Equine freedom, but at what cost?

Seth Victor

The blawg has previously discussed the controversy surrounding horse-drawn carriages in New York City. Now there is the potential that those idealized tours around Central Park might be coming to an end. According to the New York Daily News, both major mayoral candidates poised to run the Big Apple support a city council bill to ban horse-drawn rides. There is a concern, however, that if the practice is ended, the 200 or so horses that are impressed to pull these carriages will be sent to their deaths, not to some bucolic retirement field further upstate. The article summarizes the issue.

My question to you, dear reader, is what is the best result for the animals? Place the economic concerns regarding the proposed electric replacement carriages aside. Assuming that no home can be found for these horses, if you believe that the horses who march around the streets of New York City are suffering and are not being properly cared for, is it better to end their suffering through ending their lives, or is life so precious that between a life of hard work and death, life should prevail?

We’ve touched on this question before, and it is a divisive one between different camps of animal rights. Please vote below with your opinion. I recognize that there are many answers to this question, but given the choice between the two (and if being forced to pick the lesser of two evils isn’t American, what is?), where do you stand?

North Dakota Votes Against Animals

Seth Victor

In what must be a move of Dakotan solidarity, the people of North Dakota voted last week against Proposition 5, which would have  made it a class C felony, punishable by incarceration, “to maliciously and intentionally harm a living dog, cat or horse.” There would have been the typical exceptions for veterinarians, hunters, scientists, and, of course, agriculture workers. This is a measure aimed at domestic pets, which would have enforced against instances akin to Michael Vick’s dog torture. Nevertheless, 65.4% of voters opted to have North Dakota remain with South Dakota as the only two states in the nation without animal cruelty felonies.

Interestingly, this comes in the same election when three states approved same-sex marriage, a measure in nearby Minnesota to outlaw same-sex marriage was voted down, and recreational marijuana was legalized in two states. Additionally, within North Dakota, voters opted to ban indoor smoking in the workplace by a 2-1 majority, but also voted 2-1 for a measure that bans any law that would abridge farmers and ranchers from employing their own industry practices. It seems that while we as a nation are in a piecemeal fashion expanding the liberties of our own species, animals are clearly still an “other” that do not receive the same considerations. The vote on the smoking measure in a state that is traditionally wary of government intervention shows that individuals do not have an absolute right to do what they want to the detriment of others, but efforts to extend that same logic to establish animals as something more than property remain trapped in our legal schizophrenia. I can grasp the reasoning behind the farmed animal vote; established industry, I expect, advertised, lobbied, and campaigned more effectively to keep the status quo. Why anyone in 2012 would want to keep torture to companion animals punishable only by a slap on the wrist, however, is beyond me.

Animals Can Be Victims, Too

Seth Victor

Rather than regurgitate Scott Heiser’s words, I encourage you to read ALDF’s post about State v. Nix, in which the Oregon appellate court held that individual horses count as separate victims, reversing a trial court holding that multiple abused horses merged into a single count of animal abuse. As the post mentions, this is a very exciting case, and will be very useful persuasive law for cases across the country.

Don’t Look an Embezzled Horse in the Mouth

Seth Victor

I encourage everyone to read Angelique Rivard’s excellent summary of Steven Wise’s resent presentation at the Dyson Lecture Series, which explored the future of animal legal standing and animal personhood. Mr. Wise’s theories were on my mind when I heard last week’s Wait Wait. . .Don’t Tell Me.  Some of you might have heard that Rita Crundwell, comptroller in Dixon, IL, has been accused of embezzling $53 million from her town. As Peter Segal states, “Now the government wants to seize her assets that she got with her ill begotten gains and that means, according to the law, they have to file a suit against the horses themselves. So the case is on the court docket, as United States of America versus Have Faith In Money, et al.”

Getting a horse’s name on a docket is notable, but I’m sure not for the reasons Mr. Wise hopes. We’ve still a long way to go to move horses from “assets” to “persons.”

United States Based Horse Slaughterhouses Set to Reopen

Kelly Kruszewski

Horse slaughter is a very dark reality for a majority of horses in America.  Currently, however, there are no horse slaughter plants operating in the United States because in 2005 the Agricultural Appropriations bill yanked federal money used for inspections of horse slaughter facilities in the U.S. Without USDA inspections, U.S. based slaughterhouses cannot operate because the meat may not ship across state lines and the major market for horse meat is overseas. This all recently changed on November 14th, 2011, when a Congressional Conference Committee issued a report failing to recommend the defunding of inspections of horses slaughtered for human consumption. So this has positioned U.S. based horse slaughter plants to reopen despite the fact that horse meat is consumed largely in foreign countries; Americans would be required to subsidize what is essentially a foreign-owned industry. Continue reading

Victory for the Horses?

Seth Victor

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is a Republican governor in a traditionally blue state, and an unapologetic brash mover and shaker in Trenton, judiciary and legislature be damned.  He has been making headlines this week following his announcement that the State will essentially take over Atlantic City and other entertainment facilities. This move is intriguing for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the property and land use suits that will inevitably arise from it, since there will be a state takeover of the casinos, while potential privatization of the state managed sports arenas. Having been to Atlantic City, I’m happy for action that will make the place a more desirable attraction, but I am concerned about the impact Christie’s decision will have on the horses.

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The Show-Me State Legislature Making the World Safe for Factory Farms

David Cassuto

I used to live in Missouri (in Rolla — a place locals call “The Middle of Everywhere“).  I have many fond memories of my time there including my first visit to Stonehenge, drinking grape juice made from local grapes (the wine is pretty good, too), and doing a radio show on gulf coast rhythm and blues for the local NPR affiliate .  So it pains me even more than it might to report about the steady capture of the legislature by agribusiness. 

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NYC Carriage Horse Panel on 2/23

David Cassuto

More from the NYLHV email:
2/23 Panel Discussion: Protecting Animals and Humans: The Past, Present and Future of Horse Carriages in NYC

Since the 1970’s, New York City residents and animal protection organizations have advocated to protect horses used in the carriage industry and ensure public safety; however, the dangers created by animal-pulled vehicles in the streets of a major city threaten the safety of both people and animals. Horses, which weigh more than 1,000 pounds, continue to get spooked and collide with cars and pedestrians. They collapse on the streets. They die prematurely in stables. They suffer from punishing pavement, extreme weather conditions, and a lack of water.  Continue reading

Factory “Farmaceuticals”

Jessica Morowitz

Premarin® is a hormone replacement therapy drug manufactured by Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals.  The drug is widely prescribed to an estimated nine million women to help them cope with the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats.  Premarin® gets its name by virtue of what it is made from—PREgnant MARes’ urINe (PMU).  That means that in order to manufacture this drug, Wyeth needs a constant supply of pregnant mares.

It is not surprising that the conditions these mares experience are not unlike those experienced by animals raised for food in factory farms.  According to the Humane Society of the United States, the mares enter the barns in September, and remain tethered in their stalls until March or April.  The stalls are very narrow, and do not allow the mares to turn around or move more than a step or two in any direction.  While inside they are constantly hooked up to a collection system that even further restricts their movements, and can make it uncomfortable to even lie down.  Moreover, the mares are often denied access to an adequate supply of water in an effort to concentrate the hormones in their urine and increase profits.  Typically, the mares will be ‘in production’ for about eight or nine years consecutively, getting pregnant and giving birth year after year.

What is just as bad if not worse than the way these mares are treated, is the inevitable by-product of all these pregnant mares—the foals.  Sadly, they are usually weaned from their mothers too early, at around three or four months of age instead of six months.  This is due to the nature of the production system.  The mares are usually bred-back right after giving birth (within a few weeks), and need to move back into the barns in September to begin urine collection.  Like the fate of many of the mares when they are no longer able to produce, these foals are often sent to auction.  From auction these horses often find their way to into feedlots, and eventually slaughterhouses.    While there are a few rescue organizations out there dedicated to the adoption of PMU mares and foals, there are not nearly enough of them to keep up with the estimated 40,000 PMU foals born each year.

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The Horses Aren’t the Only Ones Wearing Blinders

Elizabeth Bennett

business-man-wearing_~dpr0002Strolling along Central Park South, one is overcome by the rancid smell of horse urine and manure.  Looking up, there are ornate carriages that mimic fairy tales and majestic horses who would love to go for a stroll.  To many, this is picturesque and the perfect addition to a romantic getaway in New York City.  But if you look closer… you will see that most of these horses look scared, tired, injured, and just want a break from their nine hour workdays.

There has long been public outcry against horse drawn carriages in New York City.  Numerous protests, dangerous accidents, and the death of countless horses have not been enough to convince City Hall that the time has come for these rides to end.  Horse drawn carriage rides have been banned in many cities in the United States and various countries and New York City remains behind the trend.  It seems to me that it would be common sense that these horses must be in pain and that they surely could not enjoy pulling a carriage along a busy, uneven street full of loud noises, speeding cars, and flashing lights, as this clearly goes against a horse’s nature.  However, many do not stop to think about this before boarding their magical, romantic carriage ride.  This is not to say that these people, many of them tourists, are bad people who care little for animals- many of them likely love animals and are drawn to this form of entertainment for that purpose, not thinking about how cruel the practice really is.  As with most forms of animal cruelty, the cruelty part is usually as well hidden as possible.

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Racing “At” (Not “To”) the Airport

MIAToday, I learned that county officials would like to install slot machines in Miami International Airport (MIA).  Generally, I disapprove of slot machines; they embody all the bad about gambling (anti-social, no skill involved & you can’t beat the house) and none of the good (skill involved, you can beat the house, and it’s social).  However, the thing that makes this issue blawg-worthy lies with the Florida law that only permits slots at places where there is quarter horse racing.

That’s right, in order to have slot machines at MIA, there must also be horse racing.  One would think that would end the matter — it’s a ridiculous law, but it’s the law nonetheless, and horse racing and airports do not mix.  That’s what one would think but . . . Not so much.

County officials are currently considering a plan to hold horse races in the airport’s employee parking lot.  I kid you not.  Of course, holding races in the employee parking lot (the law requires 20-40 per year) would raise a host of problems — not least of them where employees would then park.  Nevertheless, officials, seeing the $17 million/year in revenue that slots will supposedly pour into county coffers, push on undeterred.  They are also negotiating with other tracks to hold the airport’s races there — whatever that means.

If this goes through and MIA starts having races in the parking lot, I have some other great ideas.  Cock-fighting in the VIP lounge?  Canned hunting in baggage claim?  I also think the security area would make a great CAFO.  If any airport officials read this blawg, let’s talk asap; we need to get in front of this thing.

–David Cassuto

The Underbelly of Horse Racing

8bellesSummer Bird won the Preakness yesterday.  So, perhaps now would be a good time to revisit the world of thoroughbred racing (Luis first posted about it here).

A Few Basic facts:

- Horse racing is a $4 Billion industry

- racehorses weigh over 1000 pounds, but have been selectively bred to have smaller legs – you do the math

- over 3000 horses have died at the track in the last five years

(read more here)

The most prevalent race horse injuries that result from the actual race are bowed tendons, knee injuries, bucked and split shins, and various other bone fractures. These injuries are usually critical, often ending in euthanasia (more here).

From PETA’s website:

“Finding an American racehorse trained on the traditional hay, oats, and water probably would be impossible,” commented one reporter.

There are trainers pumping horses full of illegal drugs every day,” says a former Churchill Downs public relations director.

Which drugs are legal varies from state to state, with Kentucky holding the reputation as the most lenient state.

According to the The New York Sun, because “thoroughbreds are bred for flashy speed and to look good in the sales ring … the animal itself has become more fragile” and that “to keep the horses going,” they’re all given Lasix (which controls bleeding in the lungs), phenylbutazone (an anti-inflammatory), and cortiscosteroids (for pain and inflammation).

The trainer of Big Brown, the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, openly admits to giving his horses Winstrol, a steroid that is illegal for equine use in 10 states, although not in the three that host the Triple Crown. Before it was banned in Pennsylvania, nearly 1,000 horses were tested for steroids and more than 60 percent tested positive.

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In light of the above, I could do with fewer equine encomia and more oversight and regulation of the industry or — better still — less of the industry.

–David Cassuto

h/t Joe Edgar

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