Toronto Star

Re: Ottawa won’t say whether drug-tainted horse meat entered food chain, March 30

Ottawa won’t say whether drug-tainted horse meat entered food chain, March 30

The article about the life and death of Backstreet Bully, a thoroughbred racehorse bred by Frank Stronach and slaughtered for food at a Quebec abattoir, is an indictment of both the horse racing industry and the Canadian food inspection system.

A animal bred and raised by millionaires to be a star in the entertainment industry, given and name and fussed over by affectionate attendants, should not be killed in this heartless fashion, regardless of whether it has been administered drugs that are banned from the human food chain.

Notwithstanding the illegality of it, the fact that his drug-riddled flesh may have ended up on someone’s table is, in my view, secondary to the moral offence.

However, the secrecy, obfuscation and outright lies enshrouding the death of this one horse show that many people working in the “food chain” in Canada, including employees of our federal government, are not to be trusted. We would be naive in the extreme to believe the case of Backstreet Bully is unique.

David Richardson, Victoria, B.C.

Your articles allude to collusion between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and industry to allow drugged horses to enter the food supply. This assertion is simply false as evidenced by the reasons and facts outlined below.

Let me state clearly: Industry is responsible for making sure that all food sold in Canada is safe, as required by the Food and Drug Act. Horse owners are responsible for accurately presenting information on their animal’s identity and medical history.

The CFIA has zero tolerance for phenylbutazone (bute) or 5-nitrofuran in food. Horses presented for slaughter at CFIA-inspected facilities must have complete records, including an Equine Information Document that lays out the animal’s medical history. Horses presented with no or unacceptable paperwork are not slaughtered for human consumption. It is illegal to put fraudulent information on the Equine Information Document.

In the case of the horse referred to in the articles, the slaughter facility operator received information by phone that the animal, which had already been slaughtered, had received phenylbutazone in 2008. However, no medical record was provided to support this declaration.

As a follow-up, the operator communicated with the owner of the horse, placed the carcass under detention, and informed CFIA officials. After verification by the operator, the owner of the horse confirmed that the animal was in his possession for six months prior to slaughter, and also confirmed that it did not receive non-permitted drugs, or any other types of medication, during that time period.

I reiterate, if the owner of record provided false information to the operator of the facility as he alleges in this article, then he is legally liable under the laws of Canada.

Additionally, as a control measure, the carcass was held and tested for drug residue. No phenylbutazone was detected therefore there was no health risk to consumers.

The CFIA and the equine industry continue to develop measures to enhance equine traceability. The recently passed Safe Food for Canadians Act will provide specific measures to strengthen Canada’s regulatory-making authorities and to expand our existing traceability requirements which already include animal identification and components of movement reporting.

Dr. Ian Alexander, Chief Veterinary Officer for Canada, Executive Director, Animal Health Directorate Canadian Food Inspection Agency

I read with great sadness this article. From a profile breeding program to racing success, Backstreet Bully’s life ended tragically, in a slaughterhouse.

While exposing the many flaws in food protection system in Canada, I feel a humanitarian viewpoint toward the equines is also needed. Horses are not raised for human consumption, but sadly many may go that way if they fall into the wrong hands or homes.

Is there no empathy for the sentient animals whose lives end in this tragic manner? Is it not a crime that the horse dealer, Glen Priest, can justify falsifying documents, because “everyone does.” This is a very sad comment on human integrity — or lack of.

The concern about the effects of tainted horse meat on humans seems to override the value of a sentient horse’s life. Perhaps this article will serve to discourage the sale of horsemeat. I support the horse’s right to live, every time.

Audrey Wood, Orangeville

Thank you for putting the story of the slaughter of a loved race horse on the front page. We need to stop such unnecessary cruelty to animals. Horses are magnificent and loyal. They do not deserve to be killed and then eaten.

My family, my children and grandchildren are all vegan. They are healthy, happy and have respect for all creatures. This follows the disturbing story that fashion has again embraced the wearing of fur coats.

Perhaps if we taught our children respect for all living things we would have less violence in our society.

Christina Quilico, Toronto

As I read this article and tears flowed down my cheeks, I remembered Ghandi’s words: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Backstreet Bully is gone. Now what are we going to do about all the other horses that await similar fate — especially when Sudbury downs racetrack is to be shut down?

Sajidha Bagha, Sudbury

The main thrust of the article was disturbing enough. However, I would like to know if another aspect of this “doping” has been considered?

As we all know, quite a number of athletes have been banned by their various sports bodies, for infractions with regard to ingesting performance enhancing drugs. The practice is regarding as “cheating.”

Therefore would it not be reasonable to expect that trainers and/or owners of racehorses who indulge in the practice of the use of performance enhancing drugs, be banned from the sport of kings?

Further, could a case be made against those persons on the grounds of cruelty to animals, having knowingly administered said drugs to those beautiful creatures?

Just to round off these thoughts, isn’t this the same group that whines and complains that their “sport” needs government subsidies to continue? And should this come about, would the government be “aiding and abetting” cheating?

Peter Mills, Mississauga

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