Thursday, October 29, 2009

Horse slaughter: Home stretch for thoroughbreds

WYNT News Channel 13, Albany New York

The home stretch for thoroughbreds is a good place to be when they are on the track, but once their racing days are done it can be a very different story.

The arrest of local breeder Ernie Paragallo this year led us to do a little digging and what we found may surprise you

Thoroughbreds in their prime are fit, well cared for and treated like celebrities, but by the young age of six or seven, many go from being revered to being rejected and they end up at the biggest public horse auction east of the Mississippi -- the so-called killer sale in New Holland, Pennsylvania.

According to rescue groups attending the auctions, every Monday an average of 250 horses pass through the sale.

Up to 40 percent are purchased by so-called kill buyers and taken to slaughter so their meat can be sold for human consumption in Europe and Asia.

As for the slaughter itself -- it's not a pretty process.

More Information: Horse Slaughter Legislation Tracker

"Well, the horses are slaughtered using what they call a captive bolt. This bolt is designed by law to use one hit between the eyes to stun the horse and render it unconscious, that's what's supposed to happen," says Susan Hamlin, New York State Legislative Director of the Equine Welfare Alliance.

"Many of them are not unconscious, many of them are just unable to move momentarily and many of them wake up fully awake, fully able to feel pain, fully aware of what's going on as they're hung upside down and their throats, the carotid artery, is cut to bleed out on the floor," adds Hamlin.

According to The Humane Society of the United States, 20 perecnt of the thoroughbreds born in the United States end up this way -- even some of the greats.

Ferdinand, the 1987 Kentucky Derby winner, was unable to perform as a stud. So he was slaughtered in Japan in 2002.

Slaughter is also a reality for some of the horses you see racing at Saratoga.

"Unfortunately it is and we're working hard to stop that," said thoroughbred owner John Hendrickson of Marylou Whitney Stables.

"We had one that was a half-brother to Birdstone, named Cviano, and somebody from a rescue operation called us and said, 'Do you know this horse had fallen through the claiming ranks and is about to be slaughtered, and we said we'll buy it and we'll pay you double," adds Hendrickson.

Trainer Nick Zito and his wife Kim got a similar call. A rescue group found their former horse, Little Cliff, on his way to slaughter.

"It was kind of a miracle too because he could have wound up ... and that would have been a catastrophe cause a lot of people knew his name," said Zito.

But why should we care? We slaughter chickens and cattle for food. Why are horses different?

"We don't sell horse meat in the grocery stores here in the United States. They're not in our food chain," says Kim Zito.

"It's never been in our food chain, ever. I'm talking about even in the Depression days or even when people stood on line, you know, ever. It's just something that we don't do," according to Nick Zito.

There is a movement to stop the slaughter, but it's not meeting with much success in Washington.

More on that in tomorrow's report.

1 comment: