Calgary recently saw a ragtag group of folks protesting the slaughter of horses for human consumption. They had gathered under a roadside billboard that featured the slogan, “Stop Slaughtering Us,” with a picture of two pensive-looking horses.
The billboard had only one purpose — to tug at the heartstrings of passing motorists. To most who noticed, it was probably bewildering, but it is effective.
Slaughter is one of those hot-button buzzwords that garner attention immediately in a negative way — which is the intent of the sponsoring group.
The people behind the group would seem to be mostly American-connected, through an organization called Angel Acres. Heck, even the horse picture was American, as the same billboard has been seen in the U.S. The American connection and financing tends to be downplayed, but the whole anti-horse slaughter campaign shows every sign as being American influenced and managed — and for good reason.
In the U.S., commercial horse slaughter was derailed when a number of states outlawed the business and the U.S. government suspended the funding of horse-meat inspection. That effectively closed all the horse-slaughter plants south of the border.
The anti-slaughter lobby felt that it had won a great victory, but what the group hadn’t figured was that American horses would be exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter — they had won a battle, but not the war. The lobby groups then decided to set up shop in Canada through surrogate groups in an attempt to influence gullible politicians in this country, close down Canadian plants, or at the least prevent the importation of American horses for slaughter.
To date, they have not been successful.
The problem for them is the horse-meat business in Canada (mainly Alberta) is a thriving industry that is professionally run, and closely monitored and inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Besides that, almost 99 per cent of Canadian horse-meat is exported under even stricter European and Japanese health and slaughter protocols.
So, for Canadian citizens, the industry is essentially out of sight and out of mind. From that perspective, it’s pretty hard to get voters and politicians riled up enough to ban the business just on emotion alone.
But that reality doesn’t stop duplicitous lobby groups. So why not scare gullible consumers and media with outlandish bogus allegations — it’s a proven PR tactic used by green and animal-rights groups.
One surefire way to get media attention is to state that food is unsafe, contaminated and dangerous to the public — whether it is or not, doesn’t matter.
So the protestors claimed that horse-meat is tainted with a drug called phenylbutazone. They have no evidence of that because the group has no testing data.
The CFIA does testing and says it’s 99 per cent negative for the drug. Besides, why would anyone spend money on giving a drug to horses going to slaughter.
In addition, most horses are put in feedlots to add fat and allow any drug residues to dissipate. But the protestors win the perception battle with the public because they made the first negative impression — and that’s what gullible citizens believe.
To attract even more media attention, the protesters trotted out Alex Atamanenko, a politically- opportunistic NDP MP from BC. He’s the sponsor of Bill C-322, which aims to stop the importation of slaughter horses into Canada. He also claims horse meat is unfit for human consumption.
Typically of NDP politicians, they never let the facts stand in the way of trendy and politically correct causes that could get them free publicity — especially with dumb urban voters.
Even better from an NDP political strategy, they get to once again bash at Alberta, where the horse-processing business is centered.
That political opportunity seems to outweigh any perception that this wacky B.C. MP is actually a dupe of a well-financed, conniving American lobby group.
This bozo MP was actually the NDP agriculture critic under the late Jack Layton. All I can say is God help all of us in agriculture if the NDP ever gets to power in Ottawa.
Will Verboven is the editor of Alberta Farmer.