No “Unwanted” Retired Race Horses

Horse Racing

Horse Racing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Story by Chris Kenning of the Louisville

National group will raise money, accredit care programs

When a thoroughbred thunders past cheering racetrack crowds, it does so with the help of an off-track entourage of trainers, handlers and owners providing constant, doting care.

But for the horses no longer making money on the racetrack or in the breeding barn — when they become too old, injured or too slow to race — that attention quickly evaporates. And their future becomes anything but certain.

Only a minority of former racehorses get cushy retirements in bucolic pastures. While some are retrained as show horses or adopted for personal use, others are sold at auction, leaving them subject to neglect or being bought for slaughter in Canada and Mexico.

“There aren’t enough homes for the horses that need them,” said Kathy Guillermo, an equine specialist with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “And there has historically been a lack of collective responsibility for what happens to thoroughbreds once they finish racing.”

Now, a broad coalition of thoroughbred industry stakeholders has kicked off racing’s most comprehensive initiative to date, establishing the Lexington-based Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance to act as a national fundraising and accrediting body to oversee, and help fund, the horses’ retirement care.

Supporters hope it will bolster a patchwork of smaller, private rescue and retirement programs that have struggled with funding and, in some cases, inconsistent oversight.

Funded by seed money from the Breeders’ Cup, The Jockey Club and Keeneland Association, the organization will inspect and accredit after-care facilities using standards covering operations, education, horse management, facility services, insurance and adoption policies. It will also begin raising millions of dollars to award programs that pass muster.

“People are starting to acknowledge that it’s a major issue for the sport,” said Mike Ziegler, interim executive director for the group, who said he’s optimistic it will bring substantial improvements to a side of the “sport of kings” that few spectators ever see.

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Is Corolla Headed for Tourist-Wild Horse Showdown?

By Jeff Hampton of  The Virginian-Pilot

Wild Horse Eco-Tourism GIANT Summer Success Story

A group of wild horses cools off in the ocean breeze on the beach in Corolla on Monday, July 25, 2011. (Steve Earley | The Virginian-Pilot) ~ stylized by SFTHH

COROLLA, N.C. – Beach driving fees in Hatteras and a new global advertising campaign pitching Corolla’s wild horses could send thousands more this summer to the Currituck Outer Banks, where beaches are already teeming on summer weekends.

The double whammy could be both fortune and trouble for Currituck County.

“This year could be the breaking point,” said Commissioner Vance Aydlett, who owns property in Carova Beach. “We’ll see.”

Crowded beaches are good for business. Corolla shops and beach-home rentals depend on a busy summer season. Currituck County draws the bulk of its revenue from taxes on Outer Banks property and tourism.

At the same time, though, county officials and residents in the four-wheel-drive area lament that the beaches are reaching a saturation point on some weekends, making it hazardous for people and horses alike. A beach-driving committee made several recommendations earlier this year to deal with the overflow situation, including a permit system that would limit the number of vehicles allowed on the beach.

“If this beach becomes like every other beach, then we’ve lost something special,” said Kimberlee Hoey, a resident of the four-wheel-drive area and member of the beach-driving committee. “We have to find a balance.”

Hoey, Aydlett and others support a permit system that caps the number of vehicles.

“We’ve got to focus on the quality rather than the quantity,” Aydlett said.

The talk of limiting access comes at the same time that North Carolina’s Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development is featuring for the first time the Corolla wild horses in an Internet and print advertising campaign.

The state’s $3 million campaign includes running photos and videos of the wild horses in digital ads and images in national magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Living and O, The Oprah Magazine, said Wit Tuttell, marketing director for the Division of Tourism.

The wild horses are also featured on the state’s website,, which gets 4 million hits per year.

“We wanted to find things that are unique to North Carolina and made impacts on people,” Tuttell said.

If successful, the campaign could attract thousands more people to the same four-wheel-drive area of the Currituck Outer Banks that locals are trying to tame.

Diane Nordstrom, director of Currituck County’s Department of Travel and Tourism, acknowledged the potential for large crowds but said being included in this kind of campaign “is the most exciting news I’ve had in this business.”

She said her department would be encouraging interested travelers to take advantage of the fall and spring seasons in Currituck to avoid the crowded summer and its higher rental rates. Her office also educates people about beach rules, such as the need to stay 50 feet from the wild horses, and it suggests visitors use the horse tour companies rather than drive their own vehicles.

Corolla Wild Horse Fund Director Karen McCalpin, anticipating bigger crowds because of the ad campaign and Hatteras fees, said she plans to hire more staff to educate crowds sharing the beach with wild horses.

“It’s a bit of a double-edged sword,” she said. “We certainly want everybody to see the wild horses because they are amazing.”

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore began requiring permits this year for driving on the beach – $50 for a week and $120 for the year.

Currituck visitor centers and the tourism website are getting more inquiries, most asking about wild horses, Nordstrom said

“The most popular attraction after the beaches is the horses,” Nordstrom said. “Every time you see them, it makes you stop in awe. They are beautiful, beautiful animals.”

Jeff Hampton, 252-338-0159,

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New Report on Human Health Risks from Consumption of American Horse Meat

Press Release from the Humane Society of the United States

Horses Not Raised For Food Receive Medications Banned by FDA and the EU

The Humane Society of the United States issued a report detailing the food safety risks associated with consuming meat that originates in American horses.  Horses in the U.S. are primarily used for companionship or competition, therefore they are not treated in the same way as animals raised for human consumption. Horses are commonly given pharmaceuticals that have been banned for use in food-producing animals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office.

“The slaughter of American horses poses a potentially serious health risk to human consumers, yet tens of thousands are still slaughtered for their meat,” said Dr. Michael Greger, director of public health and animal agriculture at The HSUS. “New measures put in place in the European Union to address this risk are vital steps to ensure horses who are regularly given phenylbutazone and other EU-banned substances are kept out of the slaughter pipeline.”

Americans don’t eat horses, but each year more than 100,000 U.S. horses are transported over the border to be slaughtered in Canada and Mexico, and the meat is exported for consumption in the European Union and Japan. Indeed, research shows that horses originating in the U.S. comprise a large percentage of the total slaughterhouse output of Canada and Mexico. The EU has found horsemeat from Mexican slaughterhouses contains harmful residues of several EU prohibited substances. A study of the medical records of race horses sent to slaughter shows that horses with a history of phenylbutazone use are making their way to slaughter plants despite the United States’ and other countries’ ban of the use of the drug in food producing animals. Phenylbutazone, commonly called “bute,” is an anti-inflammatory regularly given to horses, and it is known to be hazardous to humans, even in trace amounts.

In 2010, the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office evaluated food safety standards for imported horsemeat and found that many countries do not keep adequate veterinary pharmaceutical records nor are there systems in place to differentiate those equines raised for human consumption from those that are not.  Therefore, effective July 2013, the EU will require that all horses presented for slaughter at EU-certified plants in countries which export horsemeat to the EU have a veterinary record listing all medications they have been given over their lifetime. This new regulation would render nearly all American horses ineligible for foreign slaughter.

The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue have filed legal petitions with both the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to block companion, working and show horses from being slaughtered for human consumption, due to the associated health risks. The petition documents more than 110 examples of drugs and other substances which are, or potentially should be, prohibited in food-producing horses, describes the horrible way in which horses die at slaughterhouses, and outlines the environmental devastation that has been associated with slaughter plants. View the full white paper:

Horse Slaughter Facts

•    Even though horses are not currently slaughtered for human consumption in the U.S., our horses are still being subjected to intense suffering and abuse through transport and slaughter over the border. Undercover footage shows live horses being dragged, whipped, and crammed into trucks in with interior temperatures reaching 110 degrees. Horses are often shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest. Pregnant mares, foals, injured horses, and even blind horses must endure the journey.

•    In November 2011, Congress chose not to renew a prohibition on spending tax dollars to facilitate horse slaughter, which had been in place for five years, potentially opening the door for a return of horse slaughter plants on American soil, despite broad opposition in this country to the practice.  USDA documented a history of abuse and cruelty at the U.S. plants, including employees whipping horses in the face, horses giving birth on the killing floors, and horses arriving with gruesome injuries.

•    It is not only horses who are old, sick and infirm which fall victim to horse slaughter. USDA statistics show that 92 percent of all horses sent to slaughter arrive in “good” condition—meaning they are sound, in good health and could go on to lead productive lives.

•    Horse slaughter actually prevents horse rescue; rescue operators are routinely outbid by killer buyers at auctions.

•    The operation of horse slaughterhouses has a negative environmental impact. All three of the last domestic plants to close were in violation of local environmental laws related to the disposal of blood and other waste materials.

•    Congress is considering the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, S. 1176 introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and H.R. 2966 introduced by Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., to prevent horse slaughter plants from opening in the U.S. and stop the export of American horses for the purpose of slaughter in Canada and Mexico.

Blind Horse Proves “No Unwanted Horses”


25 Year Old Horse Lights Up Lives of Many

“A lot of people give up on horses, just because of an injury or old age or no matter what it might be, but an animal’s not done ‘til they’re done. You might not win all the races, but you need to let an animal do what they’ve got to do.”

Blind Scooby and Tom Boyd, tied in first place ~ photo by Jason Fochtman

When Thomas Boyd began looking for a horse to add to his family’s stable a few years ago, he thought he found the perfect one on Craig’s List.

Boyd, operations manager for City Glass in Cleveland, and his wife, Amber, drove to Alvin to inspect the horse they’d seen online. What they found was an older, neglected animal that didn’t look worth the money it would take to feed him.

“Nothing like the picture,” said Boyd. “You could see every bone in his body. He was starving.”

The owner was asking $800 for the horse, but Boyd said he didn’t think the sickly animal was worth more than $200 or $300, if that much.

“I messed with him a little out in the pasture, and we walked back up to the truck and got ready to leave,” said Boyd. “He ran over there by us and started braying.”

The owner was amazed. She told Boyd it was the most action she’d seen out of the horse in a long time.

Still hesitant, Boyd gave $300 for the animal, took him home and named him Scooby Doo.

“It was probably a year I spent with him, every day, brushing him down, giving him baths, feeding him,” said Boyd. “But I got him back to health.”

The lady who sold the horse said he hadn’t had much riding time, but Boyd said when he rode Scooby for the first time, it was magic.

“It was like riding a dream,” he said.

Boyd began roping with Scooby a short while later and discovered the old horse loved it.

Even after Scooby lost his sight, the two were able to work together through spur and touch signals.

After going to a “playday” (a family oriented horse riding competition) three years ago as a practice horse for their daughter, Boyd said Scooby picked up barrel and pole racing like a natural, in spite of his blindness.

“Low and behold — I brought him out here, he wants to run,” said Boyd.

Completely blind and 25 years old, Scooby still loves to compete.  He and Boyd are currently tied for first place in the Tarkington Prairie Playday Spring Buckle Series.

Held over a period of four weeks, the series includes pole, barrel and straight barrel races, as well as a “mystery” event.

TPPS coordinator Patty Vandver, who began TPPS with her husband, Bubba, said Scooby and Boyd are an inspiration to everyone.

“They are really something special,” she said with a smile.

Boyd said he’s tried to retire the horse, but every time the family gets ready to leave for a competition, Scooby runs to the fence, braying until they give in and let him go along.

“He’s a warrior,” Boyd chuckled. “He just doesn’t want to stop.”

Boyd said, if nothing else, he wants people to learn from his experience with Scooby.

“A lot of people give up on horses, just because of an injury or old age or no matter what it might be,” he explained. “But an animal’s not done ‘til they’re done. You might not win all the races, but you need to let an animal do what they’ve got to do.”

The TPPS finals are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 20, at the Half Head Arena located on FM 163 in Tarkington Prairie.

For more information, call Patty Vandver at 210-831-6790 or email

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Update: Woman Allegedly Spent Stolen Millions on Horses

By Jason Keyser from multiple sources

“She has a trophy case that you wouldn’t believe”

Rita Crundwell accepting award in '09

DIXON, Ill. — The small-town bookkeeper dazzled friends and co-workers with invitations to her immaculate horse ranch and home, where she displayed trophies hauled back from world championship exhibitions and visitors in cowboy hats arrived to buy some of the best-bred horses in the nation.

“She has a trophy case that you wouldn’t believe — actually a room,” said Stephanie Terranova, who worked with Rita Crundwell for 15 years at city hall and attended her parties and auctions. “You wouldn’t believe the different people that came. We don’t have a lot of that type of thing around here. … Cowboy boots, cowboy hats and southern drawls.”

The gulf between Crundwell’s two worlds was breathtaking, and her colleagues and neighbors never guessed how the two entwined: Crundwell is accused of using her modestly paid town hall job to steal their tax dollars, support an extravagant lifestyle and win national fame as a breeder.

Federal prosecutors say Crundwell, 58, who handled all of the city’s finances, embezzled a staggering $30 million in public funds from Dixon, the boyhood home of the late President Ronald Reagan.

In a criminal complaint, they say they’ve obtained bank records that document each step she took in shifting taxes and other public funds through four city bank accounts before hiding them in a fifth account no one else knew about. Still, they are trying to figure out how she kept the scheme a secret, even from outside auditors, for at least six years. It unraveled only when a co-worker filling in for Crundwell while she was on an extended vacation stumbled upon the secret bank account.

Crundwell had an encyclopedic knowledge of city business down to which drawer contained a particular document, said Mayor James Burke, who recalled feeling uneasy about the city comptroller’s growing wealth.

“There wasn’t anything to hang my hat on,” said Burke, who has known Crundwell since she was a teenager. “Rita, she is a very, very smart person. I mean she is almost brilliant … which I think probably was one of the reasons that a lot of people got bamboozled with her.”

On Monday, the city fired Crundwell, who was arrested by FBI agents April 17 on a charge of wire fraud and later freed on a $4,500 recognizance bond. She could enter a plea at a May 7 status hearing. Her lawyer, federal public defender Paul Gaziano, refused to comment on the case. Phone messages left at numbers listed for Crundwell’s Dixon home and ranch were not returned.

Her arrest stunned Dixon, a small city along a picturesque vein of the Mississippi River about a two-hour drive west of Chicago in Illinois farm country.

“People just don’t understand it, just how $30 million could …,” cafe-bookstore owner Larry Dunphy said, trailing off at the thought of it.

Of the millions Crundwell is accused of funneling into the secret account, only six checks totaling less than $154,000 were ever spent on city business, made out to a sewage fund and a corporate fund, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Pedersen.

The rest, prosecutors say, went to her personal and business expenses, including her horse farms in Dixon and just across the Wisconsin state line in Beloit. Agents searching her home, office and farms seized seven trucks and horse trailers, three pickup trucks, a $2.1 million motor home and a Ford Thunderbird convertible.

While Crundwell had other indulgences, court documents indicate most of the stolen money was lavished on her beloved horses. She bought trucks and trailers to haul them around, including a Featherlite Horse Trailer for about $259,000, according to the criminal complaint.

Crundwell grew up in Dixon, playing baseball and surrounded by the outdoors and animals from an early age on her family’s farm. At 17, she started at City Hall in a work program for high school students.

She stayed, serving as treasurer and becoming comptroller in the early 1980s. She oversaw the finance and accounting department and its two clerks, including Terranova, in a modest building in Dixon’s quaint, historic downtown along the fast-flowing Rock River.

“She was wonderful to work with,” said Terranova, a deputy clerk who watched as Crundwell’s breeding business rapidly outgrew a small barn and pasture by her house and expanded to the Meri-J Ranch in Wisconsin and more recently to an immaculate 100-acre ranch on Red Brick Road, a few miles from her Dixon home.

Crundwell is deeply involved in the care of the horses, even braiding their manes and — when the farm was still small enough — running back and forth from City Hall to handle chores herself, Terranova said.

Crundwell’s breeding program has produced 52 world champions in exhibitions run by the American Quarter Horse Association in Amarillo, Texas, the world’s largest equine breed registry and membership organization.

Some Horse Sense at Last?

by George Knapp the “Knappster” on Las Vegas City Lights

BlM Forced to Consider Pickens’ Wild Horse Plan?

George Knapp

Officially, anyway, the news that the BLM is finally willing to consider a public-private partnership with wild horse advocate Madeleine Pickens is a good thing. After all — as reported in this space many times — the federal wild horse and burro program is a dismal failure. So any proposal that might reinvigorate the program, do a better job of caring for the mustangs and the public range, while also saving millions of taxpayer dollars, is a step in the right direction, even if it is a small step. In that sense, the BLM deserves a round of applause.

Of course, the real story is much different from what has been described in various congratulatory news releases, and not nearly as encouraging. My guess is that BLM did not want to take this step. Not now, not ever.

Mrs. Pickens first approached BLM more than four years ago about creating a sprawling eco-sanctuary for wild horses. The bureau has listened, somewhat politely; has repeatedly assured Pickens that it sounds like a good idea; has admitted the plan would save a huge amount of money over the long term and would probably create a tourist attraction that would benefit Elko County. Despite those assurances and repeated face-to-face expressions of support, BLM has been unwilling to give Pickens a thumbs up or down on her proposal.

Even after she plunked down more than $6 million to buy two huge ranches near Wells, BLM still would not give her an answer, except when it raised new and ever more complicated hoops for her to jump through.

Pickens has not been shy about criticizing the wild horse program, and she has accused the bureau of being way too cozy with the cattle ranchers it supposedly oversees. As she has pointed out, the BLM not only runs interference for the cattle industry, it is the cattle industry, since many senior BLM managers in the horse program either raise cattle or come from a cattle-ranching background. Cattle ranchers hate the wild horses and the wild horse program. BLM — especially in Nevada, where more than half of all mustangs live — has danced to the cattlemen’s tune, rounding up horses for causing damage to the range that almost certainly was caused by huge herds of cattle, using any pretext to clear horses off of land set aside by law for their preservation. (In just the past two years, more than a million acres in Nevada that was designated by law as habitat for wild horses has been wiped clean of all mustangs, though privately owned cattle were allowed to remain.)

I get the feeling BLM agreed to look into a possible partnership with Pickens through gritted teeth and a forced smile. The news release it issued is — how shall I put this — a bit understated in its description of the proposal. A few months ago, BLM gushed about a public-private partnership in Wyoming, a little 4,000-acre spread that will accept perhaps 250 wild horses if it is approved (compared to Pickens’ spread of 550,000 acres, capable of supporting thousands of mustangs). BLM called the Wyoming plan “a milestone” in the wild horse program, even though it wouldn’t make a dent in the backlog of 40,000 mustangs warehoused in government facilities.

Madeleine Pickens ~ photo by Julie Caramante courtesy of Horseback Magazine

No such words were used to describe the Pickens plan, although it would create an eco-sanctuary with attractions and educational benefits not found in the Wyoming mini-plan. In fact, BLM made a point of saying that there is no deal with Pickens, and that everything is contingent on a two-year environmental study, plus ample opportunity for public comment (meaning ranchers).

So why did BLM finally and reluctantly agree to even study the Pickens plan?

I think Sen. Harry Reid probably ordered them to come to the table. Reid has met with Pickens and her colleague, Jerry Reynoldson (a former aide to Reid), many times and thinks the idea has considerable merit. But he has not thrown his weight around, until recently.

It came to a head some weeks ago, when Reid accompanied Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at a Las Vegas media event to tout tourism promotion in Nevada. Salazar was asked about the Pickens plan as a tourism generator, and his terse answer suggested he either didn’t know much about it or didn’t like it. Sources tell Knappster that once Reid returned to Washington, he decided that Pickens had waited for an answer long enough. I suspect that calls were made to the BLM’s Bob Abbey (who was appointed with Reid’s backing) to find out what the hangup might be. A week later, BLM issued its release.

Elko cattlemen are already squealing about how terrible this will be, about what a mistake it is to turn over this wonderful public range to horses. One opponent of the Pickens plan said it will cost taxpayers because it removes a profitable cattle ranch from the tax rolls.

This is what we in the news biz refer to as “total bullshit.”

The ranches Pickens bought have never been profitable. That’s why they were empty. The range up there does not easily support huge herds of hungry bovines. Much of the range has been brutally overgrazed, eaten down to the dirt, not by mustangs but by cattle. Pickens has already invested millions into gigantic pivots that will grow enough alfalfa to feed the 900 or so mustangs she hopes to receive, to go along with the 600 rescued mustangs living there now. She can afford to spend this kind of money on producing feed, though a rancher worried about his bottom line cannot. That’s why putting mustangs on range once designated for cattle doesn’t hurt cattlemen or anyone else one little bit.

Why BLM can approve the Wyoming plan in less than six months but needs two years to study Pickens’ property is beyond me — but I suspect that a nice, long study will give them time to find a reason to reject the proposal. That’s why proponents of her plan are publicly pleased but privately worried.

The BLM deserves credit for taking this step, even if it was forced to do so. Now let’s see what happens.

GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at

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A Stroll Down “Horse Slaughter” Memory Lane

Forward by R.T. Fitch ~ volunteer president of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Evil Never Goes Away, It Only Recruits New Puppets

Back in 2005 when the Belgians were murdering American horses in both Texas and Illinois the Wall Street Journal published an article on the subject which the then mayor of one of the Texas towns blemished and wounded by a bloody slaughterhouse took issue with.  That mayor was the well respected and talented Paula Bacon of Kaufman, Texas.  Mayor Bacon’s fight with the foreign scourge that bloodied America’s soil is epic and she will forever be remembered as one of America’s great and iconic heroines. 

That same battle goes on today as even though the plants have been shuttered an elected official from distant Wyoming has reared her ugly head and aligned herself with the very same players that once darkened the American Equine Industry.  Wyoming State Rep. “Slaughterhouse” Sue Wallis has chosen to sleep with the foreign enemy of the American horse and to ignore the voice of the U.S. public while Mayor Bacon bends to no Belgian wallet and to this day stands in defense of the American way of life, the principles that make this country great and the common decency that sets us apart from those who prey upon the weak and helpless. 

Today’s post is a testimony to strength, honesty and commitment; virtues not understood nor possessed by those who center their lives on the killing and consumption of companion animals.

Hats off to Mayor Paula Bacon one of the last, true pioneer women of the American West.” ~ R.T.

Why Belgians Shoot Horses in Texas For Dining in Europe

Grass-Fed Meat Is Superior, But Slaughterhouses Draw Growing Criticism in U.S.


TOURCOING, France — Christian Dhalluin, a butcher in this rural
French hamlet near the Belgian border, dropped some ground meat into
a bowl and mixed it with a spicy mayonnaise sauce to make his
specialty: American horse meat tartare.

“I love America,” said Mr. Dhalluin. “The horse meat from the U.S. is
the best in the world.”

Some Americans would be distressed to hear that. A vocal
antislaughter movement argues that horses have a special place in
American culture and history and should not be killed for food.
Activists have spurred an energetic but uphill effort in Congress to
shut down the last three horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. All are
Belgian-owned and supply butchers around the world.

A U.S. ban would mean that Mr. Dhalluin would no longer be able to
buy the meat that vaulted him to a gold medal in a recent culinary
contest for “best sausage in the category of garlic.”

“Americans do not profit from slaughtering horses,” Rep. John
Sweeney, a New York Republican trying to close down the
slaughterhouses, said in House debate in June. “Foreigners eat our
horses, and foreign companies make money off the sale of meat.”

The revelation three years ago that the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner,
Ferdinand, ended up in a slaughterhouse in Japan, galvanized the U.S.
antislaughter movement — and caused two of the Belgian-owned plants
to take on lawyers and lobbyists. “Toss in Mr. Ed and Black Beauty,
and we have a real public-relations problem,” says

Belgian Horse Killer Olivier Kemseke

, a
Belgian horse-meat dealer whose family owns one of the Texas
slaughterhouses under attack.

Federal law doesn’t ban eating horse in the U.S., but the meat is now
no longer sold for human consumption domestically. It was marketed
during the meat shortages of World War II. A lack of demand later
dried up the domestic market, though horse meat remained on the menu
of the Harvard Faculty Club in Cambridge, Mass., until 1983. The chef
took it off when he could no longer get fresh meat; the steaks were
arriving frozen.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which inspects the horses headed
for foreign tables, says 58,736 horses were slaughtered in the U.S.
last year for human consumption, yielding 13.6 million pounds of meat
for export to the European Union, Japan, Mexico and Switzerland. A
decade ago, there were around a dozen U.S. facilities slaughtering
horses for export. Today, with demand declining, that’s down to just
two in Texas and one in Illinois.

Mr. Kemseke, 33 years old, is the third generation of his family to
be in the horse-meat business. He owns slaughterhouses in New Zealand
and Romania but likes the American quarter horse best. Ample grazing
land means more American horses eat natural grasses, enhancing their
flavor, he says.

n the 1990s, Mr. Kemseke lived in Kaufman, Texas, where he managed
the family’s U.S. slaughterhouse. He loved the ranching town, pop.
6,700, near Dallas. “I had a little cowboy thing going,” he says,
slapping his pants and shirt. “Wrangler jeans, the belt, the boots,
the Western shirt.” He cruised around town in a 1971 brown
Cadillac. “Everybody waved and called my name. I was living the
American life.”

Foes of horse slaughter portray the meat as an exotic delicacy for
foreigners, evoking images of Paris brasseries serving up American
horse meat alongside foie gras and champagne. But many consumers of
horse meat are more like Nicole Chaupin, a French homemaker in a
skirt and sneakers who ordered a small container of Mr. Dhalluin’s
freshly made horse tartare. “It’s good. It’s healthy,” Mrs. Chaupin
said of horse meat, which is slightly redder than beef, more tender
and gamier in flavor.

Historically, consumption of horse meat in Europe was associated with
poverty and desperation. The practice is believed to have begun when
Napoleon’s troops, fighting the Russians at the Battle of Eylau in
Poland in 1807, ran low on supplies and ate their horses. Horse meat
helped sustain Europeans during the deprivations of two World Wars.

Because horse meat is high in iron and low in fat, European doctors
today often prescribe it to treat anemia.

The American Quarter Horse Association, the American Veterinary
Medical Association and other groups support slaughter, arguing that
there are not enough rescue facilities to care for unwanted horses.
And in Washington, many farm-state lawmakers also want to keep the
slaughterhouses open, in part because closing them might embolden
animal-rights groups and vegetarians to demand a ban on the slaughter
of beef cattle, pigs and sheep. “What is the distinction between a
steer, a hog and a horse?” Iowa Rep. Steve King asked on the House
floor in June. The zebra he ate in Africa last year was excellent,
the Iowa Republican said.

Horses “are not like other animals,” says John Hettinger, a
thoroughbred breeder and auction-house owner in Saratoga Springs,
N.Y. “I’ve seen a Clydesdale without a halter on performing intricate
maneuvers in Madison Square Garden,” he says. “Now, I’d like a
cattleman to show me a cow that can do the same thing.”

Mr. Hettinger, 72, has spent $160,000 on Washington lobbyists in an
effort to ban the slaughter of horses, federal records show. The
thoroughbred auction house he controls, Fasig-Tipton Inc., once sold
Man o’ War, whose racing career from 1919 to 1920 is considered one
of the greatest in American history. “I’ve made my living off
horses,” says Mr. Hettinger, “and this is my way of giving back.” The
Texas plants have spent about the same amount in an effort to
preserve it, according to Mr. Kemseke. The Texas slaughterhouses’
lobbyist, Jim Bradshaw, has made more than $27,000 in campaign
donations to pro-slaughter lawmakers, federal records show.

While the debate goes on, an American Airlines flight takes off every
day from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, headed for Paris’s
Charles DeGaulle airport with a load of horse carcasses in its cargo
belly. After passing French inspection, the U.S. horse meat from Mr.
Kemseke’s plant is driven in refrigerated trucks to rural Rekkem,
Belgium, where it is repackaged and shipped to butchers. Some
especially choosy butchers, like Mr. Dhalluin, come to the plant’s
freezers to pick their own cuts.

Mr. Kemseke uses local horses, too. In a run-down neighborhood in
central Brussels called Anderlecht, famous for its abattoirs, Mr.
Kemseke watched recently as 200 frightened Belgian horses were
unloaded from trailers, kicking and snorting, and tied to iron rails.
Wearing a butcher’s robe, he walked among the animals, lifting tails
and slapping flanks, making notes on a pad about which to purchase
for slaughter.

Horses are slaughtered in the same manner as cattle: with a metal
bolt shot into their heads. The antislaughter activists call this
method particularly inhumane. “If our friends in Belgium want to eat
horse meat, I’m not trying to dictate that they do or not do it,”
says Skip Trimble of the Texas Humane Legislation Network. “But we in
America, who view the horse differently, should not supply them with
our horses.”

So far, economic arguments have prevailed over the emotional appeals
of the antislaughter forces. Mr. Bradshaw, the slaughterhouse
lobbyist, tells lawmakers the Texas plants spend $6 million a year
shipping horse meat with American Airlines and other U.S. carriers.

Even the oversized American flag at the American Legion post that
greets drivers entering Kaufman is paid for by Mr. Kemseke’s horse-
slaughter business. “So they want to close us down?” Mr. Kemseke
says. “Then I don’t know where Kaufman’s gonna get their next flag.”

Write to Mary Jacoby at

Mayor Paula Bacon’s reply:

To the Editor
The Wall Street Journal
RE:  article “Why Belgians Shoot Horses in Texas….”

Former Mayor Paula Bacon displays outstanding fines and taxes still owed by Belgian Horse Slaughter plant ~ photo by Terry Fitch/courtesy of the Equine Welfare Alliance

I read with great interest your recent article on horse slaughter.

I am mayor of Kaufman, I have learned a great deal about horse slaughter, and I can say without reservation that the horse slaughter industry causes significant hardship to my community.

You state that “So far, economic arguments have prevailed over the emotional appeals of the anti-slaughter forces.”

If economic arguments had in fact prevailed, then the screen door ought to have banged the backside of Dallas Crown 25 years ago as they departed Kaufman. Instead they have used my city like a door mat.

In January 1986, then Mayor Harry Holcomb said, “Quite frankly, we don’t want you here!” when Dallas Crown came to the City Council with a plan to re-open. With zoning and vested rights they did re-open, but the city manager assured, “if they violate ordinances, we can close them down” [Kaufman Herald, 01/23/86].

Not so, as it turns out.  Dallas Crown has a long history of violating ordinances, as do the other two horse slaughter plants in Fort Worth and DeKalb.  “Dallas Crown continually neglects to perform within the standards required of them,” a recent city staff memo advises, one of dozens of such memos.

But the city doesn’t have the resources to outspend Dallas Crown in legal wrangling.  Recently, after receiving 29 citations for failing waste-water tests 60% of the time, Dallas Crown demanded 29 separate jury trials.

Then Dallas Crown banned the city from testing for 9 months–though it is required by law, signed agreement and court order.  Upgrades to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, which said testing is designed to protect, will cost 2,100 sewer customers $6 million.

A repellent history of violations that includes blood spills, putrid odors, and horse remains in nearby yards continues to this day.

As unwilling host to a horse slaughter plant, I believe my city should have a voice in the economic argument.  In Kaufman, horse slaughter is the reverse of economic development.  Dallas Crown drains our resources, thwarts economic development and stigmatizes our community.

All 3 of the horse slaughter plants in the U.S. employ a total of fewer than 200 people.  They cost American taxpayers $5 million annually in federal funding for oversight, USDA inspections, transport inspections, etc, according to federal officials.  There is no economic justification for horse slaughter.

In your article Monsieur Kemseke, one of a long line of managers who “neglected to perform within the standards required of them” and an owner of Dallas Crown, notes that he paid for the over-sized flag that greets drivers coming into town, and wonders who will buy the next one if Dallas Crown closes.

Kemseke’s cavalier and insincere concern over our financial ability to purchase an American flag perfectly illustrates the horse slaughter “industry” in the U.S.:  Horse slaughter ridicules American values while gouging our resources.  The flag does not make up for the economic and stigmatizing drain that Dallas Crown has brought our community. A $100 flag in the face of the $6 million cost to taxpayers? Perfect. This is the brand of corporate citizen Dallas Crown is to Kaufman, and the kind of industry horse slaughter is to the U.S.

Please. Spare us from any more of this supposed charity.

Paula Bacon
Mayor, City of Kaufman


Equine Welfare Groups Work Solutions That Horse-Haters Don’t Want To Hear

Information supplied by National Equine Resource Network

NERN and R-Vets to create 100 new geldings in just 8 days

No Unwanted Horses ~ by Terry Fitch

ENCINITAS, CA – National Equine Resource Network (NERN) and a group of colleagues including equine vets, vet students, and equine rescue sanctuaries gelded a total of 100 stallions and colts throughout central California.  This week-long rolling series of low-cost gelding clinics potentially reduced the future horse population of the state by 500, at a time when the continuing economic downturn has significantly reduced the number of good homes available for horses.

“When NERN was formed two years ago to assist the equine welfare community in saving and caring for at-risk horses, our goal was to make an immediate impact,” noted Shirley Puga, NERN Founder and Executive Director.

“Low-cost gelding clinics held in partnership with equine veterinarians were an obvious way as they require a relatively small financial commitment while producing major results by impacting the number of horses that might be neglected or abandoned in the future,” she said.

Since the average privately owned stallion will sire five foals in its breeding career, every stallion and colt gelded at these clinics reduces the future equine population by that number.  According to Puga, this series was part of NERN’s continuing pilot program to provide a model for these clinics throughout the country.

The traveling gelding clinic series was a partnership between Shirley Puga, Director of NERN, Dr. Eric Davis, DVM, Founder of Rural Veterinary Experience Teaching and Service (R-VETS), and his partner Cindy McClinn, RVT, who work together to bring quality care to animals that might not always get professional veterinary treatment.

In addition to gelding 100 stallions and colts through this recent series, Puga and Davis plan to partner on future clinics throughout California.  NERN also continues to refine the low-cost gelding program for distribution to rescue sanctuary operators and other equine welfare advocates throughout the country.

“The need to reduce the country’s equine population, a key component in ending equine slaughter, has never been greater and NERN will take a leadership role in this aspect of that solution”, Ms Puga stated.

She is also working with other segments of the country’s horse welfare community to convince the commercial equine industry to practice more selective breeding and provide for aftercare for their horses to eventually eliminate equine slaughter.

The eight-day traveling series held eight gelding clinics in eight cities; covering more than 1,000 miles in the heavily horse populated central part of California.  The clinic locations were Salinas, King City, Lodi, Auburn, Petaluma, Woodland, Orland and Cottonwood.

Participating equine rescues were the SPCA of Monterey County, Valley View Ranch Equine Rescue, Oakdale Equine Rescue, The Shiloh Foundation, Sonoma Action For Equine Rescue, and Safe Haven Horse Rescue.   Contributing sponsors for this series of clinics were One Horse At A Time and Redwings Horse Sanctuary.  Professional photographer Jim Westin volunteered his time to document the entire event on film.

In addition to providing this much needed service to horse owners, the clinics also served as an important training experience for a group of UC Davis vet students who traveled with NERN and R-VETS.

In April, NERN has four, one-day, gelding clinics scheduled – April 7th in Oakdale, April 15th in Ramona, April 21st in Bishop, and back in Oakdale on April 28th. Clinics are in the works for May and June as well. Interested parties can check NERN’s website at for future clinics.

Ms Puga said planning is underway for the first out-of-state clinic, to be held in Western Washington State in late Spring/early Summer.  The states of Nevada and Texas are under consideration for the Fall.

“We are proving that the equine welfare community is willing to step up to the plate to do its part in reducing our country’s horse population and therefore eliminate the need for equine slaughter and we hope the commercial breeding and racing industries will accept their responsibility also” Ms Puga concluded.

NERN’s goal for 2012 is to geld 250 stallions and colts this year, representing a future population reduction of 1,250 horses.  They are well on their way.  With financial assistance, they could likely do even more.

Is This the Right Way to Treat Horses?

Is a slaughterhouse for horses coming to Missouri? Is this the right way to treat horses? KOMU 8 News explores the emotional and economic impact in special reports Thursday on KOMU 8 News at Six and Ten.

Actress Bo Derek joins Sen. Mary Landrieu to push for ban on horse slaughter

By Bruce Alpert, Times-Picayune

Big Names Push Against Anti-Horse Agenda

Actress Bo Derek speaks about the importance of passing Sen. Mary Landrieu's American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would prohibit the inhumane killing of American horses for human consumption. Photo by Matthew D. R. Lehner, Office of Sen. Mary Landrieu

Washington – Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., brought some celebrity power to the Capitol Wednesday to build support for her legislation that would prohibit inhumane killing of American horses for food. Actress Bo Derek, best known for the 1979 romantic comedy,”10,” and speaking for the Animal Welfare Institute, pushed for passage of the bill. So did Amy Nelson, singer Willie Nelson’s daughter, and Raelyn Nelson, his granddaughter, saying they were speaking on Nelson’s behalf and his love for horses.

Landrieu’s American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act would also stop the transport of horses across the border to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.

“We must continue to open people’s eyes about this appalling practice that is so often hidden from the public,” Derek said at a news conference, surrounded by Landrieu, other lawmakers and citizen lobbyists.

In November 2011, Congress opted not to renew a ban on funding federal inspectors at horse slaughter plants in the United States and Landrieu and other lawmakers opposed to the practice worry it will spur a return to what they say is brutal treatment of horses.

“There are viable, affordable alternatives to slaughter,” Landrieu said. “When a horse is old, sick, or can no longer be productive, its owner should provide humane euthanasia.

“Ninety percent of all horses that die each year are humanely euthanized and/or safely disposed of – this additional 10 percent is not a burden,” Landrieu said. “Horse owners will buy some of these horses and horse rescue organizations will take others. Brutal slaughter is not an appropriate alternative.”

Amy Nelson and Raelyn Nelson issued a statement on behalf of Willie Nelson “We ride horses in America, we don’t eat them. Slaughter is not humane euthanasia. It is not a responsible end of life option for any horse.”

Also speaking was Lorenzo Borghese from ABC’s “The Bachelor.”

“There may be no more special relationship than the one we have with horses,” Borghese said. “The love and loyalty horses have shown people shows no bounds – they have won wars for us, carried us west and built this great country, and have served as companions for our children and our disabled.”