Would Wayne Pacelle Approve of Shooting This Horse?

HorseShotA few months ago, a video of a man shooting a horse in the head—done to spite animal rights activists—drew fiery condemnation. The video served as a rallying cry for anti-horse slaughter activists because the shooter was an employee of a horse processing plant that is attempting to open, though he was acting in a private capacity. (Here’s a non-graphic news report covering the issue.) What’s striking is the callous attitude toward the animal.

Strange as it may seem, that same callousness could be ascribed for Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle.

In a recent debate on Iowa Public Radio, Pacelle argued against horse slaughter by saying that horses could simply be euthanized—killed with chemicals or a bullet—instead of used for food. Unfortunately, Pacelle dodged his group’s responsibility and didn’t address the real issue: Shouldn’t Pacelle and his “Humane Society” be doing more to help unwanted horses? Let us explain.

HSUS supported a law that effectively outlawed horse slaughter in the United States by stopping funding for USDA inspections. Now, more than 150,000 unwanted horses are being sent to Canada and Mexico to be processed for food. HSUS doesn’t want them processed here under USDA inspection, and also doesn’t want them sent to Canada and Mexico. Horse sanctuaries can’t keep up with the demand, so it’s no surprise that there’s been an uptick in abandonment, according to a Government Accountability Office report. So the question is: If the horses aren’t sent to be processed for food, where are those animals going to go?

Pacelle dodges a direct answer, instead offering platitudes that it’s up to the owners of horses to provide lifetime care. That’s just unrealistic. No one has a crystal ball. Sometimes people fall on hard times. Sometimes people move to a new job. There are many reasons someone could have for getting rid of their horse. But Pacelle says that for those who can’t, they can turn them over to one of the hundreds of sanctuaries or rescues in the US. The only problem? Horse sanctuaries are already at or near capacity. And their total capacity is just 13,400 animals nationwide. Compare that to the 150,000-plus animals sent to Canada and Mexico every year.

Pacelle’s other suggestion? Killing an animal, by shooting it in the head, for example, is an acceptable solution. “We’re not saying that animals have to live indefinitely or that you have to make a heroic effort to extend the life of every animal,” Pacelle explained.

The American Veterinary Medical Association says that shooting a horse in the head is an acceptable way to euthanize the animal if done by a trained person. (Chemical euthanasia is another option.) Our problem isn’t with the shooting. Our problem is with Wayne Pacelle’s attitude.

Just as the horse owner in the video flippantly shot a horse in the head, Wayne seems to think that horse owners who have fallen on hard times can just give their animal to a rescue (currently an unlikely prospect) or just shoot it in the head.

In Wayne’s world, it’s up to the owners to pay for the expensive option of disposal of a horse carcass. What other options do they have? HSUS doesn’t want them to be paid by a processing company for their unwanted animal. And HSUS apparently isn’t willing to build more sanctuaries as an outlet for unwanted animals. Meanwhile, HSUS gives almost nothing to horse sanctuaries, according to its tax return. Yet HSUS is sitting on $200 million in assets. It could easily build more horse sanctuaries to provide a long-term outlet for some animals. Or if killing the animal is an OK option, will HSUS start a euthanasia and burial fund? (The AVMA—some actual animal experts—notes, however, that euthanizing a large number of horses presents significant problems.)

Whatever your position on horse slaughter, everyone should want a fate for horses better than abandonment and starvation. Yet Wayne Pacelle apparently thinks it’s up to everybody else to do something. Pacelle wants to take options away and create more stress in the horse world. The least he could offer in return are some real solutions.

Posted on 08/28/2013 at 1:05 pm by Humane Watch Team.

Topics: Main


  • Ruthi Corsaw

    The power of those unintended consequences… Please don’t get me wrong, as I love the dedication, work, blood, sweat, and tears of the NON-government, non-profit rescues/shelters that have literally been taking up the slack from the folks that have been paid to do this job; the city/county/state animal shelters. Instead of those government entities getting better at their job, they have just dumped it off on the little guy. Their budgets(like HSUS) are orders of magnitude bigger than any non-profit shelter begging for donations, yet it seems most would much rather stay with the “Kill Schedule”, that way the non-profits will (hopefully) do their job for them… It’s time we demand a much better response from the government entities that are paid to take care of abandoned animals, dogs, cats, rabbits, AND horses.

    • DC

      Ruthi, some non profit shelters such as MHS, ASPCA, BideAWee, North Shore Animal League, Best Friends and others have far and away more money than government run shelters-donated by people who want the money to be used to rescue animals. Many government shelters do a great job with horses even though their monies are from taxes collected to solve myriad problems for all (Washington and Carroll County, MD, Loudoun Co, VA). Government entities are often NOT mandated to handle horses. In one Maryland County they are specifically exempted from jurisdiction over equines.

      • Linda Swanson

        Problem is Best Friends has turned bad like HSUS and is offshoring their donations. How long bfore North Shore goes bad? ASPCA is already suspect at horading their money. Go call your local shelters, all of them in your area code and see how many get money from any of the big guys. You give HSUS,ASPCA and BF money so that they can retire in luxury AND THE DOGS AND CATS STILL SUFFER AND DIE

  • Janipurr

    I always thought this was one of HSUS’ more obvious forms of hypocrisy–manage to get horse slaughter outlawed in the US, but then do nothing about all the unwanted horses that result. Resulting in widespread abandonment and neglect after the economy crashed. I wish there was a way we could force HSUS to open and finance more horse sanctuaries, since it’s their fault that this crisis exists.

  • fearnot

    you have to look more deeply into Pacelles sick mind.. his minions are already calling for restriction on breeding horses because they being “overbred” too many horses is exactly what he wants.. so he can prove that horse breeding needs to be “regulated” by the government horse mills.. watch for it.. coming soon to a barn near you..

    • crookedstick

      It is a “sick mind” to reduce over-breeding? It is better to over-breed and slaughter the resultant over-stock? Now that comes from a really sick mind.

    • laurelladesborough

      Good point, fearnot…I can see it now…the introduction of the phrase…horse mills…and then we will see NEW HSUS adverts calling on the public to send money to HSUS so they can help those poor horses!! Then we will also see federal legislation introduced, or perhaps state by state legislation, to end the “horror of the horse mills” and all to benefit the bank accounts of the HSUS!

  • DC

    Good column! This is the problem in a nutshell. Of 11 horse rescues I contacted in the MD area last fall not ONE could take a lovely young palomino mare that was to be homeless. I could not take her, either. Euthanasia by injection costs a couple hundred dollars. And burial or cremation, much more. After over a month of looking for options, her owner legally hired someone trained to shoot her horse and had her body carted off for rendering. If a horse caretaker loses the ability to remain on land suitable for keeping or even burying a horse, these are the only options other than monthly payments to someone who does. It’s easy for Wayne to say horse owners need to “get the money” somehow. He gets bags and bags of it every year just by posting pictures of sad animals on TV or the internet. Great gig if you can sell it.

  • Why is it that people can afford to breed, feed, show, buy tack, pay a farrier etc, but when it comes time to offer a humane end to the horse they no longer want and cannot place, THEY ARE BROKE all of sudden? It costs roughly the same amount to feed and care for a horse for 1 month as it does to euthanize and dispose of the body. Of course you can always choose option B which is dumping them at an auction where you can maybe pocket a couple hundred dollars. Horses are not a necessity. They are a luxury. If you cannot afford horses, do not have them. Period. The percentage of actual hardship cases is extremely low compared to the percentage of irresponsible breeders and owners. It IS up to everybody else to do something. Unless of course your real argument is that we should continue to slaughter horses, in that case the solution is to keep things status quo with an endless supply of horse meat for profit.

  • HeatherSC

    Did you know that HSUS already provides hay banks? And don’t forget, they provided that $500,000 bond we all needed to stop horse slaughter in New Mexico.

    • MisterCadet

      Hey Heather:

      “Provides” is HSUS-speak for helping to organize a few horse food banks – not even paying for the hay, as donors are led to believe. The hay is donated and/or paid for by others. When the first such program was created (in Oregon), HSUS’s rep in the state (Scott Beckstead, I think), specifically stated that HSUS wasn’t trying to “bail out” farmers. Why not? That’s what charities are supposed to do. Not lobbying in violation of it’s tax-exempt status. Posting a $500,000 bond in 2013, as part of a lawsuit that may very well fail? I’m sure the hundreds of thousands of horses that have been killed in Canada and Mexico since 2007, the sanctuaries that have had to deal with the overflow (with bupkes from HSUS), and those animals left to fend for themselves are applauding the litigation. Swooning at the very mention of HSUS (or maybe from hunger).

      Wayne Pacelle said it himself, while a student at Yale. He’s interested in the intellectual aspect of animal cruelty more than the animals themselves. The concept of suffering; man’s inhumanity to animals; the evil, greedy corporations that have transformed Old McDonald’s farm into McDonalds. He has used a tax-exempt charity to become king of a money machine, primarily benefiting it’s executives and fundraising companies. Using flesh and blood animals to become a political power broker with far more failures in the legislative and litigation arena than successes. Pacelle seems to think that lobbying, pontificating, and pushing legislation and regulations in Congress is God’s work, the highest calling in life. He told USA Today that HSUS is so superior to other animal groups that “no one comes close to it’s effectiveness.” He really said that. In the land of reality, lobbyists poll somewhere below used-car salesmen, while Congress has an 11% approval rating.

      A quarter of a century after Wayne Pacelle’s Yale newspaper articles were published, he is an animal rights televangelist and a tax-exempt politician (the public respects them a lot too…) He views himself as a Martin Luther King for animals, when he is really an Al Sharpton. These days, Pacelle is too busy hugging heiresses in Hollywood and the Hamptons to do what he is legally required to do – run a 501(c)(3) charity. He’s a celebrity now – a celebrity of the lowest order.

  • 14151617

    How about horses owners take responsiblity for their horses? And yes over breedin is a huge problem.Of the thousands that are born each year to registered breeds how many make it? What happpens to the others?If you do not intend to take care of the life you brought in to this world to make money on then don’t bring more into the world than you can yourself look after if they are the wrong color,don’t run,jump,look they way you intend are you ready to care for them the rest of their lives?
    Animals are not disposable,throw away trash when you break them,get tired of them,they get old and wear out,like cars,bikes,old tools.
    So horse slaughter plants are the answer? That is pretty sick thinking.
    Horses and other animals are not the problem.
    Humans and their lack of responsiblity are the problem .
    Did you get up this morning and say I am going to spend as much time trying to solve the problem of others not taking care of their animals as I have been spending doing nothing except slamming the organizations that are trying to stop animal suffering.
    Oh and MR Cadet what have you done to stop the slaughter of horses and transportation to slaughter of horses in this country?
    What have you done to stop the soring of walking horses?
    Making animal abuse a federal felony not just a poor animal it suffered horribly because of you so pay 100 dollar fine and don’t do it again.
    I am not a animal rights activist,tree hugger,or fanatic.Just happen to love animals,abhor abuse of the helpless be it animal or human.Love my country,but don’t like my taxes going to pay for the abuse of animals ,in the way they are raised or slaughtered,protected(HA HA) by the BLM or other government agencies.
    Horses never stopped going to slaughter when inspection was de funded truck load left everyday taking them to the kill floor.
    And when slaughter ws in the U S death was by the same method under the same conditions as Mexico and Canada.No magic wan was used here and will not be used to slaughter the horses in a humane fashion.