Tag Archives: blm

Horse Welfare 2016 – The Year In Review

Standard

2016-rocking-horse-christmas-cardWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Because most efforts at altruism are applied to human suffering, when it comes to horses and other animals, we still face the problem of convincing people that the suffering of horses is worth considering at all. Our legal and legislative efforts can be effective ways to achieve goals for the horses, but most campaigns are lower visibility when compared to shelter pets,  and they may only yield results if completely successful. After observing how horse advocacy functions for a few years now (but I am still a relative newbie compared to the seasoned experts who have been advocating for horses for decades)  I want to make the following observations on the year 2016:

To be effective, we must continually find the root causes of systemic problems, such as corrupt or indifferent government officials, hoarding issues, and our often reactionary approach to kill buyer sales programs, which are now entrenched methods of adopting horses.  This is no small feat considering how decentralized horse advocates are – each person is often doing their own thing and advocating for horses in their own way.  As a result, preventative approaches are sometimes overlooked within the movement.   Despite exhaustive work by many people, SAFE Act-type legislation, which could provide the best results for horses in the US, hasn’t passed.

We may best be able to capitalize on shifts in the way people think about all animals and their status in society.  Results in Canada have been achieved when contracts for horsemeat are lost due to the exposing of cruelty and food quality/feedlot issues.  Meat-swapping is also an issue that usually gets a lot of publicity.  The supply of horsemeat already exceeds demand otherwise we would see fewer substitution issues – many people are realizing that they are eating horse unintentionally and this causes them to reconsider buying meat in general.

Unfortunately, 2016 heralded in new administration that is not friendly to animals.  P-E Trump is known to receive advice from conspiracy theorists and the radical far right – it’s true that we have become a “post-fact” world. Knowing this, how can we best advocate for horses in 2017 and beyond? There mere suggestion that there may be jobs to be found in the horse slaughter industry could be incentive enough to resuscitate it in the US, even though it is a poor investment.

“Donald Trump…represents perhaps the greatest threat ever to animal protection policy making at the federal level. His campaign surrogates and the names being floated as possible Trump cabinet picks for the very agencies that oversee such policies include the most ardent anti-animal voices in the country. Advocates for puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and trophy hunting of rare species such as leopards and elephants would be at the steering wheel of a Trump administration.” ~ Michael Markarian, the Human Society Legislative Fund

Here’s my summation of 2016, with articles arranged in Storify:

The Chemical Horse:

  • Horsenetwork reported that Pfizer Canada has announced it will increase the amount of pregnant mare urine (PMU) it collects from its facilities in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan in 2016 and 2017. Demand for conjugated equine estrogens declined in recent years following a 2002 Women’s Health Initiative study that PMU drugs were linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. (In 2012, the North American Menopause Society released a position statement that continues to support hormone therapy).
  • Horse tendons are now being made into an anti-aging therapy to rival botox. The popularity of horse oil from slaughtered animals has increased exponentially and is sold extensively on Amazon, eBay and elsewhere.
  • A video released in October showed the appalling treatment of horses at antitoxin and antivenom manufacturing facilities in India.  The facilities draw blood from the horses, many of them multiple times a month with heavy gauge needles, to manufacture antitoxin and antivenom drugs.  The horses depicted in the video (link included below) had festering sores and low body weights.

Live Horse Shipments:

  • Throughout 2016, the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition continued to release footage of live horse exports to Japan and petitioned Atlas Air executives to stop the practice, which does not adhere to IATA regulations.

Anti-Soring Efforts:

  • In August, U.S. Department of Agriculture/APHIS proposed changes to the Horse Protection Act that could stop the soring abuse for good.
  • Anti-soring advocates got the Big Lick kicked out of the North Carolina State Fair

Food Adulteration:

  • In June, a butcher shop in Montreal was caught adding horsemeat to hamburger patties advertised as being entirely made of beef. An investigation by Radio-Canada found burger patties advertised as being 100 per cent beef from La Maison du Rôti, which supplied meat to many hotels and commercial establishments in Montreal.  This is consistent with a study from 2015 that found that nearly 5% of all ground meat products tested in California had horse meat in the product.
  • In Britain, two Britons and a citizen of Denmark appeared in court over allegations that they passed horsemeat off as beef. It took THREE YEARS after the horsemeat adulteration scandal in to get them this far.
  • Britain’s food-policing unit, which was created in 2014 following the horse meat scandal has still not resulted in any new prosecutions despite costing the taxpayer £4m. The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU)  has not brought any criminal charges against anyone.

Wild Horses:

  • Aaron Stelkia of the Osoyoos Indian Band, who has apparently provided no care to feral British Columbia horses, decided to claim them and began rounding them up early in the year.  On the heels of this event, the RCMP in Penticton B.C., at the request of the CFIA, began investigating horse rescuer Theresa Nolet after she treated a free-roaming horse with phenylbutazone, making him unfit for human consumption.  If the CFIA, the RCMP, or the SPCA actually had any concern for horses, they would require the Indian Bands to keep their horses contained and properly fed and medicated.  It’s clear the intent was to harass Ms. Nolet, since the CFIA has no problem importing American horses whose drug history is completely unprovable.
  • DNA genotyping of Alberta wild horses showed a connection to the Altai horse from Russia. These genetic markers permitted the placement of the horses on the endangered list by the Equus Survival Trust in North Carolina. 
  • Forty-five years ago the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (WFRH&B Act) was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 18, 1971. The WFRH&B Act created the sensation that wild horses were to be protected on public land, but as it did not create actual defined parameters it has been left open to interpretation and/or lack of enforcement by the US judicial system.

Decimation of the Donkeys:

  • Now that the West African black rhino is extinct and the elephant is well on its way, donkey skins are the new rhino horn, and just like the rhino, the Chinese demand is unsustainable. To that end, a $3,000,000 slaughterhouse has just opened in Kenya – dedicated and purpose-built to kill up to 100 donkeys a day. China is presently responsible for slaughtering four million donkeys a year for traditional medicinal products made from their skin. Already, countries in Africa are seeing their donkey populations drop at an alarming rate – the appetite for donkey skins has risen to such a degree that a worldwide crisis is unfolding for donkey populations around the world.  In the United States the population of donkeys is estimated to be between 250,000 and 400,000. The US’ wild burro population ranges between 4,000 to 10,000 total on all BLM public lands.  The entire US population of donkeys could theoretically be wiped out in a matter of weeks at the current rate of slaughter.

Cruelty Cases, Horse Seizures, Abandonments, and Hoarding:

  • The infamous Stanley Brothers have been shipping horses to slaughter for quite some time and also have a long history of animal welfare offenses, among other questionable activities.  Boots Stanley, the son of one of the Stanley Brothers, who became millionaires selling horses to be killed, was arrested along with his pal Steven Sadler, for aggravated animal cruelty after slitting a defenseless dog’s throat on the family’s kill lot in Bastrop, Louisiana. Someone who enjoys inflicting pain on an animal may well be a danger to their community soon.
  • “Big Lick” supporter Sandra Darlene Wood will be serving jail time for the crime of Animal Cruelty – starving Tennessee Walking Horses that were seized from her farm on April 6, 2015.
  • Logan Allen, a “horse trainer” who won 1st place in the 2013 Iowa Horse Fair found himself under fire after he posted pics to his Facebook wall of a horse with the caption “bad boy…”  The horse lay on the ground, his legs were bound, his tongue hung out of his mouth and he had been sprayed with a hose,  hence the treatment of the horse was referred to as “waterboarding.”  The dismissal of Allen’s case sends the clear message to those in Iowa that abusing animals is acceptable in the state.
  • The story of Lily, the little pony mare who appeared to have been shot up with a paintball gun and then abandoned at New Holland in Pennsylvania, was a simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking narrative.  The mare, who was rescued and subsequently endured an eye operation for painful uveitis inflammation and days of dental work, was elderly and in poor condition overall.  In May, Philip Price Jr. of Rhode Island, (previously convicted of animal abuse) was convicted on all counts related to transporting her to New Holland.  He was ordered to pay $13,000 in restitution for Lily’s recovery care costs.  Lily was then adopted by former Daily Show Host Jon Stewart and his wife.  Although her quality of life appears to have been quite low for some time, she knew kindness and care before she died a short time later in Stewart’s sanctuary.
  • In June, officials with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture charged trainer Maria Borell and her father, Charles Borell, each with 43 counts of second-degree cruelty to animals in connection with the apparent abandonment of horses at a 121-acre farm in Central Kentucky.
  • 40 deceased and decaying horses were found on a property near Melbourne Australia. Bruce Akers, was charged with 92 counts of animal cruelty and criminal damage.
  • Another 40 horses (and 15 dogs)  owned by a previously convicted mother/daughter team of animal hoarders were seized from a Virginia property.
  • In July, horse rescuers saved from slaughter several horses formerly owned by the Arnold Reproduction Center, which specialized in cutting horse breeding. A herd of horses bearing the brand of center ended up scheduled for shipment to slaughter, according to social media posts, which the business acknowledged in a statement last week, calling the slaughter designation unintended. Photos posted by the Kaufman Kill Pen Facebook page showed show at least a dozen horses bearing the brand and/or distinctive shoulder numbers, with some described as recipient mares.
  • Several horses that had been seized from the Peaceable Farm rescue in 2015 have again been taken by authorities from New Beginnings Horse Rescue, where they had little or no food and water.  Over 80 horses were originally removed from Peaceable Farm and 11 of those horses went to New Beginnings (the other horses were distributed to other rescues).  It’s been a horrible 2 years for some of the rescues in Virginia.
  • Approximately 550-650 “wild” horses of varying ages, some mares with foals, went up for auction in December when approximately 30 were found starving or eviscerated on the bare dirt pastures of the ranch belonging to the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros in South Dakota. With no plan in place to prevent breeding and insufficient range land for the number of horses, the pastures had been eaten down to dirt. Photos on social media show severely thin horses, some of them dead, with their ribs and hip-bones protruding. Some have grotesque wounds and injuries or wildly overgrown, untrimmed hooves. A few had been eviscerated, presumably by wild animals. Guidestar shows that despite the charity taking in $600 – $700K in donations per year, there were always feed emergencies – this appears to be another hoarding operation with charitable status.  Resources are finite everywhere – uncontrolled breeding with no place to go eventually means there will be a population crash.

Legislative and Public Relations Issues:

  • Of the most immediate concern to animal advocates may be the virtual certainty that a Trump administration will work to reopen horse slaughter in the U.S., to “dispose” of the 45,000 wild horses who have been removed as “surplus” from the  BLM.  Furthermore, in 2009 VP-Elect Pence voted against protecting wild horses and burros on America’s public lands. He opposed the “Restore Our American Mustangs Act,” which was introduced to amend the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.  Simply because you see a picture of someone on a horse,  it does not make them an advocate.
  • It has been announced that the European Commission is set to adopt stricter regulations on the import of horsemeat from non-EU countries following its latest audit, which found that Canadian horsemeat may not meet EU food safety standards.  Horses destined for slaughter in non-EU countries but for export to the EU, must undergo a minimum six-month residency requirement. It’s unclear how either the slaughterhouses or the CFIA will control for this requirement.
  • The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition met with MPs in Ottawa in October on the dangers of horse meat consumption. The CHDC was registered to lobby with Aaron Freeman of Pivot Strategic Consulting.  The CHDC continues to consult with legal counsel in a continuing effort to explore legal strategies to stop illegally-conducted live shipments of horses to Japan for slaughter.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the slaughtering license of KML Meats in British Columbia temporarily,  due to the absence of an effective HACCP program.
  • The CFIA proposed changes to the Health of Animals Act and Regulations, thereby recognizing that the transport of animals in Canada is not aligned with those of other countries (World Organisation for Animal Health – OIE) nor do they align with the National Farm Animal Care Council Codes of Practice (NFACC) or international trading partners such as the US and the EU.  Furthermore, transport guidelines, such as they are, do not reflect current science regarding the handling of animals by land, sea, and air.
  • The March to DC on behalf of the SAFE Act took place September 22nd. Thank you to the dedicated people who were able to attend.  Many SAFE-type bills have now died and alternative approaches are needed to make the rest of the US population  aware of the atrocities of horse slaughter.
  • The tall metal fences, chained gates, and decaying metal buildings that were an embarrassment and constant reminder of horse slaughter in Kaufman Texas are now gone.  The old Dallas Crown slaughterhouse was torn down.
  • In Ontario, “horse rustling” has received new attention after two horses, who were temporarily loaned/boarded, disappeared from the same farm and are presumed sold for slaughter.  Sargon, owned by Kim Wilson, and Apollo, owned by Kayla Whatling were loaned to the same individual, who told police she sold Sargon to a kill buyer for slaughter without permission and with a faked EID.

EQUUS Film Festival:

  • The EQUUS Film Festival, dedicated to equestrian-themed film, fine art and authors was subject to controversy in 2016. Noted Equine/Human Chiropractor Dr. Jay Komarek,  declined to accept the Equus Film Festival Award for “Best Documentary” Film citing festival organizers for accepting money from two corporate sponsors,  “Protect The Harvest” and “Farm Paint,”  as his reason for doing so.   The sponsor’s principals are Mr. Forrest Lucas (Protect The Harvest and Lucas Cattle Company) and Mr. Duke Thorson (Farm Paint and Thorsport Farm). Slaughtering and soring horses  do not create a better world for them and were therefore incompatible sponsors for the event.  Clant Seay, a reporter for Billygoboy.com, also had the microphone aggressively grabbed out of his hand by former Sue Wallis buddy Dave Duquette at EQUUS. A positive outcome was that the film “Kill Pen” signed a worldwide/international distribution agreement to circulate the film across the US and Canada, into Europe, and beyond.

 Please read more about these and other headlines from 2016, arranged chronologically, in Storify

 

 

Horse Welfare 2015 – The Year In Review

Standard
Dream of horses

© Heather Clemenceau

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Each year spent fighting horse slaughter is proof enough that we live in a time of war. Although there will always be people and groups with a vested interest in seeing horse populations increase and the convenience of slaughter continue, 80% of Americans and 64% of Canadians say “no” to these injustices:

  • Despite the deterrent of jail terms for several key operatives in the 2013 horsemeat scandal, authorities in France are still investigating new horsemeat trafficking which now includes government officials and veterinarians.
  • There are still no charges against kill buyer Tom Davis or the BLM who sent horses to slaughter. Once again the BLM failed to follow its own policy of limiting horse sales and ensuring that the horses sold went to good homes and were not slaughtered. $140,000 of taxpayer money was used to transport the horses to Davis, who earned more than $150,000 in profits.
  • Obscene numbers of horses were run through auctions, often with up to 80% of them being bought by kill buyers. Prospective purchasers and bidders of horses hoping to rescue them from slaughter are being harassed at auctions.
  • Unpopular and unnecessary round-ups are still occurring in both the US and Canada.
  • In Great Britain, Dartmoor ponies are now being eaten in an attempt to “save” them.
  • The AQHA continues to be one of our biggest adversaries, and in 2015 they continued to wonder aloud what they could do to increase registration (and breeding). The AQHA braintrust created a super PAC designed to fight against horse owners, defeat the SAFE Act, and keep the breeding (and slaughter) going. To our dismay, Lucas Oil was named Title Sponsor of the AQHA World Championship Show.
  • With the demise of AC4H, which pulled in $800,000 in profit in two years of its operations, other brokered programs have sprung up or been expanded upon. Like a hydra, when one head is cut off, several more appear to take its place. Several markets have emerged as a result of the opportunities gleaned from Facebook, providing a very lucrative business, and kill buyers outbid private buyers at auctions on horses that they think they can flip using “the truck is coming” ploy.  Immense pressure is placed on rescuers,  who are continually told by kill buyers, “hang with me or the horses hang.” People are buying horses at outrageous prices and paying phenomenal amounts of money that could be used for feed and vetting, to ship them halfway across the country only to find that they are sick. In many cases the horses that arrive bear little resemblance to their photographs, may be misrepresented and sometimes must be euthanized upon arrival.
  • There have been several large scale seizures of horses at both rescues and private farms, sometimes occurring too late to benefit many horses. In the US, approximately 80 horses were seized from Peaceable Farm, a charity in Virginia. The owner marketed herself as a charity not to take care of horses, but to breed warmbloods, while letting dozens of other horses starve in the barn. She took in millions in donations. Emaciated horses and carcasses were removed from Larry Browning’s farm in Kentucky – he only had to wait 9 months before he could acquire more horses… Jerry Earls was charged with 100 counts of cruelty in Copiah County but evaded the charges related to injured, starving, and dead horses under his care and control. And in British Columbia, Canada, about 100 of Gary Roberts’ horses were seized by the SPCA and auctioned at Valley Auction – and thanks to rescuers, none went to kill buyers. The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition successfully pre-empted the possibility that they would go to kill buyers when they wrote a letter to Donald Raffian (Valley Auction owner) to advise him that the herd had been treated with bute and therefore did not have a drug-free history.

We also saw substantial victories in 2015:

  • Horse slaughter will remain defunded in the U.S. as part of the new $1.1 trillion Omnibus Bill, which is expected to be signed into law in January 2016.
  • At the present time, Americans have 183 sponsors in the House and 28 in the Senate for the SAFE Act S1214/HR1942.
  • Those found guilty this year for their participation in the EU lasagne horsemeat scandal of 2013 are now being jailed.
  • A slaughterhouse was closed in Alès, southeastern France, after video obtained by L214 Éthique & Animaux were released for public viewing, showing scenes of horrible cruelty. The slaughterhouse killed about 3,000 horses per year, in addition to cattle, sheep, and pigs.
  • The EU banned horsemeat from Mexico and Canadian Premium Meats ceased slaughtering horses in Canada.
  • Some two years after the first reports from Animals’ Angels and our European partners at TSB (Tierschutzbund Zurich) exposed the cruel conditions horses face in Canada in feedlots and slaughterhouses, GVFI, which purchased from both Bouvry and Viande Richelieu, scuttled their imports of horsemeat from Canada. This is the second major contractual loss for Bouvry.
  • We also fought back against the PMU industry, and Canadian HRT users were eligible to claim compensation from a $13.6 million dollar fund. A US Summit also called for an end to the Premarin Industry.
  • The Canadian Veterinary Equine Welfare Council, to represent the collective voice of veterinarians in Canada who are opposed to horse slaughter, was launched.
  • September 29th was the date of the very well attended Safe Food! Safe Horses! March2DC
  • There were maneuvers to keep the option of horse slaughter open in New Mexico. However, a judge ruled against the Valley Meat horse slaughter plant by expanding a 2014 injunction to include owners of D’Allende Meats, a firm launched by an investment group which purchased the Roswell plant from Valley Meats. The trial in the original 2013 case is slated for August 2016.
  • The Salt River horses received a reprieve. Soon after federal officials announced the imminent capture of 100 or so horses within the boundaries of a national forest near Phoenix — to be sold at auction, “condemned and destroyed, or otherwise disposed of” — horse advocates issued a call for action. They were supported by Arizona officials who joined in the chorus of protests, outlining the boundaries of a dispute that encompasses an old political battle between state and federal governments over the stewardship of public lands in the West.
  • Now that we have a new Liberal government in Canada, we may have more success for anti-slaughter initiatives, since the Liberals were, for the most part, favourably inclined towards the last anti-slaughter Bill C-571.
  • We are fortunate that we have investigative reporters who are willing to write about the injustices meted out to horses in Canada. Journalist Mary Ormsby of the Toronto Star (home of the best investigative reporting in Canada) continued to write about the serious concerns with horsemeat intended for human consumption. W5 and Zoocheck collaborated on an exposé that revealed that Alberta’s previous Progressive Conservative government did not commission its own studies of wild horse populations, preferring instead to take ranchers’ “analysis” at face-value about population levels and claims of damage to grasslands, which were not substantiated.

In 2015 we said farewell to several of our horse advocates. One of our greatest allies in Canada, MP Alex Atamenenko, decided to retire after drafting 3 anti-slaughter bills. A truly great advocate, we can only wish the best for him in his retirement. On a much sadder note, we also lost advocates Marie Dean, Lee Earnshaw, and Dana Lacroix.

 

 

Please read more about these and other headlines from 2015, arranged chronologically, in Storify

 

 38027071_ml

Who Will Stand For The Cold Creek Wild Horses?

Standard
The Nevada Legislature is trying to exclude wild horses and burros from the definition of wildlife. That will allow them to also exclude wild horses and burros from water rights.

The Nevada Legislature is trying to exclude wild horses and burros from the definition of wildlife. That will allow them to also exclude wild horses and burros from water rights.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

There’s an old saying, It’s better to help a friend a week too early rather than a day too late.” There are different variations on that theme, and I’ve most often seen it used when people are trying to determine when to euthanize a beloved pet. But a few days ago I was reminded of it in the context of the Cold Creek wild horses in Nevada, where at least some of the group are starving,  including mares and foals. An ensuing debate (whether to help the horses or take no action) raises some ethical and philosophical issues about our idyllic view of nature free from human (and BLM) interference. For instance, is it acceptable to feed these wild horses on compassionate and moral grounds, or do we prefer a laissez-faire management policy that would subject horses and burros to starvation by letting Mother Nature work her will?

You can see from the pics that the worst of these horses would probably rate a 1 or a 2 on the Henneke scale.  Some wild horse advocates have proposed that the starvation death of the horses is preferable to a round-up by the BLM, which they believe may be prompted by a Cold Creek resident’s letter that has been circulating about the condition of the horses. The volunteer-based America’s Wild Horse Advocates have suggested that the original letter writer was intent on creating drama in order that the horses would be removed from Cold Creek. If you read the letter, which is included here, you may agree that the writer of the letter seems hopeful that a roundup will not occur, because the horses are too weak to survive it, and suggests a coordinated effort to help the horses on the ground where they stand. Avoiding the involvement of the BLM seems to be a motivating factor in the decision by the AWHA to wait until fall to determine what, if any action should be taken, while continuing to negotiate for PZP darting.

The original letter does not strike me as that written by someone determined to remove the horses from the area, so I would not say that AWHA has really made that case successfully. The  initial

Original email written by a resident of Cold Creek (click to embiggen)

Original email written by a resident of Cold Creek (click to embiggen)

response by the group to the letter of concern seems quite dismissive of the horses’ condition, referring to them merely as “thin” and to the initial letter writer as some sort of busybody who wants to get rid of the horses. The wild horse advocate makes several untenable claims about the condition of the horses and admonishes people who have expressed concern about the horses as “bleeding hearts.” Here are some of the claims:

“The lower bands will fill out in the fall. If they don’t, AWHA will take care of it.”

Emaciated mares with foals are being fed (at least at the time photos were taken), despite assertions that it is illegal to do so. Being fed by well-meaning people does mean that they will come down to the road for handouts, risking accidents with vehicles. Not only that, abrupt or inappropriate re-feeding can cause metabolic abnormalities leading multi-organ failure and death.

Emaciated mares with foals are being fed (at least at the time photos were taken), despite assertions that it is illegal to do so. Being fed by well-meaning people does mean that they will come down to the road for handouts, risking accidents with vehicles. Not only that, abrupt or inappropriate re-feeding can cause metabolic abnormalities leading multi-organ failure and death.

These horses need more than “filling out,” let’s be honest. I have to admit I’m gobsmacked by the suggestion that the horses are not starving, but merely “thin.”  A horse that has lost 50 percent of its body weight has a poor prognosis for survival. How will it be taken care of? If feeding is illegal, how will the situation be resolved? If they can be fed somehow in the fall, why not do it now, since they critically need it and before they decline even further? And it’s already too late for anyone to suggest that we should not interfere with nature, something we’ve done since the very 1st day when we started fencing horses off in pockets of land.  We already hold interventions for wild animals – vaccination programs against diseases such as rabies or tuberculosis have been implemented for decades, and in national parks, starving animals are sometimes provided with additional food so that they may survive.   Proposed growth suppression projects via PZP will all come too late for any horse who is a literal bone rack.

“It’s called Natural Selection” and “It’s survival of the fittest”

It’s neither “natural selection” nor “survival of the fittest,” at least not from a biological perspective. Modern society interprets “survival of the fittest” to mean that only the strong survive. We often think of evolution in terms of a winner take all competition between the weak and the strong.  The individuals that survive are not always the strongest, fastest, or smartest – the individuals who survive are those who have variations better suited to their environment and as a result, leave behind more offspring than individuals that are less well adapted. Natural selection is a process that generates or guides adaptations (traits) over evolutionary time. For a trait to be shaped by natural selection it must be genetic and heritable. Natural selection is a mechanism of evolution, and it is not about survival in the short term in a sample population of 250 animals, as longevity in the short term and adaptation over generational time (a really long period of time!) are not the same things. The effects of natural selection are barely perceptible, except over long periods of time, so the starvation of one generation of a herd of horses is not an example of natural selection.

The majority of wild animals of any species die well before they reach maximum lifespan, but horses are at a greater disadvantage than many other species.

The majority of wild animals of any species die well before they reach maximum lifespan, but horses are at a greater disadvantage than many other species.

“All in all, an honourable death…preferable to dying in captivity”

I agree that the horses should not be gathered, and probably wouldn’t survive it anyway. When the horse is removed as through helicopter roundups, or is killed off by man, it leaves a big gap that upsets the equilibrated life-support system benefiting other wild populations. Wild horses are also a climax species, helping to sustain other ecosystems through the grazing of grass, pruning of vegetation, and consequent bolstering of annual plant productivity. Since wild horses are already being lost to roundups, slaughter, and most recently to fire, why not do more than stand around watching them starve?

To sum up: there are three possible courses of action for these horses.

  1. No intervention. The horses would either somehow gain weight on their own, or they would be allowed to starve to death
  2. Euthanasia – if they cannot regain weight, or no one is prepared to supplement them, then for some of the worst cases, euthanasia is justifiable on welfare grounds
  3. Feeding – Is welfare better served by feeding rather than doing nothing? It is also justifiable if the horses won’t likely survive otherwise.

If we believe that appropriate action should be option #3, then intervention should take place immediately before welfare declines even further.

Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

I don’t know what the solution is beyond a reasonable doubt. I don’t even know how it is legally or logistically workable.  But I absolutely do not believe that starvation should be the preferred outcome here.

What is really upsetting about this is that when it comes to an animal’s suffering it seems that supposedly intelligent and highly qualified individuals cannot use their logic and experience gained over the years to show compassion to a suffering animal. How many times do we tell pro-slaughters that starvation and slaughter are not the only two options? From an ethical standpoint, I believe that it is both appropriate and even necessary to intervene to help ensure that the wild horses retain their proper place in the landscape.

 

 

Letters Explain the Group’s Rationale for their Position on PZP and Feeding:

AQHA Brazenly Promotes Horse Slaughter For Wild Horses And Burros In New Anti-SAFE Act Propaganda Piece

Standard
Craig Huffhines

AQHA Executive Vice-President Craig Huffhines

 

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

In a brazen move that would make Sue Wallis proud,  the AQHA has sent to its Canadian members, a propaganda piece that insisted that the S.A.F.E. Act would create a “hellish demise” for horses,  of “starvation, abuse and neglect.”

It’s difficult to imagine such contrived ignorance exists to such a degree outside of the BLM itself when it comes to wild equines.  Yet in the massmail entitled “Unsafe Consequences,”  the group specifically mentions the “overpopulation” of the wild horses and burros,  juxtaposing the costs of the BLM holding facilities with the convenient way of eliminating the problem – restoring slaughter to the United States!  Not only is the wilfully-blind AQHA  on a non-stop  crusade to promote slaughter for their own breed,  they’re encroaching onto the issue of protected wild horses and burros – a comprehensive extermination campaign designed to eliminate all “undesirable” equines.

Here is an excerpt of the “facts” they present in their massmail,  which can be read here and is included below.

 

  • The Government Accountability Office reported that about 138,000 unwanted horses were transported to processing facilities in 2010.

  • The United States Department of Agriculture reports that 144,000 horses were transported to processing facilities in 2014.

  • USDA reports that there are nearly 50,000 wild horses and burros on Bureau of Land Management land, which is 22,500 more than what that land can naturally support.

  • USDA also reports that there are more than 47,000 wild horses and burros in short- and long-term holding facilities.

  • The cost of the wild horse and burro program – $77,245,000 in fiscal year 2014 – is coming out of U.S. taxpayers’ pockets.

If this enrages you,  please take a moment to send a response to them below or via their contact form:

Twitter: @AQHA

Mailing Address
AQHA
P. O. Box 200
Amarillo, TX 79168

Overnight Mailing
American Quarter Horse Association
1600 Quarter Horse Dr.
Amarillo, TX 79104

Phone
806-376-4811
8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Central

Fax
806-349-6411

 

Please read the entire communication below:

Wildlife Ecologist Craig Downer Visits Wishing Well Sanctuary

Standard

craig downer banner copyA group of horse and other animal lovers were fortunate to meet Craig Downer and have the option to purchase his book The Wild Horse Conspiracy at Wishing Well Sanctuary in Bradford, Ontario a few months ago.  Craig has been engaged in the wild horse issue since the earliest days of the movement.  During his presentation, we learned that Craig knew Wild Horse Annie, which of course was long before the creation of the legislation enacted to supposedly protect wild horses.

THE conspiracy he refers to is of course, the alternative agenda by the various government agencies responsible for overseeing the wild horses. It’s very clear that those who are charged with the management and legal enforcement of the 1971 law, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, have a much less enlightened and progressive understanding of their charges. Of course Craig is a wildlife ecologist, and is steeped in the science associated with key elements of this issue. He has a great spiritual connection to horses and burros as well.  He has made numerous valid arguments for wild equids to remain in the western range ecosystems, and provided what is, to me, the most interesting validation for them to remain in the western landscape – fossil and DNA evidence that the evolutionary precursors of Equus caballus originated in the North American continent.

Craig DownerWe Begin Here…..

In the 19th century western expansion saw ranchers/farmers purchase parcels of land that they felt were of value. Areas where water sources, higher elevations, etc made the land less desirable they left the land to public domain. Ranchers would use lands in the public domain for grazing as well, but felt they were not valuable enough for purchase. In states like Nevada that amounted to 85% of the land base.

The late 19th century saw a shift from the ideas of expansion to one of protecting the resources on the land for the American public at large. From this came the beginnings of a National Park system (Yellowstone as a National Park in 1872) and laws created to manage the resources of the land for the general good.

In 1934 the Taylor Grazing Act was created with the intention of setting up grazing districts to be managed by the federal government. The law initially permitted 80,000,000 acres of previously unreserved public lands of the United States to be placed into grazing districts to be administered by the Department of the Interior. This created the Grazing Service. In 1946 the Grazing Service was merged with the General Land Office and the Bureau of Land Management was born.  In 1971 President Nixon signed into law the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act. Not until the 1976 enactment of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) did the BLM have a multiple-use, sustained-yield mandate.

Along with the National Environmental Protection act, the Wilderness Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act helped form a wave of unprecedented, ecologically and species respectful laws that came into being during the 60s and 70s.

Basic Elements of Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 (WFHBA) and Other Related Acts

  1. WFHBA passed unanimously on December 15, 1971, and requires the “protection, management and control of wild free-roaming horses and burro on public lands.”
  2. Responsibility for implementing the act was delegated to this Bureau of land Management through the Secretary of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service through the Secretary of Agriculture.
  3. In its preamble,  WFHBA declares that (a) wild horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West: (b) they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the nation and enrich the lives of the American people: (c) wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment or death: and (d) they are to be considered in the area where presently found as an integral part of the natural system of public lands.
  4. WFHBA stipulates criminal penalties of up to $2,000 and/or a year in jail for violating the law.  Penalties increased under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, and fines can now be as high as $100,000 and/or ten years in prison for violating WFHBA.
  5. BLM and USFS must manage wild horses and burros so as “to achieve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands” and “at the minimum feasible level.”
  6. WFHBA defines a wild horse/burro range, or legal area, as “the amount of land necessary to sustain an existing herd or herds of wild free-roaming horses and burros…and which is devoted principally but not necessarily exclusively to their welfare in keeping with the multiple use management concepts for the public lands.”
  7. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) amended WFHBA to allow for helicopter roundups.  Earlier in 1959, the Wild Horse Annie Bill (Public Law 86-234) had prohibited the use of motor vehicles in rounding up or “hunting” wild horses and burros as well as the “pollution” or poisoning of their watering holes.  FLPMA requires the development of land use plans that incorporate sustained yield and multiple use principles.
  8. The Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978 (PRIA) also amended the WFHBA.  It required a current inventory of wild horses and burros to determine appropriate management levels, or AMLs, meaning the number of wild horses/burros sustainable by the resources of the range.  Under this law, AMLs are supposed to be adjusted according to resource availability.  The law also involved the definition of “excess” wild horses or burros for any given legal area.
  9. In 2004,  the Burns Amendment to the WFHBA facilitated disposal of wild horses and burros to slaughter buyers for horses or burros who are either over ten years of age or who have been offered unsuccessfully for adoption three times.
  10. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) also governs how the wild horses and burros are treated, as this act requires environmental assessments/environmental impact statements of any action that might have a major impact on any and all aspects of our life and world, including wild horses and burros.
  11. Code of Federal Regulations 4710.5 and 4710.6 specifically provide for the curtailment or cancellation of livestock grazing privileges on public lands in order to ensure thriving healthy herds of wild horses and burros in their legal areas.
  12. Section 6 of WFHBA authorizes cooperative agreements with landowners and state and local governments to better accomplish the goals of the act.  This allows for providing complete and unimpeded habitats for long-term viable wild horse/burro populations.
  13. Section 2(b) of WFHBA defines “wild free –roaming horses and burros” as “all unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands across the United States,” meaning BLM and USFS lands and possibly other agency lands as well.
  14. Section 3 (a) of WFHBA authorizes the designation of specific ranges on public lands as sanctuaries for the protection and preservation of wild horses and burros upon consultation with state wildlife agencies.
  15. Section 3 (d) prohibits selling any deceased wild horse or burro or part thereof, i.e., no commercialization.
  16. Section 7 authorizes creation of the wild horse and burro advisory board.
  17. Section 8 allows power of arrest by a federal employee of anyone violating WFHBA in his/her presence.
  18. Section 10 mandates a report to Congress on the wild horse and burro program every two years and also authorizes studies of wild horses and burros.
  19. Section 4 allows public officials to remove wild horses and burros that stray onto private property, but also allows private landowners to maintain wild free-roaming horses or burros on their private lands or on lands leased from the Government provided that they do so in a manner that protects them from harassment and that the animals were not wilfully removed or enticed from the public lands.  The latter must keep the federal government informed of the number of wild horses and burros so maintained.  This is an outstanding opportunity for the public t help in preserving and protecting the wild horse and burro herds at healthy population levels, i.e. to complement federal herd areas and territories.

(Downer, The Wild Horse Conspiracy: XI-XIII)

Why do the practices of the past continue when they have been proven to create damage to the ranges and destroy the resources required to sustain other users, including wild horses and burros?

Horse advocates know that a huge effort is being made to slaughter horses, both domestic and wild, by those that support public land ranching. They claim that it is impractical to continue paying for the wild horse and burro program. Few people would disagree with that, because the program has been mismanaged for decades – the mindset being that wild horses should be moved into holding areas instead of allowing the horses to remain where they were found.  The Interior Department has taken nearly 50,000 wild horses off their western rangelands and paid private ranchers to put them in corrals and pastures, largely in Kansas and Oklahoma. More of America’s wild horses are now in holding facilities than roaming the wild. If cattle and sheep and other species of animal must be grazed on public lands, then there is definitely an argument for managing all species appropriately on the range.

When you look at the land base and allocation of forage in comparison you see just how small the wild horse issue really is. Over 250 million acres of public land are managed for livestock grazing, while the BLM has 26.9 million acres managed for wild horses and burros in comparison.  You therefore have wild horses on about 11% of BLM land. But even with equids being allocated approximately 11% of the land, the BLM still allocates most of the forage resources to privately owned livestock; management areas may consist of the equivalent of 1,000 cows and 100 horses, and when the horse population reaches 125, the BLM says the horses are overpopulating.  The horses are seen as competitors for a resource that has been overgrazed for more than a century by cattle. Obviously, what we really have is an overpopulation of cattle and sheep on our public lands, not horses.

Not only cattle and sheep, but replacing wild equids are big game such as elk.  Also entering into the equation are oil and gas drilling, pipelines, mining, subdivision developments, dams, off-road vehicles, golf courses, among other ecologically destructive and extractive activities – those that take from the land but do not give back.  The Ruby pipeline path recently constructed across northern Nevada is now overrun with exotic cheat grass and the wild horses have nearly all been rounded up.  Previously,  the wild horses consumed these grasses, thus helping to remove one risk of fires during droughts.

In addition, permittees only pay a small percentage of fair market value, at present amounting to about 9-12%, in order to graze their livestock on the public lands.  (Downer, The Wild Horse Conspiracy: 118) This is below “market value,”  and the GAO reported that the government lost at least $123 million in order to prop up public lands livestock grazing, while real costs have been estimated as at least one-half billion dollars per year.

Salt River Foal

Photo by Kelly Blevins

Either by deliberate malfeasance or outright incompetence, the BLM also claims there are more horses than there actually are, and independent researchers such as Cindy McDonald of Las Vegas have put the numbers at less than 20,000.  Researchers such as McDonald have identified various fudge factors, especially the rate of population increase that BLM employs to overly magnify population as well as ignoring the significant mortality factors including illegal killings, fencing off of public water, over-fencing within legal herd areas, and non-Wild Horse Annie cattle guards that cause gruesome deaths in panicked horses.  Also entering into the picture here are over allocations of forage to livestock as well as double counting during census-taking.  (Downer, The Wild Horse Conspiracy: 211)

Ultimately, the BLM asked the National Academy of Sciences to complete an objective and independent review of its wild horse/burro program. The study was completed and has heavily influenced the debate. Among the Konik Wild Horsesissues covered are population control methods and the controversial question of how the BLM decides how many horses a piece of land can sustain. The sum appropriated from Congress for this was $1.5 million – enough to take down many illegal fences, secure many water sources, buy out many key grazing leases, and seriously begin a reserve design implementation for viable and naturally self-stabilizing herds.  The 436-page report found that the Bureau of Land Management has used some haphazard science in estimating herd sizes and in predicting how removal of animals would affect herd size and range conditions. The report found that the Agency also has not done well at incorporating public opinion into its decision-making.

How can it be reasonable that horses,  already living on the range,  be considered “vermin?”

One could say that many ranchers feel that they have an entitlement to use the land at a discount, an entitlement that resulted in the use of the pejorative term “welfare rancher.”  What business would not want to compete by utilizing a service at lower cost than its competitors? I suspect that the majority of ranchers feel that their domesticated animals have prima facie rights over all other species on the range.  If a rancher faces restrictions he can go to his Congressional Representative or State Legislator to represent his interest. In many states the state representative IS a rancher. In many western states the Congressional representative either is, or his family is, a rancher. In practice an agency staff person who makes a decision to restrict or terminate overuse by livestock grazing would be subject to pressure from ranchers and in many cases even from their own families. Many BLM employees live in the same communities with those they need to “manage.”  Many federal employees were born in the west with ranching or mining in their family history. So clearly, the political system supports the status quo and exerts pressure on those who challenge that status quo.

Prior to the implementation of Craig autographs copies of his book.the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and other related legislation,  the wild horses were used just as the land was, as if it were private property and not belonging to the American people. The wild horses were “harvested” and some used on the ranch. The vast majority were sold for fertilizer and dog food creating an opportunity for more personal profit from a public resource. Most people in the west know someone that profited from “mustanging” and many ranchers that hold permits today were mustangers. Since the passage of the Act inhibited profit from mustanging the animals are viewed simply as vermin by most.

In order to reap as much profit off of public land as possible all competition must be removed. As a result, the wild horse and burro herds have either been reduced to non-viable population levels or totally eliminated in most of their legal herd areas, in what constitutes nothing less than a smear campaign.  Many ranchers still resent any interference with public land grazing from the federal government.

The wild horse fulfills an ecological niche

When the horse is removed as through helicopter roundups, or killed off by man, it leaves a big gap that upsets the equilibrated life-support system.  Downer writes that “in recent times, the high rate of disappearance of large mammals from the earth’s various biomes has become alarming.  A comparison of historical (AD 1500) range maps of large mammals with their current distribution reveals that less than 21% of the terrestrial globe still contains all of the large mammals (greater than 2 kg in weight) it supported several centuries ago. “

As a major climax species, or member of the more stable,  long term, and biodiverse life community that establishes itself over time,  the horse  has helped to characterize and to assist so many of the earth’s ecosystems including by its:

1)      Grazing of grass, extensive pruning of vegetation (including forbs, shrubs, and even trees) and consequent bolstering of annual plant productivity. Wild equids eliminate dry flammable vegetation and their consequent prevention of damaging fires

2)      Successful intact seed dispersal of hundreds,  even thousands of plant species through its feces,  that also greatly build the moisture-retaining and nutrient releasing humus content of the soils

3)      Major role as a prey or scavenged species for lions, puma, wolves, bears, foxes, raptors, vultures, and smaller animals.

4)      A role as a trail breaker through dense vegetation and as a breaker of frozen snow and ice, and also as an opener of tiny seeps to create ponds thus made accessible for other smaller species during dry seasons and by its creation of natural water catchments  through its wallowing habit, particularly important in desert areas and especially during the dry seasons when cloudbursts occur (Downer, The Wild Horse Conspiracy: 109)

While factors such as drought, fire, invasion by non-native plants, and sprawl are important, livestock grazing is identified by BLM experts as the primary cause (nearly 80%) of BLM lands not meeting health standards.  Cattle grazing has a profoundly negative effect on other fauna such as desert tortoises.

The wild horse in Canada is an iconic and charismatic animal that has co-existed harmoniously with other wildlife species.  The wild horse is an animal that has enriched the First Nations people, laboured with early pioneers on the frontier, and carried Canadian soldiers through war.  They are a symbol of freedom, and no other animal is more deserving of being designated and protected as a heritage animal in Canada.

Recently in Canada, a “Feral Horse Advisory Committee” was formed with representation from several stakeholder groups, such as oil and gas, forestry, cattle ranchers, capture permit holders and hunters, that support a cull of the wild horses. The existing pockets of Equine infectious anema in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia comprise one of the arguments put forth by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for decimating the wild horses.  But if any horses are diseased, it’s more likely to be our domestic and imported horses – most horse disease surveillance in Canada is paid for by private owners, so it follows that most reportable diseases are found in privately owned and not wild horses.  Equine venereal disease was brought to North America from Europe. At one time Glanders almost exterminated imported horses, but didn’t affect Alberta’s native horses at all.  It’s also falsely claimed by this Committee that horses compete with wildlife and cattle for forage.  The government’s own study by R.E. Salter, who has a master’s degree in zoology – did not document forage or behavioural competition with either wildlife or domestic cattle.  Studies in British Columbia showed that overgrazing and erosion were caused by too many cattle and not horses. Livestock manure in and near surface water and sedimentation of the water from livestock disturbing the bed and banks of the watercourse can adversely affect water quality, simply because they exist in far greater numbers than do wild horses.

Wild horses encourage tourism in Alberta as well.  Guides and outfitters are kept in business in part by wild horses and other species of animal.  But trust the Canadian government to come up with a plan to shoot the horses. – at a FHAC meeting in early October 2013 it was suggested that possibly up to 300 permits would be issued for the 2013-14 season, which would obliterate 30% of the entire wild horse population. You have to wonder how such a small number of animals can be so deserving of being obliterated and blamed for causing so much damage and disease.

Why evidence points to wild horses being here a very long time

Carlsbad horse skeleton_tonemappedThe genus “Equus” comprises modern horses, zebras and donkeys, all of which progressed about 4 million years ago (during the Pliocene era).  Only modern horses, wild asses, zebras, and donkeys survive today, but many other lineages in the horse family have become extinct over the last 50,000 years.  The Przewalski’s wild horse has never been domesticated and remains a truly wild animal today.  It is a subspecies of Equus ferus, and possesses 66 chromosomes, compared to 64 in all other horse species,  so it is morphologically a distinct animal. DNA analysis shows that the species diverted from the modern horse lineage over 100,000 years ago, and thus remains the closest living “ancient” relative to the modern horse.

As Craig Downer has pointed out, it’s largely irrelevant whether horses are indigenous to North America, or an introduced species, since they satisfy an ecological niche.  But there are basically two positions that can be considered when it comes to deciding whether horses are indigenous to North America:

1)      That a continuous lineage of horses survived in small groups in North America up until the reintroduction of European horses, or…..

2)      That horses disappeared from North America during the late Pleistocene (“Ice Age”) era – 10,000-7,000 years before present but were brought back by other cultures in pre-Columbian times.

Horses share their ancestry with rhinoceroses and tapirs.  Over 50 million years ago, horses had several odd-numbered hoofed toes and looked more like tiny rhinos or small deer than anything resembling the majestically regal horses as we know them. These small mammals gradually developed into “intermediate” horses, which were a somewhat heavier version weighing several hundred pounds.  By about 20 million years ago (during the Miocene era), these intermediate horses had adapted well to the changing environs of the open plains, and gradually developed prominent middle toes and long legs, better enabling them to follow their compulsion to graze and to quickly run from predators that could easily spot them once they ventured from the forests into the open plains.  Larger, more athletic horse-like animals made their appearance, including one called “Parahippus,” or “almost horse.” They were evolving to reach weights of around 1,000 pounds, nearing the size of modern horses. “Hippidion” then appeared, considered the most successfully evolved horse, as evidenced by its migration from North America to Africa and Eurasia.

At the end of the Pleistocene epoch, the geological period roughly spanning 12,000 to 2.5 million years ago, many of the world’s large animals, such as giant sloths, epochssaber-toothed cats, dire wolves, and mammoths, vanished from the geological record. Extinctions often seem dramatic and sudden in fossil records, but an extinction event may mean that an imperiled species survives in smaller and smaller numbers until eventually disappearing completely. Evidence suggests that some large species such as the horse became extinct in North America but persisted in small populations here and elsewhere, having crossed a land bridge into Asia.

Recent discoveries have the potential to re-write the fossil and taxonomic records, and also confirm that horses were here all along, and are a re-introduced species, rather than a new species brought to North America.

Recent revelations in the horse fossil record include:

1)      The discovery of a horse that lived 700,000 years ago in Canada’s Yukon Territory.  The DNA discovered from this ancient horse is 10 times as old as any DNA retrieved to date, and is considered to be the world’s oldest genome of any species.  An international team of researchers deciphered the genome of the horse from the Middle Pleistocene (the “Ice Ages”), along with those of a 43,000-year-old horse, a modern donkey and five contemporary domestic horse breeds. Using those data, the researchers pushed back the emergence of the ancestor of horses, zebras, asses and donkeys to about 4 million to 4.5 million years ago.

2)      Also of note was the discovery by scientists excavating an Ice Age mammoth skeleton from the Tule Springs area north of Las Vegas, Nevada, uncovered the remains of a second animal that was perhaps more Alberta Wildiesinteresting than the original find: a skull and lower jaw of an extinct horse species. Horses are not uncommon in the Tule Springs fossil record, but this one differs from all those discovered there before, according to the San Bernardino County Museum scientists. The new fossils belong to the extinct species Equus scotti, a large horse common in much of western North America during the Pleistocene Epoch. The species has never before been reported from Tule Springs or Nevada.  The site was dated to approximately 12,000 years in age, making the fossils among the youngest records of Equus scotti anywhere in North America.  And the new discovery is forcing scientists to revise their understanding of horse evolution and extinction at the end of the Ice Ages.

3)      Researchers who removed ancient DNA of horses and mammoths from permanently frozen soil in central Alaskan permafrost dated the material at between 7,600 and 10,500 years old. The findings suggest populations of these now-extinct mammals endured longer in the continental interior of North America, challenging the conventional view that these species (mammoths and horses) disappeared from the continent about between 13,000 and 15,000 years ago.

4)      Archaeologists also uncovered another nearly intact skeleton of a horse and donkey thought to have been buried ritualistically, that may have lived and died 50 years before the Spanish began their conquest of

photo by Kelly Blevins

photo by Kelly Blevins

California. The finds are significant because native North American horses were thought to have been extinct much earlier, and the remains are older than the recorded conquests by the Spanish. Radiocarbon dating of 340 years, plus or minus 40 years, puts the death of the horse sometime between 1625 and 1705. Therefore, the horses died at least 50 years before San Diego Mission de Alcala, the first of the California missions, was founded in 1769. The bones of the horses and the donkey showed no signs of having been shod, an indicator that the horses were not brought by the Spanish, who fitted their horses with iron shoes. The possibility exists that the buried equids were brought by the Spanish in an expedition that was subsequently lost to history, or the burial is evidence for domestication of the species that had not completely died out at the end of the last ice age.

5)      Scientists examined 35 equid fossils from South America, Europe, Asia, and South Africa – analysis that ultimately filled in many evolutionary gaps about equid evolution and the nature of extinct species.  A new species of wild ass was also detected on the Russian Plains and appears to be related to European fossils dating back more than 1.5 million years. Carbon dates on the bones reveal that this species was alive as recently as 50,000 years ago.  The significant of this finding is obvious – it casts doubt on the theory that horses exist in North American only by the introduction of Europeans during their colonizing expeditions of the 15th and 16th centuries.  The genetic results suggest that megafaunal extinctions at the end of the last ice age may not have been as extensive as previously believed.

6)      The species known as Equus lambei, named for Canadian paleontologist H.M. Lambe,  otherwise known as the Yukon Horse, when radiocarbon dated,  turned out to be 26,000 years old.  Equus caballus is genetically equivalent to Equus lambei, a horse, according to fossil records, that represented the most recent Equus subspecies in North America.Wild trio

7)      The FaunMap, produced and published by the Illinois State Museum of Springfield,  revealed that a number of horse fossil datings within the post-Pleistocene and pre-Columbian period that occurred well after the time at which all members of the horse family are commonly believed to have disappeared from North America.  Some of these are quite close to Columbus’ discovery of America in 1492.  In his book, Craig Downer also provides a list of Horse fossil sites.  Fossils found from the Early Holocene/Middle Holocene epoch also serve to dispel the myth of the non-native horse:

Ventana Cave Arizona:  two horses from LHOL, one from MHOL, one from HIHO*

Awatovi, Arizona: one horse from HIHO

Fort Davy Crocket, Colorado: one horse from HIHO

Kin TI’iish Colorado: one horse from LHOL

Long House Colorado: one horse from LHOL

Merina Colorado:  one horse from LHOL

Cemochechobee Georgia:  one horse from LHOL

Calf Island Massachusetts: one horse from HIHO

Blacktail Cave Montana:  one horse from MHOL

Hoffer Montana: one horse from LHOL, two horses from HIHO

Amahami North Dakota:  one horse from LHOL, one horse from HIHO

Navajo Reservoir site LA 3430, New Mexico:  two horses from LHOL

Fort Randall Historic Site South Dakota:  one horse from LHOL

H.P. Thomas, South Dakota:  one horse from HIHO, one from LHOL

Lubbock Lake Texas:  one horse from EMHO, one from MHOL, one from LHOL

Site 45AS80, Washington:  one horse from LHOL

Chief Joseph Dam Site 450K2, Washington: one horse from HIHO, one from LHOL

Chief Joseph Dam Site 450K258, Washington: one horse from LHOL, two horses from HIHO

Site 48UT370, Wyoming: one horse from MHOL

(Downer, The Wild Horse Conspiracy: 16-17)

*HIHO – High Holocene – 0-450 Years Before Present

LHOL – Late Holocene – 450- 4500 Years Before Present

MHOL – Middle Holocene – 3500- 8500 Years Before Present

EMHO – Early Holocene/Middle Holocene – 3500-10,500 Years Before Present

Some people have claimed that the pinto and paint colorations in horses were a creation by man,  although biologists know the meaning of “disruptive colouration” that occurs in many wild animals – which serves to breakWild mare and foal their outline and cause them to be less easily recognized by a predator.  This colouration has been around for a lot longer than mankind itself on our planet. Wild horses come in rainbow colours – chestnut bays and sorrels along with the roans,  and some palominos and buckskins as well,  the latter bearing the dark dorsal as well as hock stripes and often referred to as grullas.  These stripes are considered primitive, but they would be more rightly labelled as adaptive to life in the wild as they visually disrupt a horse’s outline (think of zebras), providing protection from enemies through camouflage. (Downer, The Wild Horse Conspiracy: 158)

Conclusion:

The morphological (fossil) evidence and the more recent DNA evidence points to the same conclusion: the species Equus caballus—the species encompassing all domestic horses and their wild progenitors—arose on this continent.  By contrast, there are no paleontological or genetic grounds for concluding that it is native to any other continent. A “native” species, in evolutionary terms, is defined as one that differentiated or diverged from its immediate ancestor species within a specific geographical locale. The contemporary wild horse in the United States is recently derived from lines domesticated in Europe and Asia. But those lines themselves go much further back in time, and converge on populations that lived in North America during the latter part of the Pleistocene (2.5M to 10k years ago).

All of this unequivocal science begs one big question: why do our government agencies still classify the wild horse as a destructive, non-native, exotic species? This mis-classification has nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics.  It needs to be more widely understood that the horse’s status as a native North American species is beyond serious question. From a scientific standpoint, it is completely irrelevant that native horses died out in White horses of CamargueNorth America 10,000 years ago, or that later populations were domesticated in central Asia a few thousand years ago.  Such considerations have no bearing on their status as having originated on this continent. Reintroduction of horses to North America is, biologically, a non-event: horses were merely returned to part of their former native range, where they have since prospered because ecologically they never left. Authorities should consider the ancient horse family taken as a whole in the world today.  Its origin dates back 58 million years, to the base of the Cenozoic era (right after the age of dinosaurs).

Life’s safety net is composed of interwoven biodiversity – a great number of harmoniously, mutually related life forms.  When people thoughtlessly wipe our vast numbers of individual plants, animals, and decomposers, whole populations and even entire species – as is occurring today – we jeopardize life’s long term survival.

  1. Downer, Craig C., The Wild Horse Conspiracy (Nevada, USA: Author, 2011)

Horse Welfare 2012 – The Year in Review….

Standard
white arab greeting

© Heather Clemenceau

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Horse advocates have had a busy year working to prohibit the importation or exportation of horses for slaughter for human consumption. Horse protection groups released many damning reports of abuse and drug contamination,  and took aggressive legal action to discourage slaughter.

Undercover footage helped support our position,  and numerous investigations were publicized.  Citizen advocates monitored illegal trucking activities and for the first time,  retrieved horses directly from slaughterhouses. Pro-slaughters proved,  via their own (in)actions,  that slaughter does not prevent starvation.

We were also aided by the improved sensitivity of testing protocols in the EU,  which continued to reveal drug contamination of horsemeat,  a finding which is continually met with silence by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency,  although the subject of drug contamination is making its way into the food webs.  We’ve told restaurants in both Canada and the US that we don’t want horses on the menu.

Horse killers,  kill buyers and their enablers did not have a good year – several were charged with felonies.  Slaughterhouse Sue and Dave Duquette were unable to open any of their proposed slaughterhouses, despite performing an endless kabuki dance around the true status of the plants.  Duquette also forgot to send a cheque to renew his own domain name on the web and subsequently lost www.daveduquette.com to a pro-horse HSUS site.

We’ve grown more media  savvy too,  with PSAs and billboards getting the message out.  We are mobilizing via different social media platforms to petition lawmakers. Numerous examples of “horse hoarding” received publicity as well,  with advocates rallying to promote horse adoptions through the increased use of Facebook groups.  We’ve also demanded that horse killers and those who fail to protect horses and humans be justly punished.  However,  despite our best efforts to keep Senate bill 1176 and House resolution 2966 active,  they both died without ever being brought to a vote.

The challenges in 2013 will be even greater,  as the EU moves to ban importation of North American horsemeat and the full force and effect of the ending of the slots program in Ontario are felt.  HWAC,  Equine Canada and the FEI are also launching “prototype” chipping programs,  ostensibly to ensure compliance with 2013 EU regulations.  As we fine-tune all our programs and advocacy efforts,  we look forward to a most challenging year,  but no doubt one filled with hope that we might be seeing the final death throes of the horse slaughter industry.  Happy Holidays indeed!

Read the entire chronological recap on Storify:

horse welfare 2012

 

Happy New Year

Heads, I Win: Tails You Lose – Myths and Fallacies of the Pro-Slaughter Mindset

Standard
Voltaire,  Make my Enemies Ridiculous........

Voltaire, Make my Enemies Ridiculous……..

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Artwork copyright: Heather Clemenceau (use with permission only please)

We have a myriad of differing opinions about horse slaughter,  so disagreement is an unavoidable.  Couple that with the innate desire of many people to “win” in cases of conflict and the widespread lack of reasoning skills that plagues us, and the stage is often set for virulent disagreement.    It’s frustrating to deal with unreasonable,  fact-challenged people,  and there is always the temptation to stoop to their level and respond with the same ignorant contempt that they use as a substitute for actual reasons.  So,  when reason goes out the window,  ridicule pulls up a chair.

Centaur - This half-human and half-animal composition has led many writers to treat them as liminal beings, caught between the two natures, embodied in contrasted myths, as the embodiment of untamed nature

This half-human and half-animal composition has led many writers to treat them as liminal beings, caught between the two natures, embodied in contrasted myths, both as the embodiment of untamed nature

There are so many myths and fallacies perpetrated by pro-slaughters that it’s hard to pick your “Top 10.”  Well,  here`s my Top 20,  but I could have gone on for much longer!  While in the midst of perpetrating their own brand of mythology,  it`s ironic that pro-slaughters claim that welfare and animal rights activists anthropomorphize all animals into Disney-esque characters.  Now,  I quite like mythology myself,  but I know the difference between fact and fiction.  While I’ve seen plenty of people give animals human emotions or even claim to know what they`re thinking,  many more recognize that they are animals who need to be with their own kind and be allowed to exhibit behaviours inherent in their species.  So,  for the edification of my readership,  I’ve  included some “real” horse mythological figures;  let’s see if we can all isolate the  “real” myths from the  pro-slaughter myths!

  • Myth/Fallacy #1)

Anti-slaughter advocates all live in the city,  don’t own horses,  are therefore rank amateurs who learn by reading online

This is actually the fallacy of the Hasty Generalization.   Not everyone who owns a horse can or should work in agriculture.  I know doctors,  psychiatrists,  HR Managers,  and others in professional/administrative functions that have never been to a working farm other than to ride their horse(s).  So what?  A lot of them know more than a lot of pro-slaughters,  and they can actually ride too.  These people are the “pleasure owners” who exist in far higher numbers than any other group of horse owners.  These are the people who are really driving the horse industry and injecting most of the money into it by maintaining their LIVE horses.

I also have to ask – have any of these people making these claims ever heard of the concept of boarding a horse?  If all “true horse people” only lived in the rural countryside,  to whom would breeders sell their horses?

  • Myth/Fallacy #2)

An Ad Hominem attack will squelch disagreement:

Abusive ad hominem usually involves insulting or belittling one’s opponent in order to attack his claim or invalidate his argument, because they aren’t familiar with parliamentary-style debate.  I’ve seen this on my own blog  “You’re from the city,  I guarantee you know nothing!”  Of course,  the version on my blog was horribly mis-spelled,  so whenever I’m quoting a pro-slaughter I’ll be fixing up the spelling and grammar unless of course,  I’m using a screen-cap.   Anti-slaughter advocates sometimes do it too – it can be pretty frustrating to cope with redundant ideas over and over again.

While there are a few pro-slaughters who can effectively debate and will take time to formulate their ideas,  they are in the extreme minority.  To see more of this in action,  check out my other post on Slaughterhouse Sue and her requests to her followers to inundate and bully people she disagrees with.  Note that she doesn’t ask anyone to reason with us!  If you’ve spent any time on Facebook,  you’ll eventually clue-into the fact that when pro-slaughters post on a Facebook page or invite someone to their page and find their overall philosophy is NOT accepted – they report the page as SPAM and start arguing with the person!  This happened on the “Kentucky Against Illegal Immigration” page.

  • Myth/Fallacy #3)

Only true vegans can justifiably complain about horse slaughter

I’ve not only heard this one numerously from pro-slaughters but also from diners at La Palette in Toronto.  The animal advocates I know are vegetarian, vegan, or neither. If one feels called to end horse slaughter or pig abuse and still eats fish or uses a leather saddle,   it’s not for me to judge.  Most advocates I know are actually not members of large AR groups; many probably don’t even consider themselves “animal rights activists” – that’s a pejorative heaped on them by people who are worried about others’ (i.e. the 80% or so) legitimate objection to their behaviour.

After spinning for an eternity,   even carousel horses want to get the hell off the merry-go-round

After spinning for an eternity, even carousel horses want to get the hell off the merry-go-round

There are, of course, various stock arguments against eating any animals and they can be pressed into service here.  Not only do horses NOT merit being looked at as something to be sold by the pound,  there are of course,  legitimate arguments against using non-food animals in the food chain,  and those arguments aren’t mutually exclusive with vegetarianism or veganism.

  • Myth/Fallacy #4)

There are no true vegans anyway

Glad to see a variation of the No True Scotsman fallacy is alive and well!  Because we know that a “true vegan” would eschew using any byproduct of an animal, and avoid living in a house that was built with any byproducts of an animal,  even if the house was built before they were born!

We are all born into a non-vegan world. Thanks for pointing out the obvious.  Most people take vegan  to mean that there is no consumption or active utilization of animal products and nothing further – no meat,  no leather,  no honey,  gelatine,  eggs, milk  and so forth.  So vegans can feel comfortable knowing that while their grandmother’s ashes are stored in an urn made of bone china,  they can still confidently refer to themselves as vegan.

  • Myth/Fallacy #5)

You must own a horse and work in the “industry” in order to be able to render an opinion

United States - Use of Equids by Function - Click to view original source

United States – Use of Equids by Function – Click to view original source

To get an idea of the ridiculousness of this claim let’s draw an analogy between the ability to critique what goes on in the horse industry and any other subject matter.  For instance,  can you quote the Koran?  If not,  your opinions on Islam are invalid.  Can you quote Karl Marx?  If not,  then you have no right to critique liberalism.  How about Stan Lee?  If you can’t speak eloquently about comics,  perhaps your opinion should not be heard.

Well,  I’ve never been to war,  nor have I met Sarah Palin,  but I have very definite opinions on both of those topics.  Most pro-slaughters who make this claim appear to either be ranchers or breeders or both.  The breeders/ranchers actually represent a much smaller percentage of the horse industry but claim they ARE the industry – in the US they represent 15.9 and 24.8%   Those who use horses for “pleasure” represent 45.7%,  so I hope we can finally put the lie to the myth of who IS the industry.

Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis Does NOT Own A Horse!

Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis Does NOT Own A Horse!

The horse industry includes all businesses that profit when more people own horses. The pleasure horse industry is the largest segment of the industry.   People who own horses as “pets” churn more revenue through to farriers, boarding facilities, tack shops, feed stores and vets because there are more of them.  My guess is that the money I’ve spent on tack, boarding,  and training for my horses is a helluva lot more than the back yard breeders have invested.  The idea that people who don’t own horses cannot contribute to any discussion regarding them, is one that has been regularly parroted by Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis,  who ironically has claimed that she owns no horses.

I will also draw another distinction between myself as a companion horse owner and the slaughter industry – on occasion when I’ve taken my horse to Michigan for an event,  I’ve been required to pull a negative Coggins beforehand.   The shippers who transport slaughter-bound horses across State lines are somehow able to evade this responsibility.  We also read that in Texas,  Federal Veterinarians were obliged to ignore the Coggins entirely. How can we require responsible owners to spend money and time to meet regulations that help to ensure control of contagious disease when the slaughter buyers (who appear to be represented by that teeny tiny 1.2% block) bypass US (and probably Canadian) borders freely, without Coggins testing and very little, if any proof of ownership?

  • Myth/Fallacy #6)

Hitler was a vegetarian too!

So was Einstein in the later part of his life.  And Atilla the Hun rode a horse.  So what?

A centaur with wings is called a pteracentaur

A centaur with wings is called a pteracentaur

I can only ::facepalm:: when people (especially christians who are also pro-slaughter) compare vegetarians to Hitler .Aside from the fact that they seem to think everyone around them is a vegetarian or vegan,  comparing anything that is not a dictator/mass-murderer to another dictator/mass-murderer is a fallacy known as the Reductio ad Hitlerum.   You don’t get to call people Nazis just because you want to inflame or incite.

Hitler’s vegetarianism was not a foregone conclusion but so what if it was? What if he was also left-handed, or a Taurus? Is that somehow a significant or relevant argument? Not eating meat, or being left handed does not contribute to their ideology to slaughter millions. What about Stalin or Pol Pot? Maybe they ate meat? They might not have liked animals much either.  People who inject Hitler into conversations would do well to start by googling the phrase imprinted on the belt buckles worn by the Nazis. It says “Gott mit uns” (God with us).  The Nazis also were not atheists – one important Nazi slogan was ‘Kinder, Kirche, Kueche’ ( Children, Church, Kitchen).  In any case,  comparisons to Nazis are irrelevant in this example;  it is also similarly fallacious to use the Nazis as an example of what might be wrong with Christianity.  Don’t do it.  Case closed.

  • Myth/Fallacy #7)

Humane Euthanasia is not humane

No matter how much pro-slaughters present in the way of anecdotal evidence (“I saw a horse that thrashed for hours”) this does not qualify as “data.”  No one is available to examine your claims,  confirm with a veterinarian etc. etc.  Pentobarbitone sodium has sometimes been used for euthanasia WITHOUT being preceded by a short-acting barbiturate or sedative,  and this will actually cause excitement in the horse.  There’s no excuse for a large-animal veterinarian not to know this and take appropriate action.  I’ve seen euthanasia and it is humane.  Do pro-slaughters expect us to believe it’s humane to PTS dogs and cats but not horses?   Can anyone really believe that putting your horse in a truck (even a short distance) and sending it through unfamiliar surroundings such as a feedlot where it must contend with numerous other unfamiliar horses,  then onto its ultimate demise in a slaughterhouse,  is somehow humane?

Rather than relying on the opinion of the talking heads at various veterinary or horse associations,  I think we should go to the actual people who work with the animals.  Veterinarians for Equine Welfare (VEW) `….was created by a group of veterinarians from all disciplines who were concerned about misinformation being transmitted to the public regarding the national debate on horse slaughter versus euthanasia.“  They believe that their profession’s integrity is being undermined by the positioning of a few misinformed individuals (their industry association) whose opinions have been co-opted by external forces,  as opposed to what should be a primary concern for animal welfare.

Veterinarians should put animal welfare at the top of their priorities, not relegate it to an also-ran concern.  The reality is that horse slaughter has never been considered a legitimate form of euthanasia by many veterinary professionals or organizations.  The veterinarians who support slaughter stand out in their field as oddballs who wouldn’t even sell you their own services.  If they can`t demonstrate to their clients why their own euthanasia services are not better than slaughter,  then why enter the field of veterinary medicine in the first place?  And why do you deserve me as a client?

  • Myth/Fallacy #8)

Euthanizing a horse wastes valuable meat

Do you ever get the impression that pro-slaughters are always busy cramming shit down their throats or into their freezers,  because they’re afraid they might run out of food?  They always seem to have a horse stashed in the freezer.   I wonder how they’re even able to focus on riding or ranch work,  knowing that they’re basically riding around on a piece of meat?  The feeling that an animal’s life seems to be best served by providing food for man is a very anthropomorphic centralism.

Anthropocentrism has been posited by many environmentalists as the underlying reason why humanity dominates and sees the need to “develop” most of the Earth.  Anthropocentrism is a root cause of the ecological crisis, human overpopulation, and the extinctions of many non-human species.There is no market for the meat of the slaughtered horse unless you conceal his drug history.  Stop pretending that your horse can suddenly be transitioned into a food animal at the end of his useful life, when he hasn’t been raised as one.

Food safety should be taken seriously,  if not by governments then certainly by the consumer.  Food safety requires that certain protocols are followed with food animals from birth,  quite unlike what happens with most privately owned horses.  It’s immoral to promote an industry that conceals drug contamination and doesn’t make any effort to determine whether any horses are stolen.  Since it seems apparent that no pro-slaughter has ever taken a biology course,  I’ll distill it down for them here.  Just because you can’t eat it and shit it out does not mean that you have wasted something!  All biotic matter ultimately must be broken down into biochemical cycles – this includes all plant and animal life.   The breakdown of biological matter is essential for perpetuation of the carbon/phosphorus/sulphur/oxygen/nitrogen cycles,  without which life on earth would cease.

There is nothing whatsoever unnatural or wasteful about microbes acting upon dead animal flesh – breaking it down into its constituent components;  ultimately this is how soil is created and regenerated and our air is oxygenated.   Everything alive is made from chemicals that are only borrowed from the earth. If you aren’t aware of this process then you really aren’t that connected to nature after all.

  • Myth/Fallacy #9)

Euthanasia is too expensive

It was Centaurus that descended upon a herd of Magnesian mares and conceived the Centaurs.

It was Centaurus that descended upon a herd of Magnesian mares and conceived the Centaurs.

Compared to what?  The cost of euthanasia or any service is a relative thing.  The horse slaughter industry’s spokes-whore (the Wall Street Journal) bemoans how unfair it is that hiring a veterinarian to euthanize and dispose of a horse can cost hundreds of dollars. How expensive is that to a horse owner?  The average cost to maintain a horse for a year is thousands of dollars,  not including the cost of the horse,  which can be significant.  If you board your horse out it’s easily $400 – $600 a month (on the low end) without adding in any other services such as farrier and veterinarian,  and certainly not a trailer or truck.  So let’s not even entertain the notion that horse ownership is for regular people.  Unless you use your horse to plough fields,  you’ve got to be hustling and making some decent change in the private or public sector in order to be able to afford that horse – or be willing to do without a lot of other expenditures.  If you’re already spending that kind of coin for your horse,  $200 – $500 for euthanization/disposal is already a budgeted expense for many people.

Various veterinary colleges and schools offer euthanasia and disposal/cremation starting at around $100.  For anyone who lives in an area where there is truly an issue with disposal,  I wonder why no enterprising individual has thought of providing a rendering service?  What could the constraints be?  While I’m very sympathetic to people who have fallen on hard times/lost jobs etc,  for everyone else I say  – if this is too much,  I have to honestly say that I hope I never need $100 bucks as badly as that pro-slaughter individual apparently does.

  • Myth/Fallacy #10)

The bodies of euthanized horses pollute ground water

Not exactly a myth unless one intends to pass off the presence of barbiturates as being solely caused by euthed horses.  Most groundwater pollutants are created by industrial facilities, power stations,  motor vehicles,  and agriculture.  Farmyard waste,  created by,  you know,  people working in  “the industry” is one of the biggest culprits.  So while people working  in “the industry” are creating the majority of agricultural pollutants,  they want to pass the blame for pollution of ground water to those 90% of horse owners who are euthanizing their animals?  Barbiturates have been used in humans since the 60s as well as in veterinary drugs.  They are highly stable and take considerable time to degrade in the environment,  which means that drugs passed through urine and wastewater plants (which can’t capture it) and dumped by pharmaceutical companies will remain in our environment as a contaminant for centuries,  in both surface and groundwater.

Pegasus became the servant of of the gods. There he was the mount of Eos to help bring the dawn, or was ridden by Apollo to bring the sun. Pegasus also served Zeus by bringing to him the thunder and lightning needed for the thunderbolts. For all his noble services, Pegasus was honoured by a constellation in the autumn sky.

Pegasus became the servant of of the gods. There he was the mount of Eos to help bring the dawn, or was ridden by Apollo to bring the sun. Pegasus also served Zeus by bringing to him the thunder and lightning needed for the thunderbolts. For all his noble services, Pegasus was honoured by a constellation in the autumn sky.

The fact is that most barbiturates were used in humans as hypnotics,  anesthetics,  anticonvulsants, sedatives,  and antiepileptics, and NOT in horses.  Obviously,  landfills should not be located next to aquafers and companies should not use landfills to dispose of pharmaceutical waste.  It’s also inappropriate to euthanize an animal and then leave it lying in a field where it can be predated upon.  Of course,  we have more regulations about disposal of drugs now,  but it certainly doesn’t mitigate the damages that have been done 50 years ago.

Another question I frequently ask of pro-slaughters (you can cue the crickets,  because I’ve not gotten an answer yet) is why they’re not outraged about human burial.  Not that we have much of a choice.  But most people are preserved in formaldehyde prior to burial,  then placed in hermetically sealed coffins.  No state or province in North America requires the “routine” embalming of bodies,  although there are some exceptions.  Formaldehyde is a carcinogen.  Although we are burying more people than horses,  the ability of embalming fluid to contaminate soil or water tables has not been studied thoroughly.  So claims that horses are polluting the environment seem rather extraordinary,  and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • Myth/Fallacy #11)

We can feed the world – starving people,  children, prisoners, etc with horsemeat

This is the fallacy of the false dichotomy.  Just because we have horses does not mean that we should give or sell the meat if toxic.  Slaughterhouse Sue claims horsemeat will resolve all hunger problems in the US,  and her supporters in United Horsemen’s group also claim that it could be exported to Africa and solve hunger in that continent.  Why doesn’t she and the IEBA just create a business proposal to sell horsemeat to impoverished African countries?

The problem with these types of simplistic “solutions” is that they can’t possibly account for all the problems in Africa. Like food distribution problems, government corruption, AIDS, the effects of globalization, overpopulation, gang warfare, coup d’etats, the role of the IMF, and the lowest average wages in the world. 23 million starving – we’d have to slaughter every horse in the US and Canada, plus dogs and cats, every year, and even that wouldn’t be enough to sustain them over time. Most African countries have had aid provided to them for many years, and yet the circumstances never improve for the people. In actuality, the divide in levels of corruption in rich and poor countries remains as sharp as ever, according to the latest Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), government corruption is a primary cause of food shortages in 3rd world countries, so it matters little which foodstuffs are being referred to as a “relief” for hunger.

How many years was horse slaughter available in the US,  and yet there was no real market for horsemeat?  Or were there no hungry people in the US for the last 70 or so years?  Granted,  some people ate horses and currently do.  And some people take Bute despite being warned otherwise.  But to cite Yale or Harvard as examples of horsemeat eating hardly cuts it as an assertion that horsemeat is or should be consumed in the US.

Nobody is seriously feeding starving children with horsemeat. There is no nonprofit organization volunteering to run a slaughterhouse that would exist exclusively to donate horsemeat to the hungry.  No one operating a federally-licensed slaughterhouse in Canada is doing so,  and as far as I know,  neither are the provincial ones.  If our goal is to feed the starving, the grain our horses eat would be a more efficient donation.  So good luck trying to pitch horsemeat in North America.  Remember the frosty reception given to pink slime?  The pink slime marketers are still trying to peddle their propaganda too.

  • Myth/Fallacy #12)

Horse Slaughter is Humane

A lot of pro-slaughters don’t even believe this.  How do I know?  Because they keep writing about how,  “when slaughter returns,  it will be humane and regulated.”  So you mean it wasn`t already?  If not,  why not?  “We’ll make it humane.”  “We’ll  regulate this or that.” This is one of their  most insincere statements yet.   I`d have more respect for them if they at least admitted it wasn`t humane and they wanted to get rid of the bad players such as Trent SaultersDorian Ayache,  who by the way,  has amassed 64 violations within 2 years,  and Dennis Chavez of Southwest Livestock Auctions,  who has a chance of going to prison thanks,  not to pro-slaughters trying to clean up their business,  but to Animals Angels investigatory work.  I have to say that I have NEVER seen a single pro-slaughter ever condemn any of these low-lifes who flagrantly ignore the law.  Au contraire – Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis endorses Chavez – ergo,  she endorses someone who could get up to 11 years in prison!  Quite the recommendation. Again, no surprise when you know that Wyoming ranks as the third-worst state when it comes to corruption!

Pegasi make excellent choices as companions on journeys, able to take to the sky at any sign of danger, and traveling almost as fast on foot as in wing.

Pegasi make excellent choices as companions on journeys, able to take to the sky at any sign of danger, and traveling almost as fast on foot as in wing.

Half of them can’t even say “slaughter.”  They want to speak in doublespeak,  referring to it as “processing,”  or the “equine terminal marketplace,”  or worse – “euthanasia.”  They can’t say it because they know what it is.  Even Temple Grandin thinks such euphemisms are silly.  Concerns about the lack of a humane slaughter process for equines are central to arguments against equine slaughter, and cannot be summarily dismissed simply because an industry association declares slaughter “humane.”  And it doesn’t matter what the AQHA thinks  (appeal to authority fallacy) – I wouldn’t believe them anyway.  They’ve spent at least 30 years promoting halter horses that are of no use to those of us who use horses for pleasure or performance riding.

There is no such thing as “Humane Slaughter” any more than there is “Humane Rape,” “Humane Torture,” or any series of violent acts – how can you bestow humanity where there can be none? Should anyone campaign in favour of “humane” rape as a gateway to no rape?

Dr. Nicholas Dodman is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, and Professor, Section Head and Program Director of the Animal Behavior Department of Clinical Sciences at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. He is certified with the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists (ACVA) and the American College of Veterinary Behavior (ACVB). Dr. Dodman is one of the world’s most noted and celebrated veterinary behaviorists, and is the author of four best-selling books on animal behavior as well as two textbooks and more than 100 articles and contributions to scientific books and journals. With his experience in anesthesiology and his intricate knowledge about the anatomy of the brain, Dr. Dodman is a leading specialist, qualified to assess the stunning of horses in a slaughterhouse environment. He observed the undercover video tape taken at Les Petites Nations given to the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition and these are his comments:

All of these factors contributed to a poor first shot stun percentage, with approximately 40% of horses requiring two or more shots, and one large horse requiring seven shots, to be stunned. Large horses seemed particularly at risk of requiring more than one shot. Whether this is because of the necessity of the operator to reach up high to angle the CBP down or because of the physical size of the horse’s skull limiting the reach of the captive bolt is unclear. Either way, the operator’s stance below horse head level was likely another factor contributing to the poor first-time stun percentage. Many horses who required a second or third shot, and some who were only given one shot to the head, retained muscle tone for some time, with some running in place or lurching from side to side, indicating that some level of consciousness was likely still present as they slowly expired.

My final conclusion, after reviewing 150-plus horse slaughters in this series of videos, is that the process was terrifying for most of the horses and, in many cases, horribly inhumane. In my opinion, only a one-shot stun is acceptable and this is, in fact, what Canadian humane slaughter regulations require (Meat Inspection Act – Part III). It is not acceptable for 40% of horses to require or receive a second shot. At this slaughterhouse, in cases where a second shot was required, most humane standards, in my opinion, were not met.”

Dr. Brian Evans,  Chief Food Safety Officer and Chief Veterinary Officer for Canada,  claims he had no idea that there were deviations from the standard at Bouvry or Richelieu or anywhere else.  No idea,  until he finds out through the media that there’s undercover video.

  • Myth/Fallacy #13)

It’s Biblically appropriate to eat horsemeat

If you think so,  more power to you. But due to all the conflicting passages in the bible,  how can you really know for sure?  In my mind,  this justification is very similar to the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.  And why question the  “moral compass” of individuals who are not christian or don’t want to eat horsemeat? How do you account for the “moral compass” in individuals from nations that do not embrace the “in god we trust” dogma”? Canadians somehow manage quite well without the pervasiveness of religion, and why not? Morality is not based on the religion  to begin with.  Hammurabi of Babelonia developed a system of law and morality about 2,000 years before the bible was written.

Furthermore, morality is a sense of behavioural conduct that differentiates intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and bad (or wrong) and it is not dependant upon the embracing of any religion. Morality is dictated and embraced by societal mores and moral truths, which exist irrespective of religion. We also know that some Christians are not actually very moral people, and you only have to look at politics to see evidence of this.

  • Myth/Fallacy #14)

Animal Welfare/Animal Rights Activists want to remove all our property rights

OK,  here we’ve got another example of the hasty generalization or slippery slope fallacies.  To start with,  no one has  unlimited property rights. We do not have eminent domain over our own property. Owners of animals have both legal rights and limitations related to their animals’ legal status as tangible personal property.  In most jurisdictions you can’t fill your yard with junk or abandon your car on the side of the road either.

Of course, laws that are enforced that are in the best interests of animals are not often seen as being in the best (economic) interests of exploiters. Those people often proclaim that animals are merely property. As such, any welfare law that sought to accord animals protection therefore impinged on exploiters’ property rights. What many feel is “incrementalism” against their personal rights are accommodations to animals that the average person recognizes should be granted automatically. Therefore, the only people who are in an uproar about the animals that form part of their “property rights” are those individuals who already have a grand-canyon sized gap, philosophically speaking, with most of society – people who are already using ethical standards in the care of their animals.

  • Myth/Fallacy #15)

Bute and all veterinary drugs are eliminated from the animal’s system within hours

The doctors and veterinarians who attempted to refute Dr. Marini et al’s study expected pro-slaughters to accept their supposition even though it exemplified an argument from ignorance,  which started out as an appeal to authority.  How did this happen?  Sue Wallis and Dave Duquette asked everyone to accept the word of a veterinarian who is an expert in his own field (body scoring),  but who is commenting on a field outside of his area of expertise. Dr. Henneke supports the assertion that bute exits the system completely.  So what?  He’s not a toxicologist.  When you want to discuss the Henneke scale,  Dr. H is one guy to call.  Similarly,  if Einstein makes a suggestion about relativity,  you’d better listen. If he tries to tell you how to ride a horse,  you can tell him to keep his day job.  Read Dr. Marini’s response here.

In a survey, 96% of respondents said they used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to control the joint pain and inflammation in horses, and 82% administer them without always consulting their veterinarian. More than 1,400 horse owners and trainers were surveyed to better understand attitudes toward NSAIDs.  Additionally,  99 percent of horses that started in California last year raced on bute, according to Daily Racing Form.

In the US, Canada, and the

The unicorn appears in the Old Testament as something to both fear and revere. Many writers have speculated that the unicorn inhabited the Garden of Eden, but it is not specifically named. There is a theory that the unicorn perished in the great flood.

The unicorn appears in the Old Testament as something to both fear and revere. Many writers have speculated that the unicorn inhabited the Garden of Eden, but it is not specifically named. There is a theory that the unicorn perished in the great flood.

EU, bute is not permitted to be used for food animals. PERIOD. That simple acknowledgement renders any other discussion on toxicology rather moot. There are no safe levels for known carcinogens,  which is why it’s pointless to discuss to what degree bute is or is not eliminated from the tissues. Harm is assumed.  Discussions of toxicity or “safe levels” are reserved for non-carcinogenic effects. Non-carcinogens are assessed with a different type of dose-response study than that for carcinogens. Furthermore, the “precautionary principle” is recognized in international law, and it of course stresses that the absence of scientific certainty about a risk should not bar the taking of precautionary

measures in the face of possible irreversible harm.  If bute did exit the system completely,  we would never see this:

Examples of bute found in horsemeat in the EU

Examples of bute found in horsemeat in the EU

  • Myth/Fallacy #16)

Horse slaughter returns the viability of the market

I have personally found that horses are most apt to survive when they are not killed and eaten.  Without the demand for meat,  horse slaughter would cease to exist.  I’d have a lot more respect for breed associations if they promoted

The hippocampus, the mythical sea-horse, which, according to the description of Pausanias, was a horse, but the part of its body down from the breast was that of a sea monster or fish. The horse appears even in the Homeric poems as the symbol of Poseidon, whose chariot was drawn over the surface of the sea by swift horses.

The hippocampus, the mythical sea-horse, which, according to the description of Pausanias, was a horse, but the part of its body down from the breast was that of a sea monster or fish. The horse appears even in the Homeric poems as the symbol of Poseidon, whose chariot was drawn over the surface of the sea by swift horses.

euthanasia with a bullet,  followed by rendering.  Can’t you give horses “at the bottom of the pyramid” a humane death without eating them?  Or perhaps people producing horses “at the bottom of the pyramid” should reduce or stop?  Horses don’t know they’re at the bottom of any pyramid in terms of desirability.  Your average grade horse feels the same fear and pain at a feedlot/slaughterhouse as would any high end horse (not that they end up in feedlots much anyway,  unless they`re stolen).

The problem with a reduction in slaughter, for the AQHA (also known as the “Equine puppy-millers”) and other registries, is that it leads to a drop in registrations. Registries make their money from registrations and from show fees paid only by the owners of registered horses competing in registry-sanctioned events. If the slaughter pipeline contracts, people breed (and register) fewer horses, and the disposal method for all these horses suddenly ceases to exist.  Most breed associations consider their own survival before the welfare of the horse.  It`s interesting to note that there were more than a few Tennessee Walker Horses on the trailer that collapsed in Nashville,  another Dorian Ayache and Three Angels Farm debacle.  Marty Irby,  president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors’ Association, said an organized program for retiring horses would be expensive.  He claimed that there was no money for such a program,  beyond the money required to  keep the association alive.  Keeping the “association” alive is what is most important to this industry. They do not care about end-of-life choices for horses and readily use the killer buyers and slaughter industry.  Please don’t forget that Canada has slaughter,  as does Spain (over 100 slaughterhouses) and both countries have seen the bottom fall out of the horse market.  Methinks there must be other factors at hand.

  • Myth/Fallacy #17)

We’re overrun with wild horses

Where to begin with the BLM?  The organization which consistently claims that it is  protecting wild horses whilst simultaneously working behind the scenes for their eventual destruction. The US government is spending way too much money to keep wild mustangs in holding pens so they don’t compete with livestock on federal grazing lands.

As Ginger Kathrens, volunteer executive director of the Cloud Foundation, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal: ”You would think there are millions of wild horses roaming the West. It’s pathetic how small the herds are, how underpopulated they are.” In the 1.3 million acres of Antelope Valley, 407 wild horses graze alongside 7,700 cows. ”That’s the statistic that’s common to all their management. The pie is so slender for wild horses.”

Past Division Chief Don Glenn has gone on record as saying  that the “simple solution” to the wild horse and burro management problem is “unlimited sale authority.” He opined: “It makes no sense for the taxpayers to put out $75 million to take care of a bunch of old horses that nobody wants. They should be sold without limitation. If folks want to protect them because they’re afraid they’re going to go to slaughter or something, they have every right to purchase them.”  He’s right – why spend that amount of money when you could instead leave them alone or manage them with a science-based approach that treats the horses as the native, reintroduced species that they are.  The BLM barely leaves an area before the welfare ranchers unload truckloads of cattle on the same land and remove the fences around the water holes.

  • Myth/Fallacy #18)

Wild horses have no predators

Considering that humans cannot control their own populations (or choose not to) despite negative consequences, is it really fair to manage other species by killing due to the negative consequences they have on humans?  The cod fishing industry (now decimated) in Atlantic Canada is a perfect example of resource mismanagement. But when it comes to management of practically anything, governments and organizations that try to play God end up acting the fool.

The fates of horses, and the people who own and command them, are revealed as Black Beauty narrates the circle of his life.

The fates of horses, and the people who own and command them, are revealed as Black Beauty narrates the circle of his life.

Alyson Andreason from the University of Nevada Reno presented the findings of her research into mountain lions and their rate of predation on wild horses. She documented much higher levels of predation on wild horses – primarily foals – than had previously been believed.  Her research team found that the lions consumed “more horses than we would have expected.” In the Virginia Range, mountain lions killed four times more horses than deer. This research puts the lie to the notion, perpetuated by ranchers and the BLM, that wild horses have no natural predators, and therefore, the only way to manage them is to round them up and remove them. Mountain lions are hunted throughout the West, as well as removed (killed) by the USDA at the request of ranchers. If they were protected instead of persecuted, mountain lions could clearly play a role in regulating some wild horse populations.

While mathematical ecology is a new discipline, mathematical physics is not – it is peer-reviewed science.  The mechanistic explanation of predator/prey relationships suggests that the machinery of nature functions without us quite well:  In short, the predator-prey paradox and prey-enrichment theories will suffice quite well, in fact, they have worked for hundreds of thousands of years. Both predator and prey species are healthier when left to the devices of nature, whose mechanisms are far superior than anything man could devise.  Predators and prey can influence one another’s evolution. Traits that enhance a predator’s ability to find and capture prey will be selected for in the predator, while traits that enhance the prey’s ability to avoid being eaten will be selected for in the prey. The “goals” of these traits are not compatible, and it is the interaction of these selective pressures that influences the dynamics of the predator and prey populations. Predicting the outcome of species interactions is also of interest to biologists trying to understand how communities are structured and sustained.

The Lotka-Volterra model is composed of a pair of differential equations that describe predator-prey (or herbivore-plant, or parasitoid-host) dynamics in their simplest case (one predator population, one prey population). The model makes several simplifying assumptions: 1) the prey population will grow exponentially when the predator is absent; 2) the predator population will starve in the absence of the prey population (as opposed to switching to another type of prey); 3) predators can consume infinite quantities of prey; and 4) there is no environmental complexity (in other words, both populations are moving randomly through a homogeneous environment.  The model is sound.  We’ve seen this play out in real life  in Yellowstone Park after wolves were exterminated – this was done because wolves preyed upon elk, animals human hunters also wished to hunt. They believed that without wolves to prey on them, there would be more elk and so on for humans to hunt. This was a foolish and short-sighted view, however – the elk population exploded without natural predators to cull the weak and sick, leading to overgrazing and damage to the environment. The herbivores then starved. Fortunately, wolves have now been reintroduced, and the balance between predator and prey has been restored.

  • Myth/Fallacy #19)

The unavailability of slaughter in the US causes abandonment and abuse

The global food and fuel crisis is resulting in more than just people going hungry. Rising grain and gas prices in the US and Canada have made it difficult to continue to afford horses. But slaughter never ended in the US – the business of slaughter just became an issue of geography.  Horses now travel longer distances,  perhaps with the exception of those that are illegally slaughtered in Florida and that little shop of horrors – Bravo Packing in New Jersey,  which serves the big cat market. In actuality,  the rate of slaughter of US horses was only temporarily affected by the closings of the US based slaughter plants in 2007, and the slaughter rate has since returned to its previous levels. There was therefore no mechanism by which these closings could have impacted abuse and neglect.

Slaughter Statistics by Year - 1989 through available YTD (click through to original document at Equine Welfare Alliance)

Slaughter Statistics by Year – 1989 through available YTD (click through to original document at Equine Welfare Alliance)

This article suggests that horses were turned away from a slaughterhouse and abandoned for being too thin,  yet the pro-slaughter faction tells us that slaughter will PREVENT starvation.  What a joke!  A six month investigation by the EWA and other animal investigation organizations determined the predominant source of abandoned horses in the Southwestern US. The findings show that most or all of more than 5,000 horses a year are being abandoned after being rejected for slaughter at the Mexican border.

It simply made no  sense that someone who could not afford to euthanize and bury/render a horse would elect instead to pay for hauling it hundreds or thousands of miles only to turn it loose.  Kill buyers hauling horses to Mexico need a place to dispose of the rejected horses, and the most economical way to do so is to simply abandon them on a deserted stretch of road or in an isolated lot.  Surely the pro-slaughters don’t believe that the KBs are taking them home and nurturing them back to health!

Groups are now in place to verify all abandoned horse article claims made anywhere in the United States. There is a mechanism in place at the EWA to examine future claims of abandonment as they become newsworthy. Any articles or news stories which make claims about abandoned horses, will be checked for verification through police reports, state park services, and all other places that claims have been made about abandoned horses anywhere in the U.S., due to the findings that many reporters are writing false or unverified articles about abandoned horses. The EWA has compiled an extensive study of horse abandonment reports that reads like a Snopes reference – 26 pages of source documentation that refutes claims of horse abandonment,  as reported in various news reports. The Animal Law Coalition also conducted its own extensive study of the metrics involved. It’s findings reveal that abuse and neglect are largely determined by economic conditions. An upturn in unemployment seen in late 2007 appears to have translated into the beginning of an upturn in abuse and neglect in early 2008.

This is not to say that there are no cases of horse abandonment at all – there are no doubt a great many opportunistic,  cruel people who will abandon horses in desolate areas,  but people who commit these types of acts will abuse animals with or without the presence of slaughter!    Face facts – people who neglect or abandon their horses have chosen NOT to send that horse to slaughter.  I would call that a resounding FAILURE of slaughter to control horse neglect or impact the value of horses.

I wonder what the president of the AQHA has to say about these findings since he has released a statement claiming the abandonment of horses as a reason to support slaughter?

  • Myth/Fallacy #20)

The 80% is Bogus!

If you’re complaining about all the AR/AW activists getting up in your business,  then it’s time to acknowledge exactly why there are so many of us – we’re the NORM,  We’re the 80%.  We’re the majority.  There is no secretive, clandestine, Machiavellian worldwide animal rights and liberation movement underway.  We’re “out there” and we’re regular people.  A 2004 Ipsos-Reid poll that showed 2/3 (64%) of Canadians opposed to the practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption,  and ASPCA Research Confirms Americans Strongly Oppose Slaughter of Horses for Human Consumption,  in a poll conducted by Lake Research Partners.

Conclusion:

Discerning which voices to listen to is, as best as I can tell, a function of your degree of expertise in the subject and your innate intelligence, breadth of general knowledge of how the world works and reasoning capacity, which allow you to smell when someone is spoon-feeding you bullshit.  Reasonable, rational people who are not fact-challenged,  understand  even if they do not accept.  Blaming the messenger never changes the facts,  because a fact cannot be insolent – and you have no right to be offended merely because you don’t like or agree with said fact.  If you’re going to argue badly,  why do it at all?

The only way any views can be reasonably challenged are by the claim that the conclusion is not true,  the evidence is not true,  or that the evidence is insufficient to justify the conclusion.  The only ways you can have mistaken beliefs is to have faulty evidence – evidence that is  not true or that even if it is true,  does not support your beliefs.

Join the children's letter writing campaign!

Join the children’s letter writing campaign! (Click image to jump to the program at the Equine Welfare Alliance!