AR-News: (US-OR) For rescued horses, no place like a home
wolfcrest at hotmail.com
Tue Nov 4 17:27:29 EST 2003
For rescued horses, no place like a home
By Matt Cooper
CEDAR FLAT - Horse heaven for Shilo and Sierra is the inviting pasture next
to Robin Henson's house, where they can run and graze and race the goats to
the juiciest apples fallen from the tree.
It's a long way from the Canadian farm where they were born and even
further, some would argue, from the destination that awaits thousands like
them: the slaughterhouse.
Shilo and Sierra are PMU horses. They were born on a Manitoba farm 18 months
ago, unnecessary by-products of a decades-old industry that uses pregnant
mare urine - PMU - for medicine that helps prevent menopause-related
discomfort and osteoporosis.
These two were lucky; Henson, a 52-year-old nurse and animal lover, adopted
them a year ago.
"I always knew where (PMU medicine) came from," Henson said, as she walked
the two quarter horses in a round pen last week. "I knew when I got horses I
wanted them to be rescues. I wanted to get horses that were in danger of
going to slaughter."
There are plenty of them out there, said Martha Armstrong, a senior vice
president in equine protection with the U.S. Humane Society: 40,000 or more
PMU foals are dumped annually onto the market, and the vast majority of them
will eventually be slaughtered for meat, often ending up on dinner tables in
France, Belgium or Japan.
At the center of the controversy is the pharmaceutical giant Wyeth, the New
Jersey-based company behind Advil and Preparation H.
Wyeth also makes Premarin - the name is derived from "pregnant mare urine" -
estrogen tablets that women have used for 60 years to help keep bones strong
and to quell menopause-related hot flashes and vaginal discomfort (there is
no urine in the final product, the company said).
The Humane Society criticizes the conditions on hundreds of PMU farms,
alleging that for six to eight months, the pregnant mares are kept tethered
in narrow stalls, unable to turn around or sometimes to lie down
comfortably, while getting little exercise and often inadequate bedding.
But Wyeth spokeswoman Natalie de Vane rejected those characterizations,
citing numerous national and international veterinarian and equine
associations that, she said, have found PMU horses to be "well cared for."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, reports that "PMU ranching
has become a model of self-regulation ... using a system of extensive checks
and balances that ensure ranchers strive for the highest standards of
practice rather than simply abiding by baseline laws and regulations."
The Humane Society's other concern is the glut of PMU foals that go to
slaughter - a problem that is suddenly critical, Armstrong said, with
Wyeth's recent decision to cut back drastically on PMU production due to
As many as 20,000 foals are being dumped onto the market, Armstrong said.
Wyeth has established a $3.7 million trust fund to help place those animals
and according to Jim Tedford, president of the Humane Society at Lollypop
Farm in New York, rescue operations are quite successful at finding homes
for those PMU horses that they can get their hands on.
The problem, Tedford said, is that rescue groups are frequently outbid at
auction by those who want the horses for the slaughterhouse. Armstrong
added, too, that the hundreds of PMU horses rescued pale in comparison to
the tens of thousands put on the market.
But rescue groups such as the Lazy Z Ranch in Sisters are undeterred: Since
starting two years ago, the ranch has placed almost 300 PMU horses of the
450 in its care, manager Virginia Loomis said.
"We generally find homes within a few months," she said. "It's kind of a
good Samaritan thing: Why go out and get a breeder when I can get a nice
horse that needs a home?"
Lazy Z horses go for between $350 and $700 each, prices at which the ranch
generally breaks even, but nothing more, Loomis said. For her, the payoff is
watching a PMU horse go home with a happy family.
"Horses are a passion," Loomis said. "It's just kind of a dying era."
But they're not dying on Henson's 3 1/2 acres of pasture - they're thriving.
She spends her free time teaching Shilo and Sierra to accept a halter over
their heads or to offer a hoof for inspection, the prelude to trimming them,
Henson also hopes to receive her third PMU foal sometime this week.
"It'd be really cool to just get 'em, tame 'em and give them to other
people," Henson said, as she pulled Shilo's head close for a kiss. "That way
I'll always have room for more."
For more information, call Virginia Loomis, of Sisters, at (541) 549-6765,
or visit the Web site, www.versatilehorses.com/; or visit the Emerald Valley
Equine Assistance Web site atwww.eveahr.com.futuresite.register.com/
"Vegetarianism...is my protest against the conduct of the world."
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Concerned that messages may bounce because your Hotmail account is over
limit? Get Hotmail Extra Storage! http://join.msn.com/?PAGE=features/es
More information about the AR-News