Posted: 10/29/2004 8:26:00 PM ET
Thoroughbred Times
Zito message: ‘Simply think about the word ‘slaughter’ for just a minute’

NTRA photo
With two of the country’s three facilities that slaughter horses for human consumption just a few miles away from Lone Star Park, the issue took center stage on Friday as officials from Breeders’ Cup Ltd., the track, and several horse protection groups spoke out on the progress being made to stop the practice in the United States.

Under a banner trumpeting the phrase "Remember Ferdinand," the 1986 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner and 1987 Horse of the Year who was reportedly killed in a Japanese slaughterhouse in 2002, Breeders’ Cup Ltd. President D. G. Van Clief Jr., also commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, pledged that both of those organizations would continue to support the fight to enact federal legislation to ban horse slaughter.

"It is my belief that a horse from the time it is born until the end of its racing career or the end of its life is the responsibility of its owner," Van Clief said.

John R. Murrell, the president of Dallas-based Three M Oil Co. and a second generation horse owner and breeder agreed, saying the ultimate safety of Thoroughbred racehorses is an issue of personal responsibility.

"It must be a moral endeavor by those who own and breed the horses," Murrell said. "With the help of the Thoroughbred industry and all the groups organizations that rescue and adopt retired horses, horse slaughter can and will be prevented legislatively."

According to the National Horse Protection Coalition, more than 50,000 horses were slaughtered in 2003 and another 30,000 were exported for slaughter abroad. One study indicates that Thoroughbreds account for approximately 16% of those horses going to slaughter, although the actual numbers could be much higher.

Liz Ross, spokeswoman for the coalition, read a statement from United States Representative John Sweeney (R-New York), who introduced the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act in February 2003.

The legislation would prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption and their export for slaughter elsewhere. The bill was co-sponsored by more than half of the U.S. House of Representatives, and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate earlier this year.

"I am proud of the strong support that my legislation has received from the Thoroughbred racing community," the statement said. "Leaders in the industry have been vocal in their enthusiastic support for the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, and this has had a marked impact on the bill’s success."

Trainer Nick Zito, national spokesman for the National Horse Protection Coalition, pulled no punches in explaining his support of the effort to ban horse slaughter.

"If I could take a message to America today, it would be to simply think about the word ‘slaughter’ for just a minute,’ Zito said. "How does that word make you feel? Have you ever heard the word slaughter used in a positive way? Of course not. People need to take that to heart. Slaughter is wrong. Period. The word slaughter is wrong. Let’s try to do something right."

A informational table manned by several groups working to end horse slaughter also has been set up just outside the track’s gate to educate fans about the issue.

"It all boils down to education and awareness," said Sherillyn Flick, who operates the Web site "We have the chance this weekend to interact with people from all over the world and make sure they know what is going on and what they can do to help stop it."—Steve Bailey