Dominionist-apologist Bill Frist and animal cruelty
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Mon Sep 25, 2006 at 10:53:14 PM EST
One of the true "dirty secrets" of dominionism--that being the promotion of all manner of abuse, including child abuse and spiritual abuse--is coming out more in the open, thanks to the hard work of people determined to keep this from being swept under the carpet.

One of the other forms of abuse--the abuse of animals--is not only often explicitly condoned by dominionists, but--as it turns out--some of the worst abusers of animals happen to be dominionists...including dominionist-friendly legislators.

And Bill Frist is among the ugliest of them all, from dissecting cats whilst they are alive to supporting people who deliberately cripple show horses.  More below...

Animal abuse among the dominionist community, of course, gets less press than child abuse.  At the same time, however, it's important we pay attention to it; among other things, there is a very well documented link between abuse of animals earlier in life and expansion of abuse to kids and spouses later in life as well as a very well established link to gross animal abuse and future sociopathy.  

This becomes especially relevant with promotion of "Biblically based" child and spousal abuse; ironically, none other than James Dobson nicely ties the two together in what is now known as the "Scourging of Siggie"--the literal beatdown of a Dachshund used as an example of how children's wills must be broken in The New Strong-Willed Child.

As it turns out, though, Dobson's beating of his pet dog is relatively small potatoes compared to some dominionist-sympathisers.

Bill Frist has in general been one of the more reliable supporters of dominionism in Congress, up to and including being a regular of the "Justice Sunday" events up to and including Justice Sunday III; in fact, at the first Justice Sunday event he literally accused the entire Democratic Party of launching a progrom against "people of faith"; he's also tried to hammer through laws that would nullify not only same-sex marriages but domestic partnerships.

Frist is probably most infamous (for people who've not been researching dominionism) for his "telediagnosis" of Terri Schiavo--in which he claimed that a heavily-edited video of Schiavo was "proof" that she was not in a persistent vegetative state.  Even after his statements were officially recorded in the Congressional Record he claimed he never made a telediagnosis; this being after the autopsy results showed she in fact had almost no functional cerebral cortex.  Nearly every non-dominionist newspaper called Frist on this, even to the point of asking him to apologise to Michael Schiavo; at least one medical ethicist has complained to the Tennessee Board of Medical Licensure regarding the Schiavo incident, in which it was found that he may not in fact be eligible to keep his medical license due to not keeping up with CME requirements (doctors are required to have CME--Continuing Medical Education--credits to remain licensed).

It is possibly quite ironic that Frist was trumpeting how Terry Schiavo's husband was a "murderer" for following her end-of-life wishes whilst quite possibly practicing unlicensed medicine, considering how he got his start in the medical career.

Specifically, it seems, he would adopt cats from shelters for purposes of performing vivisection on them, according to his book Transplant: A Heart Surgeon's Account of the Life-and-Death and even as reported in a Free Republic article (a news-source usually friendly to dominionists!):

(from Free Republic article)

Think of it this way: You have a sister, and she comes to you for advice. This guy named Bill has asked her to marry him. Great guy, this Bill, practically Mr. Perfect: a heart surgeon, ambitious, dedicated, everyone speaks well of him. There's just this one thing, something he felt the need to confess to her, something he did as a youth in medical school, something he now regrets, something he says he's ashamed of. It's long ago in the past, but it troubles your sister, and she's asking your advice about it because Bill-well, he lied and cheated essentially to kidnap and then dissect and kill cats.

Oh, he did it for a good cause: He had some advanced ideas about a medical breakthrough, and they'd run out of cats to dissect at the medical school, so he'd go to animal shelters, make goo-goo eyes at a cat at each shelter to get them to let him adopt the shivering strays, take them home, and then perform experimental surgery on them. For a good purpose, a higher humanitarian purpose, he says-but obviously he isn't trying to excuse the lying and cheating, or the implicit betrayal of the poor trusting animals, who thought they were going to be given a home off the mean streets at last. So there it is, the question you can sense your sister is asking you: Should she put her life, her trust, in this fellow? Was it just a youthful indiscretion, or was it a signal of something deeply twisted?

(from Town Hall article (another dominionist-friendly news source))
Capitol Hill ( - Incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was a successful surgeon in his home state of Tennessee before being elected to the Senate in 1994. Now the Republican leader is being challenged by animal "rights" activists to "atone for" unauthorized medical experiments he conducted on cats.

Frist admitted in his 1989 book that, while a student at Harvard Medical School, he adopted cats from animal shelters and practiced surgery on the animals. In adopting the cats, however, Frist told shelter staff members he wanted the animals for pets. All of the cats died as a result of the surgeries.

(from Counterpunch article)
As for Bill Frist, the millionaire Tennessee sawbones, everthing you need to know about this unpleasing man was contained in one short paragraph of a profile of Frist by Michael Kranish in the Boston Globe Sunday magazine for October 27, 2002, covering the years when Frist was in Boston, first at Harvard Medical School and then at Mass General.

"Frist is an animal lover who said his decision to become a doctor was clinched when he helped heal a friend's dog. But Frist now found himself forced to kill animals during medical research. And his new dilemma was finding enough animals to kill. Soon, he began lying to obtain more animals. He went to the animal shelters around Boston and promised he would care for the cats as pets. Then he killed them during experiments. 'It was a heinous and dishonest thing to do,' Frist wrote. 'I was going a little crazy.'"

The site archives has more information on this; John Stewart, among others, makes short work of it and in fact there is an entire Wikipedia page on the matter. The Wikipedia article goes into even more detail on just what sort of "research" he did:
In his book, Frist explained that he succumbed to the pressure to succeed in a highly competitive medical school. Frist stated that he "treat[ed] them as pets for a few days" before he "cart[ed] them off to the lab to die." He went on to say, "And I was totally schizoid about the entire matter. By day, I was little Billy Frist, the boy who lived on Bowling Avenue in Nashville and had decided to become a doctor because of his gentle father and a dog named Scratchy. By night, I was Dr. William Harrison Frist, future cardiothoracic surgeon, who was not going to let a few sentiments about cute, furry little creatures stand in the way of his career. In short, I was going a little crazy." He went on to describe why he conducted animal experiments: "It can even be beautiful and thrilling work, as I discovered that day in the lab when I first saw the wonderful workings of a dog's heart . . . I spent days and nights on end in the lab, taking the hearts out of cats, dissecting each heart, suspending a strip of tiny muscle that attaches the mitral valve to the inner wall of the cat heart and recording the effects of various medicines I added to the bath surrounding the muscle." "I lost my supply of cats. I only had six weeks to complete my project before I resumed my clinical rotations. Desperate, obsessed with my work, I visited the various animal shelters in the Boston suburbs, collecting cats . . . it was a heinous and dishonest thing to do."

One probably shouldn't be all that surprised that Frist valued vegetables above kitties--"dominion theology" actually gets its name from the portion of Genesis commanding Adam to "claim dominion" over the earth and its creatures--but what is very disturbing is that Bill Frist flat out violated at minimum medical ethics regs and, quite possibly, the law as well.  (The fact that he went to shelters under false pretences (at a time when the shelters would have been willing to offer unadoptable animals for research) to complete a dissertation before he went back on clinical rotation gives quite an insight as to his medical ethics!)

Even worse, it appears that Frist was conducting experiments that were completely unnecessary.  (Before people flame me too much, I do realise experiments on animals are sometimes a necessary evil for medical advancements in humans.  I myself am good friends with a medical researcher who is in fact working on spinal regeneration via stem cells (and they've had good results so far in mice; unfortunately, this sort of research can't be tested save with live animals).)  Specifically, it appears that Frist was pretty much suspending hearts of cats outside the body (save by a strip of heart muscle), dissecting the hearts whilst the cats were alive in some cases and inducing heart attacks in cats by bathing the exposed heart in various chemicals in others.  In most universities anymore, this would probably not be allowed for research (as it's a repeat of previous experiments and also would violate policies that universities have in place against unnecessarily cruel treatment of research animals).  Even according to guidelines established by animal researchers, Frist's activity would have violated ethics guidelines on the experiments themselves (much less how he got the cats in the first place):
Canadian Council on Animal Care: Proceedings for Pain Management and Humane Endpoints
Guide for the Care and Use of Labratory Animals
U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing, Research, and Training
PHS Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals
What Investigators Need To Know About The Use of Animals

If it were just a matter of Frist doing unethical vivisection on cats, that'd be bad enough.  Unfortunately, though, it isn't all.

As it turns out, Frist is attempting to roll back protections against cruel practices in the wake of a major scandal involving one of the largest horse shows in the US:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has entered the Tennessee Walking Horse controversy by asking the federal agency assigned to protect horses to consider an industry-backed change in the law.

The Tennessee Republican, in a letter dated Thursday, said the proposal is meant to "clarify" what constitutes horse soring so regulators can enforce the Horse Protection Act "in a more consistent manner." Frist and Senate colleague Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., co-signed the letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Bruce Knight.

"It has been asserted that the current definition of soring under the HPA is interpreted and applied differently across the country," said the letter, which accompanied the proposed amendment. "Given the technical nature of this proposal from both a legal and a medical standpoint, we would appreciate USDA's analysis and comments on these possible changes to the HPA."

What started this controversy in the first place was the "Tennessee Walking Horse controversy" mentioned--an absolute debacle involving the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration this year.

Specifically, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration turned very much into the Tennessee Walking Horse Disaster this year.  Among other fun things, at least one horse that attended was rabid (no, I'm not making this up--the horse had rabies, like what foamy-mouthed dogs tend to give to people--yes, at a national horse show where agricultural inspectors are supposed to make sure this does not happen by not admitting sick horses--yes, the horse was so rabid that it was showing symptoms of rabies on the last day), was postponed and ultimately cancelled altogether after fully five out of eight championship contenders were found to be "sored" or doped (which led to a cancellation of a different Tennessee Walking Horse show to be held in Kentucky), and even has a bribery scandal ongoing in which an owner of one of the disqualified horses tried to bribe the show organisers $10,000 if the show would go on.

How this relates to animal cruelty is specifically what soring is.  From Silver Phoenix Ranch:

Soring is quite possibly one of the most alarming and most unknown forms of animal cruelty.  Soring is the process of putting acidic products and irritating chemicals on a horse's legs that cause pain in the horse in order for it to lift its legs higher for more action.  It is commonly found in the world of the Tennessee Walking Horse, and we see it most prominently with the Performance horses, or "Big Lick" horses.

Soring, by definition from the Horse Protection Act (HPA) passed by Congress in 1976, is:
"(A) an irritating or blistering agent has been applied, internally or externally, by a person to any limb of a horse,
"(B) any burn, cut, or laceration has been inflicted by a person on any limb of a horse,
"(C) any tack, nail, screw, or chemical agent has been injected by a person into or used by a person on any limb of a horse, or
"(D) any other substance or device has been used by a person on any limb of a horse or a person has engaged in a practice involving a horse, and, as a result of such application, infliction, injection, use, or practice, such horse suffers, or can reasonably be expected to suffer, physical pain or distress, inflammation, or lameness when walking, trotting, or otherwise moving, except that such term does not include such an application, infliction, injection, use, or practice in connection with the therapeutic treatment of a horse by or under the supervision of a person licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the State in which such treatment was given."
. . .
How Did Soring Start?

Training a horse to perform the Big Lick is tedious and time consuming.  The horse must be gradually worked up to the taller shoes so they can gradually carry heavier and heavier shoes.  This can sometimes take several years, depending on the age, strength and stamina of the horse.  To get more horses in the show ring sooner, TWH trainers wanted a faster way to get the horses to perform this gait.

The desire for a more animated horse in less time lead to the development of "soring" in the early 1950s.

What is Involved in Soring?

Soring is the practice of applying acidic products to the horse's pasterns.  The pasterns are wrapped in plastic wrap and then regular vet wrap so the product creates a heating action that absorbs through the skin and into the tissue beneath.  The causes painful blistering and burning.  Before the class, the wraps are removed and chains are put around the pasterns.  The chains scrape against the burned areas, causing more pain and forcing the horse to pick his feet up higher to try to avoid the pain.

Acidic products that are used include the following.

Mustard oil (used to make tear gas in WWII)

Diesel oil (before it is broken down to make diesel fuel)

Crotonal or croton oil (crotonaldehyde)

Salicylic acid (2-hydroxybenzoic acid)

Proxlyin Solution, Notrocellulose Solution, or Notrocotton Solution (mixture of Proxylin 5-10%, Ethanol 20-30% and Diethyl Ether 60-70%)

While some of these chemicals have to be special ordered, products that produce similar results can be created by combining products or using too much of a product found in your local grocery store or tack store.  These products must be applied with a brush and while wearing gloves because they're incredibly toxic to the skin, eyes and mucus membranes.

Yes, you read this right.  To make the horses step higher (and get scored higher), the horses are injected with or rubbed with caustic or blistering agents or they are deliberately mis-shoed so that it's physically painful for the horse to put pressure on his hooves.

It's something that's considered unethical and cruel--so much so that the Horse Protection Act of 1970 specifically bans it and there are multiple guides, including for horse show operators, on how to prevent violations of the law.  Most reputable horse authorities condemn the practice (warning: graphic pictures of sored horses).

According to the article above from Equus Magazine, soring--and attempts to cover it up--were and still are all too common in Tennessee Walking Horse shows, hence why the Horse Protection Act was passed:

Soring, also known as "fixing," is found in several gaited breeds, but the practice is most prevalent among Tennessee Walking Horse show horses.  As the breed's name implies, the Tennessee Walking Horse has long been known for his distinctive running walk, a smooth and rapid four-beat gait prized by riders for its comfort and practicality.  About 50 years ago, the running walk seen in the showring underwent a stricking transformation, from sweeping and ground-covering to high-stepping and showy.

How much soring contributed to the emergence of what became known as the "big lick" running walk is a matter of debate.  To be sure, selective breeding has helped to shape the modern Tennessee Walking Horse's gaits.  But most accounts suggest that the soring grew out of the desire to find a quick and easy means of achieving the sort of animation that would win in the showring.

Various techniques have been used over the years, but the most common method is fairly simple.  A few drops of mustard oil, kerosene or another irritating substance are brushed on the horse's front pasterns, often along with DMSO® to increase the chemicals' absorption.  Then the legs are covered with plastic wrap, bandaged and allowed to "cook" for a few days until they are tender to the touch.

Next, chains are placed around the horse's pasterns.  Considered legal "action devices" in the industry, the chains themselves are not harmful, but they rub against the already irritated skin and increase the horse's pain.  In response, his gait becomes flashy: he picks up his sored feed more quickly and lifts them higher than normal, and he shifts some of his weight to his hind end to escape the pain up front.

Soring generally has been done at home rather than at the show grounds.  In some circles, the techniques for mixing and applying solutions have been passed down through generations.  Don Bell, who began training Tennessee Walkers 45 years ago, has seen this firsthand.  For example, he says, if a horse wearing chains didn't lift his feet high enough, the soring mixture might be applied to the front of the pasterns.  Or, if his gait broke too high without enough outward reach, the solution would be concentrated in the pocket of the pasterns.

"When a person sold a horse to another trainer, as a courtesy, they would give instructions on how they fixed that horse," Bell says.

These techniques were common in Tennessee Walking Horse show barns in the 1960s, says Bell, who admits to soring horses himself for nearly three decades.  "Everyone was doing it--it was unbelievable.  Oil of mustard and croton oil were popular because they were easy to get.  You could buy them in tack shops, sold in eyedropper containers.  I could order oil of mustard in a pint bottle through my druggist."

But a sorer's task didn't end there, he says.  Steps were also taken to hide the raw, bloody skin that often resulted from the practice.  "People would use screwworm smear (called Globe Smear 62), which was tar-colored, to cover up the bleeding," he says.  "It was common to see black pasterns, no matter what color the horse was."

Bell boots were also used to hide the results of soring, according to Pam Reband, who showed Walking Horses for 30 years through the late 1990s and has served as vice president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association (TWHBEA).  "In the showring, you'd have to turn one of these boots upside down to prove there were no tacks hitting the horse on the pastern," she says.  "If the judge couldn't see blood [from where he was standing], your horse passed inspection.  Even if there was blood, [the groom] would just kick some dirt on it to cover it up."

In fact, it was the prevalence of soring throughout the Tennessee Walking Horse fancy that directly led to the horse welfare movement (among other abuses of horses, including the sale of mustangs for dog-food).

Despite the ban, there are still those who sore horses and try to cover it up:

Horse welfare advocates counter that the violation rate does not reflect the actual incidence of soring because unscrupulous individuals manage to hide the obvious effects and evade enforcement.  Methods of avoiding penalties, documented by individual observation and cited in government reports and publications such as the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, include:

· Skipping shows where government inspectors are present.  Todd Behre, DVM, horse protection coordinator for USDA APHIS Animal Care, confirms that "when APHIS veterinarians show up, people leave [without showing],"

· Applying short-acting numbing agents to sored legs.  Rhonda Hart Poe, editor of The Gaited Horse, says that topical anesthetics such as lidocaine and benzocaine are used to help sored horses pass inspection.  DQP Martha Day has had firsthand experience with this practice.  Two years ago, she told Poe's publication, "I inadvertently touched the corner of my mouth with my finger while performing an inspection, which caused [it] to go numb, indicating that a deadening spray had been applied to the horse's pasterns."

· Training horses not to flinch even when palpation causes pain. Reband says horses can be taught to stand still even when sore areas are touched: "Mine were schooled not to move [during inspections]," she says.

· Minimizing scars resulting from soring. A paste made from a mixture of salicylic acid and DMSO can help reduce calluses and scarring that result from repeated application of irritating chemicals.  "Conditions are much improved in the way horses look," says Reband.

However, efforts to conceal soring are not always successful.  In an article in The Gaited Horse, Day describes an inspection she conducted in 2003: "I found a horse so sore and sensitive to palpation that it reared on its hind legs and nearly flipped over backwards from the pain."

As it is, the horses were disqualified from the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration because of traces of just such sillybuggers.  Per Silver Phoenix Ranch's archives the USDA came in at least twice (reportedly 29 other tickets were written up on non-champion horses for evidence of soring) and several of the horses disqualified had scars showing evidence of previous soring.  Later testing showed evidence of "masking agents"--lidocane and other topical anaesthetics meant to hide signs of soring--on horses.

Not only is soring inherently cruel, it's also the equivalent (in the horse fancy) of shooting up with steroids in prep for a Big Game.  It's not fair play, and it's harmful to the horses; however, soring still occurs partly because stud fees for champion show horses are comparable to those for Kentucky Derby winners (read: you could retire, VERY comfortably).

As it turns out, Frist has a long relationship with the show industry:

A political action committee (PAC) made up of Tennessee Walking Horse breeders has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), among others.

Statistics compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics show that in 1998, the PAC contributed $40,500 to congressional candidates, and additional contributions were made by individuals from the Walking Horse industry.

And as a result--in large part to help out his friends in the show-horse industry, including the Tennessee Walker Celebration show that ended up so racked in controversy that it shut down after most of its horses were disqualified--he's now wanting to neuter the federal ban against soring of horses, presumably so that other horse shows don't get shut down.

Needless to say, people who support ethical horse shows do not support Frist.  An article in the Tennessean rather pointedly noted:

Sen. Bill Frist has entered the controversy swirling around the Walking Horse industry, asking the Department of Agriculture to consider a change in the Horse Protection Act to clarify what constitutes soring of horses. The change Frist seeks is backed by the industry. The senator should be offering more support to the regulators who inspect horses for the federal government, not side with the industry's money interests who are unhappy with enforcement of the law.

Sadly, Frist's support of neutering the protections against soring of show-horses fits in with his unethical behaviour as a doctor (tele-diagnosing without followup on his CME requirements), with his unethical behaviour as a medical student (illegally adopting cats for unnecessary vivisection experiments)...and is part of a long pattern of abuse and a general ethic of "as long as we win, the hell with everyone else" that seems to be endemic among dominionist leaders.

Frist sounds like a troubled soul.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 01:00:09 PM EST
  1. Frist isn't much older than I am, and I can tell you that there were reasonably strict requirements for animal research in the mid-70s. Sneaking some animals past the department of lab. animal care at a med school should have provoked an investigation both of the student and of the faculty mentor, even then.

  2. Tenn. Walkers were originally bred for a smooth ride all day. In other words, they were horses meant to be used, not shown. The show industry has distorted the breeding and training of these nice animals, and the gait is perfectly useless for actual cross-country riding. Another thing that used to be common in the Walker world, and I believe is banned now, was tail docking, basically breaking the tail and having it fuse in the "up" position (which isn't optimal for warding off flies, which is what a tail is for). I understand that in breeds and venues where docking is prohibited, the show folk stuff a pepper suppository or other irritant just inside the anal verge and on the ventral surface (inside) of the tail base.  Cruel beyond even racetrack standards, and the ruination of the breed.

by NancyP on Mon Oct 02, 2006 at 11:23:18 PM EST

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