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Take the Derby Day Challenge and save a horse from slaughter
On May 2nd, many of the world's fastest thoroughbreds will compete in the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby
. The racetrack success of these equine stars was once supposed to guarantee them a safe and long retirement. But according to Melodee Shelley-Bolmgren, founder of Chez Chevaux
, a Washington-based nonprofit thoroughbred rescue organization, times have never been tougher for these magnificent creatures.
When Melodee Shelley-Bolmgren, founder of Chez Chevaux, rescued this horse he was 300 pounds underweight.
It's possible — even likely — that one of the horses running in Saturday's race will end up on a dinner plate somewhere overseas.
This was, in fact, the fate of Ferdinand
who won the 1986 Kentucky Derby and 1987 Breeders' Cup Classic. He was voted the 1987 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, but later proved unsuccessful as a stallion and his economic value dwindled to the price of the meat on his bones. In 2002, 16 years after he won the Kentucky Derby, Ferdinand was shipped off to a slaughterhouse in Japan with little fanfare. His death served as the catalyst for the Ferdinand Fee
, a donation program to help keep old racehorses alive.
, the only horse ever to beat two Triple Crown winners, which he did in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup, died in a Swedish slaughterhouse in 1997. Phantom on Tour, who ran sixth in the 1997 Kentucky Derby, might have met a similar fate if rescue groups hadn't intervened before it was too late.
Shelley-Bolmgren with a rescued thoroughbred.
In part due to the poor economy, donations to rescue organizations are reported to have reached record lows and thoroughbreds, some of whom have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for their previous owners, are being shipped to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. Without sufficient funds, nonprofits are unable to save these ex-racers.
"What makes this situation even more tragic is that we see so many healthy, young thoroughbreds shipped abroad to be slaughtered, " says Shelley-Bolmgren.
To help save the lives of thoroughbreds and retrain them for second careers as pleasure or show horses, Chez Chevaux has issued a Derby Day Dollar Challenge. The nonprofit organization hopes to raise $135,000 in recognition of this year's 135th Derby. Shelley-Bolmgren says she already has an email box overflowing with requests to help horses that are in dire need.
Watch Shelley-Bolmgren tell the story of her efforts to rehabilitate Dolly, a thoroughbred who was severely neglected while living in the back of an expensive home:
According to the Humane Society, the United States sent 98,363 horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter last year. As of March 28, 2009 17,758 horses had been sent to those two countries for slaughter. Polls have historically shown that the vast majority of Americans are against the slaughtering of horses
. In Texas (formerly home to two of this country's equine slaughterhouses) , 72 percent of those polled in 2006 said they were opposed to the slaughtering of horses for human consumption. That sentiment is shared by most members of Congress.
But unfortunately the people's voice isn't always heard or honored in Congress. In September 2006, the United States House of Representatives approved H.R. 503, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would ban the slaughter of horses in the United States. However, the bill never made it out of committee in the Senate. For a multitude of reasons, cattlemen's groups, the American Quarter Horse Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners have gone on the record as "pro-slaughter" and have found ways to keep this practice alive.
The recent rise in the number of unwanted and neglected horses in Kentucky
has renewed the debate over whether reopening slaughterhouses in the United States (the last ones closed in 2007) would help address the problem.
To take the Derby Day Dollar Challenge
, please visit Chez Chevaux
to make an online tax-deductible donation. No amount is too small. "If enough people contributed even a single dollar to horse charities that would help us save so many animals from certain deaths," Shelley-Bolmgren says.
- During the last few decades, millions of horses have been slaughtered in the U.S. and Canada and their meat exported to Europe and Japan for human consumption.
- It is estimated that a third of all slaughter-bound horses in the U.S. were bred for racing.
- Thoroughbreds and other horses are often shipped up to 30 hours without food or water. When they reach the slaughterhouse, they are driven into a killing factory and bludgeoned with a four-inch bolt gun which drives a spike into their skulls. Their throats are then slit, often while they are still conscious.
- Most horses sold at auction are bought by middlemen for slaughter plants; the horses often go straight to slaughter without disclosure to the original sellers.
- Very little horse meat is used in dog food; some cuts sell for over $20 per pound for human consumption.
Do you plan to watch the Kentucky Derby this weekend? I encourage all horse enthusiasts to place your bets on Chez Chevaux or another horse rescue organization for a guaranteed return on your investment.
| April 30 2009 at 12:51 PM