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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tennessee Withdraws Pro-Horse Slaughter Bill

(Courtesy of Animal Law Coalition)

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:

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

Kelly Young horse rescuer with donkey/horse mixKelly Young leads a 1200-pound donkey/horse mix mare from a stall at Lost & Found Horse Rescue. The facility recently acquired 60 horses, including the mare, and is in need of supplies.

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.


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.


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.’’


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.”


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.’’


The list goes on . . . the rescues . . . the new careers . . . the lives saved.

Until now.

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.

© 2010 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Belgian and Dutch consumers were shocked to learn of widespread horse slaughter-related cruelty in North and South America. Undercover video footage aired on three major news programs showed horses designated for slaughter are routinely starved, dehydrated, injured and abused.

Horse meat 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 animal welfare organization 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.
Viewers are told "Cruelty goes hand in hand with incompetence" , as undercover video shows a worker knowingly crushing the lower leg of a live horse as he forces the iron gate of an overcrowded trailer shut.
An English version of the story is available on youtube:
Consumers responding on television websites demanded action. "They [importers] told us the meat is of superior quality because the animals live a life of luxury and freedom on green pastures...well cared for with plenty of food. But it's a horrible lie."

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.
Within hours of the story's broadcast, supermarkets responded with promises to investigate. Delhaize, the second largest retailer in Belgium asked their supplier to remove affected meat from their shelves. Two other major grocers have told consumers they do not import horse meat from outside Europe.

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 Animals Angels 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

Vet blows whistle on slaughter practices

Veterinarian, GAO call for reform of animal welfare, slaughterhouse standards at USDA


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.

Wyatt recounted what he called egregious incidents of animal abuse including stabbing of conscious live pigs while shackled, multiple shockings and beatings of downed calves and cattle, among others.

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

Tribute to a Great Horse

April 15, 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.

I could have easily tripled this list of accomplishments after reading all the stories about her. Her success as both a racehorse and broodmare made her the ultimate dual threat. If you think about it, there aren’t too many Thoroughbreds that excelled as both athletes and producers of athletes. Sure, you’ve got horses such as Seattle Slew, Unbridled, A.P. Indy, and Tiznow who performed well both on the track and in the breeding shed. However, none of these horses won 13 straight races and retired undefeated; moreover, their annual foal crop was (or is) anywhere from 50-150 horses per year. For these reasons, I find Personal Ensign’s lifetime achievements all the more remarkable.

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.

Good News for NY Carriage Horses!

Carriage-Horse Vote

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.