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Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Perfect Time to End the Slaughter of American Horses

September 1, 2010

Editorial By John Holland

At the moment, the news is rife with stories about the level of equine neglect in the United States, with many of the articles blaming the "unintended consequences" of closing the US horse slaughter plants and calling for them to be reopened. But in reality, we are coming up on a once in a lifetime opportunity to get rid of this abominable practice once and for all. To understand this apparent paradox, one needs to get past unsubstantiated myths to the real forces at play in the market.

First, one needs to understand that it is completely impossible to blame the current glut of excess horses on the closing of the slaughter plants because the closings simply sent the horses over the Mexican and Canadian borders for slaughter. In 2006, the year before the closings, 142,740 American horses were slaughtered, and that number only dropped by 14% the year the plants were closed. By 2008, slaughter was back to the second highest level in almost ten years.

Next, it is necessary to understand what really causes neglect, and that is unemployment. After years of studying the relationship between neglect rates and slaughter volumes, I had concluded that there was no relationship whatever. Then I looked at the rates of neglect in Illinois in comparison with unemployment in the state. The correlation was striking.

Like most such revelations, it should have been expected, but it was still striking. It perfectly explains the mystery of how the number of American horses slaughtered in the US between 1989 and 2002 could have dropped from 377,078 to 77,713 (almost 80%) with no negative impact on either neglect or horse prices.

This correlation also tells us what we can expect as unemployment goes both up and down. At the moment the US is experiencing high unemployment with national rates hovering just under 10%. As predicted from the above graph, this is causing a high rate of neglect.

So why can I say with complete confidence that we are coming up on the perfect opportunity to end slaughter without significantly impacting the horse market?

There is a second factor at work. As the market for horses remains depressed, many breeders are throwing in the proverbial towel. Every day brood mares and stallions are being sold at auction and on internet sites like Craig's List. This is temporarily increasing the supply and further depressing prices.

The result of this further depression in prices is to convince even more breeders to quit producing. Statistics show breeding is down dramatically in virtually all breeds. The Jockey Club, for example, recently predicted the 2011 foal crop will be the lowest since 1973. Similarly, the American Quarter Horse Association's annual reports shows a 15% drop in revenue for new registrations between 2006 and 2009.

This trend will continue until the economy begins to recover significantly, or the market eventually reaches a new balance. Slaughter cannot help reduce the over supply of horses because the horse meat market is also depressed. Although the export of US slaughter horses in 2008 brought the annual slaughter back its level before the plant closures, the subsequent recession caused a 25.8% drop in exports between 2008 and 2009. The reduction in demand for slaughter horses will likely continue as the effects of new EU drug residue regulations begin forcing horses to be quarantined for 6 months prior to slaughter.

But these two trends are about to merge and provide a wonderful opportunity to end slaughter with little or no impact on the market. As the smaller foal crops reach market age, there will be a reduction supply, and when the economy finally begins to recover, it will bring with it more carrying capacity (demand) for horses. With less supply and more homes available, the number of surplus horses will dip to a record low.

Moreover, there will be a move toward quality. In a recent interview, a struggling breeder in Canada complained she had to sell her horses to slaughter because the market was so low, but in the very next sentence she explained "You have to breed 100 horses to get two good ones." Clearly that business model has been a big part of the problem that gotten us to this point, but few "lotto breeders" appear to be surviving the current market.

Only a deep and prolonged recession could have brought us this opportunity and we have certainly been experiencing just that. It would be a tremendous shame if we missed this coming opportunity. Recent auction reports indicate that prices are already beginning to increase.

What is needed is for congress to pass HR 503 / S 727, banning the slaughter and export to slaughter of American horses. This action could be placed in abeyance until a trigger was reached of unemployment dropping significantly (perhaps under 8%). The result would be a smooth transition to a much more humane equine industry.

Horse slaughter is not a "necessary evil", merely an evil. Now is our opportunity to resign this practice to the dust bin of American history.

John Holland is a freelance writer, the author of three books and an industrial consultant in the field of intelligent automation and knowledge engineering. He frequently writes on the subject of horse slaughter from his small farm in the mountains of Virginia, where he lives with his wife, Sheilah, and their 12 equines. Holland is president of the Equine Welfare Alliance and serves as senior analyst for Americans Against Horse Slaughter, an organization composed entirely of volunteers

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On the Road Again...

H.R. 305 Passes House Committee
Posted Jul 28, 2010 by lauraallen

* Horse Slaughter

double decked trailer Update July 29, 2010: The House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has passed H.R. 305 by voice vote. Attached below find the committee background and markup on the bill. Also attached find Animal Law Coalition's letter to the Committee.

It's on to a vote in the full House!

The bill, H.R. 305, was introduced by Representatives Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL) and Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced the bill at the start of the 111th Congress. H.R. 305, known as the Horse Transportation Safety Act, would ban the use of double decked trailers for all horse transport.

What You Can Do

Find your U.S. Representative and urge your representative to support H.R. 305, the Horse Transportation Safety Act, which bans use of double decked trailers to haul horses and promotes highway safety for everyone.

You can reach your Representative through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

More about the proposed law

There is a USDA regulation banning the use of double decked trailers to transport horses to slaughter. 9 CFR 88.3 But the USDA has also said it does not have the resources to enforce the regulation, giving the industry a virtual green light to continue using double decked trailers to haul horses to slaughter. Also, the law allows horses to be hauled in double decked trailers to destinations other than slaughter houses. So, horses are routinely hauled long distances in double decked trailers to some destination close to the slaughter house. Once there, they are then transferred to another vehicle which takes them to the slaughter house.

Double decked trailers can have ceiling heights as low as 5'7". (The industry standard for vehicles to transport horses is 7'-8'). According to the USDA, an equine can be 8 feet tall when standing on all four legs and close to 12 feet tall when rearing.

The bottom deck of a double decked trailer has 3" I Beams every 12" on center to support the top deck.

Steep and narrow ramps with metal floors cause the horses to slip and fall, causing injuries. Horses are forced to jump down into a narrow opening leading to the bottom deck; they are often injured as a result.

Because of the low ceiling heights horses cannot raise and lower their heads and necks for balance. Horses routinely throw their heads and rear, unlike cattle, hogs, goats or sheep for which these double decked trailers are designed. Horses suffer headm neck and back injuries because of the low ceiling height, the 3" I beams, and overhead ramp storage.

They are held on these trailers in this way for long periods. Many suffer serious injuries during these arduous journeys to slaughter, stumbling, falling and are trampled and even killed.

Sometimes the upper deck collapses, leaving horses injured and terrified or dead. There have been a number of accidents involving over full double decked trailers: On May 18, 2010, a cattle trailer hauling horses to a feedlot in Texas crashed on the Turner Turnpike in Oklahoma. Eleven of the 30 horses being transported died.

In October 2007, a double-decker tractor trailer carrying 59 Belgian draft horses through Wadsworth, Illinois, crashed, badly mangling the trailer and trapping many of the horses. Fifteen of the horses died as a result of the accident.

In 2006, a double-stacked trailer hauling 41 horses to a slaughterhouse in DeKalb, Illinois, crashed, killing 16 horses.

USDA has stated that, "We do not believe that equines can be safely and humanely transported on a conveyance that has an animal cargo space divided into two or more stacked levels."

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has said studies suggest "there are increased rates of injury associated with the use of double-decked conveyances for transporting horses." According to the AVMA, "sources, such as the National Agriculture Safety Database and various manufacturers producing trailers specifically for horse transport recommend heights of 7 to 8 ft as being necessary for the safe and comfortable transport of horses (i.e., adequate headroom for the horses to stand comfortably with their heads in normal position); it appears difficult, if not impossible, to meet such recommendations via the use of currently configured double-deck trailers, particularly for taller horses."

State laws

Some states have taken action to stop the use of these trailers to haul horse to slaughter. Double decked trailers have been banned in Pennsylvania, 18 Pa.C.S. § 5511(e)(E.1); Massachusetts, ALM GL ch. 129, § 46, and New York, NY CLS Agr & M § 359-a, as a means of hauling horses; they have been banned in California, Cal Pen Code § 597o, and Arizona, A.R.S. § 3-1312, § 28-912, when used for hauling horses to slaughter. In Vermont double decked trailers are banned when hauling more than 7 horses. Vermont.
13 V.S.A. § 387.

Just last year, Rhode Island banned use of double decked trailers for hauling horses to slaughter.

HorsesThe trailers are allowed but their use is regulated in Connecticut, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-415, Conn. State Agencies § 22-415-2-3; Virginia, 2 VAC 5-160-10, et seq., Minnesota, Minn. Stat. § 346.38 and Maryland, Md. Agriculture Code §3-902. Enforcement of these laws, however, often requires testimony from experts.

But state laws only apply to travel within the state. A strong national law is needed to stop the use of double decked trailers to haul horses across the country and into Mexico or Canada where they are slaughtered.

This won't stop horse slaughter, but it will make it more expensive to do it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

He said, "Your moral compass is out of kilter and points you in improper directions. ... Your sense of integrity, your code of conduct, your perception of right and wrong was perhaps formed by your days on either mean streets or Wall Street."

Let thoroughbred horse racing die a natural death
Scripps Howard News Service
June 01, 2010

Last week horse fans breathed a collective sigh of relief — especially those of us concerned for the welfare of thoroughbred racehorses. Ernie Paragallo was a huge presence in New York State thoroughbred racing and breeding for many years. Last week he was convicted, fined and sent to jail for two years (the maximum penalty) for starving and neglecting many of the 177 thoroughbreds on his upstate New York facility, Center Brook Farm.
At his trial earlier this year it was revealed many of his horses were hundreds of pounds underweight, hadn't been fed in weeks and were lice- or worm-infested. Most were given to horse rescue groups to be re-homed. Six were in such bad shape they had to be euthanized. Such is the fate of thoroughbreds that happen into the hands of bad trainers or owners, and who no longer win at the track.
Paragallo was seen as a success because his horses won more than $20 million in purses, according to The New York Times. But now he will go down in track history as a peerless example of what no one else in the industry wants to be, or at least what no one in the industry wants to get caught doing.
Paragallo certainly does not represent or reflect the behavior of all track horse owners, just the worst of them. But his legacy may serve to make life easier for thoroughbreds in the future. The publicity his case generated has enlightened many Americans to the cruelty perpetrated by too many thoroughbred breeders and trainers.
Breeding associations often offer financial incentives to an industry that already over-breeds. But Paragallo's case is making associations realize they must now kick in to help keep the gallant beasts alive and well-fed after they are of no use to the humans who brought them into the world purely to make money.
Otherwise the racing industry is cast into public relations hell.
Paragallo's case has already spurred some horse owners and trainers to help find second homes for retired thoroughbreds.
The New York Racing Association, for example, raised $125,000 to work with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation to try to find homes for all former racehorses in New York State.
The rescue money is a pittance compared with what's spent on and won at the track. But it's a start, because never before have breeding associations shown any concern for the equine detritus they cause to spawn — the hundreds of thousands of horses that are injured or unwanted and sent off to a horrific end at a young age.
Thoroughbred racing is a dying sport because it relies on slots and gambling to keep it afloat. But gamblers no longer need to rely on race tracks for a fix. There's Internet gambling, casino gambling, heck, even buying lottery tickets, if bettors are so inclined.
If breeders' incentives went away and interest in thoroughbred racing were allowed to die a natural death, untold thousands of horses would be spared the hell on earth of being brought into the world to be overworked, over-raced and then sent off to slaughter.
Thoroughbreds are hardly the only equines or animals that are overbred.
The American Quarter Horse Association is the largest equine breed registry in the world.
And we all know millions of cats and dogs are killed at shelters each year because there are too many of them.
Nonetheless it's a simple fact that if thoroughbred breeding were restricted, fewer horses would be shipped to slaughter. I love the comments made by Judge George J. Pulver Jr. at Paragallo's sentencing.
He said, "Your moral compass is out of kilter and points you in improper directions. ... Your sense of integrity, your code of conduct, your perception of right and wrong was perhaps formed by your days on either mean streets or Wall Street."
The same can and should be said to anyone who makes a living off animal overbreeding or misery.
Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Canada bill to prohibit horse slaughter for human consumption proposed

Canada bill to prohibit horse slaughter for human consumption proposed
June 19, 12:50 PM · Cheryl Hanna - Pet Rescue Examiner

The contentious issue of horse slaughter draws strong emotions from both sides, but it wasn't until recent public reports about the carcinogenic medications routinely administered to horses that are forbidden to be used in the human food chain that prompted New Democrats' Agriculture Critic, Alex Atamenko to propose to ban the slaughter of horses for food. The Bill C-544 was presented to the Third Session, 40th Parliament House of Commons this past week.

Bill C-544 will amend the Health of Animals Act and the Meat Inspection Act ( slaughter of horses for human consumption) and will prohibit the importation of horses for slaughter for human consumption.

According to Atamenko, " It is more likely than not the vast majority of horses will have been administered bute, or 'horse aspirin' as it is commonly called."

The Preamble of the Private Member's Bill states that horses are pets and used for sports and recreation and are not raised as food animals. Atamenko also states that horse meat is likely to contain prohibited substances.

Canada has introduced an "equine passport" requirement to track the health history and medications administered to horses arriving at Canadian slaughter houses, including horses entering from the United States. It is predicted that it will be impossible for Canadian Food Inspection Agencies to verify data. There are no rules in the United States to keep horse owners from administering any of the prohibited drugs. The United States takes the position that it is Canada's responsibility to determine what drugs are in American horses. Most horses coming from auctions and purchased by killbuyers ( agents who buy horses for the slaughter houses) will have no knowledge of the background of the horses, and will not be able to verify whether the horses have ever been administered drugs that completely ban the animal from entering the human food chain. The killbuyer will then be able to sign an affidavit stating, "to my knowledge" and with those words, there can be no accountability and no protection for the public.

There are 55 veterinary drugs that are not permitted in equines in their lifetimes. It is interesting to note that most race horse and competition horses have been administered some of these drugs and should be banned from the slaughter houses. Certain drugs as anitbiotics, beta-agonists, nitrofurans, oestradiol, phenylbutazone, stanozolol,stilbenes, and steroid hormones are commonly used in horses from t he United States. At least half of the horses slaughtered in Canada are transported from the United States.

A Private Member's Bill must be debated and pass three readings before it is allowed to move forward. The next step is a vote, and the bill must be supported by a majority or the Members of Parliament. Most Private Member's Bills never make it through the House of Commons, however Atamenko has prevailed in the past on another bill.

Parliament is now on a three month summer recess.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Factory Farming Will Consumer Safety Concerns End Slaughter?

The number of American horses that are slaughtered is driven by a demand in some other countries for horse meat, where it's usually a pricey delicacy. The demand has dropped dramatically over the years from a high in 1989 of 348,400 horses to 134,059 horses slaughtered in 2008. In 2009-2010, demand has dropped even more. In Europe, in particular, demand in the past year has dropped as consumers have learned of the shocking cruelty of horse slaughter in North America.

The demand for American horse meat may soon plummet and end altogether, especially in the European market. Indeed, the second largest grocer in Belgium and Holland pulled American horse meat from the shelves.

But there's more good news for our horses and those calling for an end to the slaughter. Beginning July 31, 2010, the European Union will begin enforcing restrictions on the sale of meat from horses that have been given certain drugs and steroids. This means that, where horse meat is destined for the E.U., Canadian or Mexican slaughterhouses (where U.S. horses are sent for slaughter) must obtain veterinary records of all drugs or medication provided to the horse in the preceding six months. By 2013, all horses to be slaughtered for human consumption in the E.U. must be accompanied by veterinary records from birth that show the horse has never been given banned substances.

This is impossible for American horses.

Bicyle Ride for Horses-- The Tour de TRF

Thursday, June 10, 2010
The Tour de TRF
By Bill Finley
Special to

Mark Cramer likes lost causes, and in America's slaughterhouse-bound, retired racehorses, he has certainly found one. These are the rejects, the horses who are either too slow or too infirm to win a meaningful amount of money on the racetrack or be sent to a cushy life on a breeding farm somewhere. Hardly anyone cares about them, and the racing industry does little to protect them, which is why an appallingly high number of retired thoroughbreds are shipped each year to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada to be butchered for their meat.

This is a problem that should be solved by the leaders of the industry and its wealthiest participants, but that doesn't seem to be happening, so the 65-year-old horseplayer and author decided to do something on his own. Starting July 3, Cramer and friend Alan Kennedy will bike across France from racetrack to racetrack to raise awareness of the horse-slaughter problem on a mission he is calling "Riding for Their Lives." The bike trip is devoted to raising money for the U.S.-based Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and a French horse rescue group.

The TRF finds homes for retired thoroughbreds that might otherwise be sent to slaughter and places many of them at prisons. There they are cared for by inmates, many of whom turn corners in their lives thanks to the recuperative powers of working with and developing a compassion for the animals.

"There are those claimers out there who ran hard for me and I got a big payoff in an exacta or something like that," Cramer said. "I don't want to see them die when they are done racing. They live a good life when they are racing, but after that how can we just toss them away? So many of us derive so much enjoyment from this. It's about our own humanity, not just saving these beautiful animals."

Cramer was born in the U.S., which is where he discovered horse racing. He has lived abroad for years, moving from Bolivia to Spain and then to France, where he has resided for the last 11 years in a town just outside Paris. He's still an avid horseplayer and boasts that he has made a nice profit over the last several years wagering blindly on Gina Rarick, believed to be the only American-born trainer in France, and playing the French version of the superfecta.

He's also become quite enamored with bike riding and began to pedal around the country two years ago visiting racetracks. This year, he hatched the idea of expanding his tour to its current format and riding on behalf of a cause.

"One of the reasons we picked the TRF is because you can see a concrete result," he said.

"Not only do they save unwanted horses, they save unwanted human beings because they have farms at prisons where inmates get vocational training, and it is great therapy for them. With the horses and the inmates, something very productive is happening."

He and Kennedy will be on the road for 22 days and will cover about 600 miles. Among the racetracks they will visit are Deauville, Vichy, Clairefontaine, Saint-Cloud, Compiegne, Maisons-Laffitte and Longchamp.

At his age, that doesn't figure to be easy, but he's counting on the mind-over-matter factor.

"Exercise is usually boring," Cramer said. "We believe in something called purposeful activity, which is exercise where you're accomplishing something at the same time. That makes it fun. I don't look at it as our making a sacrifice to save retired thoroughbreds from the slaughterhouse. We enjoy doing this and since we know there is a purpose, a beautiful purpose, getting up a hill is much easier than if we were going up there just to go up there."

That a resident of France would be among those coming to the rescue of American racehorses is ironic. Americans don't eat horse meat, but the French do. France is one of a handful of countries that import horse meat from the Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses that U.S. thoroughbreds are sent to after their careers end. Cramer said that's not indicative of how most French people feel about animals.

"There are a lot of organizations in France that exist to save horses," he said. "There's one we are working with, which is called the League for the Protection of Horses, and we'll be riding for them, too. I know a lot of French people, and none of them I know eat horse meat. I know it happens. My wife has seen it sold in grocery stores. I don't think it is pervasive. We've had a wonderful reaction in France, from journalists, from people at the tracks. We've gotten support from the French Jockey Club on this."

He advocates the creation of a plan whereby owners, trainers and breeders make mandatory contributions into a central fund that would create the type of capital needed to guarantee a safe and humane retirement for all retired runners. Cramer said the French racing industry is exploring such a system.

Until then, he will do what he can, hitting the roads and racetracks of France on his mission to right a wrong.

To contribute to "Riding for Their Lives," go to

Bill Finley is an award-winning racing writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Contact him at

Sunday, May 2, 2010

MO Pro Horse Slaughter Bill is Dead for this Session! Or So We Thought...

(Courtesy of Animal Law Coalition)

Update April 30: Following on the heels of Tennessee state Rep. Frank Niceley's announcement that he will withdraw his pro-horse slaughter bill, the chair of the Missouri Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee, Sen. Dan Clemens, has stated "there will be no further legislative progress on H.B. 1747". H.B. 1747 is now dead for this session.
The bill was another effort by pro-horse slaughter proponents to try to defeat pending federal legislation to prohibit the slaughter of American horses, convince the American public that horse slaughter is necessary, even humane and create markets in this country for horsemeat. The bill also would have restricted all animal welfare laws.

For more information and additional background regarding this legislation, Go Here: