Saturday, November 23, 2013

Updates from "Straight from the Horse's Heart"

Brave or Brutal? Arrogant or Ignorant? Princess Anne Calls for More Debate on Horse Slaughter’s Role in Welfare of All Horses

Commentary by Fran Jurga as published in Equus

The conversation she is asking for is still taboo enough to be spoken only in hushed tones or in redactable memos…

She was the royal face for Doing What’s Right in the horse world. This week, many think she’s turned her back on welfare ethics with a call to debate the place of horse slaughter in the bigger picture of neglected and unwanted horses.
Princess Anne was talking about Great Britain and Europe, but her comments are sure to be quoted around the world. What’s interesting is the way that people are reacting to her comments, made when conducting the keynote address at the annual conference of World Horse Welfare (WHW) in London on Thursday.
You might have to watch that video clip more than once to understand the context. Should a member of the royal family be so outspoken on such a hot-button issue? Should a high-profile horsewoman be saying such things? And as the president of World Horse Welfare, shouldn’t she be much more sensitive to the plight of unwanted horses? Was she really suggesting that horse slaughter, which is completely legal and somewhat regulated in Great Britain and across Europe, might have a role to play in improving equine welfare?
While Princess Anne didn’t speak directly in favor of eating horsemeat, she only stopped just short of setting a place at the table of equine welfare advocacy for it when she suggested that the value of horses traded for meat plays a potential role in ensuring that they receive better care.
But do pounds on the hoof for the slaughterhouse scale truly translate to improvements in equine welfare for horses in countries where they are traded for meat potential at the end of their usefulness under saddle?
Let the debate begin.
The monarchy in Great Britain could be seen as a celebrity sideshow capable of expansive world-theater weddings, dramatic births, and fashion icons. It’s in the horse world that the British royal family and its horses show up with their game faces on, whether in polo, Thoroughbred racing, eventing, heavy horses, and breeding classes at horse shows. The Queen likes being photographed on horseback, in spite of her advanced years, and she certainly shows her royal displeasure when one of her horses is beaten in the homestretch at Royal Ascot.
Prince William plays polo, Zara Phillips wins Olympic medals in eventing, Prince Charles farms with heavy horses.
But it’s Princess Anne who is involved at the make-a-difference level, with her involvement in organizations like the livery of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, where she is past master, and the globally-ambitious World Horse Welfare, where she serves as president. She also was instrumental in the effort to bring the 2012 Olympics to London, and has served as president of the British Olympic Association, has been a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is a former Olympian herself, having represented Great Britain in eventing at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. She was president of the FEI for eight years, from 1986 to 1994.
And it’s Princess Anne who makes waves instead of the gossip columns.
his is one royal who doesn’t just pose for photos. Don’t look for the name of her outfit’s designer in the lead sentence of articles about her.
We’ve seen her fall off her horse. We’ve seen her act like a horse show mom. When she mentions a Shetland pony wearing a blanket in her speech, she makes a face only an opinionated horse owner could make.
Her suggestion that equations between better horse care and horse meat values should be openly discussed put her in the headlines more than rescuing any horse ever could. For all the wrong reasons, soundbites from the World Horse Welfare conference can be manipulated to make it sound like she is calling for her merely mortal subjects to buck up, do the right thing and eat more horse meat.
But that’s not what she said. She was suggesting that the debate open to discuss whether an increased monetary value for horse meat might translate to a better-cared-for horse among the at-risk population in Great Britain. The debate might open with the problem that if people throw food at thin horses, colic and laminitis might be the immediate results. Would a person who has neglected a horse or who claims to be unable to afford to provide better care go to the expense of veterinary care for a sick horse?…(CONTINUED)

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story and to comment at Equus


By  as published in the New York Times

“I was stunned by the lengths some trainers will go to win races,”

horse racingWASHINGTON — The United States Anti-Doping Agency is the last and best hope to return safety and integrity to the troubled sport of thoroughbred racing, members of the industry told Congress at a hearing Thursday.
The hearing, the fourth of its kind since 2008, focused on how the use of performance-enhancing drugs has eroded the sport’s popularity — and its bottom line.
“I was stunned by the lengths some trainers will go to win races,” Jesse M. Overton, a former racing commissioner in Minnesota, told a House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. “There is no drug or compound that has not been tried in horses, from EPO and anabolic steroids to frog juice and cobra venom. And I promise there are chemists right now working up new, illegal, undetectable substances to give a trainer who wants a performance advantage, especially if he doesn’t have the fastest horse.”
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act would give the antidoping agency, known as Usada, the authority to develop rules for permitted and prohibited substances, and it would also create testing and stiffer penalty programs for horse racing nationally, replacing the patchwork state-by-state system now in place.
“Unless drug testing is conducted uniformly and in state-of-the-art laboratories, unscrupulous horsemen will continue to cheat the system, the horses and the fans,” Overton said.
Usada, a nongovernmental organization, is the official antidoping agency for the United States Olympics team and has worked with Major League Baseball and other professional leagues to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs. It was a key player in the investigation of Lance Armstrong, who admitted that he had systematically used drugs during his racing career.
Its chief executive, Travis Tygart, compared horse racing now to the Olympic Games of the 1990s, when shoddy drug testing and loose standards cast suspicion over athletes and eroded public confidence in international sports. That crisis led to the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999 and a commitment from governments around the globe to follow a uniform standard.
“Make no mistake, the win-at-all-costs culture is alive and well and will flourish in every sport including horse racing, if we do not take decisive action to stop the take-no-prisoners competition from running wild,” Tygart said.
Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, who sponsored the bill with Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, cited recent poll numbers by the Jockey Club that showed how far public confidence had fallen in the sport even among its biggest bettors. Nearly four in five bettors — 79 percent — factored in the possibility of illegal drug use when handicapping races at certain tracks or in certain states. The money wagered in North America has fallen precipitously over the last seven years, to about $11 billion this year from nearly $15.5 billion in 2007.
Phil Hanrahan, chief executive of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, insisted horse racing is a clean sport. He pointed to the relatively few positive tests that are found from state to state.
Hanrahan said that the proposed bill “attempts to address a problem that does not exist,” and that Usada had “neither the experience nor the resources” to regulate the industry.
Dr. Lawrence Soma of the University of Pennsylvania testing laboratory conceded that he and his colleagues had difficulty identifying protein-based drugs and peptides and did not have the money to develop new tests to stay ahead of rogue trainers and veterinarians.
“There still are a number of drugs that are problematic,” Soma said. “I’m sure there are many more coming along.”
Pitts also asked Hanrahan about a report in The New York Times that showed that a horse named Coronado Heights received 17 injections the week before he broke down and was euthanized at Aqueduct in 2012. The horse had been found to have a degenerative joint disease and was trained by Todd Pletcher, a Kentucky Derby winner who is currently the nation’s leading trainer.
“I’m not a veterinarian,” Hanrahan replied.
The report was part of a Times investigation that identified the nation’s most dangerous racetracks, and showed how a pervasive drug culture among veterinarians and trainers put horses and riders at risk. The investigation found that 24 horses a week die at America’s tracks, a rate greater than in countries where drug use is severely restricted.
Dr. Sheila Lyons, an equine veterinarian, said in her testimony that the injections were motivated by a desire for the horse to keep racing, rather than a concern for its health. “There was nothing therapeutic about the drugs in that horse,” she said. “They were injury-masking drugs that were stacked.”
Up to a dozen members of Congress attended the hearing, and the bill appeared to have bipartisan support. Several members noted that horse racing remains a significant industry that sustains some 380,000 jobs nationwide.
“Ultimately, drugs and breakdowns are bad for business,” Tygart said.

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