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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Smile Again

- I think that this article is worth reading in its entirety for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it presents a powerful argument against the total elimination of horse slaughter plants in this country. Honestly, this is not an issue I've really explored here, and I'm not taking a position either way. But my knee jerk reaction has always been, 'well yeah, of course shut down the plants.' So I appreciate reading some informed opposing points of view.

Secondly, I think it's worth reading in light of all the self-flagellation going on since the Derby. I don't think this industry has anything to be ashamed of with respect to how it treats its horses, and this piece is one reason why. Of course, there are exceptions in any business, but thoroughbred racehorses receive a lot of tender loving care, and that's something that the industry should be proud of (and about which they should be letting people know) And we should be similarly proud of the concern for the animals' well-being that has had the sport entangled in the impassioned debate over synthetic tracks that are changing the very nature of the game. That's a discussion that's been going on since long before last Saturday.

It's time to move on from Eight Belles, while retaining what's been learned, and working towards making the game safer for the participants. While what happened was sad, I suspect she lived a pretty good life, and even a long one compared to some kids around the world given the natural disasters and shocking indifference that have occurred over the last couple of weeks. I hope we can all put a smile on again for the Triple Crown's second jewel. So, who do you like for second?


(You don't have to answer, just needed a closing line.)

17 Comments:

robin said...

Wow, Alan, I think you are way way way out of line on the issue of horse slaughter. There are many ways to dispose of a horse if it is sick or lame. Whether it is your hobby animal or an economic benefit from racing, it's not a steer or a hog or a chicken. Just because the economy is down doesn't mean barbaric practices should be legalized. The responsibility to care for a pet comes when you take it in. And, the responsibility to care for a racehorse should be part of its maintenance cost for its entire life, not until it stops winning.

Ever think of euthanasia and cremation for a sick or lame horse? Sure, that would cost a little bit more, but these are not animals raised for meat. They have years-long relationships with people, for the most part with people on their backs, talking to them, trusting them with our safety and recreational pleasure. To frighten and starve them on crowded transport trucks, to SELL them for MEAT, is disgusting.

This issue has nothing whatsoever to do with Eight Belles. I do not even know why you brought that up, except that protest over accidents and protest over slaughter BOTH get in the way of your hobby. You are a very good analyst, but on this issue, your judgment seems to be quite obscured by your desire to focus on the game. Snap out of it.

alan said...

Robin - As I said, I'm not taking any position whatsoever on the issue. Just find it interesting to read some opposite viewpoints for a change, since we don't see them in the racing press. There's two sides of every issue, even something as seemingly straightforward as this.

Teresa said...

I am a cautious supporter of ending slaughter in this country, but a couple of elements of the movement trouble me, and unfortunately, its proponents too seldom (in my experience) want to discuss what I see as the more complex and less emotional parts of the argument.

Robin alludes to one of them: "it's not a steer or a hog or a chicken." All of those animals experience pain and fear in the same way that horses do, yet many anti-slaughter proponents refuse to take on the question of why it's only horses that shouldn't be subjected to the current barbaric practices.

The other point is that many anti-slaughter advocates refuse to take responsibility for the unintended consequences of their political lobbying. I spoke recently to a person connected with a high-profile organization devoted to saving racing horses, and this person told me off the record that he thinks that the anti-slaughter movement is a disaster, and that it's doing far more harm than good.

Unfortunately, when such viewpoints are expressed, some of the more extreme anti-slaughter advocates come out with both barrels firing, and any hope of a reasonable, informed discussion is lost.

robin said...

Alan, I appreciate your stated objectivity, but I think the fact that you also state that the racing industry has nothing to be ashamed of with regard to the way it treats its horses is, actually, a pretty defined position. Defending how wonderfully racehorses' lives are is a fine argument, until they lose, at which point they are as valuable as the meat on their bones. That's the whole point. You need to look at their whole lives, not their racing lives, and at the economic interest of the people who buy them and only look to the end of their profitable existence. It's just plain irresponsible. Diluting the argument against racehorse slaughter by focusing on trouble economics in the west is avoiding the RACEhorse slaughter issue.

As for the other animals who also suffer before slaughter, Teresa, there is a difference between consciously raising animals for the sole purpose of meat, and the unnecessary enjoyment of horseracing. I do not argue that pigs are treated well, but nobody is arguing that pigs are treated like kings by their owners, or that they are anything but living bacon.

I could not bet on Porky to show in the first race on a sloppy track at Belmont and then eat his ham steak with pineapple if he broke a hoof in the stretch.

Superfecta said...

The fact remains that most equine vets (including the Big Names) don't have a problem with slaughter because it's typically more humane than letting a horse starve to death or to live untreated in a field.

And it's true that racehorses are not the horses most often seen in the slaughterhouse - they are a relatively small percentage of the market since they typically do not weigh enough to command big prices.

I saw a very interesting panel discussion with the vet from New Holland (among others - there were certainly names people would recognize there) and he emphasized that sick horses are never, ever allowed to be sold to kill buyers - they cannot be legally certified for slaughter. That doesn't mean people don't try, but they do turn them away.

Addressing the issues of overbreeding (especially backyard breeders) is going to be the way to make more useful arguments against slaughter; thoroughbreds get the headlines, but it's Belgians and Quarter Horses that end up in the plants in far greater numbers.

alan said...

>>Diluting the argument against racehorse slaughter by focusing on trouble economics in the west is avoiding the RACEhorse slaughter issue.

True, but conversely, focusing only on racehorses in the slaughter issue avoids the matter of all of the other breeds.

Your point regarding looking at racehorses' whole lives and not just their racing lives is well-taken.

Anonymous said...

It is very simple an inexpensive to "euthanize (there has to be a better word?" a horse.

There is no need for slaughter in this country, the sole purpose is greed driven, for both the final owner, who wants his 400 bucks for the meat instead of spending a hundred bucks to euthanize the poor thing, to the sub humans that buy these poor animals for resale to the plants, and of course the foreign ownded slaughterhouses themselves.

No excuse, these are domestic animals trained their entire lives to trust humans, only then to be betrayed by a dead bolt gun like a poor victim in "No Country For Old Men".

Anonymous said...

Super, to address your exact point, slaughter and starving are not the only two options.

Euthansia is the third, but of course that costs a hundred bucks and the trainer won't get the 400 bucks from the killer.

Note that many times, these horses go straight from the racetrack to the kill pens, bypassing the meat auctions.

Some tracks have weekly pick ups from the killers, with the trainer(many times also the owner at the low levels) taking cash and telling the owner that the horse was donated to a good home.

If your trainer tells you he is donating the horse to a rescue or a good home, ask him for the name and address of the new owner and a reciept for tax purposes.

Anonymous said...

And it makes no difference to me whethar it is a draft horse or a race horse, they are pets that perform useful service for their owners and their slaughter for meat should be banned.

Should be treated no differently than killing a dog or cat.

How long would a plant stay open in Texas if it was dedicated to slaughtering dogs and cats for consumption in some country where their meat was considered a delicacy?

Those places exist, so if horse can be slaughtered why not Fido and Tabby?

alan said...

The apparent problem with euthanasia is that carcasses are ending up being dumped in landfills because of the difficulty some owners have securing burial space. Do you believe that's a more acceptable fate than ending up on someone's dinner plate? Not a pleasant choice to make I know.

Anonymous said...

If it feeds a hungry person then so be it.

I often think my dog would taste delicious with a little bit of garlic sauce and rosemary. She has such succulent-looking thighs.

As far as horses go, I mean c'mon dude. It's a brutal world with suffering all over the globe. If they can find a way to end it quickly and efficiently while providing food supply for living creatures then it seems like making the best of an unfortunate facet of life.

Anonymous said...

peta rescued 3000 animals one year they euthanized about 2000 of them whats the difference? also horses, dogs and cats taste awful thats why we dont eat any of them because we can afford not to have to do it. but that might change if gas goes up anymore oh wait maybe i will keep the horse and go hunt cats on horse back

Erin said...

I really don't want to get invested in this issue here, but I cannot help but point out to all that there is huge difference between a trip to a slaughter facility and processing there, and humane euthanasia. Economic incentives and convenience will drive many people to chose the former if it is an option.
Humane euthanasia - not slaughter. It would serve unwanted horses everywhere to do more to make humane euthanasia a viable alternative.
And as far as where the bodies go, I could care less - it's all carbon at that point anyhow.

BobF said...

If you haven't already seen it, and if you aren't squeamish, check out the current episode of HBO's Realsports. Bernie Goldberg did a segment on horse slaughter. They followed a horse from the backstretch at Mountaineer, to the auction, to the slaughterhouse. They also showed some of the practices used by some Canadian and Mexican facilities. Just be warned that there is some disturbing footage.

Anonymous said...

Sick horses are never, ever allowed to be sold to slaughter? That's a good one. Sure, it may be illegal, but to say that it doesn't happen is so wrong. I've donated to several rescues to get a sick horse out of the killbuyer's truck, horses so sick that the rescue determined that the most humane thing to do was euthanize the animal and put it out of its misery. It's disgusting how some will legitimatize cruelty and suffering for the almighty dollar.

Anonymous said...

Alan, You surely need to go to some of these low end auctions and observe the sick and lame horses that are permitted to be sold and then on a long inhumane travel to their deaths.
Many TB's head right to slaughter, A BIG JOKE!! So much for our USDA! We are head to head with China permitting these horses to be slaughtered for human consumption being many drugs are in their system. These drugs are banned in our meat animals and can stay in the animal indefinately!Our pet food companys will not even use horsemeat!
From what I have observed of late concerning racing,it needs more regulation. Seems anybody can be a trainer! Just fill the races for the card every day! More throw away horses!!
The AHSPA act just might weed out all the irresponsible owners,breeders and trainers!!

Anonymous said...

Here are some facts: 80% of Americans are opposed to horse slaughter, whose sole purpose is to provide horse meat as a delicacy to oversees countries such as Belgium and Japan. Over 90% of the horses slaughtered are healthy horses, many are babies and many are pregnant. Thousands of the horses slaughtered come directly from the race track to the slaughter house. This is inhumane. Horses are companion animals, not livestock. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Haven't humans evolved to the point that we don't use animals for entertainment and gambling purposes? Watch the HBO segment about Mountaineer Race Track. It will teach you a lot about the underbelly of the horse racing industry -- which is tied into the slaughter industry. We need to urge our Senators and Representatives to pass S-311 and HR-503, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which will keep our horse slaughter plants permanently closed, prevent new ones from opening and end the inhumane transport of 100,000 healthy horses every year to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. Many of these doomed horses shipping in unsafe double-decker trailers, with no food and water, and many die on the harrowing journey. Those unfortunate souls that survive have their throats and spines slashed by knives while they are fully conscious. This is because Mexico has no animal rights laws. EVERYONE NEEDS TO LEARN ABOUT THIS ISSUE AND URGE CONGRESS TO END THIS BARBARIC PRACTICE. WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS!