Friday April 18, 2014

They shoot horses, don’t they?

It’s no wonder the company planning that’s reopened a cattle abattoir in Westwold as a horse slaughterhouse didn’t want to talk to The Daily News.

With few exceptions, no subject covered on our pages in recent years has provoked wider and more fervent response than horse slaughter. The subject last surfaced when a herd of feral horses was destined for the slaughterhouse two years ago.

People who love and respect horses find the practice abhorrent. Most Canadians, it’s safe to say, consider the idea of consuming horse meat to be revolting. While there are cultural variations across the country, reverence for horses crosses all borders. Along with canines and felines, equines are close to the human heart and have been companion animals for time immemorial. Some consider them equals.

On the other hand, certain cultures find consumption of cheval to be wholly acceptable.

There are horses sold by the industry for which there would be no other outcome but slaughter. Why waste a resource of potential value?

The closure of U.S. horse slaughterhouses six years ago due to public outcry has depressed prices and created a new problem — what to do with surplus horses? The European meat-adulteration scandal, in which horse meat was found in beef burgers not advertised as such, has also had an impact on the market. Clearly, the product is not as popular as it once was.

There are more compelling reasons for Canadians to reconsider the practice, though. One of the prevailing myths about horse slaughter is that it takes old and sick animals that would die anyway. That’s not the case, since such meat is not desirable for human consumption.

Earlier this year, the Humane Society International/Canada called for a ban on horse slaughter after animal cruelty was exposed at one plant. From a humane standpoint, horses are flight animals not easily handled in conventional slaughterhouse kill chutes.

From a human health standpoint, there are other concerns. Most horses bound for slaughter are not raised for food, obviously. They routinely receive drugs that are not permitted to enter the food chain. While the CFIA monitors for contaminants, there is no reliable system for recording medications given to horses over the course of their lifetime.

With his bill C-322 — reintroduced in the House last week — B.C. MP Alex Atamanenko hopes to have horse slaughter banned. This is a long shot, though; private member’s bills are seldom enacted.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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