Growing concern over the number of horses dying on race tracks – an average of 10 a week – is forcing the racing industry to reassess how it conducts its business. Some are calling for more regulation, while others want an outright ban, CBS News correspondent Don Dahler reports.
No one knows the thrill, and the risks, of the sport more than Hall Of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. He won 5,000 races, including the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes three times each. He even had a role in the movie "Seabiscuit."
But Stevens is now worried the sport he loves is in existential danger.
After the most recent death of a horse at Santa Anita during the Breeders' Cup Classic despite an unprecedented number of reforms implemented at that track the past few months, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein issued an ominous warning: "If the horse racing industry is unwilling to treat these magnificent creatures humanely, it has no business operating in the United States."
Stevens said: "I'm scared for racing here in California. I really am." "The misconception is that we're not caring for these horses, and that we as a group don't care. We care," he said.
There have always been fatalities in horse racing. When the half-ton athletes are racing at full speed — about 40 miles an hour — only one foot at a time hits the ground, which is an enormous amount of violent pressure on relatively narrow leg bones. When a broken bone occurs, thoroughbreds are simply physiologically incapable of staying alive while the bone heals.
But horse race deaths in the United States are two to three times higher than in Europe, where there are tighter controls on race-day medications and where training and the tracks themselves are different.
Hancock also believes American horses are entirely over-medicated, and many drugs mask underlying issues, putting perhaps slightly injured horses on the path to a fatal injury.
In most states, both Lasix, an anti-bleeding drug, and the anti-inflammatory Phenylbutazone, known as bute, are allowed on race day. A European study released this month statistically connected bute to on-track breakdowns.
"I contend that if a horse needs drugs to run he doesn't need to be running. He needs to run on his natural ability, not some chemically induced ability," Hancock said.
A bill now before Congress would eliminate all race-day medications and give enforcement authority to the doping agency that oversees the Olympics. It would also establish an independent central authority charged with improving horse and rider safety.
Stevens said he would "absolutely" support that type of authority. "Are you optimistic now that change will happen?" Dahler asked. "It's gotta happen, or they're done here. Period. And if they're done here, it's going to be a tidal wave across the United States," Stevens said.
Just this month, a group of owners, tracks and organizations that represent 85% of American horse racing announced their own initiative to establish a thoroughbred safety coalition. But Hancock is skeptical that the industry is capable of policing itself.
Source: CBS News
New research into global donkey population trends has indicated that, following an explosion of trading in the animal's skins, the species could soon face population collapse.
British newspaper the Evening Standard reported on the study commissioned by animal welfare group The Donkey Sanctuary. It stated that the world population of the animals has declined precipitously in the last 25 years, and may face extinction in the foreseeable future.
Donkey skins are a key ingredient in animal gelatin, used as an ingredient called ejiao in traditional Chinese medicine. Among practitioners, ejiao is believed to have curative effects against dizziness, bleeding and insomnia, and often served dissolved in hot water or wine.
The study estimated that 4.8 million donkeys—more than 10 percent of the global population of 44 million—are killed every year to meet the demand for ejiao.
China's donkey population fell from 11 million in 1992 to 2.6 million in 2019, creating a market in other companies across the developing world.
"These dependable, hard working, sentient animals experience appalling suffering as a result of the activities of skin traders across the world. They are often transported long distances, without food,water or rest and they can be held for days in yards without shelter, before being slaughtered in often brutal conditions," The Donkey Sanctuary's CEO Mike Baker said in the report.
The slow reproductive cycle of the donkey has made it difficult to replenish their populations. A mother donkey carries her foal for a year, and the species has been known to encounter fertility issues in farm conditions.
Donkeys have long served as pack animals in many parts of the developing world, and owning one has often represented a path out of poverty for the most needy, providing an aid in physical labor for farming and transporting goods. But the demand for slaughtered animals has made acquiring them more difficult. The price of a donkey in Kenya, for instance, has more than doubled in the last three years.
Multiple African countries have already banned the export of donkey gelatin to China, including Niger, Uganda and Burkina Faso. Other nations, including Kenya and South Africa, are investing heavily in infrastructure and increasing donkey skin exports.
Chinese medicine has had detrimental effects on numerous other animal species. Rhinoceroses, which are killed for their horns, saw a tenfold increase in poaching deaths from 2008 to 2013 according to the South African Department of Animal Affairs. Meanwhile, China has begun efforts to adapt to the times, banning the import of tiger bones, which were previously a valuable medicinal ingredient, in 1993.
The large majority of Canadians are opposed to horse slaughter, yet it’s still a thriving industry in Canada. Here’s why it’s more important than ever to take a stand against this deplorable practice.
THREE STEPS FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
Fortunately, thanks to the initiatives of individuals and organizations such as the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition to raise awareness for the Canadian horse slaughter industry, small strides are being made. Since 2016, the amount of horse meat exported by Canada has decreased from 10.3 million kg in 2016 to 5.3 million kg in 2018. Revenue from horse meat exports decreased from $76 million in 2016 to $31 million in 2018. The number of horses slaughtered in Canada also dropped from 113, 334 in 2008 (when the US defunded meat inspectors at horse slaughter plants) to 54,100 in 2016. However, as of 2017, the Canadian government refuses to release horse slaughter statistics citing privacy concerns as one family, Bouvry, owns the remaining two slaughter plants in Canada.
POOR TRACEABILITY MAKES HORSE MEAT DANGEROUS FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION
Horse slaughter isn’t just antiquated and cruel – the meat that’s produced is also dangerous for human consumption. Canadian horse meat is exported mainly to Japan, Belgium and other overseas countries, but it’s also consumed in Canada. Unfortunately, horses are the only large animals slaughtered at Canadian plants with extremely low traceability. Several inquiries to the Canadian Meat Council regarding how much horse meat is consumed in Canada reveals that they do not keep track, whereas statistics on how much beef is consumed are readily available.
Not only is traceability low in terms of where the meat is sold in Canada, but so is the tracking of medications administered to horses. While traceability policies and practices for beef, dairy, and sheep are improving, traceability in the Canadian horse meat industry remains problematic as horse owners routinely administer drugs such as phenylbutazone (Bute), and dewormers marked with the strict warning ‘not to be administer to animals for slaughter.’
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) insists it tests horsemeat for chemical residues but admits to testing only .5% of horsemeat since 2010. While every horse sold at slaughter must have a completed Equine Identification Document (EID) in which the owner attests that the horse has been drug-free for a minimum of six months, Global News reports that kill buyers admit that the document can easily be tampered with. Furthermore, a recent ATI reveals that the CFIA and auditors have documented horses at Bouvry’s with incomplete EID’s. A CFIA inspection report reads:
The information in EID documents is based purely on the horse owner’s declarations. The CFIA verification of authenticity of declarations on the EID documents, as provided in the CFIA’s National Equine Identification and Traceability Program and related CBS tasks, does not constitute a strong government control.
TREATMENT OF SLAUGHTER HORSES IS DEPLORABLE
In 2019 investigators from the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF), Animals’ Angels, and Tierschutzbund Zurich (TSB) documented conditions at three Bouvry-owned feedlots, one in Montana, and two in Alberta. The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines requires that horses in feedlots receive adequate shelter, veterinary and hoof care – but these are clearly lacking in the Bouvry feedlots, where horses are lame and unable to rise from recumbent positions. A recent Access to Information request by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition revealed that the CFIA has routinely documented filthy and empty water troughs at Bouvry’s slaughter plant in holding areas.
Canada’s horse meat industry is in a deplorable state in which human health may be at risk due to poor traceability and horses suffer from CFIA documented inadequacies at feedlots and slaughter establishments. For more information, please visit: defendhorsescanada.org.
Source: Equine Wellness