“I didn’t understand such an amazing horse could just be tossed away like that.”
PILESGROVE TWP. — Baia-Roe is a 15-year-old standardbred mare rescued from a truck that was on its way to a slaughterhouse.
Caitlin Stewart, her boyfriend, Stephen Wade, and brother, Gustave Stewart, all initiated an effort to save Baia-Roe and this weekend a group of about 30 people from all over the state came to Pilesgrove to welcome the rescued horse to her new home.
Baia-Roe was just hours from being taken over the Canadian border by “kill-buyers,” people who purchase horses cheap to then slaughter in order to sell their meat, according to Stewart.
But a place called End of the Line Horse Placement located in Harmony, Pa. – a sort of horse limbo where the animals have the chance to be rescued, but not always – offered a chance to save Baia-Roe.
According to Caitlin Stewart, kill-buyers will sometimes stop at End of the Line on their way to slaughterhouses to see if anyone wants to purchase the horse for rescue.
Stewart saw Baia-Roe on End of the Line’s Facebook site and knew she had to save her.
“There was something about her eyes,” Caitlin said as family and friends gathered Saturday on her Pilesgrove farm. “I didn’t understand such an amazing horse could just be tossed away like that.”
Baia-Roe is a former six-time place winner trotter that was also owned by Amish.
“And when I saw that she was owned by Amish, I knew how hard she must have worked over the years,” Stewart added.
Stewart explained that when dealing with kill-buyers at End of the Line, once a rescuer commits to saving a horse, he or she must pay for the horse via Paypal within a matter of minutes.
“The kill-buyers don’t really care if the horses are saved or not,” she explained. “They just want to make a buck. So once they get their money, they’re gone. It doesn’t matter to them if they get money from me or from selling the meat.”
Once Baia-Roe was purchased for $300, she had to be put in quarantine and have a veterinarian examination before being cleared to travel to New Jersey.
In total, it cost about $2,000 to save Baia-Roe. However, Caitlin was able to gather about $1,400 in donations from family and friends.
This is Stewart’s third rescue horse. She is not sure if she will end up keeping Baia-Roe permanently or adopt her to a loving family. Her boyfriend said he would like to adopt Baia-Roe out and rescue another horse headed for the slaughterhouse.
Stewart explained that though there is not a huge market in the states for horse meat, places in Europe considerate it a delicacy, which is why kill-buyers get good money for the meat.
She also noted that a horse slaughterhouse in Roswell, N.M., is seeking to re-open after horse slaughterhouses were shuttered in the U.S. in 2007. Valley Meat Company, located in Roswell, is one of six slaughterhouses around the nation applying for a permit to slaughter American horses for food, Stewart said.
Nicole Barbye, of Mullica Hill, is a local horse trainer. She is also Stewart’s friend and partner in advocating against horse slaughter.
Stewart, Barbye, Gustave Stewart and Wade have banned together to try and spread awareness about the perils of horse slaughter. Barbye explained that eating horse meat is actually toxic because of a common anti-inflammatory drug horse owners often give to their horses called Phenylbutazone – or “bute” as it’s often referred.
“I am trying to get the word out about the toxicity of horse meat,” Barbye said. “Often horse owners and trainers flood horses with bute, which ends up causing damage to the horse because trainers will run them into the ground.”
Stewart, her passion as radiant as her sleeve of tattoos, added, “And what people don’t realize is, bute-ridden horse meat can give people cancer.”
In January, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), identified eight cases of bute-positive horse meat in 2012 that may have been sold for food, according to a BBC news report.
Stewart said her goal is to merely spread awareness about such incidents that often get overlooked.
On Saturday, the homecoming for Baia-Roe was a festive one.
Those present at Stewart’s farm enjoyed food and a huge “Welcome Home” sign had been made and placed on the side of a barn.
Stewart responded to whether she considered herself an activist and said, “I guess I’d consider myself an activist. I’m outspoken, but you hear ‘activist’ and you think it’s something political. This isn’t political.”
Neither is Caitlin a “liberal hippie,” as Stewart finished by saying, “Look – I’m a registered Republican. I just want to save these horses.”
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