Faces In The News
Oil Icon Pickens Fights 'Dirty' Horsemeat Trade
Greg Levine, 07.28.06, 2:36 PM ET

When you think of do-gooders, you might think of selfless nuns and missionaries like Mother Teresa and Albert Schweitzer, or philosophical rockers and objects of passion like Bono and Angelina Jolie.

"Texas oilmen" might not spring to mind at all. So be prepared to have your worldview shaken by T. Boone Pickens, animal-rights activist.

The billionaire isn't storming Japanese whaling boats or throwing imitation blood on McDonald's restaurants. No, Pickens is a horse fancier. And in a furious statement this week, he denounced "America's dirty little secret": the systematic slaughter of equines for human consumption.

But where others talk, the twangy tycoon acts: He announced he was joining the fight against "foreign-owned horse-killing plants."

And that "f"-word also might have a bit to do with his disgust, as the Lone Star State financier declared that, "The brutal slaughter of horses for consumption by wealthy diners in Europe and Japan cuts against our moral and cultural fiber--it's just plain un-American."

Pickens elaborated, "Horses have a special place in American culture and history. They helped settle this country, and provided inspiration for the horsepower that now powers the vehicles that make this nation go."

House Majority Leader John Boehner, (R-Ohio), said the House will vote in September on a bill seeking to end horse-butchery for human cuisine, by outlawing the transport and sale of horses for slaughter. Pickens testified at a hearing on the bill Tuesday before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The founder of BP Capital and Mesa Petroleum, Pickens is also famed as a voracious takeover master--though targets who escaped acquisition include Newmont Mining and future Valero unit Diamond Shamrock.

This isn't the first time Pickens has fought for four-legged friends: He and his wife, Madeleine, funded the airlift of hounds and cats from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Wayne Pacelli, president of the Humane Society of the United States, praised his unexpected comrade: "T. Boone Pickens...appears to be a nontraditional ally. ...I think his emergence on this issue will cause people to do a double take and will attract many more supporters to our cause."

Nontraditional, indeed: Pickens is a big backer of Republican causes, reportedly donating to George W. Bush's 2004 inauguration and, allegedly, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group, which eviscerated the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

As a conservative powerhouse, he may prefer tearjerkers like The Red Pony and Black Beauty to the avante-garde Equus. But then, you might not find Pacelli at the drama of a psychotic boy who blinds a stable of steeds, either. No matter what your political bent, some things are just disturbing.