there, it is a walnut sized area of the brain that must be hit, and what's happening is they are missing the correct spot. Then when the horse goes down, they are only paralyzed because they've been hit in the wrong spot. When they are shackled and hung, they can still be fully sentient. [*Founding member of Veterinarians for Equine Welfare]

Barnmice: Are there detailed instructions for the slaughter facilities to follow or just general guidelines?
Crossland:. Yes, there are some detailed instructions from the Alberta Farm Animal Council showing the correct angle. On the video you can see that the horse is shackled and hung, but it's still struggling, trying to right itself and it takes a number of minutes before someone else comes to apply another shot to the horse's head. A number of veterinarians are writing their own reports on what they're seeing. And, there is a panel of veterinarians examining the footage which will issue a report in approximately 10 days. We have already gotten some preliminary communications from them pointing out some of the drastic errors that are being made and that the animals are suffering. It's up to the CFIA veterinarian to be there, to say that the shot is going in at the wrong angle, and the animal must not be hung while still sentient.

Barnmice: Are the plant personnel receiving proper oversight?
Crossland:. According to the CFIA, there's supposed to be an inspector in the facility all the times when horses are being killed. So they should be, if not there all the time, they should be back and forth and watching to make sure everything is o.k. Ideally they should be watching every horse go down. The CFIA's own rules dictate that a CFIA veterinarian has to be in the building.

Barnmice: Does this mean that enforcement personnel are not performing the way they should be?
Crosland: That is correct - when we look at the videos, there are people there who we suspect are CFIA veterinarians, and if they are, there is something very wrong there because they are not doing anything about the suffering. If these people are not the CFIA veterinarians, then where are they? They should be there.

Barnmice: What is the role of Equine Canada in this issue? What is the role of the Ministry of Agriculture?
Crosland. How Equine Canada can help is by applying pressure on the legislators. And also for the RCMP, we are in the process right now of preparing letters to go with the footage to send to police in both areas. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is part of the Ministry of Agriculture. They must be held accountable.

Barnmice: Is there anything people outside of Canada can do?
Crosland: People outside Canada can go to our website, On the home page, there is a large red box with 'Breaking News' click on the 'read more here' link which will take you to the 'chambers of carnage' page where people can access the videos to see what the violations were. Then at the bottom of the page, click on 'to help end horse slaughter in Canada, go here. Do it now' This link will take you to the page which lists specific names and addresses of people to contact including Hon. Gerry Ritz, MP, Minister of Agriculture, and individuals from CFIA.
Also in the US, there is Federal legislation still pending to stop horse slaughter. People should get in touch with their legislators to say, 'Look what's happening to these horses in Canada, this is how they're being killed.' Stop export for slaughter immediately. It would be wonderful if that bill could be passed, then these horses wouldn't be shipped to Canada or Mexico where they die horrific deaths.

Barnmice: Can horse slaughter be made more humane?
Crosland: The way it's set up as an assembly line, no. Now, If the kind farmer takes the horse he's had for twenty years out to the field, applies the correct shot, and the horse falls - that is as humane as when a vet administers a shot. The horse trusts the farmer, But, in this case (slaughter houses), it's total chaos. The horses are frightened beyond words, there are instances shown where they're moved with electric prods and beaten into the stun box. They're slipping and sliding because they are so frightened. There are feces and urine in the box which is not cleaned out between horses. Proper restraints aren't used to keep the horses head immobile. There's so much to clean up to make it humane; they would need to set up a situation of trust, lead the horse in there with someone calming him down, and that just won't happen in the assembly line situation.

Barnmice: How does the floor crew impact the process?
Crosland: If the floor crew stays in the same job too long, they become jaded - they can no longer be sensitive to the suffering around them. Are they capable of humane handling of horses when they get that jaded? We've seen the company's advertisements to hire personnel saying 'no experience necessary' - they train on the spot. On the video, there appears to be a senior person training a younger person, and somebody actually gets kicked by a horse that is shackled and hung. It might help if video cameras were always used, but it couldn't be the CFIA or anyone tied with industry watching the video. They always say 'we've had someone over to inspect the slaughter houses,' but of course at that time, they know they're being watched, So the real story is what you get on under cover video. But, if the whole process was continually being filmed they would have to abide by the rules. My own feeling is, that any kind of changes would be so difficult for them to accomplish, it would probably be best to close it down altogether.

Barnmice: When will the CBC investigation be released?
Crosland: We know they are working on it, but we don't have a firm date - probably within the next couple of weeks.

Barnmice: Who took the video - an employee or an outsider?
Crosland: An undercover investigator who then turned the video over to our organization. At this point, we just don't know [the person's identity].
We may want to get it authenticated because the other side always says 'how do you know it's authentic if it just got dropped on your doorstep!' But, by just watching the video, we know it's authentic.

Barnmice: What are the short term goals and long term goals for your organization.
Crosland: For the short term goals, to shut down the plants immediately as they operating outside the rules. There must be a full investigation as to what is going on including a criminal investigation which is why we're going to the police with the information. In the long term, to stop slaughter altogether, and to stop the export of horses for slaughter, The way it is set up, as an assembly line, it is inherently not humane and cannot be made humane.

Barnmice: Are there any other things you would like Barnmice members to know?
Crosland: Just the most important thing is that people on both sides of the border can work on this by getting in touch with legislators, in the US, getting the Federal bill, 'The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (H.R. 503/S. 727, passed. We just can't say that enough.

Link to the original Barnmice report and videos.

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