Racing through the slaughter pipeline — Remember Ferdinand and Exceller

Here They Come(c) Dave Blackwww.daveblackphotography.com

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — U.S. horse racing has an increasingly worsening reputation regarding the treatment of its racehorses chiefly because of the egregious use of illicit drugs and the tragic stream of breakdowns and deaths of racehorses. A recent trend is the alarming number of breakdown and deaths of racehorses as young as two and three during training before they ever make it onto a racecourse. See Patrick Battuello’s site “Horseracing Wrongs” for details.

Some attempt to point out that not all horse racing is as evil as what goes on in the U.S., that in other racing jurisdictions around the world they train and race their horses in a cleaner, more ethical fashion whose horses consequently suffer fewer breakdowns and death.

That may well be true. However, whether this is factual in whole or in part, there is one issue that all of horse racing has in common and it is this — the slaughter of its racehorses.

Jane Allin is unrivalled in her research and reporting on horse racing in N. America. Several years ago, Allin wrote a report called “Racing Through the Slaughter Pipeline” which we have published on our website.

We republish below Part 1 of “Horse Racing Through the Slaughter Pipeline” entitled, “Food for Thought”.  We invite you to read further than Part 1 via the links provided following this excerpt to get an insight into the bloodiness and death endemic to the so called “sport” of horse racing.


Racing through the Slaughter Pipeline
Part 1: Food for Thought, by JANE ALLIN

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“Graceful and sleek, the beautiful bay racehorse was used to the thunder of applause as she swept past the grandstand – not the sound of a rifle. The seven-year-old mare had raced at courses up and down the country, nostrils flaring, long neck straining and mane flying in the wind as she approached the winning post. However, earlier this month, her career ended unceremoniously with one last outing – to the slaughterhouse.  She was led into a 12 ft square metal stall and killed with a bullet fired from the ‘meat man’s’ .22 rifle into her brain.  No more crowds, galloping hooves up the home straight or champagne corks popping.  That single shot was the last sound she heard.” [1]

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FOR DECADES horse racing has been touted as the “Sport of Kings”, resplendent with charismatic beauty, energy and awe-inspiring competition of humankind’s most celebrated and noble companions.

What once began as a sport that captivated the masses in pursuit of exhilarating recreation and honed the excellence of horsemanship required in battle has now become but a mass-producing genetic assembly line in an absurd quest for racing excellence fueled by greed.

The consequences of this development are not pretty.

The multi-billion dollar racing industry cultivates the fallacious impression of retired racehorses living lives of luxury, grazing in fields of Kentucky bluegrass, serving as pampered family pets or well-provided-for riding horses and the like.

In reality the vast majority of thoroughbreds (2 out of every 3) coming off the track, regardless of their health, are either euthanized, abandoned or slaughtered for their meat.

Most of these are young, healthy horses who simply have not met their owner’s expectations or injured during the grueling task of training and racing while pumped full of drugs. [2]

Only a small number of the whole are considered good enough for breeding which is primarily reserved for only the best in the industry. For thousands of Thoroughbreds that do not make the grade, whatever the reason, the end is both terrifying and brutal.

Intentional or not, the horse racing industry now subsists as a principal tributary of the slaughter pipeline ― a confluence where magnificent bloodstock race for their lives toward the equine version of the river Styx ― the river that separates the world of the living from that of the dead.
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[1] http://tiny.cc/5thkg
[2] Allin, Jane; “The Chemical Horse,” Int’l Fund for Horses

• Read more . . .

Part 1: Food for Thought  |  Part 2: The Racehorse as a Commodity  |  Part 3: A Convenient Alternative  |  Part 4: Racehorse Slaughter Knows No Boundaries  |  Part 5: Darkness at the End of the Pipeline

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Remember Ferdinand. Remember Exceller.

Two former U.S. horse racing stars who met their deaths in foreign slaughterhouses drew major attention to the fact that racehorses were being slaughtered not only abroad but also at home. They were Ferdinand and Exceller. Ferdinand was slaughtered in Japan and Exceller was slaughtered in Sweden.

The New York Times reported Ferdinand’s tragic demise this way:

Victories in the 1986 Kentucky Derby and the 1987 Breeders’ Cup Classic figured to have earned Ferdinand a cushy retirement when his racing days were over. Instead, his life apparently ended in a grisly manner, in a Japanese slaughterhouse in 2002, according to the racing industry trade magazine The Blood-Horse, which will report his death in its issue dated July 26. It is believed that his carcass was used to make pet food.

The Exceller Fund tells us this about the brutal and terrifying end of Exceller’s life, handed over to meet his grisly fate by someone he had bonded with and trusted.

Best remembered as the only horse to beat two Triple Crown winners, he [Exceller] proved his quality on a global scale by winning graded or Group 1 stakes on both sides of the Atlantic.

Exceller stopped being Exceller when breeder interest waned. At that point, he became just another horse. His final destination was similar to that of an estimated three million American horses from 1986-’96.

Anne Pagmar, who led him to slaughter, said Exceller knew what was going on. He smelled blood and expressed fear. Tied off and hung by a single hind limb, fractious horses thrash while their executioners bludgeon and bludgeon. They are alive when their throats are cut and they are bled to death.

One American horseman, when told of Exceller’s last walk, said, “They have to die sometime.”

Not everyone has grown cold. Christine Picavet galloped horses after coming to America from France, and one of those horses was Exceller. She went on to become a noted artist and she painted the horse twice. She still bears the scar of a playful bite. When she heard Exceller’s story, she struggled for words describing his generosity and kind disposition. Then, in tears, she apologized, begged for time to compose herself and put the phone down.

Take Action Against Horse Slaughter

There is something you can do in memory of Ferdinand and Exceller and all horses brutally slaughtered for human consumption.

Write or call your U.S. Representative and ask them to co-sponsor and use their influence to pass the SAFE Act — H.R. 113 — that bans horse slaughter and closes the export to slaughter loophole for all horses including racehorses. Go here for more information on how to help.

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FEATURED IMAGE
The 142nd annual Run for the Roses, better known as the Kentucky Derby, which takes place in Louisville, Kentucky. The race for 3-year-old Thoroughbred horses began in 1875 and takes place annually at Churchill Downs.

Photo Credit: Here They Come (c) Dave Black http://www.daveblackphotography.com.

FURTHER READING

See also “10 Dark Secrets From the World of Horse Racing” here »

Why do Kentucky lawmakers appear to despise horses?

Horse in profile silhouetted against a night sky. Unattributed Google search image.

LOUISVILLE, KY — Why do Kentucky lawmakers appear to despise horses? It’s not simply having little to no regard for horses. These people seem to out and out despise them and want nothing to do with helping them in any way. How can this be?

Kentucky Lawmakers in Washington D.C.

The first politician’s name that springs to mind when it comes to horse hating lawmakers from Kentucky is of course U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who is also Senate Majority Leader and a huge power broker in the nation’s capital.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images via Politico.com.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images via Politico.com.

From where we stand McConnell is top of the list in terms of intensity of destructiveness concerning our nation’s horses and their wellbeing.

Whether it’s interfering with legislation and other federal measures that would virtually eliminate horse soring and Big Lick animal cruelty, or his reported holds on bills session after session that would protect horses from slaughter at home and abroad, McConnell has proven to be a vicious enemy to horses.

Cruelty, horse soring and horse slaughter are intrinsically linked. The scale of the pain and torment meted out to horses by  sorers and slaughterers is extensive and horrific. It is truly unconscionable. McConnell not only supports but also uses his power to maintain both the soring and slaughter of horses.

Why? It may be as simple as this — McConnell loves the money he gets for working on behalf of those who spitefully use and perpetrate cruelty against horses, and peddle their flesh for profit. McConnell probably doesn’t give a thought to the horses at all.

What about the rest of the legislators representing Kentuckians in Washington?

Since legislation addressing horse soring and horse slaughter are pending in the U.S. House alone at the moment, so we will focus on the Kentucky lawmakers there.

Plus, we do not think it any mystery how Kentucky Senators McConnell and Paul will act when the companion bills are introduced in the U.S. Senate.

U.S. House Members for Kentucky

• Rep. James Comer (R-KY-1) https://comer.house.gov/, 202-225-3115
Committees: Agriculture; Oversight and Government; Small Business

• Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY-2) https://guthrie.house.gov/, 202-225-3501
Committees: Education and the Workforce; Energy and Commerce

• Rep. John A. Yarmuth (D-KY-3) https://yarmuth.house.gov/, 202-225-5401
Committees: The Budget

• Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY-4) https://massie.house.gov/, 202-225-3465
Committees: Oversight and Government; Science, Space, and Technology; Transportation

• Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY-5) https://halrogers.house.gov/, 202-225-4601
Committees: Appropriations

• Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY-6) https://barr.house.gov/ , 202-225-4706
Committees: Financial Services

(Source: http://www.house.gov/representatives/)

Let’s do a little exercise. Let’s see if any House members representing the good folks of Kentucky have co-sponsored either H.R. 113 (the SAFE Act) introduced on January 3, 2017 or H.R. 1847 (the PAST Act) introduced on March 30, 2017.

H.R. 113 — H.R. 113 (the SAFE Act) currently has 86 co-sponsors. Not a single co-sponsor from Kentucky as of yet banning horse slaughter.

H.R. 1847 — H.R. 1847 (the PAST Act) currently has 220 co-sponsors. We see a glimmer of hope. Rep. John Yarmuth is an originating co-sponsor of the anti soring bill called the PAST Act. Other than Yarmuth, no one from Kentucky has co-sponsored H.R. 1847.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) representing the 3rd District home to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Image: KET.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) representing the 3rd District, home to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Image: KET.

Rep. Yarmuth and Rep. Ed Whitfield were the only two Kentucky members in the U.S. House who co-sponsored the SAFE Act’s previous incarnation, H.R. 1942, in the previous or 114th Congress. So we expect Rep. Yarmuth will do the same for H.R. 113 this time around in the 115th.

What can we say about Rep. Hal Rogers?

In July 2015, Rep. Hal Rogers, did not use his powerful position to protect horses from slaughter.

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee failed to adopt an amendment to prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption on U.S. soil. The amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill, offered by Rep. Sam Farr, D – Calif., resulted in a tie vote, with the Chair of the Committee, Hal Rogers, ultimately failing to adopt the provision.

(Source: HSUS)

At the end of the day Rogers’ betrayal did not matter.

In December 2015, H.R. 2029, the U.S. Omnibus Bill for FYE 2016 budget, became Public Law No. 114-113 effectively preventing the return of horse slaughter on U.S. soil until September 30, 2016.

Note: A subsequent spending bill for FYE 2017 became Public Law No. 114-259 continuing the defunding of horse meat inspections necessary to slaughter horses in the U.S. until September 30, 2017.

H.R. 1338

In the meantime, the following four U.S. House members of Kentucky, together with Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and five others (four also from Tennessee; the other from Mississippi), are originating co-sponsors of H.R. 1338, filed March 2, 2017:

Rep. Andy Barr
Rep. James Comer
Rep. Brett Guthrie
Rep. Harold Rogers

H.R. 1338 is another horse soring bill, however this one intends to help horse sorers, not eradicate them.

H.R. 1338 seeks a new inspection system set up by the USDA by establishing a single horse industry organization (HIO). “The Commissioners of Agriculture for Tennessee and Kentucky must appoint individuals to the HIO. Those individuals must appoint individuals” representing the Tennessee Walking Horse industry”.

This is a horrible piece of horse related legislation for Kentucky lawmakers to be involved with.

We oppose H.R. 1338. This is nothing more than a renewed legislative attempt at getting a “fox guarding the hen house” inspection system into place where anything goes for the continued horrific abuse of these gentle horses.

No horsing around for Rep. Massie

This leaves Rep. Thomas Massie who Politico named “Mr. No”.  Massie voted “no” at least 324 times in the 113th Congress – opposing one of every three measures that came to the House floor. This year he co-sponsored a bill to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. He doesn’t seem to be for or against bills good or bad for horses. That’s something I guess.

Kentucky Lawmakers at Home

What about politicians at the State level in Kentucky? In our view, they have taken total lack of care concerning Kentucky’s horses to a baser level.

In March, a Kentucky State bill (SB 139) reclassifying horses as livestock instead of as a domestic animal was introduced and pushed through by a lawmaker with a documented history of horse cruelty.

Sen. Robin Webb. Source: The Paulick Report.
Sen. Robin Webb. Source: The Paulick Report.

This lawmaker whom the USDA slapped horse soring violations on is none other that Robin Webb (above), a member of the Kentucky State Senate.

Webb’s horse trainer Donald Stamper was also ticketed for multiple violations.

If that’s not enough here’s more.

The gaited horse industry came under scrutiny after undercover video of Jackie McConnell hit the national airwaves showing him soring, beating, and shocking horses with a cattle prod. McConnell pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of conspiring to violate the HPA. His first violation was in 1979.

Webb told the Herald-Leader that the Tennessee walking horse industry has been “demonized,” in light of that video. “You don’t know what happened five minutes before or five minutes after. … These are animals that are very dangerous,” Webb said.

In other words Ms. Webb views horses trying to evade or protect themselves from abuse as dangerous and deserving of being cornered and mercilessly beaten into submission.

This individual’s bill no doubt calculatingly conceived, reduced their status to livestock, putting Kentucky horses further in harm’s way by removing what few protections they had, and they weren’t much to start with.

At the same time Webb’s bill opens the door to horse slaughter in Kentucky whether intentional or not.

Sadly, despite protests from Kentuckians not a single Kentucky legislator cast a vote against Webb’s bill. SB 139 had unanimous support throughout the entire process.

Governor Matt Bevin then signed it into law.

What does this say about Kentucky lawmakers?

Sen. Robin Webb’s horse soring violations made big headlines. How could any Kentucky State lawmaker fail to be suspicious of a bill concerning horses pushed through the way it was by someone like Webb?

See also http://www.chattanoogan.com/2013/1/23/242756/Roy-Exum-Senator-Just-Like-Lance.aspx

Kentucky Livestock Derby

It won’t be long now until the eyes of millions will be on Louisville, Kentucky and millions of dollars will be wagered on what is called the “Two Most Exciting Minutes in Sports”, a sport by the way where they think it’s funny to name racehorses Gourmet Dinner and Prime Cut.

Here’s a joke for those folks.

Perhaps they should name it the Kentucky Livestock Derby. After all, they are not racing anything special — just a bunch of livestock, usable, replaceable, dispensable. And anyway, what’s in a name?

Gourmet Dinner earned more than $1 million before retiring to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption this week. The gelding will be given a big rest before training for a second career. Image: Off Track Thoroughbreds.
Gourmet Dinner earned more than $1 million before retiring to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption this week. The gelding will be given a big rest before training for a second career. Image: Off Track Thoroughbreds.

As of 2014 Prime Cut seems to have been taken care of following his retirement too. We hope so. See OTTB Spotlight: Prime Cut. We are trying to get an update on both.

TAKE ACTION EVERYBODY

Support federal bills H.R. 113 and H.R. 1847. Guarantee your voice is counted at PopVox.com »

See also Take action against horse slaughter in the Nation’s Capital with HR 113 »

Tip: Don’t bother with pre-prepared, automated messages. They have very little if any impact at all and often not counted.

RELATED READING

• Supporters of Kentucky SB 139 respond to their critics in Blood-Horse article »

So happy together — Supporters of Kentucky State bill SB139 reducing horses to livestock status »

• Off the Menu: Gourmet Dinner and Prime Cut survive Thoroughbred racing »

• Despite a Triple Crown all that glitters is not gold in American horse racing (Part 3) »

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Horse in silhouette. Unattributed Google search result.

 

 

The Jockey Club’s Death Database is a Joke

Eight Belles falls to her chest as she fractures both front legs after crossing the finish line in the 2008 running of the Kentucky Derby.

by PATRICK BATTUELO
Cross-posted with Permission from Horse Racing Wrongs

Last week, The Jockey Club gleefully boasted of progress on the “breakdown” front: “An analysis of data from the Equine Injury Database…has shown a 14 percent decrease in the frequency of fatal injury…from 1.89 per 1,000 starts in 2014 to 1.62 per 1,000 starts in 2015…the lowest since the EID started publishing…in 2009.”

Well – time to deconstruct the oft-cited, much ballyhooed “Equine Injury Database” . . .

To start, the wording is (intentionally, I have to believe) misleading: Presented as deaths per 1,000 starts, it reads, at least to the untrained eye, deaths per 1,000 horses. But the typical racehorse logs many starts (up to 25) each year, making the death rate per 1,000 horses much higher – certainly not one they’d want to publicize.

The database is completely voluntary: While many tracks participate, some do not. Besides that, no third party – not the JC, not a government agency, no one – verifies the submitted data. At the risk of stating the obvious, dead horses are bad for business. So, not only is there no compelling reason for tracks (trainers, owners, etc.) to give a complete reckoning, there is a vested interest to not. Self-reporting – an honor system – the casualties that they are directly responsible for? Please.

The database is anonymous: No names, no dates, (mostly) no locations. Not only does this make it impossible for someone like me to cross-confirm, it keeps the names and faces of the dead safely secreted away. Messy carcasses converted to sterile ratios.

The database has acknowledged restrictions: Only those who perish “as a direct result of injuries sustained participating in a race” are counted. In other words, the 3-year-old (an adolescent, by the way) who keels and dies of what is commonly dismissed as a “cardiac event” is excluded, not to mention all training deaths, which are at least as common as those occurring in-race. And, the death must come “within 72 hours of [the] race,” leaving the many who are euthanized back at the farm, post unsuccessful surgery, or after being acquired by a rescue unaccounted for. More hidden carnage.

In the end, The Jockey Club is American Thoroughbred racing, impossible to separate from the other interested parties. How can anything it says regarding the more unseemly aspects (dead horses) of its own industry be taken seriously?

Second-place finisher Eight Belles in the middle of the pack during the Kentucky Derby in 2008. (Reuters)
Second-place finisher Eight Belles in the middle of the pack during the Kentucky Derby in 2008. (Reuters)

Truth is, the “Equine Injury Database” is but a marketing tool, created in the wake of Eight Belles and all the bad press that ensued, existing solely to quell an increasingly unsettled public with an empty promise of “we’re on this, we care.” They’re not and they don’t.

The result of Eight Belles run in the 2008 Kentucky and the result of thousands of other racehorses.
The result of Eight Belles run in the 2008 Kentucky and the result of thousands of others. Vivian Farrell.

20+ Yr Insider commented: “When a horse breaks down or is pulled up due to injury in a race, they will at all means transport the horse off the track, and put it down in the barn area. By doing this they don’t have to report the death of said horse as a racing death. This makes the statistics look better, while covering up the truth.”

FURTHER READING FROM HORSE RACING WRONGS
• See The Inevitably of Dead Racehorses »

FEATURED IMAGE PHOTO CREDIT: SPOKEO.
Eight Belles falls to her chest as she fractures both front legs after crossing the finish line in the 2008 running of the Kentucky Derby.

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New York Times, 2012 — That was then. This is now. Gambling keeps this industry alive. You Bet. They Die.

Scandal casts shadow over grandeur of Kentucky Derby

Steve Asmussen, right, the trainer with the second-most career victories, leads Kentucky Derby contender Tapiture during early morning workouts at Churchill Downs. Asmussen is under state and federal investigation over accusations of various forms of cruelty. Credit Jamie Squire/Getty Images.
Steve Asmussen, right, the trainer with the second-most career victories, leads Kentucky Derby contender Tapiture during early morning workouts at Churchill Downs. Asmussen is under state and federal investigation over accusations of various forms of cruelty. Credit Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

Cross-posted from the New York Times
WRITTEN BY JOE DRAPE

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Early Saturday night, the horses for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby will saunter onto the racetrack as a capacity crowd at Churchill Downs serenades them with a full-throated “My Old Kentucky Home.” It promises to be a stirring tableau of America’s oldest sport showcasing its history and grandeur and the beautiful athletes at its center.

It is what makes the first Saturday in May a holiday for anyone who has brushed a horse, or climbed atop one, or taken $2 to a betting window because of the appeal of a horse’s name.

But in recent years, this rite of spring has been accompanied by a new dimension: scandal. The latest involves Steve Asmussen, the trainer with the second-most career victories, who is under state and federal investigation over accusations of various forms of cruelty, including administering drugs to horses for nontherapeutic purposes and having a jockey use an electrical device to shock horses into running faster.

Asmussen is here and will saddle the filly Untapable, the favorite to win the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, as well as a colt named Tapiture in the Derby. He fired his longtime assistant, Scott Blasi, whose voice was prominent on a video recorded with a hidden camera by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but Asmussen has refused to answer questions about the investigations.

The Derby “is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and that’s where the focus is,” he said.

The official scrutiny of Asmussen was prompted by a four-month undercover investigation by PETA.

His presence here has repulsed many horsemen. But there are others who say that Asmussen and the horse racing business at large were the targets of an activist group that wants to shut the sport down. If a picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, a videotape is worth a million of them.

The videotape shows Blasi acknowledging that shock-wave therapy is excruciatingly painful to horses. It shows how often injections are given and how frequently and haphazardly tranquilizers, painkillers and supplements are dispensed. It is deeply uncomfortable to watch for even the most seasoned horsemen.

The reason is that they know it goes on in far too many barns in American racing. In fact, the argument most often raised to defend Asmussen is that every treatment he employed, every drug he dispensed, was within the rules of the sport.

“Anyone in our business who doesn’t tell you they are conflicted isn’t telling the truth,” said Terry Finley, managing partner of West Point Thoroughbreds, which owns the Derby contender Commanding Curve. Read full report at nytimes.com >>