PAWS Magazine

Issue 40, Winter 1999

Mary Grows Wary

Montesano - Spanish for "mountain of health" - hides a secret

by Mike Jones
PAWS Investigator

A white sport-utility vehicle pulled into the parking lot, empty this autumn day but for the car of a visitor seeking a tour of a stable facility in Olympia. From the passenger side emerged Mary Ware, cofounder of the Livestock Protection Association. At the wheel was her husband, Lieutenant Mike Ware of the Thurston County Sheriff’s office.

Mike opened the back door of the car, and Mary pulled several photo albums toward the bumper. The photos represent a collection of horse cruelty. A lice-infested, rain-scalded coat. A clearly fractured foreleg. Long, upturned hooves. One horse is a walking skeleton. Another has started to decompose. An aborted foal. A horse attacked by dogs, tied so it could not act on its instinct to flee. Punctures, ulcers, blindness, death.

"I’ve given up," said Mary. "I’ve given up on education. These people just don’t want to be educated.

"It’s really difficult to rehabilitate adults regarding animal husbandry," Mary continued. "You can only hope to teach the young."

Mary led the visitor on a tour of the stables. She had faith the current management was running a clean operation after several turnovers had left the place a shambles. Her husband followed along, stopping to give attention to a filly here, a colt there. "The horse world runs the gamut from horses for slaughter to people who put thousands of dollars into them," Mary said. "From welfare recipients to J.Z. Knight, a millionaire."

Mary has experienced both extremes in her work with the Livestock Protection Association, a non-profit organization she helped launch to rescue neglected farm animals in the south Puget Sound area. She has been the recipient of generous donations ("A woman in Enumclaw wanted to donate 400 bales of hay. We didn’t have a truck that big!") and has witnessed sickening scenes ("There was this woman in Grays Harbor County a few years ago who, when her horses died, would eat them").

"They just don’t want to hear it," Mary continued. "From the abusers to law enforcers. The police have their priorities. If a burglar alarm goes off and at the same time they get a report of a dying horse, they’re going to check on the burglar alarm. People take precedent. I’ve actually had an officer say, ‘The horse is already dead. What do you want us to do about it?’ Or they say they don’t have anyone qualified to spot horse abuse who they can send out. And yet they won’t admit they need educating." The lieutenant stood stoic, rubbing the forehead of a mare.

The Wares stopped to watch a Palomino gelding being longed in an outdoor, circular pen. (Longing, pronounced and sometimes spelled "lunging," is called gipping by the grooms and trainers of race horses, since the trainer is "gipping" a rider out of pay for a ride. Through voice commands, body language and sometimes whipping, the longed horse is prompted to shift gaits and exercise without a rider.) The trainer held one end of the longe rope in the center of the pen. The other end was clipped to the gelding’s halter. The trainer’s right hand flicked a whip as the horse beat a counter-clockwise path at the pen’s perimeter. The trainer barked out commands. "TERRR-ot! Now WALK!" Sweat glistened on the gelding’s shoulders as he obediently executed his day’s work. "Walk on. Good boy!"

"Everyone who has a horse in their backyard wants to feed that horse," said Mary. "They just don’t know what they’re getting into. They buy a horse and turn him loose in their backyard and figure grass is good enough to sustain him. But when the grass is gone, they say, ‘What? You mean we have to buy hay and grain, too?’

"Someone called," Mary recounted, "who wanted to adopt one of our rescued horses because their lawn mower was broken." Mary gave a chuckle of resignation. "They didn’t get the horse."

Mary’s husband led the seizure of Jack Burnham’s animals in Rainier. Burnham was accused of allowing his animals to live in extremely unsanitary conditions. Lieutenant Ware videotaped the scene while standing waste-deep in manure, and cited Burnham for every animal on his property, fifteen counts in all. Mary said Burnham "did not have any dry spots" for his animals. Burnham allowed eleven head of cattle to be sold. The Livestock Protection Association assumed the care of three horses and a bull.

"We had to let the bull go," said Mary. "Once he received veterinary care" (including the removal of the ingrown twine halter from his face) "and got cleaned up, well, he realized he was a bull. He became quite a handful." After a month of private foster care, the bull was sold at auction.

Mike and Mary Ware walked back to the parking lot. Mary’s concern for animals, particularly horses, is obvious, as is her fatigue, her sense of defeat over years of first-hand experience with animal cruelty. "People are so innovative that if you had a law for every little scam, you’d have thousands more laws on the books," she said. "Meat dealers are coming to people’s homes after seeing ads in the paper, promising to give horses to good homes, then taking them to slaughter."

Weeks after this visit to the stables, Mary would receive information that would only add to her disdain over the machinations of so-called "animal rescue." Mary would learn that her partner in the LPA, Kris Hart, had been placing ads in a local horse publication seeking horses for good homes, drafting horses for Larry Schorno, the local kingpin of draft-horse dealing.

Kris Hart and Mary Ware formed the Livestock Protection Association in 1988. Through a sheriff’s deputy Hart met Ware, who was involved with Concern for Animals, and the two decided to focus on farm animals. Based in Thurston County, the LPA has rescued horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, rabbits and others from neglect. "The majority of the cases are horses and of course most of my experience is with horses," said Hart. "Horses, you know, are my first love."

Horses are the first priority of Schorno Agri-Business & Pacific Rim Quarantine, which, as its sign reads, is a "LIVE ANIMAL EXPORT FACILITY." Representatives of the company make regular pilgrimages to Canada to bid on Premarin foals, the by-product of the growing trade in pregnant mare urine. The Premarin newborns are usually draft horses, their mothers in demand because of the volume of urine produced by the large mares. "The Schorno business primarily is draft horses," said Hart. "And any of their riding-horse business I am very familiar with because I’m involved in it."

Premarin is a product of Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, a division of American Home Products Corporation based in Philadelphia. A hormone replacement treatment, Premarin is prescribed to an estimated nine million American women to treat the symptoms of menopause and to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Wyeth-Ayerst’s publicity machine boasts that Premarin is "the most widely dispensed product" in the United States. (The company also produces Prempro and Premphase, combining the estrogens found in Premarin with progestin, or progesterone, a hormone obtained from pregnant sows.) The United States accounts for about 80 percent of the market for Premarin.

At hundreds of farms in Canada, North Dakota, Indiana and Minnesota, tens of thousands of mares, usually draft breeds such as Belgians and Percherons, are repeatedly impregnated, resulting in as many as 80,000 foals per year. The mares are tied in small stalls with walls pressed to their sides. Rubber sacks are strapped around their groins to capture the urine, valued at $12 to $17 per gallon. For most of the gestation period of 11 months, the mares are unable to turn around. Though horses can lock their legs and doze standing up, they must lie down for essential deep sleep; strong ropes secured to their heads prevent reclining. The bags strapped to them often cause sores and infections. The mares’ access to water is limited to manage the urine’s concentration of estrogen. Reports vary on the amount of sunlight and exercise these mares are allowed, but given the value of their "product," the logistics of collecting it, and the fact that the cycle’s peak urine production occurs during the winter months, the mares’ "free time" is likely to be extremely limited. After the mare foals, she is separated from her baby, pushed back through Premarin production line and bred as soon as two weeks later.

The Premarin foals suffer a high mortality rate, according to a study published by Canadian Veterinarian. Researchers observed a 67 percent foal mortality rate in the first week after foaling at PMU farms, followed by a 45 percent mortality rate the following week. Some fillies are recruited to replace exhausted dams on the production line. Hundreds of surviving Premarin foals cross the border from Canada in trucks bound for Yelm and Schorno Agri-Business. Most of these foals are exported to Japan to be eaten.

Some of the horses Larry Schorno and his employees have flown to Japan on Federal Express 747s were purchased for that purpose by Kris Hart. A member of the Schorno family placed ads in a Western Washington horse newspaper distributed free at area tack and feed shops. The ads offered to find "good homes" for unwanted horses. The ads encouraged respondents to call a phone number, Kris Hart’s phone number. "That’s what tipped me off," said Penny Swanson, publisher of what then was called Puget Sound Horse and Tack. Swanson, who shortened the paper’s name to Horse and Tack and has since sold it to another publisher, was offended that a horse-rescue activist was helping to obtain horses for export to Japan, where they are likely to be a featured item on the dinner table of those "good homes." Swanson refused to run the ad further.

Some of Schorno’s exported horses were targeted by Hart, who responded to classified ads offering horses free to good homes. "We’ve definitely done it," said Hart when asked about responding to free-horse ads. But, she added, "none of the LPA horses ever get tangled up in export."

Does Hart ever discuss with Larry Schorno the dichotomy, horse rescuer and horse exporter, horse lovers versus horse eaters? "All the time. All the time." Hart spoke of the compassion of the Schorno family, of Larry’s personal riding horse, of the love Larry’s wife has for her team of draft horses, Ham and Beans. Like Hart, Larry Schorno straddles the fence between animal salvation and animal exploitation. He provided a foster home for the bull the LPA could no longer handle. Hart spoke of the care Schorno’s business takes of their horses. "They’re slick. Their feet are trimmed." If a horse gets so much as a runny nose, "they’re pulled in and medicated. And they are fed fed fed fed. It’s the healthiest bunch of horses you’ll ever see. And then one day it’s over."

Hart has participated in Schorno’s transport of horses to Japan. "I flew over on the cargo plane with the draft horses. People can think, ‘oh, that’s just horrible,’ but it’s the smoothest ride." Hart said the Japanese use draft horses in any activity for which they would be used in the United States, including shows, parades, pulling competitions and plowing, with a possible exception Hart described as "just bizarre." She said the Japanese race draft horses like Thoroughbreds are raced elsewhere. "That I have yet to see."

When the usefulness of the draft horses and riding horses that aren’t immediately sent to slaughter is over, most face the slaughterhouse. Hart admitted to being concerned over the fate of the horses Schorno exports, "but that’s a concern here, too.

"There are no guarantees either way. I can’t say that when a horse’s usefulness is over in Japan that that horse is going to be quietly put to sleep anymore than I can say that here. People advertise their pasture pets that they want to have a good home, and (then) they sell it to some dealer who says ‘that horse would be perfect for my grandchild.’ And (the killers) take it home and sell it for meat prices. So the only guarantee anybody has of making sure their horse never goes to slaughter is that when they buy that horse, they keep it." Hart seemed oblivious to the fact that the practice she described echoed her own tactics.

Hart realizes people see a conflict between her work with the LPA and her work with Schorno. "There are people who are just horrified that I rescue animals on one hand and I put horses together for riding in Japan on the other. They just think this is a huge conflict. I am understanding of these people. They do have a point."

But if they have a point, what can be told to those who question Hart’s ethics, identify problems with her practices, wonder how she can be so deceptive in securing horses who are destined for a country that considers their meat a delicacy?

"Justify our actions any way you want."

Adapted from the “Mary Grows Wary” chapter of The Appaloosa and the Palouse

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