Horse Slaughter Prompts New Jersey Children to Write Letters to Congress

By Hunterdon County Democrat

Children Nationwide Band Together to Stop the Horse-Eaters

Million Horse March ~ copyright Marcy Leonard

Members of Centaurs 4-H Club of Hunterdon County are participating in the Million Horse March, a children’s letter-writing campaign regarding the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

“I told them the pros and cons of slaughtering horses and let them draw their own conclusions,” said club leader Lillian Shupe, “They all agreed to write letters opposing the practice. I was impressed with their ability to understand the issues and how well thought out their letters were.”

There is legislation pending in Congress that would prohibit horses from being slaughtered for human consumption or being shipped to Canada and Mexico for that purpose. Similar legislation has failed over the last decade. There is also a bill in New Jersey that was introduced in January that would ban horse slaughter. The bill is still in committee.

The letters will be delivered to Washington, D.C., along with letters from other children across the country.

A similar campaign 40 years ago resulted in the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burros Act that was passed on a unanimous vote in both houses. Jo-Claire Corcoran of the Equine Welfare Alliance’s Research Team, which is sponsoring the current campaign, said, “As Wild Horse Annie proved in 1971 Congress listened to the children of this country. Sometimes we do not give our children credit for their ability to comprehend. Children growing up on farms which raise animals for food are aware those animals are going to slaughter to become food, they understand those animals were raised for that purpose.” She added, “My grandson understands the difference between animals raised for food and animals that are not raised for food.”

Slaughterhouses in the United States have been closed for five years because federal funding for the required inspectors was removed. Last fall, however, that language was removed during a subcommittee without a full House and Senate debate.

Although funding has potentially been restored, the country’s three slaughterhouses are still closed under state and local laws. One organization is pushing to build new plants in other states without such prohibitions. Their efforts have been met with much opposition.

The group seeking to build new slaughterhouses also opposes the children’s letter-writing campaign.

“This is a civics lesson for children of all ages,” said the Equine Welfare Alliance’s John Holland. “Our governments, both the United States of America and Canada, provide the right for their citizens to petition their government to bring about positive change when something is wrong. Children need to know that as citizens in these countries, they have the right to have a voice and a right to be heard.”

“Horse slaughter is a hot button issue in the horse industry,” said Shupe, who is also editor of Horse News, a monthly publication for area equestrians.

“For a long time I held the belief that is was a necessary evil, it was a good way to dispose of unwanted horses. I doubt if horses care what happens to their bodies after they are dead. However, I believe the process must be humane and after years of research on the topic I have come to the conclusion that it is not. It is not just what happens at the slaughterhouse but during the long trip to the slaughterhouse.”

Before state law shut them down there were two slaughterhouses in Texas and one in Illinois. Since they closed, horses have been shipped to Mexico and Canada.

“Horses in New Jersey typically shipped to Canada even when the slaughterhouses were open in Texas, since the Canadian plant is closer,” Shupe said.

Shupe said there are other issues that would need to be addressed if horse slaughter is allowed to continue. They include requiring auctions that sell to meat buyers to verify identification of the people selling horses; verifying that they have the right to sell that horse and having a system to check for stolen horses.

“It would be very easy for someone to put my retired mare on a trailer and sell her to the slaughterhouse,” Shupe said, “One of my club’s alumni gave a horse away with the stipulation that when the man no longer wanted the horse, he would bring him back. A few weeks later the horse showed up at an auction in Cranbury. A rescue group purchased him, otherwise he could have gone to slaughter.”

If the slaughter industry insisted on better accountability and more humane shipping requirements, the business would not be economically viable, Shupe said.

Meanwhile, to learn more about the letter writing campaign visit

“Luck” Ran Old, Unfit, Drugged Horses, Says Necropsy Report

Story by Vickery Eckhoff as printed on

Does HBO’s explanation sound plausible to anyone, given the misinformation it’s shared thus far? I thought not!

Outlaw Yodeler hadn’t raced much, was suffering from severe pain and inflammation and had been given strong pain-killing drugs. Marc’s Shadow was arthritic and hadn’t been raced in four years. Still, both horses were run twice daily during racing sequences to shoot “Luck,” the now canceled HBO series; both suffered explosive fractures; and both were euthanized.

Those are the findings drawn from necropsy and eye witness reports and detailed in a letter sent Monday by PETA Attorney Lindsay Waskey to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. The purpose of the letter was to seek an investigation into individuals responsible for the horses’ deaths.

HBO may be “heartbroken” about the demise of “Luck” but if Matthew Chew, Heidi Agnic, DVM, and David Milch are found to have violated any laws, they may have plenty more to cry about.

Chew was the trainer for both Outlaw Yodeler and Marc’s Shadow on the set; Agnic supervised their veterinary care and Milch was the creator, producer and writer for “Luck.” According to Waskey’s letter, each was involved in “causing two seemingly unfit horses to be overdriven and inflicted with unnecessary pain, resulting in death, in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 597.”

Outlaw Yodeler, a five-year-old dark bay gelding, suffered his fatal injury on April 30, 2010. Marc’s Shadow, a grey, eight-year-old great-grandson of Seattle Slew, suffered a catastrophic breakdown on March 28, 2011. A third unidentified mare was euthanized last Tuesday after breaking her neck and suffering head injuries caused by what HBO says was a fall while being led by a groom.

Does HBO’s explanation sound plausible to anyone, given the misinformation it’s shared thus far? I thought not.

Given what that accident, Waskey’s letter and the necropsy reports reveal, HBO may want to retract its meaningless statement that “We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing anywhere” and lawyer up.

Outlaw Yodeler had received a potent cocktail of muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory and painkilling drugs, including Butorphanol, which is administered to horses undergoing certain types of surgery. He also showed evidence of suffering from severe pain and inflammation and had raced only once in 2010, possibly due to injury or because he was physically unfit.

Marc’s Shadow was arthritic and out of shape according to multiple witnesses. These allegations are confirmed by his necropsy report, which describes “degenerative arthrosis to both the right carpus and the left carpus” and an injury in which his “leg exploded into more than 19 pieces, some of which were poking through his skin,” according to an equine veterinarian who reviewed the report for PETA…..

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