“Satanic” Mutilations of Horses

Well, these stories have been making the rounds for years. But to have a respectable media outlet like the BBC report on it and quote a Lincolnshire horse owner babbling about Satan is starting to get ridiculous.

“Nobody knows why someone would do something like this, but you can look on the internet and there are all these Satanic cults.”

I’m sorry…there are satanic cults on the internet? Like, advertising themselves?

And even if that was true, why must it be that satanists are the ones attacking horses? Why not destructive teens, or ne’er-do-wells with fetishes for attacking animals?

The owner also mentions the date as being suspect: “It always seems to happen on a full moon between the 2nd and the 7th of May – poor old Penny was attacked on the 4th May,” he said.

Chillingly, that same logic was used by police and pseudo-experts in “occult crime” to describe the Robin Hood Hills murders in West Memphis, Arkansas (which occurred on May 5th 1993) as “satanic cult killings” (though no evidence has ever suggested there was any truth to this).

Interestingly, however, a similar attack happened in Staffordshire on May 4th. Non-violent incidents in Scotland in April of this year left a number of horses shorn of their manes, forelocks and tails. A search of the BBC news website using the words “horse mutilation” reveals numerous stories, including a spate of attacks on horses in Cornwall in January. Naturally, the sensationalist Daily Mail does not miss an opportunity to create headlines using the word “satanic” and has followed these stories closely.

But stories of horse mutilations go back a number of years; and the “satanic” connection has been mentioned often, as in this story from 2009, in which a four-day old foal was attacked on May 25th in Scotland. Apparently Britain is not alone; an article from the Fortean Times describes similar horse mutilations happening across Swedenmore then two decades ago. And there have been attacks in the United States, too, but oddly enough, they seem to be attributed more often to aliens than to satanists. One worrying theory about the UK mutilations is that they may be connected to the spread of a deadly virus.

There is no question that these crimes are heinous; perhaps especially so in a country where horses have been revered since ancient times, their huge chalk figures carved like noble beast-gods in the hillsides, their lithe bodies populating the downs and hills across the country. So strong is the love of horses that the severe lack of food in war time Britain was not enough to eliminate the aversion that most Britons feel about eating horse meat, which was one of the only meat sources in abundant supply.

But why are horses being attacked? And why is there a rumor of satanism permeating the countryside, as people are unable to account for the motivations behind these attacks?




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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Roberto Labanti
    • Peg Aloi

      Thanks for those links and citations Roberto!

  • Pat Booker

    Horse mutilations have happened for decades.  Arthur Conan-Doyle investigated a real life case of horse mutilation which was being blamed on a half-indian man named George Edalji.  The local community at the time believed it was a throwback to his “heathen ways” (although actually, his father had converted and was a church of England vicar).  It seems that, when faced with incomprehensible cruelty, people look to outsiders.  I suspect that  horses are harmed for the same reason expensive cars are vandalised – because owning them is a symbol of wealth, status and power.  That and the fact there are some sick sods out there.  Why blame horse mutilations on outsiders when we know that within our own rural communities there are still people running dog-fighting and badger-baiting?

  • ziarah

    This isn’t the first time the BBC has gone the sensationalistic route. I blogged about something similar a few months ago: http://backwardmessages.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/how-evangelicals-control-the-story/

  • Druidwood

    As a fan of the BBC I have to say that I’m shocked that they would do this. Here in the U.S it’s something one gets used to but the BBC?  WOW!

  • Gareth

    In defence of the BBC article it is actually quoting someone. It wasn’t a suggestion made by the reporter nor were they a quoting conveniently anonymous person. I think these reports over-inflate the extent to which people believe these attacks are satanic. It only takes one person to, no matter how tenuously connected to the case, to suggest Satanism or black magic for it to be reported as such. The horse owners I know generally regard the damage to horses as being the result of stags, barbed wire, someone with a grudge or an an attempt to cash in on any insurance. 

  • James

    this story is an example of bad journalism. Just like in the 80s and 90s when ”Satanism Scares” were all the rage. As some may remember, those stories were proven to be hoaxes. Satanism can be, and should be if accurate information is warrented, researched quite easily. Blood sacrifces for example are condemned by the vast majority of Satanists as is sexual abuse. There is a witch hunt mentality of a few christian fundamentalists in this country and the U.S. that spreads untruths (I wont say ”lies”, as many who tell them, believe them) and fuels misconceptions and erronous assumptions about Satanism, that get innocent people arrested for crimes that never happened and children taken from their parents by over-zealous careworkers. These rumors are generally accepted by the public because average folk know nothing about Satanism but have seen The Omen trilogy (or some other such garbage cinema) and assume that is an accurate portrail of the religion. Journalists and the police should learn from the mistakes of the ”Satanic Panic” era, before similar blood-libel BS starts up again. Furthermore, yes, there are Satanic groups, ”churches/temples”, online. Satanists tend to be fairly isolated from each other geographically so there is a wide online community. There are no sacrificial obligations in Satanism, nor is Satanism the schlock-horror of eighties movies and delusional fundamentalists. Google ”Satanism/Devil Worship FAQs”, educate yourself on the REAL beliefs and practices of Traditional and Laveyan Satanisms. That’s my rant over, for now. (P.S. I’m a practicing ”Traditional” Satanist in yorkshire, so I know what I’m talking about)

    • Peg Aloi

      James: I hope it is taken a given that I have no problem with respectable people practicing whatever spiritual path they wish, as long as it is not harmful to anyone or themselves. That includes Satanism or any branch of it. My point in addressing these stories is to explore the notion that somehow accusations of “satan worship” are behind these crimes that obviously have some kind of complex pathology behind them, even if the people who perpetrate these crimes are not united in one unique motivating factor. To suggest it is one form of spiritual belief and practice at faulty for these troubling instances of animal abuse is, in my mind, overly simplistic and, as you yourself would no doubt point out, unnecessarily derisive of those who follow these spiritual traditions.