May 9-10, 2003    Speech from Habitat for Horses read at the Vigil in
Houston and Austin. Written by Jerry Finch

Last year, the only thing that stood between a golden future and death at
the slaughterhouse for over two hundred horses were the people at Habitat
for Horses, our horse rescue in Galveston County. These horses - emaciated,
crippled, some old, some very young - had no place to go other than through
our gates or into trailers headed for Beltex and Dallas Crown.

Habitat for Horses isn’t unique. Thousands of horses walk into the stalls
and paddocks of horse rescues throughout the United States. Many are
donated, some purchased from auctions and feedlots, a large number, like
those at our ranch, are taken away from abusive owners through the court

There are hundreds of such horse rescues, manned by thousands of volunteers
that put in tens of thousands of hours bringing these horses back to health
and finding them homes where they will be loved and respected.

The volunteers come from all walks of life. Old cowboys, young kids,
suburban moms - they think nothing of sloshing through driving rainstorms,
bundling up against the bitter cold or sweating under unbearable heat to
feed, water, hay and medicate rescued horses.

“This one,” they say, “this one won’t die.”

Collectively, rescues form a protective shield around thousands of horses
across this great country.

The dedication, the drive, the purpose of the effort comes from one common
thread that we all share - a deep love for the majestic horse.

Yes, we love them. From the wild, untamed mustang to the old, swaybacked,
toothless mare - our lives are dedicated to giving them peace, to providing
the very best we can for them and, if the time has come for them to pass on,
letting them know that some people do care, that humans are not all bad, and
we ask for their forgiveness for all that has been done to them in the name
of man.

At the same moment as we are on our knees asking a horse to rise one more
time, there are those who dedicate their lives to slaughtering horses for
their meat.

They are made wealthy by the many people that have no feelings for horses,
that are brutal in their treatment, that use them until they become useless,
and then send them to slaughter to make a final fistful of dollars off their
dead bodies.

And there are millions who pass through this world blind to the horror and
brutality of slaughter. It is through their silence that the slaughter
continues. They had rather close their eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist.

We are here for one purpose - to ask you to tell the story, to open the eyes
and hearts of those millions, to bring the dark and dirty secrets of the
horse slaughter industry out into the open.

It is only through the rising voice of the public that this brutal horror
will finally come to an end and the slaughter of our horses will stop.

From that moment thousands of years ago when mankind first climbed onto the
back of a horse, we have claimed him as our partner, our friend and our
helper. The horse has been a vital part of our walk into civilization.

He fought beside us in our wars, he plowed our fields, carried our burdens
on his back, pulled our carts and wagons. In return we have honored him in
art and mythology and stood in awe of this magnificent and unique creature.

We captured him to serve us, we bred him to show strength and endurance, we
claimed responsibility for his life, his movements, his actions. He, in
turn, gave us his heart and his spirit. He has given us his life.

Yet at this very hour, in Texas, in the only two horse slaughterhouses left
in the United States, hundreds of them stand alone and abandoned, awaiting
their death.

No more will they feel the wind tossing their manes, no longer will they
play and graze. Never again will they feel the hug of little girls and
joyously carry young men on their backs.

For they are doomed to be killed and their muscles cut into small pieces to
be served on dinner plates in Europe and Asia.

In our country, in this great State, this is their final reward for a
lifetime of service. And we are letting it happen by our silence.

I’m asking you to never again let the sounds of our silence be broken by the
screams of terrified horses facing an unspeakable death.

Instead, let it be broken by our own voices, as we cry out to stop the
killing of our horses. Let our voices be heard far and wide, throughout this
town, throughout the state, through the halls of Congress and throughout
this nation.

This one won’t die, nor this one - none of them. Never again.

The slaughter stops now.

Habitat for Horses
A Nonprofit Growth and Learning Center
Hitchcock, Texas