Bedlam Farm’s Jon Katz – Losing So Hard



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.  For instance,  I’ve never heard of ponies being sent to slaughter rather than being used for riding.  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.

That’s the cruelest abuse Katz can think of?  He must not even be trying. 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 (but did nothing else). 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.”

If it’s difficult or expensive to keep animals in our every day lives it’s because some people actually provide proper veterinary care for them,  and humanely euthanize them at the end of their lives. Katz certainly doesn’t expend much effort and certainly no money beyond what’s required for feed, to look after his animals,  so it’s rather bizarre that he still thinks caring for his animals is that expensive.  What rights do animals have that people do not?  We live in a pet-obsessed culture; Americans spend  about $60 billion a year on their pets, so I wonder how Katz figures that we are driving animals away from us? Just more harem-scarem talk from yet another property rights fanatic who is worried he might not be able to get away with chaining his dog to an engine block for much longer. I’ve been told by a few people who live in the general area that his neighbours don’t think much of him either.

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





About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic plant-based eater, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

11 responses »

  1. One of the peculiar legacies of BF Skinner is rationalizing first the objectification of animals, justifying treating them as insensate property AND then proceeding to anthropomorphize them by attributing human characteristics. How sick our society is to put someone who claimed pigeons were capable of superstition as head of the Harvard psychology department! To my despair, Skinner is touted as one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century despite the fact that if children are found isolating animals in dark cages and only feeding them erratically and generally tormenting them, they are considered budding psychopaths. Katz embodies the worst of applied Skinnerism, or maybe he is just psycho.

    • That’s a great observation! I’m still puzzled as to why Katz ascribes few emotions to animals, but somehow they sure love to work, don’t they? A lot of inconsistencies in his writing, which is to be expected if you just make stuff up at will.

      • And it is a good thing his farm is a ‘hobby’ as anyone depending on their animals for a living knows that good animal husbandry, selecting healthy animals and keeping them that way, is how small family farms stay afloat.

  2. I was just thinking Katz was a psycho but I shouldnt write that. Then I thought, why not? I am stuck by the idea that this guy ended up with a name like “Katz” and not “Jack Ass”.
    Sheila K
    ps Loved the Vow.

  3. Actually, the man has real experience with animals. Most of you who decry the inhumanity of working horses and other stock – including herding dogs – have little or no experience with animals. Owning a “horsey” for fun doesn’t qualify. After watching “horse lovers” in action, I was surprised that the poor horses didn’t kick them into the next county.

    Horses do like to work. Horses love routine. From time to time when I was a kid, there was high hilarity when an old milk wagon horse who had been retired in favor of a truck would escape from his pasture and walk his old route. He’d walk right down the street, and stop at every house that he had stopped at during his working career. Neighborhood kids would walk right alongside him and pet him at every stop. It was the highlight of my four year old day. He must have been at least 25 years old, and had been retired since about the end of WWII, about fourteen years before.

    Jon Katz doesn’t make up stories. A real problem in the West now is the number of abandoned horses. A friend of mine had a temporary job that involved carting away perfectly healthy horses that were being euthanized because their owners couldn’t afford to care for them, and the shelters were overflowing.

    • Of course Katz makes up stories. He made up a doozy about this poor horse who took 11 days to get to the slaughterhouse. You’d think he’d know that an animal on a truck for 11 days would die from water deprivation – organ failure is the result within 3/4 days –

      I find it odd that he admonishes everyone who might give a human characteristic to a horse, but then he is certain they love to work, which is, for some people, a truism. Maybe they do, but they are equally happy doing nothing at all. Maybe they’d rather not be slogging around in winter pulling a carriage for 9 hours a day? When was the last time they definitively told us how they wanted to live their day?

      The funniest thing I’d ever seen in any of Katz’ blog posts was an article he wrote about “Liam Leeson” and the carriage horses. You know, the famous actor….LOL It seems none of Katz’ sycophants dared tell him that he wrote an entire blog post about the famous Irish actor but somehow didn’t clue in that his name was actually “Neeson.” He knows his subject so well! I even saved a screen cap because it wasn’t even a mis-spelling – he carried it through the blog post multiple times! Desperately in need of an editor!

  4. and did you know that in Mr. Katz’s new book, Talking to Animals, he includes a chapter about his “beloved” pet steer Elvis who he rescued from the slaughterhouse, kept and “trained” for 2 years, and then sent to a slaughterhouse known for its “quick and humane methods”! Boycott his books1

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