Saturday, February 28, 2015

Commentary: Horse People

Straight from the Horse's Heart


by John R. Killacky as published in the vtdigger.org
“This delightful bit of insight is centered around the world of a boarding barn, where different equines and humans mix in an tight and intimate group.  Another dimension of equine interaction goes to those who live with their horses, on their own land;  communication and exchange is continual with support coming from other like families within the expanded equine community.  Be it global or centered in a simple stall, the bond between human and horse is unlike any other.  Enjoy.” ~ R.T.

Equine photographer Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation with several members of the rescued Fitch herd ~ photo by R.T. Fitch
Equine photographer Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation with several members of the rescued Fitch herd ~ photo by R.T. Fitch

















In yoga I’ve learned the term kula, aSanskrit word for an intentional community. As I journey through my day, I realize I have many kulas, all with different shared values and norms. Family, workplace, friends and neighbors – these are some of the communities I inhabit.
There’s another at the barn where I board my Shetland pony. Here status is irrelevant. The virtues of simplicity are revealed through mundane chores. It’s really hard to be grand mucking out stalls or pounding through ice in frozen buckets.
People’s identities are determined through their relationships with their equines. Morgans, thoroughbreds, quarter horses, my Shetland and others are boarded together — each breed has certain characteristics. And every animal also has a distinctive personality: bombproof, flighty, cranky, laid back or hyper. Like people, they change with age, and human gravitas is earned as we adapt to their behavior.
I’ve now been part of the barn long enough to see little kids on lesson horses grow up to be like the teens they once admired. They amaze me as they pick themselves up after being thrown and jump right back into the saddle. They teach me that fear is to be overcome, or at least managed.
But I really feel part of the late night adult crew. Lawyers, researches, teachers and administrators – we don’t spend a lot of time talking about day jobs, more on what our animals have been up to. Feeding, care, and training tips are topics of conversation. The norm here is to offer advice only when asked. Conversely, request help and everyone is willing.
Success is hard won in the training arena. Mastery is elusive, failure and setbacks are routine. Everyone struggles to improve their dressage and jumping, or for me, learning the fine points of driving my pony from a cart. Trainers and off-site clinics help, but just as important, barn mates are crucial to any improvement I make.
But when my Shetland whinnies, all else are left behind. We’re not two separate beings, but one, as I lose myself in the intense focus of grooming and working with her; other times we play with no agenda.
As she grazes, I stand beside her, trying to be mindful as we observe each other. She is fundamentally joyful, inquisitive, and spontaneous – all traits I want more of. In knowing her, I learn more about myself and carry this back into my other worlds.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

State of Texas Export Pens Feed Mexico’s Horse Slaughter Trade

Straight from the Horse's Heart

This is an older report, but still relevant.



Contribution of Animal’s Angels

Texas Taxpayers Funding Horse Slaughter?

Recent investigations at several Texas export pens reveal some disturbing issues. The pens, located in Eagle Pass, Socorro and Del Rio, are all operated by the Texas Department of Agriculture. Problems and concerns include: Despite the fact that horses will spend 38 hours or more in transit, no food is provided for the horses at the pens. This is a clear violation of the commercial transport of equines to slaughter regulations.
In the early morning, horses arrive at the export pens from locations as far as 15 hours away.  They are unloaded into barren pens, where they remain for the day.
truck with horses on route in MexicoIn the evening, the horses are loaded onto Mexican trucks and  transported to the horse slaughter plants in Jerez & Fresnillo, Mexico, both approx. 800 miles away from the border. Animals’ Angels followed one of the trucks from the Socorro export pen to the Jerez plant –  the journey took 16 hours and 30 minutes.
Horses are transported across the border in open roof trailers designed for cattle.
Horses on open roof  trailerThese trailers are too low to afford adequate head room, so horses hit their heads on the metal pipes and get stuck between the pipes. The trailers offer no protection from the elements, exposing horses to intense sun, wind and rain on the 800 mile long transport to the plant.
 
Particularly unacceptable is the practice of returning lame, sick,blind or injured horses with the shipper.
horses inside trailerHorses that do not pass the inspection by the Mexican veterinarian are loaded back onto the truck of the owner/shipper immediately – exposing the horse to another long distance transport and an unknown fate. No records are kept about the refusal of the horse and no charges against the shipper are filed. Horses in such condition should not be allowed to leave the export pens.Protection laws require veterinary care and possible euthanasia.
In addition, new information about the cost to taxpayers to run these export pens truly begs the question: Why should the American taxpayer subsidize wealthy Belgian horse slaughter companies, an industry a very significant majority of Americans oppose? Documents obtained by Animals’ Angels prove that the cost of operating the pens far exceeds the modest fees collected on the horses awaiting export for slaughter.
Why would we want to subsidize wealthy foreign interests whose profits require inherently cruel and inhumane treatment, a business which thrives on overbreeding and even horse theft, and an industry that makes responsible horse owners sick at the prospect of selling a horse because it can so easily end up in the wrong hands?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Prescription For Cruelty

The Humane Society of the United States

February 18, 2015
By refusing drugs like premarin, women can end an industry that still holds thousands of mares captive
All Animals magazine, March/April 2015
by Karen E. Lange
  • Retired PMU mares Bella, Delilah, and Sydney at Duchess Sanctuary. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS
Delilah, Sydney and Bonnie are older now, in their 20s, so naturally they don’t move as well. But the three draft mares living out their final years at Duchess Sanctuary in Oregon have slowed down even more than usual.
Once, for about six months each year during their pregnancies, Delilah, Sydney and Bonnie stood tethered in concrete-floored stalls too narrow to turn around in, hooked to bags to collect their urine at a Canadian "PMU" farm. The Pregnant Mare Urine, which contains estrogen, was used by Pfizer to manufacture a hormone replacement drug called Premarin.
Horses' bodies have evolved to always be moving, says Jennifer Kunz, director of operations at Duchess, but these animals could not walk or run or shift positions. The unnatural constant pressure on their front legs, which bear most of a horse's weight, left them with stiff, arthritic joints. Today, staff members at the sanctuary, operated by HSUS affiliate The Fund for Animals, give the animals anti-inflammatories to ease the discomfort and monitor them closely for signs of pain.
In 2008, when 90-plus rescued PMU mares, including these three, arrived at Duchess, the industry appeared to be on its way out. Following the disclosure in 2002 that Premarin increases the risk of cancer, heart attacks and strokes for women, demand for the drug plummeted. There were 50,000 horses kept on Canadian and American PMU farms. Now there are, at most, 4,000.
The industry isn't dying, though; it's just moved overseas, with new farms in China, Kazakhstan and Poland, says Vivian Farrell, founding president of The Horse Fund, a U.S.-based advocacy group. And North American women continue to buy a growing number of PMU products, including Premarin, Prempro, Premphase and a new drug that launched quietly and is set to be promoted this year: Duavee, which is being marketed to menopausal women and people of both sexes who suffer from osteoporosis. The name gives no hint of the suffering at its source.
But U.S. women can put an end to PMU farms, Farrell says, by asking doctors not to prescribe them drugs made with "conjugated equine estrogen." Women in this country still make up 90 percent of the market, she says. Other medications and treatments are available.
Kunz says she’s never met a woman who kept taking PMU drugs once she understood the cruelty involved. "If women know, they’ll choose something else."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Eagle Pass Export Pens Investigation

Equine Welfare Alliance

Equine Welfare Alliance & Wild Horse Freedom Federation INVESTIGATION REPORT © Equine Welfare Alliance & Wild Horse Freedom Federation Page 1 of 8 Release Date: February 10, 2015 Report Date(s): Jan 12, 2015 – Jan 16, 2015 Type: Observation Content: Observe Eagle Pass Export Pens [Run by the Texas Department of Agriculture] Summary: Investigators were at the Eagle Pass, Texas export pens to observe the impact on activity resulting from the approaching Jan 15 European Union [EU] regulation banning horse meat from Mexico. Despite the declaration that US horse meat is not safe for consumers, during the time the investigators were observing it appeared that there was no apparent change in the number of US equines sent to Mexico for slaughter. During the entire week a total of 20 loads shipped to Mexico for slaughter. The number of shipments did not decrease after Jan 15, as had been anticipated. The day with the highest number of loads exported was Jan 16. The investigators also discovered during their time at the export pens that there were multiple violations of the Commercial Transportation of Equines to Slaughter regulations [9CFR88]. Specifically, violations of the mandatory 6-hour offload rest period for the horses were noted. The investigators also observed one violation of a rejected blind horse. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday the investigators observed someone at the pens who appeared to be a USDA/APHIS Compliance Specialist for slaughter horse transportation. The investigators questioned the USDA to determine if there was a compliance officer present and are awaiting confirmation.. On Wednesday morning Jan. 14 the investigators contacted the USDA via email with questions regarding the EU ban and the responses were vague. The investigators contacted them again later in the week and informed them of violations that occurred during the week. They responded and indicated they were looking into it. On Friday the investigators contacted the USDA to inform them that they observed a hauler arriving too late for horses to get a 6-hour rest period and that this happened three times during the week. Later that day the investigators once again contacted them regarding a donkey that went down in a trailer being hauled by a regular pickup truck and was trampled by other equines. The animals all had slaughter tags.

Excerpt:

"At 2:40p a white pickup departed the pens hauling a mixture of horses, donkeys and burros. Upon leaving the pen property, a donkey fell down at the very back of the trailer. It tried to get up but could not. The investigators stopped the driver around the corner from the pens and informed them. They stopped but then continued on. The investigators followed them and watched the donkey struggle and get trampled by the other equines in the trailer. The investigators called law enforcement and provided information. At one point, the driver and passenger in the vehicle pulled over at a gas station and tried to get the donkey up. At that time the investigators observed a second animal down in the trailer. They did not succeed in getting the animals up and continued on. The investigators also called the Sheriff’s Department once the investigators left the town of Eagle Pass."

 Video Footage of Downed Donkey:



READ FULL REPORT HERE

Friday Fun!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dept. of Justice refuses to take any action against Spur Livestock, BLM contractors who sold wild horses to kill buyer

Straight from the Horse's Heart


By Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. Of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation   Copyright 2015                   All Rights Reserved.
In this case, there was NO justice.  Wild Horse Freedom Federation did an investigation and found that a BLM long term holding contractor, Spur Livestock, sold wild horses to well known kill buyer Joe Simon.  R.T. Fitch, President of Wild Horse Freedom Federation, publicly presented an official government document with proof of this to the National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board at their meeting.  Joan Guilfoyle, Division Chief of the BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program, was present.
However, the Department of Justice (DoJ) only issued a letter of declination.  A declination decision is generally viewed to mean that the DoJ , in the exercise of its prosecutorial discretion, declines to prosecute or bring an enforcement action.  
So, the issue of a current BLM contractor selling wild horses to a kill buyer, most likely for slaughter, was just swept under the rug.
joe-simon-invoice
Also, the 36 horses with the U freezemark were BLM sale authority horses. So, Spur Livestock sold 70 wild horses to well known kill buyer Joe Simon.

On the BLM FROM THE PUBLIC page for the National Wild Horse & Burro Program, it states this:
Question:  What is the BLM’s response to allegations regarding wild horse sales to a South Dakota long-term pasture contractor, known as Spur Livestock, in 2008? (Updated September 2014)
Answer: The BLM cares deeply about the well-being of wild horses and burros, both on and off the range, and takes seriously all accusations of the slaughter of wild horses or burros.  These accusations were thoroughly investigated and the case was presented ot the U. S. Department of Justice who issued a letter of declination. The case has been closed.”
But, this contradicts the BLM’s answer to the question about the 1700 wild horses sold to Tom Davis (see below), in which the BLM states “Anybody that is found to have violated the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act should be held accountable.”
In fact, Spur Livestock, owned by Jim Reeves and Lyle Anderson, continues to be under contract with the BLM.   It seems that the only thing the BLM cares deeply about is covering up the actions of its corrupt Wild Horse & Burro Program.
In furthering proof of BLM’s lack of transparency, the BLM didn’t post the actual declination letter so that the public could read the details.  The BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program should provide the public with information on all cases that it has brought to the attention of the DoJ, noting the reasons not to investigate or pursue prosecution, along with the rationale for those decisions.
As many of you know, the Department of Justice represents and defends the Bureau of Land Management in courts when wild horse advocacy groups and advocates file lawsuits against the BLM for it’s actions.
And, we’re all still sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for the answer to this question:
Question:  What is the BLM’s reaction to allegations regarding horse sales to Tom Davis of Colorado, as reported by Pro Publica?
Answer: The BLM condemns any sale of wild horses for slaughter.  We care deeply about the well-being of wild horses, both on and off the range, and it has been (and remains) the policy of the BLM not to sell or send wild horses or burros to slaughter.  We take seriously all accusations of the slaughter of wild horses or burros.  The Office of the Inspector General at the Department of the Interior has initiated an investigation into the situation and will work in conjunction with the State of Colorado throughout its investigation.  We look forward to the results of that inquiry.  Anybody that is found to have violated the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act should be held accountable.”
Anyone who violates the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act should absolutely be held accountable.  But they aren’t, and the BLM continues to spin public opinion with propaganda.

Monday, February 2, 2015

BLM Awards $740,000.00 U.S. Tax Dollars to Wild Horse Stampede Contractor

Straight from the Horse's Heart

Last week ‘The Hill‘ reported that  the BLM cited overpopulation and drought to be the reason they gave away 3/4 of a million tax dollars to the Cattoors, again, to terrorize and stampede federally protected wild horses off from their legal and rightful land.  Ain’t it great?” ~ R.T.

BLM running down wild horses from Cloud's herd - Photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
BLM running down wild horses from Cloud’s herd – Photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) awarded four contracts worth a total of more than $740,000 for wild “horse gathering” services in the western United States. TheDepartment of Interior captures horses to control the populations in the wild. Some are taken and placed up for adoption, while others are given fertility-control drugs and released. The BLM has contracted with Cattoor Livestock Roundup to remove hundreds of horses from the land. In the four areas — primarily in Nevada — where the roundups will occur, BLM cites drought and horse overpopulation. The agency is running into complications, including a lawsuit and petitions. Cattoor has been working with federal agencies since 1975, according to its website. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Where Have All The Horses Gone?

Straight from the Horse's Heart


Guest OpEd by “Calamity” Cate Crismani of TrueCowboy Magazine
“Fiscal Year 2012, out of 10,350 wild horses and burros gathered, a total of 80 animals, or approximately three-quarters of one percent (0.77 percent), died or were euthanized during gather operations”
BLM Antelope attack in 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
BLM Antelope attack in 2011 ~ photo byTerry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
Did you know that in the last forty years 50% of the world’s wild species has been decimated? Wiped off the planet. Never to be seen again except in books or on the internet. In one word, extinct. It is a fact. Another fact, the decimation is still going on now taking its toll on the wild horses and burros roaming freely on the ranges in ten states in the U.S.A. by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Department of Interior (DOI). These are the very same government departments that are supposed to manage thepublic lands for diversity and multiple use. The public lands. The very departments tasked with protecting and preserving the wild horses and burros and their freedom to exist on public lands unharassed according to The Wild Horse Annie Act of 1959 (TWHA Act) and the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971(WFRH&B Act) The latter was signed into law by Richard M. Nixon, our president at that time.
Both the Wild Horse Annie Act and the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act were put in place to stop aggressive and inhumane roundups of these wild animals while granting them the legal right to live freely, unharassed, on public lands. So what went wrong? The BLM produced its own video to justify these brutal roundups. According to the video, in the fifties they employed small planes. TWHA Act of 1959 effectively banned the use of small planes to conduct the roundups. A few short years later, and currently, helicopters are being used, replacing small planes, to continue the roundups. These helicopters are owned by private individuals, contracted by the BLM at exorbitant rates, paid for by the taxpayers, you and me. Statistics reveal there are more wild horses and burros in short-term holding pens than exist freely in the wild. These captured horses are being sustained by the almighty tax dollar as well which amounts to millions every year.
To add insult to injury, the WFRH&B 1971 Act was amended in the eleventh hour by Senator Burns who slipped an omnibus clause into it without public input, knowledge or approval. This clause stated that captured wild horses and burros could be sold “without restriction”. Those two words changed the intention and purpose of the WFRH&B Act and opened the door for “kill buyers” to purchase the once free roaming wild horses and burros for slaughter and human consumption overseas. Yup, people in parts of Europe and Asia eat horse meat. Although there are no horse slaughter houses in the U.S.A., yet,   the kill buyers figured out a way around that one. They simply pack the horses and burros like sardines into huge trucks, with poor or no ventilation, and drive them across the borders of Mexico and Canada to slaughter for profit and human consumption overseas.
Per the BLM’s own website, in “Fiscal Year 2012, out of 10,350 wild horses and burros gathered, a total of 80 animals, or approximately three-quarters of one percent (0.77 percent), died or were euthanized during gather operations; of those 80, 22 animals, or about one-fifth of one percent (0.21 percent) of the gathered animals, died or were euthanized because of acute injuries. Acute injury deaths include all animals that died or were euthanized because of acute injuries, such as spinal cord or head injuries, fractured limbs, or other severe injuries that occurred during gathers. Total deaths include all animals that died or were euthanized for any reason during gathers, including acute or sudden injuries or illnesses, as well as chronic or pre-existing conditions that required euthanasia (such as limb deformities, lameness, and poor body condition)”.
These are stale-dated statistics from 2012. Although the 2015 roundup schedule is posted on the BLM website, current mortality rates are not for the years between 2012 to present time.
Logically, and alternatively, none of these wild horses and burros would have had to die if they weren’t being harassed and chased at high speeds by helicopters. Young foals cannot keep up with the herd and snap their legs off, left to die on the range. Pregnant mares abort their unborn foals under this stress and duress. Wild horse advocates have witnessed these roundups first hand. They have photos and videos of helicopters clipping the horses as they run in fear, at unsustainable high speeds for miles over rugged terrain, while being pursued within inches by the helicopters. Further, and it’s a matter of record, advocates have been barred from viewing these roundups on public land. Public land. Begs the question, why?
you will hear the voice-over saying these wild horses are living on “millions of acres of public land”. Millions of acres. You will see healthy, beautiful herds of wild horses roaming freely on a landscape of “millions” of acres while the voice-over expounds on their beauty and value as historical treasures. Yet, at the same time, the BLM claims the wild horses and burros are overpopulating as they have no natural predators.
On that note, the wild ones’ natural predators are mountain lions, wolves and bears. Need I remind you, mountain lions, wolves and bears are “trophy” hunted yearly. Its called “hunting season” condoned by the BLM and DOI. Yet another travesty the BLM justifies by claiming these animals are overpopulating as well. A highly effective broad stroke by the BLM. But I digress. So, yes, the wild horses and burros natural predators have been dramatically reduced on millions of acres of public lands. These animals are only doing what nature intended them to do, survive.
Simply stated, the BLM has some clever public relations people on board.
The BLM bases the removal of the wild horses and burros on what they have named “Herd Management Areas” (HMA) and “Appropriate Management Levels (AML). But who is determining those numbers? The BLM and the DOI. That’s like having the cat babysit the canary. I think we all know how that will turn out.
Horses have existed on this planet for millions of years. Well before humans. Their equine ancestors, according to fossils found in North America and around the world, were much smaller with tri-cloven hooves. As a matter of survival, they evolved into the modern-day horse of which we are all familiar. Strong, big, sentient, hoofed animals able to carry double their own weight on their backs. Prehistoric man and horses have coexisted for millions of years. Horses and burros were domesticated to serve mankind for centuries. We have employed them in our wars, to build our railroads, as transportation to move us from the east to the west to settle new frontiers. A person could be hung for stealing horses in the 18th and 19th centuries. And, yes, we have eaten them in times of famine and war. Today horses are used for sport, pleasure and companionship. Cars have “horsepower” and trains, during the Industrial Revolution, were called “Iron Horses”.
Wild horses and burros travel up to forty miles a day natively for survival. They stay in one spot for a very short time. As prey animals, it’s inherently in their best survival interest to roam. Their roaming nature contributes to our eco-system. Their droppings carry seeds they have ingested to new areas miles away where these seeds then grow into plants and foliage. Horses only eat the tips of the grass never pulling up the roots. In contrast, cattle stand all day in one spot eating the grass right down to the dirt, roots and all, leaving nothing but barren land.
So what is really going on? Follow the money. Cattle ranching, fraking, urban development, mineral and metal exploitation, hunting and corporate greed have all taken their toll on the wild horses and burros on public land. Frankly, on all of nature and its inhabitants, including humans. The wild horse and burro advocates are up against strong opposition and pro-lobbying groups for the NRA, the cattle and meat industry, corporate oil drilling and natural gas fraking, which, I might add, uses millions of gallons of water to keep the boring drills cooled off, along with uranium mining to produce plutonium. You do know that plutonium is a radioactive metal, produced from uranium, and used to manufacture nuclear weapons? And that both plutonium and uranium are nuclear reactor fuels? And that both are extremely radioactive and deadly? All of these groups are very powerful and very well-heeled.
The wild horse advocates have no lobbying group and very little financial strength to hire one. Most spend and donate out of their own pockets to support the waning, but needed, legislative changes. Meanwhile back at the ranch, our government continues to ignore and violate existing laws, in place for years, to protect the wild horses and burros to live freely and unharassed. Getting the picture now?
Wild horse and burro advocates are constantly on guard and on roundup sites in protest. Petitions run rampant on change.org and other petition sites demanding an end to these inhumane roundups. But the roundups continue ad nauseum.
Yet, wild horses are considered American Icons, even by the BLM. Much like the American Bald Eagle who came very close to extinction. It is, and has been for years, a felony to kill one bald eagle.
Against all odds, the wild horse and burro advocates continue to fight the good fight. These dauntless folks are the only voice for the protection and preservation of these majestic animals to live freely and unharassed. So they press on with the belief that the price of freedom is constant alertness and the willingness to fight back. Most times in doing so, tragically, lives are lost; the lives of the mighty wild horses and burros.
And their freedom, along with ours, is lost with it.