(UPDATED OCT. 10 TO REFLECT NEW POLICY FROM MAGNA ENTERTAINMENT)
When the Judiciary Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives held a markup hearing on Sept. 17 to discuss H.B. 6598, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008 that would ban slaughter and criminalize the transportation of horses for the purpose of having them slaughtered for human consumption, a letter from National Thoroughbred Racing Association president and CEO Alex Waldrop said his organization took a neutral position on H.B. 6598 despite supporting previous anti-slaughter legislation.
Waldrop's position statement, read into the record by Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, outraged a number of prominent Thoroughbred industry participants, including Pin Oak Stud's Josephine Abercrombie, who wrote a letter signed by more than 40 individuals that was sent to the leadership of the Judiciary Committee stating that the NTRA did not speak for them on the issue. The Judiciary Committee passed the legislation on Sept. 23 and sent it to the full House.
On Oct. 3, however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) referred the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act to the Agriculture Committee, giving that committee until Jan. 3, 2009, to take action on the bill. Since the 110th Congress has adjourned, the bill will not pass unless it comes up during a lame duck session, which is highly unlikely.
Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and ranking Republican Goodlatte both have been recipients of contributions from the NTRA PAC, most recently receiving $5,000 for their 2008 campaigns. Peterson is a member of the Congressional Horse Caucus and Goodlatte has been a strong ally of the NTRA's lobbying efforts concerning Internet gambling and tax incentives for breeders. Goodlatte has been an opponent of slaughter legislation. (Abercrombie, incidentally, is a “champion” level NTRA Horse PAC donor, giving $5,000.)
In the wake of the Judiciary Committee's action on anti-slaughter legislation and the NTRA's neutral position (the American Horse Council is also neutral), Paulick Report readers suggested we contact other major Thoroughbred industry associations and businesses to see if they have taken a position on the issue of slaughter and on the specific legislation (H.B. 6598).
Listed alphabetically by organization, here is what we learned:
ASSOCIATION OF RACING COMMISSIONERS INTERNATIONAL: According to RCI president/CEO Ed Martin, the RCI “normally does not take positions on pending legislation in Congress and has not been asked by any of its members to address the issue.”
BREEDERS' CUP: Greg Avioli, president/CEO, said the Breeders' Cup “has not issued a formal policy statement on the slaughter legislation before Congress. However, it is the strong consensus of our board that slaughter is inhumane and any and all reasonable options other than slaughter should be pursued. In furtherance of this position, proceeds from this year's Championships will go to multiple retirement organizations.”
CHURCHILL DOWNS INC. Officials did not reply to requests for a position statement. Churchill Downs Inc, created the Greener Pastures program in conjunction with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and supports other retirement and retraining programs.
FASIG-TIPTON: Did not reply to requests for a position statement. Under the leadership of the late John Hettinger, Fasig-Tipton's majority shareholder, the company created Blue Horse Charities to offer support to various retirement and retraining organizations. Hettinger was the industry's leading anti-slaughter advocate.
JOCKEY CLUB: Spokesman Bob Curran gave no position on H.B. 6598 but said the official breed registry “is opposed to the slaughter or processing of Thoroughbreds for consumption by humans or animals. This includes the sale and/or transportation of Thoroughbreds for slaughter or processing for consumption by humans or animals.” The Jockey Club is a member of the Unwanted Horse Coalition.
KEENELAND ASSOCIATION: Did not reply to requests for a position statement. Keeneland and its foundation have supported Thoroughbred retirement and retraining organizations, including the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and Rerun.
KENTUCKY EQUINE EDUCATION PROJECT: A statement from executive director Patrick Neely said: “It has been a topic of discussion in some of KEEP's industry working groups but no formal position has been taken at this time.”
KENTUCKY THOROUGHBRED ASSOCIATION: Did not reply to requests for a position statement. KTA lists several Thoroughbred retirement organizations on its Web site.
MAGNA ENTERTAINMENT (owns Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Laurel, Pimlico, Lone Star Park, Remington Park, Golden Gate Fields): Does not have a position statement on slaughter or current anti-slaughter legislation, according to an official with the company. OCT. 10 UPDATE: MAGNA INSTITUTES NEW POLICY. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS.
NATIONAL HORSEMEN'S BENEVOLENT AND PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION: CEO Remi Bellocq said he could not provide a yes or no answer to whether the organization supports a ban on slaughter or H.B. 6598 because of the diversity of the 30 HBPA affiliates across North America. “Our horsemen and horsewomen fall across the spectrum on this issue,” Bellocq said. The National HBPA is a member of the Unwanted Horse Coalition. Bellocq said “this shouldn't be defined necessarily as a ‘slaughter for human consumption' issue but, rather, an ‘unwanted horses' issue. To a person, if given a choice, horsemen would much prefer finding a home and/or second career for their horses as opposed to slaughter. Unfortunately, no matter what legislation (state or federal) is passed, the real problem – the number of unwanted horses – will still exist. To stem the number of unwanted horses, education and awareness are a key first step to successfully bring the number down.
“To that end, in 2005 National HBPA was one of the founding members of the Unwanted Horse and we continue working actively within the UHC to better educate horsemen about the options including, should all else fail, humane euthanasia. The UHC has set-up a big tent under which all the wonderful horse rescue programs can work together. If we truly made an industry-wide effort to centralize, for example, an ex-racehorse outplacement / adoption program, I am convinced many could be placed with willing owners. Why not, for instance, establish a national site modeled after Petfinder.com? Already, organizations like the Illinois HBPA have created similar approaches with success (see Illinois HBPA's Horses Wanted link.”
NEW YORK RACING ASSOCIATION: Did not reply to requests for a position statement. NYRA offers support to the Exceller Fund, which helps place retired horses and has supported the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.
THOROUGHBRED HORSEMEN'S ASSOCIATION: CEO Alan Foreman said the organization has not taken a position on the current legislation. “There will be a new Congress in January and we will visit the issue then,” Foreman said.
THOROUGHBRED OWNERS AND BREEDERS ASSOCIATION: Position statement from TOBA president Dan Metzger: “We are categorically opposed to the slaughter of Thoroughbreds, and urge all those involved in the Thoroughbred industry to support rescue and adoption efforts and to work together to find humane means of dealing with the problems presented by Thoroughbreds no longer suitable for racing or breeding.” Metzger did not indicate whether or not TOBA has a position on H.B. 6598. TOBA is a member of the Unwanted Horse Coalition and is affiliated with Thoroughbred Charities of America, which supports numerous horse retirement and retraining operations.
THOROUGHBRED OWNERS OF CALIFORNIA: Did not reply to requests for a position statement. TOC's Web site offers advice to a horse's “last owner” and pushed for a first-of-its-kind charitable fund, the Calfornia Retirement Management Account (CARMA), to solicit and distribute purse checkoffs for retirement and retraining programs. Transport for slaughter is illegal in California.
THOROUGHBRED RACING ASSOCIATIONS: Executive vice president Chris Scherf said the organization of North American racetracks has adopted no official position.
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