At the heart of Angel's lawsuit is a report by the Santa Monica Police that found that Angel's ponies were "healthy, well- watered and in comfortable conditions.” For years, animal rights organizers and demonstrators have arbitrarily sought to redefine what abuse it – generally using it so recklessly and indiscriminately that it has no meaning at all. It is most often used against people who work with animals. For the first time in most of human history, this work of animals with people – pony rides, carriage horses, farm animals, circus elephants, – is being considered cruel and abusive.
In fact, abuse is a crime, it is not an opinion or argument. It refers to cruelty and neglect of animals to the point of grievous injury or death.
In an exchange of e-mails with me, Don Chomiak, Angel's attorney, said it was important not to overstate the significance of the ruling. "There’s a distinction to be drawn between someone saying that pony rides are animal abuse as a general concept, and a specific allegation of animal abuse made against a party based on facts that turn out to be false," he said in an e-mail. "If Ms. Winograd (the subject of the lawsuit) is found liable for defamation per se, it will be because she alleged Tawni’s ponies had cracked hooves and that her animals were given filthy water when this was not the case, coupled with Ms. Winograd’s innuendo in citing to the sections of the California Penal Code relevant to the crime of animal abuse while discussing these false factual allegations."
Animal rights groups in New York have made literally hundreds of very specific allegations against the carriage trade that have turned out either to be false, misleading or unprovable. When a horse took a walk down Eleventh Avenue while being groomed, one group said the horse ran because it was being abused – cold water was used to groom him, even though no one asked about the temperature of the water or tested it.
When a horse carriage tipped over, animal rights groups claimed the horse was spooked by a bus, then held down cruelly by drivers eager to save money on a damage carriage, then forced to go back to work. None of these charges turned out to be true. In one celebrated case, a veterinarian being paid by animal rights organizations admitted she lied about the condition of a well-publicized horse who died of a heart attack. There was, she admitted, no evidence of mistreatment or abuse.
Just as the Santa Monica Police told animal rights demonstrators that the horses were healthy and well cared for, so have a score of equine associations and independent veterinarians testified to the city and the public in the same way in New York: the horses there are healthy, content and well cared for. There is enormous documentation for many sources to support that the horses are among the most fortunate equines anywhere, they are not in need of rescue.
To me, everyone who loves an animal or lives with one owes Tawni Angel support and thanks. She is fighting for her ponies who, like the carriage horses, face a dangerous and uncertain future if they are banished. She is fighting for her way of life. She is fighting for the right of all of us to live in a world with animals, and to preserve and respect the beauty and wonder of the work animals have done together with people. It is one of the greatest and most inspiring stories in the history of the planet. If Tawni Angel wins back the right to give pony rides to children in the Santa Monica Farmer's Market the rights of all of us to live freely and in harmony with the surviving animals in the world will have won something as well.
You can help Tawni Angel by signing her petition to get her work back here: It is a good and just cause.