Horse News

The Last of the Real Cowboys

By Jerry Finch ~ President of Habitat for Horses

“Real cowboys don’t eat their horses.”

I’ve known a lot of ranchers in my life; good, honest men with a work ethic born of pride in the job they do, men who think nothing of rolling out round bales of hay in minus 20 degree weather, who would go out in a rainstorm and bring an abandoned calf into the barn and bottle feed it for days on end because, “he deserves a chance.” On the flat plains of north Texas, life on the range could destroy the weak, but for those who persevered it could turn them into the very best of the human race.

Back in the early days of my youth, I thought that all real men held those values. I was proud to ride horses beside them, to be considered one of them, even if it meant an occasional joke about me being just a kid. I’m sure there were bad guys, I just didn’t know them. I knew there was horse slaughter back then, too, but the cowboys I knew would have nothing to do with it.

One hard, thin old man called me over one day and, holding a horse, said, “Look at this horse and tell me what you see, boy.”

I’m sure I said something half hearted, but his response is still with me. “If you have a clean heart, when you look into his eyes you will see the face of God. You respect what’s inside that horse, boy, and the horse will always respect you.”

A few weeks later, when school was out for the summer, he offered me a job. Being a new teenager, I thought I knew a lot, but the bottom line on horses is that talking doesn’t account for anything. It’s the doing that gets the job done.

The first day I walked up and met the ranch foreman. He was a weathered old cowboy that could cuss more in 30 seconds than most sailors could do in a lifetime. The day I started he pointed to the corral holding about 10 horses and said, “Whatever horse you catch is the one you ride.” Nine other cowboys walked out with me to the corral, each caught a horse within a few minutes, saddled up and headed out to work the cattle. I was left alone with a mare that had absolutely no love for humans.

The old man did nothing more than stand on the porch, watching. Not a word escaped him as I followed that horse around the corral for what seemed like two hours. Once I sat down, fed up with the horse, mad at myself and disgusted at the world.

“I guess you think that horse is gonna’ put the saddle on by herself?” he said, leaning against the porch post. I stood up, dusted myself off and started again. Another two hours passed and, to my complete surprise, the horse walked over to me and stood still as I put the lead rope over her neck, put on the halter and led her to where I had the saddle. Another five minutes and I was sitting on her, fully expecting to hear the old man laugh at me and tell me that he didn’t need me anymore.

He didn’t. Instead he opened the gate to let me through and said words that I carry with me to this day, “You didn’t give up. That’s the kind of person we need.” That was the first day of my first real job at age 14, a cowboy, working with men who had been doing it their whole lives. I value those memories as if they were gold. And those men? They are rare today. I’m sure a few still exist. I might see one or two a year, but it’s a dying breed, replaced by the white hats, white starched shirts and bolo ties of citified “cowboys” who work at the American Quarter Horse Association, headquartered in Amarillo, the town where I grew up. What few still exist gather on occasion at the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raiser’s Association, an organization designed to “Honor and Protect the Ranching Way of Life.”

Both of those organizations promote the commercial slaughter of horses. Neither organization ever polled its members to see if they agree.

Neither has the American Veterinarian Medical Association or the American Association of Equine Practitioners. No votes, no poll, just those in power taking the position that they know what this country needs more than the membership and thus will dictate what is to be believed.

The Cattleman’s Association spread the word that giving in to those “damn animal activist” and stopping horse slaughter is the start of a “slippery slope” that will lead to the end of all animal processing in the US and the total and complete destruction of the “American Way of Life.” Ignoring the fact that 80% of the population is against horse slaughter and could thus be considered as “animal activist,” and that the vast majority of that 80% of the American population drives the market for beef, pork and chicken. The ranchers somehow bought the story because the Association told them so.

Same with the “personal property” argument. “Those horses are your personal property. Are you going to let those left wing sickos tell you what you can and can’t do with your own property?”

And the reason they spend so much time and energy trying to convince the ranchers and the rest of the public that horse slaughter is necessary is because ….

… neglect and starvation are increasing because the slaughterhouses closed down and we need horse slaughter again.

… massive numbers of horses are being abandoned all across the nation.

… old horses are left in pastures to starve to death.

… the trip to Mexico and Canada is too long and they are concerned for the welfare of the horses.

… too many horses are untrained and dangerous and we need a way to get rid of them.

… no one wants old, sick, injured horses so the best way to dispose of them is to send them to slaughter.

… the American public needs our help to rid ourselves of all the unwanted horses.

One after another, the stories continue. Without any factual basis, stories made up in the boardrooms and promoted throughout the network to end up as facts in newspapers and magazines and discussed in the annual meetings.

Don’t dare dig too deep, don’t disturb the cover story, because under all that glitter of authority is something very ugly, something that doesn’t do well in daylight, something never even whispered. It crawls through the slaughter industry like fat maggots, feeding on the putrid lies and deceit of pure evil.

The face of horse slaughter is uncontrolled abuse, naked hatred of living animals, lust for money no matter how much it is soaked in blood and guts.

Here’s something you should listen to, the words of a trucker who got stuck hauling horses to the border to be slaughtered.

A quote from a killer-buyer, ““We shoot them full of steroids to beef them up so we can get more for them at the slaughterhouse.”

From another killer-buyer, “If they start kicking, we poke their eyes out. That calms them down real fast.”

“We don’t need paperwork. We have a ton of it.”

“We travel at night so we don’t get stopped. We’re suppose to have health certificates going into Texas but hell, they never stop us.”

“The reason you see skinny horses wandering around? We dump them on the way. They only want fat, young horses. Taking something old or skinny is a waste of time.”

So this is the best that the horse slaughter industry has to offer. These are the only logical, valued, bold statements the industry can produce, and that I’m sure they make one proud enough to stand up and say, “I believe in horse slaughter!” in front of the kids, in public.

In the darkness of the night the horses are crammed into trucks – shocked, beaten, terrified. We trained them to respect us, to trust us, to believe that we will protect them, yet in their final hour we betray them, we turn our backs to their screams. In the horror of their death, we count the bloody dollars we’ve crammed in our pockets. This is what the American cowboy has become. All for the love of money.

Now I ask you this – who is destroying the “American Way of Life”? Is it the 80% of us who are against horse slaughter because we value an animal that is so unique in God’s world? Or is it those who value the crumpled dollars in their pockets more than they value any connection to another living creature?

Is it the politicians who support the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, who have ignored the pledges of the lobbyist and the pats on the back of the big organizations who want a way to dispose of their horses, or those politicians who accept the “donations” and agree that horses need mercy killing and do everything they can to kill the bills in the Senate?

A few months ago I was at the vet clinic with one of our horses. There was a stereotypical old cowboy before me, weathered face, worn-out body, bowlegged, holding on to an aged horse that was obviously in pain. Doc did the usual, but the belly was swelling fast, a sure sign that the intestines just ruptured. Doc looked at the cowboy and shook his head.

That old cowboy heaved over in tears. He loved that horse. It was his friend, his best buddy, his partner, and letting go was just as hard as it would have been letting go of a child. That was one of the last real cowboys I’ve seen.

As the old saying goes, “Real cowboys don’t eat their horses.”

If you want to rant and rave about how horse slaughter is necessary because of X, Y and Z, face up to the fact that we both know the truth. It’s only about money. It’s about the 1% of the horses in this country that the wealthy in Europe want to eat and for which they are willing to pay, and it’s the very small number of people in the US who are hell-bent to provide the horses and feed the slaughter machine, all for the love of money.

There is nothing else involved.

14 replies »

  1. RT…thanks for reposting this from Mr Finch’s site.

    It is very powerful.

    Mr Finch has been on roll with his blog. He and his org are always on a roll…good stuff, good works and standing up to the users, abusers and killers of equines.

    And unlike the users, abusers and killers….Mr finch and people like yourself, RT let them post and let the readers respond. You can’t get that from the users, abusers and killers.


  2. This is off topic, but I would like to inform advocates that one of our best Congressional warriors has suffered a stroke…..Sen Kirk (IL).

    He was elected to Obama’s seat in the Federal Senate but also worked to stop cretins like Sacia to reintroduce slaughter to Illinois when he was at the local level.

    Why does this keep happening?

    Prayers for him, his family, Illinois and our Nation….and of course, our equines.


    • This made me so sad! I went to his website and posted a get well we need you message. rachael said that the latest word was that his left arm and leg and facial expression might be permanently affected, but probably not brain or speech.. I guess that is something.


  3. Denise, I just sent a note to his congressional office. I too am hoping for his recovery. Senator Kirk for years has been one of our best animal advocates. Jerry Fitch is right on the money…I will add this note as a talking point. Perhaps thats why people see all the old, infirmed and ill equines along the road. The Killer Buyers are picking them up and dumping them in secluded places. It just might not be the owners, but as this was reported, the Killer Buyers themselves. I have also heard that when the quota was filled at the slaughter house, the remaining horses were turned away. This could also account for the horses and other equines found wondering aimlessly in some areas. Now it is clear, the scum bags are the ones releasing them


  4. Real Cowboys don’t use hotshots on Horses
    BLM’s replacement COR for the Calico Tri-State complex, acknowledges ordering a hotshot be used on an injured, downed horse they struggled for 10 minutes to free from his stuck position in a stock trailer. A review of my film, below, reveals he got stuck when being packed in like sardines, the last horse forced into an untenable situation, a customary habit among BLM ground personnel and roundup contractors eager to fill up each trailer load for economics.


  5. I had a very hard time getting through this message. it is all so very true. when I read of how they poke their eyes out to quiet them down…..I just fell apart. and wonder if these people worry about where their soul is going. thank you for this letter


  6. Let’s review the two most important words in the English language for 2012 –YES and NO. These words can be spoken–and also become action–as in NO I do not support horse slaughter and will not vote for anyone who is pro-slaughter. YES–I will vote carefully in 2012–and will know the candidate’s position on these issues–I will be an educated voter. YES I will question where my federal tax dollar goes and protest long and loud if I’m not satisfied. YES I have the White House phone # on speed dial… and NO I don’t care how often I call –they’ll get used to it.


  7. Just makes you wonder if these pro slaughter “people” are real at all. It is true that it is all about
    the money – they should be ashamed of themselves and still remember that we as the “human race” were put “in charge” and are supposed to look after the animal kingdom – not desecrate it!!


    • Jennifer, not really off topic at all~ It is a perfect illustration of just 1 aspect why horse slaughter should never return..when slaughter plants in this country process livestock raised and accepted as a food source in this country can’t be controlled by regulations… compounding the problems of environmental disasters proven to occur with the slaughter of horses is complete madness. The slaughter of Horses For Human Consumption is of No benefit to The American Citizens only a burden. Slaughter serves one purpose, to provide meat. A Great majority of Americans do not and would not consume horse meat and are vehemently opposed to not only slaughter plants for horses re-opening, but footing the bill to the tune of aprx. $5 million dollars annually to pay inspectors..This cruel predatory industry has a horrid track record, one only need look back to see what’s ahead should it ever return. The transport of Horses over borders to be slaughtered for Human consumption needs to be perm. banned as well, slaughter is for 1 purpose the production of meat, we don’t raise our horses for the purpose of consumption here, or ANYWHERE.


  8. Wishing I had lots of money!

    Searching for coins so a small check in early December won’t bounce……

    Keep on, Laura, we love you, please, keep on!!!


  9. i could ride before i could walk, my one true love are horses it doesnt matter the breed, the age or the colour but due to horse slaughter in the uk, i cant afford a horse as only the pure breeds or the fastest runners and jumpers are for sale, i cant find an ordinary horse with no fancy papers but i would give a loving home to any us horse if it meant i could save it, i am blessed horses love me and let me do anything with them, i have helped 100s of disabled people share my love of horses. please dont let our friends be murdered


Care to make a comment?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.