Written By: Heather Clemenceau with contributions by Kathy Gregory
There are those who tell the truth. There are those who distort the truth. And then there’s the pro-slaughter myths and lies. You just know that whenever you see an article on “equine agriculture” that includes references to the Farm Bureau, you need to deploy your very best fact-checkers to keep them on their toes. We’re seeing a lot of falsehoods in the news concerning animal welfare activists, not that this is anything new – remember the claim by Charlie Stenholm that horse slaughterhouses were necessary to dispose of 9,000,000 unwanted horses per year, while employing 400,000 people (in three slaughter plants, no less)?
You’d think that an editor at one of the Big-Ag or Meat News Daily websites would cast a jaundiced eye on that claim, because it would mean that the number of people employed in the horse slaughter industry was roughly one third as large as everyone employed in the US military. Or, you could say that, comparatively speaking, those 400,000 people employed in horse slaughter are equivalent to 70% of the population of Wyoming and also more than the number of McDonald’s employees worldwide. Since these numbers were picked up by multiple news channels I can only assume that Stenholm’s office gave them bogus numbers.
I wrote earlier about the perpetuation of these bogus stats in a blog post, but there’s always a new campaign of lies and myths with corresponding inconvenient truths for the slaughter promoters. Refuting lies about horse abandonment, despite being proven to be largely without merit by the Equine Welfare Alliance, is as difficult as figuring out how to get smoke back in a cigarette (as one smart pro-horse person so cleverly put it).
The News Gazette of Illinois brings us an article about a group of so-called horse aficionados that starts out fairly well, but degenerates into standard fare horse slaughter propaganda. The group has about 450 members, but none of them ever heard the term “humane euthanasia.” And you know if the Farm Bureau has anything to say about horse slaughter, they’re going to be about as impartial as David Duke’s critical review of Alex Haley’s “Roots.”
After describing how much love the group has for horses, Illinois horse breeder Nancy Strunk then starts in with the pro-slaughter dogma……“If you have an old, broken-down horse that can’t be ridden, horse owners don’t know what to do with them. The owners used to take them to a market to produce meat, and now you have to take them to Mexico.” Strunk then went on to say that horse owners have resorted to setting their horses loose in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois and other places. Ms. Strunk then invited people interested in the equine committee and its activities to call the Farm Bureau. She lives in Illinois, so there’s really no excuse for ignorance, but a real horse lover on a fact-finding mission can uncover this fraud without much effort. Horse advocate Kathy Gregory saw her claim about abandonment in the article and actually picked up the phone and called the management at the Shawnee National Forest for clarification. Kathy presents a solid bit of sleuthing and fact checking that pulls the veil from the pro-slaughter efforts to mislead the public.
“Just for the heck of it, I called the Public Affairs office at the Shawnee National Forest Park, and spoke to a woman in Amanda Patrick’s office. She was completely puzzled by this statement from Ms Strunk, as she had heard nothing about any “abandoned horses”, but asked if she could call me back after checking with a couple people in the field offices. Later in the afternoon, she returned my call with the not-surprising-report that nobody in the Shawnee National Forest Park system had seen or heard about any “abandoned horses” on their land. Since the article ends by saying “Strunk invites people interested in the equine committee and its activities to call the Farm Bureau at 352-5235” I think I will.”
Here is an email response from the Shawnee National Forest Park:
“Mailroom R9 Shawnee | Mailroom_R9_Shawnee@fs.fed.us | Add to Contacts
Today, Tuesday, Mar 26 09:30 AM | Show Details | View source
Re: WWW Mail: abandoned horses?
Presently, we are not aware of any abandoned horses on the Shawnee National Forest lands.
Rebeccah Lampert Williams
Information Assistant-Shawnee National Forest
50 Highway 145 South
Harrisburg, IL 62946
1(800) 699-6637 1-(618) 253-7114”
So I think that about puts this little myth to rest. But Kathy’s “truthiness-o-meter” is always on alert for lies passing as facts as they pertain to horse abandonment. As we know, breed associations are often pretty guilty of spinning their own reality to justify slaughter. This includes the inevitable abandonment and suffering stats that they are prone to pulling out of their asses. Read the first half of an exchange Kathy had with the President of a breed association justifying slaughter with pants-on-fire lies:
“I have been a breeder for over 35 years and support the preservation of [redacted] horses. The problem with actions taken to ban horse slaughter are manifold and growing at an alarming rate, and it is not directed specifically at the [redacted] breed. It involves all breeds. The main problem is many people who have owned the “back yard pet” have lost interest or their children have quit riding, or thew [sic] parents have lost their job and can’t afford to feed their animals and can’t afford or won’t afford the cost of having the animals put down humanely by a vet. The net result is these unwanted horses are being dumped on public and military lands so the irresponsible owners don’t have to deal with the problem. We recently helped in the round up of dumped horses on the Ft. Lewis military reservation in the state of Washington. We ended up with over 1500 horses, all of which were put down at public expense because the military was not prepared to deal with such a major expense on a long term basis.
What our Board of Directors did was to endorse the re-establishment of USDA controlled slaughter houses authorized to humanely deal with old, sick, and otherwise unwanted horses. This endorsement provides a once viable disposal procedure to be re-established and remove the financial burden from the tax paying public. In really simple terms, the BOD said, “Be personally responsible for your decision to obtain a horse….don’t be a burden to the public because you made a bad decision”.
This man is apparently not describing something told to him about 1,500 abandoned horses – he claims to have been directly involved in a rescue effort. So I guess the BOD endorsed horse slaughter based in part on this man’s assertions that 1,500 horses were abandoned and euthanized at public expense. We all know how much the pro-slaughters are loathe to waste anything, so the idea that thousands of dollars of public money was used to euthanize these non-existent horses must have sent them clutching their coin purses! Presumably, he thought he could make this claim with zero evidence and coast by without being called on it due to his status as President. How many people repeated this claim in the absence of evidence of news reports? Kathy explains that…
“I attended one of the Region 5 meetings a number of years ago, and the then director stood at the podium and told the audience that there were so many “abandoned horses” being turned loose on the Fort Lewis military base, that soldiers were under orders to shoot them. Totally untrue, but can you imagine repeating this kind of thing?! A report of 1500 horses ‘dumped’ on a military reservation and euthanized at taxpayer expense is a very serious allegation, so I wanted to gather more facts before I made any comments public or otherwise.
I have made several calls like this in the past on behalf of [redacted] when we were attempting to get the [redacted] Association BOD to rescind their endorsement of slaughter. Unbelievably, the Secretary of the [redacted] had made similar claims about her homestate park and people “abandoning their horses” — it of course, like this assertion by Ms Strunk, was false. Deliberately so, it seems. The really outrageous claim was made by a Director (who was defending the pro-slaughter postion) in my state who claimed he had participated in a 1500 abandoned horse “round up” on a military base in Tacoma; he went even further stating all the horses had to be euthanized “at taxpayer expense”. After many phone calls to authorities on the military base, the local Humane Societies, Vet Clinics, and local media, it turned out to be one of the MOST outrageous fabrications I have ever personally dealt with.
Yes, I said “1500” — lol!!
“Part of the most successful rhetoric put forth by the pro-slaughter advocates has been the myth of ‘abandoned, starving, and neglected’ horses.
Just prior to the 2007 closure of the last horse slaughter facility in Illinois, speculation by opponents to the closure began. In an attempt to create anxiety among the general horse-owning public, they predicted a glut of horses would be abandoned and neglected by their owners as a result of the slaughter plants closing. Predictably, and soon after, rumors began to circulate about horses being ‘abandoned’ in state parks, forests, and even on private land. According to these rumors, horses were sometimes being abandoned on highways, creating hazardous conditions for drivers, they were left tied to trees, and even loaded into strangers’ empty horse trailers by their desperate owners.
I have called and spoken with:
1.) Dave Clouse, Biologist and Branch Chief of the Ft Lewis Fish and Wildlife Dept. (responsible for monitoring and managing any/all animals wild or domestic on the reservation)
2.) The Pierce County Humane Society.
3.) Fort Lewis Military Police Department
4.) Fort Lewis Animal Control
5.) NCO Martha Parker at the Ft Lewis/McChord Veterinary Treatment Facility.
None of the people I have spoken with have any knowledge of the ‘round up’ you have described. Myself, along with several others did a great deal of research trying to verify this report. We spoke with several local media outlets, locals who live around the base, military personnel, local veterinarians and even the nearest rendering company. As a resident of Washington State, I thought it odd that none of the local news outlets had picked up on this story. One station in particular, KOMO 4, dedicates a significant amount of time reporting on animal-welfare issues; surely they would have been aware of a story like this. Myself, along with several others did a great deal of research trying to verify this report. We spoke with several local media outlets, locals who live around the base, military personnel, local veterinarians and even the nearest rendering company. Ultimately, the story presented at the Region V convention turned out to be an absolute, total, fabrication.The only thing we were able to verify was that this rumor has continued to circulate since 2007, just after the closure of the last horse slaughterhouse in Illinois.”
The bottom line is, the President was caught misrepresenting the horse abandonment issue, and when the statements were brought to his attention in no uncertain terms, he refused to acknowledge any of it. Of course after this the conversation went deadly silent, and like many pro-slaughter Pinocchios, the President slunk away after his claim was proven to be utterly unsubstantiated.
The more these stories were repeated, the more we saw them take on a life of their own. They became truth to many in the horse industry who were saddened to hear of such reports, and while conflicted about slaughter, began to believe that it was the better alternative for horses facing such neglect and abuse. As a result, many compassionate horse owners who do not want horse slaughter have been convinced that it is necessary. And I’m puzzled, to use a diplomatic euphemism, why the Farm Bureau, which supports farming, agriculture, and corporate interests, can endorse the slaughter of a non-food animal which is not raised for food under food safety guidelines.