Thursday, January 31, 2013

Summer Brennan Wins Contest With Amado's Story

My friends Summer and Amado are featured in the Chatham Courier!  I am so happy that their fantastic story is getting out and that they are raising awareness for horses.  Amado is a GREAT ambassador for wild mustangs!!  ~Declan

Summer Brennan wins contest with Amado’s story

But his story really starts in the wild
Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 11:00 am
Summer and Amado at Little Brook Farm

OLD CHATHAM — It’s like the old joke about the farmer who wins the lottery. “What’ll you do with the winnings?” they asked him. “Well, I guess I’ll just keep on farming until it all runs out,” he said.
So it may seem for Lynn Cross and her daughter, Summer Brennan, of Little Brook Farm in Old Chatham. But they have entwined their fate with that of a particular horse and it has worked out to their mutual benefit.

It has been about nine months since the wild mustang, Amado, came to live with Brennan and Cross and all the friends who regularly volunteer at the farm. The story of how he became the pampered ambassador for mustangs and the humane treatment of animals generally has been told in exquisite detail on the farm’s Facebook page, where the horse has 21,000 fans, as well as at the Equine Affair exhibition in Massachusetts last year, where he was very popular. Now, his story is on Photobucket. Brennan submitted it for a contest and won the $25,000 first prize.
Amado is a 5-year-old mustang gelding whose road to stardom began on the arid high plains of Northern California, where he ran with an estimated 1,300 other horses on land that the Bureau of Land Management says can only sustain 451 horses in the best of times. He was part of a helicopter roundup conducted on Oct. 29, 2011 at the High Rock Complex, then shipped to a long-term holding facility in Nebraska.
On May 4, 2012, he was shipped to Lorton, Va., as one of 27 mustangs chosen for the Extreme Mustang Makeover Competition to be held Aug. 9-12, an event that the Mustang Heritage Foundation sponsors in an attempt to find adoptable homes for horses unlikely to be placed without training.
Trainers applied to enter the contest and horses were selected for them by lottery. Twenty-five trainers had 90 days to train their wild mustang, then compete against each other for prize money. The northeastern edition of the competition was held at Dream Park in Gloucester County, New Jersey. Following the competition, the horses were auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Brennan did not win the mustang makeover competition. She didn’t even place. But her horse was by far the highest valued, as buyers bid for his purchase, not just because of his striking markings, but also, Brennan surmises, because he hadn’t had the life trained out of him. With the help of many friends who donated money, she won the bid and brought Amado home. All of this is told in the award-winning Photobucket story.
“Friends told me that I shouldn’t publicize this because people would say, ‘Oh, they have all this money so we don’t need to help them.’ But the only reason I did the contest was that the farm needed money,” she said. “Donations are down. Winter is always difficult, we don’t have the riding camps and lessons we have during the summer. And the general economic decline has an effect; because of budget cuts, the schools have cut out their field trips. Winter is a real down time for us.”
Little Brook Farm is a unique place that functions with the help of the good friends who show up without paycheck or prompting to clean stalls, feed animals, maintain fences and buildings.
“But there are many days during the winter when it’s just my mom and me,” said Brennan.
In the warmer days of the year, there are lessons and day-campers and visitors, but the winter offers scant opportunity for income. Added to the economic stress of winter maintenance is the fact that expenses are up.
“We take care of about 70 horses, here and in the seven other locations. This is the same number of horses we had last year, but because of the drought in the Midwest and grain being used for ethanol production rather than feed, our grain costs have risen by $10,000,” she said.
They needed money, so when the Photobucket contest was brought to her attention, Brennan decided to enter. The photo sharing website was launching a new feature consisting of a virtual scrapbook in which photos, short videos and text boxes are put on pages to make a story. Brennan felt that she had a story in Amado.
She had eight months’ worth of pictures and videos documenting the training, competition and eventual acquisition of her wild mustang. It’s a real story with a lot of drama and uncertain outcome, so there is no small measure of gratification when it ends well. Four-thousand seven hundred people entered the contest. Likes and comments helped with the selection and Brennan campaigned.
“Yeah, I entered to win,” she said. She lobbied her Facebook friends and got comments. “The main thing is how well it’s done, but also how well it’s networked.”
The winner was announced on Dec. 14 and a $25,000 check arrived in the mail Jan. 8. The prize money will be spent for feed for the horses and other maintenance projects around the farm.
“I know it seems like a lot of money to people, but with a farm like this, it goes quickly,” she said.
You can view their story at
Brennan, who holds a degree in Equine Business Management from Cazenovia College, has big ambitions for the farm. She would like to be able to build an indoor arena, so that riding lessons could be offered all year. She could set up her own horse training business.
Amado, center, just after having been rounded up.  Photo by Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education

Plight of the wild mustang
The story of Amado is set against the backdrop of the new American West, where historical redolence has become a desiccated skeleton and sanguine old values are now vastly more complicated by the environmental impact of the human animal. As the wilderness becomes delineated by increasingly constricting borders, ecosystem balance is harder to maintain. The plight of herds of wild mustangs is just one example.
It is the task of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to maintain the health of the flora and fauna of the nation’s public lands. The relevant component of that responsibility is established in the Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971: “Be it enacted … that Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of the life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”
A noble and worthy aspiration, but its flaws were soon evident, as the animals began to overpopulate the designated public lands. Modifications to the bill had to be made.
Section 2 states, in summary, that as a result of environmental impact studies conducted in the later 1970s, “…an overpopulation exists in a given area of the public lands and … action is necessary to remove excess animals from the range so as to achieve appropriate management levels.”
Sub-headings stipulate that “old, sick or lame animals be destroyed in the most humane manner possible”; that the “excess wild free-roaming horses and burros … be humanely captured and removed for private maintenance and care for which he determines an adoption demand exists by qualified individuals” and that “not more than four animals may be adopted per year by any individual” unless they are deemed capable of humanely caring for them.
This is to help prevent the mass accumulation of horses for slaughter, a practice which, though technically legal in the United States, is not currently done. In 2006, Congress eliminated funding for horse meat inspectors, making the slaughter all but illegal, but funding was restored in 2011, although state bans are in place in California, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, New Jersey and Texas.
The justification commonly given for restoration of the funding is that there is an increase in neglected and abandoned horses in a bad economy. Advocates for the ban strongly dispute this rationale, maintaining that money is the real reason. Prior to 2006, the horse meat industry was valued at $65 million per year. Horse meat is eaten in Mexico, Asia and parts of Europe.
The shipping of horses for slaughter from the United States to Canada and Mexico has continually increased. By the end of 2010, 138,000 horses were being sent annually to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. The Bureau of Land Management maintains that it screens buyers carefully and the wild mustangs it rounds up never go to slaughter, but this is also in dispute.
Last September, it was reported that a Colorado livestock hauler, Tom Davis, had purchased 1,700 animals from the BLM since 2009. While he does sign the contract saying that they will not be slaughtered and there is no direct evidence that he has done so, there is no accounting for all of the animals he has purchased from the BLM. Furthermore, he does buy wild horses for slaughter from Indian reservations, where the same restrictions do not apply.
On Sept. 19, 2011, Congress presented the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011, of which Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19th District) co-sponsored. This act amends the Horse Protection Act to “prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption.”
It was referred back to committee, which essentially killed it.
The final subsection of Section 2 of the Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 states that if the adoption demands for these excess horses doesn’t exist, they are “to be destroyed in the most humane and cost efficient manner possible.”
In a few more paragraphs, the act allows for a study of environment and population by the National Academy of Sciences, stipulations for estrayment from public land finally and more controversially, “the Secretary may use or contract for the use of helicopters or, for the purpose of transporting captured animals, motor vehicles.”
Amado was rounded up in such a fashion. His capture was documented by Laura Leigh, an activist whose website,, shows the sometimes tragic result of BLM round-up methods and continues to be a burr under the Bureau’s saddle.
The story of the human-equine interaction in the United States is such that people would be hard pressed to identify themselves, their histories and make-up without their equine context. The problem of how to manage the land and animals will not be easily solved.
Brennan, Amado and Little Brook Farm stand as beautiful examples of how thoughtful and harmonious paths can be found. As Brennan contemplates her next project, she keeps in mind her goal of creating an indoor arena.
There is a new program offered by the Mustang Heritage Foundation to further encourage the adoption of some of the 42,000 horses that are currently in Bureau of Land Management holding corrals and pastures. Called Mustang Million, it is another competition, to be held in Fort Worth, Texas, with three sub-categories of competition and many more horses.
Asked if she would participate, she said she is “aggressively considering it.” She has mentioned it on her Facebook page and has gotten over 40 comments so far.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Five Reasons Why Tesco's Horse Meat Scandal Could Happen Here

My friend Vickery Eckhoff has written another really important article about horse slaughter and what pro-slaughter people do not want you to know and understand about the issue.  Thank you Ms. Eckhoff for keeping everyone so well informed.  ~Declan

** For more frequent updates on the European horsemeat scandal, please also visit Children 4 Horses on Facebook, where more articles and updates are also posted.  **

Vickery Eckhoff, Contributor
1/29/2013 @ 11:33PM |  As posted on Forbes
Five Reasons Why Tesco's Horse Meat Scandal Could Happen Here

Photograph by Keith Myers of the Kansas City Star for its feature, "Beef's Raw Edges," showing what goes into ground beef at a plant in Dodge City, Kansas.
While everyone is making jokes about the Polish horse meat that contaminated  Tesco’s ground beef patties in the UK, lawmakers in Oklahoma and other western states are busy introducing bills to open horse slaughter plants for human consumption here in the U.S.
Below are five reasons why the Tesco scandal could play out in rural America in the very near future if they succeed—and why food safety issues with contaminated horse meat are a far bigger threat to consumers than the industry is admitting.
Reason #1: What’s in that burger and where is it from?
The fact that horse meat from Poland ended up in ground beef in Ireland isn’t so far-fetched when you understand how the industry operates. At least here in the U.S., your average burger is a big mash-up of edible scraps and parts from different cows from different plants, often from different states (and even countries), with fat and additives ground in.

Dr. Lester Castro Friedlander, DVM, used to see “big tubs of beef from different plants ground together” at plants were he was a USDA inspector and also a top inspection trainer. “This makes it difficult to trace liability to any particular plant in the case of e-coli contamination,” says Dr. Friedlander.

As part of a year-long investigation, The Kansas City Star went inside four of America’s largest packing plants (Cargill, JBS, Tyson and National Beef), photographing a plant in Dodge City where tubs of scraps and cuts waited to be ground into burgers, just like the ones Dr. Friedlander talked about. The practice was also exposed in a 2009 New York Times article, “The Burger That Shattered Her Life.”
E-coli contamination is a high risk as both the Starand New York Times articles reveal. And as the Tesco situation shows, it’s not just disparate parts of different cattle from different plants and countries that find their way into burger meat, but pork and horse meat as well, all crossing borders (and datelines) and sold to unwary customers without proper labeling.
Reason #2: Oklahoma wants to cash in on slaughtering racehorses, mustangs and other equines not raised as meat animals.
Rural U.S. lawmakers with ties to the cattle industry and economically-strapped horse breeding registries have been pushing to reopen horse slaughter plants in the states since the last three plants shut down in 2007 (two in Texas, one in Illinois).
Over the past 12 months, they’ve tried unsuccessfully to overturn Texas’ state slaughter ban and pass pro-slaughter legislation in Tennessee. They’ve also tried (and failed so far) to open plants in New Mexico, Oregon and Missouri.
This coming Tuesday (February 5), lawmakers are poised to try again in Oklahoma when a new bill, SB375, is scheduled for a second reading in the state’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.
What’s behind it are the 140,000-150,000 U.S. horses that are now being slaughtered in Canada and Mexico for markets overseas plus about 45,000 mustangs unwisely removed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from public lands and warehoused at taxpayer expense to make more room for cattle grazing. This is a wasteful program but “welfare cattle grazing,” the reason most commonly blamed for the removals, is even more wasteful of taxpayer dollars.   
These horses, many held in long-term holding pens in Oklahoma, are considered “excess” by the BLM and there are quite a few people in the meat trade who’d happily buy them cheap and sell them at a large profit to slaughter plants (in fact, they’ve been doing this illegally for some time, as revealed in the National Journal article, “Is the U.S. Government Complicit in the Killing of Over 1,000 Wild Horses?” as well as in an investigation reported on in The Desert Independent).
They also want to slaughter horses disposed of by racetracks, rodeos, horse breeders and owners struggling in the recession—a sizeable surplus market that has made the actual raising of horses as meat animals (similar to cattle) completely unnecessary in the U.S. for decades.
Oklahoma Senator Mark Allen is trying to harness that business for his home state, which ranks fourth in the nation in horse ownership per capita. His bill (SB375) would overturn Oklahoma’s existing 1963 ban on selling and producing horsemeat—a somewhat dodgy maneuver, given Oklahoma’s present billing as the “horse show capital of the U.S.”
The state also happens to have several struggling racetracks as well as a large cattle industry. Ignoring the branding problem of slaughtering horses in “the horse show capital of the U.S,” there are huge food-safety problems connected to slaughtering horses that have been ignored for years and that the Tesco and Burger King debacles are slowly bringing to light.  (...continued)

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING VICKERY'S IMPORTANT ARTICLE and to find links to other great articles she has written 

such as: 

Burglars Busted by Braying Burro

Hee Haw!!  BUSTED!!  :-)  ~Declan

Burglars Busted by Braying Burro

When you think of high-speed chases, you typically think of fast an extremely fast moving car being chased by an equally fast police car, right? There are usually lights and sirens, a good chance for an accident, and the threat to pedestrians and fruit stands everywhere. 

Burglars beware of sounding your own alarm.  Photo:
But in Juan de Acosta, Colombia, three burglars chose a more environmentally friendly getaway vehicle--the donkey. Now you're probably thinking that's pretty smart, right? No one would hear an engine roar down the road, nor smell exhaust fumes if you're using a donkey for a getaway vehicle (well, you'd hope you wouldn't smell the exhaust fumes).
But what these burglars didn't think about was that donkeys tend to bray when they've got something to say.
According to, the bad guys' own getaway vehicle--a 10-year-old donkey named Xavi, who was, ironically, stolen as well--turned on them. Xavi started braying as the men loaded their stolen wares into his packs. The burglars fled the scene when police heard the "alarm." Left with the donkey was rum, oil, rice, and some cans of tuna and sardines stolen from a shop.
The shop owner got all of the stolen items back, and Xavi was returned to his proper owner after being held at the police station for 12 hours.
There was no word as to whether the burglars were ever captured, nor if Xavi was to be charged as an accessory to theft.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Is the US Government Complicit in the Killing of Over 1,000 Wild Horses?

Thank you SO MUCH Representatives Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky, for your letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking what happened to the 1,700 wild horses sold to Tom Davis!!  Thank you for standing up and taking action on behalf of horses and being their voice!  ~Declan 

Is the U.S. Government Complicit in the Killing of Over a Thousand Wild Horses?

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Updated: January 29, 2013 | 7:18 p.m.
January 29, 2013 | 8:22 a.m.

A livestock helicopter pilot rounds up wild horses in Washoe County, Nev., July 13, 2008.             (AP Photo/Brad Horn)

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers is urging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to disclose whether as many as 1,700 federally protected wild horses now unaccounted for were sold to a middleman who illegally transported them to Mexico for slaughter.
Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., in a letter to Salazar being circulated this week to other lawmakers to cosign, write they are troubled by the department’s lack of response to “legitimate concerns” that the government may have sold these captured mustangs to a “kill buyer,” who then shipped them to a slaughterhouse.
“It is our understanding that this investigation is ongoing,” the letter states, referring to an inquiry by Interior’s Office of Inspector General. But it also says that a number of animal-welfare organizations and worried citizens have been raising concerns, and that “as of today, these citizens haven’t heard from you.”
Adam Sarvana, a spokesman for Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulations, said the two lawmakers want Salazar to provide answers before he leaves the Obama administration. Salazar has said he will leave his Cabinet position at the end of March.
Tom Gorey, a Bureau of Land Management spokesman, said Monday that the inspector general has not yet released its findings and that “we don’t know when [the investigation] is going to be done.” But he said it would be wrong to suggest that the bureau sold any of these horses realizing they might be sent to slaughterhouses.
In their letter to Salazar, Grijalva and Whitfield point to a report last September by ProPublica that the bureau sold the more than 1,700 captured mustangs at about $10 a head to Tom Davis, described as a Colorado livestock hauler and a proponent of the horse-meat industry. Salazar is from Colorado. Some published reports say Davis claims to know Salazar and claims to have hauled cattle for him for years. But that is contested. An Interior Department spokeswoman says the secretary has no recollection of Davis, including any business dealings with him.
“As you are aware, the ProPublica revelations have provoked a substantial public outcry,” the two lawmakers wrote. The letter notes, for example, that in November, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign delivered 25,130 signatures to the Interior Department “from concerned citizens around the country.”
The Bureau of Land Management is the federal agency in charge of overseeing the approximately 31,500 wild horses and 5,800 wild burros roaming federally managed range land in 10 Western states. According to the bureau’s website, these horses and burros have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years. As a result, “the agency must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to control herd sizes,” the bureau says.
Since 2004, the bureau has had the legal right under an amendment passed by Congress to sell some of these wild horses.
But Gorey said that, despite the technically unrestricted sales authority of that legislation, known as the Burns Amendment, the bureau has not knowingly sold any of these horses or burros for slaughter and would not do so. The bills of sale are required to contain an explanation by the buyer of what they intend to do with the animals, including a promise that animals bought will not be slaughtered.
And in early January, in response to the Davis investigation, the BLM issued new policy conditions and restrictions regarding such sales, in what it described as another step forward in improvement in ensuring the health and humane treatment of wild horses and burros. The new policies included stipulations that no more than four wild horses or wild burros may be bought by an individual or group within a six-month period from the BLM without prior approval of the Bureau’s Assistant Director for Renewable Resources and Planning -- and that purchasers must describe where they intend to keep the animals for the first six months following the sale.
    Still, no public explanation has surfaced as to what, exactly, happened to the more than 1,700 horses purchased by Davis since 2009--nearly 70 percent of all the horses sold under the program. And animal welfare activists are worried that they wound up on the killing floor.
    “We respectfully ask you to give a written response within the next ten days,” Grijalva and Whitfield wrote.

    Veterinarians for Equine Welfare - White Paper on Horse Slaughter

    This is important information from Veterinarians for Equine Welfare.  They wrote a "white paper" to fight against the misinformation pro-slaughter people are giving to everyone.  The paper is from 2008, with an updated introduction from 2011 after legislation was passed allowing funding for inspection of horsemeat again in the US.  This is GREAT information for when you are talking to people and legislators about horse slaughter and why it should be banned.  ~Declan

    VEW Releases White Paper on Horse Slaughter
    Washington, DC (January 9, 2008) – Veterinarians for Equine Welfare (VEW) has just issued a new white paper entitled “Horse Slaughter – Its Ethical Impact and Subsequent Response of the Veterinary Profession.” The white paper was created to address misinformation being circulated by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and other organizations opposing a potential ban on horse slaughter in the US and exportation of horses for slaughter.

    VEW White Paper

    Horse Slaughter –
    Its Ethical Impact and Subsequent Response of the Veterinary Profession

    A White Paper 
    Prepared by
    Veterinarians for Equine Welfare
    January 9, 2008
    (introduction undated on June 9, 2011
    to reflect current legislation)
    PDF Version of White Paper

    Press Release:  VEW Releases White Paper on Horse Slaughter

    Veterinarians for Equine Welfare (VEW) is a group of veterinarians committed to equine welfare, and as such we support measures to end horse slaughter including passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1176). We are concerned about misinformation being transmitted to Congress and the broader public regarding horse slaughter. VEW believes that certain veterinary professional associations that are actively promoting horse slaughter are undermining our profession’s integrity and the welfare of the horses we care for. In so doing these organizations, of which many of us are members, erroneously purport to speak for our entire profession. Veterinarians should put animal welfare at the top of their list of priorities, not relegate it to an also-ran concern.

    Horse slaughter has never been considered by veterinary professionals to be a form of euthanasia. Congress and the general public must hear from veterinarians that horse slaughter is not and should not be equated with humane euthanasia. Rather, the slaughtering of horses is a brutal and predatory business that promotes cruelty and neglect and which claimed the lives of more than 100,000 American horses in 2008.

    Given that the debate on horse slaughter is at a crucial juncture with the recent closure of the remaining domestic horse slaughter plants under state law, the surge in horses going to a grisly death in Canada and Mexico, and the opportunity currently before Congress to end the suffering of America’s horses through speedy passage of the federal American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, VEW is compelled to inject its expertise into the arena. This White Paper will, from a professional veterinary perspective, address key points on the issue of horse slaughter and in so doing will lend further credence to calls for a rapid end to this wholly brutal and un-American trade.

    1. Horse Slaughter is not humane euthanasia
    It is the united opinion of VEW that horse slaughter is inhumane, and that it is an unacceptable way to end a horse's life under any circumstance. One need only observe horse slaughter to see that it is a far cry from genuine humane euthanasia. From the transport of horses on inappropriate conveyances for long periods of time without food, water or rest to the very ugly slaughter process in which horses react with pain and fear, no evidence exists to support the claim that horse slaughter is a form of humane euthanasia. Rather, it is a brutal process that results in very tangible and easily observable equine suffering.

    It is worth noting that the suffering of horses in slaughter is accentuated by the very fact that they are not raised for slaughter. Horses going to slaughter have largely been accustomed to close human contact whether through racing, ranch work, pleasure riding, rodeo or any of the other ways in which horses are used in this country. While some are purposely sold into slaughter by their owners most end up at the abattoir through pure bad luck: they were sold at auction and the winning bidder was a “killer-buyer” working for one of the slaughter plants. To suddenly be treated as pure livestock must be disorienting and frightful, and can only compound their suffering as they proceed to slaughter.

    We believe that it is an unethical and dangerous practice for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to attempt to equate horse slaughter with humane euthanasia.

    2. Transport of horses to slaughter compounds equine suffering
    Despite the presence of federal regulations governing the transport of horses to slaughter,[1] horses continue to suffer immeasurably en route to slaughter. Current regulations are paltry, allowing for horses to be transported for more than 24 hours without food, water or rest. Heavily pregnant mares can be moved to slaughter, as can horses with broken limbs or who are blind in one eye. Further, the regulations only cover the final leg of the journey, so slaughter-bound horses moved from auction to feedlot, for instance, are not covered by the rule.

    The much touted (by the U.S. Department of Agriculture) ban on the use of double-decker vehicles to haul horses to slaughter only came into effect in December of 2006, despite pressure from welfare advocates to implement the ban with the final rule, which went into effect in early 2002 (the “double-decker ban” was phased in so as not to unduly impact the slaughter industry financially). Further and most significantly, because the ban only applies to the final leg of the journey to slaughter as previously mentioned, haulers can still move slaughter-bound horses across the country on double-deck conveyances designed for cattle and pigs and need only switch to single-deck trailers before arriving at the slaughter plant. Loading and unloading onto the rigs is stressful and injurious as horses must immediately go either up or down a relatively steep ramp to access one of the two floors. Because the trailers are divided into two levels and thus have low ceilings, many horses are unable to stand fully upright and are forced to travel in a bent position.

    Not only are double-deck trailers inhumane, they are dangerous due to their high center of gravity. Numerous heart-wrenching and lethal accidents have occurred in recent years in which double-deck trailers were carrying horses to a middle-point along the route to slaughter. The results were grisly and absolutely avoidable.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now seeking to broaden the scope of the transport regulations to cover all legs of the journey to slaughter but it is too little too late, particularly given that the domestic horse slaughter plants have been shuttered.

    3. Use of Captive-Bolt in Horse Slaughter Wholly Unacceptable
    The use of the captive-bolt gun, which is commonly used in the slaughter of livestock (including horses), has been a point of great contention in the debate on horse slaughter. Because it can theoretically be used by a veterinarian - in specific circumstances – to euthanize horses, the AVMA has tried to equate its use in the slaughterhouse with humane euthanasia. To clarify, the captive-bolt gun is a mechanical method by which, in ideal circumstances, animals can be rendered immediately unconscious (not killed) through a quick blow to the brain by a metal bolt prior to actual slaughter. However, in order for the method to work as intended, the captive bolt must be administered properly. According to the AVMA’s own guidelines, the head of the animal to which the captive bolt is being applied must be restrained[2]or still and a highly skilled individual. In the slaughterhouse none of these best case scenarios are in place: the horse is most likely panicked, its head is unrestrained, and the person administering the captive bolt is a low-paid worker who is expected to move horses through the kill line at high speed. Herein lays the controversy surrounding the use of the captive bolt in horse slaughter.

    In its 2007 AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia, the AVMA rates the use of the captive bolt to euthanize horses as “acceptable”. However, it is the opinion of VEW professionals that this categorization was based on studies conducted on species other than equine. No studies are cited in the 2007 AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia that any scientific research has ever been conducted to determine the humaneness or efficacy of the captive bolt gun for use specifically on horses.

    Further review finds that within the 2007 AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia denoted reference #112-- Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), Guidelines for Humane Slaughter and Euthanasia. Australian Veterinary Journal 1987:64:4-7 is contradictory to the opinion of the AVA reference itself.

    The Australian Veterinary Association clearly states the following:
    Abattoirs--- "An adequate caliber firearm or a humane killer may be used to render the horse unconscious for bleeding. The captive bolt pistol is not satisfactory for horses since firm pressure on the forehead is essential for its effective use and this tends to be resisted by the horse. This problem applies to a lesser extent with the humane killer".
    Therefore, it is the united conclusion of VEW professionals that the captive bolt should be deemed "conditionally acceptable" and used only in emergency (non-slaughter) situations where no other option exists to humanely end a horse’s suffering or when advanced circulatory dysfunction might diminish the efficiency of chemical euthanasia. Even then it must be administered properly. When used in the slaughter context it is not equitable with humane euthanasia.

    4. Horses stabbed to death in Mexican slaughter plants
    Recent investigations by the San Antonio News-Express[3] reveal that the use of the “puntilla knife” on horses prior to slaughter is common practice in Mexican slaughter plants. Footage shows horses being repeatedly stabbed in the neck with these knives prior to slaughter. Such a barbaric practice does not render the horse unconscious, it simply paralyzes the animal. The horse is still fully conscious at the start of the slaughter process during which the animal is hung by a hind leg, its throat slit and its body butchered.

    5. Unfounded claims that banning horse slaughter will lead to an increase in equine abandonment and neglect
    No increase in the abandonment or neglect of horses has been documented since the closure of the three domestic slaughter plants in the earlier part of 2007. This is not unsurprising. The horse slaughter business is not providing a service for the disposal of “unwanted” horses, but rather is preying on largely healthy, marketable horses[4] that might otherwise be used for more productive purposes. Several “news” reports surfaced in late 2007 claiming to show an increase in abandonment, but all have proven false. In fact, an article in the Oregonian quotes a local law enforcement officer regarding nine new cases of abandonment. When contacted the officer has denied any knowledge of the claims. A similar story in Kentucky was exposed as a hoax[5].

    In fact, when the number of horses going to slaughter declined by nearly 90 percent between the early 1990s and the early 2000s there was no correlating increase in abandoned or neglected horses.[6] To the contrary, the temporary closure of the Cavel plant in Illinois between 2002 and 2004 resulted in a decline in equine abuse and neglect cases.[7]

    6. Horse slaughter does not provide a humane service for “unwanted” horses
    The entire argument that horses that go to slaughter are unwanted is unfounded. Instead, the horse slaughter industry exists solely because a profit stands to be made in fulfilling gourmet demand in foreign countries for horseflesh. Where there is a market demand it will be supplied by market forces, in this case by unscrupulous companies and individuals who stand to profit off the slaughter of American horses. For example, when the three remaining horse slaughter plants were operating in the US, Cavel International imported horses from Canada for slaughter in order to fill their demand.

    7. The promotion of genuine humane euthanasia for “unwanted” horses is absent from the repertoire of the pro-horse slaughter lobby
    Proponents of horse slaughter paint the industry as a humane service by which “unwanted” horses can be disposed of. It is hard to believe that most veterinarians faced with a client who has a horse that is old, sick or otherwise no longer wanted would suggest that the horse in question should be stuck on a truck and hauled thousands of miles to slaughter. Instead, the veterinarian would most likely suggest truly humane euthanasia via chemical injection, after which the carcass can be buried, incinerated, sent to landfill or rendered.[8] The absolute absence of the subject of actual humane euthanasia from the agenda of the pro-horse slaughter lobby on Capitol Hill, including the AVMA, is stunning and telling.

    Yet while the AVMA’s contention that horse slaughter is a form of humane euthanasia is used on Capitol Hill by slaughter proponents to block passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, the AVMA does not even advocate slaughter as a form of euthanasia to the general public. To point, the association’s brochure on equine euthanasia, (“How do I know it is time?: Equine Euthanasia”), speaks only of veterinarian-administered euthanasia, not slaughter, and states:

    “Perhaps the kindest thing you can do for a horse that is extremely ill, severely injured, lame, or dangerous is to have your veterinarian induce its death quickly and humanely through euthanasia. Your decision to have your horse euthanatized is a serious one, and is seldom easy to make.” [9]

    The AVMA and other pro-horse slaughter advocates appear to be advancing a dual message: to their clients the use of chemical euthanasia as the only option, but on Capitol Hill they advocate captive bolt as the preferred method of “euthanasia."

    8. Cost of euthanasia
    The average cost of having a horse humanely euthanized by a veterinarian and their body disposed of is approximately $225, a relative drop in the bucket compared to the monthly and overall cost of keeping a horse. It is VEW’s contention that this expense is simply a part of responsible horse ownership and one that most horse owners already bear without any reluctance.

    9. Proper disposal of horse carcasses no longer slaughtered
    Pro-horse slaughter organizations have argued that an end to horse slaughter and the supposed need to dispose of an estimated 100,000 horses each year will result in environmental damage. This argument is flawed on two fronts.

    First, it is assumed that all horses currently going to slaughter would need to be disposed of by some other method if horse slaughter were prohibited. As stated earlier most horses going to slaughter are in good condition and are marketable for other purposes[10]. Even assuming all horses currently going to slaughter would need to be mortally disposed of, the impact would be insignificant. A generally accepted rate of mortality among livestock in a given year is 5 - 10%. Therefore, based on the 9.2 million horses currently in the US, 460,000 - 920,000 die naturally or are euthanized each year without notable impact. On the face of this situation, another 1 or 100,000 horses will make no significant impact.

    Secondly and an even more compelling in dismissing this argument is the fact that in the overall picture of livestock disposal, horses aren’t even a blip on the screen. According to a study commissioned by the National Renderers Association[11] in which no mention of horses was made, almost 3.5 billion pounds of livestock and poultry mortalities were reported in 2000. During that same year, the US based horse slaughter facilities slaughtered 47,134 horses. Had all of these horses been disposed of by non-slaughter methods resulting in the need to dispose of approximately 47,134,000 pounds of matter (based on an average weight per horse of 1,000 pounds), this would have represented a measly 1.3% increase in the total livestock and poultry mortalities that year.

    Horse slaughter is not a form of humane euthanasia, nor is it a “necessary evil”. The horse slaughter industry is a predatory one that exists only because there is a profit to be made by fulfilling consumer demand in overseas markets for horse flesh. Rather than aiding horse welfare, as slaughter proponents contend, horse slaughter results in very tangible animal cruelty and suffering while engendering abuse and neglect. Currently, horse owners have a choice of what to do at the end of their horse’s life - pay to do the right thing or be paid to do the wrong thing. In promoting horse slaughter as a form of humane euthanasia, professional veterinary associations do a disservice to the animals they are meant to care for. For these reasons, VEW supports an end to horse slaughter and advocates quick passage of The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1176).

    [1] Commercial Transportation of Equines to Slaughter, 9 CFR Part 88,
    [2] The AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia (formerly the 2000 Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia), 2007
    [4] “A survey of the condition of horses arriving at two Texas slaughter plants indicated that 92.3 percent arrived in good condition,..” Guidelines for Handling and Transporting Equines to Slaughter by Temple Grandin, Ph.D. inGuidebook for USDA’s Slaughter Horse Transport Program issued December 2001.
    [5] No Abandoned Horses Found:, Representative Ed Whitfield, Florida Times-Union.
    [6] Horse Illustrated - July 2002 quoting Carolyn Stull, Ph.D., animal welfare specialist at the Veterinary Medical Extension at the University of California, Davis on the 1998 California ballot ban of horse slaughter. “Stull also notes that there has been no increase in the number of horses being neglected in California as a result of the law. ‘One concern when the law passed was that there might be an increase in neglected or starved horses,’ she says. ‘This has not been the case.’”
    [7] In 2002, the Illinois based Hooved Animal Humane Society (HAHS) received 262 complaints of potential hooved animal (primarily equine) abuse and neglect in the state of Illinois. As of December 23, The Society has received 165 complaints for the year 2003.-- HAHS testimony to Illinois General Assembly in 2003.
    [9] “How do I know it is time?: Equine Euthanasia” April 2005,
    [11] Livestock Mortalities: Methods of Disposal and Their Potential Cost - March 2002, National Renderers Association,

    Updated June 2011

    Horse DNA Found in Two Spanish Burgers

    Does anyone really know what is in our food anymore?  They have found more horsemeat in burgers, this time in Spain.  ~Declan

    Horse DNA found in two Spanish burgers

    hamburger-spainTwo of 20 burgers analysed by a Spanish consumer group have tested positive for horse DNA, it has been revealed.
    The testing was organised by the OrganizaciĆ³n de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU).
    The organisation selected 20 fresh packaged hamburgers sold in supermarkets. They were were sold under different names and marked with the likes of “Prepared with minced meat” and “Burger Meat”.
    It took the samples to a laboratory for analysis of meat quality, the presence of additives, preservatives, dyes, flavor enhancers, the presence of antibiotics, hygiene standards, and nutritional levels.
    Following recent revelations of horse DNA in beef burgers sold in Ireland and Britain, the organisation requested testing of the samples of horse DNA.
    The results showed two of the 20 samples contained horse DNA.
    In addition, a group of culinary experts assessed the quality of the samples, both raw and cooked on the grill.
    The organisation found that, on the whole, the quality of the burgers was poor.
    “The quality of meat products analyzed is generally poor: many tendons, cartilage used instead of quality meat,” it said.
    Some had too much fat and salt, and too many additives.

    Acupuncture Benefits Horses Too

    Acupuncture can be used as treatment and also as a diagnostic tool for practitioners.  It all sounds very interesting.  Has anyone ever had acupuncture done on their horse before?  What did you think of it?  ~Declan

    Equestrian Bits: Acupuncture benefits horses, too

    Jan 26, 2013  As posted on

    A horse rests with needles near his hoof after an acupuncture treatment.
    A horse rests with needles near his hoof after an acupuncture treatment. / Gannett News Service

    The use of alternative health care is growing in this country, but it’s not limited to humans. Equine veterinarians are starting to realize the benefits of combining Far Eastern medicine with modern veterinary care.
    Acupuncture has been practiced on humans (and horses) for more than 3,000 years in China; it is now gaining acknowledgment with professional organizations.
    Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners now recognize acupuncture as a “valid modality” in the field of equine health.
    The theory of acupuncture is that there are meridian points throughout the body that correspond to various organs and structures; if the flow of energy along these meridian points is blocked, pain and illness can result. Acupuncture opens the flow and restores the proper balance to the systems of the body. In the West, the prevalent theory is that stimulation of the meridian points act on the hypothalamic-pituitary system via the central nervous system to release natural painkillers such as endorphins. Consequently, the application of acupuncture in this country is primarily for purposes of pain relief.
    When you think of acupuncture, you think of needles, and this is the traditional method; sterile dry needles are inserted into meridian points and left for 20 to 30 minutes. The needles may be attached to an electrical device that delivers mild electrical pulses to the points for added stimulation; this is often referred to as electroacupuncture. Meridian points may also be injected, often with vitamin B, to produce a longer-lasting stimulation of the area.
    In an interesting combination of ancient and modern, non-invasive lasers are sometimes used to stimulate the points without breaking the skin. Another non-invasive technique is acupressure, massage that focuses on the points.
    Practitioners of acupuncture use it not only as a treatment, but as a diagnostic tool.
    By applying pressure along the meridians and gauging the horse’s reaction, a trained expert can often tell where the horse is experiencing pain and discomfort. Acupuncture is also used as a preventative; performance horses seem to benefit from regular maintenance, and some trainers use the technique as part of their regime. Several European equestrian teams have a practitioner who travels with them for this purpose.
    It seems like a horse wouldn’t be very amenable to being poked with needles in this fashion, but most accept it surprisingly well. There are many reports of horses dozing off while under treatment.
    I have witnessed acupuncture once on a horse that was having back pain; he reacted very little to the application of the needles and was, in fact, quite relaxed during the process.
    It is important to seek conventional treatment first for any health problems your horse may experience; the best course of action is to augment modern veterinary treatment with traditional medicines and techniques such as acupuncture.
    Your veterinarian can recommend a qualified practitioner if this type of treatment may benefit your horse.
    The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society is a good source for finding a practitioner or verifying credentials. Visit www.ivas.orgto access this organization.
    Mary Keating is an equestrian professional who has ridden and owned horses in the Hudson Valley for more than 35 years, earning a degree in Equine Studies at Johnson & Wales University. Her column appears the fourth Sunday of every month.