Great sorrow for the horses

  • Posted on: 6 November 2015
  • By: Michael Brydon
02 November, 2015

Dear Editor:

It is with a heavy heart that I write this.

A few weeks ago approximately 45 of the West Bench horses were rounded up. Thankfully some of the horses and foals were sold to caring homes, but many were sold as bucking stock and the

remaining unsold horses were shipped to slaughter.

For reasons I will never understand, this sale was not advertised or announced in any way. It seems that the whole event was mostly a secret with only a few people told. 

As someone who lives on the West Bench I have known many of these horses since the day of their birth. I helped to rescue a mare and foal last spring when one of the young stallions tried to kill her foal and I was there on the evening when a young stallion was hit and killed in a motor

vehicle accident, while driving home from school in Kelowna.

I feel betrayed by all involved in this roundup and sale. Why would it not be advertised that these horses were now available to be sold?

Why does it seem that some work so hard against people who could offer these horses a lifetime home and that only the dark side of the horse world is allowed to be involved, with many of the horses sold for meat to the European market?

Would it not make more sense to have as many people as possible aware and able to purchase these horses? Would the horse owners not make more money this way, as it is my understanding that the prices paid for slaughter are quite low at the moment?

Would it not make for better

relationships with the public sending a message of caring and compassion as opposed to one of disregard and callousness

towards the horses and their fate?

I am left totally confused as to how and why this issue of the horses continues to be handled in this manner.

The West Bench residents will probably not see any horses in their neighbourhood for quite awhile, but there are still over 500 horses left on the PIB lands that need to be dealt with. I am hoping this mindset of turning away those who want to help will change and the remaining horses can be dealt with in a more caring and thoughtful way.

Kate Bezugley




A few quick points on this letter from my perspective as Area F director:

  1. We have been trying for years to get horse owners to actively manage their livestock.  As noted many times on this site and elsewhere, the RDOS has absolutely zero control over what horse-owning members of the PIB do.
  2. Having said this, we have over the years attempted to influence the leadership of the PIB to take greater ownership of the horse issue.  The band has made progress recently in this regard (see posting). However, as of today, the PIB has not enacted bylaws regarding horse ownership.  The PIB has little formal authority to tell its horse-owning members what to do.
  3. Horses are not native to this area.  The species was introduced as livestock for commercial purposes.  If not managed as livestock, the horses multiply rapidly and do enormous damage both to "the built environment" and natural grasslands.  The flora in this region are ill-adapted to large hoofed animals.  The PIB recognizes this and are in the process of developing a grassland rehabilitation strategy.
  4. Given all this, I regard it as encouraging news that a horse-owner has taken steps to actively manage his or her herd.  Of course, livestock is private property so I know nothing about the details and have no expectation of being consulted.
  5. Based on past investigation into the horse problem, it is pretty clear that the number of animals at issue here far exceeds external demand. In my early days as Area F director we investigated horse adoption and similar programs.  We found little interest.  Indeed, we have reports of the opposite problem: horses from off the reserve have apparently been abandon on PIB lands.  This is negative adoption.
  6. As I have said before, I think we need to be realistic about the few options available to the horse owners for "herd management". We all have seen enough pictures of nearly-starved horses to recognize that doing nothing is the worst possible outcome for all, including the horses.

While all the above is true and/or has merit, the situation with many of these horses, including the band that has frequented the WB, is quite specific, as far as I've ever heard. For one, the owner raises the horses for slaughter, so has little interest in controlling numbers. Second, he has been offered good money (much more than slaughter prices) for some young animals in the recent past, but refused to sell. And third, for people who don't know, unlike livestock such as cows or sheep (not that I'm glossing over them being slaughtered either!) horse meat is not at all made inedible or even unpalatable by the animal being injured or under stress (such as a very sensitive animal being shipped for long distances with who knows how much, or how little, food and water and very possibly injured! There are no slaughtering facilities in BC (not even sure in Alberta now) so the horses are shipped for long distances, alive.

Is it correct to assume then that all 45 of the discreetly sold West Bench horses were sold as private property, and therefore the RDOS had no vested concern in their fate? As a public entity, the RDOS should be concerned about animal cruelty, as well as preventing tainted horsemeat from entering the food chain. You also vaguely sight "past investigations" as proof that the number of horses in question far exceeds demand for rescue and adoptions. Times have changed since your "early days" and there are many more organizations cooperating to save horses from slaughter. Representatives are present at almost every advertised auction bidding on behalf of buyers in Alberta, BC, and across the border in WA. Buyers also pool their resources to save weanling and yearlings, and to arrange hauling so even those people living in remote locations can buy a kill-pen animal.
Perhaps it's time that the RDOS look at the problem with a fresh pair of eyes and do what's right, not just for the environment, but for the horses who have much more to offer than being a meal on someone's plate.

Thank you Mr. Brydon for posting the letter to the Editor regarding the recent round up of the West Bench horses. Eva is correct about the money offered to Mr. Pierre, last fall when they had the sale he refused to sell horses to three people that I know personally. He also turned down $1000.00 for a mare and foal this spring that he then sold for much less when he rounded up the West Bench horses. I understand that these are privately owned horses and the RDOS does not have control over the poor business practices of the owner, but I am angry that the horses are NOT OWNED when hit by vehicles or there is responsibility to be taken, but even when clearly branded the authorities refuse to do anything about the neglect of the horses and the danger they represent to drivers on our road ways.
Currently there are two horses left to wonder the West Bench, a branded white mare and her colt from this year, that are owned by one of the PIB councilors so not sure what to make of that?
As far as investigating "horse adoption and similar programs" I know I have never been consulted and I repeatedly offer help. I myself have placed over 40 of the local and wild horses since I became involved in this issue. The recent roundup also got some other ladies involved who stepped up and were responsible for finding homes for some of the horses. More could have been sold but everything happened so quickly and even though I called and tried to get more time to find sales for some of the horses that were friendly and socialized I was refused.
Last year I offered to raise the funds for Dolly Krugers herd, estimated at around 40 head, to receive the birth control vaccine which could then serve as a pilot project but was turned down. Interested but not accepted.
No one said we could save them all, but if given the chance I know we could save quite a few, especially the young horses. Michael I have a great deal of respect for you, but please do not say “there is little interest”. I am interested and I know that lots of others would get involved if given the chance. What do the owners and band have to lose by doing this?
Give the people who are willing to work on the horses behalf an opportunity and see what can be accomplished, then decide if it is a success or not. There is an old saying “those who say it cannot be done need to get out of the way of those who are doing it.”
I and others are doing what we can in spite of the obstacles, imagine what we could accomplish if instead of barriers we were given bridges?

but please do not say “there is little interest”. I am interested and I know that lots of others would get involved if given the chance. What do the owners and band have to lose by doing this?

Point taken.  For anyone who might be willing to help:  Please contact Zoe Kirk at the RDOS.  Zoe is our liaison with the PIB on the horse issue.  As you say, we cannot compel anyone to accept any offer (especially given this history of conflict and acrimony concerning these horses).  But the offers can still be made.

Yes. Well let's hope that the PIB doesn't just view it as a "livestock" issue but rather an animal "cruelty" issue. What it truly is!!!

There are definitely groups and individuals interested in the welfare of these horses who are, as Theresa accurately observes, "owned" one day and "not owned" the next, depending on whether said ownership is of benefit or not. We believe that horses should be removed from the livestock category entirely, as they are commonly viewed as companion animals and working partners and have not been traditionally raised for food. Their meat, therefore, can be laced with drugs not fit for human consumption. It is a travesty that this herd of horses was sold (for meat?) when, with some publicity, they could have been placed in homes. Social media is a powerful tool, and through networking in the past it has been possible to re-home large herds of at-risk horses. All it takes is a willingness for people to work together on solutions.
I will contact Zoe at RDOS on behalf of our coalition. We are here to be part of the solution and would happily work with PIB and RDOS in order to help address this serious problem. Slaughter is simply not a solution, in our view. It is not humane euthanasia. Every effort should be made to keep these noble, intelligent animals "in the stable and off the table".
Sinikka Crosland, Executive Director
Canadian Horse Defence Coalition