- I received some thoughtful comments on my post on the NY Times column by William C. Rhoden last week about the “unknown” filly who died of a heart attack at Belmont on Wednesday. Particularly interesting was the commenter who relates that he/she had been interviewed by Rhoden that day, but that those responses didn’t make it into the piece.
He baited me with the comment that everyone seemed to care about Barbaro, but no one seemed to care about this "anonymous" filly. I told him, "No one cares? I can assure you, sir, that this filly's connections were grief-stricken." He asked who those connections might be. I told him "the assistant trainer and groom ran out there immediately, to be by her side. To the people who spend every day of the week with her, she was as special to them as Barbaro is to the Jacksons".These remarks obviously didn’t fit into Rhoden’s agenda, and thus ended up on the cutting floor. I had complimented the columnist on at least his reporting skills that were on display, but this revelation shows that he was equally adept at skewing the results of his endeavors towards his point of view (and reader Steve D makes a fair point to the effect that he feels that this is common practice for a newspaper that he, and others, consider to be at the forefront of what they consider to be the liberal media).
On Saturday, Rhoden wrote another column that bashes the industry (again, subscription only, sorry), claiming that in the wake of the Barbaro injury:
..questions have begun to percolate about a bizarre thoroughbred industry, from its training methods to the medication to the routine treatment of horses who aren't superstars.‘Bizarre?’ That’s a pretty bizarre way in itself to describe a sport that has been part of the mainstream in this country far longer than his beloved basketball has. Rhoden then segues into a discussion of horse slaughter in this country, and here, as opposed to what I considered to be skillful reporting in the prior column, the journalism is shockingly shoddy.
For one thing, he fails to mention that industry groups such as the NTRA and the NYRA have universally supported legislation to ban horse slaughter. Nor does he discuss the numerous private efforts, such as those by organizations such as Old Friends, to find homes for horses after their racing careers. No surprise there.
But worse yet, he writes that: The legislation has been doggedly and successfully fought by cattle associations and veterinarian groups. He never mentions the fact that legislation intended to ban the slaughterhouses was indeed passed by Congress last September. That law attempted to do so by prohibiting federal funding for required inspections of the plants. But the three slaughterhouses circumvented the law by appealing to the Agriculture Department, which subsequently allowed the plants to pay for the inspections themselves. This is one of the examples of the executive branch of the Bush Administration running roughshod over the legislative branch, and perhaps one of the incidents that has contributed to what we can definitely refer to as the "bizarre" sight of Republicans objecting to the recent FBI raid on Democratic Senator William Jefferson’s office. Frankly, I find it rather amazing that a columnist for the so-called Paper of Record would be so negligent with his research.
But despite the shoddy reporting, the column is not completely without its merits. Perhaps you will be as surprised as I am to learn that Dr. Larry Bramlage, the vet who told the Preakness audience on NBC to “say a prayer” for Barbaro, is opposed to current legislative efforts to permanently ban the slaughterhouses.
"We have to have to face the fact that there are unwanted horses, uncared-for horses and neglected horses.....It's a better scenario for the quality of the horse's life to assure that they'll be taken care of and assured that somebody takes the responsibility not to let them suffer. We don't promote the fact that people have to send their horses to slaughter. If there's any other option, we'd prefer they do that."Hopefully, Dr. Bramlage said a prayer for these horses too. His views reflect those of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, of which he is a member. Tom Lenz, a former president of the organization told Rhoden of horses who meet this fate: "They got there because they didn't meet somebody's needs."
Bramlage described the process by which the horses are slaughtered as instant, humane death. "People think of half-dressed, unshaven people wielding knives," he said. Instead, the slaughterhouses use a bolt gun and a bullet that is on a spring and placed between the horse's eyes and ears. "It shoots out the end and springs back," he said.
This euthanasia system renders the horse instantly unconscious. "You watch the horse, their eyes don't change, they don't even blink and the ears don't even move," Bramlage said. "They drop straight down instantly."
Lenz said that those who own horses, those who buy horses and those who breed horses need to do some soul-searching and decide what their motives are for owning a horse and their capabilities of taking care of a horse.Now, there’s one thing that we and the columnist for the Times can agree on.
"Outlawing processing is not going to solve the problem," he said.
Maybe not, but it's a start. Eliminate the slaughterhouse.
Let the horse die a natural death.