Tag Archives: “horse welfare”

Who Will Stand For The Cold Creek Wild Horses?

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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:

Horse Milk “Farmers” Censored by Advertising Standards Canada

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danacolt12-7-07fewhoursold1

 

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

 

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

In our internet travels we often come across examples of either accidental errors or deliberate attempts to mislead the public. As per a blog post by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, Spa Creek Ranch, located in Salmon Arm British Columbia, was producing horse milk products.  According to their website:

“In Europe, unpasteurized mare’s milk is used for health purposes, because our skin is our largest organ, it [the cream] penetrates through the skin and helps that way.”

and

“Horse milk contains many easy absorbable [sic] vitamins; it gives the skin resistance and increases the blood flow.”

An advertisement in the Warm Blood Breeder’s Digest (page 8/9) claims that the milk products “gives energy to cancer patients”  and that the skin cream and shampoo were used by people with  “eczema,  psoriasis, Crohn’s disease,  diarrhea, constipation,  fatigue,  kidney failure, cow’s milk allergy,  stomach problems, post-surgical recovery,  MS [multiple sclerosis], and rheumatoid arthritis.”  It also claims that prior to WWI,  mare’s milk “cured 25,000 people of tuberculosis.”  Infectious disease specialists should just quit using anti-microbials in their work and give their patients a bottle of mare’s milk……<<eyeroll>>  It really is an outrageous spin,  and shame on the Warm Blood Breeder’s Digest for perpetuating this.

Horse milk is occasionally proclaimed as a sort of beauty treatment, and something that Cleopatra apparently bathed in. But making the claim that a shampoo or skin cream of any type “penetrates the outer layer of the skin” or somehow alleviates any of the aforementioned conditions, is a hugely contentious issue. Once you start advertising that your product penetrates the skin and increases your circulation, you are referring to the actions of a drug, rather than a cream made with horse milk. If you have a product with the effect of a drug, then the FDA will be very interested in talking to you, so you had better be prepared to prove your claims and show that it has been tested for safety and efficacy. One thing I’ve observed about horse milk marketers elsewhere in the world is that they tend to behave like horse meat marketers – they make a lot of claims about the health benefits of their products that don’t necessarily stand up to scrutiny and are usually resistant to reason and contrary evidence. I’m sure that if some of these entrepreneurs could figure out a way to get milk from a California condor, they would surely do it in the name of profit.

 

I checked the Pubmed database to see what studies had been conducted on horse milk and mare’s milk, and found a total of 81 studies, most of which had no direct application to humans.   This is actually a pretty small number of studies,  most of which were done in Russia and the Middle East,  where drinking unpasteurized milk is more common.  This handful of studies typically report the results of using horse milk rather than using a blinded control. There are also a few small, poor quality studies suggesting a possible benefit in mare’s colostrum to improve wound healing and fermented mare’s milk to reduce the toxic effects of mercury (big question mark on that one!) Yet another study seems to show that children allergic to cows milk might be able to tolerate horse milk.  There was certainly nothing that suggested horse milk had therapeutic properties that could encourage uptake of vitamins through the skin, thus reducing symptoms or eliminating serious disease.  Therefore, based on the evidence at hand, horse milk “therapy” could probably be classed as experimental treatment at best. The existing studies might justify doing more (and better quality) research, but they don’t justify prescribing it to treat patients for disease. All in all, the research didn’t amount to much – sorry Cleopatra.

So it seems that science never bothered to test any of the above claims put forth by Spa Creek Ranch.  I gave the company the opportunity send me information regarding any longitudinal study that showed a correlation between horse milk and the successful treatment (or even the unsuccessful treatment) of any of the aforementioned medical conditions. I wrote very politely and nicely in a non-confrontational manner (quite unlike how I often write in this blog). Never heard from them.

So I then 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 through codes of conduct. I asked ASC to delve into the possibility of an inaccurate advertisement about benefits for people with cancer in particular. Furthermore, on Spa Creek Ranch’s online page for testimonials, it seemed like people were claiming that horse milk cream treated symptoms of menopause, re-grew hair, healed athlete’s foot, and functioned as an antibiotic. To be fair, the company didn’t state these things themselves, but they posted them on their website as a promotion – rather like asking a friend to stuff your Yelp reviews. Nevertheless, people considering buying this product would read this stuff and might be influenced by it, because, you know, the human power of belief is inexhaustible, particularly if you might be sick and looking for a cure.

So after the passage of a few months, ASC wrote back to say that:

“We have made repeated attempts to contact the advertiser to have them rectify the problematic claims with respect to the Mare’s Milk advertising. However, we have not yet received a response to our letters. As part of the drug complaint adjudication process, ASC is required to contact the advertiser to notify them of what needs to be removed or amended to bring the advertising into compliance. Given this, we will be forwarding this complaint to Health Canada for their adjudication.”  

demand-evidence-and-think-critically-It was shortly after this that ASC then advised me that Spa Creek Ranch was planning to withdraw the mare’s milk product and that their website would be revised to remove the related content and thus the file would be closed. In fairness, the company was not asked to stop selling their products entirely (although I’m glad they apparently did) but to modify their marketing efforts so that they were not making unsubstantiated claims about the properties of horse milk.

Some people may question, what is the harm in letting people use these products,  believing that they might have some tangible benefits?  These testimonials are really problematic because they suggest to the uninformed reader that horse milk has these magical properties.  This is not only true of mare’s milk but of any quackery or “woo” therapy.   In a not-so-ironic coincidence, the Chinese word “Wū” (巫) means a shaman, usually with magic powers. So it’s within the alt-med or “woo” community that horse milk purveyors have found their target market. Whenever alternative therapies are found to have efficacy,  they are adopted and become “mainstream.”  If they are tested and found not to have value,  they should be discarded.

Horse milking operations are also promoting and defending some of the same misdeeds associated with the traditional dairy industry, along with horse slaughter. It’s clear that in order to facilitate the production of milk, excess animals will be produced because post-natal hormones are needed to produce milk for offspring. In many ways, the horse milking industry resembles the PMU industry, because slaughter is not just for old, sick, or lame animals.

Horse milk products are far more popular in the EU than in Canada,  where this appears to be a small-scale farm operation.  God help horses and their foals – how many foals were born so that milk was available as an ingredient in shampoo or skin cream?   The website made no mention of what happened to them.

 

 

 

Godbout Express Access-To-Information Docs Reveal Horses In Transit 27+ Hours

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Justice

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The CFIA documents and slaughter records pertaining to the May 15th shipment of two tractor trailers of horses seen near Marysville, ON on a holiday weekend have now been received.  The enquiry was made to ascertain whether or not the horses would have been unloaded in a timely manner on a long holiday weekend in Canada. The paperwork reveals that, as expected,  Godbout Express was driving for Ohio Kill Buyer Fred Bauer and the 56 horses were shipped from Larue Ohio.  The horses were on the trailers for 27+ hours.  Please refer to the previous blog post and video.

Chronology and Summary

  • May 15th @ 5:00 AM  – horses loaded in Larue, Ohio
  • May 15th – border crossing to Canada at Sarnia, Ontario entry point
  • May 15th @7:00 PM – two trailers of horses documented by animal activist Rob Boisvert in Marysville, Ontario,  approximately 5 hours (with traffic) away from Richelieu slaughterhouse
  • May 16th – paperwork completed for Access-To-Information request and mailed to the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada*
  • May 16th @8:15 AM – horses were unloaded at Richelieu slaughterhouse in Massueville, QC on  – 27+ hours later (the regulation limit for transit time in Canada is 36 hours).
  • May 19th – as soon as the plant opened for operations on the Tuesday following the statutory holiday – Boom! – all 56 horses from the two trailer loads were fastracked to the express lane for slaughter
  • July 28th – ATI Request completed & returned to originator – USDA Form 10-13 lists horses as mostly quarter horses and standardbreds,  with the occasional appy or paint; no non-compliance orders indicated

*information was also requested as to the condition of the horses at the time of unloading, but this information was either withheld or simply not provided.

Although the manifests made note of several lip tattoos and brands, only a few were indicated and were sufficiently legible enough to trace.  Most horses with lip tattoos will be thoroughbreds and not standardbreds,  unless perhaps in their late 20s or 30s since the practice of lip-tattooing a standardbred has long been phased-out.  With a swipe of the pen,  no thoroughbreds are sent to slaughter!  Richelieu supposedly backed away from slaughtering thoroughbreds (at least on paper) as a result of the Cactus Cafe & Canuki fiasco with trainer Mark Wedig.  According to an email from Richelieu administrative technician Geneve Ethier,  the Canuki and Cactus Cafe case “did occur major problems to us and a lot of time, efforts, and money consuming. So to avoid that in the future, the plant advises all his suppliers to not BUY those thoroughbred[s] and overall not have them ship to us. . . . For us, thoroughbred[s] are definitely banned from our premises.”  The likelihood that this shipment of 56 horses, some with lip tattoos, contains no thoroughbreds, is quite improbable.  So of course, the paperwork is virtually without a doubt – not accurate,  or we dare say – FALSE.

In two conversations I had with CFIA veterinarians regarding this shipment, at no time did they tell me that veterinarians/inspectors at slaughterhouses worked any shift other than the standard top hat tip Debbyday shift.  According to a 2011 article in Better Farming,  “slaughter-bound shipments will be accepted only during the CFIA’s regular hours of operation…So miraculously perhaps,  an inspector was either working a Saturday as part of his/her normal job requirements (the day the horses were unloaded) or was called in especially to break the seal.  If the drivers make this trip twice a week (a statement made to Rob Boisvert when he quizzed them in Marysville) then it’s reasonable to assume that the horses are left overnight, packed together in stupefyingly hot July and August weather with no access to water, if the same driving schedule is followed.

Every attempt was made to determine the ID of the horses on these shipments. A few are questionable with more than one possibility due to the illegibility of the writing.  Judging by their ages, most of these STB mares could have been older broodmares whose services were no longer required.  The remaining 50 horses all had names at one time; to us they are unknown and untraceable, but not to be forgotten.

In Memoriam:

T4738 – STB Mare – “Gettinjiggywithit

5B159 – STB Gelding – “Snilloc Three

2B448 – STB Mare – “Spring Hill Mini

8A452? – STB Mare – “BC Firepan

L2415? – STB Mare – “Hawaiian Alumina” could alternatively be L2485? –  STB Mare – “Picupyosocs

6G525 – STB Mare – “Fast Bunny

 

The 9 Ethical Principles of the True Horseman

  1.  Anyone involved with a horse takes over responsibility for the living creature entrusted to him.
  2. The horse must be kept in a way that is in keeping with its natural living requirements.
  3. Highest priority must be accorded to the physical as well as psychological health of the horse, irrespective of the purpose for which it is used.
  4. Man must respect every horse alike, regardless of its breed, age and sex and its use for breeding, for recreation or in sporting competition.
  5. Knowledge of the history of the horse, its needs, and how to handle it are part of our historical-cultural heritage.  This information must be cherished and safeguarded in order to be passed on to the next generation.
  6. Contact and dealings with horses are character-building experiences and of valuable significance to the development of the human being – in particular, the young person.  This aspect must always be respected and promoted.
  7. The human who participates in equestrian sport with his horse must subject himself, as well his horse, to training.  The goal of any training is to bring about the best possible harmony between rider and horse.
  8. The use of the horse in competition as well as in general riding, driving and vaulting must be geared toward the horse’s ability, temperament and willingness to perform.  Manipulating a horses’ capacity to work by means of medication or other “horse-unfriendly” influences should be rejected by all and people engaged in such practices should be prosecuted.
  9. The responsibility a human has for the horse entrusted to him includes the end of the horse’s life.  The human must always assume this responsibility and implement any decisions in the best interest of the horse.

from “Tug of War” by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, dressage rider and veterinarian

 

 ATI Documentation

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

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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:

Godbout Express Observed Shipping Horses To Canada On Long Holiday Weekend

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Gadbout Express

It is permissible for horses to travel up to 36 hours enroute to slaughter

 

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Photos and video credit:  Rob Boisvert

On Friday, May 15th, two Godbout Express transports of horses were observed at an out-of-the-way truck stop in Marysville, Ontario by animal activist Rob Boisvert of Refuge RR in Alexandria Ontario. In listening to the video, it is evident that the drivers appear to be trying to mislead Boisvert and his friend, by telling them that they are enroute from Ohio (probably Sugarcreek Auction) to New Brunswick. They are actually headed to Quebec, and this is proven by a photo taken of one of the trailers which shows a CFIA seal – meaning that the truck cannot be opened until it reaches its destination at one of the two slaughter plants in that province. There are no provincially-registered horse slaughter facilities in New Brunswick.

 

 

 

 

Monday is a statutory holiday throughout most of Canada. The video was taken about 7 pm Friday. From Marysville (near Belleville, ON), it is possibly 5 hours drive or longer (with holiday weekend traffic) to either Les Petite Nations (in St. Andre-Avellin, PQ) or Richelieu ( in Massueville, PQ) slaughterhouses.  The horses would arrive very late the same day or possibly the next day.  We can only wonder what time they expected to get there?  Were the horses to be unloaded somewhere and rested?  According to a 2011 article in Better Farming,  “slaughter-bound shipments will be accepted only during the CFIA’s regular hours of operation…”  Therefore,  we can only take that to mean that unless arrangements were made to offload horses on Friday night, there would be no CFIA inspectors at the plant until TUESDAY, May 19th – more than three full days later!  The horses, unless unloaded somewhere (and by necessity breaking the CFIA seal), would have to stay on the trailer until that time – a horrifying possibility.  Would they be watered or fed? Already many of the horses are standing in the trailers with heads hanging low…

CFIA seal

CFIA Seal

Godbout Express is a repeat offender with the CFIA. The CFIA has most recently issued the company Notices of Violation  of Part XII of the Health of Animals Regulations for $7,800 during the period of October to December 2014, with total fines of $45,600 in both current and past reporting periods.

A check of US DOT #648752 reveals that Godbout Express has incurred two violations already in 2015 in the United States, with similar violations in 2014.

 2015 Violations:

HOS Compliance Violation:  395.3A3-PROP Driving beyond 11 hour driving limit in a 14 hour period. (Property Carrying Vehicle)
HOS Compliance Violation:  395.3A2-PROP Driving beyond 14 hour duty period (Property carrying vehicle)

Given the company’s propensity to incur violations,  further investigation with the CFIA will be necessary to determine when these horses arrived and were actually offloaded.

 

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CFIA Report

The CFIA site does not explain what species have been involved in these transport violations.

 

Important Action – Petition To The Government Of Canada Requesting Mandatory Risk Assessment For Animal Abuse

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Two Children Teasing a Cat Annibale Carracci (Italian, Bologna 1560–1609 Rome)  Why do some people pull the wings off butterflies, toss firecrackers at cats, shoot the neighbors’ dogs with BB guns (or torture cats with crayfish)? The Dark Triad consists of three personality characteristics—narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.  You can see it in the painting. Look at the little girl’s smile as she watches the boy torture the car with a crayfish.

Two Children Teasing a Cat
Annibale Carracci
(Italian, Bologna 1560–1609 Rome)
Why do some people pull the wings off butterflies, toss firecrackers at cats, shoot the neighbours’ dogs with BB guns (or torture cats with crayfish)? The Dark Triad consists of three personality characteristics—narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. You can see it in the painting. Look at the little girl’s smile as she watches the boy torture the cat with a crayfish.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Animal abuse is typically due to the inadequate protection of animals, along with social and cultural factors. Many psychologists and anthro-zoologists argue that animal cruelty is a good predictor of later violence against humans. Therefore, we must address the important psychological and social/cultural issues and make cruelty to animals target of intervention so that we can learn more about the etiology of human cruelty.

While animals deserve their own Bill of Rights, many crimes against humans may well have been prevented had any animal cruelty incidents that preceded them been taken seriously. Animals, people, and communities will be safer if animal abuse is detected early and intervention happens immediately with the use of appropriate risk assessment tools and treatment programs created specifically to target animal abuse.

The wanton abuse of a dog named Captain is the foundation for this petition, created by animal activist Charlene Myers and (now retired) parole officer Carole DeGrood. Brian Whitlock of Vancouver, British Columbia was convicted on June 12, 2013 of animal cruelty for beating Captain in the head and body with a baseball bat. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, mandatory psychological counselling and 3 years of probation, but had also been convicted of assault and has subsequently been charged with killing his mother. The petition is intended to be applicable to anyone convicted of animal cruelty under the Criminal Code in Canada.  Please help Animal Cruelty Legislation Advocates Canada collect signatures for presentation to the House of Commons.

The Petition is available in both English and French versions:

English Petition (PDF)

Version Française – Pétition (PDF)

Please note about the petition:

Signing the petition:

  1. Only residents of Canada (anyone who has lived in Canada for 6 months or more) may sign this petition.
  2. The petition form should be printed one-sided only to prevent “bleed” of ink from one side of the paper to the other.
  3. Please do not write anything (such as comments) in addition to what is requested on the petition form.
  4. Please PRINT the FULL NAME OF THE TOWN OR CITY in which you reside (NO ABBREVIATIONS ARE PERMITTED); Provinces MAY be abbreviated.

Submitting the petition:

  1. Before mailing the petition to the address below, please ensure the following:
  2. All required information (name, address, signature) is provided on the petition form.
  3. Your return address is on the envelope in case it needs to be returned to you for any reason such as insufficient postage.
  4. Please mail ORIGINAL signed petitions (PHOTOCOPIES ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE) to:

ACLA Canada (short for Animal Cruelty Legislation Advocates Canada)

7895 Gladstone Drive

Prince George, BC V2N 3K5

stray-dog-and-a-cat

Petition to the Government of Canada Requesting Mandatory Risk Assessment and Treatment for Anyone Convicted of Animal Cruelty Under the Criminal Code

Why is this petition important?

Animals are easy targets for abuse as they are vulnerable and without legal rights. Although the crime of animal cruelty may be viewed by some people as unimportant or trivial when compared with other crimes, studies show that people who harm animals may also be involved in other criminality, including crimes of violence toward humans, either simultaneously or in the future. Furthermore, according to the National Link Coalition animal abusers often kill and abuse pets to orchestrate fear, violence and retribution in homes marked by domestic violence. They add that animal cruelty rarely occurs in isolation—it’s usually “the tip of the iceberg” and frequently the first opportunity for social services or law enforcement agencies to intervene.

In a speech delivered at the Congressional Iphoto-2nformational Briefing on Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence in 1998, Special Agent Brantley of the Federal Bureau of Investigation noted the link between animal abuse and violence toward humans (typically referred to simply as “the link”) and revealed the importance of taking animal cruelty into account when assessing a perpetrator’s behaviour when he stated the following:

“Some in our society make too much out of qualitatively distinguishing between violence against humans and violence against animals. Ladies and gentlemen, violence against animals is violence and when it is present, it is considered by the people I work with to be synonymous with a history of violence.”

As animal cruelty is not only a crime of violence unto itself but one that is linked with violence against humans, the focus should be placed more on the behaviour demonstrated by someone who inflicts violence than on the species or legal status of the target victim. As psychologist Dr. Lynn Loar states, “the behaviour that harms the animal is the same behaviour that harms the human.”

As a result of recognizing the link between animal cruelty and violence toward humans, animal protection organizations, social services, and law enforcement agencies in the United States have been working together to address the link since the 1990s.

Canada seems to be moving forward in this regard but there is more to be done. People convicted of animal cruelty typically still receive minimal sentences and there does not appear to be adequate recognition by the courts and other criminal justice workers of the potential risk animal abusers may pose to public safety. If someone convicted of animal cruelty does happen to be sentenced to significant time in custody, available risk assessment tools and treatment options are not designed specifically to allow the assessor to expose and gather information about animal abuse and the perpetrator’s motives for it. These deficiencies need to be addressed.

The Colorado LINK Project found that “an animal cruelty offender’s potential risk to public safety may vary from little to none to extreme” and recchained-dogommends that “animal abuse by adults and children be examined carefully through comprehensive and developmentally sensitive evaluation to help determine the context and seriousness of the abuse, causative factors and the perpetrator’s level of blameworthiness.” As animal cruelty is a crime of violence that is linked to violence against humans, then animals, people, and communities will be safer if everyone convicted of animal cruelty under the Criminal Code of Canada is required to undergo mandatory risk assessment and treatment developed specifically to target animal abuse.

This petition calls upon the House of Commons to require that adequate risk assessment tools and intervention programs are developed and that everyone convicted of animal cruelty under the Criminal Code of Canada be required to undergo mandatory risk assessment and treatment developed specifically to target animal abuse.

For further information, please “like” the

National Animal Abuse Prevention Day” (NAAPD) Facebook page.

 

Horse Welfare 2014 – The Year In Review

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2014 seasons greetings graphic© Heather Clemenceau

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

So we’re concluding the “Year of the Horse,” which technically ends on 02/18/2015, until the next YOTH, in 2026. Will we see the “end times” for horse slaughter before then? While on the subject of the Chinese zodiac, I’m reminded of the phrase “may you live in interesting times,” which according to Wikipedia, is an English expression purporting to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. The nearest related Chinese expression is “宁为太平犬,莫做乱世人” which conveys the sense that it is “better to live as a dog in an era of peace than a man (woman) in times of war.”

Each year spent fighting horse slaughter is proof enough that we live in a time of war – a constant struggle to maintain the de facto ban on domestic horse slaughter in the U.S. With the signing of the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, the U.S. will continue to forbid the domestic slaughter of horses for human consumption. Horse slaughter was effectively blocked via an injunction in New Mexico,  and after exhausting all legal avenues, Valley Meat owner Rick De Los Santos gives up.  As a testament to the durability of the pro-slaughter mindset,  a new owner is still expressing interest in slaughter in that state.

There is continued support for the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, which would ban both the slaughter and export of American horses for human consumption. Despite the support of 308 Representatives and 60 Senators behind the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act to stop the inhumane practice of “soring” show horses, a small group of obstructionists in Congress prevented a vote on the PAST Act, so this must be revisited in 2015. There is increased outrage against the drugging of horses in the racing industry and TWH soring and attendance at “Big Lick” shows is declining.

The mismanagement of wild horses and burros in the west continues to be predominant, as is the BLM continuing to conduct inhumane round-ups and removals while failing to move decisively toward humane on-the-ground population management strategies built around fertility control. Criticism of Premarin® and Prempro® and similar drugs derived from conjugated equine estrogens continues to be made in 2014.possible impossible

Reverberations of the 2013 horsemeat adulteration scandal are still felt – we are occasionally hearing of instances whereby horsemeat has infiltrated the food supply.  The EU is in the process of revising rules on horse passports, and horsemeat was withdrawn various markets in the EU, resulting in the loss of a contract that was of tremendous importance to Claude Bouvry in Alberta.

An unpopular wild horse capture goes ahead in Alberta, and the protest received a celebrity endorsement by singer Jann Arden.  After months of uncertainty for the hardy protesters who were arrested near the capture site,  the charges were later dismissed.

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) and its supporters continue to ensure that bad press for the slaughter industry reaches the public. The Global News 16X9 investigation is made with the assistance of the CHDC and supporter/horse rescuer Mindy Lovell and others. The CHDC continues to publish the results of ATI (FOIA) requests, each one revealing grievous departures by the CFIA from established procedures..

Despite intense lobbying, press conferences and huge pushes for Bill C-571, Canadian anti-slaughter advocates were ultimately let down by the NDP party. As a result, the anti-slaughter Bills in Canada ultimately failed.

The poor economic results in the last 6 years helped ensure that all breed organizations experienced a decline in the number of foals, registrations and memberships. If fewer horses are being bred (and ultimately slaughtered), the prospect of turning around the problem of North American horse slaughter is on the horizon. This has not gone unnoticed by those with a vested interest in seeing horse populations increase and the convenience of slaughter continue.  The Ontario Racing Commission recently announced that the province’s standardbred racing industry is about to get a substantial $12 million infusion to its program to encourage breeding, after the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Programs resulted in the slaughter of thousands of horses, including foals and broodmares. The declining number of horses (rightsizing?) continues to be a hot topic in the U.S as well, where the American Horse Council wondered aloud at their 45th annual meeting what they could do to increase registration (and breeding) from the various equestrian disciplines. The Jockey Club too, are concerned about the drop in racehorse starts.  And lastly, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the AVMA suddenly have a problem with the aspect that fewer horses mean less income for veterinarians and other equine practitioners. If these professional groups were more forward-thinking, they might have given greater consideration to building relationships with their clients rather than promoting slaughter at the expense of humane euthanasia…….

Perhaps the most promising news this year though comes in confirmation that the European Commission, after a recent audit, decided to suspend horsemeat imports from Mexico due to food safety concerns. If Canada is not far behind (indeed our slaughter industry presents the same concerns as Mexico), then the loss of these markets could prove devastating to the horse slaughter industry in Canada, preventing plants from achieving economies of scale and therefore continuing to thrive.

Click here to review some of the highlights (and lowlights) on Storify, in chronological order.

thank you note

 

From Movie Set To Dinner Plates? Heartland Horses Dispersed In Kill Buyer Attended Auctions

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Kevin Rushworth High River Times QMI Agency photo

Photo – KEVIN RUSHWORTH HIGH RIVER TIMES/QMI AGENCY

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

John Scott has had a year of highs and lows – since starting into the movie business in 1969, he has balanced his own cattle, horse and buffalo ranch with work on Academy Award winning movies such as Unforgiven, Lord of the Rings, Legends of the Fall and Days of Heaven, along with other films and series such as Hell on Wheels, the 13th Warrior, Klondike Gold, and the family TV series Heartland. Earlier in 2014, he was awarded a 75th anniversary ATB Agriculture buckle (awarded to farmers and ranchers), and soon afterwards it was rather abruptly announced in the July/August 2014 issue of Horse-Canada magazine that he was no longer wrangler for the TV show Heartland.

The Heartland show is a series chronicling the highs and lows of ranch life and it is filmed in Alberta – feedlot capital of Canada.  The Facebook page is filled with perpetually optimistic fans pleading for better love lives for the characters, and it’s a place where “True Heartlanders” are never bored with reruns.  As far as I know, the closest this series has come to treading on the topic of slaughter is an episode where a dozen wild horses are found in a “feedlot,” which the scriptwriters tell us is a “place where they keep cows before they kill them.

In late 2012, Animals Angels photographed a stock trailer belonging to John Scott Productions at the Bouvry Slaughterhouse in Fort MacLeod Alberta. The feedlots nearby and the Bouvry slaughter plant map of albertawere part of an investigation by Animals Angels; you can read the full report here.  There is also additional footage of the various Alberta feedlots by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition as part of “The True Faces of Horse Slaughter” investigation.

When I wrote my original Heartland blog in March 2013, speculating on whether JSP horses were being sent to slaughter on that day when Scott’s trailer was observed at Bouvry, we didn’t know and still don’t know what species of animal had been taken to the slaughterhouse. Previously, the Heartland show, via their Facebook page, denied that any horses featured in the show had ever gone to slaughter.

But since the announcement that Scott was no longer wrangler for Heartland, it was noticed that horses advertised as being from the series were showing up at various auctions throughout Alberta, in fairly close proximity to the Bouvry slaughterhouse, and usually where kill buyers were present. As well as being a supplier for movies, Scott is also regarded in Alberta as a horse trader.

In addition to the two auctiotop hat tip to Lonin sites mentioned, he also brings horses to the Innisfail auction north of Calgary, where kill buyers are also in attendance. In May and August of this year, John Scott Productions had two partial herd dispersals at Hebson Arena and Irvine Tack and Trailer. The owner of Irvine Tack & Trailer is Scott Irvine – a well known and very active kill buyer in the province. Having auctions of any animal on a kill buyer’s property puts money in their hands and enables them to slaughter more horses in the long run – it’s the same argument some people use for refusing to purchase brokered horses directly from kill buyers.

These two sales, which disposed of dozens of horses and mules, represented a large number of Scott’s usual 150 head of horses. Quarter horses, appys, paints, grade horses, and mules were variously described as having been used as as driving horses (2up, 4up and 6up) reining horses, bucking horses, and used in parades and blacksmith competitions, the Calgary Stampede, various movies including Heartland, and in ranch work. One horse was advertised as being an RCMP horse. Most were in their early to mid-teens, with others being described as “smooth mouth” horses who could no longer take heavy work.

Hebson Arena Sale,  Okotoks,  Alberta

 

 

Irvine Tack and Trailer Sale,  Crossfield, Alberta

 

 

After what appears to have been a lot of hard use, most of these well-broke horses deserved a soft landing  – to new lives as lightly-ridden trail horses for beginner and heartland2intermediate riders. Many of these horses should have been able to bring at least $1,000 each, but obviously Scott would have included some horses who didn’t work out for him or could no longer do heavy ranch work, and therefore aren’t as desirable on the market. Typically the horses described as “best for occasional trail use” don’t do well at auctions because they are often not completely sound.  So it’s unknown how many of these horses went on to new homes and whether any may have been sent on that final trip to Bouvry,  not far from either of the sites.

In any case,  I think it’s wishful thinking to accept the statements of the TV show at face value – “No horse that has ever appeared on Heartland has ever been sent to a slaughterhouse.

Fort McLeod is the capital of horse slaughter in Canada.

“an unacceptable way to end a horse’s life under any circumstance.”

 

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Horse Slaughter Trends Across Borders – Google Trends Analysis

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Magnifying GlassWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

As a result of their market domination, Google has become more of an institution than a search engine. Therefore, Google’s search data is incredibly indicative of public opinion and interests. Google Trends is an application that’s particularly useful as a timely, robust, and sensitive surveillance system. While it is useful to advertisers looking to create keywords to market their products, we can also use it to create charts that show how often horse slaughter issues and phrases are searched for over time by all Google users interested in acquiring more information on this subject.

An analysis of the term “horse slaughter” in Google Trends shows us how popular the search term is currently as well as in the recent past. I’ve compared the stats from 2004 to 2014 year-to-date for the United States (blue), Canada (gold), and the United Kingdom (red).  Initially I compared these countries to France, Japan, Switzerland, Mexico and China, expecting to see some tangible increase over time yet Google Trends yielded no measurable activity.

From the chart we can see that horse slaughter in the US was trending long before the United Kingdom or Canada, which began trending mid-2007 and 2008 respectively. The uptick in slaughter keyword trending activity in Canada began a few years after the launch of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition in 2004, and seems to be linked to that group’s 2008 publication of Black Beauty Betrayed, an Early Investigation at Natural Valley Farms, and the issue of Illegal Dumping of Horse Blood at Natural Valley Farms.

horse slaughter stats

Click on the graph for a link to the live data

 

Key points in the graph also register the heightened activity in the US and Canada due to:

  • House votes on horse slaughter in the US (2006)
  • Anti-horse slaughter bills advancing in Congress (2007)

There was a huge spike in late 2011 likely due to:

  • The US “ban” on domestic horse slaughter being lifted when Congress passed, when Obama signed into law a USDA spending bill that reinstated federal funding for inspection of horse meat intended for human consumption
  • Developing interest in Rick De Los Santos horse slaughter plant in New Mexico
  • Valley Meats first application for a grant of inspection with the USDA in December
  • The CHDC releasing footage and photos obtained by an anonymous source at Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation in St. Andre-Avellin Quebec (Pasture to Plate)

Also note the increased interest in horse slaughter search terms as a result of the horse meat adulteration scandal in the EU (January – March 2013)

Currently we see that horse slaughter as a keyword search appears to be tapering off in 2013 and 2014 YTD, perhaps due to the cessation of slaughter in the US, the subsiding interest in the horse meat adulteration in Great Britain, and the failure of the anti-slaughter bills in Canada.  At the present time,  interest in “horse slaughter” as a keyword appears to be in decline relative to the heightened activity from 2006 – early 2013.

 

 

Slippery Is The Slope: A Reader And I Debate The Ethics of Horseback Riding

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dressageOnce in a while I get a response to a blog post that really merits its own stand-alone blog. Lauren sent me a response to my blog addressing the ethics of horseback riding, and while she doesn’t agree with my conclusion, I think she raises some interesting points and introduces several new arguments. So I wanted to present her post, which she took a lot of time to compose, along with my rebuttal arguments.

LAUREN’S POST:

“This is long so please bare with me:

Hi Heather, my name is Lauren and I came across your blog post today while doing some research. I am a soon-to-be graduate of Purdue University, am a vegetarian for multiple reasons, and rode horses for 15 years before changing my entire viewpoint on riding.

I have ridden in both English and Western disciplines and was once a rated member of the United States Pony Club. I have raced barrels, hacked Saddlebreds, ridden in Western pleasure classes, ridden trails, competed in dressage, and jumped cross-country. I have probably ridden over 100 horses (I am not joking) from ponies to ex-racehorses. I have also had many different riding instructors over the years including so-called professional riders. I used to attend the Rolex Three Day event in Kentucky every Spring and thought that somehow my poor (seriously) self would find an opportunity to become a professional eventer with some off-the-track-Thoroughbred I’d bought for $300. Then one day I literally walked away from it all and I have not looked back since.

Eventing extremes

The cross country portion of the “triathlon” is the most extreme equestrian sport, pushing horses and riders often beyond their physical and mental limits.

Last September, I saw an article pop up on my Facebook about the organizers of a three day event changing part of a cross-country course half way through the order-of-go. Apparently many of the horses and riders had been having problems at particular jumps due to poor weather conditions. So I posted the article to my feed with a statement that this was unfair because most of the professional riders at the event were at the end of the running order and would now be riding a different if not easier course than the novice riders that went before them. I got some backlash from fellow riders who said the organizers were correct to look out for the “safety” of the other riders once they realized there were too many problems. I insisted that this still wasn’t fair because the riders at the end were more experienced and should know how to “handle” the poor conditions. Still, there were arguments that this change of course was proper for safety. A little angered, this time I pointed out that the whole sport of eventing is dangerous and horses can die. They do die. I was at Rolex just across the field in 2008 when Lainey Ashker’s Frodo Baggins went down over the now-infamous Flower Basket jump. Horses die in this sport all the time and yet we never once ask the horse if he’d rather not go out there and risk his neck for it.

Britain Grand National Jumps Racing

Jumps Racing is obviously reckless with multiple horse and rider fatalities every year.

So I began to think about this some more. I’m no physicist, but I realized that any time a mistake is made at a jump it is always the rider’s fault. This is due to the fact that the horse is in no way “designed” to carry a rider (living organisms do not have a defined purpose and neither do their parts; see Diamond v. Chakrabarty which alludes to this legally, and check out the NIH’s stance on this). Any minimal shift in the rider’s weight (which is going to happen), shift of the tack (which is also going to happen) or otherwise (a random act of nature, i.e. shifting of wind or terrain) can and will throw the horse off-balance. In addition, any perceived “wrong” move taken by the horse in response to the shifting of his balance or active response to shifts in the rider’s weight are often punished by use of the crop and/or spurs. Typically, what the horse is really doing is making an active judgment of the situation to account for rider error (i.e. the shifting of the rider’s weight). Again, I don’t have science to back me up here, but I would hypothesize that the movement the horse would make on a cross-country course, such as an approach to a jump, would almost always be different from the movements made by the horse with a rider on its back. To complete the example, if you have a horse and rider approach a jump and he suddenly refuses or lunges to the side to go around the jump, he has made a judgment call that he could not safely make the effort without injuring himself. And for this the horse often receives a whack with the whip, a jab of the rider’s spurs, and/or a nasty yank of the reins. The horse made an effort to protect himself – to survive – and he received punishment.

I don’t believe any horse on this planet would go out and run an XC course of his own accord in the absence of a rider. Horses can certainly jump, but I would like to think that they do so out of necessity rather than finding joy in it (I’m not talking about a horse jumping a random log in the middle of the field on his gallop back to the barn for evening chow, which is still technically necessity anyway – jumping the log might be the fastest way to the barn). I know horses a little bit and I had ridden them for many years – I just don’t think they would jump an entire cross-country course without the guidance of a rider for what humans call “fun.”

bounding out of the gate

An average of 24 racehorse deaths every year in the US – approximately 2,000 horses break-down and have to be vanned-off at tracks.

Further, if these event riders have such great partnerships with their horses, why exactly do they need whips, spurs, and/or bits? Some go “nice in a snaffle,” but I’ve seen gags, pelhams, and elevators on the cross-country horse, as well as different lengths of spurs on the rider’s boots and different types of crops in the rider’s hands. I have been to many upper level and lower level cross-country events and at least once I have seen a rider “get rough” with these “aids” in some manner. It isn’t acceptable. We could argue about “good” contact all day, but my question still stands: what are the spurs, whips/crops, and bits for if you have such a good partnership with your horse?

Why would you ever need those things to “communicate” “jump this massive fence at a gallop with me on your back?” Perhaps it’s because in the absence of these “aids” the horse would have a much easier time of saying “no” and there goes the “connection” between man and horse.

I watched the video and read the Tumblr entry you discussed in your post. Based on the definition of “vegan,” a person who follows this philosophy does not consume any animal products for any reason in any manner whether that is strictly for ethical, health, or other reasons. Hence, riding is not vegan because a human being would be taking something from the horse (energy, a place to sit, engaging the horse as a vehicle for transportation, etc.) and the horse rarely gets anything positive from the experience of being ridden. The viewpoint is clear and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with it either. If there is something inherently wrong with not riding a horse because it is unnecessary or unethical or whatever, please enlighten me.

I am not vegan and though I do not ride anymore for the reason that it is harmful to the horse’s well-being, believe me when I say I miss riding horses. I grew up riding and it is something that’s ingrained in my soul for better or for worse. But I have learned that to ride a horse is selfish on my part. I don’t need to ride a horse for any other reason than enjoyment. And when there is overwhelming research to show that riding can harm the horse physically, physiologically, emotionally, mentally, and/or psychologically what reason is there that justifies riding? I do not believe that the research snippets in the video are incorrect even if they may need some more fleshing-out and additional research.

I am vegetarian and I do not necessarily equate not eating meat with not riding. However, I think that equestrian competition is exploitation of the horse for human gain at the cost of prohibiting the horse from expressing free will to not participate (and not be punished for the refusal). Competition impacts the horse negatively in many respects and should not be supported. Absolutely any equestrian competition is harmful to the horse.

British Eventing Horsetrials

There should never be a situation where, if a fence is not ridden or jumped perfectly, the horse does a rotational fall.

Let me take your pet or dog ownership thoughts into account as well. So we say our animals love us, yeah? So same thing as above with the spurs, whips and bits on horses, why do we need leashes and collars for dogs? (I would concede that typically the leash and collar aren’t used in the same manner as the bit and spurs, but that they can be used with severity.) If humans had true partnerships with their dogs (and some do) then we shouldn’t need leashes or collars. When you get down to the bare minimum of the uses for the items used on a horse and the items used on a dog they are each used in a manner consistent with control of the animal. The leash and collar keep the dog from running off and the bit, whip and spurs force the horse to do our bidding when we get on his back.

Further, just because horses could carry 25% of their bodyweight on their back (by what study by the way?) does not mean it is designed to do so. Again, living beings are not designed for a purpose. Do you even know exactly why you exist on earth? I can’t even pretend to know that. Studies have also shown that when a horse bares a rider on its back for more than 15 minutes of work this can cause the horse immediate soft tissue damage and pain. If you know of a study that cleanly refutes this please post it. Please refer to the Nevzorov Haute Ecole’s website for information on the study I noted here.

While “going for a trail ride” hardly sounds like abuse, if the horse doesn’t have a choice in the matter then this doesn’t make it ok. Just because you don’t think you’re harming the horse does not mean that you aren’t. If you love and cherish your horse why would you take this risk?

In the “death to carnism” blog, the author does not advocate turning horses loose in the wild. The author states that this would be irresponsible. That is another discussion for another time as well.

You’re right about humans harming other animals no matter what considering the world we live in, but this is not a free pass to just hop on a horse and ride it. That’s a hypocritical point Cavalia Odysseo Horseof view. If you know you are harming the horse, why would you ride it? If you don’t know, you shouldn’t ride, and you should study-up.

Just because PETA thinks it’s ok to ride horses does not make it suddenly ok to do so. This organization has been discredited on many fronts for many different reasons. Take a look at this Huffington Post opinion piece from 2013 if you are certain you support them: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-j-winograd/peta-kills-puppies-kittens_b_2979220.html. (I am not saying they are entirely horrible because I really just don’t know. But I’m willing to bet since the Huffington Post still has this up on their website they haven’t lost a lawsuit on facts.)

Finally, if we humans must abide by “consent,” as in, “no, means no,” but we do not afford this to other animals for one reason or another than as humans we are taking a step backwards. No one being is superior to others – they all need to exist for this planet to be whole. In addition, though I am not a representative for Alexander Nevzorov’s Haute Ecole, I understand that while he did ride horses for a while he did so without the use of any restraint of the horse’s head. Since that time he has expressed that he feels riding is unethical altogether and does not teach riding or condone it. Instead he teaches a way to have a meaningful relationship with the horse on the ground without pain or force at all.”

Tack room for the lippizaners 2MY RESPONSE:

First I think we need to define what veganism is – the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products. Some vegans have taken to extending their philosophy in all manner of ways in which the originator cannot have foreseen.  I can’t imagine how we can consider the “energy” of a horse as a product of that animal unless that is what one understands to be covered by “ethical veganism.” Vegetarians on the other hand, still consume some animals products, including dairy, eggs, cheese, gelatin, honey, etc. I have to say honestly that I am baffled as to why taking “energy” from a horse seems to be so objectionable to you while consuming dairy or eggs is apparently less so. The demand for dairy has very tangible effects on the cows and calves in that industry, and chickens suffer immensely to produce eggs, much more easily measurable and quantifiable than any presumptive abuse to horses resulting  from conventional riding.

I do want to affirm a lot of what you’ve written about various horse sports being cruel or inhumane to horses. I do agree that the cross-country phase of eventing at both the international level or at Pony Club are highly dangerous, along with other “sports” such as racing, rodeo, chuckwagon races, jumps racing, and numerous cultural events are all either blatantly cruel to horses or stretch them beyond their reasonable capabilities. I wrote more about the broad abuses of horses in another blog post.  Cross-country courses challenge horses with drop fences, where the horse can’t anticipate that he has to leap straight down, and water jumps compel horses to jump then while not knowing the depth. Until recently, obstacles did not break-away, causing serious falls and injuries (if not death) to both horse and rider. Courses are, IMO far too long and even when horses are matched to an ideal course, they can only run and jump for so long before they are exhausted or injured. Any event where you have significantly less than 100% of the participants fail to complete a course is too strenuous and risky.

We know that not all high-level riders in all disciplines ride with empathy, as shown in the following video:

I don’t agree with you that whenever a mistake is made on a course it is rider’s error. Even a correctly balanced rider’s weight causes the horse to strain to overcome gravity. The horse needs greater impulsion to clear the weight over the fence, possibly over-extending himself on the other side of the jump. A tired horse builds up lactic acid in his muscles and is more likely to sustain injury. Horses can also dehydrate and tie-up even with the most competent riders. I did actually link to a study in the original blog post that concluded that healthy, fit horses could comfortably carry up to 25% of their body weight (saddle and rider) which supports my contention that horses are not physically compromised by the weight of most riders. The ability of an animal to lift weight (whether ant, cockroach, or horse) is determined by the relationship between surface area and body mass. Ants can also lift 50 times their own weight even though they might not need to. Obviously, other factors to consider in matching the horse to the sport are size and weight, condition, fitness, conformation, attitude, ability of a saddle to distribute weight properly, ability and weight of the rider, distance travelled while riding, type of terrain, and temperature/weather conditions.

lipizzaner in stall with marble basinWhips, spurs and bits are not automatically torturous. I don’t use spurs and I don’t think most riders do either.  I don’t use a whip except in driving where it must be carried in case the horse backs up into a hazard such as a car, child, or edge or a ravine. The driving whip is used to take the place of the leg aid and is used to signal that a bend is asked for or a change of direction is forthcoming. The floppy end of a driving whip taps the horse with the same pressure as flicking a shoelace on your arm. And if you’re going to have a bit there is a range that are considered good and humane by most riders and clinicians. I don’t believe that halters cause a horse any pain. Most higher level dressage riders use spurs subtly, but their use by less skilled riders is apt to be punitive or abusive.

You claim that there is overwhelming research that riding harms horses “physically, physiologically, emotionally, mentally, and/or psychologically?” You didn’t provide any evidence for this to prove your point. I have seen some vegan sites post a link to research that consisted of evaluating a horse’s back for Kissing Spine, otherwise known as impinging spinal processes in the back, which is largely congenital. One vegan blogger cited it as a condition she assumed was directly caused by riding. I tried to correct the assumption, but it seems she was too cowardly to moderate my post. Impinging spinal processes need to be evaluated to determine whether a horse can be ridden, and as you know, horses will absolutely tell you when they are in pain.

Humans are self-legislative, morally autonomous beings. It does not follow from this that we are morally free to do anything we please to animals. However, if we required permission from Cavalia carouselan animal to take any action on their behalf then we could not spay or neuter them, walk them on leashes for their own safety, nor could we anaesthetize them to clean their teeth, vaccinate them, keep them on leashes safe from traffic, trim their hooves, or euthanize them when terminally ill. If we choose not to do any of these things because we don’t have permission, then we’re missing the point of being ethical and compassionate human beings.

Alexander Nevzorov is simply another clinician, one who has attracted a cult following. Quite frankly, he makes my head explode. Because he has attracted extremists, he thrives in that environment and turns off people who are interested in his methods but not the extremist attitude. He and his followers won’t allow discussion of other methods. He is in favour of abolishing equine use (and equines) period. There are a number of other things that Nevzorov is also quite strident about that do not fit with my concept of good and ethical horse welfare. His videos depict all the worst aspects of riding that many horse people would like to abolish – racing, rollkur, over-horsed riders balancing themselves on the bit, sometimes with nervous, perhaps improperly trained horses, rodeo, etc. The videos imply that this is the norm.

Nevzorov and his wife are even opposed to improvements in horse sport because to them it means they won’t be able to abolish it as soon as they would like. This is rather comparable to being opposed to the discontinuation of gestation crates for pigs while waiting and hoping that people will stop eating meat. They are opposed to the use of the Dr. Cook bitless bridle. They also have no interest in rescuing horses, possibly since they feel that the sooner horses become extinct as a species, the better. They are opposed to any breeding of horses at all, which again means in their world the domesticated horse is an extinct horse.

You make the assumption that before he stopped riding horses he rode without confining the horse’s head with a bridle. This is not true. Nevzorov rode horses in the traditional manner with saddle and double bridle. There are numerous pictures of him on the web using traditional horse tack which often included whip and spurs. What most of his followers don’t know is that the horses you see him performing with were all trained traditionally under saddle and with a double bridle, whip, and spurs.   If he can accomplish the same level of training with a totally green horse and without resorting to any other methods but what he’s condoning now, I’d be impressed. While I agree with many of his statements about whips, harsh bits, rough handling, etc. he claims to have taught his horses to understand Latin (which is really a written rather than spoken language). This is crackpottery of the highest order.

Horse with RibbonsFew if any people will listen to him and quit riding horses to work exclusively in hand with them. No one will pay to board a horse only to walk it on a lead, thinking they can teach it Latin. No one is going to build an arena and house horses in it to watch them self-collect. Amazingly though, Nevzorov, his wife and their followers all believe that the equine industry would continue on and develop in the same way, but with non-ridden horses. He also claims that it is “legally acceptable to claim moral damage which is caused to children, who’s mental health is endangered while participating in “sport activities” which considers the cruel treatment of a living being to be normal.”

PeTA’s endorsement of horse riding is relevant since they are probably the most radical of the major animal rights/welfare groups (ASPCA/HSUS/MFA etc). Some of Nathan Winograd’s Huffington Post pieces have been shared over 100,000 times by many people who never question the veracity of his claims about PeTA. The “PeTA Kills Animals” phenomenon was a hoax perpetrated by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a deceitful outfit that protects the interests of animal enterprise industries. They created the hoax to mitigate PeTA’s impact on their meat and biomedical industry clients’ profit margins. Not so admirably, others have jumped on the “PeTA Kills Animals” bandwagon to mitigate that organization’s impact on their agendas. Nathan Winograd falls into this category. Rather than address head-on PeTA’s concerns about dangerous and ineffective “No Kill” initiatives, Winograd uses the “PeTA Kills Animals” meme to change the conversation. Unfortunately, for animals in many “No Kill” shelters and rescues, PeTA’s concerns that the “No Kill” movement is causing them harm appear to be valid.

Nezvorov

Alexander Nevzorov back in the day when he rode horses, using a bridle, dressage crop, and spurs.

The “Why PeTA Euthanizes” website has compiled detailed information on PeTA euthanization and exposes Nathan Winograd as someone who takes liberty with the truth. Indeed, Winograd spends far more time critiquing other animal welfare organizations than he does in promoting No Kill. It’s a fact that nearly every animal PeTA has euthanized was admitted into their care by their owner. Virginia (home of PeTA’s shelter) shelter stats are public information. PETA’s shelter reporting data is freely available online, despite Winograd’s classification of these records as “secret.” This shelter is one of last resort and they offer no-cost euthanasia in the impoverished area their shelter serves. This video, produced by PETA last year, goes into quite some detail about the animals they served in their shelter in 2013. Mary Tully, the curator of the “Why PeTA Euthanizes,” site, writes:

“The small, hands-on facility at PeTA’s Norfolk headquarters isn’t a traditional animal shelter, but by comparing it to one, PeTA’s detractors are able to make it seem like PeTA’s euthanasia “numbers” are very high and somehow very bad. PeTA’s shelter operates for the primary purpose of providing no-cost, humane, veterinarian-supervised, medical euthanasia to suffering community animals who require it. This service is offered on an emergency on-call basis only, and it’s not advertised in any way.

PeTA’s Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services animal reporting data and shelter inspection reports confirm that nearly every animal PeTA receives for euthanasia is received from his or her guardian for this service. There is no indication that these guardians aren’t acting in their animals’ best interests by requesting this service from PeTA’s shelter, or that it’s in any of their best interests not to be immediately euthanized.

Though Virginia veterinarians may offer the service of owner-requested euthanasia to the public, the fees are simply out of reach for many Hampton Roads citizens. The average cost of veterinarian-provided euthanasia in the area, as of this writing, is $25 per pound of animal body weight, not including additional costs for cremation services. Affordable Veterinarian Services of Virginia’s fees start at $295 for the procedure itself, with an additional fee of $132 for their cremation service.

Prince Harry excessive spur use

Polo is another extreme sport – here, Prince Harry draws blood with his spurs.

Virginia’s State Veterinarian, Dr. Dan Kovich, DVM, MPH, acknowledged the gap, during our recent interview. “There are several communities that are underserved by veterinarians, or don’t have access to a veterinarian at all,” Kovich stated. “Shelters that offer owner-requested euthanasia are providing a valuable service to the community,” he further explained.

Most of PeTA’s community work involves helping to improve the quality of life for outdoor dogs and keeping community animals who are in good homes, in those good homes. PeTA served over 6,000 outdoor dogs last year in ways that were meaningful to them. Because PeTA never takes custody of those animals, they aren’t accounted for in their state animal reporting data. Neither are the over 11,000 community animals PeTA spayed and neutered last year in their free and low-cost mobile clinics. PeTA served over 17,000 animals in 2013 who went on to have happy, healthy lives, but because they don’t appear on the animal reporting summaries, they’re unfairly absent from conversations about the work PeTA does.”

Winograd was so deceptive in his HuffPo articles on PeTA, that he was served with a Cease and Desist letter. Similarly, another Huff Po Blogger who wrote extensively and critically of PeTA, Douglas giant shire horsesAnthony Cooper, also acknowledges receiving a C&D. PeTA also took action against posters hiding behind anonymous profiles libelling them on HuffPo, which may have contributed to HuffPo’s decision to abandon anonymous commenting on their site in favour of the Facebook social plug-in. In short, there is little reliable information about PeTAs practices to be found on the Huffington Post at all.

So Lauren,  my belief is that one should ride lightly, cue as lightly as possible, less is more, and critical thinking needs to be employed when reading these articles. When people specialize in extremism, they expend massive energy in conflict with other groups who are quite close to their ethical position: they are fighting over the little things, and losing the battle against the rest of the world. This is true for both Nevzorov and Winograd. I don’t know about Nevzorov,  but try politely disagreeing with Winograd on his Facebook page and he will lecture and then ban you immediately.  That’s one reason Parelli and Rashid and other clinicians are so successful – we may not like all of their teachings but they preach to the middle of the roadists. Whoever captures the middle ground will have the greatest support base and opportunity to improve conditions for horses. The extreme groups are left to fight over the margins. Nevzorov and Winograd both have valid points, but I’m not interested in personality cults.

Cheers,  He@ther