Love to the rescue

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/palmbeach/sfl-pfoalrescue29aug29,0,3073659.story?coll=sfla-news-palm
Sun Sentinel  Florida 
By Patty Pensa
Staff Writer

August 29, 2004

Loxahatchee The chocolate-colored mare was too pretty to pass up.

Jennifer Labbe of Wellington snatched her off the auction block for a cool $900 on Saturday. The energetic yearling will be a belated birthday present for Labbe's best friend.

"I really don't need one," said Labbe, who has two horses. "But it's for a good cause."

The cause, say organizers of Saturday's auction, is a matter of life or death. Without their intervention, the horses on the auction block would have been slaughtered for meat sent overseas or raised in reprehensible conditions to produce hormone-replacement drugs, they say.

Their foals are stripped from them and tortured before being skinned to make trendy pony-skin products, say members of Pure Thoughts Inc./Another Chance For Horses, which ran the event. The foals were up for adoption on Saturday for $850 to $975 each.

Jennifer Swanson, one of the local group's founders, said it costs $650 to $750 to buy and transport horses on the brink of being sent to the slaughterhouse. In the past several months, Swanson said, her group has rescued 70 to 80 horses with her own money and donations.

The motivation for this work was Swanson's daughter, Camille. The Wellington High School junior wiped out her savings account to adopt a 7-month-old mare headed for the slaughterhouse. She named her new pet Lu-lu, but eventually adopted her out.

"They're taking innocent lives away just to make money," Camille Swanson said.

In the United States, there are two slaughterhouses in Texas and one in Illinois. Attorney John Linebarger represents the two Texas slaughterhouses, Dallas Crown and Belltex. He said claims of horses being tortured are untrue.

"It simply doesn't happen," he said. "It's supervised by the USDA."

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a veterinarian are present when the horses are euthanized, Linebarger said. Just like cows and pigs, the horses receive a shot to their brain so they become unconscious and don't feel their slaughter, he said.

Those fighting to save the horses say the deaths can be anything but peaceful. Some horses are improperly stunned and are still conscious when shackled, hoisted by a rear leg and cut across the throat, they say.

Slaughterhouse opponents are pushing Congress to pass a bill that would ban killing horses for human consumption of the meat in the United States. The bill is stuck in committee and may not be brought to the U.S. House of Representatives.

"The more I learn, the more disgusted I get," said Natalie Crooks of Wellington, who recently began volunteering for Pure Thoughts.

On Saturday, Crooks stood by an old basketball court, fenced and covered with hay, to show prospective adopters the 15 playful foals in need of homes. Crooks said the foals came from North Dakota, saved from the slaughterhouse where they would have been skinned to make couches, purses and other products.

Most cruel, Crooks said, is how the foals often are shocked to be taken from their mothers.

"They need a lot of TLC. They need to know that humans are not horrible," Crooks said of the foals before becoming choked with emotion.

The older horses, Crooks and Swanson said, are fattened up to become meatier. Horse meat, selling at 80 cents a pound, is shipped to Europe and Asia. The meat, Linebarger said, is consumed overseas like Americans consume beef.

"It's not a rarity or delicacy," he said.

Horse hearts are donated to universities and used in human heart-valve transplants, Linebarger said. Their hooves are given to horseshoe schools and their tails are used for violin bows and strings, he said.

Don Jacobson of Wellington said he would rather see these horses alive. He was the first at Saturday's auction to buy a yearling: $700 for a colt. He planned to give the horse, and two others, to his daughter in Denver.

"I want to do whatever I can to save horses," he said.

Patty Pensa can be reached at ppensa@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6609.

Copyright 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel