Be a Voice in a Chorus of Voices

Guest posting by:  Paola di Paolo, MAIS

While COVID 19 has deeply impacted the lives of many Canadians, the daily routine of slaughtering horses and shipping live horses for slaughter abroad continues in Canada unabated and now largely unnoticed due to restrictions on public gatherings in our country.

Each week horses go through livestock auctions in Canada, but due to COVID 19 members of the public who want to rescue those horses from slaughter are unable to attend such auctions let alone bid on horses.

And daily, horses are whipped, yelled at, and forced into crowded livestock trailers destined for one of two federally licensed slaughter houses in Canada.

(The two horses in the above photo were slaughtered at Bouvry Exports on June 2, 2020)

Monthly, flights leave Canadian airports loaded with beautiful draft horses, known as the Gentle Giants, who are crammed into wooden crates destined for Japan or South Korea to be slaughtered for their meat.

(The photo above is from Calgary Airport June 2, 2020.  These horses were flown to Japan for slaughter.)

Furthermore, equestrian stables are struggling with severe financial hardship due to the cancellation of lessons, horse shows, and summer camp programs.

While slowly being allowed to reopen, restrictions on the numbers of people who are able to go to their barn, as well as the extra burden of hygiene routines, mean less income and more expense to already financially struggling horse barns.

Horse advocates fear that in addition to the already 30,000 some horses slaughtered yearly in Canada, 2020 will see 1000’s more slaughtered.

The occurrence of the pandemic affords those in the horse meat industry to not only gather up more horses for slaughter, but has also allowed the horse meat industry to operate without any sort of oversight, question, or protest from the horse advocates as public gatherings are not permitted.

Furthermore, just last week we have learned of the murder of George Floyd and the eruption of protests, violence, and divisive rhetoric from politicians in the US.

How does one balance caring deeply for horses and advocating for the end of slaughter, with the very real and heart felt challenges we face from COVID19 and from racial tensions and injustice in society?

Is advocating for horses ignoring or turning a blind eye to the seriousness of the pandemic? And when we advocate to end horse slaughter and end the exportation of horses for slaughter abroad, are we placing an animal above a human being who has been racialized and devalued?

My answer to these questions is that being mindful and sensitive to the stresses and needs required by society in terms of protecting ourselves and each other from COVID 19 and being sensitive and caring about the complexities of race relations does not require that we choose to lean towards alleviating one type of suffering at the expense of another.

We highly oversimplify issues and support the exploiter when we think that because one is an advocate for horses means that one does not care about the suffering of racialized people, or care about the suffering of those struggling with personal losses due to COVID19.

As heart-centered humans we can embrace the suffering wrought by COVID19, by racism, by the exploitation of animals. When we reach out to care for each other and to care for another, we create a positive energy that collectively can gather strength and change the world for the better.

Instead of feeling apologetic for taking a stand against horse slaughter during the pandemic and during racialized violence, our stand against horse slaughter becomes one voice in a chorus of voices speaking out against all violence, all cruelty, and all exploitation. Instead of one quiet voice alone, joined together our chorus can be very loud indeed.

Rallying for ending horse slaughter and the exportation of horses for slaughter is even more urgent now as COVID19 has made the lives of many horses extremely precarious and has given those in the horse meat industry with blood on their hands unfettered access to vulnerable horses.

When we protest against slaughter, we are not turning a blind eye to suffering of humans, rather we are including all who suffer. Lastly, as we are aware that COVID19, SARS, H1N1 emerged as a result of human exploitation of animals, advocating to end horse slaughter makes sense when one becomes aware of documented filthy conditions of many horse feedlots and of the lack of traceability of horses in terms of which contra-indicated medications/chemicals they have ingested over the years.

Exercising sensitivity and balance is also important during times when people may feel particularly vulnerable. Thus, advocates, while able to maintain social distancing during a public protest, may decide to postpone such events until they feel that their audience is ready to easily receive their message.

When we protest horse slaughter, let us be aware that we are fighting a system that demands silence and invisibility from those of us who take a stand for the vulnerable and the weak be they animal or human.

Thank you,

Paola di Paolo, MAIS