Friday, November 8, 2013

Wisconsin Horse Council: Pro Cruelty?!

I was shocked, horrified, and absolutely disgusted to read this "article" recently published by the Wisconsin Horse Council. Click the link below, or scroll all the way to the bottom to read a scan of the article.

"United Horsemen’s Alert: Time for the horse world to speak up and speak out!"

The article does the following:
  • Opposes the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (PAST act, H.R. 1518) that would stop the use of cruel devices on gaited horses.
  • Promotes horse slaughter.
  • Opposes the Safeguard American Food Export (SAFE) Act, which would prevent the introduction of horse slaughter operations in the U.S., end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horse meat.

  • Opposes any law that would prevent horses from being hauled to slaughter in dangerous livestock trucks that cause horses to suffer.
  • Compares the anti-animal-cruelty campaigns of the Humane Society of the United States and similar groups to Nazi propaganda.
  • Opposes any law that would stop cruel "traditional" sports like horse tripping.
 ...and the Wisconsin Horse Council published this!! The WHC, of course, is the one that organizes the Midwest Horse Fair, Taking the Reins, and other huge horse events here in Wisconsin. You would think that they would be anti-horse-cruelty. Well apparently not! This article not only appeared on the very top of the WHC website, it took up all of page 15 in the November issues of The Council Letter, WHC's newsletter, right after information on a judging seminar.

What in the hell, Wisconsin Horse Council?!

What I'm hoping right now is that this is just paid advertising by the United Horsemen. You see, the WHC will allow non-members to place a full-page ad in their newsletter for $100. It would still suck that WHC would allow this kind of awful crap in their newsletter, but at least they wouldn't have written it themselves.

The United Horsemen is a group of big-business, pro-horse-slaughter, conservative folks out west that want to restart horse slaughter in America in a big way. They advertise themselves as being concerned with the welfare of unwanted horses, but in reality they spent 95% of their efforts attacking horse welfare groups and pushing to open slaughter plants. The United Horsemen group represents all those huge breeders that would just love to be able to breed on an even more massive scale, with the assurance that an untalented yearling could be easily sold for meat nearby.

The United Horsemen seem to have their bloody hands in a great deal of the WHC's business, because there are other articles written by them on the WHC website, like this one.

Well, I for one am royally pissed off. If you are too, please join me in writing to the WHC. You can contact them on their facebook page, or write to:

Wisconsin Horse Council
PO Box 72
121 S. Ludington St.
Columbus, WI 53925

Here's an example letter you can use:

"Dear board members of the Wisconsin Horse Council: I'm writing today to express my anger and disgust at an article featured on your website and in the November issue of The Council Letter. "United Horseman's Alert" compares the Humane Society to Hitler, demands that no further laws be passed against the cruel practice of soring, and opposes any law that would stop cruel "traditional" sports like horse tripping. The article also urges people to oppose any law that would prevent horses from being shipped to slaughter in dangerous livestock trucks. I am deeply disappointed in the WI Horse Council for publishing this article, and I am thinking about not attending the Midwest Horse Fair and other WHC-organized events because of this. Please consider publishing a retraction of this article. I will be writing to other horsemen and women of Wisconsin to let them know of your response."

You should also think about contacting the WHC Executive Board and the Board of Directors. There are many people on that list that are a big part of the Wisconsin horse world, and I shudder to think that they would actually back this article.

Let me go through the article in more detail now, describing point-by-point the issues at hand here:

The Prevent All Soring Tactics act:
(Read the full proposal here

The Wisconsin Horse Council article asks its readers to, "Contact the American Horse Council and your Congressional delegations tell them to stop supporting the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act." It goes on to say that, "The only thing this legislation does is facilitate the last nail in the coffin of a once proud, prolific, and prosperous American horse tradition."

Soring is certainly a tradition, but if you're proud of it, I'd hate to see what you're ashamed of! Seriously, there are not many things worse in the horse world than purposefully causing a horse horrible pain in order to get it look a certain way.

So what is the PAST act? This house resolution would strengthen the Horse Protection Act a little bit, specifically in regards to soring, heavy slanted stacked shoes, chains, and other horrific devices used on gaited horses. See, although chemical soring is technically banned (not very effectively) right now it's still perfectly legal to do this to your horse:

This is very, very common in the gaited horse show world. The five inch heels in this picture force a horse to put more of its weight on its hind legs. The bouncing chains on the legs cause the horse to pick up his feet faster out of pain. The steep slant of the shoes also forces the horse to pick up his legs higher. The weight of the shoes cause those high legs to fly outwards at a trot.

would someone do this to a horse? Well, in order to make it move like this:

You can see even more extreme examples of this weird, crouching, artificial gait here. A rather large group of people in the gaited horse world consider this beautiful instead of painful to watch. (Personally, I find the natural gaits in this video to be much prettier.) Regardless of the aesthetics,  this unnatural gait, the high heels, the chains, the weights and all the other crap have been proven to be harmful to horses. The PAST act would simply outlaw these harmful practices in accordance with sound science and animal welfare principles. The PAST act would also increase penalties for those found to have used acidic chemicals on horses to make them sore.

Click to enlarge
The article on the WHC website and newsletter claims that, "The proposed language is so broad that literally any training method could be used to permanently ban a horse from ever showing..." This is quite clearly false, as it's easy to see if you actually read the act. For example, I've provided a picture of one provision in the act, which very very specifically talks about the difference between the pain-causing "action devices" that would be illegal, and normal training and protective devices like bell boots.

The WHC article also claims that the PAST act is unnecessary, because, "Egregious soring is illegal and has been for 40 years.  Violations are not rampant..." These are lies designed to hide the problem and allow the good-old-boys to keep abusing horses. Soring, both mechanical and chemical, is rampant in the gaited horse world. Undercover investigations in 2011 and 2012 showed that big-name trainers are still pouring chemicals onto horses, and beating them with clubs or shocking them in the face if they protest or flinch from the pain. Here's one of those investigations, as shown on ABC news.

You can find out more about soring here.

 Livestock Trucks

The article in the WHC newsletter demands, "Stand up and speak out when nonsensical legislation like blanket bans on hauling horses in standard livestock trucks are pushed regardless of the size of the animals or the configuration of the trucks."
Hey guys, guess what? Livestock trucks are designed for cows and pigs. It's not cool to shove horses into livestock trucks, no matter how OK you try to make it sound. All livestock trucks have slats and holes that panicky, easily-freaked-out horses get their hooves caught in. There's also no configuration that magically makes the incredibly low ceilings higher, or horses less prone to fighting other horses. (Putting horses onto livestock trucks means that stallions, pregnant mares, ponies, foals and lame horses, all of them strangers to each other, are all thrown into the same area, with no separation. Of course this causes fights and injuries.)

Check out this video to see why transportation to the slaughter plant is often much more cruel than slaughter itself.

Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act
(Read the full bill here.)

The article on the Wisconsin Horse Council website claims, "this act claims that horse meat can never be tested for safety and that the only solution is to completely take away horse owner’s private property rights, ban the processing of horse meat in the United States, and the transportation of horses to other countries for that purpose."

1) Horses receive more dangerous veterinary drugs than just about any other animal-- and those drugs have absolutely wound up in the human food chain in many documented instances.

2) "Completely take away horse owner's private property rights," huh? This argument seems to propose that any law against doing whatever you want with your animals (like dog fighting, torturing them, beastiality, sending horses to slaughter, etc) is wrong because it limits the freedoms of animal owners. Here in the real world, I think you'll agree that this argument is flawed, animal welfare laws are OK, and that they do not "completely take away an owner's rights."

3) Yes, this bill would attempt to finally ban horse slaughter in America, as well as the transport of horses for slaughter in other countries. Read my thoughts on the issue of horse slaughter here.

Horse Tripping

Picture from video taken at the Big Loop rodeo.
The article in The Council Letter asks readers to defend any and all types of horse events: "When they come after your Mexican Charriada neighbors attacking traditional livestock sporting events-speak up!  Don’t let a bunch of clueless animal rights activists interfere with livestock events like the Jordan Valley Big Loop in Oregon."

The author is referring to "traditional" or "cultural" events like horse tripping. Horse tripping is exactly what it sounds like; cowboys chase a galloping horse and attempt to rope the front or back legs of a horse and make it fall. Horses are used again and again, until broken legs, broken necks, or spinal injuries cripple them. Here's a video:

Just because something is traditional, does that mean we have to keep doing it? There are many cruel "cultural traditions" that we, as more modern humans, have decided to stop. Among these are slavery, the subjugation of women, dog fighting, stoning people to death, burning witches at the stake, cutting off women's clitorises, footbinding, cock fighting, and bear baiting.

Read more about horse tripping here.


So wait, WHY is the author of the article saying it's OK, even necessary, to do all this cruel stuff? 
The author of the WHC article says, "The HSUS-driven animal rights attacks on the horse business just keep coming.  Every man and woman who cares about preserving our horseback culture, our ability to make a living and raise our families in the horse business, and who cares about preserving the true, intrinsic value and worth of all horses needs to stand up and speak out TODAY!"

So basically, unless you agree to let horsemen do whatever they want, including practice cruelty and horse slaughter, the whole entire cowboy-apple pie-American dream will just collapse!
Hah. Yeah right. The real reason for this article is that cruelty is good for business, and businessmen are scared about what will happen to their profits if we stop cruelty.

Large-scale breeders and trainers don't want to have to obey any laws about treating animals decently, because doing so costs time and money. They don't want to have to stop throwing horses to the ground, soring them, using harsh bits until the horses' mouths bleed, using chains and weights to get bigger gaits, etc. They consider their methods traditional, manly, tough, and because they're often faster and produce more exaggerated results than kinder methods, they are good for profits.

Let's face it, you just can't get a Tennesse Walker to gait really weirdly, spectacularly, grossly HUGELY unless you DO use weights and chains and acids and cattle prods. And since judges reward the big gaits, clients want big gaits, and if clients will only pay trainers who produce horses with big gaits... well, it all comes back to money, and those who will do anything to make lots of it.
 The profit motive also drives horse slaughter. It costs time and money to rehome racehorses, train and sell unproductive broodmares, give an old or lame horse a retirement, and adopt out young horses lacking potential. However, sending them all to slaughter makes the breeder money.

 If you don't think these cruel practices are OK, do contact your local and state representatives!

Article Scanned from the November issue of "The Council Letter," the newsletter of the Wisconsin Horse Council:

(click the picture to enlarge it)





  1. Thank you for posting this. This is totally offensive to me and I responded to the Horse Council for whatever good it will do.

  2. I don't understand people at all....none of these things is even close to acceptable. Disgusting and cruel, yes.