Dear President Trump:
Congratulations on your successes in your first term as President of the United States, including Phase One of the trade deal with China; though I respectfully request that you re-visit a section I can only pray was an oversight.
Much has transpired since last we met. I was Miss Oklahoma, competing in the top ten for Miss America and you were a celebrity judge (at the time, a millionaire playboy and real estate mogul). You may remember me as the only contestant ever to be a victim of a violent crime during the Atlantic City pageant when a gang banger knocked me out with a beer bottle during the Parade of States. My claim to fame.
Today, after successful careers as an investigative journalist and communications professional, I run a horse rescue in rural Oklahoma. The horses are my passion, and my reason for writing a letter I realize you may never see. I pray that whoever does read it will pass along my concerns to you about two lines deep in an attachment to an annex of the Economic and Trade Agreement Between the United States and China.
To anyone else, they’re throwaway lines; but to my little corner of the world, they’re everything.
Meet the horses we’ve saved from slaughter
To fully understand, I invite you to visit our rescue where you’ll meet some of the horses we’ve saved from a brutal foreign slaughter. They’re representative of more than 80,000 horses that circumvent America’s ban on inhumane slaughter by shipping to Mexico and Canada every year – healthy, fit, intelligent, sentient, and capable of living long, productive lives.
You’ll meet Winston, the horse that, along with another baby, was dumped for slaughter by a breeder who wasn’t satisfied with his size, conformation, color, or some other inane excuse breeders use to discard of life they created. At the tender age of nine months, Winston had already suffered a lifetime of abuse, neglect, starvation and rank exploitation by the time a kill buyer made several hundred dollars to “bail” him from an unwarranted execution. Winston was wild, emaciated, diseased, traumatized and terrified by the time he arrived at Swingin’ D Horse Rescue.
Today, Winston is a walking meme machine and cherished companion who believes he’s at least part human. Until he’s developed enough to ride, he spends his days training, and bringing joy to horses and humans alike. Always game to help out around the ranch, Winston has transformed from terrified and hopeless to social, capable and boundless in his future prospects.
You’ll also meet Mazi, an 8-year-old Arabian mare that will have you wondering if she’s secretly a precocious 4th grader. Dumped for slaughter for who-knows-what excuse, this little firecracker is well trained, social, affectionate and remarkably intelligent. She’ll follow you around like a curious puppy, carefully watching every move and calculating her odds of achieving whatever payoff she identifies. She sets goals and achieves them – like waiting for the perfect moment to open the latch to the feed shed and sneak inside for a little nibble; or bolting from her feed bucket to beat you to the gate so you can’t shut her inside (she wants to be free!).
In addition to being perfectly healthy, fit and sound, Mazi constantly outwits and outsmarts humans who mistakenly assume they’re dealing with a typical beast.
You’ll meet The Ghosts – a pair of ranch horses that served humans together and were unceremoniously betrayed and dumped together. Well trained, intelligent and hilarious, Everest and Romeo are fiercely loyal to each other and to their humans. They have a dozen or more years of companionship and service left in them.
Anastasia, a stunning registered Missouri Fox Trotter, went from prized possession to yesterday’s trash when a metabolic disorder became too expensive and time consuming for her owner to bear. The breathtaking mare was exploited again and again for the same allure that made her a prize, tossed from unwitting owner to unwitting owner until she eventually landed in the hands of a kill buyer.
Also incredibly smart and well trained, Ani is a beloved best friend, capable of reading emotion and providing comfort. Attuned to my mood, she stays quietly by my side if she senses I’m having a hard day or feeling blue. She, Mazi and the rest of the herd are like therapy for wounded souls in need of companionship; which is why we’re developing programs to support service members with PTSD, bullying victims and dementia patients.
I could go on and on about the unique personalities and capabilities of each and every horse we save from the slaughter pipeline. When you meet them, you’ll understand why your trade deal must be revised.
Horses are not commodities
In Chapter 6: Expanding Trade of the agreement with China, the U.S. commits to increase by $32 billion over two years the export of agricultural goods, including live horses and horse meat, according to Annex 6.1, section 2.13, codes 0101 and 0205. Listed as “Other agricultural commodities,” horses like Winston, the Ghosts, Ani and Mazi are no different from cheese, tomatoes and potatoes.
When was the last time a potato faithfully carried explorers across the wild frontier, plowed a field, or healed a broken heart? Horses are not commodities. They’re loyal servants and companions capable of learning, communicating, goal-setting and achieving.
In order to honor the trade agreement, Congress would have to re-instate and re-fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspections at horse slaughter facilities, despite the fact that nothing has been done to address the myriad reasons they were shut down in the first place, or the fact that it remains physically impossible to humanely slaughter horses.
Reject the big-money myths
I know you’ve heard compelling arguments from influential donors and lobbyists who carefully craft their advice to sound remarkably like compassion. I also know you’re wise to the dysfunctional marriage between money and morality in Washington, where the almighty dollar ameliorates the cognitive dissonance of dubious decisions.
The fact is, while you and members of Congress may be immersed in the virtues of slaughter hawked by those wealthy enough to surround you, the rest of the country – 80 percent of Americans, including 90 percent of women – know the truth.
How does the 20 percent dominate the discussion in the halls of power? You, on your mission to “Drain the Swamp”, know better than anyone. You know how special interest groups pay millions to become the “go-to” experts lawmakers use to craft their talking points; because who knows more about horses than the “farmers”, veterinarians and breeding tycoons who buy the most influence?
When you hear the rote arguments invoking Americana and faux compassion to justify horse slaughter, understand who paid a million dollars last year alone for Congress to promote it, and why:
Forcing horses to endure a long journey to slaughter
Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe and other pro-slaughter politicians use compassionate language: “…aging horses are often neglected or forced to endure cruel conditions as they are transported to processing facilities across the border,” to extol the virtues of slaughter.
They could literally end the “cruelty” these horses are “forced to endure” with a single syllable, yet they refuse to support the bipartisan S. 2006, the John Stringer Rainey SAFE Act – sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and co-sponsored by Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) – which would make it illegal to force horses endure the cruel journey to slaughter.
The USDA found in its inspections that 92.3 percent of the horses bound for slaughter are young, sound and capable of living productive lives – flying in the face of the “aging horses” ruse.
Using Inhofe’s fallacious logic, all those poor kids wouldn’t have had to endure the long journey to Jeffrey Epstein’s private island if America would just legalize sex with children. Of course the assertion is ludicrous, and of course politicians are not getting all those hundreds of thousands of dollars from lobbyists to fight for poor horses.
Owners will abuse and neglect horses if they can’t slaughter them
I don’t even know how anyone still parrots this myth with a straight face, but it’s the argument the American Veterinary Medical Association has used for years without scrutiny.
Point One: They want to ease the burden on irresponsible owners, because they fear those owners will resort to beating and starving their horses if they can’t kill them. So, their answer to saving poor horses from being beaten or starved, is to terrorize them in the slaughter pipeline, shock and prod them into holding pens with other terrified horses, then force them into bloody death chutes where they hear other horses being abused and slaughtered, then shoot them with multiple bolts as they flail and fight for their lives, until the stun shot finally paralyzes them, so they can be hung by a leg and exsanguinated to death. That’s their more humane solution.
The proof is incontrovertible: It is not possible to humanely slaughter an intelligent, sentient horse, which is why America no longer allows it.
Why do we facilitate and support an industry we’ve outlawed for its inhumanity?
Even if you can suspend disbelief long enough to ignore the logic of Point One, consider Point Two: Slaughter plants have been closed since 2007, just after nearly 150,000 American horses were slaughtered in a year. With no reported increase in the incidence of equine abuse and neglect in 13 years, the number of horses slaughtered has plummeted to almost half. So, not only have we dramatically reduced the number of horses we’re terrorizing and butchering each year, we’re also not seeing the explosion of abuse and neglect the AVMA predicted when it first began the charge against the slaughter ban.
How do I know there’s been no reported increase in abuse and neglect? Because if more horses were being starved by owners who no longer have the option to profit from their slaughter, pro-slaughter lobbyists would have seized on the trend instead of citing the same laughable argument they’ve been getting away with for more than a decade.
If veterinarians created, delivered and disposed of baby horses for free, people might find it easier to believe that the potential windfall to the multi-billion-dollar breeding industry is just a happy coincidence of their costly crusade for slaughter.
Fighting for the rights of farmers
Some slaughter advocates will try to convince you they’re fighting for the right of the good ol’ American farmer to dispose of their no longer useful faithful companions. What a farmer does with his loyal steed at the end of its life is his own business!
I love farmers. I come from a family of farmers. I live on a small farm, surrounded by farmer neighbors, whom I respect and admire. Farmers are smart enough to know how to put down a lame or old horse. My neighbors, family members and I are not knocking down the doors of Congress with hefty checks, clamoring for the right to euthanize our poor horses. So why are farm bureaus paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence politicians to reinstate horse slaughter? It’s not for me or my neighbors; but for the corporate ranchers and farmers who profit from slaughter – either by clearing wild herds off coveted public grazing land, or by producing meat on a global scale.
It’s fine if people support slaughter because they believe peddling tainted horse meat is good for the economy; but please don’t blow smoke up my skirt and tell me I’m Marilyn Monroe. Owners can affordably and humanely euthanize horses right now, and they’ll have the same freedoms once the slaughter pipeline is closed. They just won’t be able to profit from the death of their horses. That’s what this fight is really about, but that’s a much harder narrative to sell.
Which sounds more noble?
“We’re concerned horses will be abused or neglected if their owners don’t have freedom to choose.”
“We want owners to be able to pop out horse puppies like Pez candy and profit from their slaughter if they don’t make enough money.”
“We’re humanely relocating wild herds in order to preserve public lands for the American people.”
“We’re rounding up wild horses, breaking up herds and profiting from their meat so a handful of millionaire ranchers can graze their sheep and cattle for next to nothing.”
When millionaires who go through horses like Depends buy their way into politicians’ offices, their “expertise” trumps (pardon the pun) the will of the people. That’s how America can outlaw a deplorable industry, yet still be its major supplier. That’s how the majority of America can oppose a heinous practice while our representatives continue to enable, defend and profit from it.
That’s how some version of the SAFE Act has bounced aimlessly around House committees since at least 2013. The current version, H.R. 961, would sail through a floor vote with more than half the members signed on as co-sponsors, but how can it ever reach the floor when the most powerful members of Congress form opinions based on the self-serving interests of pro-slaughter millionaires?
Fight for the voiceless
Your supporters frequently credit you with fighting for the voiceless – for the forsaken and forgotten. Mr. President, please fight for the vulnerable souls who overcome their nature as prey animals to trust and serve humans – only to be betrayed, exploited and discarded like trash.
I respectfully request that you remove horses from the list of commodities you’ve pledged to China in the first phase of the trade agreement. Reject the “expertise” of the small but mighty cabal that influences thought in Washington. Believe the 80-percent of real Americans who know the truth – that horse slaughter pardons irresponsible owners and breeders who create and destroy life with impunity; enriches meat producers who peddle toxic meat to foreign countries; and provides a grazing welfare program for a tiny percentage of the wealthiest ranchers – all while exploiting, terrorizing and brutalizing the American icon that helped win the west.
This is not a liberal or conservative issue. It is, however, the type of wanton capitalism – cloaked in a deceptive veil of compassion – that gives conservatism a bad name. This is an issue of humanity.
Mr. President, you have the power to accomplish something other presidents have vowed but failed to accomplish: Protect America’s horses – once and for all.
Tami Marler, MBA