I'll Have Another: Derby winners and wild horses in danger of slaughter for meat

Obama signs the bill paving the way for US horse slaughter houses while I'll Have Another is being sent to Japan and an uncertain future that could include becoming pet food.

VIENNA, Va., July 11, 2012 — I’ll Have Another win the Derby and the Preakness, and many watched the chestnut beauty in motion. People all over the country waited eagerly for the Belmont race until the announcement that he had injured his leg, and there would be no Triple Crown winner once again.

Now comes more upsetting news from J. Paul Reddam stables in California: the amazing horse is being shipped overseas where his fate is more dicey. In Japan horses are slaughtered for pet foods and human consumption. 

A recent bill signed by President Obama is opening the doors for US based horse slaughter houses as well.  One can only imagine in horror the fear of an animal that learns to trust in humans being treated as a “meat product” and the all to often inhumanity and cruelty of the slaughter house.

After the leg injury and the decision to retire I’ll Have Another to stud in Kentucky where his services and bloodline might produce colts and fillies to race under his name, it seemed that it would be a good retirement future for the three-year-old. He would have mares paying a dear price for his services and a carefree life in the Bluegrass fields of Kentucky.

Shipped to Japan

However, then came the announcement that I’ll Have Another had been sold to a Japanese concern, Shigeyuki Okada’s Big Red Farm on the island of Hokkaido. The horse has been shipped, supposedly for stud. Reddam Stables received the princely sum of  $10 million, said to be far in excess of any offer made by a stable in this country.  According to J. Paul Reddam, the breeding rights for second place finisher, Bodemeister, were also supposedly sold, for $13 million, but to a U.S. farm, a far safer locale.

So now readers and horse lovers hold their breath again, knowing all too well that this sale can take a darker turn. Do you remember the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand and what happened in his stud retirement?

He too was sent to Japan to the JS Company at Arrow Stud on the same island, allegedly for stud purposes, until the new owner either became dissatisfied with the quality of progeny produced or tired of the game. 

The End for Ferdinand

Derby winner as pet food?

In a very quiet arrangement, it was after the fact and only after a lot of inquiries, that we learned that Ferdinand had been quietly disposed of in 2002, sent to a firm in Japan for slaughter, and turned into pet food. The news rocked the racing world, as well as average people who love horses and enjoy racing, all of us stunned that something so horrific could happen to a Derby winner.

Will this be the future for I’ll Have Another, the horse who made a true name for himself and for his little known rider, Mario Gutierrez? Only time will tell, but the odds are not in the stud’s favor.

It is hard cash and pure business when the top dollar reigns, particularly when the final outcome is unknown. One can only hope that some sort of return clause was included in the paper work. Ferdinand’s original owners, the Howard Keck family, got wind of what was to happen in Japan and tried unsuccessfully to reach the Japanese firm to see if the horse could simply be returned to the United States. After a run around of many weeks and several different stories as to his whereabouts, they learned he had been disposed of.

This Could Happen to I’ll Have Another

Now the United States and Japan are worlds apart, thankfully, and horsemeat is not the delicacy here that it appears to be there, although it is a meat product that can become pet food. They also eat dogs and cats in Asia so our tastes are definitely dissimilar. And having a meat product made from a Derby and Preakness winner doubtless would add to the base price for either the hors de oeuvre or pet food, if one can stomach from whence it came.

Last year President Obama signed a Congressional omnibus spending bill to keep the government operating. You heard about it primarily because one of the things it decreed was that the tomato sauce in pizza qualified it as “vegetable” for the purposes of school lunches.

Obama Signs the Bill Paving the Way for Slaughterhouses

You also probably did not hear that for the first time since 2005, the bill did notinclude a provision for defunding USDA inspections of horsemeat for human consumption, as part of the Agricultural Appropriations Bill.  

That omission allows slaughterhouses to once again open for business in the United States. Heretofore, horses had been quietly transported across the border to Canada (primarily via Shelby, Montana) and Mexico (at four different sites), where they could be slaughtered with no USDA control.

The claim was made that it could cost U.S. taxpayers up to $5 million a year to subsidize government inspections of any horse processing and slaughtering facilities which were American owned or opened by foreigners but operated in this country, making the Canadian and Mexican facilities desirable.

Wild horses Could Now Be Included

This proposition also conforms to the wishes of several tribal groups, since it would permit them to open a tribal horse processing facility on Indian reservation property, which could be used to reduce the wild horse population. 

It may not be too far a stretch to imagine that the descendants of the fictional Misty of Chincoteague, where the annual  “pony penning” on Assateague Island could end up being included in this newly enacted legislation by default.

Once you open the door to something morally reprehensible, except to those who take the cash to the bank, it is difficult to close it again.

A representative of the Humane Society of the United States, Michael Markarian, expressed it best when he said:

“Allowing federal funds to be used to inspect horse slaughter plants would be a step backwards for America’s iconic horses and a waste of tax dollars. Americans don’t eat horses, and they don’t want them inhumanely shrink-wrapped and sent to Japan or Belgium for a high priced appetizer. It’s time to stop the export of American horses for slaughter—not add money to the cash-strapped federal budget to open more slaughter plants.”

Of course his opposition to the bill failed.

EU Stronger Regulations Soon to Go into Effect

Interestingly enough, the European Union (EU) has a regulation on the matter which will go into effect in 2013, whereby any time a horse is presented for slaughter, accompanying it must be a veterinarian’s statement of any and all medical attention given to the animal from birth up to the date of slaughter, what drugs have been given to the animal, and when as well as for what purpose.

Valerie Pringle, an Equine Protection Specialist with HSUS, said, “This measure will be a tremendous barrier to these sales-for-slaughter.“ One reason that Europe in general is against horsemeat for human consumption is that there is no ‘paper trail’ representing the drugs that each animal has been given. If one is looking at cattle or any other normal meat animal, the medical and drug record has been scrupulously maintained, per the FDA regulations. Horses have never been subject to this scrutiny, and Europeans are unwilling to eat any meat that has not been carefully documented as to any additional substances added.” The horse meat-eating countries primarily are France, Italy and Belgium.

“At this stage,” Pringle added, “I would warn potential investors in any type of horse slaughter facility in this country as to the lack of medical and pharmaceuticals record on the animals. And we can look at this as Ferdinand’s legacy, to all of us who love and respect these wonderful animals.”

So we will cross our fingers and watch for any legislation that might produce corrective measures. We can say a prayer to St. Martin of Tours, and hope that I’ll Have Another lives long and produces marvelous foals and fillies, and then some day returns to Kentucky.

Follow the column on Face Book or LinkedIn at Martha Boltz, and by email it’sMBoltz2846@aol.com Read more of Martha’s columns on The Civil War at the Communities at the Washington Times.



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Martha M. Boltz

Martha Boltz is a frequent contributor  to the long running Civil War features in The Washington Times America At War feature in the print and online editions. She has been a regular contributor to the original Civil War Page and its successor page since 1994, and is a civil war buff, historian, and writer. "Someone said that if we don't learn about the past, we are condemned to repeat it," she said, "and there are lessons of all sorts inherent in this bloody four-year period of our country's history."  She is a member of several heritage and lineage groups, as well as the Montgomery County Civil War Round Table. Her standing invitation is, "come on down - check the blog - send me your comments and let's have fun with its history and maybe learn something at the same time."


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