Brown pushes for end of horse slaughter

Fair Hill exercise rider aids grass-roots effort to boost cause

Posted Saturday, February 16, 2008

Longtime exercise rider Alex Brown wants to shut down U.S. horse slaughter facilities and prohibit the transport of horses out of the country for slaughter. Courtesy of Sam Houston Race Park

Alex Brown speaks from the heart when he talks about the slaughter of thoroughbred racehorses and other horses in North America.

Brown, a longtime exercise rider at the Fair Hill (Md.) Training Center, is so devoted to this cause that he has joined forces with Paula Bacon, of Dallas, and Julie Caramante, of Houston, in a grass-roots effort to carry their message to Washington. Bacon is the former mayor of Kaufman, Texas, the home of the former Dallas Crown horse slaughter plant.

Brown, in fact, has taken his cause on the road in recent months.

The native of Cheshire, England, spent time last fall working at Keeneland and Churchill Downs in Kentucky for trainer Eddie Kenneally. This winter, he's riding at Sam Houston Race Park (Houston, Texas) in the morning for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Brown also handled the daily online updates regarding Barbaro after the Kentucky Derby champion was seriously injured in the 2006 Preakness. He also co-chaired the Barbaro Celebration of Life event at Delaware Park last spring.

"I am looking to meet people at the racetrack and outside and learn more about how our horses are treated and what support structures are in place in different parts of the U.S.," said Brown, who taught two sections of an Internet marketing class at the University of Delaware last year. "I love Fair Hill, but I needed to leave for a while and learn more about the country's attitude to the horse."

Brown said his group, Americans Against Horse Slaughter, supports passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act now before Congress.

"Everything about this is grass roots," Brown said. "We don't have some big, powerful organization or business behind us. It's a groundswell that has been building around the country."

While Texas and Illinois slaughterhouses have been shut down, many former racehorses are being sold for shipment to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. The meat is then shipped overseas for human consumption.

Brown said that's why it is important that Senate Bill 311 would "prohibit the shipping, transportation, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption."

Passage of the bill would further limit the options for disposal of unwanted horses. The bill states that an unwanted horse is one that has reached the useful end of its economic or recreation life. There are numerous reasons for the existence of unwanted horses, including financial aspects such as the owner's loss of job, the price of feed or stabling, relocation, or poor health of the horse or its owner.

"We need more horsemen [trainers and owners] to step up to the plate and say this is wrong," Brown said. "I can name horses who had won races and were sold at these sales. We need more people like [Hall of Fame trainer] Nick Zito. He has been very vocal about stopping the slaughter of horses in the U.S."

Brown said Delaware doesn't have a law against horse slaughter, but said Sen. Tom Carper, Sen. Joe Biden and Rep. Mike Castle support the bill.

"What has happened is that in Texas and Illinois, there were laws passed making it illegal to operate a horse-slaughter facility," Brown said. "However, there are still many states that don't have laws banning horse slaughter, so there is a chance a new slaughter facility can be established. We need federal laws enacted that ban horse slaughter anywhere in the U.S.

"Federal law will also ban the shipment to slaughter. That will put a stop on horses being shipped to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. We are gaining momentum, and we are not going away."