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By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

February 10, 2023 | 6 min read

Ahead of Super Bowl Sunday, animal rights organization Peta is calling out beer giant Anheuser-Busch for docking the tails of its famed Clydesdales – a cosmetic practice that veterinary groups deem unethical.

Animal rights activist group Peta is rallying against Anheuser-Busch’s treatment of Clydesdale horses – a symbol that’s become synonymous with Budweiser and the Super Bowl – claiming that the company is “mutilating” the creatures for their own benefit.

In anticipation of Budweiser’s 90th anniversary of employing the horses, Peta conducted an investigation into the treatment of the animals. The organization went undercover at Warm Springs Ranch in Missouri, where the beer behemoth’s Clydesdales are bred – where it says it found evidence that the company “amputates the tailbones” of the horses “so they’ll look a certain way.” In a statement, Peta asserted that the procedure “involves severing part of the horse’s spine by amputating some or all tailbones.”

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As part of the investigation, Peta released a damning two-and-a-half-minute video, which includes footage taken at Warm Springs Ranch. A narrator explains that Budweiser representatives generally “mislead the public” by saying that its horses’ tails are “trimmed” – implying nothing more than a harmless haircut. However, Peta speaks with Budweiser employees – whose identities are protected for the sake of anonymity – who share the truth, explaining that the Clydesdales’ tails are docked from a young age.

“Some of all of the tail is removed – either with a scalpel or with a tight band that cuts off the blood flow, causing the tail to die off,” the narrator says. “Veterinary experts say that horses whose tails have been amputated endure lifelong pain.”

Tailbone amputation – done for cosmetic reasons – is a common procedure done on a variety of dog breeds, too. It’s a practice condemned by the American Veterinary Medical Association (as is the practice of cosmetic ear cropping) as well as the American Association of Equine Practitioners. It’s illegal in 10 US states and a handful of countries around the world.

The effects are especially unsafe to horses, Peta says, negatively impacting balance and reducing their ability to ward off disease-spreading insects. It also impedes their ability to communicate with other horses.

“Budweiser has been mutilating horses for decades just to sell beer – and we’re not going to let them get away with it anymore,” Peta senior vice-president Kathy Guillermo tells The Drum. Guillermo points out that while Budweiser uses the horses as “symbols of traditional American values,” they are actually “disfigured and exploited.”

In its exposé, Peta urges consumers to reject the practice of tail docking and to demand better from Anheuser-Busch. “Tell Budweiser to start representing real American values and stop amputating Clydesdales’ tails.”

To further its mission, the nonprofit organization is launching a multichannel ‘tailgate’ campaign rallying against the beer giant. As part of the effort, Peta is rolling out a TV commercial in the style of Budweiser’s famous all-American Clydesdale ads that urges consumers to “take off the beer goggles” and see the truth about tail docking.

Plus, animal rights activists will march alongside a mobile billboard condemning Budweiser’s practice of tail docking along the brand’s horse parade routes in Arizona. Another mobile billboard will circle Anheuser-Busch’s flagship brewery in St. Louis, Missouri, where the company is celebrating the 90th anniversary of Budweiser’s Clydesdales with a new mural of the iconic horses.

Finally, Peta plans to fly an aerial banner over State Farm Stadium and nearby tailgate parties hosted by celebrity chefs Guy Fieri and Bobby Flay on Super Bowl Sunday to raise awareness of the issue.

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“We’re demanding that Budweiser stop severing horses’ tailbones now,” says Guillermo.

This year, Anheuser-Busch InBev – which owns not only Budweiser but other top beer brands including Corona, Busch Light and Stella Artois – has relinquished its exclusive advertising rights to the Big Game in the alcohol category – a right it’s had since 1988. As a result, Super Bowl LVII will see major ad campaigns from a diverse range of alcohol brands. Confirmed players include Molson Coors, Heineken, Rémy Cointreau and others.

At the time of publishing, Anheuser-Busch has not responded to requests for comment.

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