Written by: Heather Clemenceau
If you’re not already familiar with the writer/blogger/photographer Jon Katz, you may have seen a post he wrote this week entitled, “Rethinking the Ethics of Animal Rescue,” which isn’t the first of his blogs to raise a few hackles in the animal rights/welfare communities. Many of Katz’ comments aren’t much of a departure from what you might read from the Cavalry Group about animals being “property.” And he is such a prolific producer of voluminous blogs defending the working conditions of New York City carriage horses that he probably qualifies as his own “content mill.” The commercial carriage trade heavily promotes Katz’ articles, despite telling everyone not to listen to anyone who is not a horse person. Well, Mr. Katz isn’t a horse person either. He writes lyrical praise about what he sees and is told, from his myopic viewpoint on animals. He takes pretty pictures with a camera that he crowdsourced. And bizarrely, he promotes horse slaughter as humane, while protesting that NYC carriage horses and other horses will be slaughtered if not kept “employed.”
“Ponies are going to slaughter because it is now considered abuse for children to ride them…” ~Jon Katz
I strongly suspect that Mr. Katz often writes just to push buttons and blatantly troll people. I’ve literally forced myself to read these and other plodding and sanctimonious posts set on his rural hobby farm, for “research purposes.” Despite living on a working farm, Katz’ writing reveals that he really doesn’t seem to know much at all about animals, especially farm animals. He whines constantly about having to care for them, the cold weather, his barn chores, and his dogs. It is a recurring theme of Mr. Katz’ that horses and other animals all need work in order to justify their existence, which is also why he is so churchy and moralizing about horse rescues in particular. But not all horse rescues – he actively promotes Blue Star Equiculture since presumably, they will continue to work horses on the farm rather than fulfilling the “emotionalized fantasies of humans” by letting them do nothing at all. Katz certainly doesn’t ascribe many emotions to animals, yet despite this he is convinced that they are happy and seek self-actualization in their lives via the protestant work ethic.
“It is the cruelest kind of abuse to take carriage horses away from their human beings and force them onto rescue farms, where they will have no human contact, no work and nothing to do but eat hay and drop manure.”
“Scores of elephants will be out of work over the next year or so.” ~ in reference to Ringling’s decision to retire circus elephants.
But now back to the blog post in question……IMO this story about a horse named “Arthur” is nothing more than a piece of very imaginative writing the author is trying to pass off as fact. Katz really channels his inner Sue Wallis when he claims that horse slaughter is humane and that “Arthur,” who surely never existed, was sent on a documented trip to a Mexican slaughter plant that took 11 days…..
“The local slaughterhouse was close by, and was well-known for being humane. Slaughter was quick and painless, the horse and animal owners were always invited to come and watch if they wished, for their own peace of mind and to accompany their animals on their final passage.”
At the time of writing this, which Katz tells us was two years ago, there were no “local slaughterhouses” in the US and hadn’t been for several years. There were certainly no slaughterhouses that invited you inside to watch the carnage, or what he so comfortingly refers to as “their final passage.” Slaughterhouses well known for their humanity? Real animal lovers and especially horse advocates need to speak out in condemnation of such sanctimonious fakery. We’re expected to believe that someone who knew “Arthur” tracked his movements across the US to Mexico for slaughter and reported on how little he was fed or watered during his supposed 11 days in transit. If Katz knew anything about transport to slaughter, he would know that horses aren’t watered at all on tractor trailers, and despite all the injustices and cruelty inherent in transporting horses or other livestock, no trip can take 11 days – legally or practically. A horse on a transport trailer for 11 days is a dead horse. And then he seems to express disgust that “Arthur” died by a “3 inch nail to the head.” How did he think most horses were guided on their way to their “final passage?”
“Arthur, an old draft horse, was purchased for $200, taken to a feedlot where he was given little to eat, according to a relative of James who tracked his journey and tried to save him, put on a trailer and driven for 11 days through summer heat without ever once being allowed to move around or walk outside.”
*Note to horse rescuers – this “relative of James” is pretty useless isn’t he? If he wanted to save “Arthur,” assuming neither of them are figments of Katz’ imagination, why didn’t he rescue him after the owner supposedly died? There were at least two opportunities to do so. In the full post Katz also manages to squeeze in a condemnation about horse rescues in this fabricated scenario, claiming that the rescue wasn’t financially solvent and then took “James” to an auction where he was bought by a kill buyer! And where in the world are the pics of “Arthur?” They must surely be the only photographs Katz has never published.
“ James’s mind failed before he resolved Arthur’s fate. He had to leave his farm and could not bury Arthur there, as he hoped. The horse was too old to give away. James was not aware that the people who claim to speak for the rights of animals had lobbied Congress and state legislators to make the slaughterhouses of America illegal. Many functioned in rural communities close to the people in their communities. The animal rights groups were successful, there are no longer any horse slaughterhouses left in the United States.”
Katz seems to think that there were horse slaughterhouses in every community? In 2007, the last three now shuttered horse slaughterhouses operating in the US were Beltex, Cavel, and Dallas Crown and I doubt that the citizens of Kaufman, Texas in particular were too thrilled by the Dallas Crown plant operating so close in their community.
My difficulty with Katz’ writings go far beyond the issue I have with horses and slaughter. He continually indicts himself as a cold-hearted simpleton, and his animal care is little short of abysmal. The hobby farm itself is sometimes justified as an experiment to “rehab” his life – more likely it is an experiment to cash in on dog writing and passing oneself off as an expert with border collie and herding dog behaviours. He regularly denounces adoptions from dog shelters and promotes purchasing dogs from breeders. His farm animals all seem to meet with an early demise too – after he opined about his close connection to a lamb born on the farm, the lamb became “stricken.” No vet was called…for after all, it was a “farm” animal and therefore a part of the natural order of life and death. This little lamb suffered for days, not even nursing, while appearing disoriented. Finally, it was decided by Jon and his wife that they should “euthanize” him with a shotgun. He then put the dead lamb out in a back field for animals to eat. Katz is always quick to rally to the defense of farmers accused of neglect of their animals. His perspective on the Joshua Rockwood farm seizure case is that animals are property and meddling busybodies in the animal rights community should not intervene. He has no idea whether the allegations against Rockwood are legitimate or not, but that is his stance.
“We have begun to worship animals at the expensive of people, granted them rights that people do not have, use them to promote the hatred of people, to make it difficult, dangerous or expensive to keep animals in our every day lives. The movement that goes by the name of animals rights is driving animals away from people at an accelerating rate, removing them from the world.”
Anyone who uses holocaust terminology to describe AR activists, whom he likens to Nazis, is not someone I’d want on my team. Pets and farm animals are commodities that he expects to get rid of when their batteries run down or they become inconvenient. Everything on his farm gets sick, becomes neurotic, and either is euthanized or taken out back and dispatched. All his animals become tiresome, but are milked one more time in death, until a new one is acquired and the cycle begins anew.
Read James Herriot instead.
A Vow to Make to Your Companion Animal
“I will be your loyal companion from this day forward. Even more important, I will be your protector. You have my solemn promise that I will, to the absolute utmost that my strength and resources permit, protect you against all the hurts that life can hold, whether they be physical or emotional. You can depend on me for this. I will never let you down.
And when any hurts become such that all of my efforts cannot effectively alleviate them, I will place your needs above mine, your suffering over my own, and use the only means left to protect you from those hurts. I will deliver you comfort by bringing your pains to an end, not because I will be ready to let go, but because, to protect you, I will have to say goodbye. I know you will count on me at that difficult time to protect you, and I will be there for you, right by your side.
Should my passing come first, you need not worry, because I will have made all the provisions for your care, safekeeping, and happiness.
Fear not, because when death ends our physical togetherness, our emotional bond will never end. You will be a part of my heart forever. I promise.”
Credited to Kathryn Lance