Horse Opera

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006

As one of only three horse rendering plants in the country, Dallas
Crown in Kaufman provokes its share of horror stories--and while some
are undeniably true, including its abysmal sanitation record with the
city of Kaufman, others are harder to prove. Now, though, a division
of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating complaints
from an Oklahoma family whose valuable paint horses ended up at
Dallas Crown after being auctioned off to a room filled with so-
called "killer buyers," people who acquire and sell horses to
slaughter houses.

On November 1, 2005, James Edwards sought a temporary restraining
order to prevent Dallas Crown from killing more than 30 of his
horses, valued at $25,000. The plant had already slaughtered 20 of
them, according to the order. A county judge denied the motion, and
Edwards' horses are believed to be dead.

Just how they wound up at Dallas Crown is the mystery at hand.

In December, Edwards' wife, Tana, contacted prominent anti-slaughter
advocate Sherillyn Flick. The wife said that her family had arranged
for North Texas Horse Sales in Whitesboro to auction off her late
father-in-law's registered paint horses. Although the auction house
was supposed to advertise the auction, only a handful of bidders
showed, many of whom were believed to be killer buyers. After a few
days, the Edwards family did not receive a print-out of the sale nor
had they received their take from the auction. When she contacted an
inspector with the Texas Southwest Cattleman's Association, he told
her that Dallas Crown received a delivery a few days earlier. She and
the inspector drove down to the plant that night.

"I never thought that I would ever be at a place like that. There,
standing on concrete, cold, hungry and scared, were 30 of our mares,
in foal," writes Edwards in an e-mail Flick shared with the Dallas

When Edwards spoke to the manager, he told her that he had bought the
horses and that he planned to kill them. Edwards left and the family
filed the injunction to prevent Dallas Crown from slaughtering the
pregnant horses.

In a subsequent interview with the Observer, Tana Edwards declined to
retell her story and said that her family's dispute is not with
Dallas Crown but with the individuals who sold the horses to the
slaughterhouse. From the interview, it's not clear if the family is
upset that they haven't been paid or that many of their horses wound
up not at a ranch but at a slaughterhouse. Rhonda Williams, who works
at a division of USDA that regulates animal auctions, says that the
agency is investigating allegations stemming from the Edwards
family's complaint.