Tag Archives: “Charlie Stenholm”

Who Knew? Horse Industry Groups Still Lying About Horse Abandonment

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© Heather Clemenceau

© Heather Clemenceau

Written By:  Heather Clemenceau with contributions by Kathy Gregory

There are those who tell the truth. There are those who distort the truth.  And then there’s the pro-slaughter myths and lies. You just know that whenever you see an article on “equine agriculture” that includes references to the Farm Bureau, you need to deploy your very best fact-checkers to keep them on their toes.  We’re seeing a lot of falsehoods in the news concerning animal welfare activists,  not that this is anything new – remember the claim by Charlie Stenholm that horse slaughterhouses were necessary to dispose of 9,000,000 unwanted horses per year,  while employing  400,000 people (in three slaughter plants,  no less)?

You’d think that an editor at one of the Big-Ag or Meat News Daily websites would cast a jaundiced eye on that claim, because it would mean that the number of people employed in the horse slaughter industry was roughly one third as large as everyone employed in the US military.  Or, you could say that, comparatively speaking, those 400,000 people employed in horse slaughter  are equivalent to 70% of the population of Wyoming and also more than the number of McDonald’s employees worldwide.  Since these numbers were picked up by multiple news channels I can only assume that Stenholm’s office gave them bogus numbers.

I wrote earlier about the perpetuation of these bogus stats in a blog post, but there’s always a new campaign of lies and myths with corresponding inconvenient truths for the slaughter promoters. Refuting lies about horse abandonment, despite being proven to be largely without merit by the Equine Welfare Alliance,  is as difficult as figuring out how to get smoke back in a cigarette (as one smart pro-horse person so cleverly put it).

The News Gazette of Illinois brings us an article about a group of so-called horse aficionados that starts out fairly well, but degenerates into standard fare horse slaughter truth-o-meter_nope_2001propaganda.  The group has about 450 members, but none of them ever heard the term “humane euthanasia.”  And you know if the Farm Bureau has anything to say about horse slaughter, they’re going to be about as impartial as David Duke’s critical review of Alex Haley’s “Roots.”

After describing how much love the group has for horses, Illinois horse breeder Nancy Strunk then starts in with the pro-slaughter dogma……“If you have an old, broken-down horse that can’t be ridden, horse owners don’t know what to do with them. The owners used to take them to a market to produce meat, and now you have to take them to Mexico.”  Strunk then went on to say that horse owners have resorted to setting their horses loose in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois and other places. Ms. Strunk then invited people interested in the equine committee and its activities to call the Farm Bureau.  She lives in Illinois,  so there’s really no excuse for ignorance,  but a real horse lover on a fact-finding mission can uncover this fraud without much effort. Horse advocate Kathy Gregory saw her claim about abandonment in the article and actually picked up the phone and called the management at the Shawnee National Forest for clarification.  Kathy presents a solid bit of sleuthing and fact checking that pulls the veil from the pro-slaughter efforts to mislead the public.

mythbusters-final2“Just for the heck of it, I called the Public Affairs office at the Shawnee National Forest Park, and spoke to a woman in Amanda Patrick’s office. She was completely puzzled by this statement from Ms Strunk, as she had heard nothing about any “abandoned horses”, but asked if she could call me back after checking with a couple people in the field offices. Later in the afternoon, she returned my call with the not-surprising-report that nobody in the Shawnee National Forest Park system had seen or heard about any “abandoned horses” on their land. Since the article ends by saying “Strunk invites people interested in the equine committee and its activities to call the Farm Bureau at 352-5235” I think I will.”

Here is an email response from the Shawnee National Forest Park:

“Mailroom R9 Shawnee | Mailroom_R9_Shawnee@fs.fed.us | Add to Contacts
Today, Tuesday, Mar 26 09:30 AM | Show Details | View source

Re: WWW Mail: abandoned horses?

Good morning,

Presently, we are not aware of any abandoned horses on the Shawnee National Forest lands.

Thanks, Rebeccah

Rebeccah Lampert Williams
Information Assistant-Shawnee National Forest
50 Highway 145 South
Harrisburg, IL 62946
1(800) 699-6637 1-(618) 253-7114”

So I think that about puts this little myth to rest.  But Kathy’s “truthiness-o-meter” is always on alert for lies passing as facts as they pertain to horse abandonment.  As we know,  breed associations are often pretty guilty of spinning their own pantsfirereality to justify slaughter.  This includes the inevitable abandonment and suffering stats that they are prone to pulling out of their asses.  Read the first half of an exchange Kathy had with the President of a breed association justifying slaughter with pants-on-fire lies:

“I have been a breeder for over 35 years and support the preservation of [redacted] horses. The problem with actions taken to ban horse slaughter are manifold and growing at an alarming rate, and it is not directed specifically at the [redacted] breed.  It involves all breeds.  The main problem is many people who have owned the “back yard pet” have lost interest or their children have quit riding, or thew [sic] parents have lost their job and can’t afford to feed their animals and can’t afford or won’t afford the cost of having the animals put down humanely by a vet.  The net result is these unwanted horses are being dumped on public and military lands so the irresponsible owners don’t have to deal with the problem.  We recently helped in the round up of dumped horses on the Ft. Lewis military reservation in the state of Washington.  We ended up with over 1500 horses, all of which were put down at public expense because the military was not prepared to deal with such a major expense on a long term basis.

What our Board of Directors did was to endorse the re-establishment of USDA controlled slaughter houses authorized to humanely deal with old, sick, and otherwise unwanted horses.  This endorsement provides a once viable disposal procedure to be re-established and remove the financial burden from the tax paying public. In really simple terms, the BOD said, “Be personally responsible for your decision to obtain a horse….don’t be a burden to the public because you made a bad decision”.

Name Redacted

bull_meterThis man is apparently not describing something told to him about 1,500 abandoned horses – he claims to have been directly involved in a rescue effort.  So I guess the BOD endorsed horse slaughter based in part on this man’s assertions that 1,500 horses were abandoned and euthanized at public expense.  We all know how much the pro-slaughters are loathe to waste anything,  so the idea that thousands of dollars of public money was used to euthanize these non-existent horses must have sent them clutching their coin purses! Presumably, he thought he could make this claim with zero evidence and coast by without being called on it due to his status as President. How many people repeated this claim in the absence of evidence of news reports? Kathy explains that…

“I attended one of the Region 5 meetings a number of years ago, and the then director stood at the podium and told the audience that there were so many “abandoned horses” being turned loose on the Fort Lewis military base, that soldiers were under orders to shoot them. Totally untrue, but can you imagine repeating this kind of thing?!  A report of 1500 horses ‘dumped’ on a military reservation and euthanized at taxpayer expense is a very serious allegation, so I wanted to gather more facts before I made any comments public or otherwise.

I have made several calls like this in the past on behalf of [redacted] when we were attempting to get the [redacted] Association BOD to rescind their endorsement of slaughter. Unbelievably, the Secretary of the [redacted] had made similar claims about her homestate park and people “abandoning their horses” — it of course, like this assertion by Ms Strunk, was false. Deliberately so, it seems. The really outrageous claim was made by a Director (who was defending the pro-slaughter postion) in my state who claimed he had participated in a 1500 abandoned horse “round up” on a military base in Tacoma; he went even further stating all the horses had to be euthanized “at taxpayer expense”. After many phone calls to authorities on the military base, the local Humane Societies, Vet Clinics, and local media, it turned out to be one of the MOST outrageous fabrications I have ever personally dealt with.

Yes, I said “1500” — lol!!

ISEEKathy responds to the unnamed President:

Part of the most successful rhetoric put forth by the pro-slaughter advocates has been the myth of ‘abandoned, starving, and neglected’ horses. 
Just prior to the 2007 closure of the last horse slaughter facility in Illinois, speculation by opponents to the closure began.  In an attempt to create anxiety among the general horse-owning public, they predicted a glut of horses would be abandoned and neglected by their owners as a result of the slaughter plants closing.  Predictably, and soon after, rumors began to circulate about horses being ‘abandoned’ in state parks, forests, and even on private land.  According to these rumors, horses were sometimes being abandoned on highways, creating hazardous conditions for drivers, they were left tied to trees, and even loaded into strangers’ empty horse trailers by their desperate owners.

I have called and spoken with:

1.) Dave Clouse, Biologist and Branch Chief of the Ft Lewis Fish and Wildlife Dept.  (responsible for monitoring and managing any/all animals wild or domestic on the reservation)
2.) The Pierce County Humane Society.
3.) Fort Lewis Military Police Department
4.) Fort Lewis Animal Control
5.) NCO Martha Parker at the Ft Lewis/McChord Veterinary Treatment Facility.

None of the people I have spoken with have any knowledge of the ‘round up’ you have described. Myself, along with several others did a great deal of research trying to verify this report.  We spoke with several local media outlets, locals who live around the base, military personnel, local veterinarians and even the nearest rendering company.   As a resident of Washington State, I thought it odd that none of the local news outlets had picked up on this story.  One station in particular, KOMO 4, dedicates a significant amount of time reporting on animal-welfare issues; surely they would have been aware of a story like this.  Myself, along with several others did a great deal of research trying to verify this report.  We spoke with several local media outlets, locals who live around the base, military personnel, local veterinarians and even the nearest rendering company.  Ultimately, the story presented at the Region V convention turned out to be an absolute, total, fabrication.The onlypants-on-fire thing we were able to verify was that this rumor has continued to circulate since 2007, just after the closure of the last horse slaughterhouse in Illinois.”

The bottom line is, the President was caught misrepresenting the horse abandonment issue, and when the statements were brought to his attention in no uncertain terms, he refused to acknowledge any  of it.  Of course after this the conversation went deadly silent,  and like many pro-slaughter Pinocchios, the President slunk away after his claim was proven to be utterly unsubstantiated.

The more these stories were repeated, the more we saw them take on a life of their own.  They became truth to many in the horse industry who were saddened to hear of such reports, and while conflicted about slaughter, began to believe that it was the better alternative for horses facing such neglect and abuse.  As a result, many compassionate horse owners who do not want horse slaughter have been convinced that it is necessary.  And I’m puzzled, to use a diplomatic euphemism,  why the Farm Bureau,  which supports farming,  agriculture, and corporate interests, can endorse the slaughter of a non-food animal which is not raised for food under food safety guidelines.

Activism – The Measure Of Our Success

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Written by: Heather Clemenceau ©

How can we gauge success in our activist efforts? Obviously,  there are the public successes,  as we’ve seen with the Dorian Ayache/Three Angels Farm case – where three private citizens provided evidence and filed a formal complaint with the USDA OfficeKeep Calm of the Inspector General that he had violated the 28 hour USDA regulations. The regulations prevent horses intended for slaughter from “being on a conveyance for transport” for over 28 hours. These are the regulations that exist and are intended to provide a minimum acceptable standard for transporting animals,  but never seem to be enforced.  As a result of this citizen effort,  Ayache has now been hit with fines for violation of the 28 hour rule,  which  amounts to $5,000 per horse, or $185,000 for 37 horses.  One can only speculate how long this operation has flouted the law and caused terrible suffering to horses while perpetuating this cruelty at the expense of the taxpayer.

Obviously,  the citizen activism in this example required a significant investment of time coupled with the element of risk – what might have happened had they been discovered? To end the mistreatment of horses,  and indeed all animals,  we must inform people that is is happening AND ensure that reporting in the news is fair,  accurate,  and given the priority it deserves.  Handing out leaflets, flyers, brochures and booklets in public is one way to have a powerful impact and reach people who might otherwise never know about these issues – this happens every week in front of La Palette in Toronto, as part of the ongoing protest against the restaurant’s decision to serve horsemeat.

Through this form of direct activism, advocates can expose masses of people to challenging new information and perspectives. However,  not everyone can make a commitment of several hours per day or week,  nor may they be able to travel long distances doing field-work.  But we can all help prevent injustices against horses (or people, the environment etc.) by taking action on the internet and ensuring that what is published and reported is accurate.  It’s a daily challenge.I can't believe we still have to protest horse slaughter

We know  is that success is not measured only in large-scale social reform but is also found in moments of connection — in building relationships and raising awareness,  in correcting information and assumptions that we know are wrong. We have seen the power of  social media coverage that has been devoted to the Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT), better known as “pink slime,” which can be chalked up almost entirely to the attention of countless activists across the United States. The phrase “pink slime” was first used by a former USDA microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein.  The current debate began after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver drew attention to the product. This ultimately pushed a few hundred thousand Americans to sign a petition online which demanded a complete stop to the use of pink slime in school food. AFA Foods, a leading American processor of ground beef, has filed for bankruptcy, citing the wave of negative media coverage surrounding their so-called “pink slime” product.

Haters Gonna HateWe need to take the lessons-learned from the “pink slime” debacle and transfer them to the horsemeat issues. There are certainly some corollaries – Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis has also proposed that horsemeat be used in schools.   The “pink slime” issue is an example of what happens when “clicktivists” are galvanized into action without the necessity of leaving their homes.  I have a few recent examples of how this works on the small-scale,  and how a small number of people,  even one person,  can elicit change and create awareness without a significant investment of time.

Bates County Horse Slaughter Poll Cancelled due to "ballot stuffing"

Bates County Horse Slaughter Poll Cancelled due to “ballot stuffing”

The Internet is at its best when communities develop based on a vigorous and open exchange of views. While robust disagreement is generally accepted (or perhaps just tolerated),  deceptive behaviour is not. The Bates County Blog (Missouri),  which normally features news articles such as “Employee of the Month”  and “Circuit Court News,” decided to host a poll about horse slaughter.  They probably never had so much traffic at their blog site after it was discovered by pro’s and anti’s!  The poll apparently passed cookie and IP information from the user’s computer to the polling application server-side as a way to ensure authentication,  but it was subject to abuse and multiple voting by some.

To that end,  a couple of anti-slaughter advocates decided to enlighten the editors of the Bates County blog by simply forwarding the postings from that “petulant pony “ blog,  where the author gloated (a little prematurely,  I might add) at the duplication of the votes by the pro-slaughters,  who deleted cookies,  used IP-concealing proxies and who knows what other “black hat” techniques in order to vote multiple times.  Clearly  the editors had no choice but to suspend the  poll after relaunching it late last week.   Of course,  the pro-slaughters will rationalize the closure of the poll any way they like, but the posting on the website speaks for itself – what are the chances that they will take a breather from the hysterical responses and read what was actually written? “We have investigated and found that the poll received multiple votes from the exact same locations,  indicating that the overall results will not be accurate.” Please take a moment to thank the editor for his honesty.  Spin it any way you like, pros,  because we know that you live in a world where verifiable facts are considered mere opinion.  It was a hot mess and you got caught confessing to stuffing the ballot box.  Pwned.

ActivismMy second example involves the Viandes Richelieu slaughter plant website.  Some months ago it was noticed that the  Massueville Quebec slaughterhouse had been taking liberties and running with the truth about the horses they slaughter.  Their stock of horses was,  according to them,  bred in beautiful surroundings and fed natural products.  Of course Richelieu is not a breeding farm, but a slaughterhouse,  so they don’t do any horse breeding,  much less in pastoral surroundings (you only have to look at a Google map image of the plant to see this).

To investigate their claims of organic horses frolicking in bountiful pastures, I wrote to Advertising Standards Canada,  a non-governmental body made up of advertisers, representatives from advertising agencies and the media, and consumers. It discourages false or misleading advertising by its members through codes of conduct. While they do breed horses, elk and bison at Bouvry in Alberta,  they certainly aren’t breeding horses at Richelieu,  and can hardly attest to what the horses have been fed in their previous incarnations as privately owned pets and performance animals.  I asked Advertising Standards Canada to help me understand exactly what “breeding” was going on in this “happy-horse” slaughterhouse,  and where they kept these horses that they bred specifically for slaughter,  you know,  the ones where they had evidence of traceability ::rollseyes::.  Here’s the original website:

Viande Richelieu False Advertising about horse slaughter

Not too long after sending the letter in 2011,  I received a response from ASC,  and I was advised that Viandes Richelieu had revamped their website to remove the misleading claims.  Perhaps it was as a result of the inquiry,  or perhaps they decided that their generally sucky website needed an update.  In any case,  a few minutes of writing likely lead to the removal of misleading language that has given life to the verbiage we hear over and over again from restauranteurs in Toronto serving horsemeat – “our horsemeat is organic.”  Here’s the response from Advertising Standards Canada:

Letter from Advertising Standards Canada/Les normes canadiennes de la publicité

Letter from Advertising Standards Canada/Les normes canadiennes de la publicité

OK,  so that’s one problem solved,  more on Richelieu and their new website later in the blog.  In our internet travels we also come across more examples of either accidental errors or deliberate attempts to mislead the public.  It’s important to take time to EDUCATE editors, bloggers,  and writers whenever we notice that they have either misunderstood information provided,  or have been deliberately mislead.  There seems to be a lot of this happening with Big-Ag E-zines for some reason.  Case in point – the US has not,  in any given year,  slaughtered anywhere near 9.2  million horses,  nor has the slaughter industry provided 400,000 jobs, as evidenced in this next example.  And what’s up with the comment about beef, pork, and poultry etc?

I wish someone would ask Charlie Stenholm if he has monsters under his bed,  what with all this fear-mongering.  It’s more than a touch unreasonable.   The people prepping these PR pieces should be giving a side-eye to these numbers,  because,  while I don’t live in the US,  they sure made me do a double-take.  400,000 people working in three slaughterhouses?  That would make horse slaughter a larger industry than health care!  Those numbers actually refer to the TOTAL number of living horses in the US and the TOTAL number of jobs in all equine related businesses.  So that leaves us to wonder – who’s responsible for these grievous errors?  Meat spokes-whore Charlie Stenholm?  The E-zines?  Or someone working in Charlie’s office?  Is it accidental or deliberate?  And how many more are out there waiting to be discovered?  And who might be reading all this bogus information and making decisions based on it?  We saw more than one example of these exact same numbers provided to other Pro-Ag websites,  and asked the editors of one such site to correct their information.  Looks like groups on the receiving-end of Charlie Stenholm’s PR machine need to run all his comments through FactCheck.org before publishing.  Just sayin’

To put that into perspective,  it took only a handful of activists who sought to correct this misnomer in a polite and diplomatic fashion,  and it was accepted and corrected.   The resulting post was a mere shadow of its formal self.

False Information Charlie Stenholm horse slaughter

And below is a very similar proclamation from another Big-Ag website,  that started out with almost the exact same wording as above,  but with the inaccurate information removed,  which pretty much eliminates half the text in the article.

False information Charlie Stenholm horse slaughter

And then,  there’s this,  for which I have few words.  But it’s the “Beat our Meat Trade News Daily,”  where you can read about masturbation, homophobia,  and America-bashing along with industry news and food safety issues.   I guess the editor must like Canadians though,  because we will slaughter anything that can’t outrun us.  I almost feel sexually harrassed just by reading this.  This is not a blog,  but a supposedly professional publication catering to several countries.

I’ve written to this wanker,  oh s’cuse me, editor before,  and in response to one polite email,  received 5 or 6 pervy responses back before blocking his ass.  Is this the way  professional editors govern themselves?  Can you not make reference to your trade without calling your readers wankers or bastards or referencing an act of sexual gratification?  And can you think of any reason why you’d want to read this E-zine in future or believe anything they publish?  Rather than complain about this,  I think it’s funnier and more damaging to the organization to leave it up.  No doubt someone other than myself will see fit to give it a well-deserved mocking.  Soppy wanker!

meat trade news daily - false information horse slaughter

So now we come back almost full-circle to Viandes Richelieu and the latest incarnation of their website.  Of course,  their new website is a whole new breed of offensive,  what with the recommendation that pregnant women eat their untraceable horsemeat – am I the only one that thinks that they are tiptoeing dangerously around giving health advice to pregnant women?  Pregnant women of all people should NEVER consume raw meat,  which is often how horsemeat is consumed.  When you think of it,  what other products can you buy at a grocery store that come with the recommendation that they should be eaten by pregnant women (aside from vitamins)?  And what’s with the comment that customers enjoy “thoroughbreds and half-breeds?”  Aren’t they supposed to be declining thoroughbreds?  And what’s the point of emphasizing any breed of horse?  Once they’re dis-assembled and converted into slabs of meat,  an appaloosa is indistinguishable from an arab.

Truly,  I think that the business of slaughtering horses is governed by people possessing a degree of intelligence that is far below the mean for the rest of the population.  We can’t by shy about going after these purveyors of dis-information.  So with the launch of their new website comes the re-launch of my old complaints about their providing misleading information.

new Viandes Richelieu site - questionable information

easy buttonWe do need to be careful that social media doesn’t foster “Clicktivism,” which may also create a “diffusion of responsibility.”  Many legitimate causes get lost in cyberspace because in this age of information, because someone is wrong on the internetwe sometimes feel that all we need to do to “get involved” is join a fan page, or “like” something our friend has posted. Certainly people are more informed, but what are they doing with that information? I have seen several on-line petitions that absolutely did achieve their end result – 100% verifiable success (not related to horses though),  but by signing on-line petitions or forwarding links we must always ask ourselves what exactly are we accomplishing? It’s sometimes misleading us because it lets us off the hook from actually doing something that we can see or measure directly.  Be authentic – be a real voice for horses.  Personally,  I always make comments elsewhere on the internet using my own name because I want pro-slaughter advocates to know that I am always “on” for horses.  It can be very gratifying to follow-up and  see what became of our on-line efforts,  which sometimes takes as little as one email or phone call. As long as someone is spouting bullshit about horse slaughter, someone else should point it out.  And I’d love to hear other examples!

You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable” – Marian Wright Edelman