An effort to mandate the tracking of retired racehorses in New York has now picked up support in both houses of the state Legislature.
Sen. Joseph Addabbo, a Queens Democrat who represents Aqueduct Racetrack, recently introduced a measure to create a seven-member Commission on Retired Racehorses to monitor the whereabouts and treatment of retired Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. The new Senate bill by Addabbo, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, is the same as one introduced in the Assembly earlier this year by Gary Pretlow, a Westchester County Democrat who chairs that chamber’s racing committee.
“Horses have played a significant role in the history and culture of the United States,” a bill memo accompanying the legislation states, noting that racehorses in New York have generated billions of dollars in economic activity in the state.
“Despite what they may have contributed, many horses at a young age (that) are no longer profitable or affordable for the owner, wind up in international slaughterhouses to be inhumanely slaughtered for consumption abroad where horse meat is a major delicacy,” the bill memo adds.
The bill puts reporting requirements on horse owners, requiring reports to be filed with the state within 72 hours of any ownership change of a retired racehorse, along with contact information about owners and other recordkeeping rules. The death of a former racehorse must also be reported to a state registry within 72 hours. Each violation of the measure’s provisions can be assessed a fine up to $500–if violators are a resident of New York State.
Using Jockey Club data, the NYSGC spent nearly two years compiling the whereabouts of every New York-bred Thoroughbred that raced between 2010 and 2012. Of 3,894 horses that raced in that period, the commission was able to locate 1,871 horses. Of those, 356 were deceased, three sold at auction and 1,512 were retired in some form, such as 604 retired as broodmares or 155 adopted.
St. Charles resident Kris Anderson doesn’t regard herself as a horse whisperer, but she does admit hanging around horses has made her a more sensitive human being.
“Being around them has given me more of a unity and connection with living things,” Anderson said.
The retired 4th grade teacher now serves as a board member and volunteer for Casey’s Safe Haven in Elburn, a non-profit equine rescue facility founded in 2011 that has been accepting cast off horses, ponies, donkeys and mules that are later adopted, boarded, or allowed to live out their natural lives.
Anderson said finding this new chapter of life at Casey’s was the result of “an angel guiding me in the right direction.”
Casey founder Sue Balla of Elburn said she grew up in Downers Grove and that despite living in a horseless environment, they were always on her mind.
Changes in her life forced Balla to search for another outlet after the riding school closed. A friend suggested she lease a barn in Elburn and Casey’s Safe Haven was born, named after a horse purchased at an auction that became Balla’s friend for more than a quarter century.
Virtually no animal is turned away.
“Over the years, we’ve probably taken in about 50 animals and our mind set is to get them healthy and adopted,” Balla said. “On average, the animals need about two years to get healthy, but given that this is a sanctuary and rescue, some of them never leave.”
Horse owners in Denmark face a six-month wait if they want to feed their recently deceased equines to the lions.
It’s become so popular to donate the carcass of your dead horse to Copenhagen Zoo as food for its carnivores that there’s now a waiting list, Denmark’s TV2 reports.
Given the choice between having your deceased animal collected and recycled by a private company for a fee of up to 3,700 krone ($584; £443), more owners are looking into the “cheaper and more natural” option of zoo donation, the TV says.
The zoo alternative is free, the Copenhagen Post notes, and owners find their service more comforting than the thought of their beloved animal becoming biodiesel and meatballs.
Part of the food chain
“When the horse is eaten by lions, it is part of the food chain,” horse owner Karina Fisker says. She said it was important to her that her horse Vorning Hestepension didn’t suffer any distress.
“The horses are our one and everything. It’s all very emotional,” she told TV2.
The zoo’s press office says that the waiting list tends to expand in the autumn after owners give their horses “one last summer in the pasture”.
But horse meat is only part of the diet for Copenhagen Zoo’s lions, tigers and brown bears.
“They eat a lot of horsemeat, but they also vary their diet with rabbits, calves and a single goat or zebra every now and then,” the zoo’s Jacob Munkholm Hoeck says.
So an owner has their horse put down and the zoo picks up the carcass? How do you feel about this?
Killing Horses for Zoo Meat in the U.S.
Bravo Packing in New Jersey have been slaughtering horses to supply meat to U.S. zoos for as long as we have been around. That’s 15 years at least. Tuesday’s Horse was told they have been in this business much longer.
Vivian called to see if Bravo Packing are still open and slaughtering horses for zoo meat. They are. She didn’t get much further than that. The woman who answered the phone couldn’t hang up fast enough the moment she realized Vivian was not a prospective buyer.
Zoos continue to be the largest consumers of horse meat in the United States. The meat from several thousand horses ends up in the freezers of U.S. zoos every year.
Slaughtering and transporting horses for human consumption is still illegal in the State of Jersey.
Featured Image Source: Zoo lion sunning himself. Wikimedia Commons.