Anheuser-Busch to stop cutting Clydesdale ponytails

A Budweiser Clydesdales handler cycles through several Clydesdales in Houston, March 31, 2014.

James Nielsen | Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

Anheuser-Busch InBev said it would no longer cut off the tails of the iconic Clydesdale horses used in its Budweiser advertisements and at events, following prolonged backlash from animal rights groups.

The drinks maker, whose sales suffered after criticism of its partnership with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney, launched its horse-drawn beer cart almost a century ago to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition some beer. Clydesdale horses immediately became a hit with the public and Anheuser-Busch has since used them in hundreds of appearances across the country each year for parades, television commercials and Super Bowl events.

However, the practice known as “docking”, which can involve cutting off a horse’s tailbone, has come under scrutiny. Anheuser-Busch announced Wednesday that it has stopped cutting lines.

“The practice of tail docking of equines was discontinued earlier this year,” a company spokesperson said. “The safety and well-being of our beloved Clydesdales is our top priority.”

Tailbone amputation for cosmetic reasons is illegal in 10 states and several countries. The American Veterinary Medical Association also condemned it.

The Association for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said an investigation found Budweiser horses had their tails docked for cosmetic reasons, and called the practice “gross mutilation.” PETA said it found that some Anheuser-Busch representatives reported trimming tail hair rather than trimming it.

Earlier this month, an international coalition of animal protection organizations, including PETA, sent a letter to Anheuser-Busch urging the beer maker to end the practice. PETA has even purchased shares of the company to voice its concerns at shareholder meetings, in addition to protests and other actions taken by the group.

In a statement to CNBC, PETA said it was celebrating the beer maker’s decision to stop cutting ponytails by “opening cold ponytails.”

In addition to announcing that it would end this practice, the company also announced a new partnership with American Humane, the world’s largest certifier of animal welfare practices.

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