A 10-year-old New Hampshire boy who stumbled upon the horse-slaughter issue by chance, has stormed Washington, D.C. with the sure-footed confidence of a prized Thoroughbred.
Giving speeches from the floor of Congress, and from a podium outside a Capital building alongside U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., Declan Gregg’s heartfelt pleas to end what he terms “the mean and inhumane” treatment of slaughter-bound horses, have resonated throughout the hallowed halls of the nation’s lawmakers.
Ever since learning that horses die in slaughterhouses by the tens of thousands each year, Stacie Gregg’s compassionate son was galvanized into action.
“It all started about a year ago, when I was setting up riding lessons for my two sons,” Gregg says. “I was told that lessons would be available on a pony rescued from slaughter. And, I said, ‘Wait a minute. What do you mean you rescued him from slaughter?’ ”
Knowing nothing of the horrific circumstances in which some horses die, she began to investigate. And, young Declan, only 9 at the time but very sensitive, asked his mother what was making her so sad.
“When I finally told him that some horses were being treated very inhumanely” it didn’t take long for Declan to begin doing research of his own, declaring, “I have to do something!”
But Declan’s idea went far beyond bake-sale fundraisers and book reports.
On Jan. 19, 2012, Declan accompanied his mother to a legislative hearing in Concord, NH, the state capital, on a House Bill that sought to exclude horses from meat-inspection laws. If passed, the language would put up roadblocks to those seeking to legalize horse slaughter in the United States.
Before Gregg agreed to allow her son to accompany her to the hearing, she insisted he write a report on the House Bill and also write a statement about horse slaughter, and be prepared to testify before New Hampshire lawmakers.
“We drove up to Concord and signed in. We were listening as Valerie Pringle of the Humane Society testified, and lo and behold, after she finished, they called Declan’s name!
“He was so gung ho and ready. He was amazing, and pretty quickly, photographers started taking pictures of him.”
His 45-seconds of testimony, began with this simple statement: “My name is Declan Gregg and I am 9 years old. This is what I think about horse slaughter. I think horse slaughter should stop because it is cruel, mean, gross and inhumane, and I think it is very wrong.”
Those words would eventually make the local papers, and then, the national news!
But, before major media outlets would take an interest in the fair-haired boy’s valiant efforts, Declan returned home to Greenland to rally fellow kids.
He soon convinced the local SPCA to help him throw a letter-writing party to get children to participate in the national Million Horse March Letter Writing Campaign by writing to the Congressmen about their aversion to horse slaughter.
By March of this year, Declan had collected 225 letters near and far, and would return to Washington to hand deliver them to Congressmen.
“People sent letters from everywhere, including Canada!” his mother says.
Buoyed by the support of other concerned, like minded kids, Declan returned to Washington, D.C., in March and in April to speak to politicians. In March, he met personally with reps. Jim Moran and Frank Guinta. Shortly after meeting with Gregg, Guinta agreed to cosponsor HR 2966, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.
At one point, he was invited to speak from the floor of Congress, an “awesome” honor, as his mother puts it, and in April, Declan spoke at the Horses on the Hill event, sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu.
As celebrities Bo Derek and the daughters of Willie Nelson mingled at the event, Declan kept his feet planted on terra firma: “When I first told him that he’d been invited to speak in Washington, he didn’t care about meeting congressmen and senators,” she says. “He started jumping up and down, saying, ‘I get to save the horses!’ ”
No matter what accolades come his way, this New Hampshire fifth-grader is laser focused on the mission at hand.
In his blog Children4Horses, stories and photos that further awareness of the issue, are regularly posted, and in the early morning hours before school, his Facebook page is updated too.
Now 10, and in the Fifth Grade, Declan has learned a valuable lesson about how to influence change in America. And, he has been amazed how his efforts have opened doors for him in Washington, and gotten the ear of prominent politicians.
Of his future plans, Declan says he plans to return to the nation’s capital to continue his fight for the beautiful horses.
“I love all animals, and want to save them from inhumane treatment,” Declan says. “I especially love horses … and I want to see an end to horse slaughter.
“There’s no such thing as an unwanted horse, and there’s no reason for slaughter.”
Part of responsible horse ownership, he adds, is planning for the humane treatment of the animal at the end of its life.
And, if it takes a 10-year-old to get the point across, he is happy to be that messenger.
“Kids can make a difference in our world!” he says. “Decisions made by adults affect us too, and I would like to continue to fight for our horses in any way I can.”