Recently, the urban media, particularly television news, jumped at the opportunity to engage in sensationalism about an alleged incident at a slaughter facility in Alberta. It’s to be expected, of course, especially when they can show graphic scenes on TV of some heart-wrenching scene that looks very cruel. No one condones animal cruelty in any way, but the reality is slaughter of any kind can never be made to look pretty. It will always remain a shocking business to those who have no connection to animal agriculture – that, of course, gives animal rights zealots a golden propaganda opportunity.
The processing of horses for meat has gone on in Canada for a very long time and without incident. It’s a legitimate food industry that provides a much needed outlet for surplus and unwanted horses. Almost all the production goes to Europe and Asia where the meat is considered a unique delicacy.
Full disclosure here; my Dutch ancestry included eating smoked horse meat called rookvlees – a practice which I continue to this day. I have also eaten alligator, eel, ostrich and other exotic animals which are not considered food animals – curiously, animal rights fanatics are not trying to close down the processors of those animals. I expect none of them are as pretty as horses or have the same emotional connection to humans. Obvious point here is that few people will donate money to save ugly or feared animals – donation-hungry lobby groups know this of course. But I digress.
The horse slaughter business in Canada operated quietly and off the radar screen until recently. They got dragged into the limelight when animal rights fanatics were successful in getting the American government to shut down the commercial slaughter of horses in the US. American politicians and I expect most of the US population were probably unaware that horses don’t live forever nor do they all go to retirement ranches were they eventually all rise up to a horse heaven. The inevitable market result was that unwanted American horses were shipped across the border to Canada and Mexico. This really annoyed the anti-horse slaughter zealots, who saw their victory undermined by horses being exported to slaughter.
The American zealots quickly set up and financed a front organization called the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) to carry on their battle in Canada. They quickly realized that trying to get the federal or provincial governments in this country to outlaw horse slaughter was almost impossible. It was also impossible to stop the free flow of horses to Canada because that would not be allowed under the North America Free Trade Agreement which governs trade in legal products – the horse trade is perfectly legal.
The only other recourse for the CHDC was to try and sway public opinion and to use the regulatory process to frustrate horse processors, the hope being that this would make it difficult and expensive for horse processors to stay in business in Canada and they would no longer import horses from the US. Well, at least that is the theory. Ironically, with the flood of cheap American slaughter horses into Canada, the price of acquiring and processing horses has gone down and made it an even more economical business.
The other approach is to uncover illegal practices in processing plants and use the regulatory and legal process to harass processors out of business. This involves getting graphic photos and videos to expose alleged cruelty. Undercover operations are launched by animal rights to get the incriminating evidence. It worked very well in the past but is a lot more difficult nowadays as processors became wise to such covert activity on their premises. But green and animal rights have never had any conscience about using whatever it takes to justify the cause. That has seen video images of alleged cruelty that seems hard to believe and even looks out of place of where it was supposed to have been filmed.
The alleged bogus nature of expose videos doesn’t really stop media outlets from sensationalizing any issue. The point is even after it is proven as being fake, they can always apologize. Better yet, urban media just ignores any allegations of fake evidence and when confronted usually state “we have chosen not to pursue the matter at this time.” That emboldens zealots of any stripe and just encourages the practice. Stay tuned – first it was horses, the next target will be the slaughter of those cute cuddly lambs.