« Peach pie and the latest from the Amish Cook | Main | Less choice, more happiness? »

May 03, 2007

Saints or animal abusers?

I just Google-searched 'amish news' and it seems the Amish are getting some polarized coverage these days. 

If they're not being lauded as an example of how we should all be more forgiving, they are under fire as heartless puppy abusers.

What's the real deal? 

Besides stating the obvious that we should look at the individual and not the whole, the Amish seem to exhibit certain general tendencies across the board. 

I say forgiveness is one of them;  animal abuse generally is not.


photo:  Bill Coleman
Amish have a long history of forgiveness and restraint in the face of persecution.  There are a number of famous stories of the Amish turning the other cheek, forgiving malicious attacks perpetrated against them.  One has been made into a movie

The puppy mill issue is a hard one for me, because I've met a lot of puppy breeders, many of whom I took a liking to personally, mostly in Holmes County, Ohio or northern Indiana.  As I've said before, I'm no expert but mom and pups seemed perky and active and happy.

It's tough because I want to believe that the Amish would care about the conditions their animals are kept in.  All evidence I've seen points to the idea that they generally do, whether it be the kid's pony, family goat, or puppies.

And a lot of that just makes financial sense as well--after all, if your horse gets an infection from an improperly-fitted harness and you can't use it for transportation and have to pay for the vet, that hits you square in the wallet. 

I tend to believe this is a case of a few more 'insular' Amish that are taking, okay, I don't like saying this, but here goes, a more 'backward' view of how animals should be treated. 
I also think pups are a hard issue because they are an animal that is humanized and adored by many in the general public.  After all, man's best friend deserves better than your average cow, doesn't it?

photo:  Bill Coleman again.  Visit Bill's site for more!  Thanks Bill

But, if anyone reads this(!) and has an opinion, I would love to hear how you see the issue.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Saints or animal abusers?:


I must disagree that animal abuse among the Amish is the exception rather than the rule. I am attaching a long letter I wrote the the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal last week, which will likely not get published as it is too long. As you'll see, I am not an outsider to Lancaster County nor unfamiliar with the Amish.

To the editor:
Let me preface my remarks by noting that while I have not lived in this area for nearly thirty years, I grew up in Southern Lancaster County, where I lived and worked on my family’s dairy farm from the time I could help until I left for college in 1980. I also rode and showed horses during my junior high and high school years. I know the challenges of farming and that sometimes animals can be contrary and uncooperative, requiring humane correction. Let me also emphasize that I am not a member of PETA. I am not a vegetarian. In short, I am not what many Lancaster Countians would label an “animal rights’ wacko.”

That being said, I was appalled and sickened, as I believe anyone with an ounce of compassion would have been, at the scene that greeted me in the early afternoon of July 12 as I turned onto Pumping Station Road, en route back to my brother’s home near Kirkwood. I saw an Amish buggy stopped alongside the road, the horse drawing it fallen on the ground and clearly in distress, and a team of draft horses with some sort of conveyance behind them in front of the stricken horse. A rope attached to the conveyance was also attached to the fallen horse’s bridle. I assumed that the injured horse had been struck by a vehicle, but no, the young Amishman and the pre-teen Amish boy who were there casually informed me, the horse was a “balker” and had fallen to the ground after their attempts to yank him forcefully along behind the draft animals. This horse was clearly injured and in distress; he was bleeding from both his front and rear legs and from his mouth. He was also terrified; his neck was twisted at an awkward and painful angle, and he was still attached to the buggy, finding it very difficult to move. When I asked if he had broken a leg, the Amishman nonchalantly replied, “No, just a stubborn horse,” and proceeded to viciously kick this horse in the head to try to get him to stand up. They finally got the buggy removed from him, at which point more brutal kicking was delivered to both his head and hindquarters. Though the horse tried to get up, he had fallen on the road and thus had no means of traction and fell to the ground again. At this point, the Amishman suggested that I could be on my way. With my hands bloodied from where I had touched the horse’s head to try to calm him, I managed to utter in my disgust that I seriously doubted that beating the horse was going to accomplish their goal. I seemed to have little choice but to drive away, though I was tempted to call the police. As I looked in the rear-view mirror I saw another round of blows delivered to the horse’s head. It was one of the most brutal cases of animal abuse I have ever witnessed. Perhaps I should have tried to do more; perhaps making this incident public is the best I can do.

This is not the first time in my years living here and then visiting at least twice a year since I left that I have observed Amish cruelty to animals. Workhorses and mules can be seen even from the road as they are grazing with open, untreated collar sores. I’ve seen Amish families driving lame horses at a fast trot, and who hasn’t seen horses and buggies tied for hours in the hot summer sun? And we all know that some inhumane Amish breeders are key players in Lancaster County’s dubious distinction of being the puppy mill capital of the United States. Now granted, the Amish have no corner on the market of cruelty to animals. Recent stories during my visit about dog and cock fighting and alleged guinea pig abuse are testament to that. There are horrible cases of animal cruelty throughout this country. Nor, I imagine, are all Amish abusive to their stock. However, here’s the rub. The myth of the Amish is that they are a deeply religious, Christian, meek, gentle, pacifist people. As I watched that Amishman brutally abuse that injured and terrified horse, I could not help but think how such behavior flies in the face of all they profess with their faith. Yes, their Biblical injunction gives them dominion over the animals, but somehow I just can’t see the God nor the Christ they claim to worship looking down on this scene with approval. It is sheer hypocrisy. Certainly most reasonable people would agree that this brutality was a much greater sin, according to Christian theology, than having a telephone in your house.

Few in Lancaster County want to criticize the Amish because, of course, they are economic bread and butter to the region. The money depends on the mythology. I have plenty of opportunities where I now live and where I travel to answer questions about the Amish, which are always forthcoming once people find out where I’m from. They are curious about this group of people and their traditional ways. One thing you can be sure of: when asked, I will be offering the straight story – a fair one, but one that is not marked by some romanticized, false view of a gentle, consistently nonviolent people.

Hi CBucher, I appreciate you sharing your letter.

The case you described sounds horrible. I'd be appalled to witness that.

To be honest, I feel that some Amish are unenlightened when it comes to the treatment of animals.

At the same time, this past week I saw how one Amishman treated the saddle sore of his buggy horse. He then proceeded to give him a spray bath to cool him off, pointing out that he liked to start with the legs and work his way up over the body, comparing it to the way we avoid the shock of getting into a shower by putting in one leg at a time.

Another kept his horses from going out for their usual evening jaunt through the meadow due to the prospect of lightning.

Many of the Amish barns I have been in have cow bedding, a soft spray-on floor liner that
allows the cows to rest more easily. I caught another Amishman last week installing a cushioned floor surface for his horse.

The reasons for treating animals well may very well be as much (or more) economic as compassionate. Worn-out, abused and tired animals get sick, run up vet bills, and die, incurring losses for farmers and 'regular-Joe' Amish alike. The guys beating the horse whom you described were not only abusive and uncompassionate but also apparently economically dumb.

Starved and diseased puppies such as the ones featured on Lancaster County billboards certainly won't fetch much on the market either. From my view of a cross-section of Amish America it seems to me that the majority of Amish treat their animals sensibly and with an eye to prolonging their health.

Abuse surely goes on, which it does everywhere, as you point out in the letter. But I still would contend that the majority would prefer preserving their animals' well-being over degrading and destroying it.

I have proof posative that at least some of the Amish abuse their dogs in the Puppy Mills.I have a dog here that I am fostering in an attempt to save it its life after it was rescued from An Amish Puppy Mill in Ohio.
As far as the genatlman who said he thought the Amish would just run up vet bills by abuse has NO CLUE Because they don't even go to the doctor them selfs.I was once asked why I do not try to cure a Spinal cord injury with herbs by one of these Amish Idiots.
The Amish are out for the All mighty Buck to support their twisted comunities. Most of us from the world that they despise remain uninformed and vist "AMISH COUNTRY" as Tourists... That's where the trouble Lies. If people would make a point to Boycott anything Amish right down to a dozen Amish Cookies or a loaf of bread baked by some filty who knows who person that don't believe in modern sanitation and sold by a woman dressed in Amish atire by the side of the road like a vegrant maybe a bit of hard times would fall on these wicked people who hide behind their religion proclaiming that we are wrong to prosper with the times, Yet pay no tax on earnings in the name of God.
Get a grip folks these people need to be run out of the Wholsale Puppy Business These dogs are living creatures.I'd be willing to bet If old Fuzzy chin himself was caged ,depribed of food fresh water, and zapped with a cattle prod at will all while he was expected to stand on wire cage flooring barefoot for years on end, never seeing the light of day, or getting a fresh breath of their God's fresh air And if he got sick and no longer would breed ..He would have his neck snapped because he did not fetch a buck ...I think Mr Fuzz Face would find Any God in a hurry... Say, "Amen" You wicked wicked men!
If they want to grow somtheing to make money with try vegitables... But don't forget to wash your hands before supper!
Next time you uniformed folks visit "Amish Country" try counting the ribs of the hores that is pulling the buggy slowing you down as you go by!Then ask your self is That normal ??
These people make me Ill...
Mac in Michigan

I witness an Amish buggy stopped alongside the road, the horse clearly in distress. An Amish man was beating the horse’s hindquarters forcefully with a large object like a pipe or something like it. The horse was terrified still attached to the buggy.I am a new resident
ofPennsValley,Pennsylvania so I am adjusting to Country leaving. I have never witness anything like this in my life. I was terrified, shaking and I got sick in my tummy. In the middle of nowhere in the dark I seemed to have little choice but to drive away. As I looked in the rear-view mirror the beating continued.Making this incident public is the best I can do too. As I said before I am new to Country leaving and I was told that the Amish are peaceful people of God.I don’t see how God would be happy with this.

Sara, I'm really sorry to hear about what you witnessed. All I can say is that I'm pretty certain most Amish would not treat their animals this way.

Unfortunately there are people out there with backwards ideas on how to treat defenseless creatures--among the Amish as well as in 'our' society.

I live in an area in knox county and abuse and neglect are the rule.
If you call your local human officers they dont do anything about complaints,
why I cant explain. If it was an english(as amish call us) we would be in court.
I once got a ticket because my dog got loose.
What about the dog down the road that I can see his ribs from 50 feet away and he has no shelter, I called he is still there with no shelter,their goat that looks like a holocaust victim now lives in the amish neighbors field.
The horses in the field beside me last winter were skinny, and I know for a fact he had no hay in his barn and I never seen any sign that they got any.
When he and his wife were gone for 3 days in the middle of winter having aa baby, their dog, cows in the barn and horses were left with no water, I went over and fed and watered them. And when a neighbor asked him to keep his pup out of his lamb field until the got a little bigger the amishman told him to shoot her. We havent seen her since.Amish think animals are expendable, the only thing the care about is what they need from them, they could care less about what the animal might need from them.
Why do our rules not apply?
It makes me sick!
Dont be fooled MOST are selfish, greedy, and cruel.
The hide behind there religion because I know mu God does not approve!

The Amish do not have a monopoly on abusive behavior towards animals. However, a couple of your posts are correct. The Amish seem to skirt the law in many instances. The writer was right-animal control will visit you in a heartbeat, but, afterall-the Amish are using their animals in their biblically protected lifestyle.

The Amish that were beating the balking horse. Give me a few minutes in a room with you-even if you are physically my superior-I am sure your parents beat you just as harshly-but you can grow up and either forgive or get even. I feel so bad that dogs-giving unconditional love-will go to the abuser and forgive-true Christians if there ever were any. I am sure Vick (and obviously he was not Amish) had caring dogs also.
The next time you witness such behavior-call the police and explain that you will be intervening to protect the animal. You may get arrested-so what? Peace protestors were jailed, beaten and maced for far less-so know that straw hat off the lad and make him stop! Gandhi was so true in saying the greatness of a nation or people is measured on how it treats its animals.

I grew up Amish and I think there is more abuse than most people want to admit with both animals and humans. You would be surprised what happens behind closed doors. And they get away with it because they are Amish. Sin is sin whether it be the Amish or elsewhere. I think it's time that people who have not come from the inside stop making excuses for them. because the innocent are suffering at the hands of some very abusive elders. Abuse in the Amish is NOT the exception at all. Yes, the Amish appear to be very forgiving, but let me assure you that there's a lot more to forgiveness than just saying, "I forgive." They give a gunman, as they should, but they cannot and will not forgive someone who has left the culture whether he/she is an upbuilding citzen or a criminal. I love the Amish and I think they have many good qualities and I will fight for them, which is why I am posting this comment -- all the abused are afraid to speak out for themselves to the point of lying about it because they are so afraid of what will happen to them. I am speaking in their behalf. There's lots of abuse in the Amish, they just don't call it that.

Hi Mary, I really do appreciate your comments...It is good to have input from people that are closely connected with Amish society as in your case.

I think you make some good points, like the fact that 'sin is sin' as you put it.

I just wonder though to what degree abuse occurs--when there are abuse cases as we've seen in the media in recent years it seems they tend to get an abnormal amount of attention. I would hesitate to say it was the rule rather than the exception--I would need to see convincing evidence to the contrary, and most things I've seen firsthand in numerous settlements across the country point to the idea that the general image of the Amish as parents who love and take good care of their children is an accurate one.

Though I would not deny that in certain communities abuse may be more common than in others. What are your thoughts on that?

considering the so-called puppy-mills, if the dogs were not dogs, but were pigs or chickens, people would simply call it 'farming'.

That's the issue here, that the Amish are using traditional livestock handling techniques to handle a particular animal, that people typically view as a pet.

Because they're treated as a commodity (like a pig or chicken) people are all uppity.

considering the so-called puppy-mills, if the dogs were not dogs, but were pigs or chickens, people would simply call it 'farming'.

That's the issue here, that the Amish are using traditional livestock handling techniques to handle a particular animal, that people typically view as a pet.

Because they're treated as a commodity (like a pig or chicken) people are all uppity.

considering the so-called puppy-mills, if the dogs were not dogs, but were pigs or chickens, people would simply call it 'farming'.

That's the issue here, that the Amish are using traditional livestock handling techniques to handle a particular animal, that people typically view as a pet.

Because they're treated as a commodity (like a pig or chicken) people are all uppity.

I live near an Amish settlement and have purchased pups from them. They are NOT animal abusers. But they are not worshipers of gaia either. The are gentle with their dogs, feed them well, and do not beat them. But they do not treat them like humans. They are animals for sale for profit. They do not name the puppies they intend to sell, and name few of the dogs. They are just animals to them, not humans.
They do vaccinate the dogs, although I have never seen them come into the vet's office for flea or heartworm preventative.
Mixing of breeds is not prohibited by the bible, rather a mixing of species. They see no problems mixing breeds because they are all dogs. But they would never mix species such as wolf and dog.
Most of the people who complain about the Amish selling puppies are either "earth worshipers" who do not believe in any breeding or people who breed themselves and see the Amish as competition. Put things in perspective when you hear the complaints about them. I live next to these people. They are not mean to the animals, nor do they physically abuse them or starve them. They just see them as animals not humans.

some Amish men especially r just sick in the way they act so rightous 1 day then want to bed u the next R ALL AMISH THIS WAY

Hello. One thing I learned a long time ago is that there a "good" and "bad" people in all nationalities and in every religious group. You can't use one person or even group as a perfect example of the group as a whole. Also, there's not a single person out there that's never done something wrong. As Jesus said, "Let him without sin cast the first stone."
It doesn't make these things right, and they sound sickening, but let's not be so quick to judge everyone by a few "bad apples".

Well put Rebekah. Bad apples are everywhere.

Puppy mills should be made illegal. We euthenize close to 4 million dogs a year. We are over populated. And we can't keep up nomatter howmany volunteers or shelters there are. They should be made illegal. There will still be breeding by individuals and professional breeders but no more factories.Overpopulation is a really big problem and we can stop it.

Amish stop education at 8th grade.

How do you expect a group of people to act who are 8th grade educated and live in a greatly closed society. They are largely a group of ignorant people who oftentimes do not know better. Rumors run rampant through the community and they are too stupid to know better. Things that we dismiss as nonsense become almost facts to them. I live in the middle of an Amish community in N. Indiana. What really makes me upset is that the local and state government bend over backwards for this group of ignorant people and allow them to knowingly break laws. It is very common. They believe that because they are Amish the "English" laws largely don't apply to them.

This is totally wrong. We should not be making exceptions for a group of people who choose to live in the 18th century (when it is convenient). What do they contribute to society??? Really, think about it. Other than being an amusement for people to watch what is their value? Nothing. They are a drain on modern society in general. List the contributions that the Amish in our society provides. It is a very short list.

Blogs are good for every one where we get lots of information for any topics nice job keep it up !!!

I was shocked to hear of the Amish puppy mills as I had a different perception of them. But i agree, they should not be immune to criticism or the law if they are breeding pups in inhumane conditions.

I was shocked to hear of the Amish puppy mills as I had a different perception of them. But i agree, they should not be immune to criticism or the law if they are breeding pups in inhumane conditions.

I live in a small town in northwestern PA, and most recently have taken notice to abused Amish horses. These horses have noticeable bruises and injuries from there harness, and mistreatment. One horse was bleeding from the leg, and on the back of its neck there was a hole where the harness was. It was bleeding, and bugs were all over it. Another has a dog leash type collar hanging from it as it walks. There is blood dripping from its face constantly. I asked about these horses, and I'm told there being taken care of, and the one is to wild so there breaking it in. I'm angered every time I go and pet them. Is animal abuse allowed in this community? Where are the rules and regulations for these animals? I have witnessed the above mistreatments that are described in my years of growing up here. Who is protecting these animals? It's not fair.

Well, I tell ya...I'm from Maryland and will be moving to the Ephrata, Pa area. God forbid I see some horse or animal being abused! I will completely come unglued. Amish or not, religious or not...I will lose it! I don't think the Amish are going to like me very much at all. They have some nerve saying they think we're "disturbing" their way of living...Well, eeexuuuuuse us! We have a God Given right (outside of societal views and laws) to say something and to insist that they treat their animals in high regard. Do I mean having them to the dinner table? No. I mean, treating them with the love and kindness that God states in his word. I thought these people were bible fanatics? If so, then they have misinterpreted the bible verse that states, we are head over the animals. We are! But that doesn't mean we are to beat the living crap out of them when they don't do what we'd like them to do. "A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12:10) Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Amish are not as righteous as they'd have themselves believe. In Proverbs 27:23 it says, "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds." Well, apparently some of these Amish people don't give a crap about what Gods word says. Here's what I think and I believe...some Amish, not all, choose this way of living so they don't have to operate and be accountable to anyone in the real world. What they fail to understand is in the end, baptised or not (by the way there is only ONE way to heaven...Christ says that in the Word as well..."I am the WAY the TRUTH and the LIFE, NO MAN comes to the FATHER but through ME!" I believe that one is in Acts) they will all be judged. I realize there are some who do not abuse their animals and it makes perfect economical sense to me that one would treat the crop or animal kindly as to get the most out of it, but then again you're talking about a bunch of people who believe that education somehow spoils the soul...pa leese....give me a break already. Let's just pray and hope I don't see someone abusing their animal...I may end up in the county jail...enuff said.

Note...I am not a violent person. I love all people and animals and wouldn't do anything but give my two cents. I don't want to see the abuse of any animal or person and I do have a big fat mouth when I see it happen. My mouth can get me into big trouble sometimes because I have a tendency to use curse words that the Amish would more than likely have a problem hearing as well as others, but only when I'm in deep emotional pain for those I love or those who are being hurt and abused, children, people and animals. I am a Christian (I know it's hard to believe that I'm a cursing Christian...but I am...only when backed into a corner). I am working on it folks. I just pray that there are more loving people in that area of Pennsylvania and not a bunch of people who would rather turn their heads against abuse of any kind. We need to be a voice for those who are abused...including animals that God gave us to take care of, not abuse and use the way we want. That's all...Blessings.

Unfortunately, the Amish are increasingly entering the lucrative dog-breeding business, where these commercial "puppy mills" represent a $9 million dollar industry for Holmes County. Since the Ohio dog auctions began in 2004 (of which Holmes County is home to this event), the number of kennels in this area has mushroomed. There are 186 USDA-licensed breeders in Ohio, and more than 54% of them are in Berlin, Millersburg and Sugarcreek, the heart of Amish country.

As a member of the Coalition to Ban Ohio Dog Auctions, I've been working very diligently with concerned citizens throughout the U.S. in addressing this very critical issue for Ohio voters. For more information on our efforts, I invite you to visit our website, www.BanOhioDogAuctions.com.

It is my firm belief that until the public truly understands and appreciates the cruel aspect - not to mention the corruption and consumer fraud - connected with "dealing dogs", Ohio Amish puppy mills will continue to generate millions of dollars for their breeders and distributors.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo


My Other Accounts

Facebook MSN Messenger Skype Yahoo!
Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 11/2006