Thursday, May 30, 2013

40 Horses Sold at Public Auction Amid Complicated Legal Battle

UPDATE on the 40 rescued horses sold at auction in Utah.  ~Declan

40 horses sold at public auction amid complicated legal battle

SPANISH FORK -- A complicated legal battle and months of finger-pointing came to a head Wednesday evening when 40 horses seized by the Utah County Sheriff's Office, mostly mares, were sold at a public auction.
The horses at one point belonged to Trudy Childs and her son Rory, but have been in the care of the sheriff's office since February when a tip from a neighbor led deputies to more than 100 malnourished horses at five different locations in Utah County.
The 40 horses sold at the auction at the Spanish Fork Fair Grounds came from a group of 70 to 80 horses that were being kept near 1500 E. Powerhouse road in Spanish Fork, the remainder of those horses were either already sold, taken by a local horse rescue or died from malnourishment.
Although hundreds of buyers turned out the majority of horses were bought by a group of buyers from the Park City/Heber area. Barbara Phillips, owner of the Blue Sky Ranch and Alex Anderson, owner of the Equine Pavilion, said they didn't want to see the horses go to slaughterhouses. They gathered a group of people willing to buy or foster the horses until they can find owners for all of them.
"I am happy to have spent the money and will be happy to give them away to good homes," Phillips said. "We all worked really hard to keep these horses alive and get them through this ordeal. We were trying to keep them from going to bad homes."
During the auction the group had people watching bidders and anytime anyone associated with Rory Childs, who was present at the auction, tried to bid they would bid against them and drive up the sale price. The horses sold for anywhere from $300 to $2,500, averaging $800 to $900.
"I will bankrupt myself before Rory gets one of these horses," Anderson said prior to the auction. Anderson also said that the Equine Pavilion has helped provide feed for the horses for the past several months. Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff's Office said that the Equine Pavilion helped coordinate donations coming in from the public to care for the horses. Rory Childs said that he has been providing hay for the horses during the past several weeks after 4th District Judge Lynn Davis ordered him to do so. Spencer says that the judge gave Childs the opportunity to feed the horses on their own but that trail cameras showed the horses weren't getting fed enough and the sheriff's office took over feeding the hay Childs provided to the horses but said that hay often wasn't enough and had to be supplemented by donations or bought hay.
Many in attendance at the auction seemed to be frustrated by the group driving up the prices of the horses. Justin Sanderson, a friend of Childs, says that Childs has done everything he can to save the horses.
"We would all like to save them from going to meat, but you have an auction for a reason," Sanderson said. "They went to the media and wanted everyone here to keep the horses from going to slaughter but they outbid the public too."
Sanderson said in order for slaughterhouses to make a profit they would have to buy a horse for $250 or less. He also says many of the horses were sold at escalated prices. He says that colts, like some of those sold at the auction, would normally go for $300; the colts went for an average of $600.
Cannon says that while the horses could have been adopted out and found just as good of homes, there are interested parties in the matter that deserve to get at least some of the money they deserve. Justin Barrows, owner of Barrows Land and Livestock in Ogden, is currently involved in a lawsuit with Childs and was also at the auction. He said that an agreement between his ranch and the sheriff's department means he will get all of the money from the auction to recoup money owed to him by Rory and Trudy Childs. Barrows said he took care of 94 mares and 67 colts for the Childses for 16 months without receiving any of the agreed upon pay. He said that Rory and Trudy Childs owe him $110,000 and that he is still taking care of 30 horses and 60 more that are currently in care of Rory Childs are still under his lien.
He also says that through attornies he tried to get Rory to agree to sell the other 30 horses being cared for in Ogden at Wednesday auction but he wouldn't agree. Rory Childs said that they took dozens of their horses back from the Barrows last fall after they found out they were being mistreated. He says when they took the horses back they were starved and sick.
"I think it is ridiculous that they came in and blamed us," Childs said. "I never starved them at all." Childs said that the sheriff's office said that had Rory and Trudy been feeding the horses adequately during the three months between the horses being taken back from Barrows and the sheriff's department discovering them the horses should have been in better condition than they were.
Barrows said that everything Rory Childs has said is a lie.
"The proof is in the pudding. They can't show that they paid us a single dime," Barrows said. Barrows purchased three of the horses at auction despite the fact that the money will be just be returned to him. He says he didn't want any of the horses to be bought by Rory.
"I was so pleased. It was a great showing," Barrows said. "I fed and took care of these horses for two years. I helped everyone of these colts be born. We have an emotional interest in what happens." Barrows also said he invites the public to his ranch in Ogden to see the horses he is caring for, he says they are in excellent condition.
Phillips says regardless of the legal issues she is glad to see that most of the horses will be going to good homes and that none of them will be going to slaughterhouses. She says she personally spent nearly $4,000 buying eight horses.
"I think we did the best we could," She said. "We didn't let them outbid us."
The civil lawsuit between the Childses and the Barrows is still ongoing but Barrows says once that is settled he will sale the other horses in his possession to help recoup money he is owed. According to court documents the sheriff's offices has spent more than $15,000 in man hours and hay for the horses since February.
Rory and Trudy Childs are also each facing multiple counts of cruelty to an animal and are scheduled to be in court on June 11 for a preliminary hearing in that case. Trudy Childs is currently serving time in the Utah County Jail for violating her probation in 24 separate criminal cases involving livestock at large, livestock on the highway and public nuisance charges.

USDA Inspector General: Food Safety and Humane Slaughter Laws Ignored with Impunity

Regardless of your views on eating meat - If the USDA already can't handle keeping the slaughter of animals we  slaughter in this country (more) humane, and they can't ensure the meat we already have is safe, how are they going to add in the horses?  How will the USDA EVER be able to regulate horse slaughter?  ~Declan

USDA Inspector General: Food Safety and Humane Slaughter Laws Ignored With Impunity

by Bruce Friedrich, Senior Director for Strategic Initiatives, Farm Sanctuary
Posted: 05/28/2013 8:23 am on Huffington Post Green Blog

Two weeks ago, the USDA's Office of the Inspector General released a report that, once again, proves that our food system is broken: First, FSIS doesn't meaningfully attempt to stop repeat violations of food safety laws. Second, it has allowed a 15-year-old pilot program with faster slaughter and fewer inspectors to proceed without review. Third, it all but ignores its humane slaughter mandate. Remarkably, unless you read Food Safety News or the agricultural media, you will have missed this extremely damning report.

First, FSIS' food safety oversight system in pig slaughterhouses is completely broken. Out of 44,128 identified violations of food safety laws at 616 slaughterhouses over four years, there were just 28 plant suspensions, all brief. Over these same four years, FSIS didn't reach enforcement stage 5 or 6 even once. OIG offers some stomach-turning examples of illegal activity that warranted but did not receive suspension, including:

At a South Carolina slaughterhouse, FSIS issued more than 800 violations, including fourteen for egregious violations like "fecal contamination on a hog after the final trim," almost 100 "for exposed or possibly adulterated products that had 'grease smears' or 'black colored liquid substance' on processed meat," and 43 for "pest control problems, such as cockroaches on the kill floor." This plant was not suspended even once.

At a Nebraska slaughterhouse, FSIS issued more than 600 violations, which included 50 repeat violations for "contaminated carcasses that included 'fecal material which was yellow [and] fibrous' on the carcass." FSIS never even reached enforcement stage three, notice of intended enforcement, let alone suspension.

At an Illinois slaughterhouse, FSIS issued more than 500 violations, including 26 repeat violations for "fecal matter and running abscesses on carcasses." Yes, FSIS found fecal matter and running abscesses on carcasses 26 times. Nevertheless, FSIS never even got to stage three on its 6-stage plan.
Second, fifteen years ago USDA approved a "pilot program" to speed slaughter lines and reduce inspector numbers in some plants, but it never bothered to see how the program is working. Remarkably, the slaughterhouse with the most violations was such a plant, "with nearly 50 percent more [violations] than the plant with the next highest number." One of these plants doesn't even require manual inspection of viscera, a requirement at the other 615 pig slaughter plants, because "some signs of disease and contamination can be detected only through a manual inspection. Examples include ... parasites within the intestine, and inflamed or degenerated organs that are unusually sticky to the touch or excessively firm."

Third, even top FSIS personnel don't understand what the Humane Slaughter Act requires of them. Decisions are "inconsistent, lenient, and endorsed by district officials." OIG officials visited just 30 plants, each for no more than 30 minutes, and yet they still witnessed multiple instances of animals regaining consciousness after "stunning," for which the inspector-in-charge chose not to issue a report (as was legally required). "If this occurred when our audit team and FSIS officials were present, we are concerned that this might be more prevalent when the plants and inspectors are not being observed." The OIG also reviewed violation reports for these 30 plants and found that of the 158 violations, there were 10 egregious violations that did not result in suspension, as is legally required. As just two examples:

At an Indiana slaughterhouse, a worker shot a pig through the head with a captive bolt, which "lodged in the hog's skull. The hog remained conscious and aware while the plant sent for another gun, which was about 2 minutes away. The second gun also appeared to misfire causing the hog to squeal, but it remained conscious and aware. The hog then managed to dislodge the first gun from its skull. Ultimately, a portable electric stunner had to be used to successfully render the hog unconscious. Following this incident, FSIS cited another violation for a hog regaining consciousness on the rail. The plant was not suspended for either egregious incident."

At a Pennsylvania slaughterhouse, "a hog that had been stunned and bled regained consciousness. The hog was able to right its head, make noise, kick, and splash water in reaction to being placed in a scalding tank." Yes, this poor animal was placed, throat slit open but conscious, into scalding hot water. "The inspector only issued an NR. The plant was not suspended."

Additionally, OIG interviewed 39 inspectors at the 30 plants they visited; one-third said they would not even issue a noncompliance report if they witnessed a conscious animal on the bleed rail (which legally requires suspension). OIG noted that similar inspector confusion regarding their basic legal obligations was clear in reports from GAO and OIG in 2010 and 2008, yet nothing has been done to rectify the situation.

Every year according to the CDC, there are tens of millions of cases of food poisoning, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths. The agency charged with reducing these numbers is doing, according to its Office of the Inspector General, a pathetically bad job.

Every year, roughly 150 million cattle and pigs are slaughtered in our nation's slaughterhouses, and the one measly law that attempts to ensure some small decrease in their abuse is all-but-ignored by the agency charged with enforcing it. Even their top personnel don't understand what it says.

Want to stop eating contaminated food and take a stand for compassion at the same time? Please consider eliminating meat from your diet.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Neglected Horses May go to Slaughter at Public Auction

This is so frustrating to me when there are obviously people out there who want to save these horses from slaughter and give them a second chance at life.  ~Declan

Neglected horses may go to slaughter at public auction
By Lorraine Jackson, Contributor
May 29th, 2013 @ 1:32pm
As posted on

SPANISH FORK — Huddled closely together at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds, 40 horses that survived a record-breaking winter and several months of neglect will have to face one more hurdle Wednesday: buyers for foreign slaughterhouses.
Multiple volunteers and horse rescue organizations have confirmed that "kill buyers" will be attending Wednesday's public sale of the neglected horses owned by mother and son Rory and Trudy Childs of Smokey Mountain Ranch. Fourth District Judge Fred Howard ordered that the horses be sold to pay a lien to the Utah County Sheriff's Office, which cared for the horses after they were discovered near starvation in mid-February of this year.
Buyers may purchase the horses, transport them to Canada or Mexico, and resell them to slaughterhouses for processing. While regulations have recently changed on the matter of domestic horse slaughter, there are currently no U.S. slaughterhouses open for business.
Alex Anderson of the Equine Pavilion in Park City, along with the owners and ranch hands of Blue Sky Ranch, plan to be at the auction to try and outbid buyers for the slaughterhouses on as many horses as possible. They have been donating and volunteering since February, and don't want to see the horses go to slaughter. They will be wearing white shirts to identify themselves as being there to outbid the other buyers.
They are really beautiful horses, and because we've been feeding them all spring, they are healthy and ready to go to work. We got there the first day thinking we would be there to volunteer for a couple of hours, and ended up spending all day buying water troughs, supplements, and as much hay as we could find in the area. Almost four months later, we're still there.
–Alex Anderson
"They are really beautiful horses, and because we've been feeding them all spring, they are healthy and ready to go to work," Anderson said. "We got there the first day thinking we would be there to volunteer for a couple of hours, and ended up spending all day buying water troughs, supplements, and as much hay as we could find in the area. Almost four months later, we're still there."
Nine purebred quarter horse foals and 31 mares and geldings ranging in age and experience will be auctioned. According to Sgt. Spencer Cannon of the Utah County Sheriff's Office, it is unlikely that the horses will be sold with their papers. "It's my understanding that these are very well bred animals. There's just no paperwork from the owners for hardly any of them."
The Equine Pavilion and Blue Sky Ranch hope to take as many horses as they can afford, but auctions are unpredictable, and they are unsure of how much it will cost to outbid those seeking them for the slaughterhouses.
According to, buyers for slaughterhouses can't afford to spend more than around 20-25 cents per pound and still make a profit. With fully grown horses ranging between 800-1,000 pounds, to outbid the middle men, bidders will need to pay $160-$250. The nine weanlings would potentially go for less.
Anderson has secured board for the horses near her facility and hopes to find homes for them in the next several months.
"We're going to take as many as we can, and then just hope that a lot of great, normal horse people show up with trailers who want to take home a great prospect," says Anderson. "We didn't feed and nurse these horses back to health just so they could go for more per pound."
The auction takes place Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds.

Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association Supports Humane Legislation

Statement from Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibiters' Association President, Tracy Boyd, in support of humane legislation - H.R.1518 the PAST Act (Prevent All Soring Tactics Act of 2013).

Posted on TWHBEA


A Statement from TWHBEA President Tracy Boyd

This past weekend, I made perhaps the toughest decision of my life. A decision that carries potential ramifications for many of my friends. It carries potential ramifications for immediate family members as well. I, along with six other members of the Executive Committee, voted to support H.R. 1518, better known as the Whitfield Amendment. That was on Saturday morning. Before lunch, our vote was not ratified by the TWHBEA Board of Directors. Presently, TWHBEA has taken no official stance on the proposed legislation.

Let me be clear… I love all facets of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. I support the performance division. How then, you say, can I support this legislation? As president of TWHBEA, I represent the oldest and largest membership driven organization in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. TWHBEA, being an international organization, is also the most widely recognized “brand” representing the Tennessee Walking Horse.

I have always said, “The future of the padded show horse is in the hands of two groups… the trainers who train it and the owners who own it.” Unlike the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), for example, who controls all aspects of the Quarter Horse industry, our industry is not set up that way… primarily due to the regulatory issues involving enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA).

TWHBEA has no say over the padded show horse. TWHBEA has no control over the padded show horse. TWHBEA has no authority over the padded show horse. TWHBEA, does however, bear the brunt of the criticism aimed at the padded show horse.  Our membership numbers are directly affected by the controversy. The group with the least input takes the hardest hit. Why? Because as the breed registry and the largest membership driven organization, we are the face of the breed and are perceived as its ultimate authority in the world equine community.

For many years, the padded show horse drove the market and TWHBEA benefited. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when our industry was breeding 25,000 mares and registering 14,000 foals, it was largely due to the padded market. Breeders were breeding for that $15,000/$20,000 yearling. Horses were selling. New people were coming into the breed. In 1997, TWHBEA hit the 20,000-member mark and in the early 2000s operated under a 5 million dollar budget. We had some 25 or 30 employees. We were the second fastest growing breed in America and the fourth largest breed registry overall.
Today, we have fewer than 10 employees. We’ve gone to a four-day work week and cut our staff’s salaries by 20 percent. We are down to 8,300 members. Breeding production levels are at 1950s numbers. It is clear to me that what our industry is doing is no longer working in today’s world. Times have changed. The world, through technology, gets smaller and smaller every day. We can’t hide any longer. It is clear to me that our past has finally caught up with us and the image currently conveyed by our performance horse is no longer accepted in 2013.

TWHBEA has lost members in droves, and the brutal emails I have received tell me why. It is our reputation. It is soring. It is our image. My responsibility lies with TWHBEA and its 8,300 remaining members who represent all 50 states and many foreign countries.

Sadly, we have no more friends outside our industry. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) no longer supports us. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) no longer supports us. The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) will not recognize our padded show horse. The American Horse Council, whom we’ve cultivated a close working relationship with for many years, has turned away from us, declining our annual sponsorship this year. The World Equestrian Games refused our sponsorship and returned it to us. The Kentucky After Christmas Sale had no performance horses this year. Last fall, the University of Tennessee featured a flat-shod horse rather than a padded show horse to perform at its annual homecoming football game. All of this breaks my heart.

I believe our modern-day padded show horses are cleaner than they’ve ever been. The problem is that nobody outside our industry believes it. And when you’ve lost the public you have lost it all… and we have clearly lost the public.

For two years our industry has known that Congress would attempt to take our pads and chains unless we provided an acceptable alternative. How did we know that? Chester Gipson, Deputy Administrator for Animal Care at USDA-APHIS, told us so. He told TWHBEA, he told the Trainers’ Association, he told the Celebration and WHOA. Since that announcement the padded horse leadership’s response has been to paint the chains and implement an ambiguous swabbing program. Now the padded leadership is threatening to suspend the licenses of trainers who show under compliant HIOs. Anything beyond that… “Hell No” was the answer. “No compromises!”

I understand that the Performance Show Horse Association (PSHA) may be working on proposed legislation to the Whitfield Amendment. I first heard this in January and have heard it again recently. I hope so. My understanding is that versions of the Whitfield Amendment will continue to be introduced in Congress year after year until something gets passed. It is not going away. So I applaud PSHA if they are working on an alternative. I hope they come up with something soon.

I want the performance division to survive. I believe in the need for the division. I only know that it can’t and won’t survive as it is currently presented. This to me is obvious. The padded show horse’s survival lies at the feet of the trainers who train it and the owners who own it. If I lose some friendships over my vote then so be it. But I hope and pray that the trainers who train padded horses and the owners who own padded horses will find a way to put a horse in the ring that the public can support. Until then, we will remain alienated from the mainstream equine world. It’s as simple as that.

In order for this industry to grow and attract new people, strong, bold, drastic action is needed. A different direction will be required. I just hope our industry will choose the direction rather than have it chosen for us. We all know that the pads and chains alone do not harm the horse, that is no longer the point.

For most of us, our show industry is more about people and families than it is about winning blue ribbons. It’s about the people, the fellowship, the family fun, the friendly competition. Let’s not lose sight of that.

No matter what happens with the Whitfield Amendment, proposed legislation or future versions… the pads and chains do not define this breed.

The Tennessee Walking Horse is the greatest breed in the world. We all agree on that. Just imagine the possibilities that exist for us if we could rid ourselves of this black cloud, this stigma once and for all. Forty-three years is long enough.

I’m sorry to those I’ve offended and hope that one day you will forgive me.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Inmates Care For Horses At Putnamville Prison

It is really cool to see that inmates are allowed to help horses. I hope they will learn some things from these awesome creatures! ~Declan

Inmates Care For Horses At Putnamville Prison

By Amanda Solliday

Posted May 23, 2013  As posted on Indiana Public Media

Four inmates working inside the horse barn.

Photo: Amanda Solliday/WFIU-WTIU News
Putnamville inmates tend to horses inside the main barn at the Thoroughbred Retirement Farm. Each inmate commits 500 or 1000 hours to the program.
Gary Moore, an inmate, kisses horse.

Photo: Amanda Solliday/WFIU-WTIU
Gary Moore shows affection for his favorite horse, Love Ya. Each inmate works with the same horse or horses during shifts at the farm.
close-up of ex-racehorse

Photo: Amanda Solliday/WFIU-WTIU News
A horse welcomes visitors to the 100-acre pasture of the Thoroughbred Retirement Farm. Many of the horses will be adopted by competitive riders or as family pets. Barbara Holcomb pats horse

Photo: Amanda Solliday/WFIU-WTIU News
Barbara Holcomb, equine vocational instructor at Putnamville Correctional Facility, explains the abuses that some ex-racehorses experience. All of the thoroughbreds at the farm once raced on Indiana tracks.Wide shot of the horse barns

Photo: Indiana Department of Correction
Two barns shelter the horses at the Thoroughbred Retirement Farm. The inmates built the large barn and renovated the smaller barn from an older structure.Barbara Holcomb and two inmates look out at the pasture from the barn.

Photo: Amanda Solliday/WFIU-WTIU
Jacob Seyfried (left), Barbara Holcomb and Jody Cordell watch the horses graze in the pasture. Holcomb works with eight inmates at a time.

Painting, sweeping, weeding. There’s still quite a bit of work to do before the public visits the Thoroughbred Retirement Farm.

Tomorrow, inmates at Putnamville Correctional Facility will display the horse farm they built and work at daily.

“They cut down the trees, they planed the boards, they built the barns, poured the concrete, seeded the pastures, built the fencing. They’ve done it all,” Barbara Holcomb, equine vocational instructor, says.
Holcomb runs the farm, which includes rescuing horses for the program and teaching prisoners how to care for the animals.

Holcomb runs the farm, which includes rescuing horses for the program and teaching prisoners how to care for the animals.

The farm is a joint effort of the Indiana Department of Corrections and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, a non-profit that rescues ex-racehorses and helps place them for adoption. The horses at Putnamville Correctional formerly ran on Indiana racetracks, and many were severely abused.

The inmates care for thirty horses and tend to the pasture grounds in exchange for shortened sentences. And Holcomb points out shorter sentences are cheaper for taxpayers.

“One hundred and sixteen 3-month time cuts that we’ve delivered that have saved the state, the Department of Corrections, money. Because if they’re not here, we’re not paying for them,” Holcomb says.

Some will use their newfound skills to work at horse farms or other jobs, like inmate Mike Shelford.

“I like working with the horses. I really like that aspect of it. And then I also like the labor. You know, when I get out, I’ll probably have a labor-type job, so I think it’s good preparation for that,” Shelford says.

Others find the work helps them re-connect with family, such as offender Chris Glaze.

“I went on drugs heavy. It’s just, I didn’t realize how much I ignored my daughter and stuff like that. I could have been a better father. I was a good father, I just could have been better,” Glaze says.

Once he leaves the Putnamville prison, Glaze hopes to share his new-found equine knowledge with his 6 year-old daughter.

After rehabilitation, many of the horses will also join families through the farm’s adoption program.

The open house will be held at Putnamville Correctional’s Thoroughbred Retirement Farm from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.

Churchill's Mission To Rescue The War Horses And How He Made Officials Bring Tens Of Thousands Home

Thank you veterans and war horses for your sacrifice!  ~Declan

Churchill's mission to rescue the war horses and how he made officials bring tens of thousands home

By Chris Hastings

Winston Churchill intervened to secure the safe return of tens of thousands of war horses stranded in Europe after the First World War.

The heroism of the million-strong army of horses that served alongside British troops – often in hellish conditions – is celebrated in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster War Horse, which opens in the UK this month.

And now, historic documents uncovered by The Mail on Sunday reveal many of them were to owe their lives to Churchill’s compassion.

Heroes: Churchill was incensed at the treatment of tens of thousands of Britain's war horses in 1919
Heroes: Churchill was incensed at the treatment of tens of thousands of Britain's war horses in 1919

British military chiefs were heavily dependent on horsepower to carry men, supplies and artillery, and spent more than £36 million during the war to buy up 1.1 million horses from Britain, Canada and the United States.

War Office documents found in the National Archives at Kew show that tens of thousands of the animals were at risk of disease, hunger and even death at the hands of French and Belgian butchers because bungling officials couldn’t get them home when hostilities drew to a close.

Churchill, then aged 44 and Secretary of State for War, reacted with fury when he was informed of their treatment and took a personal interest in their plight after the 1914-1918 war.

Outraged: The leader fired off angry memos to officials to the the Ministry of Shipping who failed to get the horses back promptly
Outraged: The leader fired off angry memos to officials to the the Ministry of Shipping who failed to get the horses back promptly

He secured their speedy return after firing off angry memos to officials within his own department and at the Ministry of Shipping, who had promised to return 12,000 horses a week but were struggling to get a quarter of that number back.

In a strongly worded missive dated February 13, 1919, Churchill told Lieutenant-General Sir Travers Clarke, then Quartermaster-General: ‘If it is so serious, what have you been doing about it? The letter of the Commander-In-Chief discloses a complete failure on the part of the Ministry of Shipping to meet its obligations and scores of thousands of horses will be left in France under extremely disadvantageous conditions.’

Churchill’s intervention led to extra vessels being used for repatriation, and the number of horses being returned rose to 9,000 a week.

Terry Charman, senior historian with the Imperial War Museum, says Churchill was an animal lover and his motivation could have been based purely on animal-welfare concerns.

‘It is quite possible he could have been moved by the plight of the animals,’ he said. ‘He loved everything from cats to canaries. There is a famous story that on one occasion he was unable to carve a goose which had grown up at his home in Chartwell.

Moving: Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse Joey are featured in 'War Horse', Spielberg's emotional piece
Moving: Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse Joey are featured in 'War Horse', Spielberg's emotional piece

‘He would certainly have been aware of the work carried out by the horses, because, prior to his appointment as Secretary of State, he had served on the front line with the artillery.’

But other more pressing military concerns would also have played their part. Prime Minister Lloyd George had specifically appointed Churchill to the position of Secretary of State in January 1919 to speed up demobilisation.

Churchill would have been mindful that delays in recovering the horses would have been a serious distraction from the main job at hand.

Spielberg’s War Horse is based on the bestselling 1982 children’s book by Michael Morpurgo and tells the story of one boy’s attempts to be reunited with his horse Joey after the animal is sent to the front lines in France.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Star Investigation: Drugged Horses Slipping Through 'Inadequate' Food System

The passport system in Canada to track the medications horses who enter the food chain are being given, isn't working. ~Declan

Star investigation: Drugged horses slipping through ‘inadequate’ food system

The horse “passport” Canada relies on to keep toxic meat off dinner tables around the world is open to fraud and error, a Star investigation has found, confirming the findings of an international audit.

Backstreet Bully, a former Frank Stronach racehorse, had been given a drug linked to bone-marrow disease in humans and yet was slaughtered at a Quebec abattoir in January, though it is unclear whether his meat entered the food chain.
Backstreet Bully, a former Frank Stronach racehorse, had been given a drug linked to bone-marrow disease in humans and yet was slaughtered at a Quebec abattoir in January, though it is unclear whether his meat entered the food chain.
The horse “passport” Canada relies on to keep toxic meat off dinner tables around the world is open to fraud and error, a Star investigation reveals.
Using undercover reporters, the Star found problems with passports — which are supposed to detail a horse’s complete medical history — for several horses headed to the slaughterhouse.
The Star also obtained 10 passports, nine of which were incomplete or mistake-filled.
In some cases, signatures did not match the names of people claiming to be the horse’s owner. In other interactions witnessed at a busy Waterloo-area auction house, the document was partially filled out by an auction-house worker instead of the owners.
  • Image 1 of 2
  • Image 2 of 2
What was seen at auction confirms the findings of an international audit obtained by the Star: that Canada’s ability to trace prohibited drugs in food-bound horses “is inadequate” to protect consumers. Some common horse medications, like “bute” and nitrofurazone, are linked to causing bone-marrow disease and cancer in people if eaten in meat.
Canada’s equine information document is the first step in protecting the public from drug-tainted meat. The document is a type of animal passport that relies on voluntary ownership disclosure of information such as a horse’s physical description, its primary use — racehorse, for example — and drug history.
About $90 million in horsemeat from more than 80,000 animals is exported from Canada annually. Each horse to be slaughtered is to have a passport stating it is free of drugs that would be dangerous to humans if consumed. Horsemeat is a common dish eaten in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan and Quebec, and is even available at select restaurants in Toronto.
Concerns over public exposure to tainted meat has intensified in recent years as thousands of racehorses — raised on powerful drugs to boost performance — enter the slaughter pipeline, most of them coming from the United States into Canada since the closure of U.S. slaughterhouse facilities in 2007.
Meanwhile, Ontario’s cash-strapped racing industry has fewer tracks, race dates and prize money than a year ago — rendering thousands of racing thoroughbreds, standardbreds, quarter horses and their breeding stock unnecessary.
European Union food safety regulators have pushed Canada for tighter passport and drug-testing controls for domestic and American horses. But the Star’s investigation, where we examined specific cases, found horses with drug histories that should prevent them from becoming food can easily slip through the system.
In two cases tracked by the Star, Backstreet Bully, a former Frank Stronach racehorse, and Holly, a 23-year-old trail horse, were sold at the Ontario Livestock Exchange auction near Waterloo with false or misleading claims on their passports.
Backstreet Bully was slaughtered in Quebec in January, though it is unclear whether his meat entered the food chain — neither the government or slaughterhouse officials would tell us. Backstreet Bully had been given multiple doses of phenylbutazone (bute) and nitrofurazone during his life.
Holly narrowly escaped the same fate in March, rescued from a meat buyer’s holding pen when the horse was tracked down and purchased for $805. Holly had also been given bute and nitrofurazone just weeks before she was sold at auction. (Read the Star’s full account of Holly’s rescue in Saturday’s Star.)
“If you come right down to the bottom of this and the majority of these racehorses have had some of these (prohibited) drugs administered, what good are any documents, really?” said B.C. New Democrat Alex Atamanenko, who is pushing a private member’s bill, C-322, to severely restrict horse slaughter in Canada.
The Star’s undercover investigation took reporters to the Tuesday horse sales at the Ontario Livestock Exchange. To see how carefully passports were completed by horse owners, Star reporters mingled with the public and horse dealers on two separate trips.
Dozens of horses were trucked in both mornings from around the province and herded from trailers into auction-house holding pens. Lot numbers were glued to their sides to identify them to the public, who wandered around the pens studying the animals until the noon bidding began. In the sales ring, there was little vigilance of passport accuracy; even when the auctioneer announced to potential buyers that the owners’ names and signatures didn’t match on some forms, those horses were still sold.
Auction houses are not responsible for overseeing passport accuracy; that is the role of slaughterhouse operators, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the country’s food safety watchdog. However, it is the horse owner’s duty to provide full and correct identity and medical history information for their animal; making false statements is illegal.
Most of the purchasing at the auction was done by slaughterhouse suppliers like Jeff Grof and Jonathan Lalonde, who are commonly called “kill buyers” — although farmers and families can pick up bargain-basement animals for pennies a pound. One dirty colt, with no takers, finally sold for $5.
“I’m just buying the horse for the (meat) plant and that’s it,” said Lalonde, who estimates he purchases between 25 and 30 horses every Tuesday from the auction, known to insiders simply as OLEX.
“When we’re buying the horses, they are supposed to have the papers filled out by the old owner,” he told the Star in a recent phone interview.
Lalonde bought Backstreet Bully for about 26 cents a pound on Jan. 8 and Holly for about 46 cents a pound on March 26. Unlike Backstreet Bully, who went directly to slaughter, Holly had a few days’ grace in an Ottawa-area feedlot because Lalonde thought he could resell her for $700, plus $105 for board — double what he reportedly paid for her at auction.
Many powerful veterinary drugs given to sport horses are prohibited in animals destined to become food because those drugs can be toxic to people. The passport is mandatory paperwork for slaughter-bound horses but additional information, such as veterinary records to support drug-free claims, is not required.
A five-page government passport template is available online but it is not mandatory to use that version. The horse industry is permitted to create a shorter form — usually a single sheet of paper, the Star found — that excludes some questions suggested by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
European Commission auditors twice visited Canadian slaughterhouse facilities in 2010 and 2011, to inspect areas from sanitation to drug-testing procedures for a variety of animals. With horses, auditors found particular fault with passports accompanying American animals trucked to slaughterhouses from the border.
“Those horses imported from the United States of America for direct slaughter, the equine identification documents received were not reliable, with verification only being made possible by residue (drug) testing,” the 2011 audit states.
The passport “doesn’t provide even a modicum of reassurance” that all horses are safe to eat, says lawyer and author Bruce Wagman, a San Francisco animal law expert who has studied the European audits.
Wagman calls the Canadian slaughter system unreliable, dangerous to the global food supply and one to avoid emulating should the U.S. resume slaughtering horses for human consumption after a seven-year shutdown, as is being proposed.
“The EID is not serving the purpose it’s purportedly intended to do, which is to ensure no adulterated meat goes into or out of the country,” said the lawyer.
“It can’t, because the document doesn’t guarantee anything.”
Wagman contends passports are “prone to abuse” by people “motivated by financial gain and have no way, really, of accurately filling out the document because many of them just got these horses within days (of completing the form).”
Wagman is petitioning federal U.S. food agencies on behalf of animal welfare groups — including the Humane Society of the United States — to drastically tighten federal drug requirements should horse slaughter south of the border be revived.
Nearly 300,000 horses have been slaughtered at Canadian plants since 2010, when the equine information document was introduced to better identify animals and the drugs. The European Union, whose member states trace domestic equine from birth to death with lifetime passports, has for years pushed for tighter horsemeat vigilance in Canada.
A proper passport system would do a great deal to protect the public, people involved in the horse world say, particularly as more and more horses are slaughtered. One equine expert recently estimated that Canada’s overall horse population of about 900,000 will be reduced to about 600,000 over the next few years because of reduced racing in Ontario.
Secrecy surrounds the passports once a horse reaches the slaughterhouse. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency can only access passports stored at the country’s four federally registered equine slaughter facilities.
Federal rules state that slaughterhouse operators “shall investigate incidences of potential (passport) falsification and take necessary action,” according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It was unclear what slaughterhouses are to do if they find a problem and the government agency refused to disclose how many, if any, people have been prosecuted for passport fraud.
Jonathan Lalonde, who supplies Quebec abattoirs, told the Star he sometimes phones horse owners to supply the missing passport information and writes it in himself. Otherwise, the horse may be rejected at the slaughterhouse.
Equine Canada has been working on a birth-to-death traceability system for all horses in Canada built on existing industry data tracking programs (like racehorse registration papers) and may include the use of microchip implants. The system, called CanEQUID, would also track horses to be processed for meat. But government funding to fast track CanEQUID has not materialized for the past five years since horses aren’t considered a “priority species” for food safety and livestock traceability, according to Equine Canada.
Horsemeat is a lucrative business. It is Canada’s No. 1 red meat export to Europe; Canada supplies the continent with about 24 per cent of its total.
The top five purchasers of Canadian-processed horsemeat in 2012 were: Switzerland ($22 million); Japan ($19.8 million); France ($19.7 million); Belgium ($17.6 million) and Kazakhstan ($6.8 million).
The U.S. was next in line, spending nearly $2 million on horsemeat — but for zoo animals. Horsemeat is not allowed to be sold commercially for human consumption in the U.S.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency insists the current system is safe because government inspectors at the privately owned abattoirs will not allow any horse with incomplete or inaccurate passports to be slaughtered for food.
“The CFIA’s top priority is food safety,” the agency wrote in an email to the Star.
In addition, agency inspectors conduct visual examinations and random drug testing of horses and carcasses to ensure they are free of banned drugs. Some horses are targeted for testing if an inspector has cause for concern. Testing is so sensitive, drug residues can be detected in parts per billion — trace amounts.
In a recent email to the Star, the agency said it is working with the horse industry to “develop measures to enhance equine traceability.”
The agency says it does not directly act on fraudulent passport claims.