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Premarin: Rx for Cruelty

 PMU Throwaways - Foals on the Auction Block

  Exposing the Cruel Realities Behind Premarin

Cruelty To Animals - Everyone's Problem

Stop The Madness - Spay/Neuter

Whose Turn is it?

Doves Don't Belong at Weddings

What's Fun About Rodeos?

Keeping Your Summer Animal Friendly

State Fairs

Prayer For Animals 

Hear our humble prayers oh God

For our friends the animals.

And especially those animals that are suffering

And for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry.

And for all that must be put to death

We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity.

And for those who deal with them

We ask a heart of compassion and gentle hands and kindly words.

Make us ourselves to be true friends to animals

And so to share the blessings of the merciful.


Albert Schweitzer



(A personal note: I myself have never used Premarin. I have taken a plant-based hormone replacement for more than five years and can personally attest that it is both safe and effective, and has no side effects at all. An excellent source for natural hormone replacement information and products is D.B.)

Premarin: RX for Cruelty

Premarin is the most popular drug in the United States, with an estimated nine million American women taking Premarin prescriptions to treat menopausal symptoms. Yet what many women, and even some doctors who prescribe this hormone replacement therapy, don’t realize is that Premarin is made with estrogens extracted from pregnant mares’ urine … and that tens of thousands of pregnant mares and their new born baby foals are suffering every year to produce this bitter pill.

The maker of Premarin, Wyeth-Ayerst, a drug division of global giant American Home Products, and the PMU industry insist that the manufacture of Premarin is not cruel, but just a form of profitable horse husbandry. You be the judge. 

The Premarin Mares

To produce Premarin, an estimated 35,000 mares are forced to stand in barns throughout Canada and parts of the Midwestern United States for about six months out of every year with urine collection devices strapped onto them.

Even by the self-serving standards of corporations, Wyeth-Ayerst's suggested (but not mandated) 4 1/2-foot wide stalls for pregnant draft horses weighing up to 1700 are ungenerous. The stalls are deliberately kept narrow to prevent pregnant mares from turning or lying down with their legs stretched out for fear the collection cups will become detached as the urine is "harvested." And, worse yet, many of these mares get little or no exercise for the six months they are forced to stand in the barns. (The most recent "voluntary" Code of Practice for the industry states that the mares only be exercised on an as-needed basis.)

Their water intake also is regulated and restricted, all of which can lead to swollen legs, sore hooves and other health problems. And then, when these mares are too tired, too old or too surly to stand on the "pee lines," their reward is the auctions and a likely trip to the slaughterhouse.

The Premarin Foals

The story is just as tragic for the Premarin foals. The PMU farmers and Wyeth-Ayerst would like us to believe that the estimated 35,000 foals resulting from these pregnancies are sold as companion animals. A very few may be and a few more fillies are allowed to grow up and replace their worn-out mothers. However, most, especially the male colts, are weaned too early, taken to auction where they're sold by the pound to killer-buyers, fattened in feed lots and then sent straight to slaughter.

There, these sensitive, highly social young animals are made to wait their turn for death with the smell of blood in their nostrils and the sound of horses screaming in their ears. And for what? So that Wyeth-Ayerst can sell their animal-based hormone replacement therapy (HRT) Premarin when there is plant-based HRT available. And so that restaurants in France and Japan can serve foal steaks to connoisseurs of cruelty! (Foal steak sells for up to $15 a pound in some Paris butcher shops.)

PMU Oversight

Where are the horse industry watchdogs and why don't they do something? Well, here they are: The American Association of Equine Practitioners issued a position statement in 1997 that said PMU farmers represent "responsible management of horses to produce a commodity for the benefit of mankind." They did not address the concern that foals born to these mares are sent to slaughter. When asked why, they replied, "We take a position on how horses are treated until they go to slaughter." Julie Kimball, AAEP's Director of Communications, added, "The AAEP is not endorsing the industry. We are just saying it is safe and responsible."

To accept the idea that the PMU industry is responsible takes a real stretch of the imagination. According to Ride! Magazine (March 1997), the Winnipeg (Canada) Humane Society reported that 83 percent of foals born at Premarin farms go to slaughter. The percentage of foals to slaughter is lower in the United States, but the number is not insignificant.

And again, the AAEP contends that Premarin farms are run by good old family horse breeders, but is this the case? Many such farms are no better than "warehouse" operations with no purpose other than to collect PMU. Says Robin Duxbury, of Project Equus, "They even solicit pregnant mares by offering free winter board."

It Isn’t Even Necessary: Alternatives to Premarin

The drug company that supports these practices, Wyeth-Ayerst, claims that Premarin "…contains a mixture of estrogens obtained exclusively from natural sources…"

Natural? Of the more than 50 horse estrogens, Dr. Christiane Northrup, former Diplomate American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, recently stated for publication that not one "…is native to the human female body."

Over 3,000,000 horses have been slaughtered in the last ten years, most by foreign-owned slaughterhouses in the United States and Canada to supply the overseas meat market. The PMU industry is a major supplier of this horse flesh.

And for the 35,000 or more mares hooked to urine collection devices it may get worse before it gets better. Much worse.

For the next decade, a large number of women from the baby boomer generation will enter menopause, over 40,000,000 women, more than four times the number now on Premarin. How many more horses will it take to provide this drug for them? Twice as many? Three times? More?

NO! We don't think women will close their eyes to increased long-term suffering for mares and death for their foals once they know the facts - because this is a cruelty women can fix at the prescription counter. For every 150 women who change from Premarin to a plant-derived estrogen, one mare is taken off the line or is never hooked to a collection cup - and seven or eight foals will not be slaughtered for their meat.

This is why UAN urges all women on Premarin to ask their doctors if one of the plant-based (synthetic generic conjugated estrogen) hormone replacement therapies will work just as well for them. And tell them why you’re asking.

Hormone replacement therapy is essential for many women, not only to alleviate the problems of menopause, but also to protect against heart disease, osteoporosis and other serious problems afflicting women in maturity. Still, you don't have to take Premarin. Ask your doctor if he/she will prescribe a plant-derived or synthetic HRT such as Cenestin, Estrace, Estraderm, Ogen, OrthoEst, Estratab, Menest, Estinyl, Estrovirus, OrthoDienestrol or Tace many made from yam or soy.

Yes, Yam! Low-dose estrogen derived from yams and soy may protect women from osteoporosis just as well as today's higher-dose pills made from horse urine. And it has fewer side effects.

Only by reducing the market for Premarin can we hope to reduce the profit in running a pregnant mare's urine collection barn and selling the living by-products to be slaughtered and eaten.

This article was prepared by United Animal Nations. You can find out more about what you can do to help in this matter as well as others, at their web site by clicking on Anti-Premarin Campaign. 

For more information on why these types of hormone replacements are unhealthy, go to Doctors Against Premarin and read what they have to say.

Note Bene: In addition to Premarin, the prescription drugs Premphase and Prempro, are also made from horse urine. Do not use these products either.

Special Note: You can help PMU horses by adopting, fostering, or sponsoring a rescued horse. Or simply make a donation for their care. Find out more at
True Blue Animal Rescue.


Exposing the Cruel Realities Behind Premarin

Leone Bollinger

It’s late on a bitterly cold January night as the owner of a farm in a remote corner of a midwestern prairie state closes the door to his barn and drives his truck down the icy driveway to the white two-story farmhouse he shares with several family members.   

It is an isolated location, not a place you would just happen upon. A visitor taking one of the few “puddle-jumper” flights to the nearest small town is likely to be the only passenger on the plane. Driving from town to the farm, the scenery doesn’t change – 30 miles of flat, snow-covered fields on either side of a lonely two-lane road.   

Inside the long barn 50 pregnant mares stand tied in narrow stalls.  There are draft horses, Quarter horses, a few Thoroughbreds.  Tethered by short ropes, they are unable to turn around or lie down comfortably, if at all. An agitated chestnut Thoroughbred mare restlessly chews a worn area on the wooden partition that separates her from the mare on her right.  Rubber tubing runs from a pulley suspended from the ceiling to a hard plastic funnel-like device positioned under her tail and between her rear legs.  A larger tube attached to the funnel passes between her front legs to a collection jug at the front of the stall. The contraption prevents her from moving more than a step or two in any direction.  The skin under the rubber tubing along her hindquartershas become raw from the friction of her restless movements. She is thirsty, but the automatic watering device in her stall is dry.

A few stalls down, a large roan draft horse shifts her 2,400 pound weight from side to side, searching for a comfortable position.  Now in her eighth month of pregnancy, she wants to lie down but the narrow stall prevents a mare of her size from doing so.  The funnel positioned to collect urine has moved out of place and is now filled with feces, an unhygienic condition that will not be alleviated until the farmer makes his rounds late the following morning and removes the device, knocking it against a wall to clean it.  In the meantime the situation will cause further irritation to the large sore the collection apparatus has already caused to form under her tail.

  Located at the end of long snow-covered driveway, the outward appearance of this barn reveals nothing out of the ordinary. But the owners of the farm do not advertise their business.  Visitors are not welcome here.  This is a PMU farm, and it is one of a growing number of such operations within the U.S. 

PMU stands for Pregnant Mares’ Urine, the main ingredient in the popular drug Premarin, used to treat the symptoms of menopause. Premarin is marketed by Wyeth-Ayerst, a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical giant American Home Products. Millions of menopausal women are prescribed this drug every year, most unaware that it is derived from the urine of pregnant mares who are force to stand for months at a time while their urine is being collected.  The mares are put “on line” in the barns in October where they will remain until mid-March. They are often subjected to water restriction in order to produce a more estrogen-concentrated urine. Most of the foals born to these mares are considered simply by-products, and are shipped to Canadian slaughter plants that supply the demand for horsemeat in Europe and Japan.  The PMU industry has made an effort in recent years to deflect negative publicity about the foals-to-slaughter issue by claiming that producers are upgrading their mares in order to produce better quality foals, who are then sold or “adopted” to good owners. This appears to be true to some extent, but with over 40,000 foals reaching the market at the same time every year there are still thousands of these “byproducts” of the PMU industry meeting violent deaths on slaughterhouse kill floors.

The PMU industry has been around for decades, but only came to the attention of the public in recent years when the living conditions of mares and mistreatment of foals was exposed.  For the past several years there have been rumors of the expansion of farms from Canada and North Dakota further into the U.S.  This has been difficult to confirm; information on specific locations of collection barns is kept secret by the industry.

In November 2000, Friends of Animals undertook an investigation into the current state of the PMU industry.  Our questions:  What, if anything, has changed over the past several years in terms of treatment of the mares?  Is the PMU farming industry, previously confined to operations under contract to Wyeth-Ayerst in Canada and North Dakota, starting to expand further into the U.S.?  Are tens of thousands of foals still ending up being butchered for the foreign horsemeat trade?

Seven months later our conclusion is that, sadly, little if anything about the industry has changed since the negative publicity of the previous decade.  Most alarming is the confirmation that the number of PMU collection farms in the United States has doubled during that time.  PMU farmers and other sources consulted during the investigation confirmed that there are now collection barns in operation a number of midwestern states, including Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, and South Dakota. This expansion is due to the establishment of a new U.S. PMU processing plant, Natural Biologics LLC.

Headquartered in Albert Lea, Minn., Natural Biologics is owned by David and Steve Saveraid.  According to press reports, the brothers’ aim is to obtain FDA approval of a generic version of Premarin.  As of the date of this report, that approval is pending.  The processing plant, however, is already in operation.  Surveillance photos taken of the facility during the FoA investigation show a warehouse-type building in an industrial section of town.  According to a Dun & Bradstreet report, the company has 36 employees and $3,600,000.00 in annual sales.  Natural Biologics has now contracted with 38 farmers in seven states to produce the raw material needed for its product.

After months of research, an FoA investigator was able to identify and obtain access to a PMU collection barn under contract to Natural Biologics.  Inside the barn the investigator observed rows of mares tethered in narrow tie stalls.  The stalls were clearly too small for the comfort of the animals, especially in the case of the large draft breeds.  The farmer acknowledged that these larger mares could not lie down in the small enclosures without getting stuck.

The investigator noted that many of the horses showed signs of frustration, constantly pawing the ground or kicking or chewing the wooden partitions of the stalls.  The investigator also observed what appeared to be sores from irritation caused by the urine collection apparatus.  When the investigator made a final visit to the farm, the mares had been “on line” for almost six months.  The farmer described them as “miserable” at that point, due to the confinement and their advanced stage of pregnancy. The odor in the barn was very strong – not the pleasant horsy smell of a clean stable but the unmistakable stench of animals kept in close confinement for long periods of time.

The owners of this farm are very concerned about confidentiality and only agreed to talk to the investigator on the condition of anonymity.  They stated that inspections by the company are cursory at best, and frequently consist of the “inspector” driving up to the barn and asking a few questions without even getting out of his truck.  The PMU farmers interviewed also acknowledged that the company advises producers to limit their horses’ water intake.  This practice has resulted in health problems among horses used in the industry – they related the tragic case of five mares on a PMU farm in a neighboring state who died as a result of complications caused by severe water deprivation.

There were other indications of problems in collection barns - the operators of another PMU farm under contract to the same company backed out of their agreement to meet with the FoA investigator due to their concerns about conditions in their collection barn.  The investigator later learned that, the morning of the scheduled visit, a mare had collapsed in her stall.

In March, the FoA investigator traveled to a Canadian horse feedlot and slaughter plant known to be the final destination of thousands of PMU foals every year.  The investigator observed hundreds of horses in the unsheltered feedlot awaiting their deaths on the kill floor only yards away.  There were many young horses, undoubtedly unwanted PMU foals from last year’s season.  Animals too weak to survive the stresses of travel, harsh weather conditions or illness are left to die; in one holding pen a small dark horse lay dead, left there among the living for days.

It’s spring now; the mares are out of the PMU barns and the foaling season is beginning. The mares will be impregnated again almost immediately after giving birth.  Starting in August, many of the foals will be sold at auction and loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter plants.  In October, the mares go back on the line and the cycle starts again.

The aging of the baby boomer generation means more and more women reaching menopause every year.  Never has the need for education about treatment options, including ethical concerns, been greater. The good news is that there are now many choices available for women faced with the issue of hormone replacement.  The suffering of the mares and foals who are victims of the PMU industry can be alleviated if women facing menopause or hysterectomy choose plant-derived or synthetic estrogen products instead of organics.

Read on to learn how you can help stop the abuse of the approximately 100,000 mares and foals who suffer in PMU collection barns and slaughter plants every year.

What you can do:

·           If you are considering hormone-replacement therapy, ask your physician to prescribe a synthetic or plant-based alternative to pregnant mares’ urine-based drugs.  Alternatives include Cenestin, Estrace, Estraderm, FemPatch, Ogen, Ortho-EST, Vivelle, Estratab, Estring, Alora, Climara, Menest, Estinyl, Ortho-Prefest and Tace. Another option many women are discussing with their health practitioner is that of forgoing estrogen replacement therapy entirely in favor of natural remedies and dietary and lifestyle changes.

·           Spread the word – share this information with your family and friends, write a letter to the editor.

·           Write to Wyeth-Ayerst and it’s parent company, American Home Products and let the makers of Premarin know that you will not support this form of animal exploitation:

Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, P.O. Box 8299, Philadelphia, PA  19101

 American Home Products, 5 Giralda Farms, Madison, NJ  07940

This article was printed in the ActionLine
magazine published by Friends of Animals.

Special Note: You can help PMU horses by adopting, fostering, or sponsoring a rescued horse. Or simply make a donation for their care. Find out more at
True Blue Animal Rescue.

Adopt a Premarin Horse or Foal -

PMU Throwaways
Foals on the Auction Block
By Leone Bollinger

It’s a warm September morning in Brandon, Manitoba, as a large livestock truck pulls into the Heartland Livestock Auction parking lot and backs up to the unloading area of the sale barn.  Inside, a tightly packed group of young foals, most barely three months old, peer nervously through the slats in the side of the trailer. The truck comes to a stop and the trailer door swings open. The foals tumble down the ramp, slipping and colliding with one another as men wielding large sticks drive them into the barn.  In the barn, the foals are herded down an alleyway and into a small pen.  As the iron gate slams shut behind them, they huddle together and look around in bewilderment at the unfamiliar surroundings. All around them are pens crowded with hundreds of other young colts and fillies, all just as frightened and confused. 

The foals at this auction, an assortment of draft breeds, Quarter Horses, Paints, and crossbreeds, have come from some of the approximately 500 pregnant-mare’s urine farms in the U.S. and Canada. The offspring of mares that stand on the urine collection lines all winter, many have been torn from their dams’ sides only hours earlier. In some cases, the foals’ mothers are also at the auction to be sold but are kept in separate holding areas, and the barn echoes with the heart-rending whinnies of mares and foals calling to each other.  In just a few hours, the foals will be herded, some individually and some in groups, into the auction ring to be sold to the highest bidder. 

“Exposing the Cruel Realities Behind the PMU Industry” in the Summer 2000 issue of Act-ionLine detailed FoA’s investigation into PMU collection operations. This past August and September, FoA traveled to auctions in the U.S. and Canada to document the last stage of the annual cycle of PMU production, the fall sale of tens of thousands of PMU foals to slaughter. Living byproducts of the lucrative industry that produces urine-derived menopause drugs, these babies are of little value to anyone other than meat buyers.  Foals going through auction rings this fall were selling for as little as $60.00. 

Video footage obtained by FoA investigators shows foals in auction holding pens calling plaintively for their mothers and trying desperately to nurse from other foals. Driven into the ring usually in groups of four or five, these innocent victims of PMU production are sold to dealers for eventual transport to feedlots for “fattening.”  One auction alone had 500 to 600 foals for sale.  This portion of FoA’s investigation into the PMU industry confirmed that foals are being sold at cruelly premature ages, some younger than two months. A member of one PMU foal adoption group interviewed during the investigation commented: “We have to bottle-feed them.”

 Some of the estimated 40,000 PMU foals born every year cannot be sold at all – they are dead before the auctions ever occur. Most PMU mares give birth under harsh conditions; they are turned out in sub-zero temperatures to deliver their foals, without benefit of any shelter. A study published by the Canadian Veterinary Journal reported that 22 percent of foals born on PMU farms in western Manitoba between April 18 and May 31, 1994 had died, most from starvation and/or exposure. 

The PMU industry has made an effort in recent years to deflect negative publicity about the foals-to-slaughter issue by claiming that producers are upgrading their mares in order to produce better quality foals, who are then sold as pleasure horses or for some use other than slaughter.  While this appears to be true to a limited extent, it does not change the fact that thousands of foals are hitting an already glutted horse market at the same time every year, and the odds of finding a home are not good.  The sad reality is that most PMU foals shipped to the annual fall auctions are destined to end up on dinner plates in Europe and Japan.

 The auctions are over now, and thousands of PMU foals are enduring the harsh Canadian prairie winter in vast feedlots, with no shelter to protect them from the elements. FoA investigators have been to the feedlots where these babies are fattened for slaughter, and have also seen these young, beautiful animals meet violent ends on slaughterhouse kill floors.

 Aggressive marketing and successful defenses against generic challenges have given Wyeth-Ayerst, manufacturer of the billion-dollar selling PMU-derived drug Premarin, a virtual monopoly on the hormone replacement therapy market for six decades.  The company responds to public concern about the treatment of horses used in the industry with glossy brochures painting a rosy picture of life on the PMU farm. To combat accusations of animal cruelty, the industry has established the euphemistically named North American Equine Ranching Information Council (NAERIC).  NAERIC is a public relations entity, existing solely to promote PMU production by painting a false and misleading picture of conditions for the mares on urine collection lines and playing down issues like foals and “used up” PMU mares going to slaughter.   

We’ve come a long way since 1942. There is simply no reason for these animals to continue to be subjected to this cruelty.  Women facing menopause today do not have to resort to the limited options available to their great-grandmothers sixty years ago.  There are numerous synthetic and plant-derived alternatives to PMU drugs on the market.  Some have been in use for 20 to 30 years.  Another option many women today are exploring is foregoing hormone therapy altogether in favor of dietary and lifestyle changes to combat the symptoms of menopause. 

If every one of the millions of women currently ingesting menopause drugs made from horse urine switched to an alternative tomorrow, the suffering would end. Through national media coverage and educational campaigns, Friends of Animals will continue to work to make the end of this outdated and cruel industry a reality. 

What you can do: 

If your doctor recommends estrogen-replacement therapy, ask for one of the many  alternatives to Premarin.

Spread the word – share this information with your friends and family, write letters to the editor. 

This article appeared originally in the Spring Action Line, 2001, a publication by Friends of Animals. You can find out more about FOA at  

Special Note: You can help PMU horses by adopting, fostering, or sponsoring a rescued horse. Or simply make a donation for their care. Find out more at
True Blue Animal Rescue.


Stop The Madness 

Benefits of Spaying and Neutering

 During the Spring, and other times of the year as well, nature is remarkably abundant. Unfortunately, nature is overly abundant when it comes to the domestic pet population.

For decades now, shelters and pounds all over the nation have been literally overflowing with homeless animals. The numbers given vary somewhere between 6 to 8 million cats and dogs which enter shelters every year, and 3 to 4 million are put to death because they have no place to go. These are the “fortunate” ones. That 6 to 8 million figure does not include the uncounted millions who meet a far worse, lingering, death by starvation, disease, or roadside accident. 

A recent survey revealed that more than 80 percent of the animals taken to shelters must be euthanized. The average cost of handling each animal is about $35. Millions of dollars are spent annually just to dispose of the bodies of euthanized animals.

It’s a tragic reality in our throw-away society that the lives of innocent creatures are held in such small regard, and many people fail to understand the urgency or extent of the problem - as well as the absolute necessity of spaying and neutering pets. 

In addition to alleviating untold suffering to animals in general, having one’s cat or dog altered has many benefits for the individual pet and for the pet’s owner as well: 

·         Neutering decreases and often eliminates diseases to which intact male dogs are prone later in life – including diseases of the prostate, testicles and other tissues influenced by male hormones. Testicular and perianal gland cancers are the second and third most frequently diagnosed tumors in older intact male dogs. Neutered male cats are much less prone to spraying.

·         Spaying female cats and dogs entirely eliminates diseases of the ovaries and uterus, and, if performed before their first or second heat, drastically decreases the chance of mammary gland cancer. Mammary cancer is very common in older intact females, and is the most common cancer to spread to the lungs.

·         Neutering greatly reduces the risk of injuries and illnesses to males. Unaltered males tend to roam, increasing their chances of being killed or injured. They also tend to fight more, which guarantees wounds and infections.

·         The monetary cost of altering a cat or dog is much less in the long run than maintaining the health of an older, unfixed pet.

·         Contrary to what some people think, it is a myth that an altered animal becomes fat and lazy after surgery. The only change in behavior is positive; generally, a pet will tend to be less aggressive and more loving.

·         In addition, there is great benefit to the community. Fewer strays running loose means less spreading of diseases to pets and to people, less danger of rabies outbreaks, and less annoyance over ripped up garbage bags, torn up gardens, noises at night, etc. There is also less cost in tax dollars to build, run, and maintain animal pounds. 

This is everyone’s problem and everyone’s responsibility. The issue will not be resolved by trying to ignore it, or pretending it doesn’t exist. For every cat and dog that finds a good home, there are dozens which do not, and the cost in needless suffering to helpless animals is cruel and unconscionable. Have your pets neutered or spayed, and encourage others to do the same. Don’t put it off.



For information on how to get assistance with the cost of spaying or neutering your pet, call your local animal shelter. If they are unable to help you, get in touch with Friends of Animals or the Doris Day Animal League.

Neuter/Spay Don't Let Them Stray.


Whose Turn is it? 

How many times have you seen a stray animal on the road and wondered why it was there and what was going to become of it?

How many times have you thought that “someone” really should “do something” about all the half-starved, homeless cats and dogs that wander around until they perish from hunger, disease, or injury?

How often do you agonize over the number of animals that must be destroyed every year at the local shelter? These sad-eyed products of someone else’s carelessness and indifference deserve a better fate.

There are many animal shelters and many hard-working volunteers who do their best to alleviate the situation. This is good, but there is a great need for more people who will volunteer their time and energies as well.

If each one of us would be willing to spend just a couple of hours each month, the total effort would go a long way to reduce the suffering of those who are unable to help themselves.

Don’t wait for someone else to take care of the problem. Every person has something of value to contribute. Call your local shelter today and tell them you ready to do your part to improve the odds for al animals to live happy and healthy lives.



Doves Don't Belong at Weddings

It has become popular to release flocks of white doves at weddings and other celebrations. Unfortunately it is no celebration for the doves. These lovely birds are hand-raised in pens and unable to survive on their own. They are NOT homing pigeons and do not return to where they were raised.

They don't have the strength to fly more than about a quarter-mile. They can't find food and they are unable to stay warm at night. They are easy prey for hawks and cats, etc.

Please don't celebrate your happiness at the expense of these gentle and helpless creatures.


What’s Fun About Rodeos?

The following article is taken from the Spring 2002 issue of Animal published by the 

Animal Protection Institute.


Rodeos are not fun for the animals. The animal participants are forced to perform via flank straps, electric prods, raking spurs, twisted tails, pain and fear. Every major animal welfare/rights organization condemns rodeos due to their inherent cruelty, and the terrible message that such a violent activity sends to impressionable young children. It's high time we acknowledged that human abuse begins with animal abuse.



There are seven sanctioned events seen at most rodeos: saddle bronc, bareback bronc, bull riding (the "roughstock" events), steer wrestling, team roping, calf roping, and women's barrel racing. A cowboy's score in the roughstock events is based on style and difficulty. Of the possible 100 points, half are scored for the cowboy, half for the animal. The rider must stay on the horse or bull a minimum 8 seconds to score.

Surely calf roping is the Achilles' heel of rodeo; even many cowboys don't like it. Often, the calf is jerked into the air by the taut rope before being slammed to the ground (a "jerkdown"). Imagine the public outcry if rodeo cowboys mistreated companion dogs thus.

Most of rodeo is bogus from the get-go: real working ranch hands never routinely rode bulls, or rode bareback, or wrestled steers, or put flank straps on the animals, or attempted to rope, throw, and tie a calf in 8 seconds flat. Rodeo is simply a detour en route to the slaughterhouse for most of these animals, all in the name of a questionable "entertainment." Even the horses and bulls are likely to end up on a dinner plate in Europe or Japan, once their usefulness in the arena has dwindled.



The PRCA's claims notwithstanding, rodeo injuries are frequent, to humans and non-humans alike. But at least the cowboys are in the arena by choice, not so the animals.

According to the PRCA's 2001 injury survey, there were 25 animal injuries requiring veterinary care at the 67 rodeos monitored (of 700). In 2000, 38 injuries were reported at 57 rodeos. This is an appalling injury rate. Things are even worse on the amateur circuit.

A bucking horse named "Great Plains" suffered a broken back on live TV at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas last December. Thanks to the miracle of the "7 second delay," ESPN TV and the PRCA were able to hide this incident from the viewing audience. This is dishonest reporting, serving only to reinforce the PRCA's false claims of a near-zero injury rate at rodeos, (Note, too, that ESPN TV's rodeo coverage never shows the running calf hitting the end of the rope, or any of the frequent jerkdowns, another attempt to mislead the public about the realities of this cruel "sport.")

Earlier, another horse suffered a similar fate at a PRCA rodeo in Kansas City, where a roping calf was also knocked unconscious. I was at the California Rodeo in Salinas in 1995 when five animals were killed. Although vets were present, a roping calf with a broken back was not euthanized, but simply trucked off to slaughter, terrified and in agony. Painkillers? None given, for "that ruins the meat," one vet told me. All this carnage is but the tip of the iceberg. (For more extensive injury documentation, contact Action for Animals [AFA].)



Charreadas are Mexican-style rodeos common throughout California and the American Southwest, especially Arizona and Texas. Some of the nine standard events are similar to those of American rodeo, except there's no 8 second limit in the bucking events. The rider stays on the horse or bull until he's bucked off or until the animal gives up. No prize monies are awarded in charreada, just prestige and trophies.

Two charreada events are of particular concern: horse tripping and steer tailing.

In horse tripping, running horses are lassoed by the legs, which can cause broken legs or broken necks. (Horse tripping has been banned in CA, FL, IL, ME, NM, OK, and TX.)

In steer tailing, a mounted charro (cowboy) attempts to grab a running steer by the tail and drag or slam the hapless animal to the ground. Sometimes the steer's tail is broken or torn off, and horses may have their legs broken when the steer runs the wrong way.



Communities are beginning to pass legislation against rodeos, or at least regulating them more strictly, but much more needs to be done in this area. Please do not support rodeos by your attendance. Get involved in getting rodeos banned in your community. For more information, visit the web site of the Animal Protection Institute.




Cruelty To Animals
Everyone’s Problem – Everyone’s Business

 It’s getting worse. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear some stomach-turning story about animal abuse. Most of us are sickened by such reports. We ask ourselves why these things happen, and we wonder what we can do about it. The answer is simple, although it isn’t always easy – GET INVOLVED! We can begin by supporting our local animals shelters as well as well-run national animal organizations. But beyond that, if we are really going to make a difference, we must be willing to take on this responsibility as individuals.

 Silence encourages wrongdoing. When we witness abuse or neglect of animals we need to speak up and put a stop to it. If it is a matter of ignorant neglect, sometimes all that is necessary is educating the persons involved, and perhaps offering help in dealing with the situation. If that fails to correct the problem, or if it is a case of deliberate cruelty or torture, then contact the local authority immediately. Do not wait. The animal is suffering, and your action might mean the difference to it between life and death. If the animal is already dead, you could be responsible for saving the life of another animal by stopping the abuser. In any case, the perpetrator must be held accountable for his actions.

Each of us has the capacity to abate the needless tormenting and suffering of animals. When we read or hear about cruelty to animals, we can take the time to share our outrage with others by writing to local newspapers and television stations, and encouraging others to do the same. If the abuse – in the name of “sport” or “games” or "entertainment” – is somehow encouraged or condoned by authorities, as it is in some states and some other countries, we can write or call officials there to let them know that such activities are intolerable in a civilized society. We can also work to pass or strengthen laws in our own communities. And we can refuse to attend movies, rent videos, or buy books that portray mistreatment of animals as anything but wrong.

 For those who might ask why we should concern ourselves with the well-being of animals, consider this – The kind of monsters who abuse animals will abuse people. Power over the powerless, be it an animal or a person, is addictive to these degenerates. This type of conduct always escalates and the more it is allowed, the more it will increase. So, beyond the obvious moral considerations regarding our stewardship over helpless creatures, the safety of human beings is at stake as well. Both adults and children who commit violence against humans almost always have a history of violence towards animals. Animal abuse is evil, and evil feeds on itself. 

A society which tacitly condones mistreatment of animals by looking the other way, invites havoc upon itself. A society without pity and compassion on those who are unable to defend themselves is diminished, and its’ people are impoverished. 

Cruelty to animals is generally defined as when a person knowingly or intentionally: tortures or seriously overworks an animal; fails to provide necessary food, water, care, or shelter for an animal; abandons an animal; transports or confines an animal in a cruel manner; kills, injures, or administers poison to an animal; causes one animal to fight with another; or uses a live animal as a lure. Animal cruelty convictions (depending on the state) can result in both fines and time in jail.

 If you need to report an animal abuse situation, have as much information as possible, readily available when you call:

*Statement of the problem (include dates and weather conditions)

*Species of animal(s) and how many involved

*Address or directions to location of animal(s)

*Name (if known), address, phone number of alleged owner

*Name, address, phone number of witnesses

*Close-up pictures, if possible, of the animal(s) and living conditions

 If someone has abused your own animal, take it to a veterinarian and obtain a written, notarized statement as to the animal’s condition, diagnosis of problem and cause, and how the problem can be corrected.

 To report a case of cruelty to animals, call the local animal control or police or sheriff’s department. Also call your local animal shelter or rescue organization to see what help and advice they can offer.



Animal Issues, Volume 33 Number 2, Summer 2002

Keeping Your Summer Animal-Friendly

Sometimes in the excitement of vacations and summer fun it's easy to overlook the needs of animals, whether they be our companions or those we encounter in our summer travels and recreations. The tips below will help you ensure that your activities this summer will remain friendly to animals.

At Home

Direct sunlight can be a killer. Keep aquariums out of the sun. Provide plenty of cool water for your animals, and make sure they have shade when they need it. Watch that your dogs or outdoor cats don't get sunburned. Prevent fleas and ticks. (For more tips, see "Safeguarding Companion Animals from Summer Heat and Pests.")

Don't bring the dog along to leave in the car while you go shopping. A little heat outside the car can quickly make it very hot inside. On a summer's day of only 85° F, for example, even keeping the windows slightly open won't stop the inside temperature from climbing to 102° in 10 minutes, to 120° in 20 minutes. A dog whose body temperature rises to 107-108º will within a very short time suffer irreparable brain damage -- or even death.

For a dog overcome by heat exhaustion, immediately soak her down with water and take to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

This information is so vital that, over the years, API has printed and distributed millions of Hot Car Flyers, available in packages of 25 for $2. For further information, contact API.

Animal-Friendly Camping

While offering an escape from our everyday burdens, camping rekindles our appreciation for nature and our resolve to protect it. When we camp we inevitably intrude on the lives of wild animals.

Conflicts between humans and wildlife abound at campgrounds, most commonly when animals are attracted to campsites. Reduce conflicts by limiting access and removing attractants. Keep a clean camp. Black bears have an excellent sense of smell and are attracted by food odors. Dirty dishes and garbage may lure bears to your camp. Wash dishes immediately and dump the water away from camp (at least 150 feet away from any lakes or wetlands).

Many animals (raccoons in particular) have an uncanny ability of opening things, so ice chests and trash receptacles need lids reinforced by rope or a large rock. Store food and sweet-smelling toiletries in the trunk of your vehicle while you are sleeping or away from the campsite, or in a canvas bag or pack suspended from a tree limb so bears and other animals can't reach it. (Do not store food in your tent.)

Be aware that deer, chipmunks, raccoons, and other animals look friendly, but their sharp hooves or claws, teeth, or antlers can cause serious injury to humans, plus they may carry diseases such as plague and rabies.

If a bear enters your campsite, remain calm. Bears are usually easily scared away. Make sure the bear has a clear escape route, and then yell, wave, or bang pots and pans together.

Don't feed wildlife. Human food does not contain the nutrients that wild animals need. Many animals require more moisture than is in the typical human handout. As a result they can suffer dehydration, lose fur patches, and subsequently die of exposure. Animals who become habituated to handouts -- including bears who hang around campgrounds even if no one is there -- eventually come to be regarded as "nuisance animals," thus opening the door to animal control that may mean death to them.

Responsible camping does not endanger the environment. Follow these guidelines:

  • Stay on roads and trails.
  • Whenever possible, use existing campsites.
  • Observe all fire restrictions and use only fallen timber or bring your own firewood to your campfire. Make sure the fire is completely extinguished before leaving it unattended.
  • Use only biodegradable/phosphate-free soaps and detergents.
  • In areas without toilets, bury your waste and used toilet paper in a shallow hole (6-8" deep) at least 200 feet from water sources, campsites, or trails. Cover and disguise the hole with natural materials.
  • Take all your garbage, recyclable materials, and food scraps out with you along with garbage left by previous visitors.
  • Leave natural surroundings as you found them.

Ethical Birding

Birding is the fastest growing outdoor activity in America today, numbering millions of people who actively go looking for birds, who make attempts to identify the species they see, or who attract birds to their gardens.

Some birders are so keen to find rarities and build ever larger lists of birds seen and identified that they put at risk the birds they seek. Be careful in birding:

  • Don't use tape recordings of birdsongs to lure birds into viewing range. The bird may stay too long away from her nest.
  • Don't get too close to nests, particularly in colonies; you might leave a trail a nest predator can follow.
  • Don't disturb birds when they are exhausted from migration, or when they have need to feed.
  • When attempting to get a good look at a rare species, don't trample rare plants underfoot.
  • Many a house-owner has come to bemoan the fact that their feeder has attracted some great rarity that, in turn, has attracted hordes of birders.

Fortunately such problems are relatively few, and recognized by birders themselves. The American Birding Association has published a Code of Birding Ethics that may be found at or from

The American Birding Association
PO Box 6599
Colorado Springs, CO 80934

The Code of Birding Ethics elaborates these principles:

  1. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.
  2. Respect the law, and the rights of others.
  3. Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe.
  4. Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care.

Birding promotes conservation and generates greater appreciation of our non-human neighbors, from back gardens and city parks to the remote, wild corners of the globe. Let's keep it benign.

An Animal-Friendly Green Thumb

Keep animals in mind when planning and growing your garden, and remember:

  1. The presence of birds and other free-roaming animals is generally a sign of healthy land and water.
  2. The more measures needed for plant health and growth, the more likely a plant is not native to the area or well suited to conditions where it was planted.
  3. An animal who eats a lovingly grown tomato or a clump of beautiful black-eyed Susans is obtaining needed nutrients in a human-manipulated landscape. Gardening, though pleasurable and meaningful, is a luxury for most of us whose food-gathering does not depend on our gardening.

Insecticides and other pesticides hurt not only endangered species but members of thriving species, such as squirrels, woodchucks, opossums, rabbits, and raccoon. Pesticides can kill at high blood levels, and at low levels affect vision, reflexes, and other faculties, hence some birds collide with power lines and some humans entangle with farm machinery. Extremely low doses of atrazine, a common weed killer, can cause male frogs to develop multiple sex organs, sometimes both male and female.

Birds of many species are more abundant where people heed warnings against pesticide use for lawn maintenance. The grass may be greener, but birds and other animals -- including companion dogs and cats -- can only visit at the risk of death or illness. Instead of using pesticides, check your local library for books on integrated pest management methods.

Some animal species exist in much larger populations due to human land-use practices and do well in human habitat. Even if you care about animals, you may want them to obtain food elsewhere than your garden.

You can dissuade animals without harming them. Fencing, non-toxic repellents, scare devices, and other methods are effective. Patience and persistence are the key, since animals and ecosystems are complex, and animals are constantly shown to be more intelligent than many people previously believed.

API's Humane Ways to Live with Deer and our other Humane Ways wildlife brochures outline humane approaches. Most public libraries provide good sources; plant nurseries are often very helpful regarding local conditions; extension services and agriculture schools offer assistance; and professional landscapers can help, too, especially if you make your humane intentions clear.

Animal-Friendly Entertainment

Make your summer fun reflect your concern for animals by refusing to patronize events or facilities that exploit animals. Urge others to do the same. Avoid these particularly objectionable attractions:

  • Circus -- Animals used in the circus spend the majority of the year imprisoned in small cages, traveling from show to show. Tigers are rarely allowed out of their cages, which are often barely large enough for the cats to turn around. Elephants spend the majority of their time chained in place. Training endured by circus animals is almost always based on intimidation; trainers must break the animals' spirit to control them.

When the circus comes to your town, attend the circus as an educator not a patron by handing out informational flyers to those attending the circus. While those you speak to may attend the circus anyway, they may make a different choice next year after they have had time to think about the lives the animal are forced to live in the name of entertainment.

API provides activist kits, circus flyers, and billboards for activists who want to stop circus animal abuse. Contact API Program Resource Coordinator Kymberlie Adams, at 916-447-3085 for more information.

  • Marine Theme Parks and Swim with the Dolphin Programs -- Patrons who visit such facilities see only abnormal animal behavior, since all aspects of the captive animals' lives are manipulated to present entertaining animal experiences. Animals are rarely seen mating, fighting, foraging, migrating, or interacting with other species. Habitats are artificial, lacking the size, complexity, and ecosystem dynamics found in native environments. Marine mammals simply can not behave normally when deprived of their natural habitat and social structure. The real message conveyed is not one of respect but rather that it's acceptable to abuse nature.

"Swim with dolphins" programs (available for an additional fee) treat dolphins like large bathtub toys rather than the complex, intelligent, and wild animals that they are. People who participate in such programs may suffer physical injuries including lacerations, infections, and broken bones. Currently, the USDA only issues permits to run the facilities but does not regulate them. In 1998 the USDA adopted new regulations regarding swimming with dolphin programs but promptly suspended them as a result of pressure from the captive dolphin industry.

The promotion and popularity of "swim with dolphins" programs at captive marine mammal facilities has misled and confused the public about appropriate wildlife interactions. This has helped foster dozens of commercial operations, especially in Hawaii and Florida, that promise patrons opportunities to physically interact marine mammals in the wild.

While API encourages people to enjoy viewing wildlife in their natural habitats, we also encourage responsible viewing that avoids ways that disrupt the animals' natural behavior. Vessels and swimmers can easily disturb dolphin schools, especially during resting periods. The cumulative effect of this type of interaction on dolphin schools is unknown but if humans attempt to interact with dolphins, whales, and other popular marine mammals during most of their daily resting period, this could interfere with important behaviors such as feeding, nursing, and breeding.

People love marine mammals, hence marine theme parks and "swim with dolphins" programs are so alluring. Unfortunately commercial businesses have capitalized on our natural attraction to these animals by exploiting them and misleading the public about appropriate marine mammal interactions -- putting people and marine mammals at risk.

Vacationing with an Animal Companion

A little advance research and keeping to some simple do's and don't's can make traveling with your companion animal one of life's great joys.

  • Does your animal companion like to travel? You can acclimate your companion to travel with a few short rides, or use a carrying case, but some animals may be too ill or physically impaired to withstand the rigors of travel, even if your veterinarian can supply medication or sedatives to reduce or eliminate motion sickness, constant agitation, and crying.
  • Are animals welcome? Whether staying with friends along the way, or at hotels, motels, parks, or campgrounds, find out in advance. When making reservations, be prepared to put down a deposit, pay extra, and be interviewed about your animal.
  • Before a long trip, have a veterinarian examine your animal. Ask your vet if she knows of a vet in the area you will be traveling. Keep the telephone numbers handy.
  • Keep your vehicle cool with sunshades on back windows and the tailgate window. Make sure the air conditioner works. Tie a plastic bag full of ice cubes in front of the duct. Use a fan that plugs into the cigarette lighter as well.
  • Keep your animal cool with freezer blocks (used for picnic coolers). Place a large freezer block covered by a sheet under your animal, making sure she isn't shivering. Provide plenty of fresh, cool drinking water.

When You Pack Don't Forget

  • Rabies/vaccination records, license, recent photos.
  • Leash, collar, and a new ID tag with your animal's name, your name, your cell phone number, contact information at your destination.
  • Familiar things, such as food, blankets, bedding, and toys, to provide stability.
  • Pooper scooper, litter supplies, plastic bags, cleaning supplies.
  • Grooming supplies such as brush, comb, toothbrush, shampoo, wet-naps, clippers
  • First aid kit that includes peroxide, cotton balls, bandages & wrap, antibiotic ointment, flea spray, buffered aspirin, and tweezers (for when you encounter ticks).
  • All needed prescription medications.

On the Road

  • Stop often for exercise and potty breaks. Bring water from home or buy it distilled or purified, since water from places other than home can cause stomach upset and diarrhea. Stick to your regular feeding routine and give the main meal at the end of the day or when you've reached your destination.
  • If animals ride with their heads outside car windows, dirt particles can penetrate the eyes, ears, and nose, causing injury or infections. Excessive amounts of cold air taken into lungs can also cause illness.
  • Grooming (bathing, combing, nail trim) before the trip will make the animal more comfortable.
  • Small animals can travel in kennels secured in the car; seat belts and harnesses are available for larger animals. Sudden stops can hurt animals just as much as people.

Hotel Animal Etiquette

  • Call ahead to reconfirm the hotel is animal-friendly and get current information on restrictions.
  • A ground floor room will allow quick outside access.
  • Keep your dog or cat off beds, chairs, or bedspreads, or at least cover hotel furniture with a blanket to diminish hair and/or odors.
  • If you must leave your animal alone in the room (try not to!), provide toys, turn on the television or radio for companionship, place a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door, and inform the maid or front desk.
  • Feed and water your animal in the bathroom or put the dishes under a towel for easier cleanup.
  • Walk your dog off the property, and always clean up after him.
  • Keep your dog out of the swimming pool.
  • Keep your dog leashed while on hotel property so other guests may be at ease.

API's fact sheet, "Traveling with a Companion Animal," provides more detail to make your mutual vacation a happy one.

Choosing a Humane Summer Camp

When the cry of "No more teachers ... no more books" rings across North America, packs of excited youngsters swap their school jackets for camp tee-shirts. Camp, a great place for children to unveil their potential and discover the world, can also be a special environment that helps young people develop positive self-esteem and enhance their social skills while having fun.

With more than 8,500 day and resident camps in the United States, finding a summer camp which shares similar compassionate philosophies as your child may seem a task of impossible measures. Longstanding camping traditions such as fishing, pig roasts, animal husbandry, and roasting hot dogs around the campfire perpetuate animal cruelty. You may want to reconsider whether these activities, common in camps around the states, are suitable for your child's vacation.

  • Fishing -- Teaching children to drag a fish out of its home environment, causing untold stress and possibly fatal harm, all in the name of harmless sport is not what some consider a positive lesson in valuing life. There are many outdoor activities to enjoy without causing pain and suffering to animals. And fish are animals.
  • Animal Husbandry -- Farm Programs at camps offer hands-on experience with a wide range of farm animals including puppies, kittens, cats, horses, mules, goats, bunnies, chickens, roosters, and cows. Campers are given the opportunity to bottle-feed baby animals and gather eggs from the chickens. Highlights of the summer often include the birth of an animal, a calf from a pregnant cow, traditions eagerly awaited by the whole camp. Also offered are regular visits to farms, and an agricultural show, activities that enhance the complete farm experience. But campers are never told that at the end of the summer these animals are shipped off to slaughter.
  • Petting Farms and Zoos -- Many animals held in camp petting zoos and farms are bored, cramped, lonely, and unable to perform normal feeding, mating, and other social behaviors. Animals also carry diseases. In most cases these diseases can spread to humans, resulting in problems ranging from annoyance or slight discomfort to life-threatening illnesses.

Don't be fooled by "zoo camps" which offer programs claiming to be designed to spend time learning about animals, getting an introduction to conservation. and gaining an overall appreciation for wildlife. The fact is most children do not learn appreciation or respect for wild animals who are kept in the confinement of unnatural environments.

Don't despair! Luckily, budding animal activists can find a variety of camps that will satisfy their compassion toward animals. What might excite you about a camp's program might not always fulfill your child's expectations. It is often a matter of knowing your options and asking the right questions.

  • What are the philosophy, goals, policies of the camp? -- These should include not only the size, history, and ownership of the camp but the objectives for the summer. You want to ask, Are they animal friendly? What is their attitude toward humane education? Find out.
  • What does the camp program include? -- How varied, specialized, structured, competitive are the activities and which are mandatory or elective? Are there any activities that may not be suitable for your child, such as fishing, hunting, fur or leather crafts, animal husbandry, etc.?
  • What if my child wants to be around animals? -- For children who love to be around animals, several SPCA branches and other shelters host summer youth day camps. Activities and programs vary but the main focus is on kids interacting with animals. Campers learn basic companion animal care and respect for animals in a fun-filled environment with lots of hands-on experience with dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other shelter animals as appropriate.

API hopes that all of us animals, human or nonhuman alike, enjoy the best of summers.

API staff members and field representatives Kymberlie Adams, David Cantor, David DeWitt, Monica Engebretson, Gil Lamont, and Barry Kent MacKay contributed to this report.



From Animal Issues, Volume 33 Number 2, Summer 2002

State Fairs

By Monica Engebretson

State and local fairs are as much a symbol of America as apple pie and Fourth of July. Traditionally fairs brought communities together to celebrate the bounty of summer and show off the skills of local people through contests and talent shows.

Summer fairs used to include "freak shows" in which humans with unusual physical or psychological conditions were displayed for profit and public entertainment. Thankfully, as a society we no longer exploit such people. Unfortunately, attractions that exploit animals are still a major part of many state and local fairs. While the following attractions are inarguably part of traditional American state and local fairs, like the human freak shows of the past they too have fallen out of step with changing times.


Horses and cows used in rodeos are abused with electrical prods, sharp spurs, and "bucking straps" that pinch their sensitive flank areas. During bucking events, horses and bulls may suffer broken legs or run into the sides of the arena causing serious injury and even death. During calf-roping events, a calf may reach a running speed of 30 miles per hour before being jerked by the neck to an abrupt stop by a lasso. This event has resulted in crushed throats, broken necks, and paralysis.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and the International Rodeo Association have adopted a number of rules that apply to the treatment of animals during sanctioned pro-rodeo events. However, many rodeos in the United States are non-sanctioned events and the humane standards do not apply. PRCA rules -- regarded by animal activists as inadequate -- often do not prohibit bucking straps and do not require breakaway ropes be used to reduce harm to roped animals. Furthermore, state anti-cruelty laws dance neatly around livestock so animals used in rodeos are at the mercy of their exploiters.

Despite PRCA claims that animal injuries are "negligible," several veterinarians and rodeo participants have testified to the contrary. In testimony supporting the banning of standard calf-roping in Rhode Island, Dr. E. J. Finocchio stated, "As a large animal veterinarian for 20 years ... I have witnessed firsthand the instant death of calves after their spinal cords were severed from the abrupt stop at the end of a rope when traveling up to 30 mph. I have also witnessed and tended calves who became paralyzed ... and whose tracheas were totally or partially severed ... Slamming to the ground has caused rupture of several internal organs leading to a slow, agonizing death for some of these calves."

Not only are rodeos cruel and dangerous, they send the message that it is acceptable and even admirable to abuse animals. The fact that animal abuse has been shown to be a precursor to violence toward humans raises even more concerns.

Horse Racing

Racehorses are bred for one purpose -- to make money. Racehorses are often pushed beyond their physical limits and suffer from conditions ranging from bowed tendons and broken bones to bleeding lungs. Such debilitating conditions are called "breakdowns" by the industry.

At the 1990 Breeders Cup, 51,000 spectators witnessed the breakdown of Go for Wand, a three-year-old filly entered in the race. Go for Wand fractured her ankle on the home stretch, fell to her knees, and somersaulted off the track. When she stood up hobbling on three legs her right foreleg was visibly mangled. In a very poignant moment she faced the grandstand with a look of terror in her eyes and fell to her knees before the crowd. Go for Wand was later given a lethal injection where she lay on the track.

Such breakdowns are not uncommon. According to industry reporting papers, breakdowns occur in 1 of every 26.5 starts and these reports do not include injuries sustained by horses during training workouts or unrecorded races. According to 1990-91 statistics from the California Horse Racing Board, 84.6% of problems affecting racehorse of all breeds were those of the musculoskeletal system. One reason for this is that most horses begin racing as two-year-olds when their cartilage is still converting to bone and tendons and ligaments are in the developing stage, thus increasing the risk of injury. Older horses are at risk if forced to run while injured with the use of pain-masking and performance-enhancing drugs. Dr. Arthur Patterson, retired equine specialist for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, explains, "If a horse has a chronic problem, say a hairline fracture, bute (a pain killer) covers it up. The horse feels no pain, then goes out and breaks a leg. The proper use of bute is as an adjunct to rest, not as a prelude to racing."

Bleeding from the lungs during exercise is rarely reported in other mammals, yet nearly all racehorses experience this bleeding, known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH). In an effort to reduce this blood pressure in the lungs, the diuretic furosemide (Lasix) has been administered to horses prior to a race. Although studies have shown that Lasix does lower blood pressure slightly, it has never been definitively demonstrated that Lasix reduces the frequency or severity of bleeding. Researchers from the Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine found that 60% of the horses who had been treated with Lasix had blood in their lungs after a race. The researchers also found that Lasix makes a horse run faster by anywhere from 2 to 9 lengths and Lasix dilutes the horse's urine, making it more difficult to detect illegal drugs. Lasix is banned in all major racing countries except the United States and an estimated 80% of all racehorses running in California are on Lasix.

The cruelty of the racing industry does not stop at the racetrack. When racehorses fail to prove profitable on the track, most are sent to the slaughterhouse. In 1998, as many as 7,100 registered thoroughbreds were slaughtered in the United States. Even Exceller who was inducted into the National Racing Museum's Hall of Fame in 1999 and won nearly $1.7 million in races ended up at the slaughterhouse. Some racehorses are killed or injured by their owners to collect insurance money. In 1996 eight people were charged with killing valuable horses to collect insurance premiums. In one case, a rider and trainer smashed a horse's leg with a crowbar, and in another case the owner electrified his horse's water trough causing the horse to rear up, fall down, and break his back.

Exotic Animal Photo Ops

Many state fairs allow traveling exhibitors that display exotic animals to offer paying customers an opportunity to pet or have their picture taken with exotic animals (usually young animals) despite the animal welfare and public safety issues raised by such exhibits.

While "public education" is often touted as justification for such displays, this excuse relies on the assumption that simply seeing wild animals up close, even in an unnatural setting, fosters an appreciation for the animals in the wild and thus encourages conservation. No research supports such an assumption. Several studies have shown that visitors receive very little if any education while visiting wild animal displays. The average visitor spends as little as 12 seconds and no more than two minutes at the typical animal exhibit. Very little information can be acquired in such a short time. It is likely that the only message gained from such a display is that the exotic animal would make an intriguing "pet" -- an endeavor that often leads to neglect, abuse, improper breeding, and attacks on people.

Another concern is what future such animals have once they grow up and no longer exhibit the "baby appeal" or become unpredictable and hence unsuitable for public photo purposes. Even animals bred and raised in respected institutions often end up in the hands of backyard breeders, or chained in the basements of unqualified individuals, or at the receiving end of a gun on an exotic game ranch.

Petting Zoos

At first glance farm animal petting zoos seem benign. What could be wrong with providing children an opportunity to interact with farm animals and possibly learn to see them as more than just a source of meat, milk, or eggs? Just as in any situation where animals are used for entertainment or profit, there is potential for abuse. Petting zoos can be stressful to the animals especially if they are not provided an opportunity to escape unwanted contact and if children are not closely supervised. With traveling petting zoos one also should question how long the animals are forced to live "on the road" traveling from one fair to the next.

Since most animals used in petting zoos are young animals, what happens to them when they grow up? The reality is that when the animals outgrow their usefulness to the petting zoo they will likely be killed -- a fact that few children are aware of as they bond with the playful calf or fluffy chick. Parents should also be aware of the potential health risks when visiting petting zoos and should be aware that petting zoos featuring exotic animals are particularly dangerous and should be avoided.

In 1999 at least 16 children (ages 1 through 10) contracted E. coli from cows at the Merrymead Farm petting zoo in Pennsylvania. New guidelines issued in 2001 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that persons who provide public access to farm animals inform visitors about the risk of transmission of pathogens from farm animals to humans and the strategies for prevention of such transmission. They should also ensure that washing facilities are available with running water, soap, and disposable towels, and prohibit eating and drinking as well as toys and pacifiers in interaction areas.

Other Animal Exhibits

In addition to the petting zoos and the livestock exhibits, most fairs also exhibit rabbits, chickens, and exotic fowl. While many of the rabbits and exotic fowl are kept as "hobby" animals or breeding stock, and so will not be auctioned off and sent to the slaughterhouse when the fair ends, the animals may experience considerable stress as a result of being taken from their homes and placed among strange sounds, smells, and people. In nature these are "prey" animals and are instinctively wary of new things and their natural instincts tell them to run and hide when they are scared -- something they are unable to do while locked in the small display cages.

Displaying animals in this way also perpetuates the idea that confining these animals in cages is acceptable. Many people are under the assumption that a wire cage is an appropriate environment for a rabbit, chicken, or exotic fowl. While it is true that these animals can survive in cage environments, such enclosures are completely inadequate to meet the instinctive needs of these wonderful animals. Chickens and other fowl are very energetic and highly social animals who spend much of their day foraging and interacting with flock members, and rabbits are just as curious and active as cats, yet few would think of forcing a cat to live in a wire cage for her entire life.


One of the most common and enduring symbols associated with state and local fairs is the 4-H clover. (The four H's of 4-H stand for Head for clear thinking, Heart for greater loyalty, Hands for larger service, Health for better living.) 4-H is the youth education branch of the Cooperative Extension Service, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and more than 6.8 million kids belong to 4-H. While the 4-H program offers many activities or "projects," ranging from photography to foreign exchange, 4-H is perhaps best known for its livestock programs.

As a young girl I raised pigs as a part of the 4-H livestock program. Each year I looked forward to the fun of bringing home a new baby piglet to name, feed, bathe, walk, and play with. As summer approached, anticipation of the county fair grew with dreams of winning in the showmanship competition or having my pig declared "Grand Champion" and all the attention and praise that would come with those accomplishments. This excitement however, was always tempered with the reality of another integral part of fair time -- the auction.

Tears are plentiful at 4-H livestock auctions. Although kids are coached not to cry while in the auction ring it is terribly difficult to hold back the tears as buyers shout out offers to buy your friend by the pound. I usually held it together during the auction then broke down after leaving the ring. The night after the auction my friends and I would sit cherishing our last moments with our pigs and discuss grandiose plans to save their lives before the livestock trucks arrived to take them to slaughter. Our plans were always futile. When the trucks arrived we watched the handlers load up the animals, cringing every time the electrical prod was used to move the pigs along. One year a pig escaped from the loading dock and we all jumped up and down and cheered, "Go pig!" and were angrily ordered out of the area by the handlers. The following year no kids were allowed to watch the loading procedure.

I loved my pigs and I loved giving them the very best possible care. However, in the end they were forced onto a crowded loading truck and after what may have been several hours without food or water they arrived at the slaughterhouse to wait a week or more in crowded pens frightened, stressed, and confused before finally being slaughtered. The loss of each pig who had become a beloved companion was extremely painful. The pain I felt differed from the pain of loss from a cat or dog because this pain was combined with the guilt I felt for having sent my friend off to die and from having profited from it.

For a while I justified my participation in the project by reasoning that since people were going to eat animals anyway, at least my pigs and most of the animals raised by 4-Hers were given much better care than those raised on factory farms. But at age 16 -- two years after becoming a vegetarian -- it occurred to me that no matter how the animal was raised the killing was unnecessary. I quit the livestock program.

It is hard to say what long-term impact 4-H livestock programs have on the children who participate in them. At least three girls who raised pigs in my 4-H club (myself included) gave up all meat and are still vegetarians to this day. However, I suspect that while most former 4-Hers know firsthand that farm animals are sentient beings with personalities and interests, they still eat them and probably even purchase meat that comes from animals raised on factory farms. This is probably also true of most people who visit the livestock areas of local and state fairs. What they learn about farm animals does very little to help the animals.

There are many wonderful 4-H programs that do not center around raising animals for slaughter. In addition to the livestock program, I participated in sewing, gardening, horsemanship, summer camp planning and counseling, foreign exchange, community service, and leadership. There are also guide dog training, woodworking, arts and crafts, cooking, and photography programs. These programs leave children with feelings of accomplishment and pride not pain and guilt.

Petting zoo incidents involving exotic animals

  • 1996 -- A girl was attacked by a baby Bengal tiger in a petting zoo at Ohio's Trumbull County Fair. The girl walked into the petting zoo with her parents when the cat jumped on her back and sunk its teeth into her neck. The tiger was on a leash at the time of the incident.
  • 1998 -- An elephant trainer and a 3-year-old girl were injured at the New York State Fair when the elephant being used for rides with the Cumerford Petting Zoo protested. The elephant kicked the trainer and stepped on his back causing the girl to fall off.
  • 1990 -- A black bear cub traveling with Swenson's Wild Midwest Exotic Petting Zoo in Clermont, IA died of rabies. An estimated 400 people from 10 states were invited to feed, and wrestle with, the bear during the 28 days before his death, during which the bear could have transmitted the virus through his saliva to petting zoo patrons.
  • 1999 -- A fair worker scaled a 4-foot safety fence to pet a white tiger traveling with the R.W. Commerford and Sons Inc. petting zoo at the Orange County Fair in Mechanicstown, NY and was attacked by the animal.
  • 2000 -- A man was bitten on the arm by a white tiger cub from Perry's Exotic Petting Zoo in Albuquerque, NM.

What You Can Do

  1. Refuse to patronize exotic animal exhibits, horse races, rodeos, petting zoos, when you attend your local or state fair and encourage your local or state fair to prohibit such exhibits and activities.
  2. If you observe an animal being abused, living in deplorable conditions, etc., at a state fair attraction, document it in writing and/or with photographs or videotape and report it to your local humane society or appropriate animal control agency. If an exotic animal is involved also report the incident to:
    USDA Animal Care
    4700 River Road, Unit 84
    Riverdale, MD 20737-1234
    phone 301-734-4981
    fax 301-734-4978
Host a booth or table at your local fair providing information on animals used in agriculture and entertainment, and on exotic "pets," and other issues affecting animals. (API offers an Activist Starter Kit that contains fact sheets that can be reproduced for tabling purposes and a sample of brochures that can be ordered in quantity if needed.)

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"Cruelty to animals is as if man did not love God…there is something so dreadful, so Satanic, in tormenting those who have never harmed us, and who cannot defend themselves, who are utterly in our power."
Cardinal John Henry Newman


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