Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Tale Of Two Wildies

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Family Picnic,  by Melody Perez

Family Picnic, by Melody Perez – http://www.runninghorses.org

 

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

These famous lines, which open “A Tale of Two Cities,” hint at the novel’s central tension between love and hatred. Indeed, the subject of opposite “pairs” is one of the major themes of Charles Dickens’ novel.

I’m reminded of both the similarities and differences between the wild horses of Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia and those of western Canada. How unequally treated they are in the eyes of the government!  On the one hand, the Sable Island horses are romanticized as being the descendants of shipwrecked horses, while the wild horses residing in Alberta and British Columbia however, not treated with such sentimentality. They are considered to be feral, inbred, and worthless, while spreading parasites and disease to other ungulates in the area. Both groups of present-day horses, however, are descendants of animals brought to these areas in the 1700s. When horses galloped across what would become the US border onto Alberta’s prairies, it was a bit of an overdue homecoming, having been perhaps 10,000 years since the province’s grasslands shuddered under equine hooves. Despite geography, all these horses share a common ancestry, as fossils indicate that North America is the original home of the horse where it first appeared millions of years ago. Yet both groups of horses are viewed in decidedly different fashions, primarily because up to this point, unlike Alberta, there have been no resources of interest that can be easily extracted from Sable Island.

Sable Island Horses tonemappedThe 42 km long, 1 km wide crescent-shaped island, really a large sandbar, is a remnant of the Wisconsin glacial deposit made between 10,000 and 45,000 years ago. The present population of 350-400 horses are the ancestors of horses used in a government operation established to assist ship-wrecked seafarers. The island, located about 290 km off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, became Canada’s 43rd National Park in June 2013 – the first national park in the middle of a petroleum field. Perhaps because of this, the Bill to designate Sable Island a national park reserve was very nearly derailed in the House of Commons.

The possible pedigrees of these horses, who generally fall between 13 – 15 hh and range in colour from chestnuts to bays and blacks, with some horses bearing light coloured manes and tales, is unknown, but could consist of a number of breeds popular at the time, including ponies and drafts. Unlike the Alberta and BC wildies who are exposed to interference by people – fertility control, culling, round-ups, etc. the Sable Island horses are among the few wild horse populations that are entirely unmanaged.

It’s important to note that the Sable Island horses themselves are not directly protected, but rather the island itself is, historically under the “Canada Shipping Act,” not surprisingly, since the island is a hazard to marine vessels and the area nearby is a graveyard to about 350 ships and thousands of sailors. This protection is tenuous and exists only as long as the Canadian Coast Guard operates a station there. Since 1801, when the life-saving stations were established, there has been a continuous government presence on the island. In 2008, the Nova Scotia government designated the horses one of the official provincial symbols and they are also the official horse of Nova Scotia. The horses have the same status as other wildlife on the island, such as grey seals, roseate terns and the Ipswich savannah sparrow – undisturbed except where research permits are provided by Parks Canada. Biological samples are only taken from animals that have died of natural causes. Based on meticulous records of which horses have gone missing and how many carcasses have been found, it’s estimated that remains have been found for the majority of the horses that have been on the island for about the past 30 years.

Up to this point there have been no resources of interest to extract from the island itself, although that could change in the future. Because of the reserve status, there is a legal ban on surface drilling on the island, out to one nautical mile. horses on the dunes tonemappedThe designation as a national park reserve still allows for horizontal drilling underneath the island and low-level seismic testing on top of the island. The Sable Offshore Energy Project produces between 400 and 500 million cubic feet (14,000,000 m3) of natural gas and 20,000 barrels (3,200 m3) of natural gas liquids every day. But the government estimates there is $2.4 billion worth of natural gas and oil directly underneath Sable Island. However, it is too expensive to extract those resources with current technology. ExxonMobil, Shell Canada, Imperial Oil and other consortium partners have the exploration rights in the area. Environmental groups say the Bill designating the island as protected is not perfect because it allows for potential future development in and around the island.

In stark contrast to the status of the Sable Island horses, Alberta’s government announced in January it would give out licences to capture 200 of the free-roaming wild horses. There are no restrictions on what may be done with them either – while some could be domesticated, trained and sold to private homes, any others, including pregnant mares, older horses, and infirm horses, can be sold to slaughter.

According to the Ministry of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, there are too many horses in the area, and they are competing for resources with cattle (a non-native species) and wildlife. These wild horses inhabit crown land territory of 23,000 km2. That is one horse for every 23 km2. This is very low density. The committee that made this decision included groups with a conflict of interest such as cattle ranchers (one of whom was issued a permit to capture horses), OHV (off-highway vehicle users) and the forestry industry. In addition to pressure by industry, there is also an historical sense of entitlement by certain groups, including hunters, trappers, rodeo suppliers, and outfitters. These groups all claim that roughly 900 or fewer horses have somehow decreased the population of deer and elk. All claim these “feral” horses threaten their use/exploitation of the land and its resources. The Conservative government of Alberta, formerly under Alison Redford, has close ties to the most powerful stake holders, oil and gas, the beef industry and forestry.

Stake holder list:

  • Alberta Equestrian Foundation & Alberta Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada
  • Alberta Farm Animal Care Association
  • Alberta Fish and Game Association
  • Alberta Professional Outfitters Society
  • Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA has withdrawn from the committee, even though they state that they did not know about it at the beginning, they also had not attended any of the previous meetings)
  • Alberta Veterinary Medical Association
  • Alberta Wilderness Association
  • Capture License Holder
  • Livestock Identification Services Ltd.
  • Rangeland Expert at the University of Alberta
  • RCMP Livestock Investigator
  • Rocky Mountain Forest Range Association
  • Spray Lake Sawmills
  • Sundre Forest Products
  • Wild Horses of Alberta Society
Alberta Wildies tonemapped

Photography by Ken Mcleod

A scientifically valid headcount of the horses has not been done since March 2013, before the flooding last June, and before the heavy snowfall this winter, both of which are believed by horse advocacy groups in the area to have taken a toll on the herd’s numbers. Despite not possessing an accurate count of the horses, the PC government insisted on moving ahead with the cull without a clear objective or enough scientific data to support it. Therefore, the government has operated blindly using misinformation to justify their actions. Various talking heads in government capacities also bizarrely claim that the wild horses have no known predators. There is absolutely no science behind any of their claims of rangeland degradation by the horses. It is a fact that domestic livestock grazing reduces wildlife populations by competing for food, water, and space, and degrading habitat. Habitat degradation caused by grazing also exposes prey species to increased predation (due to lost vegetative cover for concealment and escape), resulting in further declines in those populations. The vast majority of forage and water resources in the West are devoted to domestic livestock grazing.

Ultimately, only 15 horses were captured, despite the covert behaviour of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) leading up to the 2014 capture season. By no means did ESRD demonstrate any commitment to the recommendations of a clear and transparent, honest communication amongst all stakeholders, which was tabled at the Feral Horse Advisory Committee. In fact, ESRD repeatedly denied capture permits were issued when numerous inquiries were put to them in the weeks preceding the announcement. Jason Bradley (one of two individuals to whom the original permit for 200 horses was ultimately issued – Brynn Thiessen is the second.  Two other former permit owners declined to participate this year), is on the Steering Committee and was therefore provided with advance information about the issuance of his capture permit so that he could prepare his site in advance, while withholding that information from other members of the Steering Committee and members of the general public. This is a clear conflict-of-interest. Of these captured horses, three mares, possibly heavily in foal, were removed, sold to a third party and apparently slaughtered within a scant few days, despite Alberta Horse Industry (and therefore Canadian Food Inspection Agency) regulations that state that “at least six continuous months of documented acceptable history is required for an equine presented for processing in an establishment inspected by CFIA.”

So,  by an accident of geography, the Sable Island horses are left alone to enjoy their days free from human interference. It’s not that the government values the horses themselves, but unlike the Alberta wildies, they have no reason at this time

Ken McLeod Horses tonemapped

Photography by Ken Mcleod

to disturb them. Now the future of Sable Island and the Station is in question, and the Canadian government is considering various options – one of which is to close the Station, thus ending 200 years of full-time human presence and stewardship. This option, combined with the encroachment of companies who are interested in oil and natural gas exploration would put not only the horses, but all the island’s flora and fauna at serious risk.

You can be sure if gas or oil could be easily extracted from Sable Island,  or the grass growing on the island was found to be of benefit to cattle grazing, then all of a sudden there would be too many horses on the island and a “management” plan would have to be implemented.

Please register your complaints about the handling of the Alberta free-roaming horses with the following individuals/agencies:
Livingston, Don

Land Management / Planning Forester
Land and Range Management
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
2nd fl Provincial Building
4919 – 51 Street
Rocky Mountain House, AB
T4T 1B3
Phone: 403 845-8236
Fax: 403 845-4750
E-mail: don.livingston@gov.ab.ca

Kesseler, Rob

Unit Lead, Integrated Operations
Rangeland Integration Section
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
4th fl Great West Life Building
9920 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2M4
Phone: 780 422-4568
Fax: 780 422-0454
E-mail: rob.kesseler@gov.ab.ca

Newsham, Helen

Section Head
Rangeland Integration Section
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
4th fl Great West Life Building
9920 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2M4
Phone: 780 427-4764
Fax: 780 422-0454
E-mail: helen.newsham@gov.ab.ca

Campbell, Robin, Honourable

Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource
Development, Government House Leader
Members of Executive Council
Executive Branch
323 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B6
Phone: 780 427-2391
Fax: 780 422-6259

Hancock, Dave,  Honourable

Premier
Office of the Premier
Executive Branch
307 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B6
Phone: 780 427-2251
Fax: 780 427-1349
E-mail: premier@gov.ab.ca

Booth, Nikki

Issues Manager
Communications
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
12th fl Petroleum Plaza ST
9915 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2G8
Phone: 780 427-6233
Fax: 780 422-6339
E-mail: nikki.booth@gov.ab.ca

Sancartier, Carrie

Public Affairs Officer
Communications
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
12th fl Petroleum Plaza ST
9915 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2G8
Phone: 780 644-8372
Fax: 780 422-6339
E-mail: carrie.sancartier@gov.ab.ca

 

Legends of the Dance by Melody Perez

Legends of the Dance by Melody Perez – http://www.runninghorses.org

 

 

 

 

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Death In The Fast Lane: Reaction to PeTA Exposé

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peta - horses aren't machines

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

It used to be that phenylbutazone was what got a horse disqualified from a race. Dancer’s Image became the only winner in the Kentucky Derby’s 134-year history to be disqualified for using a banned substance, when bute was found in his urine sample after the race in 1968. Two years after Secretariat’s recordbreaking US Triple Crown took the sport to a new level of popularity, the breakdown and death of Ruffian brought on a new era of safety concerns.

Analysis of horse carcasses submitted to the CHRB Postmortem Program revealed that 40.9% of all fatal injuries occurred during racing and training in 3-4 year old racehorses. Injuries, unlike accidents, do not happen by chance. The science of injury prevention has demonstrated that injuries and the events leading up to injuries are not random. Like disease, they tend to follow a general pattern. Studying these patterns has made it possible to learn to predict and prevent injuries from occurring, Yet this type of knowledge is ignored when pitted against the profit incentive of racing.

PETA-Kentucky-Derby-3As a result, many fallen jockeys have found that their mounts eventually became wheelchairs after they were paralysed in falls by their horses or horses they were trailing who should have been scratched from races. In 1990, apprentice jockey Benny Narvaez was paralyzed from the chest down after his horse threw him while jumping over another horse who had broken down directly in front of him during a race at Tampa Bay Downs. A jury found that Tampa Bay Downs was responsible for Narvaez’s injury because the track veterinarian failed to perform an adequate pre-race examination on the horse he was trailing. That horse’s pre-existing conditions had been cloaked by drugs a few days before the race.

So the recent PeTA expose of trainers Steve Asmussen and Scott Blasi in the New York Times wasn’t all that surprising, except in how quickly it went viral and how many racing fans jumped into the fray to excoriate PeTA. This wasn’t just about anyone – these guys who are accused are at the top. Asmussen has built one of horse racing’s largest operations. He ranks second in career victories, with more than 6,700; has earned more than $214 million in purses. But now they are accused of subjecting their horses to cruel and injurious treatments, administering drugs to them for nontherapeutic purposes, and having one of their jockeys use an electrical device to shock horses into running faster. Asmussen and Blasi are also accused of employing undocumented workers, requiring them to use false names on Internal Revenue Service forms, producing false identification documents, according to the complaints filed with state and federal agencies. Asmussen also paid the PeTA investigator $5.95 an hour — less than minimum wage — and did not pay proper overtime wages, according to complaints filed with the labour departments of Kentucky and New York. In 2012 the Asmussen Horse Center dumped 10 of their bred mares at one of the biggest kill buyer auctions in Texas, so they hardly sound like an upstanding group of people.

Sport of Kings,  or exercise in controlled chaos?

Nehro, the horse in the surveillance video, was acknowledged to be in pain and needed to be retired, yet still he continued to train. On the morning of last year’s Kentucky Derby, Nehro got sick on the backside of Churchill Downs and later died from colic in a van on the way to the hospital. In all likelihood,  he may have had ulcers from excess medication with bute,  which may have contributed to his colic.  Blasi and the farrier spent so much time conspiring in that barn that they were unaware everything they said and did was being recorded by an investigator who used a hidden camera to record terrible mistreatment. Ultimately, PeTA filed 10 complaints with the state and federal authorities.

I’m surprised at the vitriol hurled against PeTA for this undercover work. Lots of defensiveness and doubling-down, shoot-the-messenger type comments on the various message boards, including that of the New York Times. Lots of 1111111_1024debate also as to whether the farrier was referring to Nehro not having a pulse in either his legs or his feet being as  good thing or not. A horse’s foot is highly vascularized – circulation is needed to help them function and repair damage. A healthy pulse in either foot or leg is faint, but discernible, especially to an experienced vet. In the context of the video, Blasi and the farrier are complaining about Nehro’s foot being a “nub” with an enormous painful hole in the frog and hoof walls held together by glue. A horse with such extensive hoof damage should have an strong bounding pulse due to inflammation. The lack of pulse despite such physical evidence of damage suggests heavy duty dosages of painkillers that are numbing both blood flow and pain responses to the feet. It sure seems medically unlikely that a horse could have such holes in the frog and hoof wall and simultaneously have no pulse unless drugs are being used to mask the pain.

While PeTA has always had some serious credibility issues for me, I’ve always thought that their investigative work was first-rate. Problematic for me is that they’ve long been accused of objectifying women for their cause. Between a banned Super Bowl ad claiming that vegetarians have better sex and their “Save the Whales, Lose the Blubber” campaign, it often felt to me as if PeTA was promoting animal rights at the cost of the women’s movement – issues that are both paramount for me. A quick browse through their print campaigns clearly shows that while women are often depicted naked, with few exceptions, men are depicted clothed. The problem is that, after looking at half-naked celebrities, few people want to sign a petition or take action. And aggressive and often misguided attempts by various Huffington Post authors to discredit PeTA have had some impact – I’m seeing the oft-repeated mantra of their articles perpetuated in other social media channels. These so-called journalists are confusing the provision of a quick and painless end to what would otherwise be a miserable life, with a gleefully murderous objective. PeTA is not killing animals for amusement or for profit.

peta quote 1

Another huge gaffe for PeTA caused intense frustration amongst horse people who were lobbying furiously against horse slaughter in the US in 2013, when they misguidedly proclaimed that slaughter should return to the US as it was the “lesser of two evils” – the other evil being long transport to slaughter in Canada or Mexico. Imagine how shocked horse advocates were to hear pro-Ag and pro-slaughter mouthpieces quoting PeTA back to us! Exasperatingly, the PeTA statement in favour of a return to horse slaughter was one of the main reasons the Oklahoma horse slaughter law passed. The legislators used that statement as a banner. Yet PeTA is an anti-slaughter group and they promote the passage of the S.A.F.E. Act.

I’ve included some of their print campaigns against racing in this blog post. I think these ones are a lot more thought provoking than the ads featuring naked celebs. But it was a few undercover campaigns that really put them on the map. Whatever you think of them, you’d probably have to acknowledge that they have really demonstrated their ability to create dialogue about things that many people hold sacred, such as circuses and animal labs. Over the past 30 years, PeTA has aggressively assailed corporations for the way they treat animals. But the Asmussen/Blasi investigation was PETA’s first significant step into advocacy in the horse racing world.

The Silver Spring Monkey Investigation

One of PeTA’s founders, a student named Alex Pacheco, set out to gain some experience in a laboratory and began working undercover at the Institute for Behavioral Research.   IBR was a federally funded laboratory in AB004594Silver Spring, Maryland, run by psychologist and animal experimenter Edward Taub, a man with no medical training. There, Pacheco found 17 monkeys living in tiny wire cages that were caked with years of accumulated feces.

“The monkeys were subjected to debilitating surgeries in which their spinal nerves were severed, rendering one or more of their limbs useless. Through the use of electric shock, food deprivation, and other methods, the monkeys were forced to try to regain the use of their impaired limbs or go without food. In one experiment, monkeys were kept immobile in a dark chamber made out of a converted refrigerator and then repeatedly shocked until they finally used their disabled arm. The inside of the refrigerator was covered with blood. In another experiment, monkeys were strapped into a crude restraint chair—their waist, ankles, wrists, and neck held in place with packing tape—and pliers were latched as tightly as possible onto their skin, including onto their testicles.”

The trauma of the monkeys’ imprisonment and treatment was so severe that many of them had ripped at their own flesh, and they had lost many of their fingers from catching them in the rusted, jagged cage bars. Workers often neglected to feed the monkeys, and the animals would desperately pick through the waste beneath their cages to find something to eat.

PeTA gathered meticulous log notes detailing what was happening inside IBR and secretly photographed the horrible living conditions. Then, after lining up expert witnesses and showing them around the laboratory at night, PeTA took the evidence to the police—and an intense, decade-long battle for custody of the monkeys ensued. Their investigation led to the nation’s first arrest and criminal conviction of an animal experimenter for cruelty to animals, the first confiscation of abused animals from a laboratory.

Peta quote 5

The Japanese Horse Slaughter Investigation

As many as 20,000 horses are slaughtered each year in Japan, partly because of overbreeding of thoroughbreds in the U.S., where racehorses are exploited as disposable commodities.

PeTA’s 2009 horse slaughter investigation took place inside Japan’s largest horse slaughterhouse in Kumamoto. Horsemeat from Claude Bouvry’s plant also makes its way to Kumamoto. Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand was sold to a Japanese breeder and a few years later, when they were done with him, he was unceremoniously slaughtered. PeTA also discovered that Derby and Preakness winners Charismatic and War Emblem are at breeding farms in Japan right now. With their useful breeding days winding down, they are likely to share the fate of Ferdinand. For all I know,  War Emblem may in fact already be dead, since he was something of a failure as a stud and he would now be 15 years old.

peta quote 4

Articles about animal abuse always bring out both the best and the worst of internet posters. In this scenario, racing fans were quick to come up with some flimsy reason why the investigation is bogus, or perpetually ask why we care more for animals than people, make protestations about edited video and the need to provide context, complaints about PeTA’s methods, and any number of other defensive reactions that illuminate how little we want to actually examine our role in the ongoing suffering of animals.

Peta quote 3

The lawyer for Asmussen and Blasi is apparently shocked that someone would go undercover to actually expose the relentless abuse, avarice and greed they visited on these horses. Ironically, Blasi and Asmussen are probably going to see the greatest censure visited on them as a result of the identity falsification charges; after 9/11, this is probably going to be taken pretty seriously – probably more so than the abuse charges. So, an investigation about mistreatment of horses also involved the mistreatment of the human beings who took care of the horses. And If a horse needs electric shock to run faster, then it is no longer the “sport of kings,” but a matter of chaos, controlled by whoever has the biggest cattle prod.

Northern Dancer

Northern Dancer won the American Eclipse Award as Three-Year Old Male Champion of 1964 and the Sovereign Award for Horse of the Year. In 1965, he became the first horse to ever be voted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, an honour he held for thirty-one years and now shares with Canadian Equestrian Champion Big Ben. On its formation, he was part of the first group of inductees into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1976. In 1977, Northern Dancer won three world sires’ premiership titles being for the number of international stakes winners, international stakes wins and progeny stake earnings. He was retired from stud in 1987 at the age of 26. He died in 1990 and is buried at Windfields Farm in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Windfields Farm has subsequently been abandoned, and Northern Dancer’s burial site is not publicly accessible. This is the life-sized bronze statue of him outside Woodbine Race Track in northwest Toronto. While tenderness in a tendon ended his career, he belongs to an “old-school” period when horses weren’t run on thyroxine or frog juice.  He did not continue to race on drugs for years with broken-down legs or feet.  Nor was he sent to slaughter after his breeding days were over.

 

 

Atlanta Carriage Conference Highlights Huge Conflict of Interest for Police Department

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Glitter on the toes cannot hide the fact that this horse is very underweight.

Glitter on the toes cannot hide the fact that this Atlanta carriage horse is very underweight.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Recently,  CONA  (Carriage Operators of North America) which is supposed to be a professional organization for carriage operators,  held their 2014 convention in Atlanta, Georgia.  CONA represents the interests of both special events livery operations as well as the hackline carriages in NYC and elsewhere, although now with two NYC Board of Directors, it would seem that the group’s interest is evolving more towards hackline operations.   Both Nottingham Shire & Carriage  and Fantasy Carriage of Atlanta run curbside operations waiting for fares in downtown Atlanta.  Neither carriage operator’s website depicts what the horse and carriage accommodations really look like, and the Fantasy Carriage website doesn’t even show a pic of a single horse.  There’s a good reason for that.

Complaints about these two operations include, but aren’t limited to inadequate housing facilities for the equines – terrible windowless dungeon-like accommodations or run-in sheds only, as well as….

  • Bad shoeing
  • Lame horses
  • Paddocks filled with deep mud
  • Diaper bags that constantly leak the contents down horses legs
  • Horses in downtown traffic
  • Driving infractions
  • Horses that are retired as unfit being seen on the street shortly thereafter
  • Lack of identification for individual horses
  • Drivers hired and expected to perform their jobs without  general horse knowledge…
  • …and a lack of available water troughs anywhere in the city beyond the confines of the stables themselves.  (Water supplies having been turned off to prevent homeless people from accessing them – speaks volumes about the attitudes towards the homeless too, doesn’t it?)

But one of the most critical problems with the horse drawn carriage industry in Atlanta is lack of enforcement of the laws that govern the carriages and protect the working horses. In Atlanta, the horse drawn carriage

The back of Fantasy Carriage Stables.  Not exactly taken from a page in Martha Stewart Weddings.

The back of Fantasy Carriage Stables. Not exactly taken from a page in Martha Stewart Weddings.

regulations are supposed to be enforced by the officers of the Division of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire, a department headed up by someone who also spoke on behalf of the carriage industry at the CONA convention.  Cedric Burse, a public sector employee working in the police force, has delivered a segment on “dealing with annoying animal rights activists.” Here’s how his talk was described in the CONA agenda:

“CEDRIC A BURSE, Director, Bureau of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire, City of Atlanta Do you need inspiration when it comes to dealing with annoying animal rights activists in your town? Ever wonder about improving communication with your city and your carriage business? Cedric Burse will be discussing these topics among other subjects as he discusses Stakesholders in Atlanta. Included in his conversation he will be discussing his challenges with animal rights activists regarding the horse drawn carriage industry in Atlanta and his unique approach to address the issues regarding both sides. His experience will help you prepare to handle potential problems that may arise in your town. Burse brings twenty years of leadership and management experience to the Atlanta Police Department’s Taxicab and Vehicles for Hire Section.”

Nottingham Carriages Stable after a rain.  The carriage storage area is far superior to the area where the horses have to live,  which is only a run-in shed. Note the raised railway or interstate.  I'm sure they must have fixed it up since the CONA people were going to tour the place - but I guess this is what it looks like when visitors are not expected.  By law, for the care of these horses to comply with the definition of “humane care” they must be provided with shelter from the elements.

Nottingham Carriages Stable after a rain. The carriage storage area is far superior to the area where the horses have to live, which is only a run-in shed. Note the raised railway or interstate. I’m sure they must have fixed it up since the CONA people were going to tour the place – but I guess this is what it looks like when visitors are not expected. By law, for the care of these horses to comply with the definition of “humane care” they must be provided with shelter from the elements.

What is a member of the police force doing advising a private group how to handle lawful protesters and possibly, avoid the law?  And why not counsel these two members of CONA in raising the standards of living for their animals and putting some decent weight on many of them?  Voluntarily fixing a lot of these issues would mean fewer complaints from animal activists,  would it not?

Aside from being an all-around bad idea, Burse’s talk appears to be a rather problematic conflict of interest.  His impartiality and the impartiality of his department now becomes suspect.  In a worse-case scenario, conflict can become misconduct.

Burse holds a position where he may be required to mete out criticism or enforcement to carriage owners, which apparently hardly anyone ever does, because those charged with enforcing the laws are either unwilling or unable to recognize violations or health/lameness issues with horses.  Judging by the agenda description alone, Burse’s little talk does not appear to be any sort of “conflict resolution” themed presentation, but one of dealing with people who make justifiable criticisms of their industry.  The Atlanta Police do have a code of ethics where they are expected to disclose incompatible interests, even though it is better not to allow such conflicts to present themselves in the first place.

Overall, there seems to be a disturbing amount of confusion as to who has the responsibility of enforcing the ordinances relating to the horse drawn carriages. On multiple occasions, officers of the Atlanta Police Department have ignored or refused to respond to calls if the subject of the call was the horse drawn carriages. The Department of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire does not staff an officer at all times the carriages are in operation. On occasions when someone from that department has responded, officers have stated they are not comfortable issuing citations to the carriage drivers because they lack sufficient training and/or knowledge to enforce the ordinances as it relates to equines and/or the equine drawn vehicles.

The issue of enforcement for infractions has been a longstanding problem for Atlanta’s urban horses.  Naturally, all public sector officials have a duty to put the public interest above their own personal or private interests when carrying out their official duties.  They cannot put the interests or individuals or groups ahead of that of the community, or in the case of Atlanta carriage horses – the animals themselves.  If officials have conflicts that are unavoidable, they need to be totally up-front about those conflicts, be they financial, ideological, or personal. Even the appearance alone of a conflict is detrimental to law enforcement activities.

Liam Neeson – High-Horse Hypocrite

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hollywood hypocrisy

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Let’s face it, Schindler’s List would not have been the same calibre movie with say, Kevin Costner in the lead role.  Liam Neeson is a commanding presence and a great actor. But I’m not feelin’ it for Mr. Neeson any longer, and don’t see myself watching any more of his movies.  Truthfully, I think he’s a bit of a doofus.

The_Grey_PosterNeeson fell out of favour with me starting with his role preparation for the movie “The Grey,” filmed in Canada with British Columbia subbing in for Alaska.  While other actors may prepare for a role in harsh climate or conditions by showering every day for 10 minutes in a cold shower, Neeson prepped for role immersion by eating the meat of a trapped wolf.  At a press conference to promote the movie, Neeson, who was born in County Antrim, said that while some cast members had been sick after eating the wolf meat, he was not fazed by the experience. “I’m Irish, so I’m used to odd stews,” was his attempt at explanation.

In January 2012, British Columbia’s The Province featured an article about the movie’s buying four wolf carcasses from a local trapper, two for props for the movie and two wolves for the cast to eat. Naturally, this act angered environmentalists and animal activists, who were already irate that the movie depicted wolves in a negative light, specifically at a time when gray wolves had recently been removed from the Endangered Species Act in many western American states.  But Sarah Palin gives it five stars! Both the film’s director and Neeson knew, or should have known, that leghold traps are one of the worst ways to kill an animal.  Most animals caught in these traps end up chewing, or nearly chewing off their ensnared limbs in order to escape. Miscellaneous species of animals,  caught in traps intended for fur-bearing targets are killed and then discarded because of their lack of value.  I think leghold traps should be illegal everywhere due to the suffering inflicted, so the ensuing criticism that was heaped on both men was perfectly valid, IMO.

Fast forward to 2014, Neeson has become the unofficial and much vaunted (hat tip to Glen) spokesperson for the NYC carriage trade, whose existence is threatened by Mayor DeBlasio’s edict to remove the carriage operators from New York City.  His ad-hoc discussion of the urban carriage trade wasn’t exactly endorsed by Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show,  where Neeson appeared earlier this week.  Interjecting the issue of the carriage horses was a risk that didn’t quite pay off for Neeson since Stewart rejected his position.

In case the video goes away, here’s a transcript:

NEESON: He wants to close this horse and carriage industry in New York. And there was a poll last week, over 60 percent of New Yorkers want to keep the horse carriage industry in Central Park.

STEWART: Maybe if they put it in the park. I feel bad – we actually live right next door to them. And I always feel bad for them on the streets. It seems like they and a lot of the van traffic don’t get along. The horses –

NEESON: The horse carriage industry, they made the roads in New York. I just want that to rest there.

STEWART: They made the roads? What, are the roads made out of horse (bleep)? What do you mean they made the roads? Construction made the roads. What if they moved it into the park, so the horses wouldn’t have to walk the streets? Maybe that would be the –

trapped horse dies in Ireland

SPCA workers in Offaly spent around eight hours trying to save a horse that became trapped in a drain. The horse was rescued from the water but was extemely weak and suffered from hypothermia. ISPCA fought to save the horse, which initially looked as though it could be successful. Veterinary first aid was given and the horse was dried off and kept warm, even eating some food. While the animal made attempts to get to her feet, she soon weakened and was euthanized.

STEWART: If DYFS – if the Division of Youth and Family Services ever found out that they are keeping their children in 60 square foot stalls and feeding them twice a day buckets of grain, that is not good parenting as far as I’m concerned. No, you feel passionate about this. But it’s – I think there probably is – I think the two sides do not trust each other at all. And unfortunately the horses –

NEESON: He won’t even take a meeting with the horse carriage industry. He is supposed to be representing the New York people.

STEWART: You’re –

NEESON: Dammit!

(Laughter)

STEWART: Is this a job you’ve done? Have you been in that industry before?

NEESON: I know a couple of the guys. I’ve been in the stables quite a few times eating.

(Laughter)

Sulky horse death and abandonment

Irish horse racing is typically done by the “travellers.” They have no licences and no insurance and this type of activity, done on the main commuter roads between Cork and Dublin, is a public liability. It compromises the safety of drivers, pedestrians, and animal welfare. Five men were jailed for racing horses through commuter traffic on one of Ireland’s busiest roads in May 2012. Why don’t we ask Jon Katz, author of the Bedlamfarm blog, to find out if these horses “love their jobs?”

NEESON: It is, Jon. It is a fulfilling life.

STEWART: Well, we don’t know.

NEESON: They are. They’re trained for this.

STEWART: Unless it’s Mr. Ed, you really don’t know. They may look at you and say “neigh.”

Smithfield Horse Market

The Smithfield Horse market is extremely controversial. City council and various animal welfare organizations have campaigned tirelessly to shut the market down for abuses to animals. Traders and buyers have continued using the cobbled area once a month to sell their animals and prices as low as 10 Euros – around seven dollars.An ancient by-law giving traders the right to use the market means that there is little police or council officials can do to remove the horses.

STEWART: Well, they could be trained to sit in a field and eat fermented oats

“The guys,” as Neeson puts it, are the drivers, many of them transplanted Irishmen like himself.  This includes Colm McKeever, a native of County Meath and a friend of Liam’s, who met the actor when McKeever’s wife served as midwife in the birth of the actor’s first son.

They’ll die, you know, darlin,’ says Liam,  of the NYC carriage horses. “The horses are incredibly well-treated. They’re regulated up the wazoo. They get five weeks’ holiday every year.  Tourists love them.”   Along with former Mayor Bloomberg, Neeson also perpetuates the opinion that they’ll all be slaughtered too, and it’ll be the fault of meddling big city liberals, according to him.

I hope Neeson will somehow find a way to highlight the fate of horses in Ireland and elsewhere in Great Britain, where it’s popular to race horses on the commuter highways and evade the garda (police), often crashing the horses and abandoning them, injured.  Ireland also has an ongoing problem with fly-grazing, where horses are illegally grazed on private property without the knowledge or consent of the owners of the property.  I realize that the incidents of cruelty depicted here can and do happen everywhere,  but Ireland,  which has the highest horse population per capita in the whole of Europe, has a huge crisis of horses, with up to 20,000 of the animals currently needing immediate intervention by authorities for abuse and cruelty.  Unlike Neeson,  the horses are not actors and can’t walk away from these situations.

Every animal welfare charity in the country would probably say that Ireland is unique in terms of the volume of abandoned horses all over the country. Although there are no official figures, animal charities estimate that up to 20,000 horses could be owner-less and fending for themselves. So it’s a good litmus test of what’s happening elsewhere in the EU, especially as concerns large, expensive-to-keep animals such as horses, who might be the most disadvantaged four-legged victims of Ireland’s recession.  Bought as trophy-pets during the Celtic Tiger boom years, homeless horses now run wild in their thousands across the Republic, most abandoned by owners who have no money for their upkeep.    A total of 2,969 stray animals were seized in 2012 of which 72% were euthanised. In contrast, 2,936 horses were seized in 2011 and 54% were slaughtered. There are reportedly 3,000 horses in Dublin alone who need urgent care.

horse+death

The horse was one of eight being unloaded into a field (probably for flygrazing) when she refused to co-operate. After repeatedly trying to coax the mare out of the box, a group of men got extremely violent with her, said a spokeswoman for the Irish Horse and Welfare Trust. She said: “When it refused to get out, the car drove off which sent the horse shooting out the back and it collapsed on the road. They then beat it to get up and it was beaten quite badly because it was so distressed it wasn’t able to get up.” Here the poor foal stands over its mother, his or her own fate looking very bleak.

So why is Neeson seemingly unconcerned about these horses being abused, neglected, and slaughtered?  Does he do anything at all to expose this crisis? Sure, he’s not obligated to do so,  but it’s not like the horse industry couldn’t use his help as a spokesperson. Canadian singer/songwriter Jann Arden is speaking out on behalf of Canada’s wild horses.  The Irish Farmers’ Association has been calling on the Government to introduce a scheme to provide financial assistance to horse owners to tackle the growing problem of unwanted horses. Maybe Neeson should advocating on behalf of these horses?  I imagine someone his stature could lend a credible voice to these concerns,  as Jann Arden is trying to do for Canadian horses.

So why does he speak up for horses who, according to the industry, are loved and would never be slaughtered, whilst ignoring horses who ARE being slaughtered in his native country? A potential explanation turned up on the Tuesday’s Horse blog, the official blog of the Horse Fund.

Vivian Farrell commented on her own blog post:

“This is not about the horses with Neeson. It’s like the Hispanics who scream when you try to ban their cruel horse tripping events that it is a personal attack on them and their rights to be in the US, blah, blah, blah. I was married to a very mild-mannered Irishman who worked with horses all his life; gentle soul. Yet he said during the troubles that he would hide IRA members even if they had killed children because no true Irishman would turn against his brother . . . I was stunned. So no surprise here about Neeson.”

Horse beaten and mowed down

This horse was mown down by a quad bike and reportedly beaten to death with a wooden plank in a council estate. The garda tried to intervene, but were deterred by locals throwing bottles at them. Anyone else think the garda are the most ineffective police force anywhere? How bad can it be for animals who live here when the police are too afraid to intervene on their behalf?

But her comment was met with disdain when urban carriage supporters retaliated by questioning the status of the charity behind the blog by asking about the status of The Horse Fund’s 990s.  Of course, this is a common tactic of Humanwatchers and their ilk, when someone writes something they don’t like – they set about attacking the credentials or status of their charity. They start poking through Guidestar and see if they can dig up any dirt on the person making the “inflammatory” post.  And Ms. Farrell no sooner wrote those words making a comparison to Mexican rodeos than the quintessential horse tripper himself, Randy Janssen made an appearance to support urban carriages,   denounce the ASPCA, and promote horse tripping on a different site.  Ms. Farrell is not only wise, but she’s psychic! And that about rounds out the support for the NYC urban carriages –  Humanewatchers, the Cavalry Group,  United Horsemen,  and now eaters of wolves and charreadors!

I try not to take offence at the politics in movies, and I don’t really care that much whether James T. Kirk was inspired by John F. Kennedy or whether Zero Dark Thirty fails to point out that torture is immoral.  I don’t think we need political correctness in movies or television, because they often portray periods where societal attitudes or government policy were controversial.  So, it doesn’t bother me that Neeson has taken a stance in favour of urban NYC Carriages, only that while doing so, he has seemingly ignored the chaos in the country of his birth.  He apparently does so out of allegiance to the Irish, rather than casting a critical lens on the industry.  Would he speak out if the drivers were predominately Serbian or Italian?  I don’t know, but I rather doubt it.  But the next time he’s in town and hanging with his buddies on 59th street, perhaps he can get in-character by eating some oats that have been spilled out into the street amongst the pigeon droppings, just for authenticity’s sake of course.

And next time Neeson comes to Canada, instead of eating an inhumanely trapped wild animal, I hope he would speak out for them instead.