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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