Animal activist floods Missouri lawmakers' inboxes; they retaliate

Thursday, April 1, 2010 | 4:24 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — After an animal rights activist clogged Missouri lawmakers' inboxes with unwanted e-mails, they responded by doing the same to her. And then some.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Thursday that activist Brenda Shoss and her advocacy group, Kinship Circle, sent a deluge of e-mails to Missouri House members last week, urging them to vote against a bill allowing a horse slaughterhouse to open in Missouri.

Republicans and Democrats alike objected to the volume of e-mails — hundreds from all over the world. So some lawmakers programmed their e-mail systems to forward any message containing the word "horse" to Shoss. Others told her they would consider passing the bill out of spite.

The House passed the bill Thursday in a 91-61 vote, sending it to the Senate.

Shoss received taunting calls, some making neighing sounds. One caller sang a version of the theme song from "Mr. Ed," the television show about a talking horse. Shoss said she was stunned by the vitriolic response. The late-night, anonymous phone calls led her to file a harassment complaint with the University City Police Department.

The calls stopped after the Post-Dispatch began asking lawmakers about them, she said.

Horse meat is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, but there are no slaughterhouses that handle horses in the U.S. Proponents argue the bill would create a market for abused and neglected horses. Shoss and other opponents say the slaughter process is inhumane.

Rep. Michael Frame, D-Eureka, said he opposes the bill, but he understands his colleagues' anger. He said his e-mail box was full March 22 with messages urging him to oppose the slaughterhouse legislation.

"I spent two hours before even getting to the office doing nothing but deleting those e-mails," Frame said. "Almost none of them were from Missouri. I was as mad as I can be."

Other lawmakers chose to respond to Shoss and her fellow activists by e-mail.

Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, wrote to one activist, "You're lucky I even acknowledge your existence. It's so much fun to taunt people like you — ha! Tell me, is it truly liberating to be so incredibly clueless?"

Guernsey and others feel like they shouldn't have to respond to lobbying from people outside their district or have to wade through massive amounts of e-mail to determine which ones are from constituents.

"If they're from Missouri and they have some dog in the fight, that's one thing," Guernsey said.

Shoss conceded the flood of e-mails was "inconvenient" but said legislators overreacted.

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