Topic: Horses

  • Equine Expert on HSUS Raid: Lots of Horsing Around

    Amidst all of the chatter about our Academy Awards commercial, some important news came forward last week concerning an alleged case of horse cruelty at a Maryland farm.

    Last April, the Queen Anne’s County Animal Control and HSUS conducted an allegedly warrantless seizure of 133 horses from Canterbury Farm. We heard a lot at the time to have us skeptical, but we wanted to see how it all played out. And now we have more information.

    The law firm representing the defendant, Marsha Parkinson, announced last week that she had reached a deal whereby most of the charges would be immediately dropped and the rest of the charges struck pending a probation before judgment. (As we understand it, that means she pled “no contest,” and if she meets certain conditions during a probationary period, the remaining charges may be expunged.) Parkinson will get back more than 60 of her animals—clearly, something that wouldn’t have happened if she was some Michael Vick-esque abuser.

    But even more interesting is that the defense recruited equine scientist Dr. Don Henneke to offer his opinion of the evidence collected during the seizure. “At the time of the seizure,” Henneke stated, “the horses in question were not being neglected and should not have been removed from the care of Ms. Parkinson.”

    That’s in stark contrast to HSUS’s claim at the time of the seizure that “every horse on that property is suffering from some level of lack of care.” So what gives him the authority to make that conclusion?

    Henneke developed the internationally used “Henneke Scale,” or Body Conditioning Scale (BCS), for horses. In contrast to HSUS’s claim that the horses were “neglected, starving” and that rescuers arrived “just in time,” Henneke determined that “the overall health of the horses appeared to be adequate.”

    Henneke further determined that the horses were “exposed to unnecessary stress due to poor horsemanship on the part of the people conducting the seizure” and that the “evaluators appear to have little knowledge of the accurate application of the BCS.”


    Finally, Henneke stated that after the seizure the animals “appear to have gone through a prolonged period of stress” and that the body conditions had not significantly increased in most of the horses after a few months.

    So, in summary, a renowned equine scientist who developed a scale for measuring bodily health in horses was prepared to testify that the horses shouldn’t have been seized and that the rescue personnel were basically incompetent.

    You can read his full statement here, and there are more details than we’re listing in this piece in the interest of space. But it certainly indicates that HSUS’s assertions were a little hyperbolic, to say the least.

    An interesting side note: HSUS claims that three donors “help[ed] finance the operation.” But an interview with one of the assisting rescue groups indicates that they helped bear a lot of the post-seizure cost—$38,000, in one group’s case. What, HSUS couldn’t spare some of its $200,000,000 in assets?

    This is yet another black mark on HSUS’s animal rescue program. While a great idea in theory, we have to wonder if it succumbs to biases or pressure to produce sensationalist press releases.

    Consider the South Dakota case in which the search warrant was later thrown out. HSUS is now facing a federal lawsuit.

    Then there’s the Denisa Malott case in Arkansas, which resulted in the seized horses allegedly being neglected. Malott later asked the FBI to investigate whether HSUS was in violation of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

    And let’s not forget that two former members of HSUS’s rescue team spilled the beans on its faux badges and media tactics.

    There’s a definite need for a national animal rescue team. We just have to wonder if HSUS is the best group to run it.

    Posted on 03/07/2012 at 4:00 am by The Team.

    Topics: Horses


  • PETA and HSUS: Who's Horsing Around?

    There’s been a lot of press devoted recently to the possible (probable?) reinstatement of horse slaughter in the United States. As expected, HSUS made hay out of horse slaughter’s potential return—while, oddly, HSUS’s little sister in the animal rights movement, PETA, had a different take. Speaking to the Christian Science Monitor, PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk said:

    It's quite an unpopular position we've taken. There was a rush to pass a bill that said you can't slaughter them anymore in the United States. But the reason we didn't support it, which sets us almost alone, is the amount of suffering that it created exceeded the amount of suffering it was designed to stop.

    We hate to say it, but PETA is the voice of sanity here. (Is it out of place to mention that it’s not like PETA has a problem with animals being killed?) After the ban on domestic slaughter, horses were simply shipped to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered—a long distance to travel outside of the purview of USDA inspectors and US humane slaughter laws. Last year, the number of horses going to slaughter abroad totaled 138,000. In other words, it’s arguable that HSUS helped cause a decrease in animal welfare.

    Meanwhile, horse abandonment has increased domestically. Recent research presented in the Journal of Animal Science found that 100,000 unwanted horses turn up every year, but the capacity of horse rescues is only 13,400 animals.

    HSUS president Wayne Pacelle retorts that abandonment has increased because of economic circumstances. He has a point, but he doesn’t answer this one question: If slaughter is totally banned, where are all those horses to go?

    Horse sanctuaries across the country are already filled to capacity. So, predictably, some animals have been left to die of starvation. Their owners can’t sell them and can’t afford the cost for a veterinarian to euthanize the animal.

    Meanwhile, Pacelle’s response is normative: People shouldn’t own horses unless they can care for them. OK, sure. But who can predict an economic downturn? Welcome to reality, where things don’t always go as planned. (And it’s not like everybody has a six-figure salary and pension plan like Wayne Pacelle.)

    To HSUS’s credit, it does operate a horse sanctuary out in Oregon called the Duchess Sanctuary, which holds 200 horses on 1,120 acres. But since we haven’t seen any ideas from HSUS as to what to do with 138,000 horses if all horse slaughter was banned, let us suggest that HSUS build a Duchess Sanctuary for all of them.

    By our calculation, HSUS would need to build ranches exceeding 1,200 square miles in size to house all of these animals.

    That would require a lot of hard work and a lot of money. Doable? Possibly. But HSUS would have to “pony up” in a major way.

    Of course, it’d be far easier for HSUS to continue making hay out of the horse slaughter issue and raising money off of it. If HSUS is going to continue to oppose horse slaughter, hopefully it offers some practical solutions—for the horses.

    Posted on 01/27/2012 at 4:13 am by The Team.

    Topics: HorsesMeatPets


  • At HSUS, Equine Welfare Is Horseplay

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report formally analyzing the state of horse welfare since 2007. That was the year the Humane Society of the United States succeeded in stopping domestic horse slaughter by lobbying Congress to cut off funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture horse-slaughter inspections. The GAO report isn’t pretty. In a nutshell, it concludes that HSUS’s big victory was a huge defeat for animal welfare.

    HSUS, a political lobbying group unaffiliated with pet shelters, has long advocated for a ban on processing horse meat for human consumption. When the activist group succeeded in 2007, the objections of credible animal welfare experts like those at the American Veterinary Medical Association got short shrift.

    The AVMA and other organizations opposed the ban because HSUS didn’t address what would happen to unwanted horses once slaughter was no longer an option. These experts predicted that the number of abandoned horses would dramatically increase. They were right.

    A flood of horses has been unleashed upon the West. Meanwhile, many of these animals are trucked long distances to Canada and Mexico, where slaughter doesn’t require the USDA’s say-so. (And in Mexico, humane slaughter standards are anybody’s guess.)

    The Billings Gazette reports:

    Seventeen state veterinarians, including in Montana, told the GAO that equine welfare had declined since the economic crash in 2008, the closure of the slaughterhouses and the drought, among other factors. […]

     “Clearly the cessation of domestic slaughter has had unintended consequences, most importantly, perhaps, the decline in horse welfare in the United States,” the report stated.

    The GAO offers two options. Congress could start funding horse slaughter inspections again, allowing plants to reopen in the U.S. Alternatively, Congress could also make horse slaughter (and the export of horses for slaughter) flat-out illegal.

    HSUS favors the latter, of course.

    By itself, the fact that the GAO is telling Congress to consider re-funding horse slaughter inspections is a stunning blow to HSUS. HSUS doesn’t want anyone to consume horse meat (or any meat, for that matter). Just as in Missouri this year, the animal rights group’s best laid (and exorbitantly funded) plans could soon be completely unraveled.

    But resuming horse slaughter in the U.S.—under USDA supervision—would provide an outlet for unwanted horses. And provided inspectors do their jobs correctly, that outlet could be perfectly humane.

    What about the second option—making horse slaughter illegal? At a first glance, banning the export of horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter strikes us as likely to further diminish horse welfare. More than 138,000 horses will be shipped to neighboring countries this year. What will happen to them?

    There’s a saying in the West for what will happen to many of those horses: “Shoot, shovel, and shut up.” Many more will add their numbers to the already ridiculously high number of horses in the U.S. that are abandoned and starving.

    Those animals won’t find much relief at horse rescues. According to the Billings Gazette:

    Local government and charities don’t have the money to deal with the large number of abandoned horses, the GAO concluded. And animal sanctuaries, now caring for 6,000 horses nationally, are full.

    Horse sanctuaries are full—and their national capacity is 6,000 horses. Can you imagine what would happen if another 138,000 were abandoned every year?

    To its credit, HSUS does run a 1,120-acre horse sanctuary in Oregon and cares for some horses in Texas. But unless HSUS is planning on some major expansions—which would probably mean laying off lawyers or raiding the pension plan—this flood of hopeless animals will have nowhere to go. (How exactly is that a good example of “celebrating animals, confronting cruelty”?)

    People shouldn't abandon horses and shouldn't buy them unless they're sure they can take care of them. The unfortunate reality, though, is that thousands of horses are abandoned every year.

    The issue of horse slaughter draws many charged reactions. Some people see them as they would a pet dog. Others see them as livestock. Whatever your view, it strikes us that HSUS ought to reconsider its overzealous lobbying and provide some options for horses’ futures. HSUS helped create this situation, and investing in sanctuaries instead of lobbyists is the better way forward.

    What do you think? Is horse slaughter a temporary necessity? A part of American culture? Totally unacceptable? Feel free to comment below.

    Posted on 06/25/2011 at 2:51 am by The Team.

    Topics: Gov't, Lobbying, PoliticsHorses


  • How Many Animals Does HSUS (Actually) Care For?

    The Humane Society of the United States hauls in $100 million per year, and has another $191 million in assets. So you might think this national “humane society” would be able to help millions of animals. After all, HSUS shares less than 1 percent of its budget with hands-on pet shelters, so the other 99 percent must be spent directly on caring for Garfield and Odie, right?

    Not so fast: It’s true that HSUS runs a few animal sanctuaries—generally for horses and wildlife, though, not pets. But HSUS helpfully, at least in two recent annual reports, put exact numbers on the animals it claims to be caring for.

    Could HSUS be doing more? We’ll let you decide.

    According to HSUS’s 2007 annual report (see below), the organization provided some form of care to just over 24,000 animals that year.

    In the following year’s annual report, however, HSUS bumped its 2008 “Animals Cared For” number up to about 70,000 animals. That figure includes 33,000 pets—nearly half of HSUS’s claimed amount—that were sterilized as part of HSUS’s “Spay Day” promotion.

    This is odd because HSUS has run “Spay Day” since it merged operations with the Doris Day Animal League in 2006. (DDAL founded the event in 1995.) Why didn’t HSUS also count Spay Day pets in 2007?

    At the very least, we can conclude that an enormous percentage of the animals “cared for” by HSUS aren’t actually long-term cases. Spaying and neutering are brief surgeries that have little to do with animal rehabilitation or adoption.

    Not that HSUS is actually doing the surgeries. In its 2009 annual report, HSUS claimed credit for “40,000+ spay/neuter surgeries performed by nearly 400 organizers in 24 countries during HSUS and HSI Spay Day events.”

    In other words, HSUS is claiming it “cared for” animals that it never saw. It may have raised pass-through funds to sterilize them, but that’s a horse of a different color. Just ask HSUS's South Dakota state director, Darci Adams:

    We have no affiliation with local shelters … our efforts focus on policy.

    And although HSUS does care for some animals on a longer-term basis (HSUS’s wildlife centers come to mind), the animals rescued by HSUS in high-profile “raids” (like this one from earlier in the week) are generally sent to local shelters for fostering and adoption. HSUS is just a temporary middle-man. And as the indispensible YesBiscuit! blog has showed us, HSUS’s “rescues” are sometimes sadly temporary, resulting in certain death for many of the animals.

    UPDATE: One irony in all of this is that some individual farmers provide direct care to far more animals in a given week than HSUS can claim to in a whole year. Yet it's these same farmers that HSUS routinely attacks for the supposed sins of running large businesses and producing an income.

    Posted on 03/02/2011 at 4:17 am by The Team.

    Topics: HorsesPetsWildlife


  • Dharma Passes the Hat

    On December 7 of last year, “Dharma and Greg” co-star Jenna Elfman “tweeted” a photo taken after she taped a new "give $19 a month" TV ad for the Humane Society of the United States. Elfman made a radio PSA for HSUS in 2001 and lent an image of her lips to an HSUS-branded postage stamp in 2008, but this was her first on-camera work for the animal rights organization. It reportedly began airing late last week.

    Last night the video production company that shot this fundraising ad posted a press release about it, but the release was removed early this morning. (Here’s Google’s cache, and our screen-grab for posterity.) In addition to the Jenna Elfman ad, the release also linked to videos of two more spots that may or may not be running nationally: one narrated by Wayne Pacelle, and another showcasing three children. (Note: We can’t control how long these movie files will be available for viewing.)

    The Jenna Elfman fundraising ad is the most interesting of three to us. Not because it’s fronted by an actress, but because we counted 44 live animals in this ad, and all but two are dogs and cats:

    More after the jump.

    We’ve written before about how HSUS seems to go out of its way to promote the idea that it’s primarily a dog-and-cat-shelter organization, even though it doesn’t run a pet shelter anywhere (and is stingy with its shelter giving).

    To be fair, Elfman’s voice-over claims HSUS “helps all animal wherever they’re in need.” But the only non-canines-and-felines we see are a horse and a white baby seal. The ad narrated by Pacelle has 29 animals, all dogs and cats except for the same seal and horse. The “kids” ad shows 55 dogs and cats, one seal, and 5 horses.

    The pictures communicate what the words won’t.

    That seal, by the way, is a young pup known as a “whitecoat.” It has been illegal to hunt or kill whitecoat seals throughout North America since 1987. So it’s hard to imagine a donation to HSUS can help these marine mammals any further.

    And the horses? Just two months ago, HSUS continued using a horse named “Second Chance” in its December 2010 “Animal Survivors” fundraising campaign after the animal had already died. This doesn’t inspire confidence.

    Have you noticed that we haven’t mentioned cows, pigs, or chickens yet? That’s because there aren’t any in these commercials. Not a single one. Yet an astonishing amount of HSUS’s money—your money, if you donate—actually goes to campaigns targeting farmers who raise animals for food.

    We told you this week about the $1.6 million HSUS poured into Ohio last year to fight egg farmers. And that was just to get a ballot initiative through the signature-gathering stage. Plus HSUS spent $4.12 million on its 2008 California “Prop 2” farm battle.

    Is HSUS purposely hiding the ball and diverting millions to a purpose that its ads don’t address? The case is getting stronger by the month. If HSUS intends to keep funding seven-figure attacks on farmers in order to drive up the cost of non-vegan foods, it should just come out and say so.

    Here's a transcript of the Jenna Elfman ad:

    JENNA ELFMAN: Hi, I'm Jenna Elfman and this is Daisy. We all know there's no better feeling than being loved. But not everyone is lucky enough to be loved.

    The fact is, each year, over 3 million innocent animals, like Daisy, are destroyed in shelters across America because they cannot find a loving home to adopt them. That's over 8 thousand animals lost every day—350 lives every hour.

    But it's not just shelter dogs and cats who need your help. The Humane Society of the United States helps all animals wherever they're in need. That's why I'm asking you to become a monthly supporting member of the Humane Society of the United States.

    Join the Humane Society for just $19 a month and help end animal suffering and safe lives. For almost 60 years the Humane Society of the United States has been investigating cruelty, campaigning for stronger laws and promoting adoption and better treatment of animals everywhere.

    As an active member of the Humane Society, you'll be part of the nation's largest and most effective animal protection organization. But your membership is critical because many more animals urgently need help. You can help save an animal's life.

    Call and join the Humane Society today.

    ANNOUNCER: Join now. As a monthly member with your first $19 monthly payment, you'll get your membership ID, this official Humane Society fleece members jacket, and this eco-friendly tote bag, plus a free subscription to All Animals magazine.

    JENNA ELFMAN: Most of all, your membership dues will be working throughout the year to give animals chance at a better life.

    ANNOUNCER: Join the Humane Society of the United States now. As a monthly member with your first $19 payment you'll get your membership ID, official fleece members jacket, this eco-friendly tote bag, plus a free subscription to All Animals magazine.

    Image: licensed under Creative Commons (Wikipedia)

    Posted on 02/19/2011 at 2:14 am by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureAudio & VideoCelebritiesFundraising & MoneyFur & FashionHorsesHunting & FishingPetsWildlife


  • It's Not ‘Problem-Solving’ if You Created the Problem

    Last week we heard a lot about unwanted and abandoned horses, a problem that the Humane Society of the United States single-handedly created when it lobbied to force the closure of the domestic horse slaughter industry. The American Veterinary Medical Association and other organizations predicted that “saving” horses from slaughter here at home would cause far greater suffering, but HSUS didn’t listen.

    The sad reality is that many owners of unwanted horses can’t afford the $500 average cost for euthanasia. When they bought their horses, in fact, they counted on income from the animals’ slaughter when the animals’ lives were near an end. HSUS put a monkey-wrench into such practical economic outlooks, and caused the very harm it wanted to prevent.

    Now, of course, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle says he has a solution to the problem of unwanted horses starving on the Great Plains: He wants to make it illegal to transport horses to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.

    Isn’t that nifty? Pacelle is trying to “solve” a problem that he created. And his solution might make things worse. What’s going to happen if he gets his way? (We would argue that a quick slaughter—even one that may look bad on camera—is preferable to prolonged starvation, but that’s just the way we see it.)

    Today HSUS is busy trying to “fix” another problem it created.

    The subject is dogfighting. In Philadelphia.

    You can probably see where this is going.

    The Pennsylvania SPCA reports that in the wake of Michael Vick’s move to Philadelphia, dogfighting investigations tripled in the City of Brotherly Love. Take it from George Bengal, that organization’s Director of Law Enforcement (emphasis added):

    In 2009, the SPCA investigated 903 cases of alleged animal fighting in Pennsylvania, most of them involving dogfighting in Philadelphia, Bengal said. That's more than three times the number of cases in 2008, when there were 245 investigations …

    Reporting is up about 25 percent from previous years, Bengal said, and the SPCA has devoted more officers to investigate animal fighting. But he said there also has been an increase in actual dogfighting.

    "This is a fad out here now," he said, adding that it's hard to break down exactly how many of the cases are new operations.

    Bengal also talked to WHYY Radio, as did a Philadelphia prosecutor:

    Animal fighting cases in 2009 tripled compared to the year before Vick joined the Eagles. It may be that Vick's signing contributed to increased reporting of the crime but the SPCA's George Bengal believes Vick made dogfighting cool for a lot of kids.

    "There's no doubt in my mind especially the youth of today they look at Michael Vick as their idol and it sort of promotes them to follow in his footsteps," Bengal said.

    Prosecutor Barbara Paul seconds that:

    "Since the Michael Vick case, having a pitbull is now a status symbol for young people in the city and animal fighting to them is not considered a bad thing. So there's been more reporting and we have had some more cases to prosecute."

    It looks like by rehabilitating Michael Vick’s image (after pocketing $50,000 from the Philadelphia Eagles), HSUS created the very kind of problem it should have been working overtime to prevent.

    And, just like with the horse-slaughter issue, HSUS now has a “solution.”

    Oh, goodie.

    Last night the Philly Daily News reported that HSUS will launch an "end dogfighting in Philadelphia" campaign on Thursday. The article also notes that the PSPCA tracked 1,177 cases of animal fighting in the city during 2010—yet another increase in the Michael Vick era.

    What exactly does HSUS think it can accomplish now? The group is already on record saying that Pennsylvania has one of the strictest dogfighting laws in America. And despite that, dogfighting in Philly has reached epidemic proportions:

    "We chose Philadelphia because there is a very large need in Philadelphia," said Rebecca Glenn-Dinwoodie, coordinator for the HSUS campaign here.

    Yes, there is a very large need in Philadelphia. Largely because HSUS made money by making Michael Vick “cool” again. Is that so hard to understand?

    Posted on 01/19/2011 at 6:45 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Animal FightingHorses


  • Rats!

    Last week the A&E Network show “Hoarders” showed Humane Society of the United States personnel rescuing 2,000 rats. Yes, rats.

    We think keeping rats in your house on purpose is weird, to say the least. But to each his own. And for the record, the real Pied Piper led troublesome rats to their death in a German river, not into a “rescue” van.

    But the show, and Wayne Pacelle's blogging about the “Rescue of 2,000 Pet Rats,” made us think.

    We asked ourselves: “Wait a second—are rats now pets? Really?” And then a few philosophical pieces fell into place.

    Lots of people (most notably pet breeders) have suggested that Pacelle and his cohorts at the Humane Society of the United States secretly want to eliminate the whole institution of pet ownership.

    Maybe—just for the sake of argument—we need to turn that idea on its head and look at it a little bit differently. Instead of getting rid of pets, perhaps HSUS wants to elevate as many species as possible to “pet” status. Could that explain what we're seeing?

    Maybe the most effective way for HSUS to realize PETA's "total animal liberation" dream is to force us all to turn our homes into menageries of every imaginable kind of fauna. When every animal is a "companion," after all, it's easy to make it socially unacceptable to slaughter, eat, exhibit, or experiment on them. 

    Americans regard different animals, … well, differently. Cats, dogs, hamsters, and (for some) ferrets are cute, fluffy, and lovable. Mules, horses, and oxen are explicitly "work" animals whose role is to be a tool for humans. Cows, pigs, and chickens are there for us to eat. Flies are for swatting. You get the idea.

    For most people, encountering a rat is not an occasion for warm-and-fuzzy feelings. It usually brings to mind thoughts of Bubonic Plague, and ends with a shopping trip for lethal traps. Just ask the custodians at the Los Angeles City Hall.

    Horses aren't usually thought of as pets either. Traditionally, horses were transportation for people and a tool on the battlefield. They work in the fields, not in the condo kitchen.

    But in effectively banning U.S. horse slaughter in 2007, HSUS made the emotional appeal that horses should be regarded as pets. As recently as last month, one HSUS state director was telling reporters, “Horses are not food animals in this country; they are companions.”

    It’s true that some people have had special relationships with their horses. Robert E. Lee’s horse has its own public gravesite. And there are some people who think rats make okay pets. But these are certainly the exception, not the rule. For every person with a pet rat, after all, there's someone else with a pet snake. For those people, rats aren't pets; they're pet food.

    Speaking of snakes, our search for intellectual consistency at HSUS hits a snag when we look at so-called “exotic” animals. On the day before the piece about “Pet Rats” appeared, Wayne Pacelle's ghost-writing blog staff gloated that Ohio's outgoing Governor had issued an Executive Order banning Ohioans from keeping those “exotics” as pets. Pacelle's blog lauded this move as a vital protection for “public health and safety.”

    Armed with this knowledge, let's review the HSUS catechism.

    Rats are pets. Horses are pets. Snakes and tigers are not pets. Neither are bears, deer, or raccoons. And they definitely shouldn’t be hunted either, even when their numbers threaten the “public health and safety” of people. Even “nuisance” wild animals should only be handled by HSUS-approved “humane” methods.

    It seems that HSUS believes all animals have their place. Some are pets, and others get to duke it out in the natural world. In a pinch, though, HSUS will shoot them with birth-control darts to make it a fair fight. 

    This is sort of like the animal version of how some people are born in America, and others are born in Bangladesh. (Tough luck, Skippy. You're a badger, not a kitty-cat.) And even people who argue that some rats (but not others) make good pets wind up looking arbitrary to everyone other than HSUS. Which is odd, considering how arbitrary HSUS's philosophy seems to be.

    Apparently, in HSUS's preferred world view we're supposed to treat every domesticated animal like a pet. Hobby breeding is a no-no. When we eat animals, it's “abuse,” of course. But other animals have a magical trump card. (Except dogs.) Wild animals, on the other hand, must be left alone, free from human “interference.” That spells the end of zoos, circuses, and aquariums. 

    The more we step back and look at all of this, the clearer it is that HSUS is really making it up as it goes along.

    The bottom line is that humans' relationships with animals are already thorny enough without self-styled “experts” telling us what's what. If you like having pet rats, so be it. If you don't want to eat pork, it's a free country. And if you want to send your horse to slaughter because it makes good economic sense, maybe HSUS shouldn't be forbidding it.

    The group's whole “All Animals” shtick applies, in an Orwellian sense, more equally to some animals than to others. And HSUS will have a coherent intelligible philosophy when all pigs can fly.

    Or when all rats are pets.

    Posted on 01/12/2011 at 11:08 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureHorsesPetsWildlife


  • They Have No Shame.

    Last week we told you about a Humane Society of the United States fundraising vehicle that the group called an “Animal Survivor” story—the tale of a horse that, well … didn’t actually survive.

    Days after the horse named Second Chance died, HSUS was blithely raising money without telling the public the truth.

    Shortly after we exposed this dishonesty, HSUS began quietly altering its online fundraising pitches to reflect reality. We thought that would be the end of it.

    But as of last night, HSUS was still raising money on at least one web page with a rather incomplete story of Second Chance.

    “This is Second Chance,” the page’s header intones. “He survived.”

    “Second Chance wouldn’t have made it without you,” adds HSUS West Virginia Director (and former beauty queen) Summer Wyatt in the accompanying video.


    We fully expect HSUS to quickly cover its tracks again, but you can click on the image above for a time-and-date-stamped screen capture from just before midnight on the evening of January 4.

    As of this morning, HSUS president Wayne Pacelle has also not updated his December 20 blog article. In that piece, Pacelle's ghost-writer claimed that Second Chance “grazes contentedly in the pastures of his new loving home, back to a healthy weight and having regained his strength.”

    We’ve resisted the temptation thus far to talk about HSUS “beating a dead horse,” but this is getting ridiculous.

    Posted on 01/05/2011 at 7:00 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Fundraising & MoneyHorses


  • Second Chance

    UPDATE: As usual, it has fallen to us to try and keep HSUS honest. About nine hours after we published this article, and four hours after our Editor discussed it on KOA-850 radio in Denver, HSUS has quietly begun to add disclaimers to its online fundraising pitches about "Second Chance." They generally disclose that the horse was recently euthanized, but ask the public to donate anyway "in memory of" Second Chance. As of 3pm EST on December 30, Wayne Pacelle has not updated his December 20 fundraising blog article about the now-deceased horse. 

    Meet Second Chance, a horse that we rescued from a horrific neglect situation. Watch his story of survival!

    HSUS Facebook page, December 20

    No, this "Second Chance" article isn’t another story about Michael Vick.

    It’s about a horse the Humane Society of the United States has been using since December 20 in its end-of-year fundraising scheme.

    Watch the great video about Second Chance, this horse is a true survivor – watch, then share

    HSUS Twitter account, December 20

    Second Chance’s story is one of three such tales HSUS is telling and re-telling this month in its attempt to reach a $1.2 million fundraising payday. There’s Boomer the dog. There’s Powell the cat. And, of course, Second Chance the quarter-horse.

    Second Chance has gone from a walking skeleton to a beautiful horse on the road to recovery. Watch Second Chance’s inspiring story, then make a tax-deductible donation below to help us continue our lifesaving work for animals like Second Chance.

    —HSUS fundraising website, December 20–present

    There are two problems with the “Second Chance” story HSUS is pushing. For one, many observers say HSUS caused the situation that led to horses like Second Chance needing rescue in the first place. (More on that later.)

    And also, Second Chance is dead.

    Today, you wouldn’t recognize Second Chance as he grazes contentedly in the pastures of his new loving home, back to a healthy weight and having regained his strength.

    —HSUS President & CEO Wayne Pacelle, December 20

    To be fair, we learned from the HSUS website that Second Chance was euthanized this week. But most people who encounter fundraising pitches related to this horse will never know. From our informal count, there are at least nine separate ways to reach a fundraising “ask” that tells the story of Second Chance. Just one of them leads to this:

    Watch Second Chance's story. Then donate to help other animals survive.

    Updated on December 29: We are devastated to report that Second Chance was recently euthanized due to a severe and untreatable case of colic, a gastrointestinal condition that is a leading cause of death in horses. Our hearts go out to his family.

    At right is Second Chance's original story of survival. Although he is no longer with us, his life will continue to inspire us in our campaigns to end animal neglect and fight other large-scale abuses inflicted on animals.

    If you would still like to make a donation to our 2010 Animal Survivors Fund in memory of Second Chance, we would appreciate it. Please make your tax-deductible gift on the secure form below. If you'd prefer to give a monthly gift, please click here.

    How nice. Second Chance’s death hasn't slowed the HSUS fundraising machine down.

    Come to think of it, how are we to know if Boomer the dog and Powell the cat are still around?

    Fair question? Absolutely. Earlier this week we told you about an HSUS animal rescue in Alabama that resulted in dogs being sent to a North Carolina pet shelter best known for its gas chamber. Some of those “rescued” pups are already in landfills somewhere. (The thoughtful and passionate "YesBiscuit!" blog has the latest on that case this morning.)

    So what of Boomer and Powell? Do many of HSUS’s “Animal Survivors” actually, y'know … survive? We just don’t know.

    We do know about the ironically named Second Chance.  He was one of nearly four dozen horses found in various stages of starvation and neglect. This is seriously disturbing stuff, but equally disturbing is the set of economic circumstances that have overwhelmed horse owners in recent years.

    KLTV-7 in East Texas asked HSUS what horse owners should do if they can no longer afford to care for their animals:

    The Humane Society of the United States encourages horse owners who are no longer able to care for their pets humanely, to consider some of the following options:

    • Sell the horse to a properly vetted, private owner
    • Lease the horse to another horse enthusiast
    • Donate the horse to a therapeutic riding center, park police unit or similar program
    • Relinquish the horse to a horse rescue or sanctuary
    • Consider humane euthanasia

    These are all legitimate options, of course, if not actually practical. The bottom has fallen out of the live-horse market in recent years. Veterinarian-in-training Jake Geis told us this month: “We can buy registered yearling foals at horse sales for $50 or less. We’ve bought them for as little as $10. I can get a horse for less than the cost of a good meal!”

    And it’s not like horse sanctuaries, park police, or charities in the U.S. have the capacity to handle the problem. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that there are more than 100,000 unwanted horses in America each year, a crisis that would require 2,700 new horse sanctuaries to effectively manage.

    Until four years ago, sending unwanted horses to slaughter was a viable option. But a series of judicial rulings and HSUS-lobbied state laws has effectively shut down that industry.

    There are powerful arguments on both side of the "should we slaughter horses?" issue, and it's far too complex a subject to treat fairly here.

    But nothing we do in this country will change the fact that over 1 billion people in the world eat horse meat. And where there’s a demand, a supply will follow. The AVMA reports that during the year after Americans stopped slaughtering unwanted horses, the number shipped great distances to Mexico for slaughter jumped more than 300 percent. (Mexican slaughterers typically employ inhumane methods that animal welfare scientist Temple Grandin calls “horrific beyond belief.”)

    But in the current economy, many American horse owners who can’t afford to feed their animals also can’t afford to pay a veterinarian the $500 it typically costs to euthanize and bury a single horse.

    This, many horse owners tell us, is why cases of horse neglect are on the rise. This is why “Second Chance” needed rescuing. Put simply, cases of horse neglect and abandonment are skyrocketing, largely because HSUS—even if its intentions were as benign as you can imagine—failed to recognize the perverse consequences that would inevitably result.

    HSUS led the effort to shut horse slaughterhouses down. It also wants a federal law banning the export of horses for slaughter. Should this come to pass, we can expect more unwanted horses to be abandoned, turned loose, or otherwise turn up in need of a “rescue” that HSUS can use in its next pitch for donations.

    Which brings us back to the late Second Chance. HSUS’s use—or abuse—of this horse for fundraising purposes is maddening, since Second Chance (and the dozens of other horses found with him) may have been better off humanely slaughtered months ago rather than being left to endure a slow death in the company of his “rescuers.”

    Posted on 12/30/2010 at 3:43 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Fundraising & MoneyGov't, Lobbying, PoliticsHorses


  • The HumaneWatch Interview: Jake Geis

    The Humane Society of the United States has put many Americans in uncomfortable positions during the current decade, but few have found themselves in a box quite like veterinarians.

    Just last week the American Veterinary Medical Association (whose chief executive we interviewed back in September) made significant changes to The Veterinarian's Oath, which had only been amended once since its creation in 1969. It now refers to "animal health and welfare," along with "the prevention and relief of animal suffering." (New words are in italics.) The first reaction of many observers was that the move was taken in reaction to HSUS—and specifically to its threat to capture the hearts and minds of young vets, and of vets-to-be.

    Many vets—especially the youngest ones who are most comfortable questioning authority—recognize that they’re caught between the proverbial “rock” and the corresponding “hard place.” On one hand, many of them are visibly uncomfortable with seeing the animal rights movement gather steam. But on the other, they recognize the need to maintain the dignity of the veterinary profession by refusing to return fire when HSUS slings mud. In short, playing dirty is supposed to be beneath them. And for good reason.

    With everything going on in the veterinary world, it's fitting that we're talking with Jake Geis. He’s a second-year veterinary student at Iowa State University. (That school’s cooperative agreement with the University of Nebraska has put him in Lincoln for the first half of his training.) Geis first pinged our radar screen on November 19 when The Daily Nebraskan published his passionate essay titled “National Humane Society has Backward Priorities.”

    Shortly after the November 21 “Town Hall” meeting hosted by HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, we caught up with this articulate young vet-to-be and asked him what he thought about all the hoopla.

    During Wayne Pacelle's “town hall” meeting in Lincoln, you were one of the lucky few who got to ask a question. Since you're in veterinary school, no one was surprised when you wanted to know why HSUS disagreed with the American Veterinary Medical Association so much. What was his response, and what did that response tell you about Pacelle and his organization?

    Wayne Pacelle’s response was long-winded and confusing, just like his answer to all of the audience’s questions. One thing did stick out though: He said veterinarians who write the guidelines for animal welfare work for industry, and are “in the pockets of” industries. I find this personally insulting.

    Pacelle basically declared that because we work with farmers and ranchers, we veterinarians are mindless profit-mongers. According to his definition, the lovable English veterinarian James Herriot would be “in the pocket of industry” too. (Herriott, the famed author of All Creatures Great and Small, routinely worked with both pets and livestock.)

    It wasn’t surprising, though. It seems typical of HSUS to characterize everyone who disagrees with them as profit-oriented monsters. From the American Veterinary Medical Association to the American Quarter Horse Association to the National Pork Producers Council, according to HSUS anyone who actually lives around livestock is biased and evil.

    It would be comical to make of list of organizations that HSUS bashes and then look at who their members are. You’d see a lot of small family farms and mixed animal veterinarians.

    You’re in the middle of veterinary school right now. What do your classmates tend to think about the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association? Will your generation of vets pay them any serious attention as professionals, or do you think everyone has already seen through the animal-rights façade?

    Most of us don’t even know what the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association is. They do not come to our campus, they do not interact with us, and they make up no serious component of the veterinary profession.

    In the Heartland, we’ve pretty much called their bluff: There are no student chapters of the HSVMA at any of the Great Plains veterinary colleges, to my knowledge, with the exception of Colorado State University. I’m concerned, though, that colleges in urban areas will give this bogus organization more credit than it deserves.

    I think it’s important for veterinary students in the Great Plains states to communicate with their peers that the sole purpose of the HSVMA is to discredit the AVMA. Its success would have disastrous consequences for the profession, even beyond the animal welfare debate.

    Watching the leaders of your future profession, do you sometimes wish they would confront groups like HSUS and PETA more directly? Or do you fall in with those who want to see veterinary medicine take the high road and avoid letting animal rights activists lay claim to any credibility?

    I’d love it if we could take the high road and just dismiss HSUS as the crazies they are, like PETA. But unfortunately they’ve drawn us into battle and now we have to take a stand. HSUS has even lambasted the American Veterinary Medical Association in full page newspaper ads!

    Considering that HSUS is much more well-known than the AVMA, we need to take a very public stand to re-establish our superior credibility instead of letting HSUS define us. Veterinarians are the animal welfare experts, and AVMA is the veterinary profession.

    The public needs to know this so they can seek out the opinions of those whose lives are dedicated to animal welfare, and not activists who profit from sensationalism.

    Surely you’ve seen HSUS marching from state to state, trying to force ever-tighter livestock standards on farmers. Some observers have suggested that wherever HSUS succeeds, the need for qualified veterinarians will actually increase, since someone has to certify that the new animal welfare standards do what they claim to do. Others predict that vets will be cut out of the loop, and that government bureaucrats (or even local animal protection groups) will mostly take on the load of inspections and evaluations. Have you thought about this? Where do you think it’s all headed?

    My classmates and I have discussed this issue: Would it be profitable for a veterinarian to visit farms or ranches for extra inspections? The USDA already depends on local vets for health inspections for the interstate transport of animals, so it would be quite possible that welfare inspections would be done by local vets too.

    But given HSUS’s opinions about livestock veterinarians, it wouldn’t surprise me if they lobbied to make themselves, not vets, the official inspection body. Either way, it would cost the farmers money for a redundant (and sometimes completely unnecessary) service, which means they can’t buy more livestock.

    Now, I will earn a better living as a vet (through pregnancy checks and other vital services) if there are more livestock in my area than if I performed more services on less livestock. More importantly, I want to see family farms grow so they can continue for several more generations, not stagnate because of government intrusion.

    The Great Plains states have seen a sea change—pushed by HSUS from Washington, DC—in what happens to unwanted horses. There used to be a legitimate slaughter industry, and now the federal government (thanks to Wayne Pacelle) has told the USDA it can’t spend money for horse-slaughter inspectors. (No inspections means no slaughter.) Do you agree with the assessment of some who say this policy shift has resulted in literally tens of thousands of horses being abandoned, and still more sent to Mexico for slaughter with little or no humane standards? Many people who have never been around horses tend to think slaughtering one is horrible, like killing a pet. How would you explain this controversy to them?

    I don’t just agree this is an atrocity. I’ve seen it.

    My great-grandpa built our family’s farm through breeding horses, but now we don’t even bother with breeding horses anymore. Why should we? We can buy registered yearling foals at horse sales for $50 or less. We’ve bought them for as little as $10. I can get a horse for less than the cost of a good meal!

    People have to lock their horse trailers when they go to sales, but not because they’re afraid of theft: If they don’t lock them up, someone might dump an unwanted horse on them. I've had people beg our family to take their horses for free, just because they cannot get rid of them.

    The number of horses showing up at rescues has skyrocketed, and horse neglect cases have followed a similar trend. We had a person in our county with 80 starving horses.He couldn't afford to keep them, and he couldn’t sell them either. The county took them, but even the government didn’t know what to do with them. Nobody wants them.

    All these tragedies could be fixed with a simple solution: Allow the return of domestic horse slaughter. In America, we make horses completely and instantaneously unconscious for slaughter. The animal is unconscious faster this way than if they were given euthanasia solution. That doesn’t always happen in Mexico, which can involve stabbing the horse in the neck to paralyze it, but not render it unconscious.

    While many Americans have no desire to eat horse meat (I’ve never had it either), others will. And there’s clearly an export market for it too. If commercial slaughter is the best way to make sure unwanted horses are humanely euthanized, instead of dumped or starved, then that’s truly the most compassionate option.

    You clearly don’t pull punches. But setting aside your pride in your future profession, can you explain to our readers what’s wrong with letting HSUS put new animal welfare standards on the table for layer hens and hogs? If the far more reasonable American Humane Association had proposed the same thing, would farmers and veterinarians have objected so loudly? Put another way, are farmers and ranchers in “flyover country” fighting the issues, or are they fighting HSUS because the thought of a $100 million animal rights group in charge of their animals scares them?

    We are fighting HSUS, since its leaders have no desire to improve animal agriculture. They want it eliminated. The American Humane Association actually does humane certification, and utilizes scientific methods to develop humane handling procedures and housing. AHA also promotes changes in the layer hen and hog industries; but unlike HSUS, it offers realistic, cost-effective solutions that farmers can actually afford to convert to over the course of time.

    HSUS likes to pretend that livestock farming has been in a decades-long standstill. But farmers in every industry have always changed their operating procedures as new information and technology became available. For example, redesigned freestalls in dairies now allow for cows to get up more easily and quietly. And enclosed handling chutes for beef cattle have greatly improved the animal welfare on the ranch.

    HSUS purposely ignores this information because they have no interest in helping animals. If they did, they wouldn’t hold a gun to our head and scream, “do it our way or else!” Ironically, if we didn’t have to use our resources fighting HSUS, we could be using them to research and develop newer and better techniques to improve animal welfare.

    Like a growing number of young people, you’ve invested your own time getting the message about HSUS out to the public. How would you encourage your peers to follow suit?

    Other than being active with Humanewatch, I’d suggest a couple of things. First, when you read an article online about animal issues, comment on it. You may feel like you're just one voice out of hundreds, but your positive comment may be the difference that changes someone's mind—especially if you have a job working directly with animals.

    Also, talk to your friends and family about how animals are used in agriculture, research, hunting, and other parts of American life and culture. The vast majority of people are not opposed to these activities; they just want to know that animals are treated with decency. Your one-on-one communication is always far more effective than any HSUS ad.

    Veterinary school is harder to get into than medical school these days. We’ve seen family members go through incredibly demanding academic curricula and residency training, and they don’t exactly earn cardiologists’ salaries. What is it about working with animals that made veterinary medicine your default go-to career? And, to whatever extent HSUS has managed to marginalize the reputation of veterinarians, how can your generation of young animal doctors make things right again?

    I wouldn’t do anything else with my life. I knew I wanted to be a vet from early in high school, when I first seriously considered my future. I went into “vet med” not for the medicine, but specifically because I wanted a career where I would work hands-on with livestock every day.

    I developed my love for animals back home on the farm, and I knew I wanted to spend my life with the creatures that were so central to my identity. You can learn so much by looking into the eyes of a horse, by seeing ducks moving almost synchronized in their flock around the yard, or even by watching an old cow chewing her cud. Animals are not just a part of my life; they are essential to my existence. I know that I’m not alone; my classmates share my sentiments.

    The Humane Society of the United States has tried to marginalize veterinarians’ reputations because we threaten their monopoly on determining what is “humane” and what isn’t. But most people aren’t fooled when they meet real animal lovers. I’m positive that if young veterinarians spread their message to the public, the jokesters at HSUS will never be able to compete.

    Posted on 12/07/2010 at 7:30 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureHorsesInterviewsPetsVeterinarians