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Articles, Essays and a Blogoir

I Won’t Watch “Luck.” I’ve Seen Enough Dead Horses Already.

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The legendary filly, Ruffian

I used to love horse racing. I grew up with horses, did Pony Club, mucked out stalls with a pair of rubber gloves and bucket and dreamed about horses, horse shows, horse anything. I even went to college in Saratoga.

Then, the summer before my freshman year, the unthinkable happened: Ruffian broke both sesamoid bones in her foreleg racing Kentucky Derby winner, Foolish Pleasure, at Belmont Park.

I remember the race, the day, the sight of Jacinto Vasquez trying to pull her up as she galloped on her pulverized leg and later, the news she’d come out of surgery only to smash her cast while thrashing in her stall.  The news she was gone was unfathomable. An estimated 20 million people watched the race. I can’t imagine that anyone wasn’t affected.

Ruffian was the second horse I’d love, but the first I’d lose. She had every gift in life, but length of years, as the late Ted Kennedy would say in his eulogy for JFK Jr. Ruffian, the hope of horses and of one college-bound, horse-obsessed girl, was no more.

College in Saratoga was grand. I lived off campus my last two years in a Victorian townhouse at 176 Regent Street and dated a bartender at the famed racing hangout, Siro’s. We went to the track a lot. It was exciting and then, I saw another horse break down. Not a big horse, not a famous one. An anonymous one.

It lay on the track as the crowd watched a van drive up, erect a screen, and then, minutes later, drive away.

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Is Your K-Y Jelly Cruelty-Free? Do You Care?

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Friends, I’m happy to announce a departure from my regular grim programming with a new Forbes.com post: Is Your K-Y Jelly Cruelty-Free? Do You Care? 

Apparently, the topic is resonating with a lot of people. Are they K-Y users? I think not. Mostly, they’re people like me who caught a glimpse of how much animal testing is still going on. If you haven’t, check out these products from Procter & Gamble that are all tested on animals:

Always, Aussie, Braun, Christina Aguilera Perfumes, Clairol, Downy, Crest, DDF, Dolce & Gabbana, Dunhill Fragrances, Escada Fragrances, Febreze, Fekkai, Gillette Co., Gucci Fragrances, Halo, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Hugo Boss, Iams, Ivory, Joy, Lacoste Fragrances, Max Factor, Mr. Clean, Natural Instincts, Nice n Easy, Olay, Old Spice, Oral-B, Pampers, Pantene, Physique, Puffs, Scope, Sebastian Professional , Secret, SK-II, Swiffer, Tide, Vicks, Vidal Sasson, Zest

Have you bought any? I have. Lots of them.

As it happens, Forbes conducted a survey last year asking consumers to rate CPG companies on a range of attributes, including “trust.” Guess who’s considered among the most trusted companies in America? You got it. P&G. And they’re in good company.

Incredulous, I asked an editor if the subject of animal-testing came up in the survey, and she said “no.” They hadn’t thought about it. This made sense and yet it seemed ridiculously dumb. Consumers care deeply about animals. That they didn’t know what they were buying also made sense to me. How would they? And yet, I felt as though I should have known. The Forbes editors should have known. The companies should have been transparent.

It’s a new day and I’m sharing this experience in the hopes of shaking things up. Please share if you want to join me. Thanks!

Paula Bacon, Mayor of Kaufman, Texas, Kicks Some Ass

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Mayor Paula Bacon of Kaufman Texas with her horse, Hershey

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.

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In Praise of Horse Heroes

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My hero: Dick, the rescue horse.

War Horse opened this week, an event chronicled in today’s Forbes.com blog post, “Can War Horse Beat Clooney For Golden Globe”?

I sure hope so, not just because I’m a sucker for a good horse movie and fine film making, but because of War Horse’s ability to elevate a simple moral message so easily lost on the red carpet: compassion’s ability to neutralize brutality, compassion’s essence to survival.

Horses are recipients of both compassion and brutality, perhaps no more so than today, when there are people who actually say such things on Facebook as, “For so long feeding a horse for a month was under $50, and now within the last two years it has escalated to over $100 per month per horse. I am so tired of every horse out there being called a rescue. My wish for Christmas this year was that every rescue horse was taken for slaughter reducing the demand for hay. It is now getting so hard to feed the remaining horses I have that I am getting angry at the mere thought of Un-Wanted Horses not being slaughtered.”

It got 13 “likes.” Worse, this is someone’s Christmas wish.

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Who’s Who In Capitol Hill’s Horse Meat Power Posse

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U.S. Representative, Bob Goodlatte

Which state representative puts horse meat recipes like “Filly Filet” on one of her many Web sites? Which former Congressman-turned-lobbyist pocketed thousands of dollars in farm subsidies while writing billion-dollar farm bills? And which prominent Democrat made the request to slip language into a conference report that sent untold thousands of wild horses and burros to their deaths in the 107th Congress?

You’ll find the answers in Who’s Who in Capitol Hill’s Power Posse,  a photo gallery on Forbes.com. It’s a follow-up to my Dec. 21 post on Forbes.com, “How Many Congressmen Does It Take To Screw A Horse?” Now, you can put the Congressmen’s names, photos and actions together.

By the way, the Democrats have been very naughty here. And a republican—Bob Goodlatte—turns out to be both a Christian Scientist and one of the original birthers.

Mary Baker Eddy would not approve.

A Christmas “Howdy” From Capitol Hill’s Pro-Slaughter Gang

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Larry Craig: a key member of Capitol Hill's horse-slaughter power posse

It gives me no joy to feature Larry Craig on my blog just days before Christmas, but he’s here to represent the U.S. Congressmen, horse-slaughter lobbyists, advocates and journalists who are the topic of today’s new post on Forbes.com, “How Many Congressmen Does It Take To Screw A Horse?

You’re familiar with the marginalization of “We the 99%”? Say hello to “We the 70%”. This is the percentage of Americans opposed to horse slaughter who were screwed when Senators Herb Kohl and Roy Blunt, along with U.S. Representative Jack Kingston went behind closed doors to remove language banning slaughter inspections from the recent Agriculture Appropriations spending bill.

A lot of people are wondering how that went down in light of all the widespread support for The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011, both in Congress and among average Americans. Today’s post looks at the culprits, the bills they’ve blocked over the years, the tactics used and how many horses have been screwed in the process.

It also reveals the USDA’s dismal record in regulating horse slaughter and the flaws in the GAO Report that President Obama and the U.S. Congress relied on for guidance in deciding to refund USDA horse meat inspections after a five-year ban. Finally, it examines the biased, suspiciously-timed media coverage that has misled and confused so many Americans on what the facts are.

A key part of today’s post is a photo gallery I’m working on putting names and faces to Capitol Hill’s horse-slaughter power posse. It’s almost ready, so I hope you’ll come back and look for it.

Not what I wanted to be working on the week before Christmas. I will celebrate that, good will, and peace on earth even as I continue to probe how our government has been wrapped up and stuck under the Agriculture lobby’s very own, possibly genetically-modified, hopefully cage-free Christmas tree.

Deck the halls.

The Statesman

December 11, 2011

Vickery Eckhoff

For Davey—Washington Square Park, NYC

Original post from March 27, 2010

My sister became a widow yesterday, for the second time. Her husband, David, was very shy in person, so I guess this would be a shock to him, to become the subject of a blog a day after passing on.

He really did his best to remain out of sight, though he was extremely talkative over the phone, happy to discuss recipes, slow cooking and his fondness for making art. He was a big man with a big heart, but he had a tiny footprint. In fact, for the last year of his life, he left basically no footprints at all—not in the outside world. Beside his recent trip to St. Vincent’s, where he passed away yesterday morning, he had not set foot outside at all. Not even into the hallway of their fourth floor walk-up in the West Village.

She said he was like the third Collyer brother. Indeed, in the time they were married (17 years) their small apartment filled up with stuff to the point that there were boxes piled on top of other boxes with cookbooks and vintage comic books and two small dogs (beagle and dachshund) competing for a very small amount of available floor space. You might wonder how one average-sized woman and a plus-sized man managed this in a 400 square-foot apartment, but that, I think, is a measure of their modesty and also a skill that some New Yorkers have for living within their means, but many do not. Neither ever called much attention to themselves; they just quietly went about their business, which is something I aspire to do but have yet to achieve. Read more

Horse Slaughterhouse Investigation Sounds Food Safety and Cruelty Alarms

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Screen shot of video shot in July, 2011, inside Temple Grandin designed slaughterhouse in Quebec. Scroll down for link footage.

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

Yesterday, the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition released a new undercover video investigation and report about a slaughter facility designed by Dr. Temple Grandin. Shot on July 13-14 at Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation, Inc., in St. Andre-Avellin, Quebec, the video is the topic of my “Fat Cats” blog on Forbes.com today.

I’d seen the footage on Sunday morning and contacted Dr. Grandin Sunday night to get her comments. She hadn’t seen it yet and agreed to watch and discuss it with me. Dr. Grandin reviewed the video once on her own and then we synched up the video on our computers and watched it together—horse by horse, death by death—three more times.

I asked her a lot of questions about the stunning methods, which worked on only 6o% of the horses. I was particularly interested in her reaction to the scenes of the horses panicking, slipping and getting shot multiple times without being knocked out. We spoke for about 50 minutes.

The first time I read about Dr. Grandin’s efforts to improve  the welfare of livestock and especially her work to make slaughter more humane, I wondered how she could do it. I still do.  You can read about her observations in today’s post on Forbes.com. Read more

Saving Princess Madeline—Rescuing a Racehorse from Slaughter

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Princess Madeline in the feedlot at Camelot Horse Auction (photo courtesy of Sarah Andrew)

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

Part two of my Forbes.com series on Thoroughbreds, horse racing, and the horse industry chronicles the story of Princess Madeline, a racehorse who was sold to a feedlot, priced for kill buyers, and rescued on July 16 by me and my sister Nina.

The story on Forbes.com traces her path from the racetrack to Camelot Horse Auction in Cranbury New Jersey, and Camelot Horse Weekly, the volunteers that networked her and 28 other horses through their Facebook group to get them into permanent homes.

If you want to buy a horse, a donkey, a pony or just want to know more about horse rescue, this is a great group to follow—and there are many rescue groups on Facebook that could use donations to help them rescue horses or, in some cases, just buy halters for those at auction.  Most arrive with halters, but the auction proprietors remove them to make the horses appear anonymous, unwanted and uncontrollable. If you want to help the horses, you can donate to Halters of Hope. Read more

Racing Industry Silent on Thoroughbred Slaughter Cruelty

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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. Read more

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