Texas-based T’bred advocate Donna Keen recently announced an innovative idea to save horses from the slaughter pipeline, long before they’re endangered.
The CEO of Remember Me Rescue is proposing to both industry leaders and influencers alike, that identification be painlessly branded on the left, front shoulder of any horse treated with one of 17 medications routinely given to horses, which are that are banned in meat consumed by humans.
Keen argues that branding, which was an idea put forth by California-based Thoroughbred advocate Deb Jones in a conversation between the two, would prove unequivocally that a horse has been treated with substances, such as phenlybutazone (Bute), a substance that remains in the horseflesh long after it is administered, and is considered dangerous in humans.
Says Keen, “The people in Europe don’t want to eat meat that has been treated with substances like Bute, but in some cases they’ve been lied to and told that their meat is safe, when it isn’t.”
She proposes that racehorse owners place an indelible “freeze” brand on their horse the very moment the animal is treated with a substance that is banned for human consumption, and that the information be stored in a national database that would detail the horse’s name, tattoo number, provide photos of the animal, as well as the name of the attending veterinarian, the date the drug was administered, and the name of the owner at that time.
The branding process would be voluntary, and already at least one racing company has promised to brand all of its horses, she says.
Keen notes that MidWest Thoroughbreds owner Richard Papiese has already indicated his enthusiasm for a branding system.
The idea is being proposed to Thoroughbred industry representatives, and a database developer has been retained to start building a website, Keen says.
“People need to look at it as a badge of honor to keep their horse from being slaughtered,” Keen says. “People will try to get around it. But a brand is going to slow down the number of horses going to slaughter, from crossing the border, or being purchased by meat buyers.”
Noting that there are 17 legal medications commonly given to racehorses that are banned from human food, Keen says a brand given at the time the first drug is administered could save that horse from the slaughterhouse.
“Any horse that has ever received even one dose of Bute is banned for life from being slaughtered for human consumption,” she says. “I personally do not know of a horse that has not ever been treated for a high temperature, a mild colic, or given Bute as an anti-inflammatory. Track veterinarians tell me that most horses at the racetrack have been given Bute.”
Next steps in developing a brand for horses treated with banned medications will involve raising awareness within the Thoroughbred industry, and gathering support for the idea, she says.
If the idea is brought to fruition, Keen plans to create a fund from the sales proceeds raised through the branding process to help rescue endangered horses.