January 10, 2012
You almost never hear people described as “gutsy,” anymore. Ballsy is popular. Brazen. But neither accurately describes Paula Bacon, the former Mayor of Kaufman, Texas.
Paula Bacon, a two-term mayor of Kaufman, is gutsy. In her last year in office, she managed to rid the town of a plague it had suffered for two decades: the Dallas Crown horse slaughter plant, which had been dumping horse guts, tainted blood, manure and legal expenses on the town since the ’80′s.
Today’s post on Forbes.com, “Texas Mayor Paula Bacon Kicks Some Tail,” is about that fight. It’s also about what life is like in a slaughter town: the costly sewage problems, foul smells, legal battles, vermin and falling property values. It’s about the sights and sounds of slaughter, the horses, the humane issues and outspoken residents like Jualine and Robert Eldridge, a nurse and a respiratory therapist, who lived with Dallas Crown in their backyard, preventing them and their neighbors from using their backyards for two decades because the stench was so overpowering.
Pro-horse slaughter advocates argue that slaughter will be a boon to America’s “horse industry,” raising horse prices, providing “good jobs” as well as a “humane alternative” to slaughtering horses in Canada and Mexico.
They have clearly never had a slaughter plant next door—one that sends all its profits overseas while eating up Federal funding paid for by American taxpayers and property taxes paid by local residents. To have a foreign-owned slaughter plant in your back yard isn’t probably much better than a domestic slaughter plant: both are known for fouling communities. Whether the owners live in Belgium, as Dallas Crown’s still do, or in another community where the air smells like air is supposed to, none live with open containers of offal next to their homes, the way the Eldridges and their neighbors in Kaufman did. They’ve never had blood backing up into their bathtubs and running in the gutters.
I’ve written a pretty long story on that for Forbes.com, but I’ve also put together a photo gallery of 13 pictures that complete the tale. Some were taken by Bacon, some by other townspeople and some are from a 906-page USDA report on humane violations at Dallas Crown, and another Texas horse slaughter plant, Beltex, also shut down five years ago. They’re hard to look at, but anyone who argues that horse slaughter is actually a good thing needs to decide if they could stomach having what’s in these photos become a living part of their communities.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that Beltex and Dallas Crown were situated next to lower-income neighborhoods? That the employees all disappeared once the plants did and the crime rate fell? And that the profits all went back to Belgium? Is it a coincidence that Indian reservations are now being courted as a site for horse slaughter in 2012?
It’s hard to imagine that anyone could find horse slaughter an economic benefit once they see how Dallas Crown wiped its feet on Kaufman before people like Paula Bacon and the Eldridges worked to take their city back.
Today, Kaufman has done what the horses that passed through Dallas Crown’s foul yards did not. Kaufman, Texas came back from the dead and prospered, a spring in its gait. It’s a cautionary tale worth discussing and sharing.
For more on this topic, see my other posts below. Or read today’s post, “Texas Mayor Paula Bacon Kicks Some Tail,” on Forbes.com and check out the accompanying photo gallery, “Life In A Slaughter Town: Kaufman, Texas.” You can also find some of my other Forbes.com articles on Thoroughbreds, horse racing and the horse industry.