The Times Union | Rebekah F. Ward | March 2022
Rebeka Ward writes:
SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — The footage of Tender Boy appeared on TikTok in late December.
Posted by a rescue group, the video showed the New York thoroughbred with bloodied hindquarters and ribs visible through his emaciated flanks as he hobbled in front of a “kill pen” in a rural county in southern Pennsylvania.
Just a few weeks earlier, the 6-year-old had run in multiple claiming races at Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in Ontario County. “The crowd used to roar for him. But you wouldn’t know it looking at him now,” the clip’s narrator says.
Horse Racing Unbridled
The Times Union spent more than six months examining the horse racing industry in New York and beyond, conducting dozens of interviews with key stakeholders, from trainers, owners, scientists, investigators, track operators and lawmakers to advocates who believe the sport is cruel and should be shut down. The newspaper also sifted through court records and reviewed data sets on testing, injuries, equine deaths, taxpayer subsidies, enforcement and more.
The video was shot at Rotz’s Livestock in Shippensburg, Pa., the only pen of its kind in the Northeast that trucks horses directly to slaughter in Canada. The broker’s low-profile barn is visible behind Tender Boy, near a small dirt pen containing horses bearing numbered stickers from their livestock auction tours.
The pen’s operator, Bruce Rotz Jr., has since shipped a number of the equines — ex-racers among them — to a Quebec slaughterhouse called Viande Richelieu. Rotz has sent others south to meat plants in Mexico. But many animals were “networked” out, sold to rescues or private buyers at the last minute.
Since 2007, there have been no legal slaughterhouses processing horses for human consumption in the U.S., following court decisions and a congressional move to defund U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections. Advocates seeking an outright ban through legislation such as the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act have failed to overcome opposition from groups that include the American Farm Bureau and the American Quarter Horse Association.
“I think the SAFE Act stands zero chance of passing in this Congress,” said Marty Irby, a lobbyist and former equestrian who directs Animal Wellness Action. Irby and others have also tried to attach anti-slaughter rules to other bills.
Last year, New York approved legislation aimed at removing some horses from the slaughter pipeline, following the path of anti-slaughter laws in Texas, Illinois, California and New Jersey. But unlike those states, New York only barred the slaughter of thoroughbred and standardbred race horses and breeding stock.
The state law will face implementation challenges, including the interstate nature of the trade in which horses are grouped for shipping irrespective of breed or state of origin. Many slaughter-bound horses also are first driven out of state or to open auctions by traders before they are purchased by shippers like Rotz.
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Featured Image: Horses on their way from the US to Canada for slaughter for human consumption. Posted images not filed with quoted article.
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