Horse Slaughter Has No Business In America

Another passionate plea for the horses…

Wild Horse Education


At Wild Horse Education we often get questions about our American mustangs going to slaughter. As with most of the issues there is the simple answer and then there is the entire truth. Yes, our American mustangs are sent across our borders and into the slaughter pipeline. Yet there are a multitude of ways that they get there.

When we are talking about BLM mustangs they enter the pipeline in primarily two ways.

A horse adopted through the BLM gets “titled,” like vehicle ownership, after one year. Once an owner has title in essence the horse has lost all protection afforded by the act and is considered a “domestic.” All laws, or lack thereof, that apply to domestics then apply to a BLM branded horse. An owner can then sell a horse and place it in jeopardy of slaughter.

In 2004 a program called “sale authority” became a reality for…

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Equine Drug Addicts

The debate about whether or not to allow a diuretic to be injected into horses on race day has been raging for several years.  A 2009 article in New York Times referenced a study done in 2007 in South Africa on 167 race horses supposedly showing that Lasix reduced incidences of a condition in race horses referred to as Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH) – commonly called “bleeding” within the industry – and labeled an “occupational disease”. (1)  That study was touted by some (obviously those trainers using the drug in horses) as the ‘end to the discussion’… no one needed to ever question the use of Lasix (trade name for furosemide) or its effectiveness; veterinarians were a little more cautious in their analysis of the study results but nevertheless continued prescribing or administering it.

It is interesting to note that the race performance results of the South African study were made public but the endoscopic results themselves were only made available to the owner & trainer.  South Africa (as well as much of Europe) bans race day use of Lasix (an exception was made for this study); however the cost of using this drug in the US – where it is generally not banned on race day – is about $30 million! (2)  It is estimated that about 95% of all race horses in the US race on Lasix. (3)  Racing against horses in the US has been likened to racing against “septic tanks” by those from countries where race day use of drugs is banned.  It appeared to me that this “positive” study seemed to be designed simply to justify the use of Lasix as it (horses running faster and winning more money) had already been “demonstrated in a study of over 22,000 Thoroughbred race horses”. (4)

The same author (Joe Drape, New York Times) that wrote the 2009 article recently came out with another article in the NYT the other day (Dec 16, 2013) – it caught my attention because of the issues I have just recently had with my mother being on Lasix (especially IV) and have been reading as much as I can find on it.  In a study done on 55 two-year-olds in early November (2013), results showed that significant bleeding was much higher in the horses given Lasix than those not given the drug; furthermore five of those Lasix horses scored in the “high” range of the bleeding scale.  The principal veterinarians in this recent study emphasized that the question was not whether Lasix was good or bad, but whether or not racing without it caused harm. (5)  That statement, IMO, directly translates into…’if Lasix can’t be used, we will find or develop another drug to use’.

My elderly (currently 93) mother recently spent several days in the hospital during which time she was given IV Lasix at 40mg daily for several days.  I started seeing what I highly suspected was an allergic reaction to it a couple days prior to her discharge, however was hoping it would not culminate in much (and the doctors did not seem in the least concerned) – but I was wrong; within a few days of coming home (and continuing the 40mg Lasix orally) she developed a major hive/itching reaction over much of her body, especially lymph node areas.  She has been conventionally diagnosed with transudative CHF (congestive heart failure) which is why the diuretic (Lasix) was given (I managed to stop the other multiple drugs).  Without going into a lot of detail, for those of you who know me I do not typically resort to using conventional drugs of any type for myself or those under my care, prescription or OTC – drugs do not heal anything, they suppress the symptomology by various methods. My mother, however, reached a point of significant pulmonary effusion that I did not see any other way around both trying to get the fluid off and attempting to keep it from building back up; obviously the fluid itself was not the problem but a result of much deeper underlying issues.  Fluid can certainly be removed manually in a relatively safe, quick procedure * but one has to wait until the doctors are ready to do so.  Thankfully a thoracentesis was finally done and which greatly relieved the fluid build-up (if that had been done immediately there would have been no need for any Lasix – 1400 mls was removed from the right pleural cavity).  As of this writing she is not accumulating fluid even having being taken off the Lasix shortly after coming home and is doing considerably better.  She is on upper level doses of organic Dandelion extract as well as Juniper essential oil (in addition to quite a few heart specific supplements and other EO’s) and this protocol seems to be working quit well.  Because of the Lasix reaction I went on a research mission to try to understand the mechanism by which this occurred.  During the months prior to her hospitalization I had been seeing definite lymphatic involvement, and I felt that played a significant role.  It is curious that on lymphedema websites, diuretics are specifically contraindicated unless the patient has concurrent CHF; the general notion being that CHF is more fatal than lymphedema, even though the diuretic can exacerbate the lymphedema.  I could not find any other references to the lymphatic system in researching this until just the other day.  Apparently the lymphatic system is a very little understood process in the human body (which means it is also little understood in animals).  But I think understanding this relationship holds the keys to understanding why drugs such as Lasix can have undesirable effects at best, and deadly at worst, on race horses.  I finally came across on article in which this relationship is being looked at in human medicine…

Conventional diuretics seem rather benign – after all they are often simply called “water pills”.  But this is very deceptive – in non-medical terms, a loop diuretic interrupts the natural process that typically occurs in the loop of Henle, causing the kidneys to excrete more water and sodium than would normally be, essentially creating a state of dehydration; this is the “standard” treatment protocol for most cases of CHF.  The effect this has upon the lymphatic fluid is that water is not being reabsorbed as it normally would and thus leaves a very concentrated proteinaceous fluid.  In race horses giving a diuretic has the desired effect of “lightening the load”, allowing the horse to race faster.  Additionally, diuretics have the effect of masking the use of other performance enhancing drugs, allowing the horse to piss out the residuals prior to urine testing.

In my mother’s situation, I have no doubt that there has been damage done to the lymphatic system primarily from 50+ years of smoking which obviously is exacerbated by her age (she did not quit smoking until age 85).  The comparison I want to make here is that – other than the smoking – she has led a fairly healthy life; in my lifetime (almost 60 years) I do not recall her taking anything more than the occasional aspirin, she didn’t even drink soft drinks, nor did she have any vaccinations since at childhood.  Contrast this lifestyle to what a race horse is typically subjected to:  yearly (or more) multi-way vaccinations, species inappropriate food and lifestyle, far more stress than any horse is biologically designed to handle (both physically and emotionally), and perhaps the kicker of all…every time this horse is made to race, he/she is given multiple “performance enhancing” drugs, not the least of which includes Lasix, whether on race day and/or in the days prior.  Can anyone wonder if the lymphatic (i.e. immune) system of the race horse is compromised even at such a young age?  The vaccinations alone would do that.

Based on my recent research this is my hypothesis on the action of Lasix:

The lymph fluid requires some kind of contractive action to enable it to move; this happens from muscular action as well as arterial action (and which is why massage can help move lymph fluid).  This means if the heart is not working properly and thus not “pumping” blood through the arteries as it should, arterial contraction (which helps to move lymph fluid) is not occurring as it should and the lymphangions can become stagnated even causing the valves to fail leading to lymph backflow.  Exercise can certainly help move lymph fluid, but with respect to race horses especially, a major question I have is what happens to the lymphatic system during the extreme exercise to which they are subjected?  Lymph fluid is caustic to begin with, that is its nature.  If a loop diuretic is given, the lymph fluid is potentially made even more caustic due to it becoming more concentrated.  Since the lymphatic system is not under pressure (i.e. requires “external” contractive actions to move the fluid), it makes sense that the lymphatic vessel walls are thinner than those of the vascular system.  What would happen if the forces acting against the lymphatic vessel walls become extreme enough as to cause them to leak and/or cause the valves to fail – especially if the lymphatic (i.e. immune) system has suffered “assault” on other fronts?  It is my thought any leakage of this “caustic” fluid could damage arterial walls, in turn causing internal bleeding.

Regardless of whether this “hypothesis” is ever found to be true or not in all or part, I have no doubt the lymphatic system plays a major role in what happens in the breakdown of race horses on Lasix, other drugs, as well as multiple other species-inappropriate factors.  There are known risks of diuretics used as a performance-enhancing drug in human athletes – even taken at medically recommended doses: (6)

  • Dehydration
  • Muscle cramps
  • Exhaustion
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Potassium deficiency
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Heatstroke
  • Death

What we can wind up with is an ever-increasing “loop” of debased physiological processes…the Lasix affects the fluid which affects the lymphatic system which sooner or later affects the heart/vascular function which can exacerbate the lymphatic dysfunction…and so on into an ever increasing inflammatory situation until ultimate breakdown.

With regard to lymphatic involvement in human cardiology, a moment of “validation” came to me just recently when I found an article by a cardiologist (Dr. Philip D. Houck) at Texas A&M Medical College; it is a hypothesis published this past May (2013) questioning the involvement of the lymphatic system in cardiac “disease”. (7)  There is no reason to not apply this to all mammals including horses.  In part he says:

All of the symptoms of heart failure, hence, compensatory mechanisms can be related to overwhelmed or dysfunctional lymphatic function. Lymphatics are responsible for tissue homeostasis controlling approximately 12 litres of fluid. These thin-walled valved pumping systems are also intimately involved in immunity, control of inflammation and lipid and nutritional transport. Repair of damaged tissues by cellular transport explain its many functions.

Therapies to remove salt and water excess have improved acute symptoms but have not lead [sic] to better outcomes. In fact, in some cases such therapies have contributed to worse outcome such as cardio-renal syndrome. The mainstay in the treatment of congestive heart failure has been diurectic [sic] therapy. However, the chronic use of furosemide has increased mortality in congestive heart failure [4,5].”  [emphasis mine]

4. Ahmed A, Husain A, Love TE, Gambassi G, Dell’ Italia LJ, Francis GS. Heart failure, chronic diuretic use, and increase in mortality and hospitalization: an observational study using propensity score methods. Eur Heart J 2006;27(12):1431-9.

5. Hasselblad V, Gattis Stough W, Shah MR, Lokhnygina Y, O’ Connor CM, Califf RM. Relation between dose of loop diuretics and outcomes in a heart failure population: results of the ESCAPE Trial. Eur J Heart Fail 2007 Oct;9(10):1064-9.

Thoroughbreds have a reputation of being spooky, anxious, nervous, and so on – is there really any wonder why?  (Quarter horses are also commonly used in racing, especially in the western states in claims races; they have their own “emotional issues”.)  Racehorses have become drug addicts – plain and simple.  Look at the eyes in these photos – do you see a resemblance between the look in the eyes and the look in many domestic (especially race) horses’ eyes – that painful, empty, wanting look?  Through phenomenology we understand that genes are adaptable, meaning they will adapt to influences and stimuli, sometimes taking more than one generation.  When the animal’s genes are exposed to these stimuli via nature, there is generally no problem effecting the adaptation.  It is when we subject the organism to influences that are born not of nature but are synthetically derived in a laboratory (i.e. drugs, processed food, etc) that the genetic adaptations can begin to achieve abnormal physiological results.  The central dogma of biology states that genes dictate the form, however we are beginning to see otherwise – “genetic potential” is a two-way street.  (I wish to caution the reader here that I do not want to give the impression that I believe that all adaptation is “blind”, i.e. a result of conditioning.  I am exploring much in this area both from a macrocosm as well as microcosm perspective, so stay tuned for more discussions on this immensely interesting subject – well, interesting to me anyway!)

On average 24 horses die per week at US race tracks.  Many of them are the “lower end”, less expensive racers running in claims races; as a result, investigations into their deaths are very seldom done. (8)  This is an industry that is mired in a drug culture.  The subject of why race horses break down so much has been debated for years, and it always comes back to the drugs used.  And not necessarily legal drugs…some trainers will experiment with anything that can give them a winning edge, not the least of which include chemicals that bulk up pigs and cattle before slaughter, cobra venom, Viagra, blood doping agents, stimulants and cancer drugs.  Unfortunately much of this doping occurs on-farm before the horses are shipped to the race track – where few states have the authority to legally test horses. (9)  Even if all horses were tested, labs don’t even have the capability to detect the enormous amount of different drugs that have been tried and are used.  And even legal therapeutic drugs (such as pain medications) are misused, being given in high enough doses to mask symptoms of physical injury; numerous horses have raced (and in many cases died) on high levels of pain meds – I would guestimate that almost every race horse does or at least has done so at some point.  Some veterinarians will speak of how difficult it is to ‘watch these animals being treated this way’ and yet continue to administer the drugs.  There are no excuses – a vet that continues to cater to this kind of activity is every bit as much to blame as are the owners and trainers who allow and do this.  There is no other word to describe what happens except “abuse”, plain and simple.  It is when a well-known race horse suffers injury on national TV that the industry begins paying lip service to trying to stop the abuse.  But the trainers and owners are very influential with regard to industry policy setting – well known trainers such as Bob Baffert and some of his wealthy owners threatened lawsuits and hinted at boycotting prestigious, money making races like the Breeders’ Cup, effectively squashing any changes in regulations regarding drugging of race horses. (10)

Can horses become addicted to drugs (legal and/or illegal) much as humans do?  This is what one source says: (11)

For the fortunate racehorses who escape the slaughter pipeline, and accepted by an off the track Thoroughbred rehabilitation center, staff report that weening [sic] them off the medications routine to racing can take months. In cases where horses are also recuperating from sidelining injuries, it is difficult to watch them also struggle through the symptoms of withdrawal.

This begs the question – Why?  The only answer is that it is because of human-centric wants…fame and fortune.

It is not about trying to find “safer” drugs to use.  It is not that changes need to be made in the racing industry.  It is simply that it needs to STOP – the entire racing industry.  There is nothing about being forced to run at this extreme that is good for any horse – even those horses such as Thoroughbreds that have been manipulated through breeding to run faster.  The effects of the forced breeding are multi-fold, not the least of which these practices continue to perpetuate the theorized “need” for horse slaughter.  Stop the industry breeding and you’ve stopped any perceived need for slaughter.  See a previous post I did about nurse mares farms (warning – video is graphic).  Those who continue to support horse racing continue to support animal abuse – it cannot be put any other way.  People like to anthropomorphize, saying that horses want to run races and enjoy winning.  I have two words for that, the first begins with the letter “B” and the second begins with the letter “S”.  Many people have a tendency to romanticize about race horses, especially top winners (those that don’t win become so much “trash”).  There is a popular saying about race horses, something to the effect that…”so-and-so was a grand horse that would run his heart out”.  A very good possibility that he did, literally.  There is much more I could say about this subject, but now you have no more excuses to keep blinders on…












  *  Note that no invasion into the body is without some risk.  A thoracentesis is designated as a “test” although I had to sign surgical consent in my mother’s case (it is a test as the fluid is sent to lab for analysis).  The procedure consists of localized anesthesia and a thin needle inserted between the ribs into the pleural cavity.  Outside of a normal risk of bruising, pain, & bleeding at the needle insertion site (a risk with any needle insertion); the major risk is piercing the lung; normally this heals quickly on its own but if it does not and air gets trapped the lung may collapse (although an excessive amount of fluid pressing against the lung can cause it to collapse as well).  X-rays are done before and after the procedure.  In my mother’s situation, they seemed to be a bit concerned about pneumonia setting in since she had such an excessive amount of fluid.  However, using appropriate essential oils (which I had with me in the hospital) can avert this quickly without side effects as well as negate the “need” for antibiotics.

Horse Slaughter is Not a Humane End-of-Life Choice

This is a post copied from Josephine Ann Darcy’s FB page.   The horse slaughter issue is argued vehemently on both sides.  I personally don’t care what other people choose to eat – no more than I want someone telling me I have to eat certain kinds of meat, but I DO care passionately about animal welfare, and based upon the following discussion, then procedures at horse slaughter plants fall completely outside the realm of animal welfare (which is ultimately no surprise to me), and we indeed have nothing but a political agenda backing it.  The argument that “only old and sick/dying horses are taken to slaughter plants” never made sense to me.  Do people not understand that disease/aging affects the muscles??  Of course the meat buyers want healthy viable animals.  The thing I truly do not understand is that people overseas (from the US) that do consume horse meat don’t seem to care about all the drugs that are typically dumped into horses, at least in this country.  But then again, these same people probably don’t care about how many toxins they consume in their food anyway.

With the exception of feral herds, all breeding is human manipulated (and even those herds are mostly now manipulated by darting the mares with birth control).  It is simply a matter of controlling what humans already control that would affect the breeding numbers.  From what is being said here, IT IS BREEDING TO FULFILL THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE CONTRACTS that is generating the bulk of the so-called “over breeding” numbers.  In other words, remove the incentive (the slaughter plants) and you have automatically reduced the numbers.  There is no “over-breeding” situation that causes horses to be dumped by the thousands on streets.  It simply does not make sense.  It is a combination of greed and lack of responsibility that is the underlying cause of any “excess” horses.  I have spent the bulk of my horse life taking care of other peoples responsibilities.  Horses are animals of nature – they have thrived for millions of years without our help.  Do you really think that turning a horse loose is allowing it to suffer?  No.  Keeping the horse under human control is causing its suffering.  Ending its life in a slaughter house IS suffering (not to mention the trip there).

For those of you thinking about getting a horse:  Please THINK before you take on the responsibility of caring for a horse (or any animal)!!

I have heard horse slaughter called a “necessary evil”.  I wish someone would define “necessary evil” to me.


“Quoting Chuck Mintzlaff on the horse slaughter industry in the USA. If anyone had any doubts about wether [sic] it was an ethical choice for the end of a horses life, please read the below discussion.
We were discussing the slaughter problem on Linkedin.

The author asked that her name not be used to avoid further harassment if I posted
her comments on other lists.”

“True, backyard breeders add to the stream of slaughtered horses. What has not been discussed here is that it’s not actually “over” breeding. Canada and Mexico have huge contracts to fill with the EU and Japan for horse meat, just as for cattle, poultry, etc. They NEED the 200,000 horses they slaughter yearly. If that number dropped due to breeder inspection, they’d simply create more equine feedlots. In Canada, we have many equine feedlots. Land is cheap.

We also slaughter 5000 PMU foals annually. Without slaughter, PMU could not exist. Till recently, when Pfizer pulled back PMU production due to the outcry against both cruelty and the cancer risks inherent in their product, we slaughtered 70,000 annually.

The USDA and Ministry of Agriculture subsidize the breeding of horses, in order to create what seems to horse lovers as a surplus. It is not. It is purely intentional. Canada takes in $70 million annually from horse meat sales.

One specific way in which gov’t Ag subsidizes breeding is to help pro-slaughter groups like the AQHA, APHA and AHA along with “breeding incentives.” These are glamorous awards in which stallion owners are spotlighted for overbreeding. However a horse dies, the breed orgs keep the registration monies.

Your state Horse Council may be actively pro-slaughter. Our Canadian provincial ones are. They do pro-slaughter seminars, funded by Equine Canada, the same body that promotes our Olympic equestrian team. To Horse Councils, it is part of the Horse Industry.

Here’s an article in a national livestock producer magazine, about a prolific feedlot owner who still tries to maintain she is a breeder. Other feedlot owners don’t bother with the facade:

We have people like this all over the Canadian Prairies. They exist in the US, as well.

One problem in getting people excited and protesting horse mills, is that they don’t usually look as gross as puppy mills. No stacked cages or screaming, filthy puppies. Horses about to be butchered alive, look peaceful in the pasture.

As another parallel: did you know the reason thousands of puppy mills continue, is that once dogs are outside city limits, they’re livestock? [Note:  I am not aware of that and do not think, at least in my state – TN – that dogs are considered livestock.]   The USDA established puppy mills as a way to pull farmers out of the Depression. Pet stores became the distribution centres. In the same way, the government established and continues to protect and finance horse mills. Though it would be wonderful to stop irresponsible breeders, they’re just a drop in the bucket.

Though I speak up against irresponsible breeding as loudly as any advocate, it’s slaughter that needs to be stopped. It’s deliberate. It serves as a profitable garbage can for the irresponsible, but it is actually organized crime.

• Wanted to add: this is the clearest chart of how the slaughter industry is connected and deliberate. The Horse “Welfare” Alliance of Canada exists to promote slaughter. If you read this entire page, you’ll see whom is partnered with whom:

Agriculture Canada is self-explanatory; that’s our gov’t agency, same as USDA. Bouvry Exports is the Belgian co. that owns most of our slaughter plants. Nat’l Assoc of Equine Ranchers (NAERIC) is pee farmers. Woods Livestock Services is one of our largest kill buyers. Most of our Horse Councils are here, along with the Appaloosa Horse Club and the Canadian branch of the AQHA. The one SPCA listed actively has “rescues” slaughtered.

At the bottom, you’ll see they’re partnered with United Orgs. of the Horse, Slaughterhouse Sue and Dave Duquette’s US society that is trying to reopen US slaughter, wants to kill all the mustangs and feed them to school kids and seniors. Wallis made a media statement that HWAC, above, is “our partner to the North.” These people all participated in the Vegas pro-slaughter summit.

It’s a horrifying insight when you realize that it’s deliberate and these people are all in bed together. I still have a hard time attending ritzy dressage/jumper shows, knowing the same Councils sponsoring our Olympians are quietly facilitating the butchering alive of those less fortunate. I’ve been ranted at by elite sport horse people for speaking up against slaughter (I hold the Cdn. record, and persuaded my political Rep to read my petition in the House). They rely on their Horse Councils to sponsor our ‘A’ list shows, and so choose to believe the Councils’ BS about the necessity of slaughter.

It’s slaughter we need to shut down. One way I get pet owners to protest, is comparing it to puppy mill owners being able to not only dump their excess at shelters, but being paid $500 per dog/cat/rabbit/bird. The shelter then slaughters, and ships the pet carcasses to China. Animal abuse and abandonment is rampant enough without that incentive.

Animal cruelty increases when profitable garbage cans such as slaughter are available. Don’t want to call a vet? No problem. Not only can you dump your colicking or lame horse at auction—you get a cash reward. If you could do that with small pets, imagine the line ups at shelters!

The reality of horse slaughter is in the videos above.

The other thing to understand about horse racing: it’s not about horses. It’s the gambling industry, i.e. organized crime. The horses are simply by products. They mean nothing to most owners, except as trophies and investments. The horses mean as little as the Greyhounds who get thrown in dumpsters or electrocuted once they start losing. Or aging call girls, etc.

Even the many TB and STB owners who can afford to retire their horses, still slaughter nearly all their infertile broodmares. I managed a TB stud farm, and was staggered by how casual were the kill orders. And how pervasive the abuse. Babies who get hurt in training get killed, too. Major surgery is performed routinely without anesthetic (I refused). The slaughter truck comes quietly for the discards on a regular basis. You can’t stop that except by stopping slaughter. Unless you want to directly confront the Mafia who profit from racing.

Charles Mintzlaff • Reisa, that’s very enlightening. Also very sobering and disheartening.

Hi Charles, isn’t it? I’ve been working on this issue since my first PMU auction when I was 12. I grew up in the centre, in Winnipeg, MB. All those foals, whimpering and suckling on each other 😦 I was allowed to choose only one, and didn’t understand why the little thing was terrified of me. Weren’t foals supposed to be gentle and loving?

Here are the USDA transport photos Suzanne speaks of. You’ll notice that the gouged out eyes are usually both. This is because it is standard practice for kill buyers to slice out stallions’ or any unruly horses’ eyes with an Xacto knife. Some of the broken legs are from kicking in the trailer. Others are from the kill buyer trying to squeeze in “one more” (hey, its an extra $500!), and repeatedly slamming the trailer door on a horse’s hip till the leg tears off. I’ve seen the videos and heard eye witness testimony.  [Warning:  This site has some very graphic pictures.]

As Suzanne also says, the notion that transport is “worse” to Canada or Mexico is yet another lie of the pro-slaughter profiteers. It was no closer to ship horses from coastal states to Illinois or Texas, than it is now to ship north and south. It is also a bloody lie that US plants were more humane than Mexican.

Yes, Mexicans stab horses in the neck to stop limb movement. The US and Canadian plants NON-invasive bolt guns and .22 bullets stun for only 30 seconds. The horse then wakes up with a massive headache, and is fully conscious while amputated and butchered. In all places, foals not meaty enough for veal are stuffed into a gut barrel to suffocate, and/or slowly tortured by the violent ex cons who work in these places. We have photos of that, too.

I’m sorry to say this, because I enjoy my visits to the US and my American friends: but a plant being built in the US does not automatically make it more humane, more efficient or better regulated. Your plants were exactly the same as ours in Canada, and had the same brutally low standards of transport and care.

I don’t give a damn what Temple Grandin does or says, either. The slaughter industry blatantly exploits that woman’s disability to foster the lie that assembly line slaughter can ever be humane. I have a disability myself, so I understand the politics. If we were not tiptoeing around Ms. Grandin’s disability, do you think a woman who designs slaughter plants for a living would be a celebrity? Not a chance.”

Abuse in Training: Learned Helplessness

We had a discussion surrounding this video on the Equine Zooanthropology group I belong to, and I wanted to post it here for any further discussion and to call attention to it.  This video by a well-known “natural horsemanship” trainer is a prime example of both so-called natural horsemanship (NH) techniques and learned helplessness in horses.  Learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape.  Sooner or later, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation.  Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this condition will prevent any attempt to escape.

That unfortunately is the ultimate goal of the NH…a training methodology that has been lauded as safe, gentle, and natural for horses.  It is none of those.  It is every bit as abusive as blatant physical abuse…and perhaps even more so as this has long-term emotional affects.  It does not take someone trained in behavior science to see this.

I am not singling this person out for attack – he is nothing more than a representative example of many who adhere to this type of training philosophy (although I’m sure his ego is big enough he would say he is quite different…)

We bring horses into our world, the least we can do is respect them as sentient, biocentric beings, which this man – and many others like him – is doing neither.