"...My seven year old cat Oscar died very suddenly and very violently on Sunday ...Meesha is still on the decline despite all efforts to keep him going ... Our thoughts and prayers are with families and their pets. This tragedy is not just about the number of dead pets, it is also about the lives that have been affected ..."
Vancouver, May 23/07 - In response to the pet food crisis which has also spread to the human food supply,The Humane Society of Canada called upon the Canadian Government to create a taskforce to investigate the pet food industry following allegations that tens of thousands of pets have become ill or have died as a result of pet food companies, including Canadian based pet food manufacturer, Menu Foods, of Mississauga, Ontario. Five weeks later, the animal charity is still waiting for an answer to their letter found here written to Prime Minister Harper and other politicians.
Over five weeks ago, The Humane Society of Canada also made formal requests to the RCMP and other police forces; and the Ontario Securities Commission and other securities regulators asking them to conduct their own independent investigations to determine if criminal animal cruelty charges and securities charges should be laid.
"We need hard answers about the names of key officials at these pet food companies. We need to find out what they knew about the problems, when they knew about it and if there were any delays in alerting the public and government agencies, " said the animal charity's Western Regional Director Al Hickey.
"Unlike other countries, here in Canada, for all intents and purposes, pet food companies are allowed to regulate themselves, with disastrous results. There are over 13 million dogs and cats living with their families across Canada and we need to do everything in our power to protect them right now. We need to take care of our own," said Hickey.
The taskforce to investigate the pet food industry would have four primary objectives:
1) to conduct an investigation to determine if criminal animal cruelty charges should be brought before the court;
2) an investigation by securities regulators to determine if charges should be brought with respect to insider trading by shareholders in pet food companies;
3) public hearings into how to best regulate the pet food industry;
4) the passage of laws to regulate the pet food industry that include a balanced system of enforcement, education and consumer awareness to prevent these widespread tragedies from taking place again
In order to help protect families and their pets right now The Humane Society of Canada has produced a Fourteen Point Action Plan for Pet Food Safety.
Since the initial recall the number of other pet food companies, including Del Monte, Hills Pet Nutrition, Nestle Purina, Royal Canin and Sunshine Mills, product recalls continue to grow and now includes more than 150 brand names and over 5,600 products. A full list of the products recalled along with further background can be found here.
The pet food crisis continues to worsen and has now spread to the human food supply with contaminated "scrap pet food" fed to hogs and chickens; and contaminated feed ingredients from China fed to farmed fish.
Published reports indicate that Ontario based Menu Foods alone has received more than 300,000 complaints and there have been reports of deaths as high as 39,000 in the US alone and yet Menu Foods continues to claim that there have been only 16 confirmed pet deaths.
It has been a US government agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has been responsible for uncovering the contaminants and has fielded more than 21000 complaints. Just six weeks after the news broke, the US senate held public hearings and voted unanimously to pass a new bill to increase food safety.
"Whatever you may say or think about US politicians, they care about animals. Here in Canada, the inaction and arrogance of Canadian politicians and civil servants is truly breath taking," said The Humane Society of Canada's Chairman & CEO, Michael O'Sullivan.
Four weeks after the first pet food recall, Federal Minister of Agriculture Chuck Stahl said that while the Canadian Government is willing to review whether pet food should be regulated that it doesn't mean that it necessarily will or should be regulated saying that "regulation in the United States didn't prevent the recent deaths of pets from tainted food."
O'Sullivan who has holds a BSc in Agriculture and has worked on issues affecting people animals and the environment for more than 40 years had this to say: "It's hard to imagine a more criminally irresponsible statement from someone put in charge of Canada's food security. That's like saying we shouldn't bother testing for any poisoned food because we might not find all of it," said an angry O'Sullivan.
The US FDA has suggested that imported wheat and rice gluten imported from China may have been intentionally spiked with the industrial chemical, melamine, in order to artificially inflate the protein level and therefore command a higher price.
At first, the Chinese Government denied any contaminated feed had ever been exported and then banned the use of the contaminant melamine. Then they said the two companies involved had acted illegally and arrested key officials. After weeks of stonewalling and international pressure the Chinese Government finally allowed US FDA inspectors to visit the Chinese plants. Upon their arrival however, they were not allowed to speak with the company officials who had been arrested, and when they went to visit the two plants, both were shut down, and their equipment dismantled. In the case of the second plant, bull dozers had arrived in the middle of the night and reduced the building to rubble.
"The reluctance by Canadian politicians to take China to task for its failure to live up to its standing as a member of the international community is even more remarkable in the wake of SARS which was traced back to the horrific conditions in their wildlife markets; This disease alone caused enormous human and animal suffering and resulted in billions of dollars in lost revenues for the Canadian business community," said O'Sullivan. "What kind of message does this send to the world about food safety in a country that is hosting the 2008 Olympics?" he asked.
"There are few things more critical to the economic and environmental security of Canada than the safety of its human and animal food supplies. We need real solutions to these vital and urgent issues of food security and public health. In the meantime, however, except for the pet food companies which manufactured the products which killed their animals or caused them to become ill, families here in Canada have only The Humane Society of Canada to turn to for help," said O'Sullivan.
"Someone has to speak up for those families and their pets. We take care of our own. While we have taken the lead role in doing whatever we can to help, with our limited resources there is only so much we can do," he said.
CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.
A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]
The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.
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