From Derby Winner to Horsemeat
July 23, 2003 12:23 AM   Subscribe

From Derby Winner to Horsemeat. Victories in the 1986 Kentucky Derby and the 1987 Breeders' Cup Classic figured to have earned Ferdinand a cushy retirement when his racing days were over. Instead, his life apparently ended in a Japanese slaughterhouse in 2002 (NY Times link). The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation argues for a stop to horse slaughter in this white paper, and there is pending legislation to ban the practice. Sooooo, how many of you have visited a boucherie chevaline?
posted by letitrain (24 comments total)
My apologies for the formatting error.
posted by letitrain at 12:27 AM on July 23, 2003

I can't see how slaughtering horses is in any way different from slaughtering cows, bulls, pigs, chickens, sheep or any other animal.

I'm not condoning or condemning animal slaughter per se, I just want to know why horses merit special consideration.
posted by spazzm at 12:37 AM on July 23, 2003 [1 favorite]

I agree with you spazzm. How many people who are going to get upset with this buy canned dog or cat food?
posted by salmacis at 12:59 AM on July 23, 2003

I ride and know quite a bit about the horse slaughter industry. (But not the Japanese one).

Problems in the US industry are rife. There is no enforcement of humane conditions like there is for other food animals. Sick and healthy animals are stuck on cattle trucks which are too small for horses and hauled long distances without food and water in terribly overcrowded conditions. Dead animals and horses with broken legs, gouged out eyes etc. regularly come off trucks. They are also not seperated by size, sex or age as other livestock are and foals are often trampled. Also there are no controls on the medications that these animals have received prior to slaughter, unhealthy animals are slaughtered and stolen ones too.

Having said all that I'm not against slaughter, just would like to see regulation. Make it similar to cow or pig slaughter. If we ban it here in the US the horses face a long trip to Mexico or Canada. Which is much worse.

As for the pet food thing: well most of the horses slaughtered here are exported for human consumption and are not used for pet food. Again these are often diseased or otherwise unhealthy animals who may only be a few days off the racetrack where they are regularly medicated and may receive hormone or steroid treatments for various conditions. So I wouldn't eat one myself.

The point with Ferdinand was that he earned almost $4 million dollars for his owners on the track, never mind what they got for him in syndication (selling breeding shares) and had earned a retirement. In fact apparently his previous owners would have paid to buy him back and retire him. For slaughter horses go for maybe $0.70/pound so it wasn't like the people who owned him now made tons of money on selling him for meat.

That's all.
posted by maggie at 1:25 AM on July 23, 2003

Horse Racing, like so many other things, is a business. I'm guessing that once a race horse can no longer run then to keep him around is not going to be commercially viable and unless he can be given away, it makes most economic sense to "scrap" him, and get some money (however little this may be).

However, because an animal is involved we get sentimental about it. I agree there should be more regulation about the transport and slaughter, but if you eat meat, then a horse is fair game. I wouldn't recommend it though - the once I had it, it was hard work - more like tough steak.
posted by jontyjago at 1:41 AM on July 23, 2003

Well a lot of ex-racers do go on to private homes. Usually they get sold for a little more than meat prices though and are not given away; often in part to ensure that they don't end up at auction immediately.

Like I said I'm not against the idea of slaughter per se, particularly in an area that has a lack of land etc. and I don't think it's morally wrong. But that horse was 20 years old and a Derby winner and basically a pet who could have had a home for life, which probably would have been 5-6 years at most. You have to understand how upsetting that is for the people involved in breeding, foaling and racing him. They had a huge sentimental attachment. He won the Derby and the Breeders Cup for them, which is no mean feat.
posted by maggie at 2:02 AM on July 23, 2003

If they sold him, it sounds like their overriding concern was money, not sentiment. They should have known that Japanese breeders would feel the same way, as evidenced by the sinister music in every movie with evil asian businessmen. It's been a few years since I had horse sushi, but that comes from horses raised for the purpose, mostly in Hokkaido, I believe.
posted by planetkyoto at 2:05 AM on July 23, 2003

I imagine most horse meat is put into sausages or other processed meat products - not sold as steak.

Can anyone in the meat biz confirm/debunk this?
posted by spazzm at 2:19 AM on July 23, 2003

I have eaten horse steak from a travelling boucherie chevaline in southern France, and very nice it was, too.
posted by Joeforking at 3:33 AM on July 23, 2003

Um.. Isn't the entire sport a form of organised cruelty?

Correct me if I'm wrong here.
posted by cell at 4:34 AM on July 23, 2003

Ever notice how many animal rightists wear pearls?
Just thought I'd ask. ;-P
posted by mischief at 5:08 AM on July 23, 2003

Ever notice how many animal rightists wear pearls?

Wow, my powers of observation are worse than I thought. :-(
posted by bifter at 6:26 AM on July 23, 2003

Um, I give up, how many, mischief?
posted by soyjoy at 7:12 AM on July 23, 2003

I worked on the back side of race tracks (in the barns with the horses) when I was in high school. In general, expensive horses with wealthy owners get well taken care of after they retire. A nice green pasture, a few rides now and then by the owner, lots of good veterinary care.

Not so expensive horses get sold as show horses or school horses, or run until they break down and have to be destroyed. I preferred to work for trainers who had wealthy clients, and treated the horses the best.

Most horses owned by the PA Amish end up being sold at auctions in New Holland where the biggest buyers are Alpo and other dog food companies.

To me, the Japanese culture seems very harsh compared to the other cultures. They kill whales and encourage citizens to eat whale meat and have much higher suicide rates - indeed consider suicide honorable in many circumstances. Random facts, but ones that disturb me.

I'm not sure what the point of my post is, except that eating creatures with which you have a personal attachment (in the US dogs, cats, horses, etc) seems revolting to me. It's not as if there is a shortage of meats to eat in Japan, and they're desperately trying to find it to stay alive. Maybe it's that is seems so unnecessary and needlessly callous.
posted by Red58 at 7:15 AM on July 23, 2003

Good work, maggie.
posted by weston at 8:31 AM on July 23, 2003

Ever notice how many animal rightists wear pearls?

i don't wear pearls, but i actually like horse racing. horse racing isn't the problem. neither is greyhound racing.

both these animals like to run, quite a bit actually. the fact that we can't somehow manage to enjoy that fact without destroying them is plain sad.

i go to the horse track occasionally. i don't go to the dogs. sometimes i wear leather belts (used), but i don't eat meat. i don't think "animal rightists" are as easily defined as you may think.

eating creatures with which you have a personal attachment (in the US dogs, cats, horses, etc) seems revolting to me

i've never understood that argument. don't you have a "personal attachment" with those specific animals only because of exposure and domestication? couldn't you see yourself personally attached to a pig, cow, or chicken, if they were properly trained, which they could easily be?

animals are animals. i think it's offensive to fault someone for eating horse or dog, then stuff your face full of pig and chicken.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:49 AM on July 23, 2003

They should have known that Japanese breeders would feel the same way, as evidenced by the sinister music in every movie with evil asian businessmen.

Classic. I love it.

Seriously though, I think the lesson is don't sell a horse if you feel it deserves a nice retirement - step up to the plate and give him a good home yourself. $4 million in winnings wasn't enough to merit this from his owners?

I understand horse racing is a business, but c'mon, is there no such thing as honor anymore?
posted by beth at 9:53 AM on July 23, 2003

that said, i also think if a horse won the Kentucky Derby for you, you could probably find a place for him to live out his old age.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:54 AM on July 23, 2003

yes, food industry is fuxxed up

I think singling out Japanese for horses will only inflame the same dumass Americans as who opposed those dog eating Koreans

this is a mistake, who cares that it inspires some discourse in metafilter, I don't think that was the point

on the other hand, I find nothing wrong with whale hunting besides the usual reasons e.g. save the species
If they were as fruitful as bunnies, hell yeah I'd go on a high seas adventure and try me some whale blubber

as for suicide I feel that may have developed during the Japanese conquest of the northern islands after the Tang; I know little of Japanese history but it seems like the new type of military that developed would have such a mentality, especially considering Tang dynasty at its height was extremely patriotic and militaristic.
posted by firestorm at 10:15 AM on July 23, 2003

edit: the beginnings of such a mentality, not full fledged suicide cult - the code of honor originates from the bands of young men as well, just look at online gaming, I found it actually less common when I played sports, but online among the troubled musings of youth (lol) there are the inklings of a search for an honor code

but back to the topic
posted by firestorm at 10:18 AM on July 23, 2003

Well after my meandering post, some clarifications. mrgrimm I don't eat meat, except for fish, either. I don't think cows deserved to be eaten, although my rationale for that is primarily that the amount of resources we give up for cow growing is unconscionable (killing buffalo that roam outside of Yellowstone, killing predators on the prairies to protect cattle, endless acres of rainforest in South America). And the way pigs are raised in cages. I could go on but you get my point, I think.

It just that for most people, it is more difficult to eat "pet" animals because we have known them and probably thought of them as family members. OK, this is not rational, but it is an emotional reaction as much as anything and emotions generally aren't bound by rules of rationality.

As for the Japanese, well I thought we were including the French and other horse meat eating countries in the discussion, too. I gave some opinions about Japan, because I thought it was exemplary of that culture's thoughts and approaches to what I see as issues of compassion and sentimentality. Not that Hello Kitty isn't cute and sentimental and all....
posted by Red58 at 11:06 AM on July 23, 2003

I've eaten horse in Switzerland, and "puledro" (pony) in Italy. Both times I ate out of curiosity and a desire to have an open mind about new experiences, and both meals were delicious. I really don't see the difference between eating a cow and eating a horse. The only reason I see for excluding horsemeat is if I decided to become a vegetarian.

Making it unlawful to slaughter horses for human consumption seems ridiculous. What one eats is a cultural decision - the law should not be involved. Many cultures eat things many Americans find repugnant, including camel humps, snakes, monkeys, frogs, grubs, and ants.

It does disturb me that an athlete with such prestige and history wound up being dog food. I think mrgrimm said it best: "if a horse won the Kentucky Derby for you, you could probably find a place for him to live out his old age."
posted by letitrain at 12:20 PM on July 23, 2003 [1 favorite]

To be fair the reason this whole story came to light was that the owners that he won the Derby for WERE looking for him and wanted to retire him. They had sold him as a breeding stallion, and when he was only moderately successful he was sold overseas, and then sold either one or two more times before being slaughtered (don't remember exactly). One of them became concerned for some reason and went looking for him.
posted by maggie at 1:51 PM on July 23, 2003

You just know that Seabiscuit movie's gonna be huge. It's an inspirational tear-jerker. What you don't know is they're already working on the sequel, Seabiscuit: It's What's For Dinner.
posted by soyjoy at 9:11 PM on July 23, 2003 [1 favorite]

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