On Wednesday, California voters made it illegal to kill racehorses for human consumption and that means fewer horses being shipped to Canada for slaughter, according to The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) which supported the 'Save The Horses' Ballot. Breaking the law is a serious felony crime with hefty fines and jail time. "We had the support of three race tracks and statewide police associations," said John Lovell, a veteran attorney and lobbyist who worked tirelessly with many others to gather the 720,000 signatures needed to bring the measure to a vote.
Sherry DeBoer, one of the driving forces behind the ballot who worked long and hard behind the scenes was ecstatic: "Horses are companion animals who have a special trusting relationship with humans -- a bond that is all too often exploited by human greed. We'll continue working with our friends in Canada for the day when no unwanted horse is treated this way."
Three other principal sponsors of the ballot were Cathleen Doyle, Sidne Long and Sue Stiles. Along with DeBoer they raised more than $1 million US to win the battle.
Their efforts mean that thousands of horses will no longer enter the 'Canadian connection' to be killed. "After traveling thousands of miles, injured and exhausted horses cross our border into slaughterhouses located in British Columbia and Alberta. This long journey from California inflicts tremendous unnecessary psychological and physical trauma on these animals," said AI Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director.
In 1994, The Humane Society of Canada carried out a sweeping undercover investigation revealing the horrible abuse and cruelty inflicted upon horses sent to slaughter. That investigation sent shock waves through the racing industry and since that time 21,000 fewer horses are now being killed annually in Canada.
"However, the battle is far from over. The public is outraged over the fact that 60,000 horses are still butchered each year in Canada to satisfy the demand for gourmet markets in Europe, Mexico and Japan," said HSC Executive Director Michael O'Sullivan.
"The racing industry is just breeding too many horses. Every horse that's born makes the lives of the ones already alive worth less," said O'Sullivan.
"Racehorses are nothing more than dollar signs to many of their owners. If they don't win races, they're worth more dead than alive. This callous indifference needs to end now," he said.
Even former 'killer-buyer', Rick Mangrum of Oregon, who sent thousands of horses to their deaths said: "... I'm no bleeding heart liberal that's for sure, but I know this. The way we dispose of horses now is wrong. If people inflicted these atrocities on dogs and cats we would lock them up for cruelty. Why should it be OK to do it to horses..."
The California ballot also had the support of Hollywood Park, Golden Gate Field and Del Mar racetracks.' While The Humane Society of Canada is looking for that kind of support from the multibillion dollar racing industry here in Canada, O'Sullivan has no illusions that everyone welcomes their efforts with open arms.
"Four years ago, we told the racing industry we didn't intend to give up the fight to save horses. We'd like to work with them to clean up their act, but one way or another we're going to do it. With or without their help," he promised.