by John Holland, president and co-founder of Equine Welfare Alliance
We have all shot ourselves in the foot, but seldom does an entire organization take up automatic weapons and form itself into a firing squad for that purpose. Such is the case with the organizers and sponsors of the upcoming Summit of the Horse to be held the first week of January in Las Vegas.
In fact, one has to use the term "sponsors" carefully because quite a few of those listed as sponsors on the event’s web page were not even aware of their lofty status until struck by painful ricochets from the summit firing squad.
The list of "sponsors" has dwindled as these organizations have become aware of their listing and requested their names be removed. Even the renowned slaughter plant designer, Temple Grandin, has informed Equine Welfare Alliance that she has instructed Ms. Wallis to stop using her name.
In an interview with Horseback Magazine, Dr. Grandin said "They kind of were misrepresenting my involvement." When I read this, I thought "Welcome to Wallis World."
Sue Wallis, one of the event’s chief organizers, claims the summit is aimed at finding solutions to the problem of excess horses. Her sidekick Dave Duquette, being a professional horse breeder, believes he is in a unique position to know the reason for this overpopulation; clearly it is a lack of horse slaughter!
Although over 100,000 American horses are exported to Canada and Mexico every year for slaughter, Wallis and Duquette think that is insufficient. Typical of Wallis’ wild claims in this regard was an "Action Alert" on April 30th of 2010 announcing that at least 500,000 direct and indirect jobs had been lost as a result of the closing of the US plants. Ignoring the economy, Wallis blamed everything from low horse prices to high neglect rates on the closings. She left out only rain rot.
But due to the shift over the borders, the closings had actually affected only about 150 slaughter house workers at the three plants in the US. The same kill buyers are still buying the same number of horses at the same auctions and for roughly the same prices as before the closings.
These are facts that anyone can verify by simply going to USDA and other web sites. In Wallis World, however, facts lose their conventional rigidity and become remarkably malleable or even ethereal in nature. So when the lineup of summit speakers was announced, it was no surprise that it consisted largely of cattlemen, auctioneers and breeders.
While the eclectic roster touched every link in the chain that turns a horse into toxic steaks, not surprisingly it contained no speakers who disagree with horse slaughter as a solution, no mention of the drug residue issue and virtually no true rescue organizations.
Yet despite this promising start, things almost immediately began to go wrong. First there was the ethics complaint launched by Patricia Fazio, PhD of Wyoming. It alleged Wallis had misused her position as a state legislator and had engaged in improper or even fraudulent activities including illegal promotion of securities for an organization that did not exist. Each charge was accompanied by documentation.
Among these activities was the sale of raffle tickets for a truck drawing in November of 2009. In a recent interview with Northwest Horse Source, Wallis was asked if it was true that she had informed ticket holders that she had not sold enough tickets to actually buy the truck and asking whether it might be OK for her to just keep the proceeds as donations.
Wallis, apparently believing that a promise to finally provide the truck at the upcoming summit was tantamount to never having made these pleas, categorically proclaimed the charge false.
Unfortunately, a categorical denial is not well advised when your original message is still bouncing around in cyberspace. Were she a more significant figure, the statement might have become as famous as "I am not a crook" and "I did not have sex with that woman."
Interestingly, the company supplying the truck is yet another "sponsor" whose name has disappeared off the sponsor list. And the lucky winner might not want to count on driving the truck home since it will only be a "stand-in".
Wallis and Duquette have responded to these disclosures with ever more inflammatory rhetoric, calling those who disagree with their idea of promoting horse slaughter "animal rights terrorists". Indeed, a presentation by Dennis Foster will address how to handle such "terrorists", and for hands-on experience, Foster will be backed up by Trent Loos, a self confessed stalker.
Although Wallis had announced that all sides were welcome to the table (if not to actually speak), that has apparently changed. One slaughter opponent, who had decided to attend the summit rather than protest it, was rewarded with the following exchange.
First, Brogan Horton attempted to register through "Friends of Equines" an organization that had already paid a $500 membership fee. Brogan paid the applicable $100 fee but was informed by a Krissa Welshans that her membership in Friends of Equines was invalid because she was also a member of The Animal Rescue Unit which was not a member. Therefore she would have to pay an additional $400. When she asked about a refund, she was told it could not be made until after the summit.
Krissa then informed Brogan that "someone who breaks laws" is not allowed to attend. Apparently, to make an exception the person must be a speaker or the Master of Ceremonies. Trent Loos, the summit’s Master of Ceremonies, for example, is a convicted cattle felon and presenter Dave Cattoor plead down to a lesser charge in an alleged conspiracy to use his helicopter to steal mustangs.
Brogan, on the other hand, confessed that she had never even had a traffic ticket, apparently disqualifying her. In the end, Brogan was sent the following message from United Horseman’s President Dave Duquette:
"We have ALL the parties we need and as your Youth shows, there are many more than just two in this. You are not part of the rational Anti slaughter side so when you grow up a little and get some real life experience maybe you will join with a group that is, but then you wouldn’t be the "Star" anymore."
One can only marvel that in a single paragraph, Dave Duquette expressed not only his flickering intellect, but the true nature of his organization and its summit. Only in Wallis World could a young woman who had passed Secret Service screening twice and met with a sitting president be deemed to be too dangerous to attend a blood fest run by such a rogue’s gallery.
Brogan Horton (left) meeting with President Bush in 2006.
Meanwhile, on the summit, the firing squad shows no signs of running out of ammunition.