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About Me

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, August 12, 2011. (photo by NB Eckhoff)

I’ve spent the last 15 years as a writer working for most of the major upscale publications and media companies: The New York Times, Dow Jones, Forbes, The New Yorker, Golf Digest and, for shorter projects, Vogue and InStyle. I’ve worked in advertising and digital media, mostly freelance, writing about finance, travel, technology, lifestyle and lately, about political influence and money.

This latest topic has come by way of Forbes.com, where my blog, Fat Cats, was launched in 2011. It was there I started writing a series on the horse industry, particularly racing, breeding, responsible ownership and the political and industry forces that are working to open horse slaughterhouses again in the US. Working on this topic opened my eyes to the power of the agriculture, energy and pharmaceutical industries in shaping important legislation affecting food and environmental safety, and humane treatment of animals. This series offers a counter view that is unique in the main news media, including undercover videos, FOIA data and photos, and careful research. A high point was my interview with Dr. Temple Grandin on one of the slaughterhouses she built that was recently the focus of an undercover video investigation. I hope you will read, follow and share this series.

My  articles on this topic have also appeared in AlterNet, The Huffington Post and NewsWeek/The Daily Beast.

I have an especial interest in animal journalism and its failure to treat animal issues and news that have animal connections to the highest journalistic standards of fact-finding. My coverage of animal topics is therefore somewhat narrow, but deep. I do a lot of research, and it takes time. Because I view my role as an informer of the public seriously, I sacrifice providing a lot of content in the service of providing data-driven content that people can take to their legislators. Elected officials are too often misled by un-fact checked news stories into making uninformed, insupportable public policies. My objective as a journalist is to do research and provide facts that stand the test of time.

On a lighter note, I’ve written many personal essays about family, home, love and some of my big adventures. I hope you will read and enjoy, particularly my two favorites, “Last Days at Nirvana Farm,” about the sale of a storied family property, and also “No Country for Old Broads,” about the time Javier Bardem checked me out at the premiere for “No Country For Old Men” and what happened when we met up at the after party. You’ll find a smattering of other articles, too, including my meet-up with then Senator John Edwards, and some of the celebrities I dream about regularly.

Lastly, I have been writing a memoir, “The Modern Christian Spinster’s Guide to Love in the 21st Century,” which I’ve been serializing for this blog. Call it a “blogoir,” if you like. I’ve posted some early chapters here, along with what I call, “adventures in modern prudery” for your reading pleasure.

Welcome!


13 Comments

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  1. Julia Ginocchio #
    October 27, 2009

    Like McEDees, I’m lovin’ it, Vick! Haven’t been able to read all areas of the site (yet) but, not unlike a good book that you’re afraid to finish and then feel hopelessly alone, I’ll visit often and savor each visit!

  2. October 27, 2009

    Hey, I know that voice anywhere! It’s yours, Vickery. Good to encounter a distinctive voice on the interweb. Keep it going.

  3. February 23, 2010

    I came into the Reading Room with my friend from Montana. I loved this introduction about yourself and where you come from. Very heartfelt and wonderfully written.

  4. Thomas Armano #
    May 8, 2010

    Hi Vickery,

    I am a friend of your sister, Nina, who sent me the link to your May 2, 2010 blog, so that I could read Last Days at Nirvana Farm. I wound up reading all of the posts, all of which I enjoyed. I found your discussion of the First Church of Christ, Scientist. very interesting. I was raised Roman Catholic, but was related to and very fond of two people who were Christian Scientists. They were very successful, happy people, who, unfortunately, passed away at relatively young ages. I was very young at the time. I remember, in both instances, heart broken people saying, “If only…..” It was very confusing to me. You provided some interesting insights. Today, I am an admirer of the Church’s youth activities and a frequent peruser of the Monitor, which I enjoy, but do not always agree.

    BTW, our fathers could have crossed paths, as mine was an Army engineer, who blew up a lot of things, but in the ETO.

    Be all of that, as it may, keep writing. If your words are interesting and enjoyable to an old, jaded jock like me, they would appeal to a lot of people. Good luck with your life after Nirvana Farm.

    All the best,

    Thomas

    • May 10, 2010

      Feel very privileged to have a jaded jock as a reader! Thanks so much for stopping by and do come back. There will be more Spinster coming soon.

  5. February 25, 2012

    Dear Vickery;
    I just read your article on the fate of the horses on the set of “Luck”. Well done. I have been on a campaign against American Humane and their allowance of intolerable cruelties toward equines and other hoofstock for close to two years now, and have gotten close to nowhere in getting the public to realize what’s actually going on both on screen and off. Bottom line is, American Humane has worded their “Guidelines” in such a way that the unethical and barbaric treatment of horses and other equines is perfectly legal. I have documented proof from equine medical and behavioral specialists that confirm my main argument that the “No Animals Were Harmed” award is a falsehood. When it comes to equines and other hoofstock, that is. I also have record of a conversation I had with an A.H. rep who, and I quote, said — among other very disheartening things — “No one bothers to read the Guidelines, anyway.” The list goes on. And on, and on.
    I would love to discuss this with you further. I think I’m safe to assume that you’d be just as sick as I am when it comes to this matter.
    Thank you,
    ~Stacy Tanner
    Natural Horsemanship Trainer/Instructor

  6. Louie Cocroft #
    March 22, 2012

    Vickery, you take your readers on such a wonderful journey in LAST DAYS AT NIRVANA FARM. I miss that place and I never even got to see it.
    How about a sequel….JOURNEY BACK TO NIRVANA

  7. May 12, 2012

    Hi Vickery–

    If anyone’s going to change the world for the good of horses–well, it’s going to be you! You have the connection to the mainstream media that is so important. And you tell it like it is!! Every time I see/read something about racing on/in the tv news or the newspapers, I wonder, “Where do these writers/reporters come from? How can they not tell the other side of racing, what happens to all those horses who lose . . . etc. etc.”

    I wrote an article called “Dark Horse” for ORION magazine: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/5620/
    Though “Dark Horse” won a 2012 Pushcart Prize and received and continues to receive thoughtful comments on the Orion magazine site, it hasn’t gotten the exposure necessary to make a dent at all. . . . . I was telling John Holland that we need a well-loved celebrity to go out there and take a stand. With that in mind, I sent a letter to Ellen DeGeneres with one of your Forbes pieces and with my piece, and with contact info for John. I was dreaming, I know. But every once in a while she’ll have a non-celebrity on who’s helped animals in some way. So I had high hopes (knowing her love for animals). But not a peep . . . .been months now. Maybe you know someone who knows someone who knows someone . . . in that world! We have to get to these big, massive audiences.

    In any case, keep up the excellent work, the wonderful writing . . . . and thank you thank you thank you.
    Lisa Couturier

  8. Donna Pedroncelli #
    October 11, 2013

    Vickery, You might be interested that the hearing on Valley Meatpacking plant and it’s owner Rick De Los Santos of Roswell, NM will take place next week in Roswell, NM Oct 17-22. This is a crucial step with the NM Environment Dept and whether they will grant De Los Santos a waste water permit. If they grant him this permit, they will start production on slaughtering horses near term. Many of us are fighting this. here in NM and all over. here is the Change.org petition site.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/new-mexico-environment-department-please-deny-groundwater-discharge-permit-for-valley-meat-company?share_id=kJlTnufPen&utm_campaign=friend_inviter_chat&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=permissions_dialog_true

  9. Dale Mountan #
    February 14, 2014

    Just found your info on horse slaughtering. You have researched it well. However, while it’s true that horses flail their heads and necks about
    decreasing the efficiency of a captive bolt, that could be avoided by using proper stocks to restrain them. Most slaughter houses use stocks made for cattle and therein lies the problem.
    My husband is an equine veterinarian
    Cornell 1966. I despise horse slaughter but having it in the US hopefully would call for a USDA rep on the premises to insure humane methods. The real issue is the overbreeding of horses ( as it is with dogs and other species) for financial gain. Sending horses to Canada and Mexico increases the agony suffered in transport and brutal killing. You know all this. Just wanted to correct the statement about cattle putting their heads down versus horses moving their heads and necks about. The real cure would be limits on the number of animals bred in this country including companion animals. But then everyone would scream about their rights. All boils down to education. We never sell our horses. Most people don’t keep their horses until they die nor do they want to spend the $ to have them euthanized and buried though they all claim to love their horses. They often don’t realize that killer buyers are at every auction and their kids faithful pony or X show horse will be walking up the ramp of the slaughter house wondering where his treat is, where his leg wraps are and the hands he knows so well.

    • February 14, 2014

      Hi Dale:
      Thanks for writing. Restraints are designed for cattle because they work on cattle. But as noted, horses’ heads are not restrainable—otherwise, it would be done (no horse slaughter houses use them). And you have a fanciful idea of what USDA reps do on premises at slaughter houses. Their job isn’t to make sure the critters are treated humanely. It’s not even to ensure the safety of the food supply. It’s to ensure the economic success of the ag industry in terms of production. If you’d spent any time around the USDA, researched its records on humane violations, you would see that it rarely pulls licenses or puts violators out of business. And you’re equally wrong about Canada and Mexico slaughterhouses being worse for horses than domestic plants. This is because, from many points in the US, Canada and Mexico are closer than plants that might have started up within our borders. You would have to have plants liberally sprinkled throughout the US for the distance to slaughter to be materially shortened. Fortunately, Congress defunded horse slaughter inspections so no domestic plants have a chance of opening for at least the next two years.
      There’s not that much overbreeding: what you have is breed registries continuing to reward breed and cull; and you have industries like racing, rodeo, pharma, that produce excess horses as part of their business model. If you want to make a dent in that, you’d have to change the nature of those businesses themselves. They all have the $ to spend to support the horses they produce and discard; what doesn’t exist is enforcement to ensure they act responsibly.

  10. May 11, 2014

    Let me start by appreciating your work on wild horses, and especially the connection to the Cliven Bundy situation – you illuminated that nicely, before it got you fired. It’s not atypical, I think, that you ran afoul of the wealthy publisher and got shoved out the door (better than a bullet, I suppose.)

    I was quite taken [in the YoutTube video “Vickery Eckhoff, 2014 American Equine Summit (Video #7)”] with your approach to the importance of getting things right, and the need to defend your awareness from disinformation; that is, until at just before the 4:00 mark, you showed that you yourself had fallen prey to a massive disinformation campaign. Without trying to resolve the science here in this forum, I just wanted to let you know that you got it dead wrong on the issue of vaccination versus “autism” (not a disease or condition, because it is a very broad category of inflammatory auto-immune neurodegenerative damage, rather than an entity in it’s own right.) That is not to say that vaccines are always responsible for the development of that – MANY things can cause an inflammatory auto-immune response that damages the body in a similar fashion.

    Dr. Andrew Wakefield simply reported what was observed in cases of bowel damage in some of his patients where there was also autism present, which were then treated for their bowel condition and had their autistic symptoms improve; he ALSO observed that there was a high degree of correlation with the MMR vaccine. For this last observation, he was attacked viciously, and had an enormous campaign of disinformation mounted to counter the truth which he naively shared as if medical science were simply science that focused on healing the suffering, instead of the pharmaceutical industry’s cash cow. This is the source of the disinformation you have taken as truth, and it makes me wonder how much else of what you might share came from being unaware that you were not always vigilant.

    Disclaimer: I am not a vaccine researcher or scientist – nor do I have any financial interest at stake in the debate. I have, however, spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in classes, reading and/or watching videos, etc., from both sides of the debate (I was originally fairly neutral, had some vaccines myself and not others over the years.) Among those scientists I’ve taken classes from, read and/or watched, several stand above the crowd in one way or another. Dr. Sherry Tenpenney, D.O. has literally thousands of hours (>20,000, now) of study on the subject of vaccines. Dr. Russell Blaylock, M.D. is an outstanding neuroscientist. Both have made it unequivocally clear that their assessment is that vaccines as they are currently produced by the pharmaceutical industry can NEVER be safe, and are not effective – other than in (at best) a partial, temporary sense of that term. Dr. Bruce Lipton, PhD. is a biologist with decades of experience (one of the first to research pluripotent stem cells in the 1960’s), and has illuminated the basic misunderstanding of how the immune system functions that is at the root of the problem with “vaccine science” as it is currently practiced.

    That is really all I wanted to share with you today. It is up to you now, whether you do some REAL investigating or you blow me off, assuming you know far better than a member of the public what’s so about vaccination. You can contact me back through this, I assume, if you have questions about the science behind what I’m sharing.

    • May 11, 2014

      Hi Krishna, and thanks for writing. I think you’re missing the larger point here, which is context. My presentation isn’t about vaccines, it is about the media’s mishandling of science issues, specifically as they apply to horse slaughter. The Wakefield study is merely an example of what happens when the media doesn’t provide context. Damage ensues, and the public suffers, a point on which nearly everyone can agree.

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