Please note that this response appeard in the Western Producer:
Horse industry in need of saving
Betty Coulthard is an Alberta horse breeder. After giving an interview to the Producer in August, she was subjected to criticism and threats from people she deems to be animal activists. Here is her response.
People, please calm down, get the facts and for those who have worked up a lather in a frenzied attack against us, including death threats, please learn reading comprehension.
The statement, “ you need to breed 100 to get two good ones”, does not mean that I or any other breeder does that.
At the panel discussion with the reporter who wrote the Aug. 26 article, many opinions were expressed. This opinion was, to most of us, understood to mean that few horses are super horses.
Consider it this way: 30,000 Thoroughbreds are foaled annually. The Kentucky Derby has a 20 horse gate.
I have had three super individuals. One died early in a promising career for its owner due to bad veterinary advice, one died due to oil company negligence and the third was foaled this spring.
Our average production includes stakes placed, on the winning team at the Calgary Stampede team penning finals, state fair reserve halter, winners at rope, barrel, reining, penning, hunter/jumper, dressage, chuck wagon, countless ranch, pleasure, lesson horses and bloodstock throughout Western Canada and 18 states.
I have never and do not now breed 100 per year, nor anywhere near that number.
One panel attendee has backed out in fear. Of what, we do not know. His life, family, property, reputation? These are all valid concerns given the threats of the animal activists. Bullying works.
Even if much of this arose from poor reading comprehension, it does not justify the vicious slander, insults, false assumptions, lies and threats. Those slandering us did so by slandering our millionaire sire, White Tie, High Point Champion Almars Secret and mares sired by sires at $10,000-plus fees.
The slaughter ban in the United States is destroying the industry. Prior to our slaughter of 18 head, we had a production sale at a cost of $12,000. There were 2,000 colour catalogues distributed, 500 posters displayed, an on-line catalogue plus other targeted advertising. We attracted 400 people; 393 came for lunch.
All sale horses were led through, groomed, quiet with ground handling done. The sale had a replacement guarantee and we guarantee every private sale.
Just before the sale, my husband broke three ribs and then I hit black ice and rolled my vehicle. Painkillers got us through the sale. After, we were only deeper in debt on the horse side of our operation with feed at record highs.
We presumed the market wanted none of our horses. It made sense to try to cut our losses to save the best of the rest.
The activists have blasted us for not giving the horses away. We had bottomed the sale at $300 and we received flak from owners of our stock, that by doing so, we had devalued theirs.
The activists state we could have euthanized them. It’s more humane, they say. I delivered the horses directly to a modern plant with a proper restraining stock and compassionate handlers on the morning of the slaughter. They were penned separately with fresh water for a few hours. Their end was quick.
It makes no sense in a world of hungry people to destroy the meat of these animals.
I came forward to try to stop this destruction of good horses. Now, we have been cast by the activists, the very people who have forced us into this corner, as killers of horses, of raising horses for meat.
I despair at the downfall of the industry. We know a breeder with champion stock who cannot make the step to send some to slaughter, yet is on the brink of losing everything and is praying for a miracle.
A local producer with champion horses, with a new indoor arena used by youth riders, is out of business. I have been told of a man who hauled his entire herd to the plant. He then sat in his pickup for most of the day watching until the last of his horses were gone. I know his pain.
Can you accusatory individuals not grasp the sadness and despair in this man’s heart? Can you not grasp the pain that those of us who have cared for our herds and shared their lives on a daily basis , are feeling?
These activists have companion horses. I have a friend with a house-trained rooster in her kitchen. All animals can be made into companions.
After being paralyzed from the neck down at 26 years of age and told I would never walk again, I am no stranger to adversity, struggle or coping with tough decisions.
That is why I am in this fight — to save my horses and the horse industries.
It is wrong that militant lunatics are allowed to cause so much destruction and suffering. To all of you who have accused me of being a cold blooded killer who hates horses, you need to recognize that I made myself, an old, crippled lady, a stand-alone target in front of a bunch of fanatics.
Coulthard horses romp in their pasture near Forestburg, Alta. | file photo