Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Cowboy Nation Destroys the Horse It Rode in On

A Cowboy Nation Destroys the Horse It Rode in On
Posted by Deanne Stillman, May 26th, 2009 1 Comment Filed under: Original interviews and essays.

In the annals of the modern West, 1998 was an especially violent year. In May, Kip Kinkel whacked his parents, then shot up his Oregon high school, killing two students and wounding 25, kicking off a wave of school shootings that has yet to subside. In October, Matthew Shepard was found stabbed to death and tied to a fence in Wyoming, like an unwanted coyote. By the end of the year, the situation had reached a bizarre crescendo: in the mountains outside Reno, just beyond the old mining town of Virginia City, 34 wild horses were gunned down at Christmas time. I learned of the incident in a series of newspaper articles published as the crime scene unfolded. Each day, they became more horrifying. At first, there were six dead horses found in the Virginia Range. A couple of days later, there were 12. By the end of the year, as people gathered at Times Square to ring in the New Year, 34 horse carcasses had been found in the mountains, and the crime scene stretched for five miles.

That incident propelled me into writing Mustang, and during the 10 years that I worked on it, I learned that a bizarre war is underfoot across the American West. It is a variation of the old range wars of the 19th century, and it is waged by stockmen and sagebrush rebels with copies of the Second Amendment tucked into their back pockets, and it is backed by Republicans and Democrats and a federal agency that circumvents the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, along with small-town officials who march to the great American battle cry "Don't tread on me." Their target is the wild horse, and it has been going on for decades.

In 1973, in Howe, Idaho, ranchers on snow mobiles and saddle horses chased a herd of 32 mustangs for 45 days, driving them into a narrow canyon and trapping them on a shelf. Some jumped off the cliff to their deaths. Others panicked and jammed their hoofs into rocks. To make them more manageable, ranchers sewed hog rings into their noses. The fright escalated, and some horses broke their legs as they scrambled on the rocks. "We didn't know what to do," one rancher said. "We disposed of them by cutting their legs off. I mean it was gruesome. We sawed that one sorrel mare's legs with a chain saw." When it was over, the six surviving horses were shipped to a packing house in Nebraska. A few days later, the dead and mutilated horses were found at the foot of the cliff.

In 1989, over a period of months in Nevada, at least 500 mustangs were mowed down by rifle fire. When coyotes came to feed, they, too, were killed. In 1992, 54 burros — protected under the same law as wild horses — were gunned down on Good Friday outside Oatman, Arizona. In 1999, four wild horses and two burros in the Spring Mountains in Nevada were shot and killed. (In the same year and the same state, this time in Fallon, a grazing and military town, eight cows were raked with automatic weapons, one while giving birth, by two Navy airmen.) In 2000, 37 wild horses were shot to death in the Rock Springs area of Wyoming — one of the largest federally sanctioned livestock grazing regions in the country. In 2001, seven wild horses were shot to death in eastern Nevada, and six more later that year. In 2002, nine wild horses were gunned down by two ranchers in Utah. In 2003, possibly as many as 500 Nevada mustangs — known for the record as the Fish Creek horses — died after being rounded up in an ongoing territorial dispute between a pair of Shoshone Indians and the feds. They had been adopted by a rancher in California, but left without food in government corrals as they awaited relocation, and then dumped in the wilderness after they starved to death. In 2006, a mare and stallion were shot to death in Gerlach, Nevada. The mare had aborted her foal during the incident and it too perished. In fall of that year, seven horses were shot and killed near Pinedale, Arizona. The Bureau of Land Management offered rewards, but no one has come forward, and more recently the agency has done so again, in the case of 13 burros gunned down outside Phoenix this year as the Easter season unfolded.

In the beginning of my research, I didn't know what to make of these horse and burro killings, other than the fact that they were a scourge on a nation that reveres freedom and names its greatest road-trip car, the Mustang, after the one animal that most represents the open road. I had known for a long time that people go out into the wilderness to whack wild animals, and also that the government has its own brutal policies to take out animals it views as unnecessary — often at the behest of the cattle industry. As I began to investigate how we had gotten to this place, I saw a disturbing pattern emerge: horse murders on a large scale began in the 19th century during the war to wipe out Native Americans.

As settlers advanced into the frontier and wars broke out on the Great Plains, the cavalry was stymied by the formidable horsemanship of the tribes. It became clear to the U.S. government that the only way to vanquish them was to strip them of their ponies. And so began the brutal campaign that prefigured the government's war against the wild horse today. In 1858, Colonel George Wright ordered the massacre of 800 horses that belonged to the Palouse tribe, east of what later became Spokane, Washington. The site is now known as Horse Slaughter Camp, and it has a stone marker. On Thanksgiving night in 1868, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer attacked Black Kettle and his tribe along the Washita River in Oklahoma, killing the chief and many of his people, and then their 800 ponies. The Cheyenne woman Moving Behind, who was 14 at the time, would later remember that the wounded ponies passed near her hiding place, moaning loudly, just like human beings. There would be other horse massacres, including the mowing down of 1,500 Comanche steeds in 1874, carried out by an army colonel known to the Indians as Bad Hand. Like others who have trafficked in violence against horses, he later went mad.

By the end of the 19th century, Native Americans had been dismounted and conquered. At the time, there remained vast rivers of horse running across the West, descendants of the four-leggeds that had returned to this continent with the conquistadors after disappearing during the Ice Age. With the Indians and buffalo and wolves purged from the range, and the car and train upon us, the horse was no longer needed and it was time for it to go. Thus began a sad era in American history, known in some circles as the great removal. Hundreds of thousands of mustangs were taken from the range in brutal round-ups. Many were sent back to Europe in tin cans and others were shipped to foreign wars, where they perished in battle or were consumed by famished soldiers. Alas, the campaign to purge wild horses from the land where it came from continues to this day.

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were two million wild horses in the West. Today there are at most 20,000, their ranks depleted by repeated and voracious round-ups carried out by the agency tasked with their management, the multi-use Bureau of Land Management, which is dominated by the cattle industry and various other industries based on extracting natural resources from public lands. The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act that protects mustangs is often not followed and was rolled back in recent years; a new bill, H.R. 1018, now on the House floor, seeks to expand it. But meanwhile, the wild horse remains imperiled, with the BLM now actually offering payments of $500 to anyone who wants one of the thousands of mustangs now in government housing. In this time of economic turmoil, this is a bribe that can quickly double and triple itself, as desperate and unscrupulous people take the cash and then turn around and sell the horse to "killer buyers" — who sell it again to the slaughterhouse.

Around the world, we continue to fight wars. But in the West, we are at war with ourselves. In the Virginia Range on Christmas a little over ten years ago, one of the mustangs died as she faced the setting sun — land of the Thunder Beings, according to the Lakota Indians, the place where horses come from. I like to think that as the light faded, she caught a glimpse of her ancestors and then closed her eyes and joined them.

Alas, what we have done to Native Americans we are now doing to ourselves, stripping ourselves of our great partner — the animal this country rode in on. As the horse goes, so goes a piece of America, and one of these days, bereft of heritage, we may all find ourselves moving on down the road.

Deanne Stillman is the author of Twentynine Palms, which Hunter Thompson called "a strange and brilliant story by an important American writer." It was a Los Angeles Times bestseller and one of its Best Books of 2001. Her work appears in various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, and Slate. For the past twenty years she has lived in Los Angeles, close to her beloved desert, which she has explored by foot and on horseback.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We can't slaughter our way to horse welfare

May 26, 2009


Contact: Duane Burright


We can't slaughter our way to horse welfare by Duane Burright

CHICAGO, (EWA) – By now everyone is familiar with the subject of horses being neglected or starved, along with the claims from those in agricultural circles that slaughter is "necessary" to prevent horse neglect and that it is a way to dispose of unwanted horses. I've been hearing that litany from all of the agricultural publications and blogs, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), various state Farm Bureaus and from a group of clueless politicians including Illinois’ Rep. Jim Sacia, Sue Wallis of Wyoming and former Texas congressman and paid slaughter lobbyist, Charles Stenholm.

I find it odd that they see slaughter as being the solution for horse neglect, but when it comes to neglected or starving cattle, they are stumped. In this USA Today article Starving cattle amid high prices for feed in Neb, Steven Stanec, executive director of the Nebraska Brand Committee, a state agency that helps police the cattle industry stated that "Neglect cases are on the rise, and what's causing it, I'm not sure. We're having whole herds of hundreds of cattle being neglected."

In doing a simple Google search I found other related headlines which show that cattle starving to death is a fairly widespread problem – Officials raid farm with 30 dead, 100 plus starving cows, Starving cows rescued near Paisley on road to recovery and Starving cattle seized in Lake County.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, 34.4 million cattle were slaughtered in 2008, that's an average of 94,247 cows slaughtered per day. According to Cattle Network, beef production is up over last year.

Now with all of those cattle going to slaughter, one would wonder why cattle neglect is happening. Using the logic that the AQHA, AVMA, NCBA, Farm Bureaus and the other proponents of the horse slaughter industry apply to starving or neglected horses that "slaughtering prevents neglect", one would think that we wouldn't have problems with starving or neglected cattle. Yet guys like Steven Stanec aren't sure why cattle neglect cases are on the rise.

What further weakens the argument that “slaughter is needed to prevent horse neglect” is that while all of these articles have been written about neglected and starving horses, the option of horse slaughter has been available in the United States. Horse owners can take the horses they no longer want to keep to the local livestock auction and the neighborhood friendly kill buyers will happily take the horse off their hands. According to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 134,059 American horses have been slaughtered at the European owned plants in Canada and Mexico in 2008. American horses still continue to go to slaughter as you read this, so the slaughter pipeline continues to function despite the claims to the contrary.

The reality is that slaughter has nothing to do with animal welfare. Since slaughter apparently doesn't magically solve the problem of starving and neglected cattle, it is fallacy to think that slaughter will solve the problem of starving and neglected horses. The problem of cattle being neglected is due to the current economic crisis, that same economic crisis is making it difficult for horse owners.

In fact, a study released in June of 2008 showed there was no correlation between horse slaughter and neglect, but a clear linkage between unemployment and neglect. Prophetically, the study warned in its conclusions that if economic conditions continued to deteriorate an upward trend in neglect could be expected.

The AQHA, AVMA, NCBA, Farm Bureaus and all of their political allies put a lot of time, energy and money into supporting horse slaughter. If these special interest groups were to focus all of those resources on solving the nation's economic problems rather than supporting a foreign owned industry that doesn’t even pay their taxes, we might be able to get something done.

It is a pity they are so narrow minded.

Duane Burright is a software engineer by trade, aside from horses and their welfare he's also interested in American musclecars, vintage electric fans, computers and software design. He has been involved in the campaign to make the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (AHSPA) law since 2003 and is a supporter of a nearby wild horse sanctuary.

It's an industry that is often “out of sight, out of mind”, but the reality is, the horse slaughter business is alive and well in Alberta.

Tune in to the News Hour Monday, May 25th through Wednesday, May 27th as Global News reporter Jill Croteau tells us just how big the industry is, how important it is for Canada, where the horse meat goes, and just how Albertans feel about this unknown business.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer: the Ag Lobby’s Dirty Little Plan, Revealed

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer: the Ag Lobby’s Dirty Little Plan, Revealed
Monday, April 06, 2009

Cattle Grower Network

“It has been shown that horsemeat is low in fat, low in cholesterol and high in protein- overall a better quality of meat than beef. If horse meat were readily available in the U.S., would you be inclined to try it?”

It pays to be on enemy email lists: I received the above link this afternoon, to a website promoting horse slaughter. A faux poll, and several misled people who are contemplating dining on "lowfat" horsemeat. The Ag lobbyists have convinced cattle "growers" that, hmmm, horsemeat might be a yummy thing--I'm thinking that it's a significant part of Ag lobby's push for horse slaughter plants--that if horse slaughter is brought back into the United States, cattle "growers" can get into the biz of "growing" horses specifically for slaughter.

This disgusts me. But I'd rather know what they're up to than not. Ignorance is NOT bliss.

Ah, every now and then, the Good Guys catch a break.

Just when you thought that the battle to keep equines safe from slaughter was a losing effort—an email drops into your Inbox that qualifies as a gift from Heaven. A miracle. Hundred-dollar bills dropping from the sky.

Today was just such a day.

Allow me to elucidate. I am a member of American Horse Publications, a terrific organization that brings together every equine publication, website and freelancer in the country. I cannot stress strongly enough how much I enjoy being a member of AHP.

But today I appreciate it perhaps more than ever before, for I got an email from a website that turned the horse slaughter thing around for me. Refreshed me. Renewed my resolve.

[AHP regularly sends out press releases for its members: some days I get upward of 20 press releases. This is a great service that the organization provides to members. Most days I hear from Missy Wryn, or The Blood-Horse, Thoroughbred Times—the ones I’d expect.]

But, ah, today. Today I was frustrated. Today I had a headache, from beating my brains against a post. I’ve been trying for several days to write a follow-up to Montana’s Big, Bloody Sky, but have been stumped. Not that I’ve run out of words—I’ll be yammering on my way to the grave. I’ve run out of patience with the system, a system that allows Governors to play footsie with Ag lobbyists and to disguise death sentences for horses as concern for their welfare.

You see, Friday was a day of jubilation for we anti-slaughter people. Well, it was a minute of jubilation.
We’d heard, first, that Montana’s Governor Brian Schweitzer had vetoed the horse slaughter bill.

Friends and colleagues emailed me to send up the first flares. Start the bonfire, we’re havin’ a weenie roast!

That ecstasy lasted about three seconds. I read Schweitzer’s letter to The Butcher (Ed Butcher, that is: the most appropriately-named politician in America.) The letter of “veto” was really a letter filled with amendments. IF the bill is amended in ways that Governor Schweitzer find to be appropriate—he will sign the bill into law.

And the reasons for his amendments are to write in protections for those who would build the slaughterhouses—NOT because he’s concerned about the horses’ welfare. Sure, his letter of amendment is filled with language that sounds like he’s concerned for equine welfare—all the “unwanted horses” ya-ya.

But the bottom line of it is that he’ll be delighted to sign the bill into law, as long as the amendments are written in—and those magnanimous Belgians are protected. Schweitzer wants to make sure that, once the slaughterhouse is built in Montana—no one can step up to the plate (or courthouse) and close it down.

So I’ve spent several days trying to write about something that is on the surface so vague that anti-slaughter folks were tempted to think we’d won. But knowing that we’ve not won, the battle continues, and—if anything—is more frustrating than ever. At this point, it’s out of our hands. Phone calls to Schweitzer’s office will not change a thing. Now we sit and wait to see if/when the Montana State Legislature tosses it back to him.

If they do, he’ll sign it.

If he signs it, Montana license plates can read, “The Slaughter State.”

So today I felt stumped. Defeated. Not sure what to write.

Now I know. Today we were given a gift, that of insider knowledge. This is a valuable tool—knowledge. The Truth shall set you free. The light of Truth, shining in the darkness—can turn it all around for the horses.

We have the ammo we need now: the email I received via AHP today carried the subject line, “Would You Eat Horse Meat?”

I turned on my mental heel. They had my attention. I had to peek inside, and see behind the curtain.

This email was from a website that identified itself

I’d never heard of them before. I thought it might be a group of cowboys, perhaps a newsletter of cowboy poets.

Not quite. Cheyenne Outlaw Ranch is—you guessed it—a cattle ranch in Wyoming.

Their mission is to “grow” and sell—beef.

Why, you might ask yourself, would they wish to contact those of us who work in publishing in equine industries? Hmmmmm…tap yourself on the chin. Think about this a minute.

It all became wildly clear the minute I read the email: supposedly, The Cattle Grower Network had conducted a poll. Uh, yeah. And in that poll, they asked if readers would eat horsemeat if it were available to them.

Uh-huh. A rigged poll. People who are members of Cattle Grower Network, answering a question that, on its surface, seems simple.

Disgusting, but simple.

The underlying implication is enormous.

Finally--the Truth behind the push for horse slaughter plants.

The Truth, that those who are proponents are no more concerned about “unwanted horses” than a bald man is about unwanted hair.

The Truth is that the Ag lobby is working with the “cattle growers” not only to re-introduce horse slaughter into the United States—the underlying reason for doing so is that the next step after reintroduction is to create a market for horsemeat IN the United States.

The beef industry has been hurting lately. Too many people actually concerned about silly things like, oh, I don’t know—cholesterol. Fat. Colon cancer.

What, oh, what, can a “cattle grower” whose profit margin is flagging do? Hmmm…got land. Got grass. Got fields fenced in. Beef, fatty. HORSE…not so fat.

Horsemeat = a marketing strategy that could save the necks of the ranchers who’ve invested millions of dollars into an industry that is threatened by a growing American concern for health.

Read the link above, to the “poll” and those who agree with the results of the poll—that, supposedly, horsemeat just may be an acceptable addition to the American diet. Read the words, then let them set in.

Realize that this is a well-calculated campaign. This is NOT random people who happen to think that horse slaughter is a good thing.

This, my friends, is every bit as insidious a campaign as the tobacco industry creating chocolate cigarettes for children.

This campaign was hatched in the boardrooms of The Beef Council. This plan is being executed by the Ag lobbyists and the ranchers. This, they believe, will be the plan that saves the ranchers.

All this time, we anti-slaughter people thought they were merely executing the “slippery slope” argument, that, if horse slaughter is taboo in America—they’ll come for the beef industry next.

That passive-aggressive approach—that’s what we thought they were up to.

But today’s email revealed the Truth—Hallelujah, the Truth will set the horses free.

The real motivation of the Ag lobby and the Beef People is not to prevent beef slaughter from being outlawed—for that would never happen. The real motivation is to open wide the door to horse slaughter so that RANCHING HORSES for meat will not only become acceptable—it will become an exciting, viable new market for the cattle ranchers. “Branching out,” as it were. Creating a new market, and giving it the old hard-sell.

Once horse slaughter plants are put in Montana and the Dakotas—it’s all downhill from there. They think that we anti-slaughter people will just give up, and go away with a whimper. That we’ll shrug our withers, and give in.

No doubt they even aspire to converting Willie Nelson: their clever marketing wonks envision Willie as a potential ally, the face of The American Horsemeat Council. Once that door to slaughter is flung wide-open—the possibilities are endless.

I am not arguing in slippery slope here, friends. All you need do is read this nonsense from the cattle “growers,” this email they sent to their allies, to see through their transparent motive.

If we open that door—if we let Governor Schweitzer amend so vile a bill as to make it palatable, and pass it into law—then the Ag lobby and beef “growers” can institute Phase II: the cultural and governmental acceptance of horse ranches.

If you don’t want to see billboards for “Secretariat: the Other Red Meat”—you must work with us. You don’t need my vivid imagination to see that this is the real motivation for the push for slaughter: all you need is eyes to read; a brain to comprehend and a heart to give a damn.

Ag lobby—we are finally on to you. We’ve got you in our scopes. You’re goin’ down. No Alydar Alpo for me—and no Filly Filet at Peter Luger’s.

Not now. Not ever.
Guilt By [American Quarter Horse] Association?

Monday, May 25, 2009
Guilt By [American Quarter Horse] Association?

Well, I was going to do a post about “emotional women” (("The AQHA leadership has always been pro-slaughter, and when their own polls revealed their membership wasn't, their own president blamed the results on ‘emotional women.’”) of whom I’m one, but after an email chat I instead opted to talk about the following...

You know, it’s hard enough to think about horses getting slaughtered to make room for more, more, more (as in the AQHA making more money via more registration fees and more membership fees by getting rid of what's already here), much less realize an association as massive and well known as the AQHA—one who actually took steps to amend some of their rules to the benefit of horses... or was that only to quell public outcry?—have so little regard for their breed and all the regard for the almighty dollar that they advocate it. That begs the question: When they (the AQHA leadership) shot themselves in the foot because of it, did they also paint targets on their members, too?

Let’s think about this. In the court of public opinion, owners of Quarter Horses/members of AQHA, and the association itself, are one and the same. So, guilt by association. An example might be the anti-fur movement, where folks don’t just target furriers but the individuals wearing it, to the point were people who owned it (even the homeless!) wouldn’t be caught dead in it. Now, instead of fur, it’s horse slaughter advocated by the Quarter Horse Association—the very association that’s suppose to tout and protect the breed, not push for the slaughter of it. What will the public think of it’s members now? They’ll never hear about the polls, or who agreed or disagreed with it, and they won’t stop to ask, either. One and the same, remember? Members are AQHA. Members did this. Members are the heartless bastards who will ride it AND eat it, baby. Hi ho Silver... and don’t forget the ketchup.

Let’s take a moment to let this sink in.

Can you say “manipulated” (as in even the pro-slaughter members were manipulated into thinking this was a good thing when all the while it was a money making venture from the beginning, something where everyone (including the cattle ranchers who are all set up and eager to turn into horse meat ranchers) wins EXCEPT the horse), folks? I know you can.

I hate being manipulated. I hate being told one thing and find out it’s a whole other ballgame (or is that ‘market‘?). I hate being guilty by association, and I particularly hate that the Quarter Horse association painted it's own members as targets.

By the way, how much do you think the AQHA cares about their breed when they’re advocating slaughtering them? Just curious.

Oh. And while we‘re here, let this sink in too.

And so it begins (note the blog’s name... and good on the blog owner for coming up with it and speaking out!). But that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I am, is pointing out that a really bad situation CAN get far worse. Yep, seems everyone’s jumping on the band wagon, including cattlemen who are being encouraged to see horse slaughter as yet another opportunity (others before being buffalo and elk, though with horses it’s a different ballgame, horses being an already established market—if they can’t sell it here, they’ll just ship it to Europe) to make a buck.

So what's the alternative to slaughter? Stop backyard indiscriminate breeding. Stop thinking of horses as disposable. You bought it so you look after it for life. If you can't, then sell it to someone reputable who can. And, God forbid, if something happens to the horse to necessitate it's death, be strong enough to euthanize it instead of shipping it. At least that's my opinion.
Posted by Hawke at 9:42 AM
Labels: AQHA, manipulation, members, slaughter

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Path to Slaughter at a Horse Auction

The Rail - The Race for the Triple Crown
May 20, 2009, 6:10 pm
The Path to Slaughter at a Horse Auction
By Alex Brown

I was coming off the racetrack this morning at Woodbine, and Nancy, assistant trainer for Roger Attfield, hollered at me, “Alex, if you need space to stash a horse for a few months, I have a spot for you.” It was a gesture triggered no doubt by the knowledge that I attend a “livestock” horse auction once a week about an hour west of Woodbine. Tuesday was that day.

I attend auctions primarily to study the behavior of the kill buyer, whose main client is a slaughterhouse, and to provide more transparency to this aspect of the horse industry. Occasionally I buy a horse.

While there is currently no horse slaughter in the United States, auctions like this exist all over North America. They are part of the clearinghouse for animals that eventually wind up in on dinner tables around the world. But, as I have come to learn, not just any horse will do for slaughter. Kill buyers prefer healthy horses of medium size. Consequently kill buyers often end up bidding against those looking for a horse for their daughter or their farm. As for the horses that receive no bids, they are sometimes picked up by rescue farms, or are euthanized.

With about 60 horses for sale, Tuesday’s auction was similar in size to those I have attended on recent Tuesdays. In recent weeks two to three kill buyers have attended. This week, only the main kill buyer attended. Because of that he was able to buy horses almost at will. He bought about 40 of the horses (most were standardbreds, owing to the many trotting tracks in Ontario), paying from as low as 15 cents a pound to as high as 49 cents a pound. He bought three of the five thoroughbreds sale.

The odd thing about his most expensive horse is that it is not the type of horse he typically buys for kill, at that price. I have come to learn the types of horses and conditions of horses that are ideal for kill. This was a big black percheron. At 25 cents it would have made sense. The best conclusion I could draw is that this horse was bought for someone else. He did pay 43 cents a pound for another horse, a gorgeous and healthy-looking one. That price made sense and is what I would consider his top price for a meat horse yesterday. In recent weeks the top price paid had been about three or four cents higher. On Tuesday we had the same number of horses, fewer bidders, and therefore lower prices all around. The median price was down about five cents a pound.

What becomes clear at these auctions is that kill buyers pay a premium for healthy-looking horses. On Tuesday the kill buyer paid as low as 15 cents a pound for a couple of underweight horses. And there were other horses, which were worse off, that the kill buyer simply did not bid on. The point is that kill buyers are not simply buying up horses that have no other demand. They are bidding on healthy horses, paying more for those horses as they outbid private buyers and other dealers. A healthy horse bound for slaughter will provide a better-quality meat, and more of it, to the meatpacking company I assume.

Last year I bought a horse, for $300 from a kill buyer. He was perhaps the slowest racehorse in Ontario. Beaten about 50 lengths in his final start. A week later I let Magic Flute go to slaughter. Magic Flute was a winner three times in six starts in Canada. He was second in the other three starts.
AQHA Official Celebrates Pending Slaughter of Quarter Horses



John Holland

CHICAGO, (EWA) – In the aftermath of Montana Governor Schweitzer’s non-action, HB 418, a bill that bars Montana’s citizens from taking court action against the building of a horse slaughter plant, became law. This action has left many Montana legislators and citizens shocked that their state might soon be known as the new “home of horse slaughter”. Montana has enacted a probably unconstitutional statute that denies due process under the United States Constitution.

Horse slaughter will tarnish the “Big Sky” brand and everything it stands for from cattle to tourism. History has shown that such plants bring nothing but pollution and controversy. Montana law makers failed to ask themselves why Texas and Illinois, and now Saskatchewan Canada, have rid themselves of the industry. Who is to gain?

The Equine Welfare Alliance has obtained a document that answers this question. The mass e-mail was from Stan Weaver, president of the Montana Quarter Horse Association (MQHA) and is titled “HB 418 Final Comments – Success!!!!. Rejoicing in the news that Montana may be home to a horse killing plant, the MQHA president boasts that the MQHA was the driving force behind the passage of the law.

Weaver praises members for pushing the legislation while bragging about the haste with which it was put together. Weaver describes how the MQHA and the bill’s sponsor, Representative Ed Butcher, had come up with the idea for the bill just weeks before it was introduced. After that introduction, the bill was ridiculed widely as the “Montana Butcher Bill.”

Indeed, this is cause to rejoice for the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), the organization leading the effort to continue the slaughter of American horses for foreign firm’s profit. This magnificent breed, touted as the most versatile of all horses, is being sent to slaughter in record numbers. In fact, half of all horses sent to slaughter each year are American Quarter Horses.

Meanwhile, the AQHA continues to promote indiscriminate breeding.

Weaver is apparently so enamored at the prospect of a slaughter plant to butcher Montana’s Quarter Horses that he ponders writing a book that will contain all the emails and letters in support of horse killing.

Last year, when other businesses were reducing production, AQHA management and its member breeders continued their mad quest to grow revenues by registering 140,000 new foals, an increase of 5,000 more horses over 2007.

In his speech before the 2008 annual convention, Bill Brewer, the AQHA’s then executive vice-president said, “Our challenge becomes looking at ways to introduce an equine economic stimulus package that will boost registration numbers.” Apparently, that package includes killing off existing Quarter Horses to make room for more.

The AQHA and its allies have promoted unfounded stories that the nation is being flooded with tens of thousands of abandoned horses. It was a salient point made by supporters of “The Butcher Bill” and was picked up by the Montana media and repeated without question, even though county officials reported a total of only fourteen abandoned horses in 2008.

Yet the group and its apologists fail to mention the indiscriminate breeding encouraged by the AQHA and ranchers such as Weaver. Weaver’s ranch alone produces and registers 100 horses per year and helps fill the AQHA treasury with registration fees.

According to Weaver, the next major AQHA effort will be to try to defeat the federal legislation that will end the slaughter of American horses; HR 503, The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009.

In their zealous quest to defeat HR 503, EWA expects more of the elaborate disinformation campaign from the AQHA and its lobbyists.

EWA wholeheartedly supports humane and responsible animal agriculture and is prepared to respond.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

As I post this, I am horrified.

"In order to belong you have to believe in their core principles – here is one of them. This group is going to be a menace. Slaughter at all costs."

One or more of three American Veterinary Medical Association approved methods of humane euthanization of horses should be used: captured bolt; bullet; or lethal drug cocktail. Veterinarians have documented the unreliability of lethal drug injections in producing a quick and painless death, and so some choose to follow up the injection with a carefully placed bullet. Untrained and inexperienced people trying to shoot a horse are often dismayed and emotionally traumatized by their inability to kill a horse even after multiple gunshots. A captured bolt mechanism at a horse processing facility is the most reliable, certain, and stress free (for both horses and humans) method of quickly and painlessly ending a horse's life;"

United Horsemen's Front joins United Organizations of the Horse

Monday, May 11, 2009

Program Would Benefit Race Horses and Prisoners

BY JENNIFER A. BOWEN - News-Democrat

A new Illinois resolution is making its way through the legislature that would help retired Illinois race horses get a new lease on life after their racing days are over.

House Resolution 309 unanimously passed an Illinois House committee last Wednesday. The resolution, if it becomes law, would establish a Thoroughbred horse groomer training program for inmates at the Vandalia Correctional Center at no cost to taxpayers. The resolution was presented to committee by Rep. Ron Stephens, a Highland Republican, and Lanny Brooks, executive director of the Illinois Horseman's Benevolent and Protective Association Inc.

House members are expected to hear the resolution this week. Approval would only give official encouragement to the Illinois Department of Corrections to consider implementing the program. Stephens said he has heard positive response to the resolution by officials at the Illinois Department of Corrections.

"It's a win, win, win idea," Stephens said. "The horses win. The inmates win because it gives them the chance to learn something they can use when they get out. The recidivism rate of the inmates where the program is in effect in eight other states is in the single digits. The third winners are the taxpayers because it won't cost them a dime. The veterinary care, farrier, feed and equipment is paid for by the Illinois Horseman's Benevolent and Protective Association. The only thing the state provides is the labor."

The Vandalia Correctional Center is a facility that has more than 1,300 acres with barns and fences and was once used as an active farm by the state. The land is no longer farmed, Stephens said.

Inmates would go through a program and earn a groomsman certification.

"You can't just take a racehorse and adopt them out to a small family farm," Stephens said. "They are used to racing. They are not suddenly good riding horses because they are done racing, they need to be trained for that. The groomsmen learn how to care for the physical needs of the horse and train them to be able to live without being a danger to the people caring for them. If you don't give these racehorses a chance to live with a family, then they are going to be euthanized."

The new program would set up a nonprofit organization, Racehorse Alternative Choice Environment, and would benefit prisoners and give retired racehorses a chance at a new career. The Illinois Horseman's Benevolent and Protective Association, Inc. would foot the bill for the program.

New York, Florida, Nevada, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, and Kentucky already have similar programs that match retired Thoroughbreds up with inmates. Once the program is up and running, trainers who are caught sending horses to slaughter would lose stalls at the Fairmount Racetrack.

"I hope we will be able to meet the needs of these horses," Stephens said. "They are beautiful animals and they deserve to live out their lives in peace. It gives them the chance to be adopted to a family for recreational use."

Contact reporter Jennifer Bowen at or 239-2667.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Letters: Congress must end slaughter of horses

From our own Julianne French

Published: 05.07.2009
Giffords fails cowboys by not backing act
The Kentucky Derby reminds us of our love and partnership with the horse.
But American horses remain in jeopardy of being stolen from our backyards and stables and taken to profiteers who sell them at auctions.
Killer buyers then transport them under horrendous condition to Mexico and Canada for slaughter.
Up to the day public pressure closed the last U.S. horse slaughter plant in Illinois, there were reports of mares giving birth to foals in holding areas while awaiting slaughter.
There were reports of injured, crippled and abused horses suffering miserably, provided no food and no water after long journeys under horrific conditions.
Seventy percent of Americans want to end horse slaughter, and Congress has concurred time and again.
Federal legislation pending in the House and Senate would end horse slaughter and prohibit the use of double-decker trailers, meant for cattle, to transport horses.
Congressman Raúl Grijalva and Sen. John McCain are co-sponsors of the Equine Cruelty Act. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was a co-sponsor in the last Congress but has not yet signed onto equine legislation since her re-election. This is a great disappointment to her constituents and the horse community.
Among the 97 pieces of legislation for which Giffords is a sponsor or co-sponsor is HR 322, to declare July 25 as National Day of the Cowboy. How can Ms. Giffords honor the cowboy and sell the horse he rode in on down the road to the slaughter plant?
Call Sen. Jon Kyl at 202-224-4521 and ask him to become a co-sponsor of S 727. Call Giffords at 202-225-2542 and ask her to co-sponsor HR 503 the Equine Cruelty Act, HR 1018 Restoring Protection for Wild Horses and Burros Act and HR 305 Horse Transportation Act.
Legislation to honor the cowboy cannot matter much without his faithful partner, the horse.
Julianne French
Pam Roylance: The dinner plate should be no be part of a horse's future

BY PAM ROYLANCE - Idaho Statesman
Published: 05/08/09

As one of its few accomplishments in the 2009 session, our Legislature has cranked out a "feel good" resolution, a profoundly disgusting gesture, ultimately aimed at promoting the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

Let's hope that Congress ignores this misguided message and passes the Conyers/Burton Equine Protection Act, ending horse slaughter and the transportation of horses for slaughter once and for all.

Yes, we have a problem now with unwanted horses. However, as with most problems, we will never have a fix until we are required to fix it. Just like our energy problems, once an immediate crisis is past, it's business as usual.

I say, pass the federal legislation, and then there will be incentives to address the unwanted horse population.

Certainly, the current economic crisis has contributed to the countless horror stories of starving and abandoned horses. These are no more horrific than the countless slaughterhouse atrocities. Why are we, a country of supposed horse-lovers, where the growth of our nation was enhanced by the horse, now promoting horsemeat consumption in other countries? Let them grow their own. You can bet influential racehorse and show horse breeders in France - both of thoroughbreds and Arabians - will start protesting.

I don't think any responsible horse breeders who truly love and respect horses go through all the physical, emotional and financial toil to create a registered foal for a particular endeavor only to have it end up on somebody's dinner plate. If any think otherwise, they should switch to raising beef, chicken or pork.

So what's the answer to the unwanted horse? First of all, we as breeders need to become more responsible. We need to curtail our numbers, producing only as many as the market will absorb, just as other industries pull in their horns and tighten their belts during hard times.

We need to be more conservative with our marketing efforts. Instead of promoting a colt for sale to somebody so that "now you can be a breeder, just like me," we must geld. We should screen our buyers and not sell horses to inappropriate people - people who obviously lack the ability, the financial means or the character to responsibly commit to that horse - and be prepared to take the horse back under certain circumstances.

And to all horse owners, current and prospective: the purchase of a horse - a living, breathing, feeling animal - is a long-term commitment of responsibility.

The breed registries, likewise, must get on board and face up to the crisis. They need to stop crying the blues about registrations being down and, for the time being until the economy improves, be thankful that some of their members are being responsible.

We need to work on alternatives for these unwanted horses, and the breed registries and related horse industries must take a stronger role. As usual, thoroughbred racing is leading the way with the establishment of many rescue/adoption programs, at least on the East Coast. We can do the same here in the West. Horse shows and other events seeking to sponsor a charity could make horse rescue operations the recipients of their donations or fundraising.

Finally, there is nothing wrong with humane destruction, euthanasia or a well-placed bullet by a competent person. Not all unwanted horses are adoptable or recyclable. This also includes responsibility for carcass disposal by approved means.

Horsemeat is no longer used for pet food, and zoos shy away because of West Nile virus, so why are we promoting it for human consumption? The American cowboy did not eat his horse, nor should we.

Pam Roylance has been involved in breeding, selling, showing and racing purebred horses for more than 35 years. She lives in Owyhee County.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Off to the Races for Montana Governor As He Dodges Controversial Butcher Bill

Contacts: John Holland

Vicki Tobin

Governor Schweitzer goes to Derby, leaves slaughter bill to become law

CHICAGO, (EWA) - On Friday, May 1st, Governor Brian Schweitzer packed up and left his office to head for the Kentucky Derby. On his desk, he left HB 418, a bill designed to encourage the building of a horse slaughter plant in Montana! The bill was designed to lure a horse slaughter plant to Montana by preventing Montana citizens from challenging such a facility in the state courts without first posting a bond equal to 20% of the facility’s cost. Without his veto, the bill became law.

The Governor had initially issued an amendatory veto of the bill, pointing out that it was almost certainly unconstitutional, but the legislature had sent it back to him without his suggested amendments. The bill’s sponsor, Ed Butcher, was quick to praise the Governor’s act of surrender.

In an interview published in The Horse, Butcher dismissed the idea that his bill was unconstitutional. He went on to explain his misguided belief that the role of the courts is more like that of movie critics, saying, "Courts have the right to offer an opinion about legislation--they do not have the right to make law. That's the legislature's job."

Butcher has said these safeguards [taking away the access of citizens to the courts] were needed to avoid the types of legal appeals that shuttered the country's last horse slaughterhouses in Illinois and Texas in 2007.

In an earlier article “Showdown at Horse Slaughter Pass”, EWA’s John Holland used the metaphor that Butcher was trying to “tie the citizens of Montana to the tracks”, and pondered whether the Governor would save the day. But alas, the Governor had his mind on the Kentucky Derby and left the citizens to their fate. Luckily, Butcher’s bill ties them to the wrong tracks.

None of the three US horse slaughter plants was ever closed through such a law suit. This is not to say they should not have been, but they weren’t. The Dallas Crown plant was ordered closed by the Kaufman Texas Board of Adjustments (not a private suit), but they managed to delay even that order in the courts until they were eventually closed under a long un-enforced 1949 state law.

In irony piled upon irony, that 1949 law had originally been pushed by cattlemen to prevent horse meat from competing with beef. Believing that the movement to stop horse slaughter is part of a “vegan agenda”, cattlemen were among the strongest proponents of HB 418!

And the Illinois plant, despite piling up continuous fines for the last three years of their operation, was never closed for such offenses. They were instead closed under a new Illinois law banning horse slaughter. A bill to reverse that law recently failed in the Illinois legislature and was withdrawn by its sponsor.
The Belgian Velda Corporation’s Natural Meats plant in Saskatchewan, Canada is the most probable target of Butcher’s overtures. Their operating license was suspended in December over unspecified health concerns by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, but this action would not have been relevant to the Butcher bill either. After a temporary reinstatement, the plant closed permanently in February.

And of course, no slaughter plant can currently slaughter horses in the US for human consumption because Congress removed funding for the required USDA ante-mortem inspections. The bill’s only real impact may be the statement it makes about Montana, its legislature and its governor.

But in a final irony, Schweitzer pointed to one of the fundamental injustices of horse slaughter by going to the Kentucky Derby as he announced to the world that Montana wants to become the country’s new abattoir. According to a study done for the American Horse Council, American horses generate about $141 Billion dollars a year in direct and indirect revenue through thousands of events like the Kentucky Derby. The slaughter industry pays about $40 Million a year to ship these athletes, companions and entertainers to an inhumane end. Put another way, after all they do for us; we sell our horses to slaughter for just 3 cents of every $100 they earn.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Humane Society of the United States and Doris Day Announce the Development of New Horse Rescue and Adoption Center

(May 4, 2009) — The Humane Society of the United States is pleased to announce plans to develop the Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch. Thanks to a generous donation of $250,000 by the Doris Day Animal Foundation, the new center will serve as a model facility for the re-homing of horses. The Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, the most diverse sanctuary for rescued abused, neglected and abandoned animals, is located in Murchison, Texas. The new center is projected to open by the end of 2009.

“I loved Cleveland Amory, and this is the culmination of a dream of mine,” says Doris Day, founder of the Doris Day Animal Foundation. “Cleveland was a great friend and humanitarian, and we often talked about ways to help even more horses. Now, through the new Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center at Cleveland’s ranch, horses will get the loving care, safety and security that they deserve.”

The HSUS has worked with horse rescues throughout the United States for a number of years to provide support and coordination to assist in caring for and re-homing horses in need. This new facility will allow the HSUS to develop and implement state of the art techniques to identify the most efficient and effective methods for caring for horses in need and to place them in loving homes for life.

“The Black Beauty Ranch was originally founded to save 577 burros living in the Grand Canyon, and I know that Cleveland would be so happy to know that his wonderful friend Doris Day is helping provide such fantastic support for animals at the nation’s most diverse animal care facility,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “Doris and Cleveland are two of the most important figures in the era of the contemporary animal protection movement, and this is thrilling for me to see this reunion of their interests.”

Doris Day and The HSUS had been discussing ways to work together on a horse rescue project, and the non-profit Doris Day Animal Foundation recently helped fund publication of The Humane Society of the United States’ Complete Guide to Horse Care.

For more information about Black Beauty Ranch, click here.

Media Contacts:

The HSUS/Martin Montorfano: 301-258-3152;

Doris Day Animal Foundation/Linda Dozoretz: 323-656-4499;

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at

The Doris Day Animal Foundation is the grant-making arm of Doris Day's non-profit animal welfare organizations. It has helped a number of leading animal welfare groups and programs.

The Humane Society of the United States

2100 L Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20037

Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty

Monday, May 4, 2009

Montana Big Sky Horse Slaughter Country

Federal bill brings hope to Montana’s horse slaughter opponents

Posted on 04 May 2009 by admin

SENATE LOUISIANAWashington, DC – There is currently a bill to ban horse slaughter in the United States Senate. Introduced on March 26, 2009, and sponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and John Ensign (R-NV), S. 727, the Landrieu-Ensign “Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act” will end the slaughter of American horses on a national level, as well as the export of horses for slaughter across our borders. The sponsors, who have long championed the cause, have the bipartisan support of 14 colleagues who are co-sponsoring the bill.

The introduction of the legislation came at a time when horse slaughter no longer occurred on U.S. soil, but with Friday’s passing of Montana’s HB 418 the importance to pass the Prevention of the Equine Cruelty Act through the U.S. Senate has become critical.

slaughter_transportThe last two equine slaughterhouses in American were located in Texas and Illinois, and under state law were shut down in 2007. Since then, the pro-slaughter camp has led an intensive and deceitful effort to resurrect the industry domestically; alleged by some as using scare tactics in an attempt to defeat the federal ban. The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act would definitively end state-sanctioned slaughter or the transport of American horses across U.S. borders to be used in overseas meat industries.
This federal legislation is desperately needed to stop the slaughter of American horses anywhere, regardless of whether on U.S. soil or not.

“The time to put an end to the practice of slaughtering horses in America is long overdue,” said Senator John Ensign said. “Horses have an important role in the history of our country, particularly the West, and they deserve our protection. As a senator and a veterinarian, I am committed to doing what I can for these magnificent animals.”
The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act will amend Title 18 of the U.S. Code to acknowledge horse slaughter as a form of animal cruelty. The legislation includes stiff civil and criminal penalties and gives law enforcement officials the authority to apprehend and charge violators.

“The bill, which has had strong support from a majority of Congress and the American public, is long overdue. For years I have pleaded with the pro-horse slaughter camp to stop misleading the public but they are more concerned with wringing a few bucks from a suffering animal than doing what is right,” said Chris Heyde, Deputy Director of Legislative and Government Affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute.

horse-in-the-auction-ringAn identical version, HR 503, was introduced earlier this year in the House of Representatives by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Representative Dan Burton (R-IN). There are currently 112 bipartisan cosponsors of the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act in the House of Representatives.

America owes a debt of gratitude to the millions of horses that helped shape our country. Their tireless service in every aspect of colonial life helped define an antire nation, and as such they should be preserved and protected as the national treasure they are.

Please contact your U.S. Representatives and/or your State Legislators today, and let them know that the slaughter of American horses on U.S. or international soil is an abomination and must be stopped.

To find your Representative, go to and click on your state. Letters should be your own individual thoughts delivered in a precise, professional manner.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Former Owner of Racehorses Now Works to Save Them

Published: May 1, 2009

As a longtime owner of thoroughbreds, Madeleine Pickens has made the famous walk to the Churchill Downs paddock with some great racehorses. But she said she did not plan to attend the Kentucky Derby this year and had no plans to any time soon.
Madeleine Pickens has been an advocate against the slaughter of horses with the support of her husband, the Texas oilman/billionaire T. Boone Pickens.

After hearing that Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, had been slaughtered in Japan in 2002, Pickens inquired about Fraise, her first champion at the Breeders’ Cup. Fraise’s Japanese buyers told her that the horse had been sent to a riding school — the same path Ferdinand was said to have taken on his way to the slaughterhouse.

“All the years, we’d had something like 800 horses, and it never occurred to me that there could be something like horse slaughter,” Pickens, 62, said in a recent interview. “There would be an injured horse, and I’d say, ‘What will happen?’ And they’d say, ‘The glue factory.’ I thought they were joking.”

She and her husband at the time, Allen Paulson, the founder of Gulfstream Aerospace, owned a number of Kentucky Derby starters and Breeders’ Cup champions, including Cigar, one of the most successful horses in history. Paulson died in 2000, but his widow continued in the sport with success. In 2004, her colt Rock Hard Ten finished second to Smarty Jones at the Preakness.

The next year, she met and soon married the billionaire Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens. Less than two weeks before her wedding, she received a call from Michael Blowen, the founder of a Kentucky sanctuary for rescued racehorses called Old Friends. “You don’t know me,” he told her. “But I have Fraise, and I’m bringing him home.”

He said Pickens began to cry.

Along with Fraise, the foundation was bringing back Ogygian, a Grade I stakes winner. It would cost $65,000 to fly the horses to Kentucky. “Never mind,” Pickens said she told Blowen. “I’ll pay for it.”

She had begun to pull away from the sport and decided to give it up entirely. She began instead to advocate against slaughter with the support of her new husband. They worked with the Humane Society of the United States on animal-welfare issues, including the rescue of hundreds of dogs and cats after Hurricane Katrina.

“She’s really there for animals when they are in distress,” said Wayne Pacelle, the Humane Society’s chief executive. “We consider her a fabulous ally for animal protection in this country.”

After the federal government suggested last fall that it could begin to euthanize wild horses it could not afford to manage, Pickens announced that she would create the National Wild Horse Foundation, an organization to buy and maintain a sanctuary for the animals.

To control the population, the Bureau of Land Management has rounded up nearly 80,000 wild horses and burros since 2001. Some have been individually adopted, but 32,000 remain in the agency’s custody. The cost of their care has become unsustainable, the Bureau of Land Management says, taking up three-quarters of its $36 million wild-horse budget.

Existing laws mandate that the agency euthanize healthy wild horses and sell some, including to slaughterhouses, to control costs. The Bureau of Land Management says it has not complied with those aspects of the law. But last year, the Government Accountability Office recommended that the agency begin discussions with Congress over whether to do so.

Pickens’s subsequent offer to create a sanctuary was met with enthusiasm by activists and the government. Her plan stalled, however, after she requested a federal stipend of $500 a year for the lifetime of each horse, equivalent to what ranchers who care for the horses receive in annual contracts from the government.

“She’s asking for the money ad infinitum,” said Tom Gorey, a Land Management spokesman. “We can’t do that.”

Pickens maintains that her plan will save the government at least $700 million over 10 years. Gorey called this “fantasy savings” because the proposal did not meet the requirements of the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, which restricts wild horses to public land they inhabited before the law was enacted.

Senator Mary L. Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who is a lead sponsor of a bipartisan anti-slaughter bill introduced in March, met with Madeleine and T. Boone Pickens in January and decided to support some of the positions later put forth in a House bill called the Restoring Our American Mustangs Act, or Roam. Last week, the Committee on Natural Resources approved the act for a future House vote.

The legislation contains measures to protect wild horses, including the prohibition of euthanasia and sale for slaughter. It also endorses contraception, something the Bureau of Land Management has tried in a limited way. The Roam Act also would expand available grazing land and support public-private partnerships like the one Pickens proposes.

“It saves the horses; it saves taxpayer money,” Landrieu said. “I think that kind of effort should be honored.”

Pickens hopes to create a million-acre sanctuary that, she said, could be a “living museum” for the horses, which descend from cavalry mounts, burros brought west by Jesuit missionaries and the mustangs of the 16th century Spanish conquistadors. “If you take the horse off the range,” she said, “you now have a moral obligation to take care of that horse for the rest of its life.”

That obligation, she said, extends to the backyard horses, children’s ponies and racehorses that can wind up abandoned or slaughtered.

“We are personally responsible for these horses,” Pickens said.

A version of this article appeared in print on May 3, 2009, on page SP7 of the New York edition.
Ignoble Endings Far From Winner’s Circle

Published: April 30, 2009

Thoroughbred racing will hold its breath Saturday as the nation tunes in to the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Since Barbaro’s breakdown in the 2006 Preakness Stakes and the stunning on-track euthanasia of Eight Belles at last year’s Derby, the racing industry has been under scrutiny for everything from race-day medication to track surfaces, toe grabs and the use of whips.

But in-competition breakdowns, dramatic as they are, account for only a fraction of the total deaths generated by the industry. The most significant source of racehorse deaths is the slaughter industry, one driven by overbreeding and demand from the lucrative global meat market. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, more than 100,000 American horses are slaughtered each year in Canada and Mexico to satisfy horse meat markets in Europe and Asia.

The slaughter of domestically bred horses represents a breach of the American covenant between horses and humans: horses bred for sport, industry and agriculture are not part of our food chain. They are not supposed to meet death in a slaughterhouse.

Breeding operations produce thousands of so-called surplus thoroughbreds. What happens to the excess, the often anonymous horses? Some are sold to owners who take them overseas. Some wind up racing in Japan. Some wind up in slaughterhouses.

According to Equine Advocates, a rescue group in Chatham, N.Y., the business of horse racing is a major contributor to the slaughter industry. Of all the horses slaughtered in Canada and Mexico every year, the group estimates that roughly a third come from horse racing.

Alex Waldrop, president and chief executive of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, rejected that overbreeding was to blame but acknowledged that slaughter was an issue.

“The prices that are being paid by foreign entities who want horse meat is what’s driving slaughter, not the oversupply of horses,” Waldrop said.

This year an undercover investigator from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals went inside Japan’s largest horse slaughterhouse and filmed a young thoroughbred’s final moments before being slaughtered. The video is disturbing. It shows in graphic terms what happens to the unfortunate thoroughbreds who become spare parts in a contracting industry.

How could a thoroughbred come to such a gruesome end? Easier than you think.

In 2002, Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, was slaughtered in Japan. Since Ferdinand’s death, an estimated 2,000 more American thoroughbreds have been exported to Japan. How many of those wound up in slaughterhouses was not known.

In 1982, Arthur Hancock had a lifelong dream fulfilled when his horse, Gato Del Sol, won the Kentucky Derby. Gato was not successful as a stud, and in 1993, Hancock sold his Derby winner to a farm in Germany for $100,000.

“I’ve got six children looking for one person to feed them,” Hancock said. “I hated to sell him, but you’ve got to make a living. I had a partner who wanted to sell him. I figured he’d have a good home in Germany.”

Gato’s career as a stallion did not improve in Europe. Then Hancock’s wife, Staci, learned that Exceller, a top handicap horse who had been sold to stud in Sweden, was killed in a slaughterhouse.

“The story made my heart stop,” she recalled in a phone interview on Wednesday. “If a champion horse like Exceller could end up in a slaughterhouse in Europe, the same fate could be in store for Gato.”

In 1999, Hancock reacquired Gato Del Sol and brought him back to Stone Farm, where he died at age 28.

If a prominent fourth-generation breeder can sell one of his Derby winners overseas, imagine what goes on at the lowest rungs of the industry.

Many owners, faced with the choice of keeping retired horses and continuing to pay for their feed and care, instead opt to sell them at auction for $300 to $500 a horse, not realizing or not caring that if they are exported they can eventually be slaughtered.

“We’ve got lots of work to do here,” Waldrop said. “The problem is far from being solved. There is a high demand for horse meat around the world, and they create a market for horses that competes with our efforts to adopt and retrain these horses.”

The last of the horse slaughterhouses in the United States were shut down in 2007. But at least four states — Montana, Illinois, North Dakota and Tennessee — have either proposed or contemplated legislation to reintroduce horse slaughter. Two bills stuck in committee in the House and the Senate would make it illegal to transport horses across state lines or to foreign countries for the purpose of slaughter. The industry should push Congress to pass pending anti-slaughter legislation.

No one expects owners to stop selling their horses to foreign breeders. But at the very least there should be provisions that allow them to buy back the horse or arrange for euthanasia as an alternative to slaughter.

A sport that refers to its animals as athletes shouldn’t send them to slaughter.

This industry desperately needs an infusion of ethics and backbone so that it can uphold our covenant with the American thoroughbred.

A version of this article appeared in print on May 1, 2009, on page B11 of the New York edition.
Horse facility bill lapses into law

Gazette State Bureau
HELENA - A controversial bill encouraging the construction of horse slaughterhouses in Montana and restricting legal challenges to such facilities became law Friday without Gov. Brian Schweitzer's signature.

Schweitzer refused to sign or veto the bill. Under the Montana Constitution, a bill automatically becomes law 10 days after the governor receives it, if he does not sign or veto it.

"The governor made his opinion on this bill known; the Legislature did the same," said Schweitzer's spokeswoman, Sarah Elliott. "No action was taken, and the bill has now become law."

Elliott was referring to Schweitzer's failed attempt to get the Legislature to amend House Bill 418, by Rep. Ed Butcher, R-Winifred. Schweitzer asked lawmakers in early April to remove major provisions aimed at limiting legal challenges to slaughterhouses' operating permits.
However, the House and Senate rejected Schweitzer's proposed changes by wide margins, so HB418 was sent to him as originally proposed.

Butcher has said the safeguards were needed to avoid the types of legal appeals that shuttered the country's last horse slaughterhouses, in Illinois and Texas in 2007.

HB418 was one of the most contentious bills of the 2009 Legislature, as Montanans and out-of-state people flooded lawmakers with e-mails on the measure.

Reached in Iowa, Butcher was pleased his bill became law - with or without Schweitzer's signature.

"I think it was probably the best move he could make considering the spot he was in," Butcher said.

"I think the people of Montana will really appreciate the fact that the governor did in fact listen to the overwhelming support for the need for a horse-processing plant, and there is a serious need for it in Montana."

Butcher said Schweitzer obviously was "getting an incredible amount of pressure from the out-of-state animal rights folks" and environmental groups that "didn't like the precedent this set with (blocking) frivolous lawsuits."

"I made it clear we didn't want to avoid clean-air and clean-water regulations and the siting requirements," Butcher said. "I wanted people to have a say in where it's located. Once all the hearings have been held, once the agencies have ruled and issued all the permits, that's where the harassment has to stop."

Three communities - Conrad, Hardin and Wolf Point - already have contacted him to express their interest in a slaughterhouse, Butcher said.

Now that the bill is law, Butcher said he will call companies interested in building horse slaughterhouses.

"Realistically, the plant is going to have to be built by the international companies that have access to the (horse meat) markets," Butcher said. "It's foolish for any American investors to build a plant without being in close connection with international companies that control the markets."

Nancy Perry, vice president of governmental affairs for the Humane Society of the United States, which opposed HB418, questioned the significance of the bill's becoming law.

"This bill has practically no impact and probably will be struck down because of its unconstitutionality," she said.

Schweitzer rightly pointed out the bill's constitutional flaws, Perry said, and "it was irresponsible of the Legislature to send it back to him without the changes."

"Beyond that, it would be a losing proposition to attempt to open a horse slaughtering plant in Montana since the Congress prohibits inspection of horse meat for human consumption," Perry said. "That meat cannot move in interstate and foreign commerce."

Schweitzer's April 3 amendatory veto suggested deleting a provision that required challengers of a slaughterhouse to post a bond worth 20 percent of the facility's construction costs and could have made them legally responsible for the damages the company incurred in a trial.

He also sought to delete the bill's provision that prevents courts from stopping construction of a horse slaughterhouse once the state has approved it.

At the time, Schweitzer said, "The appeal rights we have as citizens for environmental protection" would be gone.

Published on Saturday, May 02, 2009.
Last modified on 5/2/2009 at 12:11 am

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