This coming May marks the final performance of one of the most iconic entertainment troupes in history. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performs for the last time in New York City on May 21. And so comes the end of “The Greatest Show on Earth” – one that entertained those from ages 1 to 93 and lasted nearly a century. How sad that we will not have “The Circus” in our lives any longer, and our next generation will never experience the thrills and excitement that we, our children and their children enjoyed during our lifetimes.
By now you are asking yourself, “What does this have to do with the horse business? I thought this column and this magazine were devoted to the news and subjects concerning the performance horse industry.” Well, I’ll tell you why: The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was forced to close because it could no longer operate and entertain under the ever-increasing public outcry of alleged violations concerning animal welfare by groups such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and others.
So, how do you think racing, rodeo, cutting, reining, cow horse and horse shows in general are perceived by these same groups? Let me tell you, “If this can happen to ‘The Circus,’ it can shut down our businesses, as well!”
The message I want to instill in each of your minds is that, collectively, all of us may suffer if entities such as the ASPCA can restrict our businesses in such a way that we can no longer use our horses or cattle for our entertainment and the entertainment of others. These activists are deliberate, they’re smart and they’re willing to make small steps that, over time, add up to major changes in public perception, which then builds into real – or even legislative – action. Make no mistake about it, if these people accomplish their long-term goals, we’ll find ourselves OUT OF BUSINESS.
There is, however, a way to counter the onslaught of animal rights activists. First, write and call your senators and representatives at the national and local levels. Voice your thoughts and concerns for the well-being of the equine industry along with other areas, such as farming and ranching – all of agriculture, really. Quite frankly, it comes down to funding the campaigns of those who seek office in our government and understand how the regulations could curtail the activities we enjoy with our horses and cattle.
Organizations such as Protect The Harvest and others are actively pursuing our support to combat the animal rights activists’ unfounded and unrealistic notions that we are involved in acts that are cruel and inhumane to our animals. Many equine organizations and associations have formed political action committees (PACs) to provide support to lobbyists. These lobbyists know their way around politics, and it’s their job to make sure those government officials understand how improper legislation could devastate our industry and livelihood.
The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and others have designed “check-offs” in their various registration documents and entry forms that facilitate the funding of our support to these PACs. There are even sale companies, such as the Heritage Place, that subtract a small percentage of your sale proceeds (provided you agree) to support the efforts of the AQHA’s PAC.
I know it’s disappointing, even disgusting, for many of you that we find ourselves in this predicament. But if we don’t form a solid front to combat the unwarranted accusations and plans of groups such as the ASPCA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), we will suffer withering consequences in the future.
Protect The Harvest – an organization spearheaded by Forrest Lucas, founder of Lucas Oil Products – is one of our equine industry’s largest sponsors. Protect The Harvest, like our PACs, works every single day to bring the fight front and center, to douse the flames of unjustifiable legislation that could irreparably wound our entire lifestyle.
I am asking each of you to consider, with great seriousness, action in the form of funding to affect and support the efforts of these organizations to exhibit a united force of resolve. Our horse depends on it!
As always, I remain
Quarter Horse News columnist Frank Merrill can be reached by email at [email protected] or call 817-599-7074.