Colombians outraged by man caught tasering a horse

Screenshot of a video shot in Icononzo, west-central Colombia, on 26 December, showing a man administering electric shocks to a horse.
Screenshot of a video shot in Icononzo, west-central Colombia, on 26 December, showing a man administering electric shocks to a horse. © Social networks

A video showing a horse rider tasering a horse during a cavalcade, a popular event in Colombia, has sparked outrage on social media. Some have been calling for cavalcades to be outlawed because of frequent reports of animal abuse associated with these events.

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The video, filmed in late December in a small town in Colombia, shows a man sitting on a horse with a small object in his hand as music plays in the background. Then, the man touches the horse’s rump with an object. The horse twitches and moves forward suddenly, as if he received a shock. The man then repeats the action several more times.

The video was filmed in Icononzo, a small town in the department of Tolima, located in the centre west of Colombia on December 26 during a cavalcade (cabagalta in Spanish), a festive event when riders and their horses parade throughout the city. According to local press, the man in the video came from another town and rented a horse to participate in the event.

The person who filmed the video, a resident of Icononzo, posted it on Facebook the same day, where it was shared more than 42,000 times. Soon after, the person took down the original post, alleging that they had received threats. Camilo Cupitre, another resident of Icononzo, also shared this video on Twitter, where it garnered 430,000 views.

"Terrible case of animal mistreatment during today’s cavalcade in Icononzo, Tolima", wrote Camilo Cupitre.

Thousands of social media users were outraged by the horseman’s actions, demanding “justice” for the animal. Some called for an outright ban on cavalcades, saying that they often led to cases of animal mistreatment.

“It’s incredible that this type of person exists. He mistreated an animal, and this guy is an animal, seeing as he electroshocked an animal. He should be charged and punished [...]”, wrote this social media user. © Twitter.
“It’s incredible that this type of person exists. He mistreated an animal, and this guy is an animal, seeing as he electroshocked an animal. He should be charged and punished [...]”, wrote this social media user. © Twitter. © Twitter.

The man in the video is arrested

Following the outcry sparked by the video, the mayor of Icononzo published a statement the evening after it was released. In the statement, the mayor said that the man in the video had clearly used a “object that generated an electrical current” on the animal, that the police had identified the man and that the complaint would be handled by the Attorney General.

The next day, authorities reported that the rider had been arrested. He apparently told the police that he had used the Taser after drinking.

Under a 2016 law, anyone found guilty of animal mistreatment will receive a fine of “five to 50 monthly minimum salaries", equivalent to 1,220 to 12,200 euros. Moreover, if the mistreatment results in either death or serious injury to the animal, the perpetrator could face a prison sentence between 12 and 36 months, on top of the fine.

Meanwhile, the vice-president of the Tolima Riders Association said, “The electrical charge is not lethal, but it is clearly an act of mistreatment that would lead to stress in the horse’s nervous system.” The association also pleaded with the public to not stigmatise all horse riders because of the actions of “a few".

"During cavalcades, participants sometimes force the horses to do things that aren’t natural”

Camilo Cupitre, who shared the video on Twitter, is part of an animal rights group in Icononzo. He explained why he’d like to see a ban on cavalcades.

There are several cavalcades a year in Icononzo – they are organised by local horsemen with permission from the city. During these events, the participants gather in one spot and then parade on horseback down the main city streets as music blares. The participants usually have a link to rural areas. Either they live in the country or they own a farm or livestock. Cavalcades are very popular in both Icononzo and the rest of the country.

This video was filmed during a cavalcade on December 26 in Icononzo. It was posted on the Facebook page of the city’s conservative party.

 

The problem is that there is a lot of abuse during cavalcades. Sometimes, participants force the horses to do things that aren’t natural, making them do figures or walk in a certain way.

Moreover, participants like their horses to appear energetic. They want people to see them as skilled riders, so sometimes they will deal the horses blows. Residents of Icononzo told me that they sometimes use whips or even needles. Sometimes people do use objects that create an electrical charge, but the people I spoke to said that was rare.

Finally, horses often walk for hours during cavalcades, under the sun, without eating or drinking anything. And once they finish, the riders often go off to drink without necessarily taking care of the animals in their charge.

Ideally, I’d like to see cavalcades banned because of these abuses because it is very difficult to control what happens during them, especially because of the culture of alcohol consumption. That said, we know they aren’t going to disappear from one day to the next, so we’d like, at the very least, for the organisers to push participants to treat their horses well. We also want the local authorities to exercise real control during these events.  

Ban on cavalcades in some Colombian cities

Over the past few years, cavalcades were banned in several major Colombian cities, including Medellin, Cali, Armenia, Bucaramanga, Pereira, Buga and Jamundi, often after incidents relating to excessive consumption of alcohol or animal mistreatment.

Last October, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would both “protect and regulate” cavalcades in Colombia, which the bill said was an “economic, recreational and cultural activity", while simultaneously working to insure the welfare of the horse participants. Even though it was approved by a large majority, the bill sparked long debates in the House because of a number of opponents who support animal rights. One of the main points of controversy was the fact that some cavalcades are financed with public money. The bill will now be examined in the Senate.