Sweeney leads charge to end horse slaughter
By: DIANA LADDEN 04/02/2004
HILLSDALE--Congressman John E. Sweeney, Sir Paul McCartney, Bo Derek and Jennifer Hughes of Harmony Corral in Ancram are working together toward a common goal: stopping the slaughter of American horses to provide gourmet dining for the French, Belgians and Japanese.

       Mr. Sweeney is sponsoring (R-20th) a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to end the slaughter of horses in the United States for human consumption.
       The bill would also prohibit the sale, possession and trade of horseflesh for human consumption and would ban the sale, possession and trade of live horses for slaughter for human consumption. And it decries inhumane methods of slaughter.
       The bill states that approximately 55,000 American horses are slaughtered for human consumption annually in the United States by foreign-owned slaughterhouses. Tens of thousands of live horses are exported from the United States annually for slaughter .
       Two foreign-owned, American-run slaughterhouses exist in Texas. A third, Belgium-owned slaughterhouse is being re-built in DeKalb, Illinois, after being destroyed by fire in 2002. The parent company, Cavel International, claims the facility will be able to slaughter 100 horses a day.
       "Horses were our partners in settling America and in fighting our wars. In the early 1900s, we passed a law protecting wild horses. How can we let them be slaughtered for consumption," says Mr. Sweeney.
       "Saratoga is part of my district and Columbia County is full of horses and horse people, so I am aware of horse-related issues. I was horrified to learn that there were two foreign-owned slaughterhouses in Texas killing horses to provide meat to be served as a delicacy in parts of Europe and Japan."
       "It is almost like a black market," he continues. "The production of horse meat for consumption rose 18% from 2002 to 2003. These people are ruthless in trying to acquire as many horses as possible. They will tell owners lies about the futures of their horses and then transport the horses for 24 hours without food or rest."
       Ms. Hughes agrees: "The industry is not regulated. Soon there will be a horse slaughterhouse in every state. We must do something now. In five years it will be too late. Soon this diabolical behavior will become acceptable and will overflow into our city streets. Our eyes should be wide open."
       Both Mr. Sweeney and Ms. Hughes say they have viewed a video shot with a hidden camera that shows the cruelty of the horses' treatment and the brutality of their slaughter.
       Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky) became an anti-slaughter advocate after he learned of the death of Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner and 1987 Horse of the Year and Breeders' Cup Classic winner. That horse went to a Japanese slaughterhouse in 2002.
       He reports in the Thoroughbred Times: "Foreign-owned slaughterhouses in the U.S. have killed more than 3-million horses in the last two decades. I feel we can get 225 to 230 co-sponsors, and it takes only 218 to pass the House."
       "We now have a sponsorship of 185 people," Mr. Sweeney told The Independent Wednesday, "By the time this session is over, I will have 200."
       "My biggest obstacle is the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, Bob Goodlatte ( R ) from Virginia. He says all horsemen are not uniform in their opinion about the matter, citing the National Quarter Horse Association as divided. In truth, the National Quarter Horse Association does not want to commit, but they are not against the legislation."
       There is another argument against the legislation Mr. Sweeney considers to be horse feathers: "Our opponents claim there is no organized process for adoption of horses. [But] there are networks of people all over the country dealing with horse adoption."
       Ten minutes of researching horse adoption opportunities on the Internet located nine organizations in New York State and 86 nationwide.
       While Mr. Sweeney beards Congress, Ms. Hughes wants to take the issue to the people and to President Bush: "On September 13, my rescue pony Cobbie and I will reenact the Pony Express. We have put together a contest for school children to draw a rearing horse and write a 200-word essay explaining why our horses should be declared national treasures and given protection. Cobbie and I will take them to the president."
       "We have rocks in this country that are protected by federal law that have done nothing for the American people, while the horses that helped us build this country are slaughtered for the upscale European food market," she adds.
       Ms. Hughes says a website will soon be in operation where those who wish to join the effort can find information. She envisions riders in every state participating in the adventure and raising money to release horses held in kill pens, feed and groom them and provide veterinary care.
       She has notified many equine-related organizations in the hope they will participate as well as celebrities known to be horse-lovers. Ms. Hughes says Sir Paul McCartney supports the cause, and earlier in the month movie star Bo Derek announced her intention to back legislation to stop the slaughter of horses for food.
       Individuals interested in Ms. Hughes' project can call her at 851-9452.