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Racing Industry Silent on Thoroughbred Slaughter Cruelty

November 29, 2011

Vickery Eckhoff

Part I from my series on Forbes.com about Thoroughbreds, horse racing and the horse industry

This post kicks off a new blog I’m writing on Forbes.com called Fat CatsRacing Industry Silent on Slaughtered Thoroughbreds, my first post, appeared today, part of a series on the horse industry and its darker side.

As some of you may know, this summer, my sister Nina and I rescued a five-year-old former racehorse. The process taught me so much about what goes on in the racing world—a topic covered regularly in Forbes.com’s lifestyle section.

The first two posts in my new series trace the route of several horses from the track to auction—but it’s a vastly different sort than what Forbes generally covers.

Out of a total of 138,000 horses sent to slaughter in Canada and Mexico in 2010, 16% were Thoroughbreds, some dumped at auction just days after running their last race. They end up there with the knowledge of owners and particularly trainers needing to make room in their stables for newer, more promising horses.

Recent legislation allowing for the reopening of slaughter houses for horses in the U.S. makes this issue extremely timely. Starting with the sport of horse racing, I’ll talk about the relationships between trainers, owners and kill buyers. Later, I’ll cover the involvement of pharmaceutical companies both in overmedicating and overbreeding; the participation of veterinarians; the economic interests of the meat industry lobbyists; the public’s interest in keeping their eyes wide shut; and their blind appreciation of horse movies, horse sports and horse legends.

You’ll find research, information gathered under the Freedom of Information Act, videos and photos. These are hard to look at, but essential to discerning fact from myth on this gruesome subject. My hope is to educate people. It’s one thing to love horses as icons. It’s another to know one personally or be an owner. My new relationship with Princess Madeline has got me rethinking my entire life: not just where I live and how often I ride, but how can I change my living, thinking and eating habits to conform to my new philosophy that all animal exploitation starts—and ends—with the individual.

Welcome to Fat Cats. Please follow me here and on Forbes.com—and read the other posts in the series:

Part II  Saving Princess Madeline—A Racehorse’s Tale

Part III Horse Slaughterhouse Investigation Sounds Food Safety and Cruelty Alarms

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5 Comments

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  1. November 30, 2011

    Hi Vickery;

    I had to follow this link from the Forbes site, as I was having trouble registering there to leave a comment on your article about TB’s and the slaughter industry.

    First, I wanted to thank you for this series; it is especially important now in light of the recent Ag bill that was passed allowing horsemeat inspections to resume here in the US.

    As for the three individuals who removed the defunding language, they should be publicly castigated not only for endorsing horse slaughter, but for the outrageous spenditure of taxpayer dollars that will be used for USDA inspectors to stare at dead horse carcasses.

    Jack Kingston, in particular, was one of the members responsible for the 87 million dollar cut to the Food Safety budget — this means that inspections of cattle, hog, poultry, and other food processing plants will be significantly reduced. As a result, consumer groups have voiced real concerns over the potential risk to the US food supply.
    Interestingly, Mr Kingston was ALSO one of the individuals who removed the defunding language for horsemeat inspections — so out of the already crippled Food Safety budget Mr Kingston, appears to be doing a clear “favor” for his campaign contributors, allocating at least 5 million (potentially much more) taxpayer dollars for the inspections of horsemeat. If that isn’t utterly and completely outrageous enough; one only needs to look at his campaign contributors and his statements about his concern over “abandoned and starving” horses become immediately transparent:

    Pfizer
    National Cattlemen’s Association
    Individual Livestock Ranchers and Feedlot Operators
    AQHA
    AVMA
    Meat Processing companies

    The story is the same for Roy Blunt, the other individual who stripped the defunding language, along with Herb Kohl.

    Each one of these politicians will point to the GAO report to support their position — however, the GAO report also (albeit as a near afterthought) recommends a complete ban of slaughter as the other alternative to reopening the US facilities.

    Another interesting tidbit: The committee who requested the GAO report has refused to release the documents and data supporting the assertion that the closures of the US facilities have resulted in a decline of equine welfare. Seems congress has exempted themselves from the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). Better yet, guess who was on the requesting committee — ? Kingston, Kohl, and Blunt. (Sam Farr was also a member, and was the lone objector to removing the defunding language.)

    This information needs to be shouted from the rooftops; while other programs like Medicare, WIC (Women, Infants and Children), and the Food Safety budget are being slashed; these three individuals took it upon themselves to funnel MILLIONS of dollars into the horsemeat industry in order to take care of their special interest supporters.

    HELLO? IS ANYONE OUT THERE?!

  2. BK #
    November 30, 2011

    This is exactly why organizations like Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue (www.goodhorse.org) exist. To prevent this from happening. They have placed well over 600 horses since 2007 for the tracks of Maryland, yet are completely unfunded by the track or the state.

    Unfortunately the racing industry, largely, does not support nor fund retirement programs for their athletes. For example, in Maryland, the new owners of the track offered to match dollar for dollar any money that the owners/trainers donated for a retirement program. The MTHA and MHBC are still “deliberating” and “wringing their hands” over where they will come up with the money to fund this retirement program. In the mean time, their industry is dying and people are loosing their jobs, not to mention the horror that is happening to the animals. Some trainers are just euthanising their animals so as to not have to pay for them any longer, but not be guilty of selling them to slaughter. That is not the right answer either. Nor do they enforce the expulsion of those people who violate the rules that many states have in place to prevent the sale of horses to auction.

    • December 12, 2011

      Hi BK,

      Sorry for the delayed response and thanks for reading and also for your link. I hope you will stay tuned and follow me on Forbes.com. There has been a lively discussion going on around my three posts there, spawning a lot of great information on TB retirement and rescue as well as issues connected to the new legislation signed on Nov. 18. I have more articles coming out and hope they will provide a place to share more info and debate the issues. Thanks again for contributing to the discussion.

      Vickery

  3. January 31, 2012

    Recommend you check horsebackmagazine.com–whole USDA APHI enforcement of ANY of the Transport Act for horses are NOT enforced. Also, the three slaughterhouses in Mexico are considered to the Mexican economy so guess what–we are not only bucking our own govt but Mexico’s as well

    • February 1, 2012

      Hi Marge,

      Yes, I’m aware of it. Regs are complicated an most certainly, some aspects aren’t being enforced. Troubling and USDA doesn’t seem to have the power—or will—to change.

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