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  1. #1
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    Kentucky Swamped With Unwanted Horses

    Originally published 3/15/07
    Kentucky Swamped With Unwanted Horses
    By JEFFREY McMURRAY
    AP
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/..._N.htm?POE=cli
    STAFFORDSVILLE, Ky. (March 15) - The bidding for the black pony started at $500, then took a nosedive.

    There were no takers at $300, $200, even $100. With a high bid of just $75, the auctioneer gave the seller the choice of taking the animal off the auction block. But the seller said no.

    "I can't feed a horse," the man said. "I can't even feed myself."

    Kentucky, the horse capital of the world, famous for its sleek thoroughbreds, is being overrun with thousands of horses no one wants - some of them perfectly healthy, but many of them starving, broken-down nags. Other parts of the country are overwhelmed, too.

    The reason: growing opposition in the U.S. to the slaughter of horses for human consumption overseas.

    With new laws making it difficult to send horses off to the slaughterhouse when they are no longer suitable for racing or work, auction houses are glutted with horses they can barely sell, and rescue organizations have run out of room.

    Some owners who cannot get rid of their horses are letting them starve; others are turning them loose in the countryside.

    Some people who live near the strip mines in the mountains of impoverished eastern Kentucky say that while horses have long been left to roam free there, the number now may be in the thousands, and they are seeing herds three times bigger than they did just five years ago.

    "There's horses over there that's lame, that's blind," said Doug Kidd, who owns 30 horses in Lackey, Ky. "They're taking them over there for a graveyard because they have nowhere to move them."

    It is legal in all states for owners to shoot their unwanted horses, and some Web sites offer instructions on doing it with little pain. But some horse owners do not have the stomach for that.

    At the same time, it can cost as much as $150 for a veterinarian to put a horse down. And disposing of the carcass can be costly, too. Some counties in Kentucky, relying on a mix of private and public funding, will pick up and dispose of a dead horse for a nominal fee.

    The cost is much higher other places, and many places ban the burying of horses altogether because of pollution fears.

    Sending horses off to the glue factory is not an option anymore. Adhesives are mostly synthetic formulations nowadays, according to Lawrence Sloan, president of the Adhesive and Sealant Council. And because of public opposition, horse meat is no longer turned into dog food either, said Chris Heyde of the Society for Animal Protective Legislation.

    Eventually, anti-slaughter groups insist, the market will sort itself out, and owners will breed their horses less often, meaning fewer unwanted horses.

    Nelson Francis, who raises gaited horses, a rare, brawny breed found in the Appalachian mountains, said the prices they command are getting so low, he might have to turn some loose. He houses about 57 of them, double his typical number.

    "I can't absorb the price," Francis said. "You try to hang on until the price changes, but it looks like it's not going to change. ... What do I do? I've got good quality horses I can't market because of the has-been horse."

    "Kill buyers" used to pay pennies a pound for unwanted horses, then pack them into crowded trucks bound for slaughterhouses that would ship the horse meat to Europe and Asia.

    However, public opposition to the eating of horse meat has caused the number of horses slaughtered each year by American companies to drop from over 300,000 in 1990 to around 90,000 in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Only one U.S. slaughterhouse - in Illinois - still butchers horses for human consumption.

    "What do you do with them all?" said Lori Neagle, executive director of the new Kentucky Equine Humane Center in Lexington. "What do you do with 90,000 head of horses? That's something that has to be addressed. It'll be interesting to see if people financially can do the right thing or if they will leave their horses to starve."

    Federal law prohibits the use of double-decker trucks for transporting horses to slaughter. Many members of Congress have also been pushing a national ban on the butchering of horses for human consumption.

    While California is the only state that has expressly banned horse slaughter, in a 1989 ballot initiative, similar measures are under consideration elsewhere, including Kentucky, Maryland, New York and Illinois. Connecticut has made it illegal to sell horse meat in public places, and many states have tightened up the labeling and transportation requirements governing horses bound for slaughter.

    A federal court ruled recently that Texas must start to enforce its long-ignored 1949 ban on the transportation and possession of horse meat. That put a stop to horse slaughter at the two slaughterhouses in Texas that engaged in the practice.

    While the market price for horses has plummeted, the cost of food, lodging and veterinary care has not.

    Kathy Schwartz, director of Lisbon, Md.-based Days End Farm Horse Rescue, which adopts abused and neglected horses, said that rescue operations that choose not to euthanize horses are generally full.

    "We had one horse we brought in that was a rack of bones - in pain both from starvation and parasite infestation and injury," Schwartz said. "His owner thought life was better than going to slaughter. Well, life is - if you're going to feed it and take care of it."

  2. #2
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    Re: Kentucky Swamped With Unwanted Horses

    Rebuttal
    *****

    John Holland is a consultant, author of three books and freelance writer on horse advocacy issues. He works from his home in Shawsville Virginia where he and his wife Sheilah live with their ten horses. He is 61 years old and has owned and worked with horses his entire adult life.

    reprinted with permission.
    Paul


    http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/news/2007/03/134.shtml

    Wildly inaccurate horse slaughter story causes furor around the world

    By John Holland

    The phone rings and Shelly Price, a director of the nonprofit rescue Speak Up For Horses Inc. answers. It is yet another person wanting to know how they can help with the unwanted horse crisis in Kentucky. The call is in response to an AP story, written by Jeffrey McMurray, that has reached worldwide with sensational headlines like “Kentucky, swamped with unwanted horses” and “Drop in slaughter leads to too many horses”.
    Shelly patiently explains that she spent days with the reporter but that the story reflects none of the facts she provided. “He told me that he had already spoken with proslaughter sources and asked me about all the horses being turned out because people could not afford to feed them. I told him that I had never seen an abandoned horse in Kentucky and warned him to validate that story.”
    The article begins “The bidding for the black pony started at $500, then took a nosedive...” McMurray then goes on to talk about horses being turned loose in Kentucky in the hundreds or thousands to starve to death, and blames the problem on a reduction in slaughter caused by a growing movement to stop horse slaughter.
    Unfortunately, the premise ignores both the fact that ponies are rarely purchased for slaughter because of their small size, and the fact that a horse turned loose in the Bluegrass State would be the equivalent of a person being turned loose to starve in an all-you-can eat buffet!
    McMurray implies that this crisis is because horse slaughter has diminished in recent years. But USDA statistics show that between 2002 and 2006, horse slaughter in the U.S. more than doubled from 42,312 to 104,896. And even though the two Texas slaughter plants were forced to quit most slaughtering in January, increases in slaughter at the remaining plant in Illinois and increased exports to Mexico and Canada have keep total slaughter numbers very close to last year’s levels.
    “I was with Jeffrey at the Shepherdsville auction and discussed prices with him afterward”, states Annie Haag, another horse advocate, who agreed to help McMurray gather information. But after the auction she says “Jeffrey just wanted to know about the one that sold for $75. I was confused and did not realize that he was talking about a pony. I told him I didn’t see any horses selling under the $400 range. I told Jeffrey that prices were up almost $100 on most horses.” Haag continued, “I would have told him that $75 is not a bad price for a pony! He really didn’t know much about horses.”
    Tamie Semler, of Angel Horse Rescue in Mannford, Oklahoma challenged McMurray’s premise that slaughter buyers help remove the unwanted horses from the auction. She says instead the rule is survival of the most unfit. “At the Mid America auction last week,” says Semler “all 30 of the loose horses that were over 1,000 pounds went to slaughter. They brought an average of $510 each, while the thin horses all went to individual buyers and dealers and averaged only $193.”
    A “loose horse” is one run through the auction ring without a rider while horses ridden into the ring are called “saddle horses”. Loose horses sell cheaper and are thus the favorites of the kill buyers. “So how exactly does it help with the problem of unwanted horses when they take the best?” Semler asks, “I just could not afford to outbid the killers.”
    McMurray quotes a breeder named Nelson Francis saying "I've got good quality horses I can't market because of the has-been horse." While almost all horse people agree that there is far too much indiscriminant breeding of horses, it makes no sense to complain that “has-been” horses would push good riding horses out of the market, and that somehow a lack of slaughter (which has recently doubled) is to blame.
    Jim Bradshaw, in a recent column in the Live Stock Weekly out of Lubbock Texas discussed the effect of the closing of the two Texas horse slaughter plants. He quotes Tony Mann, owner of Lubbock Stockyards, on the price of loose horses saying, “I didn’t have any idea it would be this good.” The article, in the enthusiastically pro-slaughter trade journal, went on to say the price of saddle horses was basically unchanged.
    When contacted for confirmation about the story of horses running loose in the land, Lt. Phil Crumpton, the Commander of Kentucky State Police Media Relations Branch, laughed saying, “You must be joking?” When he realized the question was serious, he said that he had no such reports to either their headquarters or to any of the Regional Posts.
    McMurray goes on “Some people who live near the strip mines in the mountains of impoverished eastern Kentucky say that while horses have long been left to roam free there, the number now may be in the thousands, and they are seeing herds three times bigger than they did just five years ago.” The explanation for these reports is ironically from a mid-February AP story!
    It is the tragic story of two teens charged with shooting several of the horses belonging to Trish Hayes who owns the animals and operates Breaks Stables in Breaks, Virginia. The horses were used for trail riding during summer at the Breaks Interstate Park. They wintered in the area of an abandoned strip mine in Eastern Kentucky. The area is so safe and sparsely populated that there is no need to fence them. Hays was quoted as saying "When they're up there, they look like a band of wild horses, but when you drive up, they'll come right up to your window."
    The McMurray story continues, “There have been reports of horses chained up in eastern Kentucky and left for days without food or water. “ But this tale appears to have been borrowed from another of McMurray’s sources, Kathy Schwartz of Days End Farm Horse Rescue. It is the story of a horse named Beetle Bailey who was found chained to a tree. But the Days End Farm is in Maryland, not Kentucky and Beetle Bailey was adopted out of the rescue in the Winter of 2004!
    The sensational shrillness of McMurray’s story has had the effect of creating a fire storm of unwarranted concern across the mainstream media, the internet, and even the talk show circuit. The US Congress, Kentucky, New York, and Illinois are all considering legislation to ban horse slaughter, and Texas is considering legislation to permit slaughtering horses for human consumption.
    In light of this, a few questions must be asked. Who assigned McMurray, a young college sports writer with no knowledge of the horse industry, to this story? Why did McMurray work so desperately to weave disconnected, unsubstantiated and unrelated scraps of information into a largely incoherent argument in favor of horse slaughter? And why did the Associated Press, a respected news outlet, allow such a sensationalized and distorted story to get out?

    JH - 3/18/2007

  3. #3
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    Re: Kentucky Swamped With Unwanted Horses

    Follow-up Article
    reprinted with permission


    Packs of horses attack defenseless trees in Kentucky

    By John Holland

    Two weeks ago Jeffrey McMurray, erstwhile college basketball writer turned AP horse slaughter authority, set off a firestorm of controversy when he alerted the world to an exploding crisis of equine abandonment in the United States. McMurray claimed this crisis had its epicenter in Kentucky, the very heart of Thoroughbred horse country. He further declared that horses were being turned loose in the thousands and even being left chained to trees, and that all this was the fault of activists who had forced horse slaughter plants to close in recent years and left no outlet for these “unwanted” horses.

    The story drew criticism for its unfortunate factual shortcomings not the least of which was that horse slaughter has not diminished in recent years but has more than doubled since 2002. There was also the unfortunate repudiation of McMurray’s claims about unwanted horses roaming the Kentucky countryside by the Kentucky State Police media relations commander, virtually every member of the Kentucky Animal Care and Control Association, and Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). But of course one has to expect the occasional dissenting voice if one is to warn the country of an impending threat that does not readily manifest itself in verifiable ways and does not enjoy the support of any established facts. The late Joseph McCarthy understood that challenge.

    This week McMurray has revisited the story like an arsonist returning to his fire to stare into the flaming wreckage and make guarded third person observations from the sidelines. In a surrealistic feat of journalistic detachment, he uses his own story as an unnamed source to back up his contention that there is a reasoned ongoing debate. He states “Earlier this month, an Associated Press story reported that to some local observers, the closing of slaughterhouses under public and political pressure appears to be leading some horse owners in eastern Kentucky to turn their animals loose.” This tortured statement is a tour de France of back-peddling compared to the frantic shrieks of “FIRE!” in his original article. Could it be that his keepers have felt the heat?

    They should have felt the heat. It was the edifice of trust that has been built so painstakingly around the Associated Press label that was destroyed in the flames seeded by his original article. McMurray, who was apparently determined to find unwanted and abandoned horses, centered in on the reclaimed strip mines of Eastern Kentucky. The area in question offers free grazing and is used by at least one large riding stable to winter their horses.

    In this latest story, McMurray demonstrates his mastery of the subject of equine welfare by treating us to a visual image of small “packs” (yes, packs) of (admittedly healthy) horses wandering through the restored strip mines nibbling on the twigs of trees. He says “The animals are at the center of a fierce dispute over what effect the closing of many of the nation's horse slaughterhouses in recent years has had on the number and fate of unwanted horses.”

    To add substance to his claims that many of these horses are being abandoned, McMurray sites an ex-county judge named Lewis Warrix. McMurray says Warrix is “among those who suspect the closing of the slaughter plants is contributing to the situation.”

    Yet, within a paragraph McMurray unwittingly discredits his own source by quoting the judge as saying “They were just bringing them up and turning them loose - blind and crippled and whatever.” The problem with this statement is that it is illegal to transport a blind or crippled horse to slaughter and thus Warrix’s observation belies his own conclusion that a lack of slaughter (which has yet to occur) was to blame for the supposed abandonment in the first place!

    Unfortunately, McMurray’s latest article did not get the explosive coverage of his original exposé. It was pushed aside by the news that horse slaughter in America was indeed finally being ended by a federal court. The court ruled the USDA was using an illegal program to fund the inspection of slaughtered horses. On Thursday, March 29th, 2007, no horses were slaughtered in the United States. But the issue isn’t settled as horses are still being exported in the thousands to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.

    With luck, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (HR.503) will soon pass into law and American horses will be safe from slaughter at last. Only then, will we know if slaughter was indeed the “useful service” it has claimed to be. It would be wonderful if Mr. McMurray would give this new situation four or five years to settle out before he provides us with more of his insightful commentary. Ideally, he could use the intervening time to learn something about the subject.

  4. #4
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    Re: Kentucky Swamped With Unwanted Horses

    Well, arent these all good reasons to stop the unbridled breeding of horses??
    Why should animals be bred and overpopulated and then abandoned??
    They have joined the ranks of other companion animals (as in cats and dogs).
    Maybe if studs were castrated before being sold it would help with the numbers.
    Do they "spay" horses??? Probably not but colts could be easily "neutered."
    Why not strive for some regulation overseen by the dept. of ag and
    administered by rescue groups and shelters? How can it cost 150 dollars for
    a vet who is set up to make house calls anyway to come and humanely
    euthanize a horse??? Why not require that all colts be gelded by a certain
    age unless proof of desirable bloodlines can be produced and intent to breed
    according to demand.

    Just thoughts. It is horrible that such a think could develop in the bluegrass
    state. Its really the height of irresponsibility.
    :(

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    Re: Kentucky Swamped With Unwanted Horses

    So what's the diff between horsemeat and cow? Both probably didn't want to be dinner. Still, only a matter of time before beef gets outlawed. Hate nanny states. Bring on Trigger, for my fork be empty.

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    Re: Kentucky Swamped With Unwanted Horses

    Quote Originally Posted by Rusted
    So what's the diff between horsemeat and cow? Both probably didn't want to be dinner. Still, only a matter of time before beef gets outlawed. Hate nanny states. Bring on Trigger, for my fork be empty.
    While your initial statement is true cows aren't raised for sport or recreation so the slaughter issue is a delicate one... especially in the U.S. where horse meat is not normally on the menu. What is really upsetting is how the AP sponsored the initial article... it is so full of inaccuracies and lies as to be ridiculous. The author even contacted us, but did not use any of the info given to him... it didn't fit into his notion for the article I guess.
    John has been after this guy and the AP since it was initially published.

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    Re: Kentucky Swamped With Unwanted Horses

    Horses are more companion animals and are service animals and should not
    be eaten. And, dont even bother, I dont eat meat of any kind....its an
    ethical thing with me but you can do what you want as will I.

    I have no problem with cattle being in the food chain, its the factory farming
    practices that I hate, and their slaughter should be quick and clean and not
    in front of the next ones to fall.

    Enjoy your hormone ridden, antibiotic ridden, Mad Cow carrying steak.
    :D

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    Re: Kentucky Swamped With Unwanted Horses

    That was for Rusted, not for you Paul.

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    Re: Kentucky Swamped With Unwanted Horses

    Quote Originally Posted by goodwitchofthesouth
    That was for Rusted, not for you Paul.
    No problem there GW :)

    We've been watching this whole thing. The AP reporter interviewed my wife and didn't use a single thing... as well he talked to a lot of other rescues here & used precious little. The concensus is that he wanted to write a pro-slaughter article and he succeeded...

    His whole premise is suspect since the anti-slaughter bill is coming up for a vote soon. We think he was 'put up to it'.

    John has been on this guy like 'white-on-rice'. I'd like to see AP publish a retraction.

  10. #10
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    Re: Kentucky Swamped With Unwanted Horses

    Thats just horrible!

    I guess I was pretty naive in thinking some kind of population control could
    be put in place for horses.....nevermind. ;)
    "They" cant even get control of the small animals.

    At least some horses are being saved from the slaughter houses! I know,
    its never enough but you just keep trying. Its a lot for the ones you can
    save!

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    Re: Kentucky Swamped With Unwanted Horses

    Update:

    a google search of the phrase

    McMurray "horse slaughter"

    turns up 2 pages of rebuttal/debunking of Mr. McMurray's article. The movement to refute Mr. McMurray's article, within the Equine Humane industry, has made impressive gains on the internet if not the main-stream-media.

    I have just been informed as well that it is suspected Mr. McMurray is in league with Pro-slaughter lobbyist Charlie Stenholm
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles...ssional_career )

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