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Barbi Twins: Famous for… Equine Advocacy

Shane and Sia Barbi–the bodacious and perhaps outrageous, world famous pin-up girls from the 90’s–have pretty much given up show business. They never did take themselves seriously nor were they seeking a life of fame and wealth.

They are, however, well aware of the power of celebrity.

To know them they are quite shy, humble, and share a self-deprecating sense of humor that makes them most approachable, if you can find them. As reclusive and private as they are, they have dedicated their lives to animal welfare causes and anti-cruelty advocacy. In fact, that is all they do now.

Along with Shane’s husband, Ken Wahl, they have championed many animal causes and most recently teamed up with Willie Nelson to oppose lifting the ban on horse slaughter.  To no avail the six-year-old ban was lifted last December.

Shane Barbi, Willie Nelson, and Sia Barbi

I personally remain neutral on the issue. As a strong advocate of zoos and zoo animal welfare, I’m aware that zoo animals are some of the largest consumers of horse meat. Hence, I defer to zoo nutritionists and veterinarians on appropriate meat sources for zoo carnivores (carnivorans) and raptors.  Some zoos choose to feed horse meat and others have or are shifting to a beef diet.

The Barbi twins and I agree to disagree on a lot of issues, but I certainly commend them for doing their homework.   They vehemently oppose horse slaughter on the grounds that horses weren’t bred for human consumption.  I did not ask them to comment on zoo animal consumption of horse meat, but I pretty much know where they stand.

The Barbi twins assert that “horses were bred and domesticated to be companion animals like a dog or cat. They also served as working animals on farms, and provided transport for people. They also risked their lives in wartime.”

They are adamantly opposed to both slaughter and wild horse round-ups, considering both activities to be blatant forms of animal cruelty.  Sia said that “The helicopter round-ups spook the horses so they end up badly injured or trampled to death. Pregnant horses may even abort foals in these stampedes.  And the remaining horses often die from hunger, thirst, or overcrowding in holding pens.”

wild horses (nat geo archives)

Shane added that “most importantly, we are vegans mostly because there is no such thing as humane slaughter–that is an oxymoron.”

Again, we agree to disagree, but I applaud them for their passion and ambition to really study the issues.

Today, they are more known for their activism then they are for their work in front of the camera, perhaps, drawing a whole new demographic of fans.  Along with Willie Nelson, they continue to fight for horse welfare and support the equine and companion animal initiatives of the Animal Welfare Institute.

Shane and Sia are former equestrians, but they have given up the hobby to focus on equine welfare and rescue and other animal causes from wildlife issues to companion animal concerns.

Sia and Shane Barbi








  1. Mary
    November 19, 2013, 4:31 pm

    The blogger clearly doesn’t know much about horse slaughter. Thank goodness that the Barbi twins are such strong advocates.

  2. Carole Weir
    United States
    April 5, 2013, 5:54 pm


  3. Bekha
    Alamo, CA
    March 4, 2013, 9:19 pm

    I applaud these beautiful women, in and out, for taking such a courageous stance against an industry both unnecessarily cruel and potentially toxic to human beings.
    I also applaud them taking a stance for the few remaining wild horses of the West to remain there–beautiful, wild, free.
    In a country that so claims to prize beauty, you would think our Congress might feel more empathy towards mustangs.
    Congratulations, ladies, you are my heroines.

  4. Anne-Marie
    Garden Valley,California
    June 21, 2012, 11:20 am

    It is truly inspiring that the Twins have the courage to stand up for animals and especially for horses. My comment is directed to the writer of this interview. Regarding horse meat and Zoo animals; what is toxic to humans, is toxic to animals as well. Why not feed Beef? They are raised with strict standards as food animals. Why is it so hard to comprehend, that ALL horses including the Wild Horses are unsuited for consumption? Our Government has been doing experimenting with birth controll drugs on our wild horses for at least 20 yrs. These drugs have been UNAPPROVED by the FDA. HORSEMEAT IS TOXIC! As simple as that, get it people!

  5. annie bode
    May 7, 2012, 1:25 pm

    Thank you for everything you do.

  6. Nina Eckhoff
    April 15, 2012, 12:47 am

    Well done – again – ladies! Thank you for all your good words and great works.

  7. Dominique
    N. CA
    March 5, 2012, 10:36 pm

    Thank you ladies for reflecting your beauty inside and out for these magnificent, sensitive, intelligent Horses that are being used, abused and murdered for again, the corporate greed zombies.

  8. Gary Chandler
    March 3, 2012, 8:28 pm

    In my opinion: It’s time for the livestock industry (especially the corporate cowboys) to admit that they have greater threats to their profitability than wild horses. If the “ranchers” and the BLM are truly concerned about the health and quality of range land, watersheds, and food supplies, here is a new suggestion: manage public lands and entire watersheds against the spread of the deadly prion. One key strategy is to keep all livestock off of our cherished public lands — where prion disease is a growing threat.

    As more people are learning every day, prions are a form of deadly protein that builds up in the cells and bodily fluids of people and animals afflicted with various forms of prion disease, including mad cow disease, chronic wasting disease, scrapie, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Prions now are such a formidable threat that the United States government enacted the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 to halt research on infectious prions in the United States in all but two laboratories. Now, infectious prions are classified as select agents that require special security clearance for lab research. The intent is to keep prions and other dangerous biological materials away from terrorists who might use them to contaminate, food, water, blood, equipment, and entire facilities.

    Dr. Stanley Prusiner earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for identifying and studying deadly prions. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the growing significance of his discovery.

    Thanks to Prusiner and other researchers, we now know that various forms of prion disease already are spreading around the world. Prion disease has been found in livestock and a variety of wildlife species across the Rocky Mountain region, the northwest U.S., and southwest.

    As Prusiner and other scientists have discovered, the prion pathogen spreads through urine, feces, saliva, blood, milk, soil, and the tissue of infected animals (not to mention soil and water). With those attributes, prions obviously can migrate through surface water runoff and settle in groundwater, lakes, oceans, and water reservoirs. If prions must be regulated in a laboratory environment today, the outdoor environment should be managed accordingly.

    It’s time to develop a comprehensive prion management strategy that maximizes safeguards for human health, food, water, and wildlife around the globe. The stakes are too high for fragmented and misguided prion policies. Just ask the Canadian cattlemen what a few prions did to their industry. Ask the U.S. cattle and dairy industries if they want to increase prion pathways in the watersheds that feed our public and private lands. If not, then we need to keep all livestock off of public lands to minimize the risks of cross-contamination. We don’t need to increase the opportunity for sick wildlife to infect livestock or for sick livestock to infect wildlife. Tell the cattle industry to take a stand for food safety and stop grazing on public lands. Then so-called conflicts with wild horses become a non-issue and then public lands become multi-use again.

    We have very few mom-and-pop ranchers left in America. Mom-and-pop ranchers also have been wiped out by the “corporate cowboys.” The groups fighting to extinguish the wild horses and the wolves are fighting for every last penny of profit. Remember, this is the industry that decided that feeding dead animals to cattle was a good idea (meat and bone meal is cheap feed). They also decided that injecting cows with the pituitary gland of a dead cow was a good idea (that’s where growth hormones originated).

    Therefore, the battle for the wild horse in the American West also is one of greed. If the livestock industry continues its assault on our wild horses, alter your diet accordingly. Tell everyone that you know to do the same. If they harass horses by helicopter, is that a license for all to harass cattle from the sky? What happens when they break their legs running in fear (as happens with our magnificent wild horses). And meanwhile has the livestock industry completely quit using growth hormones derived from the brains of dead cattle? As a specified risk material (SRM) this should have been stopped long ago. How about the feed mills? How many of these mills still must be inspected to safeguard the food chain from mad cow disease?

    Take a REAL stand for food safety. Take a stand for a REAL symbol of the American spirit. You have your work cut out for you, so quit terrorizing and killing our wild horses.

    Do your own research. Read the “Pathological Protein” or “Mad Cowboy.” Search the internet. The prion threat is real and irreversible. Help us save the remaining wild horses and salvage some respect for the livestock industry.

    In addition, Please support the ban on horse slaughter House Bill H.R. 2966 and Senate Bill 1176.

  9. Kris Little
    March 3, 2012, 9:08 am

    The chemical body burden of horse meat is high. Consider that the horses that end up at the slaughter plant are often over 20 years old and so have had a lifetime of accumulating synthetic chemicals and heavy metals such as lead, methyl mercury, dioxins, PCBs, cadmium. This alone should keep them off the edible list.

  10. Kerry Becker-Lund
    March 3, 2012, 8:41 am

    Shane and Sia’s activism so absolutely inspiring. They are strong, smart women who bring much needed attention to this issue.

    Horse slaughter is horribly cruel. The hauling process alone is horrible as most are hauled in double-decker trailers not designed for their long necks. Many arrive at the slaughter yard with broken bones and other horrible injuries. Next they are pushed through shoots filled the smell of death and fear. The bolt shot that is used to kill cattle often doesn’t work with horses because their brains are further back in their skull. Many end up being slaughtered alive.

    We need to ask ourselves, what kind of people are we? Would we treat a stray dog or cat this way? Would we treat an dog given up because his owner could not longer afford him this way?

    Shane and Sia, Thank you for helping to wake up America on this issue.

  11. Kathleen
    March 2, 2012, 11:10 pm

    By the way, Jordan Schaul, did you know that:

    FACT: American pet food companies quit using horse meat decades ago specifically because of the toxicity issue that was harming pets?

    FACT: Most zoos already have or are trying to find other options.

    As Simone Netherlands astutely points out, a horse donated to a zoo then humanely shot at the zoo is FAR FAR luckier than are any of those poor innocent betrayed companion horses sent to slaughter in factories that are specifically set up to produce FOOD for America, not carcinogenic “product” to make a few horse-haters rich while they poison other humans.

    FACT: Horse slaughter is NOT humane euthanasia but rather killing for food, for human consumption. There is a huge difference.

    FACT: A last point that is constantly thrown out by slaughter lovers – it would be good for the economy. Well, how stupid is that? Any one with half a wit can figure out that a horse killed immediately stops contributing to all the supporting economies: hay, grain, supplements, boarding farms, insect control, real estate, barns, fences, trailers, trainers, trucks, tractors, tack, insurance, shows, vets, farriers, chiropractors, dentists, ribbon makers, photographers, videographers, grooms, bedding suppliers… the list goes on.

    So… a DEAD horse contributes nothing to the economy while a LIVE horse requires much of this support and requires it FOR YEARS. Who really loses out to slaughter besides the poor horse? Thousands of Americans in many walks of life as business is lost for every single horse killed. This is such a no-brainer, it’s just amazing the slaughter lovers keep trying to trot it out as justification. Guess it just proves what mental midgets they are…

  12. Kathleen
    March 2, 2012, 11:05 pm

    Thank you for this article spotlighting the good work Shane, Sia and Ken are doing to help American horses. Thank goodness they are helping to bring more awareness.

    FACT: Horses going to slaughter are former pets, companions, sport partners — they are not livestock but companion animals.

    FACT: FDA even classifies them as companions.

    FACT: Horses going to slaughter are not bred as food animals so their history as a companion animal is untraceable which is contrary to US food safety regulations.

    FACT: These animals are born and bred to partner with humans in work, competition, battles or games. As such their psyche is purposefully set to implicitly trust us. Sending them to slaughter is the most heinous act against that innate trust we’ve selectively bred for over hundreds of years.

    FACT: Cows and pigs are not partners, they don’t ride into battle, never take Olympic medals, do not share trail rides or arena games with their owners – why? Because they ARE LIVESTOCK and NOT companion animals.

    The slaughter promoters would like you to believe they are all the same — they are NOT.

    FACT: Horses are more akin to our beloved pets, our cats and dogs.

    When America fully accepts and condones the horrific dog and cat slaughter that takes place every day in China as “normal”, then perhaps we can discuss accepting it “normal” to slaughter our faithful companion, the horse. THAT is never going to happen.

    FACT: As companion animals, horses are given a myriad of toxic, carcinogenic (to humans) medications and compounds to make their lives more comfortable. Anti-inflammatories, fly spray, wormers, steroids, etc. All those things are packaged in containers clearly stating “NOT FOR USE IN HORSES INTENDED FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION” because our FDA has mandated these things DO NOT make their way into our diet because they are dangerous to human health.

    So I ask: How in heaven’s name can Americans ever approve of sending poisonous harmful “meat” from these companion animals overseas for foreign consumers? We are asked to approve of this so some soulless cretins who worship money and care nothing for horses can get rich, people who care nothing for humans for that matter? Those same soulless cretins have even suggested this “food” should feed poor US school children, the elderly and the incarcerated – unbelievable, isn’t it?

    I don’t think so, NOT going to happen as long as I, and many thousands more, have breath to protest this despicable business.

  13. Wild Mustang Robin
    Las Vegas, NV
    March 2, 2012, 6:51 pm

    I am glad they are speaking up for the horses because the wild horses have no protections. Not from the Wildlife Dept. or the EPA or even Wild Horse Annie Law because most of them live on public land and the BLM is exempt from the law that protects them.

    I have a petition asking the BLM to not be exempt from the law that protects horses and burros. Here is the link: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-president-of-the-united-states-the-blm-is-not-exempt-from-humane-treatment-of-mustangs

    Thank you, NatGeo for being a voice for the horses!

  14. Simone Netherlands
    March 2, 2012, 6:46 pm

    Thank you so much for doing this article on the Barbi Twins, they could be using their fame for so many things, but they use it ONLY to further animal causes. Thank you Shane and Sia.

    It is too bad that you did not ask Sia and Shane about the zoo’s feeding horses to animals because it is quite a different scenario. If it is a zoo that will kill the horse by a bullet to the brain in the correct angle, this is a waaay different story than what is going on in this country at this moment, so much so , that I personally would consider that horse a lucky horse, compared to what he would have had to go through in a horse slaughter plant.

    Here is what is going on in our country today. (warning graphic discription)
    The foreign owned and greed motivated horse slaughter Industrie employs kill buyers who are out looking for cheap horses all over the US, they are at auctions, place adds on craigslist and will pretend they are horse sanctuaries or bring their daughter to obtain horses for free. Many people have no idea what happens to their horse after they sell it at auction. Kill buyers also prey on wild horses that have been rounded up and sold at auctions.

    The nature of kill buyers is such that they are not “humane” people. They need to make a profit so they will force too many horses together in trailers that are made for cattle (cattle trucks are too low for horses), without discriminating between mares stallions babies pregnant mares or wild horses.

    Kill buyers are brutal and use iron rods and shock prods, a well known habit of kill buyers also is to bash in the eyes of horses that are kicking so that they become “docile” for the trip to the slaughter plant. The horses are not treated as a living being, they are treated as trash from the minute they are designated for human consumption.

    The trips last over 24 hours without food and water, even when we had slaughter plants in America. At the slaughter plants in Mexico the horses simply get stabbed in the spine to render them paralyzed, but not unconscious, after which they get hung up side down by one hind leg and their throat is slid, this process can take up to half an hour. Since time is money, skin gets taken off sometimes while the horses are still breathing, babies get cut out of their mothers and thrown in the trash alive etc.

    I apologize for this graphic discription, but it is not pretty, this is nothing compared to watching the videos or being there.

    Please realize that horse slaughter is the most brutal form of legal animal abuse in our country today. If we open horse slaughter plants in America this will NOT stop the export of our horses to Mexico and Canada, it will only be more of the same abuse.

    These are our former pets, racehorses, performance horses, wild horses and riding horses. It costs $150 dollars to humanely euthanize a horse if one needs to, there is no need for horse slaughter.

    Please support the ban on horse slaughter House Bill H.R. 2966 and Senate Bill 1176. Thank you.

  15. Jacqueline Deely
    San Jose, CA
    March 2, 2012, 3:14 pm

    Good for them!

  16. Theresa Nolet
    British Columbia
    March 2, 2012, 1:31 pm

    As to the safety of eating meat from horses NOT raised for food, here is a quote from an article by the FDA regarding bute as well as the link ” Deborah Cera, a CVM compliance officer-“We want to ensure that the public is never exposed to residues of this toxic drug.’’

    Phenylbutazone is known to induce blood dyscrasias, including aplastic anemia, leukopenia, agranulocytosis, thrombocytopenia and deaths. Hypersensitivity reactions of the serum-sickness type have also been reported. In addition, phenylbutazone is a carcinogen, as determined by the National Toxicology Program.”

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