The treatment of horses transported overseas for slaughter and human consumption is at the heart of a two-day Federal Court trial which kicked off in Vancouver Wednesday. The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition claims the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is not following rules that require horses to be segregated and given ample head room during long-haul overseas flight to Japan.
The coalition is seeking a judicial review of the agency's pre-flight inspection practices along with an order that would compel the CFIA to comply with the Health of Animals Regulations in approving horse transport.
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that an animal protection organization has challenged the Canadian federal government over the transportation of animals in Canada," coalition lawyer Rebeka Breder said in her opening statement. "This case, in my submission, can have significant implications on future government decisions and the CFIA specifically, where their ongoing practice or policy is in direct contravention to existing law."
Compatibility of animals in question
The coalition filed the suit last year, claiming the inspection agency is following the guidelines of an interim policy introduced in 2017, instead of the sections of the Health of Animals Regulations which govern the transport of horses.
CFIA inspector-veterinarians have to ensure that all legal requirements are met before the horses can be shipped off to Asia. But Breder says the agency is side-stepping the regulations by claiming horses don't need to be segregated if they are "compatible" animals and that a horse's head or ears can touch the cargo netting above its head during air transport.
In its defence, the CFIA rejects the coalition's allegations. The agency also claims that new rules set to kick in next year make the case "moot." "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 agency said in a filing with the court. "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.
No agency above the law
Breder said the animals in question are mostly large Belgian draft horses, and they require room. "We're not talking about little ponies," she said. "We're talking about big strong animals." She also claimed that while draft horses may appear compatible with each other before being shipped overseas, they may become incompatible under the stress of a long flight.
The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition is dedicated to banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in Canada and the export of live horses for the same purpose. But Breder said their aim in the Federal Court case is limited to ensuring that the horses are transported humanely.
"No government agency is above the law," coalition executive director Sinnika Crosland said outside the courtroom. Crosland said her group doesn't want to see horses "crammed" into crates. "If they're going to ship them, they should put them singly in a crate," she said. "What they would need to do is make the crates high enough so the horses' heads aren't touching the ceiling, so they can comfortably raise their heads and not bang their heads or their ears up against the ceiling."
Source: CBC News
Nearly 80 veterinarians from across the United States delivered a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt today condemning the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed surgical sterilization experiments on wild horses from the Warm Springs Herd Management Area in Oregon.
The letter was sent in advance of the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting, which starts October 29 in Washington, DC. Members of the board, which advises the BLM on a wide range of wild horse management strategies, are expected to consider the issue of surgical sterilizations as a fertility control option for curbing populations on the range.
The BLM’s proposal entails using an outdated procedure known as “ovariectomy via colpotomy,” where a metal rod-like tool is blindly inserted through a vaginal incision in order to sever and remove the ovaries of wild mares while they remain conscious. Under the BLM’s plan, as many as 25 ovariectomies would be performed each day.
The National Academy of Sciences, in its comprehensive 2013 report on wild horse management to the BLM, specifically advised the agency not to utilize the ovariectomy via colpotomy method given the risks of trauma and infection. The BLM’s proposal aims to quantify the rate of complications from the surgery, including death.
In their letter, the 78 veterinarians urge the BLM to abandon any future plans for the experimental use of the procedure on wild mares. “Not only is ovariectomy via colpotomy far more invasive, inhumane, and risky than other nonsurgical methods of fertility control,” the letter states, “it is also more invasive and inhumane than the techniques that veterinarians use on domestic horses in the rare circumstances where some form of ovariectomy is clinically necessary.”
The letter adds: “This procedure can be accompanied by a high rate of complications—including risks of infection, trauma, post-operative pain, hemorrhage, abdominal adhesions, evisceration, abscess formation, abortion, neuropathies, and even death. The associated risks are exacerbated by the fact that, by the agency’s own admission, the surgeries will be conducted at the agency’s corrals in an operating space that ‘may not be entirely sterile." CLICK HERE to read the entire letter.
The BLM’s proposal marks the agency’s fourth attempt since 2016 to undertake these controversial experiments. The AWI, the American Wild Horse Campaign, and The Cloud Foundation secured a preliminary injunction in the fall of 2018 blocking the agency from implementing the experiments after a federal court found serious shortcomings with a previous version of the the BLM’s proposal. However, in May, the BLM issued a new environmental assessment for an ovariectomy via colpotomy study in an attempt to push forward.
A recent AWI-commissioned survey of more than 2,000 adults through The Harris Poll found that an overwhelming 77% of Americans are opposed to the BLM conducting surgical sterilization experiments on wild horses. Federal lawmakers in both the House of Representatives and Senate have called on the agency to rethink this inhumane plan.
A fifth horse has died at Santa Anita this fall, the 35th fatality at the famed Southern California race track since Dec. 26, officials said Friday. Six-year-old mare C Q Covergirl injured both of her front legs while running on the facility's training track Friday and was subsequently euthanized on the recommendation of the attending veterinarian. C Q Covergirl is the third horse to die on the training track in the last month. She had won six of 16 lifetime races and earned around $200,000, before her premature death.
C Q Covergirl was claimed in June for $40,000 by two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill, though Philip D'Amato had trained the mare for most of her career. D’Amato also trained Satchel Paige, who died on October 19, and Formal Dude, who died on June 8.
Although there is no rule to suspend trainers following a horse fatality in California, the state's race tracks have seen some changes in the last year. In March, Santa Anita Park declared a zero-tolerance policy for race-day medications, which may harm horses by pushing them beyond their bodies' physical capacities. In the same month, the California Horse Racing Board voted to limit whips in horse racing. Then in June, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law allowing the racing board to immediately suspend racing licenses to protect the safety of horses and riders, as a response to the climbing horse deaths at Santa Anita.
Still, the iconic race track has seen a significant drop in attendance since the ongoing controversy. Santa Anita Park is scheduled to host the world championships of racing, the Breeder's Cup, next weekend, marking the end of its fall season. In the meantime, the body of C Q Covergirl will be sent to the University of California, Davis, for a necropsy, as is protocol.
Both the California Horse Racing Board and the L.A. District Attorney’s Office are conducting investigations into the spike of horse fatalities at Santa Anita.
Source: ABC News
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