Thursday, September 2, 2010
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
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."
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
Let thoroughbred horse racing die a natural death
By BONNIE ERBE
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
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
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.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
The Tour de TRF
By Bill Finley
Special to ESPN.com
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 firstgiving.com/trf.
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 email@example.com.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
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: http://www.animallawcoalition.com/horse-slaughter/article/1160
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Update April 28, 2010: Following a hearing yesterday before the full House Finance, Ways and Means, Tennessee state Rep. Frank Niceley withdrew his pro-horse slaughter bill, H.B. 1428, and it is now dead for this legislative session.
John Holland, founder and president of the Equine Welfare Alliance, and Paula Bacon, former mayor of Kaufman, Texas, site of one of the last horse slaughter plants in the U.S., testified in opposition to the bill.
Famed singer and songwriter, Willie Nelson and his daughter, Amy Nelson, and granddaughter, Raelyn Nelson, were at the hearing in opposition to this bill but did not testify before the committee.
Paula Bacon described that she was mayor of Kaufman "during part of 27 years we spent trying to deal with this horse slaughter plant." She told the committee that a horse slaughter facility was a "burden to taxpayers...a stigma" and almost forced the city to spend "millions to upgrade ..the waste water treatment plant".
Bacon said that building a horse slaughter facility was "very definitely not desirable economic development." She said the facility does not create good jobs, just a handful of low paying, dangerous jobs. She described the burden on the local hospital because of the horse slaughter plant employees were often injured, even losing limbs.
For the entire Article, Go Here: http://www.animallawcoalition.com/horse-slaughter/article/903
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Izenberg: Horse rescuer Kelly Young facing loss of farm as fight against 'killer auctions' continues
By Jerry Izenberg/Columnist Emeritus
April 25, 2010, 11:00AM
On Saturday, the 20 richest thoroughbred racehorses on the continental land mass will go to the post at Churchill Downs in Louisville for the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby. As always, there will be the blanket of roses for the winner, the high-fashion, broad-brimmed hats of the ladies in the clubhouse and excitement that only the fastest two minutes in sports can generate.
But on that same day, light-years away from the juleps and the tote boards and “My Old Kentucky Home,” other long-forgotten thoroughbreds, standardbreds and show horses will be in a different kind of fight . . . a shameful last stand in defense of their very lives . . . a fight most of them will lose.
All that stands between them and the horrific killer factories of Mexico and Canada and the dinner tables of Europe and Japan are a nationwide chain of determined rescuers who save more lives than you think but in sheer numbers lose more battles than they can ever hope to win.
This is the story of one such woman’s fight.
A TWIST OF FATE
If Kelly Young hadn’t gone to the auction that day to try to buy a show pony . . . and if she hadn’t seen the donkey with the twisted front leg . . . and if she hadn’t bumped into his owner . . . who can say with certainty how many horses would have died since then.
So her amazing story really begins almost by accident with a lame donkey just an hour this side of its scheduled journey toward death.
Long before she rescued her first thoroughbred from the killer pens of the auction blocks, Young was in the business of buying what she calls “show pony prospects,” training them and reselling them.
She had been a horsewoman all her life.
And then she saw the donkey. He was 10 hands in height, silver in color, 12 years old and crippled. When she saw him, she forgot about the show pony she had come to the auction to buy.
Some would say what followed in that instant was an epiphany that launched a mission. The owner tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘‘I don’t want him. He’s yours for 50 bucks.’’
“I had a friend,” Young recalls, “who was an attorney for a humane society. I called her and she said she knew someone with a shelter in Maryland who would take him. I had no idea of what was about to happen.”
What followed was a passion that enabled her to rescue close to 1,000 horses — mostly thoroughbreds — from the “killer auctions.”
It was triggered by a memory burned indelibly into the stores of her mind that first day at the auction — 300 horses roped together, filthy and terrified by their inhumane surroundings and headed on the final stages of a horrible journey toward torture and death.
Most were thoroughbreds, used up by the tracks until they hit the bottom levels, who failed as cheap claimers and their owners or trainers dumped them into the depths of the killer auctions.
‘PURE EVIL’ AT WORK
Kim Zito, the wife of two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Nick Zito, knows exactly how the image motivated Kelly Young. She understands what has driven so many like Kelly to the front lines of this battle against the vicious slaughter of horses for table meat in the savage killer plants of Mexico and Canada. She, too, is part of that battle.
“I know how Kelly must have felt that first day,” Zito says of her friend. ‘‘I wanted to know firsthand what happens at a killer auction so I could speak for reform as an eyewitness.
“For me, that first view was like looking directly in the face of pure evil.
“You are literally walking into hell. It is madness come to life. You see men hitting the horses with cattle prods and the horses are screaming in terror, kicking each other in fear, and the worst is after the sales. They take them out back to load them in trucks for the trip across the border. They are so high-strung and they have gone from a pampered life to this ending,” Zito said.
“And you know about the torture that awaits them because if they were euthanized you couldn’t sell the meat with all that poison in it. Instead, in Mexico they stab at the spine with ice picks until the horse is manageable for the actual killing. . . . It’s so horrible.”
“Most people,” Kelly explains, “who only have casual information about the killer auctions believe that all these horses are old or sick or crippled. They’re wrong. Most of them are sound, healthy and under the age of 10. But to the dumpers they are worth more dead than alive.
“I know this because so many of them have new careers as show horses and family pets after people like me nurse them back and retrain them.’’
FOR SOME, A NEW LIFE
As cases in point, there are rescue horses with mounted police units, horses retrained and winning at horse shows, and still others on prison farms through a program begun by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation where inmates are trained for new careers caring for horses when they complete their sentences. Even one of the riderless horses used at funerals at Arlington National Cemetery is a rescue horse.
And that says nothing of the thousands adopted by horse lovers.
So all over the country a lot of people like Kelly Young fight to rescue the ones they can. She made contacts with a few of the middlemen at the killer auctions. Each time she goes to one, they let her buy two horses back for $50 above what the middleman paid. She counts each rescue as a personal victory.
In effect, in those cases she offers a rebuttal to the self-serving killer auctions’ boast of “seven days from stable to (dining) table” with an “out of harm back to the farm.”
The farm is named Lost and Found Horse Rescue. It got its name from the line in “Amazing Grace,” the old hymn, that goes: ‘‘I once was lost, but now am found.’’ It is tucked into the rolling hills just 5 miles from Exit 13 on I-83 in York, Pa. Kelly says there is a lot of religious belief fueling her determination to help these horses cheat certain death.
Nick Zito, who does more than a lot of other trainers when it comes to rescue, supports that notion.
“Go to the Bible,” he says, ‘‘and read Proverbs 24:11:
“ ‘Rescue those who are being led away to death. Indeed, hold back those who are staggering to the slaughter.’ I believe it applies to these horses as well. They are living, breathing creatures. They are the stars of our business at all levels. Without them we are nothing.’’
“People who don’t understand,” Kelly says, “call me a do-gooder. Maybe they’re right. I’d rather do good than sit back and do nothing. I’d rather do good than pretend I don’t see too many owners and trainers and racetracks that would rather keep the killer auctions a dirty secret.”
Or, as Kim Zito says, ‘‘They get dumped at the killer auctions in thoroughbred racing’s version of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Too many owners and trainers look away.”
TO THE RESCUE
The same woman who offered a sanctuary for Kelly’s donkey began sending her money to buy horses slated for death and ship them to her in Maryland. Then she bought the Pennsylvania farm that now is Kelly’s command post and leased it to her.
At the moment, Kelly has 26 horses, one part-time helper and 10 volunteers at the farm. She can tell you the detailed history of performance, mistreatment and rescue of each animal.
She has rescued thoroughbreds whose lip tattoos have been deliberately blurred to avoid identification. She can tell you about the rescued horse she finally traced to its last owner, whom she called.
“Things happen,” the lady, who was no lady, said. “Don’t bother me. It’s not my problem.” Then she found the breeder, who was appalled, sent a carrier to pick up the horse, reimbursed Kelly and gave the horse a home.
Young has rescued thoroughbreds at the top and the bottom of the pecking order. She speaks about Major Mecke — 85 starts, eight victories, seven shows — $289,622 in purses and then, after finishing five of his last six starts out of the money in cheap claimers, dumped in 2008.
“When they brought him over to the auctioneer, he walked in there, head held, looking as though he were about to say, ‘You should have seen me back in my day. I was the real stuff.’ ”
She rescued the half-brother of Charismatic (1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner). She tried him in a horse show and he won it all. “Somebody had already trained him but somebody else dumped him anyway,” Young said. “He’s been adopted by a college kid.’’
She can cite chapter and verse on every horse she saved, but there is one that is special. Her name is Ming Toy. She had run 86 times and won $81,543. Then, at Charles Town , racing in the cheapest race the track had, she clipped heels with another horse and finished well up the track.
“The owner and trainer dumped her,” Young said. “At the sale she was filthy and starving and covered in horse crap. You could actually count her ribs. She was so emaciated they were afraid to show her because she was a walking, breathing ad against every thing they were doing. I got her for nothing. She’s been adopted.’’
A DEEPER NEED
The list goes on . . . the rescues . . . the new careers . . . the lives saved.
But ‘‘now’’ could wind up being sadder than the story of “Black Beauty.”
The woman who bought the farm for Kelly has cancer. Kelly has until July 1 to raise $350,000 — the sale price and a year’s budget. Lost and Found Rescue is a 501(c)(3) corporation. Donations are tax deductible. Just as she has been the angel of those whom she rescued, she needs an angel of her own now — or all of this will end.
Kelly Young knows that this Saturday they will run the Kentucky Derby and she will watch it on television. She knows that in 1986 a long shot named Ferdinand won the Kentucky Derby and paid 17-1. It was the last Derby victory for the jockey, 54-year-old Bill Shoemaker. There was honor and roses for both.
But history and drama mean nothing to the horse killers. In 2002, Ferdinand was sent to a slaughterhouse in Japan for pet food.
Kelly Young knows that there are so many horses still to be saved. She knows that even as they come out of the gate for the Derby on Saturday, there will be killer auctions around the country.
And she still needs an angel by July to find a way to save her farm.
For more information about the tax deductible donations Kelly Young needs to save Lost and Found Horse Rescue Farm, individuals, corporations or trusts may contact her at Lost and Found Horse Rescue Foundation, Inc., 852 Valley Road, York, Pa. 17403. Telephone (717) 428-9701.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010
is commonly available in Belgium and the Netherlands where consumers are almost completely unaware of the cruelties of horse slaughter. Most believe what suppliers claim on their websites, that the meat on their dinner plate comes from contented, grass-eating, healthy horses. The story begins by asking, "Do they [consumers] really know where it comes from?
The 8½ minute news segment was produced by GAIA, a respected from Belgium, with much of the footage provided by Animals' Angels USA. The dire conditions of horses at slaughter plants, feedlots and markets in Mexico, Brazil and the U.S., have generated talk of boycotts and moratoriums on the import of horse meat from these countries.
On importer Chevideco's website, horses are said to be treated with respect and to live without stress. An accompanying photograph depicts well-proportioned horses standing knee deep in grass. Importer such as Visser & van Walsum make similar claims.
Fenavian, the Federation of Meat Producers in Belgium, issued a response denying any wrongdoing and offering reassurances that adherence to safety and European Union animal welfare rules were standard practice.
"However, the evidence is quite overwhelming, " said Sonja Meadows, president of U.S. "Up until recently, officials may have been able to claim that to their knowledge, the animals were treated properly. But now such claims are quite obviously false. Unfortunately we have plenty of documentation to prove that animals caught up in the horse slaughter pipeline are horribly abused."
Animals' Angels' began focusing efforts on the issue of European consumers' awareness about horse slaughter in November 2009 after meeting with the European Commission. AA shared with committee members evidence of extreme cruelty uncovered at Mexican horse slaughter plants, U.S. feedlots and government export facilities. AA filed an official complaint with the commission soon after the meeting.
Last month Gaia asked Animals' Angels for footage from Mexico and the U.S. to help with a European campaign to publicize the conditions endured by horses in the slaughter pipeline. Gaia had recently finished undercover investigations in South America and had gathered their own ample evidence of brutality.
Other organizations in the Netherlands and France are also launching consumer awareness campaigns. Most national and regional newspapers have published the story and photographs. Fueled by concerns from both consumers and animal welfare advocates, many more European news outlets are expected to pick up the story.
"I really doubt I'll ever eat horse meat again," said one man. "They may say they fixed the problem, but I'll never trust them again."
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Washington, D.C. — A USDA veterinarian's congressional testimony ignited new debate about animal welfare standards in slaughter plants.
Dr. Dean Wyatt, an FSIS supervisory public health veterinarian, told the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in early March, "I truly believe that the USDA inspector is the only advocate animals have in slaughter plants. When we turn our backs on the helpless, when we fail to speak on behalf of the voiceless, when we tolerate animal abuse and suffering, then the moral compass of a just and compassionate society is gone."
Protected under federal whistle-blower laws, Wyatt's testimony recounted numerous instances when upper-level FSIS management simply looked the other way when food safety and humane handling laws where broken.
FSIS management, Wyatt contends, told him, on many occasions, to "drastically cut back" the amount of time he was spending on humane handling enforcement."
Wyatt shutdown Bushway Packing in Vermont three times prior to the release of the now infamous October 2009 undercover video by the Humane Society of the United States documenting animal abuse at the processing plant. The video triggered calls for reform at FSIS.
Wyatt's testimony is backed up by a just-released GAO report challenging FSIS to improve its enforcement activities in U.S. slaughter plants.
In fact, the GAO report chides FSIS for its inconsistent, lax enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978, for not having a comprehensive hiring strategy and for a lack of clarity in guidance and training of inspectors, reports Lisa Shames, director of Natural Resources and Environment for GAO.
Jerold R. Mande, deputy undersecretary for Food Safety of USDA, told the subcommittee, "I want to assure you that we are deeply committed to the humane handling of livestock and to meeting our obligations to enforce HMSA at federally inspected establishments."
FSIS will respond to GAO's report, Mande says, and the department is making a series of improvements to its enforcement of animal-handling practices within slaughter facilities. It includes, Mande says, a scoring system to help evaluate the health of animals prior to slaughter. The system was devised by Dr. Temple Grandin, a noted authority on animal handling, Mande adds.
Each of FSIS' 15 district offices has a District Veterinary Medical Specialist who serves as an expert on humane handling issues. Their responsibilities include formal reviews of each slaughter plant as well as routine reviews of data. In addition, a slaughter plant cannot operate without a USDA agent on the premises.
When faced with egregious cases of animal abuse, Mande adds, an investigation typically ensues and action is taken, like with Bushway Packing. In fact, Mande contends, FSIS took immediate action in this case which includes an ongoing criminal investigation.
Committee chair Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) introduced the hearing by playing the HSUS undercover video.
"After watching that, I wonder if there is such a thing as humane slaughter. I wonder if humane slaughter is just an oxymoron. The truth of the matter is we do not know how prevalent are the abuses documented by the Humane Society of the United States, and neither does USDA because of the significant deficiencies in the management of FSIS identified by GAO. My hope is that today's hearing will give us a clear picture of what the new administration plans to do to reform FSIS and improve the agency's track record in enforcing humane handling laws."
Friday, April 16, 2010
By Charlie Scoggin, DVM, MS
My contribution to this week’s blog is not what I really had in mind when I began to write it. Because of the significance of this date to most Americans, I was prepared to write a sardonic and satirical piece on my opinion of paying income taxes. However, the death of Personal Ensign on April 8 struck a nerve deep inside of me and is thus the impetus for my entry.
To begin, I will confess that one of my biggest fears on the farm was the day that I would get a call saying that Personal Ensign was down and suffering, and I needed to come as quickly as possible to evaluate her. I can’t tell you how many times I played that scenario over in my head, brooding over how I was going to react and what I was going to do. Despite all this anxiety, I should have known that she would leave this world in the most dignified manner possible . . . and she did. She lied down peacefully in a green pasture and passed away. There was no evidence of a struggle, no signs of trauma, and—most importantly—no signs of suffering. She chose to leave on her own terms, which is perhaps the most fitting ending for this larger-than-life figure.
I’m sure there are many of you who know or have heard of Personal Ensign. For those that do not or have not, I’ll quickly share with you some of the highlights that I found when I used my favorite search engine, typed in “Personal Ensign” and hit “search.”
- Winner of ten graded stakes races—eight of which were Grade I’s.
- Winner of the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff in which she put in one of the greatest closing charges of all time.
- Undefeated in thirteen career starts—eleven of those wins coming after she had five screws placed in the left hind first phalanx after fracturing this bone during a training session.
- Honored as the 1996 broodmare of the year after retirement from her racing career.
- Dame of nine winners—three of which were Grade I winners, including My Flag who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in 1995 and then produced Storm Flag Flying, winner of the 2002 Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies. That’s three generations of Breeders’ Cup winners.
With all that said, though, there was still something more about her that made her so special. In talking to people around the farm that knew her, some of the more common phrases used to describe her were “tough as nails,” “an overwhelming presence,” and “one of a kind.” To say she was tough would be an understatement—she won eleven straight races after sustaining a severe phalangeal fracture, and she managed to overcome a life-threatening foaling injury that most any other horse would have succumbed to. Her sense of presence was on display any time you were around her. She knew she was somebody, and she always held her head up high, seemingly in-tune with all her surroundings. That she was one of a kind was clearly evident by her race record and reproductive career.
As a tangent to this notion, you could also say she was highly individualistic. She rarely traveled with other horses in the pasture, instead choosing to graze by herself. Also, I could rarely get close enough to lay my hands on her. The times that I tried, I would maybe get a few yards from her, and then—quick as lightning—she’d turn, kick up her heels, and gallop away like she was 4 years old again. Perhaps this individualism was also the reason why she never let another horse cross the finish line before her.
After all this praise, you’d think I had some intimate bond with this mare. To be completely honest, though, I did not spend a lot of time around Personal Ensign. She was long since retired from broodmare duty by the time I arrived on the farm, and she spent all of her time in pasture with the rest of the retired mares. On a rare occasion, I did get to breathe the same air as her, but those times were few and far between and only out of necessity. However, her passing gave me pause and stirred something deep inside of me. Maybe it was all the articles I read that detailed her accomplishments; maybe it was watching her previous races where her unequaled perseverance was constantly on display; or maybe it was the outpouring of responses our farm received from people expressing their condolences and describing such heartfelt feelings about the life of this mare.
More than anything, I guess what really moved me was that I didn’t appreciate her as much as I should have while she was here at the farm. I think I took her for granted, which is actually fairly depressing. I also have feelings of jealousy in that I never had the opportunity to do a new foal exam on one of her babies, pronounce her in foal, or treat her for some type of ailment. If I would have had just one of those opportunities—and knowing what I know now—I would have savored every moment of it, knowing that I was truly in the presence of greatness.
Yesterday, I went to visit Personal Ensign’s gravesite. I didn’t spend a lot of time there, and I didn’t do anything symbolic or memorable. I just stood over it and smiled, realizing that this moment was the closest I got to her without someone holding her. I also realized how lucky I am to be working at the farm that will serve as her permanent resting site. As such, I can perhaps overcome my feelings of regret by periodically visiting her grave and reflecting back on her life.
Writing this piece has given me the opportunity to celebrate Personal Ensign’s life. Moreover, it serves as an affirmation that I now truly appreciate her—what she accomplished and what she stood for. Aristotle was quoted as saying, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.” In my opinion, this quote succinctly yet adequately embodies and describes the life of Personal Ensign, for she was the epitome of excellence.
Rest in peace, Personal Ensign (1984-2010).
A special thanks to Dell Hancock for sharing her private photos of Personal Ensign, taken in the fall of 2009 at Claiborne Farm.
April 14, 2010
The City Council passed a bill on Wednesday that increases the fare for horse-drawn carriage rides and improves some conditions for the horses.
Speaker Christine C. Quinn, who called the bill a “huge step forward,” was heckled by opponents of the carriage trade.
The legislation, which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is expected to sign, raises the fare to $50 for the first 20 minutes from $34 for the first half-hour — the first increase in more than 20 years.
The bill requires stalls large enough for the horses to turn around and lie down in, and it requires five weeks of time off per year at a stable with a paddock or a pasture turnout.
The bill passed 43 to 4. It limits carriage horses to 5 to 26 years of age and bans them south of 34th Street and from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Please email this owner for more details
On Equine.com this farm is downsizing and offering 2 mares and 2 gelding QH free. I just hope they find forever homes for them and they don't show up at the auction. The ad said for more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The farm is in Vernon, NJ