America's Great Horse Culture in Peril as Economy Leaves More Equines Vulnerable To Crimes of Slaughter --The Body Politic Radio Show Gets Inside Grisly Door of Equine Slaughter Transport
/24-7/ -- It's near midnight as a two-tier cattle truck climbs a hill 50 miles from Tulsa, OK, grinding and spitting from its lumbering load. The grueling 1,000 mile trek that began at a horse auction near Waukegon, Illinois is far from over, as the truck's destination is a Texas holding pen earmarked for slaughter-bound horses nearly 355 miles away. If the truck makes it across the state line, it will deliver nearly 50 horses----yearlings, pregnant mares, registered Thoroughbreds, purebred Arabians, wild Mustangs and ponies, Appaloosas, and newly born foals to a Mexican slaughter house. While these equines have individual stories and backgrounds, they share one commonality: They were all purchased at auction by what is known in the industry as "kill buyers" who are fulfilling independent contracts with the slaughter house. As many as 22 horses have already died en route due to kicking injuries, water and food deprivation, and suffocation since departing the auction nearly 72 hours earlier. This scene is not set in the Dust Bowl era. The overweight, fragile truck is not filled with John Steinbeck's endearing "Joad" family seeking a better life . It's a glimpse into the all too real underworld of horse slaughter transport to plants located in Mexico and Canada-----fostering a highly egregious form of animal cruelty that continues unabated in the U.S. despite years of bitter public and political opposition.
The continued public outcry prompted Congressman John Sweeney (R-NY) and John Spratt (D-SC) to sponsor bill H.R. 503 in 2006 in an effort to stop Mexico and Canada from butchering tens of thousands of healthy American horses every month. Although passed by a strong bipartisan vote in the House, the bill has been reportedly blocked by Agricultural special interest groups repeatedly, and remains in a seemingly permanent state of limbo in the Senate. The bill was reintroduced to the House of Representatives on January 14, 2009 by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Michigan) and Dan Burton (R-Indiana), which became known as The Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009. The bill would criminalize the shipping, transporting, purchasing, selling, delivering, or receiving of any horse, horse flesh, or carcass with the intent that it be used for human consumption. In 2007, two slaughter plants in Texas and the last slaughter house in Illinois were permanently shut due to the enforcement of state laws and related lawsuits. Passage of H.R. 503 would prevent such slaughter houses from opening in any state that does not already have a ban in place. More than 100,000 American horses were exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter last year.
On Monday, December 7, at 1:00 PM PST, radio host and investigative journalist, Suzanne Marcus-Fletcher will continue her Itunes series on the state of horse welfare in America in a 60 minute interview with nationally recognized equine advocate Shelley Sawhook, President of the American Horse Defense Fund (AHDF) based in Washington, D.C. AHDF is the nation's leading horse welfare organization working to protect America's horses from abuse www.savinghorses.org. Fletcher's interview with Sawhook can be heard live or on demand at www.blogtalkradio/thebodypolitic or by calling The Body Politic Listener dial-in number: (646) 595-2146 at 1:00 P.M. PST on 12/7/09. The broadcast will be available in the Itunes store under The Body Politic / Blog Talk Radio podcasts.
Among the show's topics will be the current status of H.R. 503, and other major advocacy initiatives now underway at the AHDF on the issues of slaughter and equine transport.
National awareness of the equine slaughter issue ballooned after it was learned that one of America's 100 greatest racehorses named Exceller-----who beat two Triple Crown winners in the 1978 Jockey Gold Cup (Seattle Slew and Affirmed) and won 11 Grade or Group one Races, died in a slaughterhouse in Sweden on April 7, 1997----the same month he was nominated for induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Fletcher's interview with the The Exceller Fund's Executive Director, Nicole Smith, and former President/Executive Director Bonnie Mizrahi is available in the Itunes store and at www.suzannemarcusfletcher.com. The Exceller Fund www.excellerfund.org was launched one month after the famed equines' death to help transition Thoroughbred horses to a second career off the track and provide "a future beyond the finish line." Said Mizrahi, "We all bemoan what happened to Exceller, yet this [slaughter] is happening every week with race horses that aren't as well known, but are no less deserving." Indeed, slaughter foes appeared to unite en mass after American news agencies reported that Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, ended up in a slaughterhouse in Japan in 2002.
"Horse slaughter is an industry----not a charitable way for farmers to dispose of their old, sick, horses as believed by many across the country" said acclaimed equine advocate, Anne Irving. "It is an industry driven by the demand of foreign diners in Europe and Japan who consider American horse-meat a delicacy, and enjoy the lean horse-meat, which sells for approximately $20.00 per pound - and costs about .39 to .49 cents per pound on the hoof at auction," noted Irving. "Following the closing of the U.S. based plants, exports to Canadian and Mexican plants increased to quickly bring the total slaughter (numbers) back to the same level as before the closings."
Fletcher will continue her series on the state of horse welfare in America with AHDF President, Shelley Sawhook, Friday December 11, at 1:00 PM PST on The Body Politic radio show. This episode will focus on the Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act (ROAM), including a discussion of the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) alleged plans to initiate mass round-ups in Nevada and elsewhere with the intent to move a significant number of America's remaining wild horses and burros----symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West----into mass holding pens or visitor sanctuaries on the East Coast. For more information on this issue, please visit www.savinghorses.org
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