Horse Meat Harvest Still an Issue

Lobby Groups Battle on in Canada

By Will Verboven, Contributing Editor

The ongoing issue of unwanted and abandoned horses has evolved differently between Canada and the United States. For many years, such horses were acquired by U.S. horse processing plants and sold for meat to Europe and Japan. However, American lobby groups instigated the closure of those plants; without that disposal outlet, thousands of unwanted horses became wards of the U.S. government on BLM land with nowhere to go.

The latter is a situation that conniving lobby groups don’t want to address; instead, they have their sights on stopping American horses from being exported for meat. There is a spillover effect from that objective. Most Americans are unaware that many U.S. green and animal rights lobby groups operate in Canada or have created surrogate/client groups up here. The Sierra Club, in its various manifestations, is one of the more prominent. Such scheming allows U.S. groups to funnel cash and expertise to pursue causes that have connections to American issues like ending horse meat processing in Canada.

At present, around 11,000 American horses per year are sent north to a processing plant in Fort McLeod, Alberta. Another 20,000 head go south to Mexico. A U.S. regulation requires that horses cannot be exported for meat slaughter. But that American law cannot be imposed once horses cross the border, hence the exports continue.

In Canada, 60,000 horses a year are slaughtered for meat, and 5,000 exported live to Japan, all under strict government regulations and veterinary inspection. It’s a decades-old, $20 million business, and the principal business player is a family that traces their involvement back a hundred years to France.

About every 10 years, TV news reporters rediscover how unwanted and abandoned horses are disposed of in Canada. They are guided to their predetermined shocking discovery by cunning animal rights lobby groups. The TV investigative show invariably weaves an empathetic narrative with images of forlorn-looking horses and allegations of nefarious cruel activities by heartless horsemeat processors. That’s fair enough – green and animal rights lobby groups furiously compete with each other for the hearts, minds and wallets of citizens. Getting your cause on national TV, no matter the ethics, is a massive self-promotion victory. It’s especially sweet when biased journalists don’t ask obvious awkward questions. Of course, having a noble, photogenic animal with a deep human emotional attachment sure helps the cause.

Those bothered by the consumption of a revered animal need to contemplate the alternative, gruesome fate for a dead horse – consummation by fire, scavengers or worms and maggots. In the end, I don’t think a horse cares what people think of the morality of its final fate as long as it’s quick. Duplicitous lobby groups and their TV show allies never mention what is to become of all the unwanted horses that would accumulate were they not disposed of by the processing industry. The closest they come is appealing for money for horse rescue sanctuaries. The implication being that enough funding could save all the horses destined for slaughter; that’s a tall order as around 65,000 horses annually are exported or processed in Canada.

If those horses lived another 10 years, half a million horses would have to be supported in pastoral retirement, which requires a lot of land and feed. American taxpayers know the consequences of that approach – they now own more than 100,000 unwanted horses.

The focus of the horse investigation show this time was the air transport of thousands of live horses to Japan. They are fed there and processed into a raw horse meat delicacy that costs $100 per serving in Japanese restaurants. Eating raw horsemeat is hardly surprising; fish are eaten raw as sushi, raw hamburger as steak tartare, and beef is eaten rare in much of the world. In visiting Japan to confront offending horsemeat eaters, a TV reporter found it challenging to find many Japanese ready to condemn horsemeat eating. But consider this – a reporter from an East Indian TV show would be equally challenged to find someone in Canada or the United States willing to condemn our tradition of eating sacred cows (beef), which Indian Hindus consider sacrilegious and criminal. That’s the hypocrisy part for many opposed to the horsemeat issue.

The show alleges horses are jammed into cramped cages and suffer irreparable physical and mental harm. There may be a few incidents, but considering the very high cost of flying horses to Japan and their feeding and processing, I expect every care is taken during transportation. Horses are probably in more danger of injury from land transportation, and more die from stepping in gopher holes than flying overseas.

The show did include commentary from a horse industry spokesperson, but it’s a no-win situation when the show’s premise is stacked against you – he got two minutes. The Fort MacLeod horse plant owners wisely turned down any participation in this biased performance, as I am sure they learned from past experience that they would have been set up as despicable villains.

The horse processing business is a safe, humane and lawful way to dispose of unwanted and abandoned horses that doesn’t cost taxpayers millions. But that’s of little concern to nefarious lobby groups who make a business out of exploiting the fate of a beautiful animal. It seems the industry will remain under pressure until the horse processing business is wiped out in Canada – and damn the repercussions.