Horse advocates educating race visitors about slaughter

Web Posted: 10/30/2004 12:00 AM CDT

Paula Hunt
Express-News Staff Writer

GRAND PRAIRIE Horse racing is the marquee event at Lone Star Park and today the best horses in the world will compete in eight Breeders' Cup races.

It is the biggest single day in the sport and an opportunity for horses to race to glory.

But what happens to the losers?

One group, the Houston-based Fund for Horses, is planning to remind track visitors of the fate of one such racehorse an ignoble end in the slaughterhouse.

"Remember Ferdinand" is the motto of the group's effort to educate the public about the slaughter of horses for human consumption overseas.

Ferdinand was a Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic winner who was slaughtered in Japan after his career as stud there failed.

Lone Star Park and Breeders' Cup officials allowed the Fund for Horses to set up a table outside one of the entry gates to the park, where the group and volunteers could hand out literature. One passer-by donated a Breeders' Cup ticket for the group's silent auction.

"People are absolutely horrified when they find out this is going on, and when they read about it, they just stand there stunned," said Fund for Horses President Vivian Farrell. "People have been very receptive. One man threw a $100 bill on the table and promised us 10 percent of any of his winnings."

The thoroughbred industry has been one of the biggest proponents of a U.S. ban on horse slaughter. The Breeders' Cup, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the National Horse Protection Coalition and trainer Nick Zito have all supported the Fund for Horses.

"If I could take a message to America today, it would be that horse slaughter is wrong, it's just wrong," Zito said. "It makes you feel good if you do something good. This is about doing something right."

Liz Clancy Ross, director of special projects for the Doris Day Animal League, said more than 50,000 horses are slaughtered each year in the United States for export to Europe and Japan. All breeds of horses, not just thoroughbreds, are slaughtered at three locations: plants in Fort Worth, Kaufman and in Illinois.

The Breeders' Cup here brought visitors from all over the country, many of whom arrived early for races on Thursday and Friday. Among them was Ken Evans from Mount Vernon, Wash., who stopped at the Fund for Horses booth and donated $50.

"I'd heard about Ferdinand and it kind of broke my heart, but I didn't know the extent of the slaughter and how widespread it was," Evans said. "The problem is people don't know about it but when they hear about it they should do something."
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