Friday, December 9, 2011

'Tis That Time of Year

Stock tanks have water heaters in them. Chickens have heated water bowl. Pony is a fuzz-ball. Frost is on the pumpkins (literally!). Snow is on the ground.

Have you gotten your horse blankets washed and patched for this year? Have you closed the windows in the barn? Put your snow tires on the car?

Check, check, check, check, check.

So. It is December. Bring it on! Just a few more days until we start gaining a few minutes each day and then spring will be right around the corner.

Happy Holidays! God Bless. Hope your celebrations and time with family warm your hearts and homes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Wonderful Article About Horse Slaughter


Lessons in Deceit – Horse Slaughter
06 Dec 2011

Before I start discussing the slaughter issue, let me mention the one person that the pro-slaughter folks use as their spokesperson – Sue Wallis. While I will have intelligent conversations with anyone, I’m not sinking that low. After seeing Ms. Wallis support and promote the disturbed acts of a teenager who killed her horse and wrapped herself in its body, I have absolutely no regard for Wallis or her cult followers.

To start, I will quote the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA), who allegedly represents the veterinarians on this issue. Interesting to note that while the AVMA operates through the membership fees of the vets they “represent,” those vets have NEVER been polled concerning their beliefs on horse slaughter.

What is an “Unwanted Horse?”

According to the AVMA – “It may be a healthy horse that an owner can no longer afford to keep or feed. It may be a horse that is dangerous to handle and has injured (or is likely to injure) people. It may be a horse with an injury, lameness, or illness, and the owner is unwilling or incapable of taking care of it.

“The American Horse Council estimates that there are 9.2 million horses in the United States. We do not have reliable statistics on the number of horses that become unwanted each year. We do know that 90,000 to 100,000 unwanted horses have been sent to slaughter annually, and that the total number of unwanted horses is substantially greater than this.”

To arrive at this figure, I wonder if they hung around the auctions and asked the horses if they were “unwanted”? What about those that were stolen, or those where the killer-buyers outbid the family that wanted the horse? What about those killer-buyers that show up at the homes that advertise “Free horse” in newspapers and on Craigslist and promise the owner that they will love the horse for the rest of its life?

I have always been totally astounded that through some magic of the laws of supply and demand, the total number of “Unwanted Horses” seems to be almost the same as the number of horses being sent to slaughter each year.

The pro-slaughter folks want you to believe that the countryside is teaming with masses of skinny, starving horses all tromping through State and National Parks and sneaking into the suburbs at night to eat the flowers out of Mrs. Jones’ garden. While they seem to believe that the only answer for those horses is slaughter, they admit that no one knows how many “unwanted horses” there really are.

I would well imagine that should the demand for horse meat increase, we’ll find that the number of “unwanted horses” will also increase. On the reverse, when the EU suddenly is forced to admit that horses from the US are chocked full of carcinogens and stops importing the tainted meat, the number of “unwanted horses” will be dropped from all conversations. It simply won’t be a factor anymore.

The 9.2 million horse figure given above is from a survey completed by the American Horse Council in 2006. Running the population on an upward scale, I can well imagine that the current population is well above 10 million horses in the United States.

So the estimated figure of all the “unwanted horses” in the US is actually around 1%.
If you believe the hype of all the pro-slaughter folks, that 1% reflects what they term as the absolute destruction of the equine market caused of the closing of the US slaughterhouses. Yet that same 1% is what was being slaughtered when all three slaughterhouses were open, and that SAME 1% is what is being slaughtered today in Mexico and Canada.

If the number of “Unwanted Horses” is the same, why is the closing on the three US slaughterhouses being blamed for the destruction of the equine economy?

And if that extra 1% in production every year is really that much of an issue, don’t you think some wizard bean counter in the AQHA would slap his head and say, “Maybe we should cut back on foal production by 1%!”

So where is the increase in the number of “unwanted horses?”

Clue – the pro-slaughter people need to convince you that 1) closing the US slaughterhouses was the sole cause of the destruction of the equine market, 2) that this country needs to get back those wonderful facilities on our own soil, 3) that people are dumping thousands of horses in every roadside park in the nation and 4) the only reason for horse slaughter is to help us have a safe and happy way to dispose of our excess horses.

One more time – the number of horses currently being slaughtered in Mexico and Canada is about the SAME as the number that were slaughtered when the US had three operation slaughterhouses.

The destruction of the equine market was not caused by the 1% of “unwanted horses.” People lost their jobs! The housing market went to hell! The economy tanked! Yet the great American breeders kept pushing out foals, thousands of them – backyard breeders, racehorse breeders, paint horses, quarter horses – the mass production continued. I would think that someone, somewhere would finally look up and realize – “Dang, there sure is a lot of horses out there.”
Clue two – the EU will only buy X number of pounds of horse meat. If the US has X plus another 10,000 pounds, then the market is flooded. The $300 slaughter bound horse now becomes the $25 horse.

And who is at fault?

I wish those breeders would look at themselves in the mirror on occasion. Can you imagine the CEO of a car company saying, “We make $100 off of each car we produce. So let’s produce ten million cars!” It wouldn’t take long for that CEO to be replaced.

For you pro-slaughter breeders that need slaughter to dump your non-sellable yearlings – it’s time to rethink the program. Quality, not quantity. The AQHA members breed more horses each year that all the other breed registrations combined. Coincidentally, more quarter horses are slaughtered every year that any other breed of horses.

A couple of years ago, almost identical stories started appearing in newspapers across the country, supposedly written by a local reporter, about horses being turned loose in State Parks. The story would follow the same basic pattern, quoting a local official and a State Park representative, saying that they had never seen anything like this. People, they would say, were just dumping horses off in the woods and leaving them to starve to death.

To find the truth, each and every one of those stories were tracked down. Not one – not a single planted story, proved to be true. The stories were planted to make people believe that horse slaughter was necessary. Every Sheriff and every park representative contacted denied making any such statements. One park in Kentucky did have 20 horses running around, but the owner said he did that every year – same 20 horses. Whenever an “authority” stated that unwanted horses were being dumped by the hundreds, they could not produce any proof.

I am the first to admit that there is an increase in the number of horses we are being asked to take into our program and I fully understand a horse owner reaching out to find an alternative place for their horse when times turn bad. Time and again, it’s done with the preamble of, “I just don’t want them to go to slaughter.” My suggestion is – no one will ever love your horse as much as you. If you cannot place them with people that you know beyond any doubt will love and keep them, then the best answer is to put them to sleep.

“Oh, but it cost so much!”

So you had rather put your horse through the horrors of slaughter than to let him die in peace? Or are you saying that you rather have the $100 the killer-buyer will give you than spending the $150 the vet wants to charge? Do you actually care that little? Then find someone who truly knows how to shoot a horse in the head and can kill it immediately.

“There’s no place to bury it!”

Around 2% of the equine population in the US die every year above and beyond horse slaughter. That’s around 200,000 horses that are euthanized or die quietly and are disposed of properly. I’m fairly certain that your vet can figure out a way to dispose of the body.

Not Ready for Slaughter

Let’s talk about all the “skinny, starved unwanted horses.” This is one area in which we specialize. Habitat for Horses works closely with a number of law enforcement agencies. We go after people that starve horses with the primary goal of teaching them how to care for their critters. If they ignore that, we help law enforcement go to court and take the horses away. We’ve been doing that for the last 14 years so we have a little experience in this area.

First observation – slaughter is no answer for skinny horses. The slaughterhouses won’t take them. In fact, in most cases they aren’t allowed to cross the border, so the killer-buyers don’t want them. According to a survey by USDA/APHIS, 92% of slaughtered horses were in “good to excellent” condition. Isn’t it just plain logical that a slaughterhouse wants fat, healthy animals? To go through the whole slaughter process for just a few pounds of meat doesn’t make sense.
Second – it is against the law in every state to deny a horse proper food, water and medical care. This is one area that really chaps me as I listen to some livestock officer complain about all the horses wandering the roads when it is their job to track down the owner and put their asses in jail on animal cruelty charges.

Kinda’ like a cop complaining about the dead bodies they find beside the road, yet absolutely no effort is being made to find the killer. Well, duh? Isn’t that your job?

Starved horses are a criminal issue that needs to be handled through law enforcement. If law enforcement won’t handle it, then call the newspaper, get on the phone with TV and radio stations, get hold of the county commissioners and judges. Let them all know that selective enforcement of the laws in your state is not acceptable and that you will not allow it to continue. Yes, you will get a few people pissed off at you, but so what? It isn’t right and you know it, so act.
One person had a recent case involving a herd of about 50 horses, most of them extremely emaciated, and the Sheriff would not do anything. She stopped by the pasture one winter morning and saw a mare down and obviously quickly dying, with a foal trying to nurse. She called the Sheriff again, the dispatcher said, “Everyone is tied up today.” Her next call was to the TV station, who listened to the story and immediately put a crew on the road. She called the Sheriff back and said, “The TV crew is on the way and should be here in about 20 minutes. “
The Sheriff and upteen Deputies showed up in 10 minutes and did the seizure.

Personally, makes no difference if it’s a baby, an elderly person or a horse. It’s a living creature that needs help and God forbid that humans find themselves too busy to reach out to those in need.

Tomorrow “Don’t call the President! Call your Congressman!” – What will work?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Government Being Sneaky - At The Expense of the Horses

This is another case of government quietly stuffing a bunch of papers together and squeezing something through the system, hoping that no one notices that they did another shady deal. This is a sad day for horses if this truly does happen.

Horse Meat Inspection Ban Lifted In The U.S.

By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS 11/30/11 09:45 AM ET Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. -- Horses could soon be butchered in the U.S. for human consumption after Congress quietly lifted a 5-year-old ban on funding horse meat inspections, and activists say slaughterhouses could be up and running in as little as a month.

Slaughter opponents pushed a measure cutting off funding for horse meat inspections through Congress in 2006 after other efforts to pass outright bans on horse slaughter failed in previous years. Congress lifted the ban in a spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law Nov. 18 to keep the government afloat until mid-December.

It did not, however, allocate any new money to pay for horse meat inspections, which opponents claim could cost taxpayers $3 million to $5 million a year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to find the money in its existing budget, which is expected to see more cuts this year as Congress and the White House aim to trim federal spending.

The USDA issued a statement Tuesday saying there are no slaughterhouses in the U.S. that butcher horses for human consumption now, but if one were to open, it would conduct inspections to make sure federal laws were being followed. USDA spokesman Neil Gaffney declined to answer questions beyond what was in the statement.

The last U.S. slaughterhouse that butchered horses closed in 2007 in Illinois, and animal welfare activists warned of massive public outcry in any town where a slaughterhouse may open.
"If plants open up in Oklahoma or Nebraska, you'll see controversy, litigation, legislative action and basically a very inhospitable environment to operate," predicted Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of The Humane Society of the United States. "Local opposition will emerge and you'll have tremendous controversy over slaughtering Trigger and Mr. Ed."

But pro-slaughter activists say the ban had unintended consequences, including an increase in neglect and the abandonment of horses, and that they are scrambling to get a plant going – possibly in Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska or Missouri. They estimate a slaughterhouse could open in 30 to 90 days with state approval and eventually as many as 200,000 horses a year could be slaughtered for human consumption. Most of the meat would be shipped to countries in Europe and Asia, including France and Japan.

Dave Duquette, president of the nonprofit, pro-slaughter group United Horsemen, said no state or site has been picked yet but he's lined up plenty of investors who have expressed interest in financing a processing plant. While the last three slaughterhouses in the U.S. were owned by foreign companies, he said a new plant would be American-owned.

"I have personally probably five to 10 investors that I could call right now if I had a plant ready to go," said Duquette, who lives in Hermiston, Ore. He added, "If one plant came open in two weeks, I'd have enough money to fund it. I've got people who will put up $100,000."

Sue Wallis, a Wyoming state lawmaker who's the group's vice president, said ranchers used to be able to sell horses that were too old or unfit for work to slaughterhouses but now they have to ship them to butchers in Canada and Mexico, where they fetch less than half the price.

The federal ban devastated "an entire sector of animal agriculture for purely sentimental and romantic notions," she said.

Although there are reports of Americans dining on horse meat a recently as the 1940s, the practice is virtually non-existent in this country, where the animals are treated as beloved pets and iconic symbols of the West.

Lawmakers in California and Illinois have banned the slaughter of horses for human consumption, and more than a dozen states tightly regulate the sale of horse meat.

Federal lawmakers' lifting of the ban on funding for horse meat inspections came about in part because of the recession, which struck just as slaughtering stopped. A federal report issued in June found that local animal welfare organizations reported a spike in investigations for horse neglect and abandonment since 2007. In Colorado, for example, data showed that investigations for horse neglect and abuse increased more than 60 percent – from 975 in 2005 to almost 1,600 in 2009.

The report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office also determined that about 138,000 horses were transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010, nearly the same number that were killed in the U.S. before the ban took effect in 2007. The U.S. has an estimated 9 million horses.

Cheri White Owl, founder of the nonprofit Horse Feathers Equine Rescue in Guthrie, Okla., said she's seen more horse neglect during the recession. Her group is caring for 33 horses now and can't accept more.

"A lot of the situation is due to the economy," she said, "People deciding to pay their mortgage or keep their horse."

But White Owl worries that if slaughterhouses open, owners will dump their unwanted animals there instead of looking for alternatives, such as animal sanctuaries.

Animal rights groups also argue that slaughtering is a messy, cruel process, and some say it would be kinder for owners to have their horses put to sleep by a veterinarian.
"Euthanasia has always been an option," Pacelle said. But "if you acquire a horse, you should be a responsible owner and provide lifetime care."

The fight over horse slaughtering has pitted lawmakers of the same party against each other.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said the poor economy has resulted in "sad cases" of horse abandonment and neglect and lifting the ban will give Americans a shot at regaining lost jobs and making sure sick horses aren't abandoned or mistreated.

But U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., is lobbying colleagues to permanently ban horse slaughter because he believes the process is inhumane.

"I am committed to doing everything in my power to prevent the resumption of horse slaughter and will force Congress to debate this important policy in an open, democratic manner at every opportunity," he said in a statement.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Donations for the Holidays

'Tis that time of year again. Donations for the holidays. Some donate because they are looking for a tax write off. Some donate because their heart tells them that they need to help save one more whale, horse, kitten or underprivileged child in Ethiopia. All great causes. But do your homework.

How much of every dollar you spend goes to what your heart decided on? Are they a legitimate rescue? Do they give at least 95% of what you donated to the cause you decided to spend your hard earned money on?

Just because an organization has a federal 501c3 DOES NOT mean they are good at what they do OR that they spend their money in an appropriate way. Those of us in the horse world have seen what a nightmare can become of animals, donations and the people that handle both.

Sad to say that some organizations don't help the people they are spreading around pictures of.

Do your homework. Ask questions. If you don't like the answers you are getting, then vote with your wallet and send your dollars to someone who will answer the questions and give you the warm, happy feeling that donating provides.

I have a couple in and around the state of Vermont that do great work. And spend their money on their animals. And are transparent with the numbers if you request them.

Green Mtn. Pug Rescue
Spring Hill Horse Rescue
New England Equine Rescues

Your local food bank. There is one in each town. If you don't want to give them $, then go ask them what kind of food they are low on and go buy some at the grocery store.

Your neighbor with 2 jobs and 4 kids. Worried that they might spend the money on the couch-potato boyfriend? Bring over a couple of bags of groceries, a sled and some mittens and hats.

Your elderly neighbor? Shovel her driveway or walks. Go have a cup of tea with her. That is more quality time than money could never buy. And, who knows, maybe you'll learn a bit about her life that will enrich yours.

Ok. Off the soap box now. Sorry, it's been a while so forgot to post the warning! lol!

Look around you. This is what many people did after Irene. It's what makes Vermont the special place it is... Neighbor helping neighbor.

Hello! We haven't fallen off the face of the Earth!

I'm back. Not well rested. Not done feeling like the world has come around and changed its tune any... just wanted to get back into doing what I used to do. Updates and pictures will come up in the next few days...

Good to be back...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

slogging along

Working on getting up the ambition and motivation to get on the back of my horse. Got a new treeless saddle for christmas, got new synthetic 'leathers' and even made sure my girth worked... looks really comfy compared to the western saddle I was using - which felt like sitting on a box. Between insulating the house and helping automate the library, I have not had the extra energy required to tackle rigging up the new saddle and going for a ride.

Need to. Want to. Too cold. Too tired. Not enough daylight. I need to move to a warmer climate!!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

On again!

Well, that didn't go very good. So wrapped up with my new horse, the holidays and working at the Library to help get all the books in the new computer system and something had to give. Was hoping - as a new year's resolution, to get back to typing on the blog. As you can see, that's already shot for this year.

So, to never giving up, getting back on after you have fallen, here I am. I figure you have to start somewhere.

So, typical Monday... or is it? I have the house to myself! Yeah! With all the critters, of course. Doing dishes, keeping the wood stove cranked, taking care of the animals. Finished reading our book discussion book 'The Day of the Pelican'. Finished (yesterday) 'Lonesome Dove'. Now need to order the last book in that series.. hmmm... need to find out where I put the list so I know which book to order.

My friend Beth is coming over tonight for some crochet/knitting/visiting time and will be staying for dinner. Bringing her yummy bread, as she usually does!!!

Had a wonderful holiday season surrounded by friends and family who love and care for me! What more could I ask for? Peace, happiness and horses! Dogs, of course!

So, off now to clean off the table, do another load of dishes and make a pie for dessert...

Hope you all have a great week!