Thursday, November 22, 2007

What's Wrong with Horse Racing?

"They give their lives for our enjoyment." - Ron McAnally, horse trainer, after the breakdown of Go for Wand

Horse racing is considered by many to be a harmless sport in which the animals willingly display their speed, skill and agility. The truth is that these animals suffer and die for human profit and entertainment.

The Sport of Cruelty

Also known as the Sport of Kings, horse racing is a multibillion-dollar industry rife with cruelty, drug abuse, injuries to both the riders and horses, and many horses end up at the slaughterhouse when they are no longer profitable.

Stallions are over-worked and are kept isolated from other horses for years while females are subjected to an endless cycle of pregnancy that often involves the use of drugs and other artificial interventions.

According to the New York Daily News, “The thoroughbred race horse is a genetic mistake. It runs too fast, its frame is too large, and its legs are far too small. As long as mankind demands that it run at high speeds under stressful conditions, horses will die at racetracks.”

Racing to Death

While injuries and deaths are pitched by the media as unexpected accidents, as in the case of Barbaro, the undefeated Kentucky Derby champion who was euthanized after a series of surgical procedures to repair his shattered ankle, the reality is that hundreds of other horses continue to die on the tracks while thousands of others are sold for slaughter – their meat to be used in cat food or sold to European countries for human consumption.

Horses begin training or are already racing at an early age and when their skeletal systems are still growing. This makes them physically unprepared to handle the pressures of running on a hard track at high speeds. According to one study on racetrack injuries, one horse in every 22 races suffered an injury that prevented the animal from finishing the race. Another study found that approximately 800 thoroughbreds die in North America each year because of racetrack injuries.

According to Dr. David Nunamaker, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania and the chairman of clinical studies at New Bolton Center, fatal muscle and bone injuries occur 1.5 times per 1,000 starts, which means that approximately 704 horses died while racing in the United States and Canada in 2005 - almost 2 racehorse fatalities every day.

Some 30% of these fatalities occur during, or immediately after a race, and are caused by a broken leg, back, neck or pelvis, spinal injuries, heart attack or burst blood vessels.

Serious racing-related illnesses are now endemic with approximately 82% of flat race horses older than three years of age suffering from bleeding lungs (exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage). Gastric ulcers are present in no fewer than 93% of horses in training, where the condition gets progressively worse. When horses are retired, the condition improves.

Even with improved medical treatments and technological advancements, hairline fractures and strained tendons are difficult for veterinarians to diagnose and the damage may go from minor to irreversible at the next race or workout.

Horses do not do well in surgery and further injury may occur from the disorienting effects of the anesthesia or from fighting the casts or slings. An animals’ chances of recovery is further compounded by the fact that horses need to stand while recovering whereas humans can heal with bed rest or by using crutches.

“We're upset when it happens, but it's just part of the racing game." - General Manager of Virginia’s Colonial Downs, commenting on the deaths of five horses in eight days

Sometimes the animal’s survival is simply a matter of economics. Euthanasia is cheaper than veterinary fees and other expenses on a horse that can no longer race and care for a single racehorse can cost as much as $50,000 a year.

While the owners of Barbaro spared no expense for his medical needs, their display of compassion is the exception, not the rule. Magic Man was a horse who stepped into an uneven section of track and broke both front legs during a race at the Saratoga Race Course. His owner paid $900,000 for him but since the horse hadn’t earned any money and wasn’t worth much as a stud, the owner had Magic Man euthanized.

Addicted to Drugs

Many racehorses become addicted to drugs when their trainers and even veterinarians give them drugs to keep them on the track when they shouldn’t be racing. The New York Sun reported in May 2006 that “to keep the horses going,” they are given Lasix (which controls bleeding in the lungs), phenylbutazone (an anti-inflammatory), and cortiscosteroids (for pain and inflammation). Those drugs, although legal, can also mask pain or make a horse run faster.

Morphine, which can keep a horse from feeling any pain from an injury, was suspected in the case of Be My Royal, who won a race while limping. In 2002 a trainer was suspended for using an Ecstasy-type drug in five horses while another was kicked off the racetracks for using clenbuterol. The previous year a New York veterinarian and a trainer faced felony charges when the body of a missing racehorse turned up at a farm and authorities determined that her death had been caused by the injection of a “performance-enhancing drug.”

According to a former Churchill Downs public relations director, “There are trainers pumping horses full of illegal drugs every day. With so much money on the line, people will do anything to make their horses run faster.”

From Racetrack to Slaughterhouse

Few racehorses are retired to pastures for pampering and visits from caring individuals. Ferdinand, a Derby winner and Horse of the Year in 1987, was retired to a farm and then changed hands at least twice before being “disposed of” in Japan.

A reporter covering the story in 2003 concluded, “No one can say for sure when and where Ferdinand met his end, but it would seem clear he met it in a slaughterhouse.”

Exceller, a million-dollar racehorse who was inducted into the National Racing Museum’s Hall of Fame, was also reportedly killed at a Swedish slaughterhouse. A 2001 Colorado State University study found that of 1,348 horses sent to slaughter, 58 were known to be former racehorses.

The Whip

Another cruel yet acceptable practice is hitting racehorses with whips, apparently to make the horses run faster. An investigation by Animal Aid in the U.K. found that racehorses in a state of total exhaustion and out of contention were often beaten. The whip was used on the neck and shoulders, as well as on the hindquarters. According to the report, horses were observed being whipped 20, or even 30 or more times, during a race.

Whipping horses can be extremely painful and stressful for the animals, and in many cases reduces their chances of winning the race. One particular study, conducted between October and November 2003, found that 40 out of the 161 races surveyed(around 25%) had been won by horses that had not been whipped.

How You Can Help

“It’s nearly impossible to eliminate injuries to horses because the animal itself is a fairly frail structure.” - Bob Elliston, president of Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky.

Actually, it's quite easy to eliminate the suffering these animals endure. You can refuse to support your local racetracks and lobby against the construction of new ones. You can also educate your family and friends by telling them about the tragic lives racehorses lead.

For more information, please visit:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Vegan Story on Yahoo!

Some encouraging news for those of us who wish the mainstream media would report on more vegan/vegetarian issues.

Today, Yahoo Canada Lifestyles featured a story on vegan baking, and how it's come a long way from the whole-wheat flour and fruit-based sweeteners of the 70's.

To view this story, click on the link below:
Vegan baking today tastes better than it sounds

Visit the Meatout Mondays Website!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Animal sanctuary bid buys more time

St. Catharines Standard Local News - Thursday November 1, 2007


A group hoping to build an animal sanctuary in Thorold has more time to convince regional councillors it's a good idea.

The Endangered Animal Rescue Society (TEARS) has already been turned down by the City of Thorold, but plans to submit a new application. The group also needs a regional policy plan amendment.

On Wednesday, TEARS spokeswoman Tracey McCarthy asked regional councillors to support the amendment.

"This is a sanctuary for exotic and endangered species, a place for them to heal from abuse, to rehabilitate," she said in a presentation to the public works committee.

In a report, regional staff recommended refusing the amendment, noting the proposal "appears more like a commercial zoo than an animal sanctuary."

The report also noted unapproved construction and changes to the Thorold property at Kottmeier and Holland roads have resulted in stop work orders.

McCarthy admitted the organization erred in forging ahead without proper approvals.

She said TEARS is willing to work with municipal and regional staff to make the proposal workable.

She also gave a package of new information to councillors, which she said addressed staff concerns.

St. Catharines Regional Coun. Bruce Timms called the proposal "a great project that got ahead of the process."

Councillors supported his motion to defer a decision on the amendment until councillors and staff reviewed the new information.

Urgent! Please write to the City of Thorold and the Regional Council today asking them to reject TEARS' application to open up a roadside zoo in Thorold once and for all. See Letters Needed: No Roadside Zoos in Thorold for more information. Please address your letters to:

Mayor Henry D’Angela
City of Thorold
3540 Schmon Parkway,
P.O. Box 1044
Thorold, ON
L2V 4V7

Bruce Timms
St. Catharines Regional Councillor
Regional Municipality of Niagara
2201 St. David’s Road,
P.O. Box 1042
Thorold, ON
L2V 4T7

Peter Colosimo
Senior Planner
Planning and Development Department
Regional Municipality of Niagara
2201 St. David’s Road,
P.O. Box 1042
Thorold, ON
L2V 4T7

Adele Arbour
Director of Planning & Building Services
Planning and Building Services Department
City of Thorold
3540 Schmon Parkway,
P.O. Box 1044
Thorold, ON
L2V 4V7

Animal Protection Institute - Captive Exotic Animals

Canada's Position on Cat and Dog Fur Imports

A reader who visited our Fur Trapping page a few weeks ago wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressing his concerns about cats and dogs being slaughtered in China for their fur, and then exported to Canada.

The following is the response from the International Trade Minister:

October 29, 2007

Dear Mr. _______:

The Office of the Prime Minister has forwarded to me your correspondence of October 23, 2007, in which you raise concerns regarding the import of cat and dog fur. I appreciate the concerns expressed by fellow Canadians regarding the treatment of cats and dogs and the alleged use of their fur in clothing and other consumer items.

I am, however, concerned that adopting a Canadian import ban on dog and cat fur could undermine Canada's position against the implementation of foreign import bans on Canadian seal products.

The fur trade is a significant contributor to the Canadian economy and provides income for over 65,000 Canadians. In 2005, Canada exported approximately $361 million of fur products, including seal fur. The income derived from the export of seal fur, which is harvested through ecologically sustainable and responsible practices, is important to many aboriginal communities and others in remote and rural regions.

In fact, for sealing communities in Atlantic Canada, the hunt can contribute to up to 35% of their annual income. Furthermore, Inuit communities were hardest hit by the 1983 seal import ban imposed by the European Economic Community and the resulting global collapse in seal prices, despite the exceptions made for aboriginal hunters. Losing one of their few earned income options has serious economic and social effects on these communities.

I wish there were a more straightforward solution to the problem at hand but, unfortunately, imposing a trade ban on cat and dog fur, while responding to the concerns of one group, would have unintended, but serious economic and social consequences for another segment of Canadian society. Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns.


The Honourable David L. Emerson, P.C., M.P.

Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

c.c.: The Rt. Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.

Please send your own letters to our government officials letting them know how you feel about this issue. See Fur Trapping and Ranching for more information. Thank you.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Animal Circuses: Fun for Whom?

Animal circuses have been entertaining the public for years, and conjure up images of humans and animals working together in a safe environment to amuse and astound children of all ages.

But circuses are no fun for the animals, who must endure fear, pain and psychological suffering for our pleasure.

Although the brutality of animal circuses has been hidden from the public's view for many years, a number of recent undercover investigations into some of North America's most popular circuses has revealed a dark yet pervasive reality of animal abuse, harsh training methods and poor animal welfare.

Animal Abuse

According to an elephant trainer in 2002: “If I get any defiance [from the elephants], I’ll beat the hell out of them. [The elephants] will disobey in public because they know I can’t hit them with a stick as much.”

Indeed, many circus animals have been beaten or abused in some way to make them perform. Steel rods, whips, bull hooks and electric prods, used to train and control the animals are considered 'tools of the trade'.

At a performance of the Tarzan Zerbini Circus in Lethbridge, Alberta in 2001, it was reported by the local newspaper that 80 patrons watched in horror as an elephant handler took three elephants back stage, lined them up in a row and started beating the middle one on the head with a club.

When interviewed, the owner of the circus explained that the witnesses "saw the wrong thing," that the handler was only gesturing to the elephant, not clubbing it, after the elephant had done something wrong. There was no investigation and no charges were laid.

Food and water deprivation, shackles, ropes and solitary confinement are also used by circus staff to make the animals perform or punish those who perform inadequately.

Cruel training methods and punishments have also been linked to human safety and is a major reason for accidents in elephant keeping. The use of physical punishment towards elephants is believed to build up 'resentment' in the animals, which may lash out at their handlers at some opportune moment.

As a former elephant trainer who testified before the USDA Investigative and Enforcement Services in July 2000 explains: "I can tell you that they live in confinement and they are beaten all the time when they didn't perform properly. That makes them dangerous and they want to get away."

Poor Animal Welfare

Wild animals in circuses also suffer from poor living conditions, prolonged confinement, isolation, insufficient stimulation and an inability to exercise natural behaviours. The stress of captivity can cause psychotic behaviours and aggression in some animals, while others become depressed and non-responsive.

For example, circus elephants can spend up to 95% of their lives in chains or tethers. Studies have found that confined elephants behave more aggressively towards humans and other animals than elephants that are able to move around freely. Crowded conditions and confinement, particularly amongst mammals, are also associated with adrenal hypertrophy and psychotic behaviour.

Circus lions and tigers are kept in beast wagons, small cages on wheels where the animals are forced to eat, sleep and defecate. These cages are designed for transport only and are inadequate as permanent housing since they offer no outlet for the animals’ instincts to explore, play, or hide away from the public when stressed. Still many performing cats spend the majority of their time on the road inside them.

While traveling from town to town, circus animals are kept in unheated or overheated vehicles, transport trailers and railroad boxcars with little or no ventilation for long periods of time.

On July 13, 2004, a two-year-old lion with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus died while traveling through the Mojave Desert in the U.S. in a poorly ventilated boxcar with no water. It is believed the lion died of heatstroke and dehydration.

Risks to Humans

Traveling acts that feature wild performing animals pose serious dangers to human health and safety as well. A significant number of people, including members of the public have been injured and killed by wild performing animals in traveling shows.

In 1999 a 23-year-old man was killed after being kicked in the head by a circus elephant in Timmins, Ontario. More recently, an elephant with the Shrine Circus trampled a trainer to death in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 2005. It is estimated that over 100 people have been killed by elephants worldwide since 1980.

Wild performing animals, such as elephants, pythons and non-human primates can also carry diseases harmful to humans, including tuberculosis, salmonellosis, hepatitis and the Ebola virus. Almost 90% of all macaque monkeys are infected with Herpesvirus simiae, or herpes B, a virus that is harmless to monkeys but often fatal to humans.

Circus Animals & the Law

Many circuses, including ones leased by the Shriners, have been cited in violation of a number of requirements for standard animal care by the United States Department of Agriculture and U.S. Humane Society.

These include failure to provide veterinary care, adequate shelter, nutritious food and clean water, as well as failure to handle animals in a manner that prevents trauma and harm. They have also been cited for regularly hiring inexperienced employees and failing to ensure public safety.

Unfortunately, circuses that neglect or abuse animals are rarely charged or punished and there are no federal laws specifically protecting performing animals in Canada. Only the province of Nova Scotia currently has standards for exhibiting circus animals.

Still, animal welfare is difficult to enforce since the circus is only in town for a day or two and local humane societies have neither the resources or appropriate training to deal with animal circuses or exotic species.

The Criminal Code of Canada, which hasn’t been seriously updated since 1892, does not address problems relating to the care, housing and training of performing animals. The Criminal Code is also punitive rather than preventative, and the very weak animal cruelty statutes are based on human misconduct to animals and not on the animals’ well being.

The End of Animal Circuses?

As more people become concerned about animal welfare, ticket sales at circuses with performing animals will continue to decline. On September 17, 1999, The Indianapolis News reported that “Attendance continues to dwindle when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus comes to town.”

Two years later, on August 17, 2001, the Wichita-Eagle wrote that Ringling had failed to secure a date at the Kansas Coliseum because of concerns about its declining circus attendance. Other circuses are also experiencing low turnouts so it is not uncommon today to see half empty arenas and shortened tour schedules.

This change can be attributed to the growing belief that animals should not be exploited for human entertainment. In an editorial on April 5, 2005 by the Philadelphia Daily News: “The circus elephants are coming to town next week, bringing an outmoded and problematic form of entertainment to all Philadelphians. Here’s hoping that this is the last year such an antiquated spectacle is welcomed within our city limits.”

Non-animal, or ‘all-human’ circuses are becoming increasingly popular and are seen as a more humane way to entertain the public. They feature acrobats, daredevils, illusionists and other talented performers displaying amazing feats of skill, precision and teamwork, instead of forcing wild animals to live and behave unnaturally.

Circuses like the Canadian-based Cirque du Soleil, which combines brilliant choreography and provocative music with stunning acro-gymnastic performances and dynamic displays of co-ordination and strength prove that animals are not needed to put on an exciting show.

A number of municipalities across North America have banned or severely restricted performing animals in circuses, traveling shows and novelty acts and both the Lion’s Club International and Kiwanis International have recommended to their local chapters not to use wild animal acts as fundraisers.

Even Shrine Clubs have been re-evaluating their policies on animal circuses. In 1997, the New Brunswick Shriners announced they would no longer use exotic animals in their circuses citing the negative publicity over the treatment of circus animals as one of the factors.

A few years later the British Columbia Shriners went ‘animal-free’ and in 2002, the Shriners of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island announced that they would be looking into alternatives to animal circuses for their fundraising initiatives.

These and other Shrine Clubs across Canada and the U.S. continue to help their communities by using non-animal alternatives such as their Christmas Fantasy Show, which features magicians and clowns for the children.

This trend will continue as more people learn about the true nature of animal circuses. Entertainment doesn’t have to include animal exploitation.

How You Can Help

Every ticket purchased for the circus supports the suffering, exploitation, and in many cases, the abuse of wild performing animals. Your decision not to attend circuses that use animals may be the most effective thing you can do to help them.

You can also share your views with family, friends and your community. If the public puts enough pressure on animal circuses to go 'animal-free', the circuses will have to adapt or risk even further declines in attendance.

If you want to become more active, you can contact your nearest animal rights group to learn what initiatives are being taken in regards to animal circuses. Perhaps you can join them the next time they distribute leaflets while the circus is in town.

Writing letters to your local newspaper(s) before the circus comes to town is an excellent way of expressing your concerns to a large number of people. See Writing a Letter to the Editor for tips on letter-writing. While you're at it, you can contact your local politicians urging them to enact laws prohibiting animal circuses in your area.

You can raise the issue today with Premier Dalton McGuinty and Monte Kwinter, Minister of Community Safety. Let them know that the exploitation of wild performing animals is archaic and cruel, and that being in close contact with such animals puts families at unnecessary risk. Ask them to enact legislation to protect these animals from further suffering.

Dalton, McGuinty, Premier,
Legislative Building
Queen's Park,
M7A 1A1
Fax: (416) 325-3745

Monte Kwinter, Minister of Community Safety
25 Grosvenor Street
18th Floor
Toronto, ON
M7A 1Y6
Fax: (416) 325-6067

The Slave Trade is Alive and Kicking

This column's for you, Beautiful Joe

Niagara This Week - Friday November 2, 2007

By Doug Draper, Reporter's View

When I was a kid growing up in Welland, one of the books on a shelf in my family's home was titled after a dog named Beautiful Joe.

Since two of my best childhood friends happened to be dogs -- a beagle named Jeff, who lived at our house when wanderlust didn't have him chasing rabbits halfway across Welland and Port Colborne, and a Lassie-like collie named Jamie, who was a prize of the Jones family across the street -- I was drawn to the book immediately.

But it was a tough read. Beautiful Joe was a novel, based on a story of a real dog from Meaford, Ont., whose ears and tail were axed off by a cruel master before being taken in by a family that did all it could to erase the abuse with kindness and love.

If the story sounds familiar, it should. There was a widely publicized story this spring of a puppy in Windsor, Ont., named A.K. by the humane society people who rescued him. The pup was found "whimpering on a balcony" of an apartment after someone with a heart of stone cut off his ears.

Yet more than 100 years after Canadian author Margaret Marshall Saunders received an award from the American Humane Society for raising awareness about animal abuse through telling the story of Beautiful Joe, one Ontario government after another has done next to nothing to toughen animal abuse laws that have long been among the weakest in North America.

To this day, any animal can be mutilated to the point of death in Ontario and the most the perpetrator can expect is six months in jail and a $2,000 fine under the federal Criminal Code, compared to far stiffer jail terms and fines they would face in many other jurisdictions.

The province of Ontario has no anti-cruelty legislation of its own and more often than not, all animal abusers get is a slap on the wrist.

Take the case five years ago of two young men in Toronto who filmed themselves skinning a cat alive in the name of art. To quote from a graphic account in a September 2002 edition of The Toronto Star: "The duo had grabbed the stray cat off the street, then hung it by the neck, punching, kicking and stabbing the helpless animal before it was skinned alive, had an eye gouged, an ear pulled off and was slit open as it moaned in agony."

In many other jurisdictions on this continent, this duo would have faced hefty fines, serious jail time and a ban of having anything to do with animals for the rest of their lives.

But not in Ontario, where our lawmakers care so little that the judge presiding over this particular case felt comfortable saying: "There are worse ways that this cat could have died," before sentencing one of these creeps to 90 days in jail, to be served on weekends, and let the other one go for time already served.

No wonder we continue hearing about one episode of animal abuse after another in this province, including such recent ones in Niagara as Queen Waldorf, the German shepherd found near Chippawa Creek in Niagara Falls with weights tied to a rope around her neck, and Lady and Tramp, the two snow white shepherds found almost starved to death near the outskirts of St. Catharines.

It wasn't until the A.K. case that Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty made a pre-election promise to strengthen animal abuse laws in the province, a promise Conservative leader John Tory, who advocates penalties of up to two years in jail, $60,000 in fines and a lifetime ban on pet ownership, rightfully described as a "forgive-me-for-not-acting-for-the-last-four-years announcement."

Indeed, McGuinty's Liberal government of the past four years, like its Mike Harris/Ernie Eves Conservative and Bob Rae NDP predecessors, never made the connection, shown in countless studies by police departments (including the FBI) and other researchers across North America, that there is an almost one-to-one relationship between someone who will kick a dog or cat and go on to commit violent crimes against people.

Up to now, elected leaders in this province have shown little recognition of the possibility that part and parcel of living in a civil society is showing respect for those most vulnerable among us, including animals.

Saunders put it this way, through the eyes of Beautiful Joe: "Thoughtfulness toward lower creatures (makes) people more and more thought toward themselves."

McGuinty had a habit of breaking promises during his first four years. Those of us who believe it's time for Ontario to jump from the 19th to 21st century when it comes to laws for protecting animals should make damn sure his pledge to set tougher laws against animal abuse is one he doesn't break.