Q&A: John Murrell campaigns against slaughter

Texas businessman and horseman John Murrell

Texas businessman and horseman John Murrell

Texas oilman and racehorse owner John R. Murrell is busier than a one-armed paperhanger these days. But it isn’t spreadsheets keeping him up to all hours, making calls, and writing impassioned letters.

Those in the horse world know Murrell as an increasingly active voice for horse welfare. He is often a lifeline to horse-rescue nonprofits who need cash to buy horses from auctions that sell to meat buyers, and he has recently been making news with a letter-writing campaign to try to stop the return of horse-slaughter plants to American soil.

Murrell recently wrote to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, to argue three key points against a “Yes” vote for slaughter. His points: slaughter is inhumane; horsemeat is unsafe for human consumption; and, slaughterhouses themselves carry a stench that invades a community, emits blood that leeches into neighborhood septic systems, and dissuades businesses from developing nearby. (Please read John Murrell’s letter in the Thoroughbred Daily News).

Although the governor voted in favor of opening a slaughterhouse anyway, Murrell is not giving up hope. The Dallas horseman has deep roots and an even deeper love for horses. His Thoroughbred John’s Treasure placed third in the 1986 Belmont Stakes, beating Ferdinand, and this battle against slaughter is something he feels he owes to all the hardworking horses out there.

In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Murrell discusses the shifting landscape of the horse-slaughter issue in America.

Q: John, you’re a successful horseman and businessman. What motivates you to continue the fight against slaughter and slaughter in the USA?

Cruelty, abuse, and stupid, avaricious people.

Murrell with Thoroughbred advocate Deborah Jones

Murrell with Thoroughbred advocate Deborah Jones

Q: Why are plans to return horse-slaughter plants to American soil being considered?

Anything like this always comes back to money. In addition, when the Obama Administration put the language back in re-funding US inspectors at horse-slaughter plants those who were involved in that industry thought that was their opportunity to open slaughterhouses on American soil again.

The horse-slaughter plants are typically foreign owned. And while the pro-slaughter people will argue that they create jobs, they are, in fact, very low-paying jobs, and there are not many of them. When slaughter plants were operating in the US, there were only about 178 people working in any one plant.

Q: You mentioned in a letter to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin that slaughterhouses have a negative environmental impact on the community. Please explain this.

We had a slaughterhouse in Kaufman Texas, which was called Dallas Crown, and was a Belgium-owned company.

The environmental impact and business impact it had on the community been devastating. Because horses bleed a lot when they’re slaughtered, blood was leeching into the plumbing systems of neighboring homes, and backing up into their bathtubs and toilets.

And from an economic standpoint, the town couldn’t attract any businesses to locate near the slaughterhouse.

Q: Why is it important for horsemen such as yourself to go on the record to oppose horse slaughter?

Because slaughter is morally and ethically wrong, and competent horsemen who really love the Sport of Kings would never allow their horses to be subjected to such abuse and cruelty.

And most responsible owners would track their horses to ensure that future owners would adhere to their own strict standards, and refuse to subject them to the ordeals of transport to slaughter, and a horrific and nasty death.

We raise horses as companion animals, we name them, and we teach them to trust us. Slaughtering them is a great betrayal.

Q:  Have you received any support or encouragement from other horsemen in the Thoroughbred industry?

Norco Pal is one of many Thoroughbreds Murrell has helped rescue

Norco Pal is one of many Thoroughbreds Murrell has helped rescue

We’ve received encouragement. The letter we wrote to the governor of Oklahoma went viral on the Internet. It was picked up by the media.

I’ve had a lot of people privately tell me how much guts I’ve got to put this out there.

But, I’m against abuse and cruelty— under any circumstances. And I’m particularly (incensed) that a foreign corporation would operate a horrific trade in America, killing horses of any breeds.

Q: As you know, there are many people who don’t want slaughterhouses to reopen in the United States. What advice do you have for them in terms of how they might join the cause to keep them closed?

They should write the Governors of NM and OK and their federal congressman. They should do it repeatedly and flood these people with paper. Sue Wallis should be flooded with correspondence,

She is a state representative from Wyoming and is a vocal advocate for horse slaughter.

31 responses to “Q&A: John Murrell campaigns against slaughter”

  1. Sharon Mander

    Dear Mr. Murrell, You are a hero amongst men, and for horses, for standing up against American horse slaughter, and their transport to slaughter. Horses are God’s innocent creatures that are companions of man. They are not not meant to be consumed by man! In a world of greed to profit on the slaughter of these magnificent animals, you are a brave, and noble man to stand up to be the voice for horses in their defense. Thank you, Mr. Murrell, for all the actions that you have taken to save our beautiful horses from slaughter!! And, thank God for standing by you. God Bless you. Respectfully, Sharon Mander

  2. KathrynW.

    Thanks for featuring this ‘horse hero’, Susan. Mr Murrell encourages me to never stop advocating for the humane treatment of US horses.
    Contact your US Congressman/woman and two US Senators in WashingtonDC, ask them to cosponsor the SAFE Act of 2013, this session’s bills to ban horse slaughter for human consumption. Don’t stop til they tell you ‘yes!’

  3. Diablo James

    John Murrell is someone we can all aspire to be like. Thank you for leading by example. You are an inspiration and genuine Legend! We love you!! Respect …

  4. Fern Blair, CLM

    Thank you Mr. Murrell for speaking out. If more so called “horsemen and horsewomen” would stand by the horses they breed making sure of their safety in later years this problem would not exist. Too many horses are being bred – there needs to be a fee system for every horse foaled in the TB industry, for every horse that races in specific races, for every race, a percentage of each purse – all these monies need to be put into a fund for the welfare for the older horses when they can no longer “pay their own way.” Zero tolerance at racetracks must be enforced. Horses never ever should go to slaughter for anyone.

  5. Ann M. Marini, Ph.D., M.D.

    Dear Mr. Murrell,
    Please contact your US Congressman and BOTH senators and urge them to pass the SAFE Act. This will stop any horse slaughter house from opening in the United States and stop the exportation of American horses across both borders for slaughter for human consumption.

    Thank you for your humanity, morals and ethics regarding our horses.

  6. Susan Crane-Sundell

    Dear Susan:

    Thank you for keeping us up to date on the issue. Also thank you Mr. Murrell for speaking out. I know this position might not be popular among your business associates.
    During the last decade a number of us worked tirelessly to bring an end to horse slaughter plants in the United States as well as banning the use of double-decker trailers for horse transport to these abominable sites. Now the ugly issue is rearing its head again and violating the spirit and interests of the majority of the population. Many of us thought that the current administration would work with the populace to promote a federal ban on horse slaughter and outlaw this heinous practice. Instead we not only have the recurrence of foreign plants being allowed to kill our domestic horses and ship their remains overseas, but we are now seeing the actual appearance of horse meat as a food product in this country, albeit often mislabeled. Tangentially, we have witnessed and had to rally against the increased roundup and slaughter and trauma of the last of our wild horses under the reign of Ken Salazar and the Department of the Interior.

    This is not the direction that we should be heading as a civilized and evolving society.

    Please write to your representatives and oppose all of these issues. I know that this means composing more correspondence to address these issues separately, but it is essential that we preserve the dignity of our companion animals who work so hard for us and entertain us, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. It is also imperative that we maintain the last vestiges of our country’s wild heritage and give the mustang the place that they truly deserve in America’s legacy. Let us hope that our new Secretary of the Interior possesses a finer understanding of the place of the wild horse and caters less to the cronyism and interests of those who benefit from free, or virtually free use of public lands.

    Let us also demand that our representatives take into consideration ALL the issues that surround the inhumanity of horse slaughter and devise federal legislation that is workable in opposing this outrageous and cruel practice en perpetuam.

  7. Gloria Stagmer

    Mr. Murrell, Thank you so much for the work you are doing. The racing industry has a responsibility to to give these animals another chance. Often in the public arena, horse sales are conducted under the guise of a deserving horse going to a good home. Later sellers find out their beloved horse went to a slaughter house.It is time we as animal owners take responsibility for these living beings.They are too often considered disposable.Horses know pain, fear AND the joy of pleasing us.I know what our horse meant to us. From my heart, thank you for what you and others are doing. We can make our voices heard. Gloria in WI

  8. Catherine Brewton Adams

    GOD Bless you Mr. John Murrell….. !

  9. Amy Miller

    Thank you so much Mr. Murrell for what you are doing for the horses. We need more people like you.

  10. Laurel

    As a retired OB nurse, I have been striving to educate the public about the effects of Bute (Phenylbutazoneon) on the fetus or newborn. At least 90% of horses raised in USA have been given Bute. There is evidence to indicate that exposure to Bute during pregnancy may cause birth defects in the fetus. Studies in animals have shown that these medicines, if ingested late in pregnancy, may increase the length of pregnancy, prolong labor, or cause other problems during delivery, including still-births. Transference during breast feeding may cause heart disease in the newborn. It may be the innocent human newborns that will suffer. Lordy! Don’t we have enough childhood diseases! and risks for birth-defects, autism, etc. Do we even want to send this tainted flesh to other countries?

  11. Susan Setzke

    Thank you so much Mr. Murrell. Would you consider running for office? We desperately need to clean up our elected officials. So much opposition yet Oklahoma passes it anyway. And let’s not even mention the corrupt implications of those in office there who will benefit. Why is this not being investigated? It should be!!!

    I have been consumed with this issue since it has come to the forefront. I haven’t felt well since and can’t fathom how some people can support this and think that this is a good idea? I am also so confused as to where the market for this product will be since bans are being enforced in the EU and other countries are considering it as well.

    I have loved and cared for horses my entire life. No responsible horseperson or simply any ethical and moral person, would ever consider horse slaughter as a proper option for ending a horse’s life. I’m in this fight 100% and will not stop until the well-being of our horses is once again protected.

    Again, thank you so much!!!

  12. Debbie

    I too Thank John Murrell for speaking out,trying to get folks to hear and understand what is happening!!! I just can’t wrap my head around people wanting this?? ALL ABOUT MONEY, makes me so so angry that our politicians that WE put into office that are so corrupt and ( WE THE PEOPLE) do not really have a voice anymore, keep lining their pockets and that includes GOV, Fallin and the others that wanted this slaughter SHAME ON ALL!! What goes around comes around and it will to all!!! The truth will prevail WE WILL SAVE the horses!!!

  13. jean robertson

    The large slaughter house in Alberta is now also killing cattle and bison since the export market has declined. If more consumers could become informed about the prohibited drugs in the horse meat I am sure the EU market would be lost. With no market there would be no point in opening up more slaughter houses. If dog food companies will not use horse meat, surely, that should tell consumers the meat is not fit for human consumption even if the government and the CFIA say it is perfectly fine.


    John Murrell is a patron saint of horses and his words are an intelligent AND compassionate call to action against horse slaughter in this country. Oh, if only America woke up yesterday! I am doing all i can to help and each night I go to bed with a broken heart for all the beautiful souls who are about to suffer this unspeakable fate that awaits them. Bless you, John and don’t give up. Keep leading!

  15. Tracey Williamson

    The people of Oklahoma are very angry about our greedy politicians selling us out out and rolling over the majority here who are against this. They have a long row to hoe to bring it to fruition, we will not let it happen. Horse slaughter is nothing but a greedy, predatory meat business sold to the ignorant as compassion. Our senators fast tracked this through, and if you could hear them talk, you would see how ignorant they are about it. A dirty deal from the start. Please, everyone contact your reps in Washington about the SAFE Act HR 1094/S541 to stop horse slaughter, we need this to pass.

  16. Fran Sherwood

    Thank you Mr. Murrell. It is indeed refreshing to have a man who understands the horse slaughter business and is not afraid to voice their opinion — regardless of how popular or unpopular it may be. As for politicians in Oklahoma, they had their minds made up long before news reached the public. The skids were greased to get this legislation thru as quickly as possible so that the public wouldn’t have too much time to react. Well, when it comes election time, this is when you really stick it to them. Horse slaughter will be the scourge of Oklahoma and it won’t take too long for the good people of Oklahoma to realize they were sold out to foreign corporations.

  17. Stephanie Graham

    Mr. Murrell. We are lucky to have a successful businessman and racehorse enthusiast be so supportive of being a responsible partner to the horse and protecting them from entering the horse slaughter pipeline. Thank you sir! You have a new friend in Oklahoma!

  18. Karen Marchman

    My congratulations to John Murrell for yet another wonderful statement against the slaughter of our horses. He has made many valiant efforts and monetary contributions to this fight. It’s a fight against entrenched special interests who want to make money off the slaughter of horses, in spite of all the compelling arguments against this despicable practice. Fighting too much money in politics is like bailing water out of a boat with a teaspoon – and that money is what is driving the effort to reinstate horse slaughter in this country. Here’s an example of what really happened with the dropping of the ban on funding horse slaughter plant inspectors – quoting from the website of Americans Against Horse Slaughter:

    “In 2011, there was an annual Appropriations Bill which was basically a spending bill that encompassed spending in all areas of our government. Each year Congress must pass 13 appropriations bills to fund the various federal agencies. For several years Congress has been unable to pass individual bills so they have been passing packages of bills, which is what happened. This bill included funding for the USDA, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice. It was necessary in order to keep the government afloat. These bills in some form pass every year. It was never a “horse slaughter bill”. There was actually no reference to horse slaughter in the entire bill. But here is how and why it impacted our horses:

    In 2006 Congress put language in the Agriculture Appropriations Bill that cut off funding for horse meat inspections and for five years it stayed that way. That meant that no government money could be spent for inspections in horse slaughter plants. It was always supposed to be a short term fix until we got Federal legislation passed to end horse slaughter and the transport of our horses to slaughter in the U.S. or outside of the country. While we have made some headway and bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate, we have been unable to get those bills out of committee and to the floor for a vote.

    In 2011, two pro slaughter members of Congress quietly lifted the 5-year-old ban on funding horse meat inspections by taking out the language inserted in 2006. It did not, however, allocate any new money to pay for horse meat inspections, which could cost taxpayers $5 million or more dollars a year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to find the money in its existing budget, which is expected to see more cuts as Congress and the White House attempt to trim federal spending. The USDA will also have to take food safety and animal welfare inspectors away from our own food supply oversight.

    It was so imperative to pass this Appropriations Bill and keep the government running that even many of our allies and sponsors of the anti slaughter legislation had to sign it, as did the President.”

    I believe those politicians were Rep.Jack Kingman(R-Georgia), Sen. Roy Blount(R-Missouri), and Sen. Herb Kohl(D-WI) who sneaked that language into the Appropriations bill at the behest of their Big Ag campaign contributors.

  19. Lynn

    Praise God for John Murrell! He’s got the entire smarmy issue pegged…key words: moral, ethical, companions, cruelty, abuse, trust, betrayal, money, including a power play by Oklahoma’s female Governor. This ungodly list goes on. Can someone tell me why horse slaughter wasn’t put on a ballot for Oklahomans to vote on? Oklahomans are HIGHLY OPPOSED to it but the Governor signed the horse slaughter bill anyway, making ridiculous statements as to her lame reasons. You should see how people are ashamed by this immoral and unethical development in Oklahoma and how our elected officials betrayed the horses AND us, their constituency. Public Service messages, I agree. Can these be done? Is there ANYTHING to be done at this point other than each city fighting off horse slaughter plants one by one? Dark days in Oklahoma…

  20. Debi Blood

    Thank goodness for people like Mr. Murrell who aren’t afraid to call horse slaughter exactly what it is: A despicable industry run by greedy people.

    The problem we have here in Oklahoma now is that the people have made their opinion known as much as possible (the hearings on the horse slaughter bills were closed to public comment – in the tradition of dictatorships everywhere), how do we go about reversing these heinous bills? Our legislators refused to listen. The majority of them voted for horse slaughter against the will of the people. Fallin is included in that bunch. So what can we as a state do when our politicians refuse to work in the best interest of their constituents? Reams of letters, phone calls that filled voice mails to capacity, and lord knows how many emails didn’t get their attention.

    I’ve lost even the faintest hope that Oklahoma legislators can be made to understand that THEIR JOB is not to serve special interests. I’ve turned my attention to promoting the federal SAFE Act, which would ban horse slaughter in America and also ban the transport of horses into Mexico or Canada for slaughter. I don’t know what else to do, but if anyone has a suggestion I’m all ears.

    1. Krispi

      We would love nothing more than to refuse horses shipped to Canada for slaughter. Canada seems to have an open door policy and is enabling this horrific practice. With so many people against this we must band together to ensure this topic is in “everyone’s face” so that people cannot turn a blind eye and this barbaric practice is stopped NOW!!

  21. Moiselle Bruns

    Thank you Mr. Murrell and may you become the pied piper to racehorse owners!

  22. Rachael

    Please go public.Main stream Public.PSA ads,get 1000’s to call Congress and advise them to vore against horse slaughter for any reason and the transportation to slaughter within and out of our borders.Until the public knows we are fighting this alone

  23. Dan Cutrer

    John Murrell is a man who acts while others gripe.

    He financed a major educational effort through the Hillside Foundation; this website tells the complete story of his efforts.

    At a critical time when some of the least-expensive Texas Legislators were trying to have horse slaughter in Texas resumed, John worked to stop it. The Ledge is again in session, nobody has mentioned horse slaughter this Session.

    Working with John, I saw trailer loads of horses being unloaded at the Border out from El Paso. Important images are burned into the mind forever. I’ll never forget the sight of this huge, majestic black horse being led into the pen. Knowing, in less than a day, he’d be cruelly slaughtered and turned into slices of meat.

    I grew up in the country, we’re concise. John Murrell is what we call “a Good Man!”

  24. susan salas

    Currently horses are being quaranteened in Florida for having the highly contageous equine herpes virus, they say it cannot be transmitted to humans, but i wonder if eating horse fleash/brains/internal organs would cause the virus to be transmitted to humans. This paticular virus is unlike the human form, and if much more physically devstating involving many functions of the horse. If we Americans sell even what we consider healthy meat to forgine markets without verifying the possibilities of transmission of horse diseases to humans i feel is irresponsible, just look at what happened with Mad Cow disease!

  25. Paula Todd King

    Mr. Murrell, we need someone like you here in New Mexico. As we battle hard to block the opening of a horse slaughter plant in Roswell, our elected officials “say” they are opposed to horse slaughter but are doing nothing about it. When someone like you speaks out it helps the cause. We appreciate what you are doing.

    If you want to pop over to our cite on Facebook, New Mexico Against Horse Slaughter and lend a word, give a like, share, we could sure use all the support we can get.


    Thank you from New Mexico

  26. Paula Martin

    There is a property near Ontario, ohio that is already set up for Horses and I believe that it was a Horse ranch before, it looks to be sitting empty and has two Homes on the property- If I had the money to purchase these two homes I would begin getting all the horses I could and save them from the kill houses and give them a home where they would not be subject to going to their deaths- I have had Horses when I was a young girl growing up and would love to have horses again- and I know it takes alot of work and care to have horses but the love you get in return from those animals is something you can not buy- they can be retrained for other things and they are not for human consumption, the owners of those horses that make a profit for those owners deserve to live and be cared for – they have earned the right to live the rest of there lives in peace and harmony, not to be tossed aside when they no longer produce money for the owners- they have already earned the right to live. Mr.Murrell, I have the upmost respect for you and what you do- I hope and pray that we can stop this slaughter business from ever happening on American soil again- like I said if I had the money to buy that property I would give the horses a home to live at for the rest of there days.

  27. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    Mr. Murrell is the best advocate and friend a horse could ever have. He stands up for the horses and speaks out about the truth about horse slaughter. He has helped to save the lives of countless horses. A true gentleman, advocate and hero. Thank you, JRM.

  28. Patricia Bewley

    Mr Murrell does not just talk about this issue he does something about it . we need more people like him. God Bless you Mr. Murrell

  29. Mechelle Fisher

    Thank you Mr. Murrell…for doing what is right by these animals. They have lined the pockets of many and deserve to be treated with respect after retirement. We are fostering and hope to adopt a 7 year old OTTB from a local Texas rescue. I have researched his papers and found that he is the son of Scrimshaw who came in 3rd in the 2003 Preakness and who himself brought in over $100,000 in winnings to his owners. It is sad that he ended up in the condition he was in and he didn’t deserve to be tossed aside…we are just grateful that he was one of the lucky ones that didn’t end up in the slaughter pipeline. He IS wanted and loved and all of them are if the owners will take the time to find them the right home instead of taking them to their deaths.

  30. Sally Faith Steinmann

    Thank goodness for people like John Murrell who are outraged as so many of us are about the slaughtering of horses in America. GREAT story, Sue, we need more and more of these to get the word out. John’s response that will stay with me and needs to be shared far and wide — “We raise horses as companion animals, we name them, and we teach them to trust us. Slaughtering them is a great betrayal.” Thank you, Sue!

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