Oroville, California – The Horse Plus Humane Society has taken aim with a press campaign today directed at MGM CEO Gary Barber after the rescue group paid $100 for a three-year-old race horse worth $30,000 at an auction frequented by horse meat industry buyers.
During a routine health inspection volunteers noticed a tattoo on the upper lip of the horse that not only identified him as being much younger than his weathered body indicated, but further identified him as being a race horse named ‘Stardust Dancer’ owned by MGM CEO Gary Barber.
The three-year-old horse had been purchased by Gary Barber in July of 2011 after placing second in a race, but unfortunately Stardust Dancer did not perform as well as expected and after only several races he was immediately sent to an unregulated auction where the likelihood was that he would be bought and sold for slaughter in the horse meat industry.
Horse meat is generally consumed as a delicacy in many European countries as well as in Mexico and Canada but critics of the industry claim that most of the horse meat from the United States is contaminated with chemicals, hormones and medicines that are unsafe for human consumption
Vice President of Horse Plus Humane Society, Tawnee Preisner spoke exclusively to freelance writer Jeromie Williams about the discovery of Stardust Dancer and what it means to the horse racing industry and the slughter industry as a whole.
“It’s horrible what Stardust Dancer went through,” explained Preisner about finding the horse at the slaughter auction “but he’s one of the lucky horses. It’s always emotional every time you rescue an animal, but it’s also interesting when you get to find out its history and finding out that [Stardust Dancer] was owned by the CEO of MGM will bring light to the whole issue.”
The race horse industry has for a long time been the center of a great deal of worry for horse rescuers given the sheer volume of animals that are funneled through the system without proper screening or documentation that would make them unfit for human consumption.
“The race track industry produces thousands and thousands of thoroughbreds each year,” said Preisner “that are mass produced and disposable and are often trained so young that [the horses] break their legs from running because their legs aren’t developed yet.
“Out of the thousands of horses that are bred every year for racing,” continued Preisner “only a few ever make it to the track and even the successful ones face being entered into the slaughter pipeline once their careers are over.”
Added Preisner, “It’s a cycle that happens over and over.”
In the state of California where Stardust Dancer was being sold, it is a felony offense to knowingly sell race horses at an auction where there is even the possibility of the horse going to slaughter, but blame is hard to pin on anyone as the chain of responsibility is routinely shuffled from person to person.
“Every track has a broker, who is also known as a ‘killer buyer’ who is the person who comes and picks up horses right from the race track,” explained Preisner about the process in which horses are taken to slaughter auctions “and that buyer delivers the horses to the auction where they are sold to other buyers who ship the horses to either Mexico or Canada to be butchered with everyone claiming they had no idea or intent to sell them into the slaughter market.
“The entire process from start to finish is nothing more than a pipeline to slaughter houses for unwanted race horses, that saw animals like Stardust Dancer at auction only 22 days after his last race,” Preisner pointed out.
Aside from the humanitarian issues that arise from the horse racing industry and the slaughter pipeline, are the inherent health risks that are posed to humans who eat meat from racing horses due to the high levels of chemicals such as Phenylbutazone also known as ‘bute’ to those in the horse industry.
The US News website reported in 2010 that the consumption of ‘bute’ by humans can cause “serious and lethal idiosyncratic adverse effects in humans,” and that “sixty-seven million pounds of horse meat derived from American horses were sent abroad for human consumption last year.”
Phenylbutazone was originally made available for use in humans for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and gout in 1949, but it is no longer approved for use, and therefore is not marketed for use in humans in the United States.
The pageantry and the showmanship of the race horse world often leads those outside the industry to buy into the fantasy that when horses come to the end of their career they are retired to a ranch in the mountains to live out their days being pampered for a lifetime of hard work, but Tawnee Preisner of Horse Plus insists that is not the case for most.
“Somebody who is financially off like Gary Barber is,” contended Preisner “could easily get a 150 acre ranch somewhere that could be a vacation home where his retired race horses live instead of just racing them a few times and dumping them at an auction when they don’t make him enough money.
“[Gary Barber] needs to tell his trainers when the horse is done racing,” insisted Preisner “that “the horse will come to my farm” and he could get a lot of positive publicity for doing that.”
The Horse Plus Humane Society has an open door policy for any breeder, buyer, seller or horse owner who has a horse that they do not want or cannot race any longer, charging a nominal surrender fee of $150 per horse in order to ensure their proper care. This open door policy is one that many volunteers at Horse Plus and other rescue organizations hope that owners such as Gary Barber will choose to use in the future instead of selling their horses into the slaughter pipeline.
“Horse owners like Gary Barber,” stated Tawnee Preisner “need to set an example for those who are sending their rejected race horses into the slaughter pipeline that there are options out there that are just as viable that don’t put the horses in danger.
“Horse Plus Humane charges only $150 to surrender a horse,” explained Preisner “and we would gladly take any of [Barber’s] horses that he does not want to race any more.”
The Horse Plus Humane Society gave Jeromie Williams exclusive access to the press release that will be sent out to numerous press agencies on November 23rd, which details their call to the racing industry to put an end to the industrialized sale of racing horses into the slaughter pipeline.
Press Release: Gary Barber dumps slow race horse into the slaughter pipeline.
Gary Barber, CEO of Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) purchased Stardust Dancer, a 3 year old racing Thoroughbred, in July 2011 for $30,000.
Stardust Dancer proved to be a slow horse, never winning a race despite being raced 6 times. Stardust Dancer ran his last race on October 14th, 2011. On November 5th, 2011 Stardust Dancer was sold at Cow Town Horse and Livestock Auction in Turlock, CA where known killer buyers purchase horses every auction to be shipped to Mexico and Canada for human consumption, which is a felony in the state of California.
Stardust Dancer was purchased by a Horse Plus Humane Society volunteer for $100 at the Turlock Livestock Auction and is currently in Horse Plus Humane Society’s care.
A video entitled “Stardust Dancer, the 1% horse” which details the career and ties of Stardust Dancer to MGM CEO Gary Barber was released by Horse Plus Humane on November 18th, and can be seen here on Youtube.
Update 11/23/11 – A legal representative for Gary Barber named Jayna Zelman released the following statement in response to this article claiming that the accusations made by Horse Plus Humane were “patently false” and “unsubstantiated” in nature.
“I am appalled, shocked and angry” implored MGM CEO Gary Baber in his written statement “to find out that this horse I once owned found itself in this untenable position. It is unacceptable, should not be tolerated by anyone and must be eradicated from our society. I have a longstanding policy with all my trainers to find a good home for all horses that get retired from racing. I am very grateful to the Horse Plus Humane Society for discovering this and for bringing this to my attention. [My only disappointment is I wish they would have contacted me directly, instead of learning about this on the internet.] This despicable event, has further energized my endorsement and support of the humane treatment of animals and I will continue to support the SPCA and other organizations for the humane treatment of animals. It should be noted that I own and race a horse called Senor Rain, who is a rescue horse himself and I am very proud of him.”
After speaking with representatives for Gary Barber and MGM, Horse Plus Humane released the following statement in response to Barber’s concerns about the accusations made.
“Gary Barber was made aware of Stardust Dancer being narrowly saved from the slaughter pipeline” announced Tawnee Preisner ” and was shocked and angered to learn of this. Gary Barber has stated that he has a long standing policy with his trainers of finding good homes for his retired horses. He is grateful to Horse Plus Humane Society for bringing this to his attention and has pledged to be a strong advocate for them in the future as they work to find a humane alternative to livestock auctions for his race horses once their athletic days are over. Horse Plus Humane Society would like to applaud Gary Barber for his strong position of humane treatment for all of his horses and encourages all race horse owners and trainers to take the stand that Gary Barber has taken.”