Horses vs. Homosexuals in Massachusetts

One of the weirder news stories related to animal rights is playing itself out in Massachusetts that pits supporters of horses against opponents of gay marriage in a conflict that highlights the problems with the petition signature industry.

Animal activists in Massachusetts campaigned under the name Save Our Horses to put a measure on the state ballot that would prohibit shipping horses out of that state to slaughterhouses in other states. Meanwhile, a group calling itself the Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage was simultaneously trying to drum up support for a ballot initiative that would ban gay marriage in Massachusetts.

Of course rather than obtain the signatures themselves, both groups hired a company, Ballot Access, to collect the 51,700 signatures for them. Save Our Horses spent about $160,000 to collect the signatures.

Initially Ballot Access told Save Our Horses that it had, in fact, collected that many signatures, but later it turned out that the company had only collected about 48,000 signatures. It had, however, collected 76,000 signatures for the anti-gay marriage initiative.

And here’s where the legal fun begins. It turns out that Ballot Access had been telling people they were signing the save the horses petition, but turned around and used those signatures for the anti-gay marriage initiative instead.

Save Our Horses coordinator Susan Wagner told the Boston Globe,

I started getting irate phone calls from people who were on the street who said that our petition was being used as bait to lure people to sign the other petition. People were being told they were signing the horse petition but they were really signing the marriage petition.

Bryan G. Rudnick, chairman of Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage, told the Boston Globe that Wagner’s charges were not true and that most of the signatures collected for its initiative were collected by volunteers. “Susan Wagner is a paid consultant who screwed up and rather than take the blame herself, she’s blaming [the signature-gatherers],” Rudnick said.

Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, however, confirmed that he had received complaints in November 2001 of the bait and switch routine by Ballot Access, and had confirmed that in fact this was happening in a spot check of signature gatherers that he personally conducted.

Reilly’s office told the Globe that it was interested in any evidence that Ballot Access had committed fraud — which could make the company liable for criminal prosecution — but that the deadline for challenging signatures on the anti-gay marriage initiative had already passed.


Accusations swirl on petition tactics. Stephanie Ebbert, Boston Globe, January 9, 2002.

PETA Celebrity Stefanie Powers a Hypocrite

The New York Post ran an excellent article pointing out the rank hypocrisy of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals supporter Stefanie Powers.

Powers recently wrote a letter to Southampton Town Supervisor Vincent Cannuscio asking Cannuscio to deny a permit for the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. circus. According to Powers, the metal bull hooks used to train the elephants are cruel.

Which is an interesting position, considering that Powers herself is a successful show horse jumper and is scheduled to compete in the Hamptons International Horse Show in August. As Neal Travis writes in the Post,

But hat she says about the alleged cruelty to elephants could be applied to the training of at least some show jumpers. Stories abound about horses being trained over jumps that have barbed wire atop them.

Then there’s the matter of spurs, commonly used in training and every bit as painful as the bull hooks that have Powers so upset. And they don’t whip elephants, do they?

Travis contacted a PETA spokeswoman who said, “I do not know anything about the horse show, so, therefore, I have no comment.” Imagine that — a PETA spokeswoman turning down a chance to decry the use of animals in entertainment! I guess the rules are different for PETA’s celebrity dupes.


Pachyderm Powers’ High Horse. Neal Travis, The New York Post, July 23, 2001.

California animal rights activists start campaign to ban horse meat trade

Animal rights activists in California
are currently pushing a “Save the Horses” ballot initiative
that would make it illegal for Californians to ship their horses to other
states for slaughter and processing into meat.

Horse meat, it turns out, has been
eaten in Europe and Asia for a few centuries. In Japan, for example, dinner
patrons can eat a dish featuring raw horse meat with spices and sauce.
Probably due to Americans fascination with the horse in its role in the
exploration and settlement of our nation, horse meat hasn’t caught
on in the United States.

But there are four processing plants
for horse meat in the United States, the two largest being in Texas. The United
States Department of Agriculture estimates 113,499 horses were slaughtered
in 1997.

The animal rights activists complain
that the method used for killing the horses — a four-inch bolt is shot
through the animal’s skull — is inhumane and doesn’t kill the animals immediately.
Activists have been showing videotape of horses being shot with a bolt
and then writhing on the ground. Animal rights groups also complain the
method of transporting the horses is cruel, with horses dehydrating and
injuries occurring with too many horses loaded into small, cramped quarters.

A recent study by the USDA and
the University of California-Davis contradicts these claims, however.
The study examined 309 horses taken to a slaughterhouse in Texas. It found
that injuries were actually minimized when the horses were loaded closely
together, and found dehydration occurred only after trips of more than
24 hours, and even in those cases the dehydration was described as “mild.”
All the horses were able to support their own weight, contradicting animal
rights activists claims that the animals were unable to stand because
they were so dehydrated.

Carolyn Stull, who conducted the
USDA study, told Scripps Howard that if the “Save the Horses”
initiative passes, it would only send California horse owners to other states to
auction them off, or in some extreme cases to abandon the animals.
“We are going to have a ton of starving horses around” if the
initiative passes, Stull said.


Activists just say neigh to California horse meat trade. Robert Salladay, Associated Press, June 30, 1998.

America's Funniest Animal Rights Organization?

In a recent Action Alert, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals revealed its indignation at, of all things, ABC’s “America’s Funniest
Home Videos.” The PETA Action Alert described examples of alleged
animal cruelty aired on the ABC show. For example

“During one recent show, a monkey who was chained in a back yard
climbed a tree carrying an obviously unwilling kitten. This poor kitten
was crying desperately, and as the monkey dangled the kitten upside
down by the tail, the crying worsened. Finally the monkey is shown sitting
in the tree cuddling the tormented kitten.”

Apparently the monkey didn’t get
PETA’s memo that it’s wrong to carry kittens up trees without the kittens’
permission. Expect PETA to protest the offending monkey any day.

PETA also wants your help keeping
the International Livestock Exposition from “targeting Chicago-area
schoolchildren by offering a field trip” to the Expo April 21-23.
The field trip includes such terrors as “a petting zoo, a cowboy
and horse, a Texas longhorn steer, and a variety of rodeo, dog, and pony

PETA is also concerned that the
expo is sponsoring a coloring contest and giving the lucky winner a |horse|.
PETA wonders what a kid in urban Chicago is going to do with a horse.
Apparently PETA is unaware of a newfangled invention called the stable.
Somebody really should fill them in.