Tommy Lee and his friends at PETA – wayyyy off-track. Pun intended.

Disclaimer: These words are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Stampede or its affiliates.

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Why am I not surprised? It looks like Tommy Lee took a page out of his ex-wife’s ‘play book’ on how to stay relevant in the eyes of one’s fans – – – become a celebrity endorser for PETA.  [*head shake*]

tommy lee 1

Today, Mötley Crüe rocker Tommy Lee submitted a letter to Premier Redford asking for the Calgary Stampede’s chuckwagon races be cancelled, “…horses [are] killed year after year,” he says. Hmmm… I wonder where Tommy gets his info from? Did he pick a random factoid from the “PETA hat of nonsense”, perhaps? Tommy, only 50 horses have died out of an estimated 75,000 that have participated in Stampedes over the past three decades. This number represents ‘a percentage of a percentage of a percentage’ based upon total race starts.

You might recall that last year I took PETA and Pamela Anderson to task over the same kind of drivel. It really burns my britches when celebrities adopt a cause, push a political agenda (amplified by ego or other personal motivations) and see fit to misrepresent or malign good people and good practices (I see it in agriculture all the time). Flanking her friends at PETA and another Stampede-critic Bob Barker, Pamela Anderson hit the headlines after the tragic accident on the track last year and petitioned the Premier of Alberta to ban the sport (check out my Dear Pam letter, July 2012).

PETA (and its celebrity sidekicks) have absolutely NO clue as to what goes on in the chuckwagon world.  I had the opportunity to visit the chuckwagon barns at the Stampede last year and witnessed first-hand how well these magnificent horses are cared for. Chuckwagon drivers spend hours every day with their horses – feeding, grooming, washing and caring for them. The sport of chuckwagon racing has an extensive history (with the Stampede and beyond) and there are incredibly strong familial links in the chuckwagon community. These people work together, play together and have developed working and sporting protocols that are dedicated to maintaining high standards in the sport and in animal care. And these protocols and standards are constantly improving and evolving. Horses are a chuckwagon driver’s life. I don’t know any cowboy (or cowgirl, for that matter) whose thoughts don’t often return to their horse(s) throughout the day. These people love their horses. They, like all people that bring their animals to the Stampede, care deeply about animal welfare and well-being.

I have been studying PETA – as an organization – for several years. Their business and organizational mandates have changed considerably over the past two decades.

bluebloods

Where once the organization really did some terrific things, PETA is now focused more on building its arsenal of celebrity endorsers and less on caring for the animals. This might explain PETA’s 90%+ euthanization rates (they got themselves into some (criminal) hot water back in 2005).

PETA supporters often respond to comments regarding its euthanization rates by saying that those animals were so sick from neglect or so badly beaten that they *had* to be euthanized. Ok…I get that. But if that’s the case, why isn’t PETA using its massive resources (reported revenues of US$42 million in 2011) to go after *those* nasty buggers that *do* abuse animals? There is NO evidence whatsoever that the organization dedicates any funding to ensuring that these abusers are brought to justice. Sure, PETA tries to sell itself as an animal welfare organization. But it spends less than one percent of its multi-million dollar budget actually helping animals. PETA is a lobbying organization – plain and simple **(see note below).  It’s in the business of creating publicity stunts. In other words, creating controversy where none exists. 

Statistics show that risks to an animal in the sport of chuckwagon racing are minuscule relative to the values that are extracted by the equine athletes themselves. According to a friend of mine, thoroughbreds are the “unruly teenagers” of the horse world. They are high energy animals, they are athletes and they are always ready to run. That’s what they are born and bred for. They have a great quality of life in the sport of chuckwagons.

So, PETA (and Tommy Lee), you need to do your homework!  These horses are very well cared for and the Calgary Stampede adheres to the highest of standards when it comes to animal care and welfare.  By the way, Premier Redford is in no position to even *think* about cancelling the chuckwagons.  That would be political suicide for her in this part of the world. But it doesn’t really matter anyway, does it PETA, because we all know that this is just another publicity stunt, right?!

Pam and Tommy aren’t the first celebrity PETA endorsers and they won’t be the last.  It doesn’t hurt to keep in mind that…

1)      PETA is, for all intents and purposes, a ‘corporation’ with a bottom-line goal to maximize donor dollars in order to fund publicity stunts.  Statistics don’t matter to PETA (nor does the health and welfare of animals if their euthanization rates are any indication). Optics are what matters to PETA.

2)      Celebrities, like Pam and Tommy Lee, also have bottom-line motivated ‘political’ agendas.  Celebrities are always looking for ways to remain relevant in the eyes of the fans.  They write books, they might change their image as a way re-invent their career and sometimes – YES – sometimes they become spokespersons for organizations like PETA (they do get paid for this work, by the way).

If you get a chance to, read this great blog by dairy farmer, Carrie Mess.  PETA and Ryan Gosling together think that they know something about de-horning in dairy cattle.  Carrie thinks otherwise:

“So, in the meantime [Ryan Gosling] how about you stick to making movies that I probably won’t watch and I will keep taking care of my cows. No hard feelings. I’m sure your agent thought this whole PETA thing sounded like a great idea but you might want to let your agent know that PETA has the same amount of respect out here in the real world as the National Enquirer has in your world.” – Carrie Mess

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On final note – as you are sitting in the grandstands at the Calgary Stampede this July, cheering on our chuckwagons, supporting our community and our western lifestyle, remember this – – – PETA is somewhere close by, hanging in the ‘wings’, rubbing its collective palms together just waiting for an accident to happen. That is, after all, what will help PETA to achieve its mandate. Sad, isn’t it?

Notes:

**PETA does not have charitable tax status in Canada because of its business activities so it operates under TIDES Canada Foundation.  TIDES was accused of money laundering by EthicalOil.org in August of last year. I am unsure of what the status of that is at this point.

Support your local animal shelters!!!

Dear Pam (content warning: extreme sarcasm)

Disclaimer: These words are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Stampede or its affiliates.

There has been a huge uproar in the media, of late, around the sport of chuckwagon racing. Most of this hullabaloo came as a result of the tragic accident that occurred on the track last week at the Calgary Stampede. Driver Chad Harden lost three of his valued team members; three horses – “members of the family” as he referred to them. It was a sad day for the Hardens and a sad day for the Stampede.

Before I go any further, I want to clear up some facts. Many sites are misrepresenting the details around the accident.

  • FACT: The left lead horse collapsed and died on the track due to natural causes (a ruptured aortic aneurysm, a pre-existing condition that couldn’t have been detected prior to the race)
  • FACT: The collapse of the left lead brought down the rest of the team and, subsequently, the horse and his outrider who were following behind
  • FACT: Two of the horses (right lead and outrider horse) had to be euthanized due to the extent of their injuries
  • FACT: One horse was to undergo surgery and is expected to survive. One is doing just fine.
  • FACT: Chad Harden’s close attention to his team and his expert driving prevented what could have been a much worse on-track disaster.
  • FACT: Yes, the loss of the animals was tragic but no human life was lost. For that, we are all grateful.

I had the opportunity to visit the chuckwagon barns at the Stampede last week and witnessed first-hand how well these magnificent horses are cared for. Chuckwagon drivers spend hours every day with their horses – feeding, grooming, washing and caring for them. They get to know their talents as well as their limitations. They take time to consider who should be positioned as leads or in wheel positions based upon their individual skills. They instinctively know which horses love each other best and, as a result, who would work well together as a team. These horses have incredibly distinct personalities, you can see it in how they relate to humans and to one another. A friend of mine refers to thoroughbreds as the “unruly teenagers”. They are high energy animals, they are athletes and they are always ready to run. That’s what they are born and bred for.

The sport of chuckwagon racing has an extensive history (with the Stampede and beyond) and there are incredibly strong familial links in the chuckwagon community. These people work together, play together and have developed working and sporting protocols that are dedicated to maintaining high standards in the sport and in animal care. And these protocols and standards are constantly improving and evolving. Horses are a chuckwagon driver’s life. I don’t know any cowboy (or cowgirl, for that matter) whose thoughts don’t often return to their horse(s) throughout the day. These people love their horses. They, like all people that bring their animals to the Stampede, care deeply about animal welfare and well-being.

What really burns my britches is when celebrities adopt a cause, push a political agenda (amplified by ego or other personal motivations) and see fit to misrepresent or malign good people and good practices (I see it in agriculture all the time). Flanking her friends at PETA and another Stampede-critic Bob Barker, Pamela Anderson has hit the headlines and airwaves of late, criticizing the sport of chuckwagons and petitioning the Premier of Alberta to ban the sport. This is my letter to her.

Dear Pam:

You stated that horses are “routinely killed” in chuckwagon races. What do you mean by “routinely”? Only 50 horses have died out of an estimated 75,000 at Stampedes in the past 26 years. This number represents ‘a percentage of a percentage of a percentage’ based upon total starts. This number is NOT statistically significant. Just so you know, Pam, more women died in the United States last year (2011) going under the knife for cosmetic surgery. This latter statistic, although relatively higher, is not significant either – so you can rest easy. The practice of cosmetic surgery will carry on.

So, you want the sport of chuckwagon racing banned? Let’s say, Pam – in all your infinite ‘equine wisdom’ – that you are able to somehow shut down the sport. Are you prepared to accept the consequences? Presumably, Pam, you wouldn’t want to see these animals euthanized. If you (and your friends at PETA and we can’t forget Bob Barker, of course) plan to move forward, you better be prepared to make some major investments. These thoroughbreds that are no longer working will require new homes. Yours, perhaps? If so, grab a pen and paper ‘cause this is what you will need:

  1. A minimum of two acres of pasture per animal so that you watch your magnificent creature frolic, prance and nibble grass in the setting sun (cue: elevator music)
  2. You will also have to seed this pasture acreage on occasion in order to sustain it
  3. You will need a truck and trailer to transport your new pet (plus other acreage maintenance equipment)
  4. Hay, on average, will cost ~500$ per horse per year (plus cost of supplements, etc, if you choose)
  5. Vet bills will run you $500-$800 per year at a minimum and that’s with NO accidents or significant health issues (good luck with that)
  6. Hoof trimming will run you at a minimum of $400 per year (if you are tempted to ride your new pet for “your amusement and entertainment” (God forbid), then add on another ~$1000 per year for shoeing)
  7. The horse will require some form of shelter which can cost anywhere from $1000 and up depending upon how extravagant you want to get (don’t forget maintenance costs)
  8. Then there’s fencing which will run you anywhere from $7000 to $10000 (you would want post-and-rail and not barb-wire, correct? Yeah, save the barb-wire for your tattoos).
  9. You will need tack (you will only require a halter and blanket or two but if you plan to ride for “your amusement and entertainment”, you will need a saddle, bridle and other tack) plus some grooming tools. This could easily cost $3000 or $4000.
  10. As this pastoral animal will no longer be a ‘working’ animal, it will not be in top physical condition and its life expectancy will be greatly reduced. It will also be vulnerable to more health issuses. This means higher vet bills (see #5).

Conservatively speaking, we are looking at variable costs of well over $2000 per animal per year and don’t forget your fixed / capital outlay costs for shelter, fencing, land, truck, trailer, equipment, etc (thousands and thousands of dollars). Multiply all this by the number of horses that would be ‘out of a job’ if the sport of chuckwagon racing was banned. Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Wow, either way, this is adding up. Perhaps not all will find homes, Pam (imagine that). Then you would have to factor in another $700+ to euthanize, remove and dispose of each horse. Whew. Where are we at now? *franticallytappingcalculator*

In short, political motivations, optics and actions today can carry some serious long term implications, Pam. Although those retired thoroughbreds would look magnificent grazing in your back 10 acres just outside of LA, all that they would end up being is mere ‘eye candy’. Oh wait, that might work for you. Bad argument. At any rate, ‘eye candy’ does not justify the perpetuation of a breed. If these animals don’t work, there is no incentive to breed or raise them. The breed, as we know it, would eventually disappear (AKA “extinction”).

What happened at the chuckwagon races the other day was a tragic accident, Pam. Nothing more. If those horses weren’t out running there, they could have been just as easily running in some pastoral setting somewhere and have broken a leg in a gopher hole. In 2007, my husband and I lost two horses when they got out and were hit by a car (ironically, it was a Mustang). It’s difficult to estimate how many horses (and other animals) die in vehicular mishaps alone. Much of these incidents go unreported. Should we ban cars and trucks as well?

One final note, Pam. Did you know that the sport of chuckwagon racing also operates as a pseudo rescue organization? They adopt ex-race horses. You know – those same horses that you used to watch race every year at the Kentucky Derby until you boycotted the event in 2006. The sport of chuckwagon racing saves literally thousands of thoroughbreds each year from the abattoirs, often extending their lives for ten years or more! …Think about it.

Pam, honey, you have no jurisdiction here. You can no more tell the Stampede – or the Premier, for that matter – to shut down the chucks than any of us can tell you to stop getting cosmetic surgery. Stick to what you know.

Signed,

A meat-eating, leather-boot-shoe-wearing, horse-back-riding, rodeo and chuckwagon-supporting, agriculture enthusiast. :O)

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MORE ON PETA AND THE LEES AT: TOMMY, TOMMY, TOMMY… PETA, PETA, PETA….

‘Vet’ on the side – the art of ‘making do’…

Don’t let the title fool you.  I am not that kind of Doctor. The sight of blood, particularly my own, makes me swoon.  I can usually keep it together long enough, however, to deal with a crisis – cuts, gashes, stitches…etc.  I guess its the mother/nurturer in me.

Amongst our menagerie of critters, we have three dogs one, of whom, has entered his twilight years.  My husband comes from a farming background; born and raised on a family farm west of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  When it comes to animals, he takes a very practicable approach. In terms of veterinary services, he assesses the prospective costs against what he perceives to be the overall value of the animal in question.  He advocates for care as needed but will only invest so much.  In other words, thousands won’t be spent to save the life of any of our much beloved family pets (except, perhaps, in the case of our horses).  I am sure that some of you animal lovers out there are clucking your tongues and have PETA on speed dial.  These are the realities of rural living and I don’t think that our family strategy is much different than many others’ out there.   

Rocky, our 14 year old terrier cross, is at an even further disadvantage. Given his advancing age, we have made the decision not to take any extraordinary measures to save his life or to even invest an iota of money in any veterinary services on behalf of his care should something unforeseen happen.  Rocky is a bit of a ‘case’.  He’s old, cranky (some say ‘unattractive’ but I would argue otherwise) and antisocial.  These characteristics have gotten him kicked out of every dog grooming establishment in the Okotoks area.  Rocky is not welcome and we are forced to act as groomers.  So, now he is an old, cranky, antisocial dog with a bad haircut.  And, yes, that doesn’t up his ‘attraction’ factor.  

But I digress…

I was out moving horses from the pasture to the paddock one day this summer.  Rocky (and Reba and Charlie) – as helpful as always – were running around barking and nipping at hocks. This is always a recipe for disaster.  I heard a loud yelp and saw Rocky skitter away from between our quarter horse’s legs.  He limped pathetically towards the barn, gingerly holding his front paw up.  Hmmmm…. not good.  Once I got the horses in, I took a look.  There was a gash approximately 2.5 inches long on his front paw.  Although the main bones of his leg seemed to be intact, I suspected that his paw might have been broken as it was very tender to the touch.  I also knew that we weren’t going to spend upward of $1000+ to fix this mess, so I got innovative.

Rocky_oops

I took Rocky into the house and cleansed his wound and shaved the area to the best of my ability.  I coated the wound with Polysporin and wrapped it with a mini pad and gauze.  Once this was done, I needed to stabilize his foot.  My hope was, that in doing so,  his appendage, if broken, would heal to a point where he could at least still make some use of it. How was I going to ‘splint’ this?  Aha!  I grabbed an empty toilet paper roll and slid it over Rocky’s leg.  To keep it in place, I wound vet wrap around the makeshift splint and up Rocky’s leg.  Voilà! Worked like a charm!

Long story, short – Rocky survived the trauma and my DIY veterinary method (repeated twice daily) worked well.  It took about a month but the old man walks without a limp. He’s still old, cranky and antisocial though.

“Do it, fix it, try it,” is our favorite axiom. Karl Weick adds that “chaotic” action is preferable to orderly inaction.” . . . a willingness to try things out, to experiment.”

— Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr.

 

 

 

 

Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe talks ‘expertise’ #castration #sheep #ranch

Check out this video of a presentation given by Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” linked through Advocates for Agriculture. The topic revolves around what he learns from ‘experts’ vs ‘generalists’ – challenging the whole notion of what we as a society presume to be the ‘expert’ opinion. In particular, Mike compares the advice given to him by PETA and other ‘perceived’ experts on humane methods of castration and tail docking to what he actually learns on-site from a Colorado sheep rancher .

Good stuff! Thanks for posting, ‘Advocates for Agriculture’!
http://advocatesforag.blogspot.com/2009/03/mike-rowes-lamb-castrating-story.html

And here is a clip from the actual episode of ‘Dirty Jobs’ – – – wow, those sheep ranchers are nuts! (pun intended)