Anyone with a passing interest in Thoroughbred racing or animal welfare is very familiar with the breakdown of horses at Santa Anita Park during their winter/spring meeting.
This meet opened on December 26 and finished on June 23. There were a total of 30 breakdowns, including races and workouts. On March 14, Belinda Stronach, President and Chairman of the Stronach Group, presented an open letter on the future of Thoroughbred racing in California. Some of the important safety initiatives included:
There were two additional important proposed initiatives that are significant but do not relate directly to breakdowns. One is a restriction on the use of Lasix. Starting in 2020, no 2-year-old will be able to run on Lasix, and, in 2021, all Santa Anita stakes races will be Lasix-free. Secondly, the Stronach Group is proposing both structural changes in the composition of the whip and a dramatic reduction in how it can be used by the jockey. These two initiatives will have to go through the rule-making process, including consultation with horsemen, before they can be voted on by the California Horseracing Board.
Hollendorfer facts are hard to digest
On June 22, a horse of Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer broke down on the Santa Anita training track and had to be euthanized. Unfortunately, this was the fourth Hollendorfer horse to break down, racing or training, during the meet, and he also had two breakdowns during the Golden Gate meet, which ended on June 2 and will re-open on August 15.
Later on June 22, Hollendorfer was told by the Stronach Group he would no longer be allowed to race or train at Santa Anita and that the four horses that he had entered on the final two days of Santa Anita were scratched.
The further facts are hard for me to digest, so I imagine how Hollendorfer must feel. He was elected to the National Racing Hall of Fame in 2011, lifetime he has won 7,617 races from a total of 33,519 entered, and until June 22 he had over 100 horses in training in California. Other than being ruled off by the Stronach Group, he does not appear to have heard any further details of why he was suspended.
Most racing jurisdictions have one organization for owners and trainers. However, in California the owners are represented by the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) and the trainers by their own organization, the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT). It is truly remarkable that, as of right now, the CTT has not come forward with a strong statement of support for Hollendorfer, who remains a licensee in good standing with the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB).
An industry that has lost its soul
In sum, the industry is not full of change agents seeking new challenges and changing the business. However, as I tried to outline above, we are desperate to change in many areas. We need to identify and eliminate the cheaters in the game. We also need to protect the interests of our owners, breeders and employees to assure them that we run an honest business that works in the interests of all participants.
If we try to stand still with existing policies and business practices, we are only going to go backwards. I wrote what I thought was a very important article back on April 2. It was primarily stimulated by the most powerful case for reform in U.S. Thoroughbred racing and breeding that I have ever read: Vision 2025. If you are invested or interested in the U.S. Thoroughbred industry, you have to read this nine-page report.
I truly believe we are an industry that has lost its soul and its determination. We so desperately need the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2019 and the important changes in the business model that the legislation requires. As I have tried to outline above, our current collection of industry organizations and regulatory bodies are simply going to bring the industry down. Please, no more ‘go along to get along’.
Source: Charles Hayward for TRC
The federal government is trying to quash a lawsuit launched by animal welfare advocates who want to end the export of Canadian horses for slaughter and human consumption in Japan and South Korea.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is defending its equine transportation and enforcement policies against claims that it's failing to meet legal obligations to ensure humane and safe shipments. In its June 17 court filing, the CFIA also said that revised regulations set to kick in next year make the case "moot."
The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC), the group behind the legal challenge, insists the new rules slated for February 2020 could put horses on long-haul overseas flights to Asia at even greater risk. CHDC lawyer Rebeka Breder said the conditions the horses experience during transport cause distress and danger. Large, flighty animals are often crammed together without the adequate headroom required by law, the group claims.
"They're exhibiting signs of stress. There have also been injuries, there have been deaths over the last several years," Breder told CBC News. "Generally speaking, the shipments are not safe for horses. We know that for a fact."
Canada exports thousands of horses each year to Japan, a market where some consumers enjoy the meat as a raw delicacy. In 2018, Canada also began shipping live horses to South Korea. In its recent court filing, CFIA said the lawsuit is based on "cultural norms" and CHDC's interpretation of what is, and is not, an appropriate food animal.
"However, the inevitable reality is that the CFIA's role, on the facts of this case, is to determine whether the horses are healthy for export and are being safely transported," the filing said. "There is no requirement on the CFIA to obtain a particular enforcement result and it is well recognized that perfection in enforcement can never be more than an unattainable goal."
The rules for shipping horses:
The existing Health of Animals Regulations say larger horses must be segregated from each other and set minimum requirements for headroom clearance. The CHDC lawsuit said the CFIA is not always in compliance with the regulations. New 2020 rules will eliminate the segregation requirement, with a stated goal of giving shippers greater flexibility so that compatible horses can travel together with less anxiety. Maureen Harper, a retired veterinarian who worked for CFIA for 30 years, said "compatibility" is difficult for an inspector to assess at the airport.
Larger, stronger horses should be segregated to avoid injuries from kicking, biting, toppling or trampling, she said. Horses also need space to maintain their balance in transit, especially during take-off or landing. Harper said the public knows little about Canada's horse export and slaughter industry and she believes most Canadians see horses as companions like dogs and cats — not as food.
"Everybody that I speak to, they're just totally horrified when I tell them what's happening and I think the CFIA has a huge role to play here and unfortunately, in my view, they've dropped the ball," she said.
Horse welfare 'top priority':
Eliot Bouvry of Alberta-based Bouvry Exports — which produces horse meat for export, among other products — said the welfare of horses and other livestock is a "top priority" for his company and the CFIA. Horses are inspected by CFIA vets at the airport before departure for cuts, bruises, limps or sickness. Animals are transported on single-deck trailers that have been sanitized and layered with fresh shavings according to Canada's livestock transport regulations, he said.
"Other species/livestock are transported long distances for slaughter and it's not a topic of discussion," he said in a statement to CBC News. "Although activists keep the industry accountable, we do not consider it truthful that it is an animal welfare issue. For (some) people it is an ethical problem, which is another debate."
Business vs. animal welfare?:
Breder accuses the CFIA is putting business interests ahead of animal welfare. "There's a lot of money at stake, and it's quite clear to the CHDC that what is really at issue here are industry interests, not the interest and the welfare of animals and the way that they're transported," she said. "It is simply the bottom line to make as much profit as possible."
The CFIA rejects the claim that industry sales are driving policy and enforcement, and maintains that all animals, including horses, are "properly certified, fit to travel and transported humanely in a way that does not cause injury or undue suffering." The agency said new rules will strengthen safety regulations for horse transport.
Online petition calls on Minister MacAulay to stop the exporting of live horses for slaughter "The updated regulations establish clear and science-informed requirements and thus better reflect the needs of animals and improve overall animal welfare in Canada," CFIA said in a statement.
Last year, 3,871 horses worth $26.5 million were shipped to Japan. Exports were fewer in number than during the previous year, but had a significantly higher value. Canada also ships fresh, chilled and frozen horse meat to Japan worth about $29 million annually, and millions of dollars more to European countries, including France and Switzerland.
While it's considered a food taboo in most parts of North America, horse meat is sold and served in some grocery stores and restaurants in Canada.
Source: CBC News
Thousands of American horses are live-exported to Canada each year just to be slaughtered for human consumption. The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would make this illegal.
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