Tuesday, May 13, 2008

HBO Special on Horse Slaughter

Last night on HBO's program "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble" (Episode 134) a segment aired about the issue of horse slaughter. The segment ran about 15 minutes and was well done. For those who were unable to watch the show, I thought I would share what the show said. I do want to say that the show had VERY graphic scenes and while I will try in my description of the show to be sensitive, the topic is far from being a tame one and not everything can be sugar coated.

The segment was called Running for Their Lives, produced by Joe Perskle, edited by Tres Driscoll and narrated by Bernard Goldberg. The intro by Bryant talked about the death of Eight Belles (the filly who came in second at this year's Kentucky Derby that broke down after the race and was euthanized on the track). Bryant said that those concerned with the welfare of horses should look beyond the tack because while a "handful" break down many more horses face a different and much crueler fate when racing is done with them.

The opening sequence and much of the segment was shot in West Virginia at Mountaineer Park. In the barn area a black trailer pulls in, heading for the stable of a horse who had raced there a few days ago, it's last race. Bernard Goldberg tells us that this is the story of horses who run for their lives literally, where thousands of Thoroughbreds become somebody's dinner.

The scene moves to Becky Care, who quotes the slaughter industry's favorite saying, "Stable to table in 7 days". Ms. Care previously worked as an assistant to trainers at race tracks and specifically Mountaineer, but now runs a rescue for horses. What she saw drove her out of the business. She says that a horse that can't win races and doesn't win enough money is worthless and they "want it gone". She says that a "meat man" (known by this name because the horses he buys ends up slaughtered for their meat) visits the track every week looking to buy horses "on the cheap". Ms. Care said that the trainer she worked for sold horses to the meat man regularly, even though she tried to place them. She said that handing a horse to them was like handing it off to the grim reaper.

The show then shows a race in which a filly named No Day Off ran. She came in fourth in the race, which wasn't good enough because the meat man is there to see her. They filmed with hidden cameras the horse being loaded on the trailer. The horse refuses and is beaten by her trainer until she enters the trailer. No Day Off is 4 years old and they ask the trainer why she is being sold and he says she just "don't run too good". The next day she is taken to the Sugarcreek auction. No Day Off exits the trailer first, followed by other horses from the track and enters the kill pen. In the pen horses are shown fighting and in overcrowded conditions. They also show a weak horse down, left for dead, while the others are sold off to their deaths. Ms. Care tries to buy horses from the auction and has often been outbid by the kill buyers. Unfortunately, nobody is able to save No Day Off and she is sold to a kill buyer for $425. She is packed into a double decker trailer and sent to the slaughter house.

The segment then shows the slaughter video where one of the horses is hit with the bolt gun at least 5 times and a horse fights having it's throat slit. The show states that one week they are treated like kings and the next week they are a meal. Stable to table in 7 days. Mr Gold berg talks about the closing of the slaughter plants in the United States saying that was good news for American horses, the bad news is that now horses are crammed into double decker trailers where they are shipped thousands of miles on trips that last day and night to go across the border to slaughter plants. They then show a Canadian plant where they use a 22 rifle and a Mexican plant where they stab at the horses with knives. When the worker finally severs the spinal cord of the horse, he is applauded.

Mr. Goldberg returned to Mountaineer after No Day Off is slaughtered to speak to the trainer who sold her. The trainer says that he doesn't know what happens to the horses he sells and that he prefers not to know. Mr Goldberg tells him that No Day Off went to the slaughterhouse, the trainer doesn't look surprised. However, apparently he didn't like being told because security shows up and tells them to quit filming and that they must turn over the tape to him or erase it. He even refuses to allow them to leave until he is given tape. The tape he got was blank, which they found out later and they left with the real footage of what goes on at the track. (Personally I think they should have called police because they were restrained and prevented from leaving which is a crime.)

The next part shows Christy Sheidy from Another Chance for Horses. She shows Mr Goldberg a horse that she found at auction. When she called in to find out about him everyone was shocked and said she couldn't have found him at auction. It was Little Cliff, two years ago he was a Kentucky Derby contender and he had won over $200K in purses. In March he ran a little too slow and was sold to a meat man for a few hundred dollars. It turns out that Little Cliff had just missed the truck heading to the slaughter plant. Mr Goldberg and crew follow Christy to an auction where they save a dozen horses with funds from an online group. They buy a nice looking paint horse from a kill buyer who jacks up the price from what he paid a few minutes earlier. He paid $475 and sold him for $525. After the auction Sheidy says "You bred it, you own it, you raced it, you destroyed it so you euthanize it or put it in a home". She calls it a "compromise of ethics, integrity and responsibility". Last year AC4H placed over 200 horses and they say that the horses are in demand. Becky Care agrees saying she has never had one she was unable to place in a new home.

Sheidy says that she wonders about the horse who was standing next to Little Cliff, what his story was and who owned him. Mr Goldberg says that "We do know one thing about who was standing next to him". Sheidy finishes the thought "He's no longer here".

Gumble and Goldberg talk about the segment saying it was shot at Mountaineer Race Track. Gumble asks if most tracks have a meat man to which Goldberg responds yes that the track is like most others. They talk about it being practical that horses do have to be sold. Gumble asks if there are standards for retiring a horse or disposing of one. Goldberg responds that it is private property and that it isn't illegal to sell them to whoever. he does mention that some tracks, like greyhound tracks, have a retirement/adoption program. Goldberg says that although many people may want horses, there are limits like for those living in apartments. He also says that "some may disagree, but you can't adopt out every horse in America". Then Goldberg does mention the pending bills in Congress that would ban the transportation of horses to slaughter for human consumption.

I found the show to be pretty fair and balanced. Although it didn't cover all the issues and failed to mention the bills by name or number.


nelson said...

Can someone please provide me with an address for Becky Care, featured in the HBO segment of Real Spots?? I would really like to try and help her, the anguish on her face was difficult to watch. If someone could take a moment and help me so I can help her.

Tom Nelson

AHDF President said...

Becky Care is a private individual who rescues privately so her contact information is not available. I wish I could help, but I simply do not have that information.

Her anguish was touching and very real. I have seen that look on many faces working in the rescue industry, as I am sure it has been on mine. It is incredibly hard to deal with the things that we see all too often.

While I don't know Ms Care personally I am sure she would want you to help a horse in her name. You can find a listing of rescues on the AHDF website, www.ahdf.org where you can donate, sponsor a horse or even adopt. You can also find information on how you can help support pending legislation, HR 503 and S 311, that would save these horses from slaughter.

Thank you for caring!

Libby said...

Nelson, Contact Gail Vacca at GLV190@aol.com She can put you in touch with Becky Care.

Anonymous said...

Everyone needs to write to their Congressman and Senators, and even the Mr. bush and tell them to get off their tails and pass the law to make it illegal for horses to be transported out of the United States for slaughter purposes. When I saw that, I threw up and cried for days. I even had nightmares. I would wake up in a cold sweat when I would dream about the horse being stabbed in the neck with an ice pick. That is disgusting and deplorable. If it was legal the Bairds need to receive the same treatment and see how they like it. I am still anry about this.

SPIRIT said...

Why was this horse NO DAY OFF saved, she not only gave her life on the racetrack, she was used by HBO in filming her. Still, no one could come up with the 500.00 or so dollars to spare her.
I am so depressed.
You could see she had a will to LIVE> and still no one did a thing. The story of a racehorses LIFE.

AHDF President said...

HBO wanted to film the story as a news story which means that they couldn't interfere with what was going on that day. Attempts were made after filming stopped to save the horses listed. The Kill Buyer refused to sell them.

What happened was a tragedy, but the horses that went to slaughter gave their lives to show the facts. Since writing this article I am happy to say many tracks have implemented a no slaughter policy meaning that any owner or trainer who has EVER sent a horse to slaughter cannot run a horse at those tracks. So, their deaths were not entirely in vain. It has opened the door for change.

If you want to hear real tragedy a horse dies of slaughter every 3 minutes. Not just race horses, but stolen horses, children's ponies, beloved pets, young horses who never had a fair chance at life, pregnant mares, wild horses, horses from nearly every where and every age. It is time that HR 503 is passed and these horses are protected from a cruel and horrific industry.

miranda crago said...

I'm against horse slaughter but the movie hbo did they didn't tell you that that horse they were trying to load him over four hours, and the trainer hit him with a rake to get in trailer, it doenst hurt the horses. and it makes them load not all people do that at mountaineer race track... i have worked there for over 7 years and me and my boss has never abused a horse. Matt bratt backs me up too!