Horses Excluded From Aid

Yes, I Like Rodeo

About a decade or so ago, I attended a conference where one of the speakers, an ag expert from Idaho, if I recall, made a statement which I found to be profound. It was something along the line of, “If you don’t take steps to take the governance of animal treatment into your own (meaning the horse industry) hands, someone will do it for you.”

I was jarred by this statement and it’s apocalyptic message. I wondered what the horse world would look like for my children, and by what degree their involvement in the horse industry would be dictated by influences outside of our community.

Well, it appears I didn’t have to wait for the kids to grow up. There are plenty of outside voices already vying for the opportunity to govern the care of animals involved in the horse industry.

Their latest target is rodeo. And, their latest venue was the Calgary Stampede.

When I posted the $15,000 ad the Vancouver Humane Society took out in the Calgary Herald last week on Western Horse Review’s Facebook page, there was a flurry of responses to it. (It might bear mentioning that the VHS is not an animal humane society in the traditional meaning. It does not run a shelter, nor does it directly care for any animals. It serves entirely as a fundraising organization, for purposes of animal-rights activism.)

To serve the purposes of groups like the VHS bent on bringing down rodeo, rodeo is often portrayed as a gang of neanderthal males engaged in roping, tying, wrestling and declaring their masculinity in the arms-up gesticulation of a calf roper signaling “time!” And, that was more or less, the gist of the ad, with the question of “that’s entertainment?”

The truth is, I’m not really a rodeo person. I consider myself lucky to get to one, perhaps two a year. It’s not a big part of my life. Or, so I thought. It occurred to me this week though, that here, in the country, rodeo takes on an entirely different persona; it’s not one that travels down the mainstream, and it doesn’t attract the masses. Instead, it generally winds its way down dusty gravel roads, and country paths. The kind that run by the log house.

I want to share with you what “rodeo” looked like in my life this past week:

It was the call from my city-born and raised nephew, to inform me of his signing up to steer-ride for the first time in his life, at his friend’s charity rodeo – an event organized by the family, after the mother died of cancer. Last year they raised $40,000 for cancer research.

It was the young man my daughter spent several years in 4-H with, who now bull-rides, and though I hadn’t spoken with him in over a year, when I asked him if he’d help my nephew out with a few tips, responded without hesitation, “sure!” with a follow-up of query of where and when could they get started.

It was the pretty girl in the cowboy hat at our small town gas station, pumping her own gas, pulling a 1980’s-vintage trailer with a horse in it, on her way to a barrel race.

It’s the slightly arthritic limp of my neighbour, as I watch him walk across the hay field, remnants of his glory days when he was a bareback riding champion, back in ’68 I believe.

It’s the blue polyester pant suit my good friend, who once wore it, and I shared a few smiles over last week as we strolled by the Calgary Stampede’s tribute to former CS Queens and Princesses, where it was showcased amongst other nostalgic costumes and photos.

The stunning oil portrait of a bucking horse we stood in awe of at the Western Art Show.

It’s the George Strait I heard on the radio this morning.

Even the odd sight of a brahma bull I drove by last week, magnificently standing under the shade of what must be a hundred-year-old tree.

My neighbour’s long-retired bucking horses, spending their golden years in a verdant prairie pasture, liberated of any responsibility, other than offering their rugged beauty to passerby’s.

It’s the chuckwagon-bred pony, my daughter now loves and calls Princess.

It’s the kid down the road who’s going to a renowned university next fall, something his parents wouldn’t have been able to afford to give him, on a high-school rodeo scholarship.

It’s my barrel racer blogger pal, who I chatted with several times over last week, as she reported a hectic week at the Stampede grounds.

Our friend, the veterinarian, who worked tirelessly last week caring for chuckwagon horses, and spoke softly of the tragedy of losing several of them at this year’s event.

As it turns out, rodeo touches many aspects of my life – from the people I know and love, to the animals we all care deeply for, to our music, to our lifestyle.

And so, Vancouver Humane Society, I’m really sorry about this, but I have to tell you . . . I thought it over, and the truth is, I like rodeo. I might even love rodeo. And, for all of the reasons above, and many more, I’d like it to stay in my life, my family’s life and my community culture.

But, I want to thank you, VHS. Thank you for reminding this non-rodeo girl of how indelibly, deeply and eloquently the fabric of rodeo – it’s people and it’s animals – is entwined with her own.

And finally, Vancouver Humane Society, I’ve been to your beautiful city many times. I have to tell you it rather saddened me to think of how many folks in your East End might have benefited from a sliver of the $15,000 of your member’s donations you spent on that advertisement.

’Course . . . feeding the homeless doesn’t garner much publicity kick-back.

Equine Identification News

Photo by Ann Fercho.

Back on April 1, I posted a note about the new Meat Hygiene Directive which is tied in with an equine traceability program and which will have an effect not only on horse owners in Canada who need to ship or sell a horse for slaughter purposes, but all equine owners – however peripherally.

While many in the industry see this move as inevitable, others are outstandingly opposed to any program which places the burden and expense of formal equine identification, as well as movement accounts onto horse owners.

There were a number of thought-provoking responses to this post, and I used them as a basis for an interview with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the federal department responsible for this initiative.

Here’s how that conversation, with Guy Gravelle, Media Relations Officer, went.

How does this new Equine Information Document Program differ from past regulations?

Equine owners have, for the most part, been very good at keeping general records of their animals.  The changes being put in place formalize this process and bring equine documentation even closer to similar systems already in place for other food producing animals, such as poultry and swine by enhancing the transfer and traceability information required for equine animals destined for slaughter.

Why was this initiative created and who initiated it?

The CFIA initiated this program in part to meet its priority to enhance traceability, which is key to opening international markets for producers. For example, this program responds to the European Union’s equine slaughter requirements.

This formalized system will help producers and exporters clearly demonstrate that their meat products are safe. The ultimate outcome of this program is enhanced food safety.

Will this program be voluntary or mandatory?

The CFIA equine traceability program is strictly voluntary. It is not mandatory for horse owners to keep track of the medications used, especially if they do not plan to raise equines for meat processing. However if they want to have the option of selling them in the future for processing, equine owners are strongly encouraged to follow this
program and use the equine information document that can be found in the Meat Hygiene Directive no. 2009-49
(http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/meavia/man/direct/2009/direct49e.shtml). This equine program came into affect on January 31, 2010.

A similar program in the United States has been cancelled – the United States Department of Agriculture’s NAIS (National Animal Identification System) – will this affect the Canadian program in any way?

No.

Why is such a thorough description of the horse required (written details/photo)?

The CFIA’s ultimate goal is to bring equine requirements even closer to similar systems already in place for other food producing animals, such as poultry and swine – part of that objective includes making sure traceability information is available for equine animals destined for slaughter.

Who will be assigned the task of building and maintaining the database system described?

The CFIA is in consultation with the equine industry to determine the most appropriate way to develop and maintain the database.

The EID documents will be evaluated at the slaughter establishment by the operator. The CFIA will oversee the operator’s evaluation. The horse will be examined/inspected by the operator and the CFIA after arrival, as well as during processing for evidence of abnormalities.  When evidence of potential medication usage is found, and as a part of routine testing, samples may be sent to detect potential drug residue violations.

In terms of the legislation, effective July 31, 2010, it will be mandatory for all Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspected facilities in Canada engaged in the slaughter of equine for edible purposes to have complete records for all animals (domestic and imported) presented for slaughter.

Again, EIDs are not required for equine that will not be slaughtered for food. When the time comes to sell their animals, equine owners may want to increase sale opportunities to include a potential slaughter option. If a slaughter option is to be considered, equine owners may benefit by providing EID documents at the time of sale. The program is mandatory for equine slaughtered for food in Canada.

The CFIA further stated it is consulting with the equine industry to determine the most appropriate way to develop and maintain its equine traceability program. More on that later, but the majority of that consultation appears to be flowing through Equine Canada.

Equine ID & Traceability Conference

Photo by Deanna Buschert

Representatives from national and provincial organizations and breed groups gathered in Calgary on June 7 to share ideas, present issues and discuss solutions for the equine ID system that has become inevitable for our industry. The conference was presented by the Horse Industry Association of Alberta with funding through the provincial and federal governments’ Growing Forward program.

The morning session was opened by a representative from our national governing body, Equine Canada. The Chair of EC’s Equine ID Committee, Ed Kendall, presented their CanEQUID program, the equine node of the Canadian Livestock Traceability System. Through this system, each Canadian equine will receive a lifetime 9-digit code. This number will be connected to information such as animal name, pedigree, registration number, a Coggins-style description of the horse and any micro-chip, tattoo or brand information. The 9-digit code will also track movement and horse health. Equine Canada is currently testing the data collection methods to determine the viability of the system for the industry.

The attending breed groups presented information on their registration process and ID systems. Many had similar requirements, including detailed descriptions, DNA testing for breeding stock and, in some cases, micro-chipping. All groups expressed concern about any additional costs or complexity that would be associated with a national ID system for horses as some breeders and owners already opt out of registration and transfer processes due to cost. Breed groups also expressed concern about the longevity of electronic technology, feeling that any solution needs to be a long-term, multi-generational product.

The provincial equine organizations from Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Alberta were in attendance. A priority for these groups is creating a system that will work for the large number of recreational horse owners in their membership base, and assist these owners in protecting their animals from disease.

The afternoon session was presented by Mark Pydynowski and Bob Van Schoick of Somark Innovations. Somark has developed a ceramic based ink that reflects radio waves and can therefore be used in identification tattoos for livestock. The tattoo would be like a two-dimensional bar code applied anywhere on the horse, through the hair, not visible, and could be scanned and read from a distance of 4’. The technology is very new and not yet fully developed or tested on horses but presents a promising alternative to other forms of electronic ID currently available.

~ Submitted by Teresa van Bryce,

Alberta Horse Industry Association of Alberta

Carol Harris Talks Cloning

Many-time cloned stallion, Smart Little Lena.

The Tuesday, May 4th edition of The Washington Post featured an article about the cloning of horses. Writer Stephen Hudak interviewed long-time Quarter Horse breeder, Carol Harris, who is now 86, and owner of Bo-Bett Farm in Florida.

By now everyone is familiar with the first cloned animal, a sheep named Dolly, born in 1996, and deceased in 2003, when she was euthanized, at the age of six, with severe arthritis and lung cancer.

According to the article in The Post, there are about 65 equine clones now in existence, with 50 of them produced by the Texas company ViaGen, a cloning center which is expecting another 50 equine births in 2010.

While most major breed associations do not allow the registration of cloning, it’s troubling nonetheless, to many in the horse industry. Particularly, when in some sports, such as barrel racing, whether an animal is registered or not, may be somewhat secondary, as in the case of Charmayne Jame’s clone of her extraordinary barrel gelding, Scamper.

Since Scamper was a virtual unknown, and a further, a gelding, there was no hope of breeding another like him. So James decided to clone the horse in the hopes of continuing his bloodline for the sport of barrel racing. The successful clone, Clayton now stands to the public for a fee of $4,000 U.S.

Clayton, the clone of Scamper, now stands as a breeding stallion.

Harris isn’t a big proponent of cloning and unabashedly states her view in the article, concluding horse people get into cloning because they “smell money” and are “looking for a shortcut to a great horse.”

Cloning will likely continue to be an interesting debate in the horse industry. Harris’ viewpoint is black and white: “Breeding is an art. Cloning is a replication.”

Others, like James, have an each-to-his-own viewpoint, and do not see a disservice to the industry or equine world in the matter of cloning.

So, internet world, where do you stand?

No health records? Ship before July 31st

It isn’t an April Fool’s joke. In fact, rumors of it have been the talk of the industry all winter and in late January the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed new regulations regarding the implementation of a Meat Hygiene Directive. As of July 31st, slaughter facilities will be allowed to process only those equines with complete health records dating back six months. In other words, the maintenance of health records must have begun by February 1st, for equines that are intended to be sent (or sold) for processing on or after July 31st.

The Information Bulletin from the CFIA that outlines the new requirements is available from the CFIA’s web site at:

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/corpaffr/newcom/newsrele.shtml where it states “ owners who wish to keep their sale options open should record all vaccines, medications given (administered or fed) to their animals and record any occurrence of illness in their animals.”

The CFIA requires that health records for equines intended for human consumption include the following:

• Identification information for the horse, including markings and photos

• Record of diagnosed illnesses

• Records of drugs or vaccines administered (or fed) that are not intended for use in food animals

• Records of drugs or vaccines administered (or fed) with known withdrawal periods

• Records of all other drugs or vaccines administered (or fed)

A list of the substances that are not intended for use in food animals can be found at in the Meat Hygiene Directive No. 2009-49 which is available from CFIA’s website at

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/meavia/man/direct/2009/direct49e.shtml.

Important to note: the use of Phenylbutazone (commonly known as bute), is now considered a banned substance for any equine intended for human consumption.

Equine meds which require a six-month withdrawal period include such drugs as Acepromazine, commonly known as Ace.

Perhaps even more troubling than the health records requirement is the news that this program is all intended to lead into an overall Canadian equine identification program, which is intended to encompass not only unique identification, but movement tracking and health and drug administration. Read on for the official word from the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency:

“To assist horse owners in the maintenance of health records, the CFIA has created the Equine Identification Document (EID). The EID is a paper document that can be downloaded and printed from the CFIA website.

“The CFIA announcement describes this as “the first step in the development of a comprehensive food safety and traceability program for the Canadian equine industry—for both domestic and international markets.” This is in-line with previous Agriculture and Agri-food Canada announcements committing to the development of livestock traceability programs for Canada by 2013.

“It is expected that the EID paper document will serve as a foundation stone upon which a comprehensive electronic system will be built to incorporate unique equine identification, movement tracking, and health and drug administration information necessary to satisfy food safety and bio-security requirements.

“It is expected that further information and details regarding the development and implementation of the national identification and traceability system will be announced shortly.”

If all of this smacks you in the gut the teensiest bit, if you find your thoughts drifting off to 1984, and big-brotherism, you just might not be alone . . . and plenty of you may even recall we’ve been through this before, back in 2003-04 when Equine Canada gave it’s best shot at fast-tracking an equine identification program. Alarms were raised, cries of “not another gun registry!” were made and eventually, it all went away, back into the dark hole from whence it came. Or, so we thought.

Just as intriguing . . . on the heels of this Canadian announcement came the news from the United States Department of Agriculture of its complete scrapping of it’s $142 million NAIS (National Animal Identification System) and starting it’s disease traceabililty program from scratch according to the Washington-based American Horse Council. Apparently, the decision came after a USDA national listening tour.

We’ll be keeping track of this as it progresses, but in the meantime, thoughts anyone?