Lettera aperta a Jaime Jackson

Written for n° 50  “The horse’s hoof” – spring 2013.

(trovate la traduzione in italiano di questa lettera di risposta a Jackson ed il suo appello in lingua inglese nella pagina “laminite”. L’appello è pubblicato sul numero 49 di The Horse’s Hoof)

An open letter to Jaime Jackson, adhering and responding to his plea for ethical behavior in research (in THH 49)  by Dr. Franco Belmonte

Thank you Jaime, I also refuse to sacrifice horses and ponies in the name of laminitis research. This petition, this plea, is worthy of our maximum consideration. Two years ago, after rereading the work of so called expert researchers on lamini- tis, I wrote the following on my website regarding the disease:

“Any way Pollitt and the other researchers turn, all they find are jammed up biological mechanisms. Each publication points to a new aspect responsible for the disease, and some inexperienced people may believe they have finally found long sought after answers. A comparison could be, who would expect to find a normal functioning motor in an airplane that has crashed? It is simply too easy to find mechanisms and parts that are ‘out of service’ in the devastated space of a lami- nitic hoof. Causing stomach and feet pain in horses until poi- soning occurs is nothing to brag about and rather is justified by the job and the contribution to the center for which the work was done. I prefer the positive approach of J. Jackson to these butchers that observes and identifies what doesn’t hurt the horse while striving for the same or a better result.”

What is the objective of their studies? To find a way to sell at a high price a way in which horses kept in non-species-suitable conditions wouldn’t get sick in the interest of their owners and stable owners? If the research intends to find a remedy to compensate for incorrect horse management, indirectly concealing the results, it’s far from ethically valid. What research is performed in the interest of the animal without heavy involvement of our interests? Many horses are plagued with ulcers caused by detention and/or incorrect feeding, and therefore are treated with gastroprotective medicines. In how many horses have ulcers been induced in laboratories in order to research gastroprotective medicine? Yet, how many feral horses suffer from ulcers? The suffering of laboratory animals added to sick individuals would lessen significantly if close to natural living conditions were present. Each person can easily list a similar situation. An example that is far from raising sus- picion but contributes to shaping the atmosphere in research is the study of biomechanics where a shod hoof, and therefore not in optimum physiological conditions, is fitted with pres- sure detectors to study materials for race tracks. Materials, race tracks, races and investments are priorities, not the well- being of the animal. Laminitis research and its formulation reminds me of a brief period in my youth when, full of enthusiasm in being a bi- ologist, I counted the production of mRNA in neurons made epileptic through electric shock. My enthusiasm diminished with the source of those cells and was killed in the end know- ing with certainty what the end result was. I don’t know if the other researchers silently shared my doubts. The fact is that I didn’t last very long there and they did. To my astonishment, I found myself, one day, in a similar situation with the barefoot movement. The first thing that I found in my hands was the stump of a horse’s leg. I sat back and started to think. Now, after several years, I also teach. I use wood to permit students to practice instead of specimens. With different types of wood that have different densities, I demonstrate and then ask stu- dents to do simple shapes with flat and curved surfaces. It takes more than a couple of hours on anatomical parts to de- velop the ability to use tools. I encourage practice with wood and making toys or objects for the house to rediscover the use of their hands and the acuity of their eyes. My main goal is another, respect for the animal without being the final step be- fore butchering, and not permitting the vulgar use of its ana- tomical parts by people who have never used hoof knives and rasps and that are unaware of basic anatomy and pathologic anatomy. I believe that all teachers of barefoot can stimulate people, their readers and students to better respect the animal by adopting my principles. Those young men, those students may not become the Nazi doctors and veterinarians that Jack- son reminds us of. Without underestimating the importance of dissection and to show another example, I don’t believe that the slaughter of frogs in high school laboratories is neces- sary and justifiable for the comprehension the mechanism of muscular contractions.

I pledge my commitment in reporting the horrors that Jackson points out, I will continue teaching and spreading the concept of natural boarding. I ask all teachers in the art of hoof trim- ming, without distinction, to adopt a teaching method that is as respectful as possible of the animals. I ask editors not to print and distribute research that entails suffering of horses and animals in general. I thank everyone for sharing this doc- ument.

Dr. Franco Belmonte, biologist, AHA member



Dear Dr. Belmonte, I work with Jaime Jackson and the AANHCP. I would like to post a copy of your “Open Letter to Jaime Jackson Adhering and Responding to his Plea for Ethical Behavior in Research.” Do you have this already posted on a website and/or on Facebook so that I can provide a link to this? We are both appreciative of the fact that you also see this as an important issue! All the best and kind regards, Jill Willis


Dear Dr. Franco, I have just read your letter as printed in “The Horse’s Hoof” in support of Jaimie’s plea to Prof. Pollitt. Thank you for your point of view. I applaud you. As much as I respect Prof. Pollitt and his research – but really: It is now just a case of not seeing the forest for the trees!

Kind regards from “down-under”  Carola

Advanced Hoofcare Education and Lameness Rehabilitation – www.EquineBareHoofCare.org


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Informazioni su Franco Belmonte

Born 1952. Degree in Biological Sciences University of Genova, Italy. Researcher, CNR of Italy 1977-'80 (neurochemistry) then various task related to biology till now. Active Member and Certified Trimmer of the American Hoof Association. Didactic activity: equine podiatry and nutrition. Area of interest: evolution and physiology. Airline pilot and flight instructor for living 1981-2002.