Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Because most efforts at altruism are applied to human suffering, when it comes to horses and other animals, we still face the problem of convincing people that the suffering of horses is worth considering at all. Our legal and legislative efforts can be effective ways to achieve goals for the horses, but most campaigns are lower visibility when compared to shelter pets, and they may only yield results if completely successful. After observing how horse advocacy functions for a few years now (but I am still a relative newbie compared to the seasoned experts who have been advocating for horses for decades) I want to make the following observations on the year 2016:
To be effective, we must continually find the root causes of systemic problems, such as corrupt or indifferent government officials, hoarding issues, and our often reactionary approach to kill buyer sales programs, which are now entrenched methods of adopting horses. This is no small feat considering how decentralized horse advocates are – each person is often doing their own thing and advocating for horses in their own way. As a result, preventative approaches are sometimes overlooked within the movement. Despite exhaustive work by many people, SAFE Act-type legislation, which could provide the best results for horses in the US, hasn’t passed.
We may best be able to capitalize on shifts in the way people think about all animals and their status in society. Results in Canada have been achieved when contracts for horsemeat are lost due to the exposing of cruelty and food quality/feedlot issues. Meat-swapping is also an issue that usually gets a lot of publicity. The supply of horsemeat already exceeds demand otherwise we would see fewer substitution issues – many people are realizing that they are eating horse unintentionally and this causes them to reconsider buying meat in general.
Unfortunately, 2016 heralded in new administration that is not friendly to animals. P-E Trump is known to receive advice from conspiracy theorists and the radical far right – it’s true that we have become a “post-fact” world. Knowing this, how can we best advocate for horses in 2017 and beyond? There mere suggestion that there may be jobs to be found in the horse slaughter industry could be incentive enough to resuscitate it in the US, even though it is a poor investment.
“Donald Trump…represents perhaps the greatest threat ever to animal protection policy making at the federal level. His campaign surrogates and the names being floated as possible Trump cabinet picks for the very agencies that oversee such policies include the most ardent anti-animal voices in the country. Advocates for puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and trophy hunting of rare species such as leopards and elephants would be at the steering wheel of a Trump administration.” ~ Michael Markarian, the Human Society Legislative Fund
Here’s my summation of 2016, with articles arranged in Storify:
The Chemical Horse:
- Horsenetwork reported that Pfizer Canada has announced it will increase the amount of pregnant mare urine (PMU) it collects from its facilities in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan in 2016 and 2017. Demand for conjugated equine estrogens declined in recent years following a 2002 Women’s Health Initiative study that PMU drugs were linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. (In 2012, the North American Menopause Society released a position statement that continues to support hormone therapy).
- Horse tendons are now being made into an anti-aging therapy to rival botox. The popularity of horse oil from slaughtered animals has increased exponentially and is sold extensively on Amazon, eBay and elsewhere.
- A video released in October showed the appalling treatment of horses at antitoxin and antivenom manufacturing facilities in India. The facilities draw blood from the horses, many of them multiple times a month with heavy gauge needles, to manufacture antitoxin and antivenom drugs. The horses depicted in the video (link included below) had festering sores and low body weights.
Live Horse Shipments:
- Throughout 2016, the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition continued to release footage of live horse exports to Japan and petitioned Atlas Air executives to stop the practice, which does not adhere to IATA regulations.
- In August, U.S. Department of Agriculture/APHIS proposed changes to the Horse Protection Act that could stop the soring abuse for good.
- Anti-soring advocates got the Big Lick kicked out of the North Carolina State Fair
- In June, a butcher shop in Montreal was caught adding horsemeat to hamburger patties advertised as being entirely made of beef. An investigation by Radio-Canada found burger patties advertised as being 100 per cent beef from La Maison du Rôti, which supplied meat to many hotels and commercial establishments in Montreal. This is consistent with a study from 2015 that found that nearly 5% of all ground meat products tested in California had horse meat in the product.
- In Britain, two Britons and a citizen of Denmark appeared in court over allegations that they passed horsemeat off as beef. It took THREE YEARS after the horsemeat adulteration scandal in to get them this far.
- Britain’s food-policing unit, which was created in 2014 following the horse meat scandal has still not resulted in any new prosecutions despite costing the taxpayer £4m. The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) has not brought any criminal charges against anyone.
- Aaron Stelkia of the Osoyoos Indian Band, who has apparently provided no care to feral British Columbia horses, decided to claim them and began rounding them up early in the year. On the heels of this event, the RCMP in Penticton B.C., at the request of the CFIA, began investigating horse rescuer Theresa Nolet after she treated a free-roaming horse with phenylbutazone, making him unfit for human consumption. If the CFIA, the RCMP, or the SPCA actually had any concern for horses, they would require the Indian Bands to keep their horses contained and properly fed and medicated. It’s clear the intent was to harass Ms. Nolet, since the CFIA has no problem importing American horses whose drug history is completely unprovable.
- DNA genotyping of Alberta wild horses showed a connection to the Altai horse from Russia. These genetic markers permitted the placement of the horses on the endangered list by the Equus Survival Trust in North Carolina.
- Forty-five years ago the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (WFRH&B Act) was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 18, 1971. The WFRH&B Act created the sensation that wild horses were to be protected on public land, but as it did not create actual defined parameters it has been left open to interpretation and/or lack of enforcement by the US judicial system.
Decimation of the Donkeys:
- Now that the West African black rhino is extinct and the elephant is well on its way, donkey skins are the new rhino horn, and just like the rhino, the Chinese demand is unsustainable. To that end, a $3,000,000 slaughterhouse has just opened in Kenya – dedicated and purpose-built to kill up to 100 donkeys a day. China is presently responsible for slaughtering four million donkeys a year for traditional medicinal products made from their skin. Already, countries in Africa are seeing their donkey populations drop at an alarming rate – the appetite for donkey skins has risen to such a degree that a worldwide crisis is unfolding for donkey populations around the world. In the United States the population of donkeys is estimated to be between 250,000 and 400,000. The US’ wild burro population ranges between 4,000 to 10,000 total on all BLM public lands. The entire US population of donkeys could theoretically be wiped out in a matter of weeks at the current rate of slaughter.
Cruelty Cases, Horse Seizures, Abandonments, and Hoarding:
- The infamous Stanley Brothers have been shipping horses to slaughter for quite some time and also have a long history of animal welfare offenses, among other questionable activities. Boots Stanley, the son of one of the Stanley Brothers, who became millionaires selling horses to be killed, was arrested along with his pal Steven Sadler, for aggravated animal cruelty after slitting a defenseless dog’s throat on the family’s kill lot in Bastrop, Louisiana. Someone who enjoys inflicting pain on an animal may well be a danger to their community soon.
- “Big Lick” supporter Sandra Darlene Wood will be serving jail time for the crime of Animal Cruelty – starving Tennessee Walking Horses that were seized from her farm on April 6, 2015.
- Logan Allen, a “horse trainer” who won 1st place in the 2013 Iowa Horse Fair found himself under fire after he posted pics to his Facebook wall of a horse with the caption “bad boy…” The horse lay on the ground, his legs were bound, his tongue hung out of his mouth and he had been sprayed with a hose, hence the treatment of the horse was referred to as “waterboarding.” The dismissal of Allen’s case sends the clear message to those in Iowa that abusing animals is acceptable in the state.
- The story of Lily, the little pony mare who appeared to have been shot up with a paintball gun and then abandoned at New Holland in Pennsylvania, was a simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking narrative. The mare, who was rescued and subsequently endured an eye operation for painful uveitis inflammation and days of dental work, was elderly and in poor condition overall. In May, Philip Price Jr. of Rhode Island, (previously convicted of animal abuse) was convicted on all counts related to transporting her to New Holland. He was ordered to pay $13,000 in restitution for Lily’s recovery care costs. Lily was then adopted by former Daily Show Host Jon Stewart and his wife. Although her quality of life appears to have been quite low for some time, she knew kindness and care before she died a short time later in Stewart’s sanctuary.
- In June, officials with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture charged trainer Maria Borell and her father, Charles Borell, each with 43 counts of second-degree cruelty to animals in connection with the apparent abandonment of horses at a 121-acre farm in Central Kentucky.
- 40 deceased and decaying horses were found on a property near Melbourne Australia. Bruce Akers, was charged with 92 counts of animal cruelty and criminal damage.
- Another 40 horses (and 15 dogs) owned by a previously convicted mother/daughter team of animal hoarders were seized from a Virginia property.
- In July, horse rescuers saved from slaughter several horses formerly owned by the Arnold Reproduction Center, which specialized in cutting horse breeding. A herd of horses bearing the brand of center ended up scheduled for shipment to slaughter, according to social media posts, which the business acknowledged in a statement last week, calling the slaughter designation unintended. Photos posted by the Kaufman Kill Pen Facebook page showed show at least a dozen horses bearing the brand and/or distinctive shoulder numbers, with some described as recipient mares.
- Several horses that had been seized from the Peaceable Farm rescue in 2015 have again been taken by authorities from New Beginnings Horse Rescue, where they had little or no food and water. Over 80 horses were originally removed from Peaceable Farm and 11 of those horses went to New Beginnings (the other horses were distributed to other rescues). It’s been a horrible 2 years for some of the rescues in Virginia.
- Approximately 550-650 “wild” horses of varying ages, some mares with foals, went up for auction in December when approximately 30 were found starving or eviscerated on the bare dirt pastures of the ranch belonging to the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros in South Dakota. With no plan in place to prevent breeding and insufficient range land for the number of horses, the pastures had been eaten down to dirt. Photos on social media show severely thin horses, some of them dead, with their ribs and hip-bones protruding. Some have grotesque wounds and injuries or wildly overgrown, untrimmed hooves. A few had been eviscerated, presumably by wild animals. Guidestar shows that despite the charity taking in $600 – $700K in donations per year, there were always feed emergencies – this appears to be another hoarding operation with charitable status. Resources are finite everywhere – uncontrolled breeding with no place to go eventually means there will be a population crash.
Legislative and Public Relations Issues:
- Of the most immediate concern to animal advocates may be the virtual certainty that a Trump administration will work to reopen horse slaughter in the U.S., to “dispose” of the 45,000 wild horses who have been removed as “surplus” from the BLM. Furthermore, in 2009 VP-Elect Pence voted against protecting wild horses and burros on America’s public lands. He opposed the “Restore Our American Mustangs Act,” which was introduced to amend the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971. Simply because you see a picture of someone on a horse, it does not make them an advocate.
- It has been announced that the European Commission is set to adopt stricter regulations on the import of horsemeat from non-EU countries following its latest audit, which found that Canadian horsemeat may not meet EU food safety standards. Horses destined for slaughter in non-EU countries but for export to the EU, must undergo a minimum six-month residency requirement. It’s unclear how either the slaughterhouses or the CFIA will control for this requirement.
- The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition met with MPs in Ottawa in October on the dangers of horse meat consumption. The CHDC was registered to lobby with Aaron Freeman of Pivot Strategic Consulting. The CHDC continues to consult with legal counsel in a continuing effort to explore legal strategies to stop illegally-conducted live shipments of horses to Japan for slaughter.
- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the slaughtering license of KML Meats in British Columbia temporarily, due to the absence of an effective HACCP program.
- The CFIA proposed changes to the Health of Animals Act and Regulations, thereby recognizing that the transport of animals in Canada is not aligned with those of other countries (World Organisation for Animal Health – OIE) nor do they align with the National Farm Animal Care Council Codes of Practice (NFACC) or international trading partners such as the US and the EU. Furthermore, transport guidelines, such as they are, do not reflect current science regarding the handling of animals by land, sea, and air.
- The March to DC on behalf of the SAFE Act took place September 22nd. Thank you to the dedicated people who were able to attend. Many SAFE-type bills have now died and alternative approaches are needed to make the rest of the US population aware of the atrocities of horse slaughter.
- The tall metal fences, chained gates, and decaying metal buildings that were an embarrassment and constant reminder of horse slaughter in Kaufman Texas are now gone. The old Dallas Crown slaughterhouse was torn down.
- In Ontario, “horse rustling” has received new attention after two horses, who were temporarily loaned/boarded, disappeared from the same farm and are presumed sold for slaughter. Sargon, owned by Kim Wilson, and Apollo, owned by Kayla Whatling were loaned to the same individual, who told police she sold Sargon to a kill buyer for slaughter without permission and with a faked EID.
EQUUS Film Festival:
- The EQUUS Film Festival, dedicated to equestrian-themed film, fine art and authors was subject to controversy in 2016. Noted Equine/Human Chiropractor Dr. Jay Komarek, declined to accept the Equus Film Festival Award for “Best Documentary” Film citing festival organizers for accepting money from two corporate sponsors, “Protect The Harvest” and “Farm Paint,” as his reason for doing so. The sponsor’s principals are Mr. Forrest Lucas (Protect The Harvest and Lucas Cattle Company) and Mr. Duke Thorson (Farm Paint and Thorsport Farm). Slaughtering and soring horses do not create a better world for them and were therefore incompatible sponsors for the event. Clant Seay, a reporter for Billygoboy.com, also had the microphone aggressively grabbed out of his hand by former Sue Wallis buddy Dave Duquette at EQUUS. A positive outcome was that the film “Kill Pen” signed a worldwide/international distribution agreement to circulate the film across the US and Canada, into Europe, and beyond.
Please read more about these and other headlines from 2016, arranged chronologically, in Storify