Sunday, January 13, 2008

L.A. Times latest big paper to spotlight horse crisis

The latest national story on troubles facing horses, by Jenny Jarvie of the Los Angeles Times, highlights the role of the Southeastern drought and recounts some harrowing experiences and heroic efforts, such as those of Buffy Muir (at left with a horse named Don Juan) and her husband, Christopher Takacs, who set up a horse shelter in Carlisle, Ky. (Photo by Jim Winn for the Times)

"In many parts of the United States, horse owners are struggling to feed their animals after a severe drought doubled -- even tripled -- the cost of hay," Jarvie writes. "The drought has exacerbated a glut in the low end of the horse market, brought on by years of over-breeding and the recent economic downturn. Horses that once cost $500 are selling for $50. On, a website for horse classified ads, hundreds of horses -- some malnourished, but many well-fed -- are offered for free."

"It's heartbreaking," Kathy Grant, who runs a rescue center in droughty East Tennessee, told the Times. "The back roads are where you find them -- all skin and bone, just hanging their heads in the pastures, dying." She said she takes up to five calls a day from owners desperate to do something for, or with, their horses. The last three horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. closed in 2007, sending the trade to Mexico and Canada. "Exports have tripled to Mexico, where knives are repeatedly jabbed into the horses' spinal cords," Jarvie writes.

The horse community is conflicted over a measure being pushed by the Humane Society of the United States, which would "outlaw the transport, purchase, sale or donation of any horse to be slaughtered for human consumption," Jarvie reports. "Such a prospect worries Cynthia Bellis-Jones, a teacher who trains horses at her Paris, Ky., farm. She says she already sees more undernourished horses at her local stockyards." She told Jarvie, "I'm really on the fence on this. I don't like the idea of slaughter, but starvation sits even worse with me." (Read more)

UPDATE, 9:45 a.m. EST Jan. 14: Horses in trouble touch the heart, the mind and the keyboard. Recent blog items on this subject have started comment threads, and the Times story is the second most e-mailed from its site this morning.

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