The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition sent two directors to the Animal Rights Conference in Alexandria VA in August. This event is geared to the vegan community as well as animal welfare and rights. We wanted to see how equine slaughter would fit into this advocacy.
Horses were not represented at all with one exception. That was a booth from Ban Horse Draw Carriages who are based in Chicago. We spoke with them at length about the plight of carriage horses as we know that many may end up with the Amish and then on to the auction and into the slaughter pipeline. We met many great animal advocates and attended many forums on animal welfare, and here’s a quick breakdown of our observations.
Horse slaughter, as mentioned previously, is very under-represented at these types of events. You as a horse defender should consider exhibiting at these events in your area to spread the word and to raise awareness.
Power of Individual advocacy
The discussion pointed out that there is much we, as individuals, can do for horses such as bumper stickers, wearing T-shirts, leaving flyers at local businesses, schools anywhere that you can think of. The point is to get as much exposure as you can.
Power of Art & Photography
Each of the panelists agreed that photography and not necessarily shock photos, can further a cause. There comes a point where people can no longer look at awful images and get turned off of a cause.
Power of Videos
The speakers talked about branded videos, having a corporate sponsor, a company that would benefit from the message, like tack shops or vets, companies that profit from the live horse industry to show that dead horses don’t generate profits for companies that support a horse – vets, farriers, tack shops, feed companies etc. When doing video you must have a story to tell not just random images and loud music. You have to engage the viewer and it can be done without horrific images.
Power of Investigations
The presentation by Richard Couto was very, very grim. He shared some footage from their current on-going investigation of another illegal slaughter operation in Florida. The opening shot was of a long driveway and then cut to a pony and horses. He didn’t show graphic slaughter footage, thank God, but showed the operation and how brutal it is for the animals. While horse slaughter is banned in Florida there is Custom Exempt Slaughter which means that horses could be custom killed for human consumption for a specific market. ARM is concerned that the USDA could allow these, at present, illegal slaughter farms to legally operate. The other two presenters went over investigations they had done. All very grim topics.
Power of Technology
This was to mostly show the staggering array of equipment that can be used on investigations. One group is filing in 360 for Virtual Reality. Some of the attendees who looked at their footage on a VR device were sickened by the images. It remains to be seen if this is a viable way to go as it could turn people off.
Abuse of Companion Animals
Again, horses not considered as companion animals by the mainstream AR community so no one speaking about the cruelties we see inflicted on horses every day. Up next was a woman, Shirley McGreal, from the International Primate Protection League who spoke about the exotic pet trade. Her group isn’t only about primates but all species at risk in the exotic pet trade.
Managing a National Organization
This talk was mainly about Human Resources issues for large organizations.
Running A Local Group
Here the speakers spoke about how they formed and run their groups. The basic message was that if you are setting up a local group for an issue your group must have a great team, great volunteers, and you must develop a system to stay organized!
Power of Online Marketing
One speaker Asher Brown stated that Instagram seems to be the best way to get your message out to your audience and a good way to fundraise and call for volunteers. One very interesting lady was in this panel (they had 3 panelists for each seminar) is a prosecuting attorney in New York. She has a company where she does TV PSAs for NPOs that run on the major networks in the States. Her name is Nora Constance Marino. Her company is Animal Exposure Cruelty Fund. She had one great suggestion for people working to draw attention to an issue and that’s to use hashtags (#). Using a hashtag so that when people key it in your issue comes up but with a difference. As an example she said that if you are a group that is working on gestation crates make your hashtag #bacon. That way people who may be looking for recipes with bacon and your campaign would come up. Or for our purposes #horseracing so people Googling horse racing could be taken to a posting that you have done on horse slaughter.
Asia- Winning for Animals
This one was very interesting given the issues of Premarin and the live draft horse shipments. Two speakers were about China and the third had a lot of experience in Japan. Pei Su, from ACTasia, one of the Chinese advocates, has a program running in schools to teach children about compassion for animals. Change is slow there but it’s coming. We spoke to Pei Su about Premarin and how Pfizer is pushing its products on the unsuspecting Asian market. She was quite alarmed about this and was unaware of the dangers of Premarin. The fellow who spoke about Japan was Stephan Sauerburger. Stephan works closely with Japanese animal welfare advocates and, again, he had no idea about the live draft shipments. We have been communicating with Stephan and his group and will be raising awareness in Japan about the draft horse shipments.
Equine advocates must get more involved in these types of conferences. Just about everybody we spoke with at this conference had no clue that horse slaughter is still active. The majority of attendees were American and thought that horse slaughter ended when the plants closed in 2007. They were quite surprised by what we had to tell them.
The first thing that really impressed me at this year’s Animal Rights National Conference was the openness of the people whom I met. Riding in the elevator, standing in line for a delicious meal, or waiting for a lecture to begin were occasions where I could turn to the person next to me and begin to chat. We not only exchanged our home towns, but also what had brought us to the conference – seeking a way to ban horse slaughter, concerns about the plight of farm animals, or the fate of kangaroos in Australia. I met advocates for animals from the US, Canada, South America, and Europe.
I attended talks on condition of farm animals, effective advocacy, ethics, and much more. Another thing that impressed me was how positive and optimistic people were about effecting change for the better for animals. Yes, we talked about dire conditions in North America, Europe, and Asia. But we also discussed ways of networking together, sharing our passion, lobbying legislatures at all levels of government from municipal to federal. I also learned that the advocates for animals are world wide. People care passionately about the conditions of animals in all countries – the US, Canada, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Advocates would consider a strategy on how to improve conditions, think of small steps that could be achieved along the way, reflected on what worked and did not work, and then planned again.
People came together with their concerns, those of us who were particularly concerned about the plight of horses, had our own meeting on the last evening of the conference. We discussed horse slaughter and the exploitation of carriage horses in several cities in both Canada and the United States. We shared our ideas, our challenges, and how to strategize to move forward. Networking is not only necessary but a very powerful tool that is essentially unstoppable. When enough of us come together, united for our cause of ending horse slaughter in Canada and the exportation of live horses for slaughter to Japan, we will be heard.