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Articles, Essays and a Blogoir

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


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, “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

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 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 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 Read more

Saving Princess Madeline—Rescuing a Racehorse from Slaughter

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

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

Part two of my 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 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


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

This post kicks off a new blog I’m writing on 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’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

Last Days at Nirvana Farm

May 2, 2010

Vickery Eckhoff

In the end, it wasn’t moving out of our home of more than 30 years that got me. It wasn’t packing up and selling off the last of our family belongings or even sweeping the house when it was empty, locking the doors and driving away. It was two photographs that arrived in my e-mail box from someone I barely knew, after returning to my studio apartment in New York City.

Like many townspeople in Bolton Landing, NY, she had came to the two-day tag sale we’d staged the weekend before closing. It was an opportunity, for some, to pick up cheap armchairs and rugs and wicker porch furniture. For others, it was a time to see the inside of the house for the first time, one of the great ones built on Millionaire’s Row on Lake George. And for several who’d actually worked on the property, it was a time to come back, sit on the porch, and reflect on what Nirvana Farm had meant to them.

“I’m sure it is with mixed feelings that you close up shop at the farm and move on,” my new friend wrote eloquently in her e-mail. “What a beautiful, peaceful spot it is.” Read more

No Country for Old Broads

March 27, 2010

Vickery Eckhoff

What I Learned on the Red Carpet from Javier Bardem

I’d just passed a significant birthday when a 24-year-old colleague suggested the unthinkable: “What you need is a nice, 60-ish retired math professor,” she declared, sipping a latte. “You’re a tall blonde WASP. You should be dating Americans, not those Latin lovers you go for.”

My kittenish pride was wounded. Swarthy men were my specialty: How could I forget the dashing Chilean I’d lived with for six years after grad school; the Spanish producer with eyes the color of robin’s eggs; the Uruguayan guitarist I met backstage at Carnegie Hall; the bohemian Colombian designer at a recent writing job; and my greatest love of all, an Italian motorcyclist and photographer I’d tearfully given up after seven years, just two weeks shy of turning 40? He baked me cakes and wrote love poems. But I wanted marriage; he didn’t.

Getting him out of my system was difficult: two Milanese, a Roman and one Sicilian later, I still hadn’t found anyone as warm, adventurous or good in the kitchen, so I decided to give Italy a rest. Shortly thereafter, I met an Argentine videographer in Wholesale Liquidators who asked me, within months, to be his fourth wife. I declined. Read more

Chap. 4, The McSpinster’s Guide to Love

March 25, 2010

Vickery Eckhoff

Dear Fellow Spinster:

I apologize for what I am about to say, specifically about my Sunday School teacher, Miss Cummings, and also my dad’s older sister, Lenore. What did they do? Frighten me half to death, that’s what. My mother tried convincing me that they were God’s perfect children, that I needed to love them, see them as God did, but it was hard. Sure they were sweet, but they were single women in a married world. That’s how it was with old maids. There was always a defect there, some flaw that made them unpopular with the opposite sex and scary to children.

Like most girls born in the fifties, my sisters and I were raised to be wives: We had the right moral instruction, good education, proper training in etiquette and ballroom dancing and stylish clothes from New York City department stores. Even the toys I got for Christmas provided perfect training for future wedded bliss: an E-Z Bake oven, a little Hostess Buffet and miniature percolator that made real coffee. Read more

Chap. 3, The McSpinster’s Guide to Love

February 14, 2010

Vickery Eckhoff

Dear Fellow Spinster:

Everybody loved me growing up. That’s how it was. We may have been five girls and five girls was too many; we may have been poor compared to the millionaires next door, but where love was concerned, we had an embarrassment of wealth.

My sisters loved me, and so did my teachers and Sunday School teachers. My grandparents did, too, and my dad—he loved us, all five of us, to pieces. That’s what he used to say all the time, in different ways, of course. Sometimes, he said it while imposing rules (no TV on school nights). Sometimes he said it by taking us on some very creative adventures (for breakfast, to Jones Beach, at sunrise, for example. He kept a frying pan in the trunk of the car. We’d find an isolated sand dune; he’d build a fire and make eggs and bacon. After we finished, he scoured the pan with sand and threw it back in the trunk. Read more

Chap. 2, The McSpinster’s Guide to Love

November 28, 2009

Vickery Eckhoff

I was born under a curse, the kind you find in fairytales. It goes like this: First my parents had a girl. Then, two years later, they had another girl. The next baby — was a girl. After her came another baby — a girl. And then my mother, Adelaide, Wellesley girl, did something very unusual for her, not being Catholic: she threw away her diaphragm. Two years later, I came along, on a hot August day, a Friday, at 4 pm.

This was the day that my dad had an epiphany. “Honey,” he said, taking me out of my mother’s arms right there in the Glen Cove hospital, “This one’s mine.”

He named me Vickery. Vickery Ames. It was a strange name, to be sure. “Like Hickory Dickory?” people like to tease. “Yeah,” I always answer, “something like that.” Read more