|Horse meat for dinner?
It's enough to make one gag
By Nick Zito
As the sporting world looks forward to the race for the second
jewel of the Triple Crown this weekend in Maryland, fans
should take a moment to remember and appreciate former
champions — the graceful giants who made us stand and cheer,
galloping into sporting history.
Ferdinand, the Kentucky Derby champion in
1986, comes to mind. Churchill Downs marks his esteemed place in
Derby history with a plaque. Ferdinand was a strong, beautiful
champion who was sold to a Japanese group to be put out to stud,
as many former champions are.
Ultimately, though, Ferdinand's
remarkable run ended in a slaughterhouse. Two years ago, he was
killed and presumably sold for human consumption.
As a person who works with horses and
sees the humanity that these animals possess and their
importance to the history of this country, I am deeply troubled
that thousands of them are being led to the slaughterhouse. I
suspect Americans who cheer on race day, have seen their
giggling children ride horseback and have an appreciation for
the days of the Pony Express, will understand my outrage.
I am a horse trainer who lives a blessed
life. I love what I do and have been fortunate enough to enjoy
success. I work with thoroughbreds, training them to run as fast
as they can. On the track with the sun rising from the east, the
fog lifting off the infield and the steady tap of the sprinter's
stride echoing across the rail — that is my office.
But one aspect of my job, my industry and
indeed, even my country, upsets me.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture
reports that every year, more than 50,000 horses are slaughtered
for food in this country. In the United States, a country that
was built by horse-drawn wagon trains and that celebrates the
accomplishments of Roosevelt's Rough Riders, tens of thousands
of horses are unceremoniously killed each year.
Foreign-owned slaughterhouses cart them
in, butcher them and ship the meat overseas to Asia and Europe.
This is not done for famine relief or directed toward the
poverty-stricken. Rather, horse meat is a delicacy in these
Before slaughter, the horses often suffer
in disturbing conditions. "Killer buyers," as those
who purchase horses at auction are called, sometimes stuff the
animals into unventilated trucks. The horses are sent on long
rides and subjected to inhumane abuses such as electronic prods
Just two slaughterhouses carry out these
deeds. Both are in Texas, where it is, ironically, illegal to
sell consumers horse meat. A third facility is being planned in
This country can't allow the destruction
of horses — animals that carry value and tradition in our
culture — for food export.
I'm grateful that horse meat would
trigger the gag reflex in most Americans. The thought of horse
slaughter should trigger a similar reflex in U.S. lawmakers.
The House of Representatives last fall
moved to end horse slaughter for food. And just last week, in
the wake of the Kentucky Derby, the Senate introduced similar
legislation that would include a ban on shipments of these
doomed horses to Canada and Mexico.
As we celebrate that rite of spring known
as the Triple Crown, let's admire the power, the grace and the
beauty of champion thoroughbreds that run the Derby, the
Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
And remember Ferdinand, as tough as that
might be to stomach.
Nick Zito is a two-time Kentucky
Derby-winning trainer (Strike the Gold and Go for Gin) who also
trains The Cliff's Edge and Sir Shackelton. Both will run in the
Preakness on Saturday. Zito is a member of the National Horse