Sunday, December 4, 2011

Solutions Instead of Slaughter: Euthanasia

This is a hard post to write. There comes a time that a loving, dignified death free of fear may be the best option for your beloved horse.  This is NOT transportation in a crowded truck to a death plant with the sounds and scents of a thousand terrified horses.  However, euthanasia can provide one of the solutions for slaughter. 

It was a surprise to discover that the meaning of Euthanasia is from the Greek εὐθανασία meaning "good death": εὖ, eu (well or good) + θάνατος, thanatos (death) refers to the practice of ending a life in a manner that relieves pain and suffering (from Wikipedia). Could there be such a thing as a "good death"? When might the carefully thought out, intentional ending of life be an act of mercy?   How could choosing death ever be a preferred option for our dear horses? Let me volunteer my sweet Lyra as an actual horse who may someday be a candidate for euthanasia.
Some folks would have you think that slaughter is a merciful solution.

The primary instrument of death for horses in Mexican slaughter houses is the 
knife. They are stabbed in the neck until they die. In Canadian slaugther houses
and formerly in American slaughter houses is exsanguination.  The horse is bled 
out. Prior to having their necks cut, they are stunned with a captive bolt gun.  
They are stunned, NOT DEAD when they are bled out.  

Some people would like you to believe that this is a compassionate and painless 
death for your equine partner.  Ask yourselves, what is it like trying to worm your 
horses or put medication in their eyes (thanks Becky for this question). Even the 
most well-trained horse will often attempt to evade such an intrusion into their 
space. They will move and throw off your aim. When the aim of a captive bolt gun
in not accurate, the liklihood of an animal retaining or regaining partial 
consciousness increases. Please view this short video from Veternarians for Equine 
Welfare, it shows a horse struggling in the kill pen (the horse is not stunned in 
this brief footage) Click Here.

In their "Procedures for Humane Euthansia", written as a guide for those who must
perform euthanasia with the assistance of a veterinarian, Drs. J.K. Shearer and 
Paul Nicolette caution that a disadvantage of using the penetrating captive bolt 
gun is that "Death may not occur unless followed by exsanguination. 
The operator must be close to the animal and have it adequately restrained
 in order to get proper placement of the captive bolt. The penetrating 
captive bolt should not be fired when the animal is moving its head."  
This advice is directed at the relatively contained situation of ending an animal's 
life in an agricultural setting, not in the chaotic, overwhelming environment of 
the slaughter house.

The death found at
the end of the 
slaughter pipeline
is not one that I 
will ever choose
for any of my 

This means that if, for any reason, I part with Red, Autumn, or Lyra I will 
need to be extremely certain that they safe, sound, sane, and capable of 
doing their jobs as horses. I need to carefully screen prospective buyers 
and keep track of what happens after purchase or rehoming. This might 
work for Red and Autumn. But what about Lyra, my senior TB mare?

Lyra came from a local rescue. She has been starved twice. I bought her 
because she proved to be "too much" for her intended rider. She is 
extremely sensitive and reactive.  She cannot tolerate being in a stall. 
She paces in a small paddock and will lose weight if contained in one.
In winter I struggle to maintain her weight. She is a hard horse for most
people to love and a harder horse to keep. I despise the Craigs List adds
for older horses. I will never do that to her. There is no way I will ever 
part with her. So?  

I will provide for her because I am responsible for her.  When the time 
comes, I will turn to euthanasia. I promise her "a good death".

If readers have doubts about what the horse experiences when stunned by a
bolt gun, here is "bird's eye" footage of what happens in the stun box.  This
was filmed on July 13 - 14, 2011 in a  Canadian "regulated" slaughter 
facility.  It is beyond appalling.  Thank you "Golden Days" for including this
in your blog post.  This link takes you to "Pasture to Plate", the investagive
findings by the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition.  In the report you will
find a second-to-second analytical review of the last moments of each horse's
life in the stun box.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Think Dr. Temple Grandin is Supportive of the Horse Slaughter Industry? Think Again!

How can anyone believe that the BUSINESS of horse slaughter will EVER be humane? Pro-slaughter folks and folks on the fence re: this abomination often cite Dr. Temple Grandin as an "expert" supporting horse slaughter. Hmmmm, she sounds pretty outraged by the reality of practices in Canadian slaughter houses, after REPEATED citations.

To read about her presentation at the pro-slaughter "Summit of the Horse", click HERE.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Congressman Dan Burton,Thank You for Your Work on Behalf of America's Horses!

(for some reason this letter was removed from my blog, it is posted many placed online.  
If it is removed again, you can read it at "Saving America's Mustangs".

If you care about the lives of horses, Congressman Dan Burton is someone you might want to learn more about.  The Illinois Republican legislator is one of the sponsors of H.R. 2966, The American Horse   Slaugher Prevention Act of 2011.  

On November 7th, Congressman Burton wrote a letter to Jack Kingston, Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture in an effort maintain the "Moran-Amendment" in the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that President Obama signed on November 18, 2011.  The Moran Amendment was the key to continuing the prohibition on funding for U.S.D.A. inspectors to work in  horse slaughter plants.  Without these inspectors, the three existing horse slaughter facitlities were forced to shut down.  In spite of Congressman Burton's efforts (and those of so many other advocates), funding for the U.S.D.A. inspectors was included in the Agricultural Funding Bill.  The horse slaughter industry received a green light to again set up shop in the United States.

The Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011 is the remaining opportunity to turn back the tide of misery that threatens the lives of vulnerable horses.   Senate Bill 1176 was introduced in June, 2011 by Senators Mary Landrieu  and Lindsey Graham.  If passed, these bills will made horse slaughter finally illegal in our country, as well as prohibit the transport of horses for slaughter to Canada and Mexico.

Horse slaughter advocates are making a case for slaughter as a humane solution to the challenge of too many horses in hard economic times.  Such a solution is an immensely profitable one for international corporations that market horse meat for human consumption globally. More than ever, NOW is the time to take action to prevent the nightmare of horse slaughter from returning to America!.  Use social media, blog, write to your State senators and congressmen.  For more information, please visit the Animal Law Coalition website.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear President Obama, HOW COULD YOU? This was NOT the "Change" I Voted For!

I used to call my grandfather "worry wart". The older I get, the more I seem to share the worry gene with my beloved "Bop".  Last week,  barely mentioned by the media, Obama signed the Omnibus Bill that included the restoration of funding for USDA inspectors to work in equine slaughter houses.  This means that once again slaughter houses can open up for business with us tax payers footing the bill for the mandatory USDA inspectors that make it all possible.  Dear President Obama, HOW COULD YOU unleash such misery?

When I heard this heart breaking, deeply discouraging news, my inner worry meter cranked up a bazillion decibels.  I have three horses, all of them seniors.  What if something happens to me?  What will happen to my horses.

I was actually considering rehoming Autumn who is thriving at 24 years old.  Any thought of finding my sweet mare a great home came to a skidding halt last week.  I fear that soon there will be a slaughter house operating just over the Oregon/California border.  If I rehome Autumn I will lose the ability to control the end game when she is no longer able to jam down trails and her quality of life becomes diminished.  There is NO WAY I will gamble that my sweet, sweet, easily worried, tries so hard to please, needs tons of reassurance, once starved-almost-died beautiful girl will ever face this HELL .  .  .

Or my grannie mare, Lyra who is somewhere way, way over the far side of 25.  Winters have become difficult, even in the midst of summer she maintains a ghost of gauntness in her profile.  Yet she looks for me in the general pasture, continues to trade kisses for carrots, and enjoys every moment of her life.  What would be her fate if I wasn't around?  A kind, respectful euthananization that maintains her dignity and minimizes her fear?  Inclusion in a sancturary for senior horses?  Or the terror of a hot, over-crowded trailer to a feed lot where she can hear and smell death while she waits her turn in line?

 There is still pending legislation!  Now, more than ever, it is crucial that Congress pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 2966) to permanently prohibit the slaughter of American horses.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Confession Time!

OK, all I really want to do is be with horses, do rescue, do art, make quilts, take photographs, trim hoofs, research articles, write fiction and non-fiction, and be a hermit.

Detail from "Nasturtiums" 
Detail from "An Old Fool"
Detail from "Indra's Net".  All images rendered with Pentel colored pencils.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Meanwhile, Back in the General Pasture . . .

After spending some quality time with Red Horse on Thanksgiving I turned 
him back into the general pasture and headed out to find Lyra and Autumn.

A week of rain had transformed the fields into the sea of mud that will be with us until spring.

Red had to check out the "stud piles" and . . . 

. . . find the perfect place to roll.

As Red headed for the south side of the pasture, who should appear but my grannie  
horse Lyra, who decided she wanted some Thanksgiving attention and good things to eat.

On the way, I said hello to some of my horse friends. Cayenne.



And Steamer.

Good thing horses don't care about fancy hair junk.  
Clothes pins make perfectly fine hair clips in a pinch.

Red settled in under a favorite tree, getting nice and comfy.  
THEN he noticed I was leaving the pasture with the two mares.

There was NO WAY he was going to stand for them getting special treatment
that did not include MORE good things for Red Horse!

Other horses decided to see if they might be included.  Mytar came running.

Followed by this lovely new mare.  I haven't learned her name.

Red led the way, walking next to Lyra.

Once in the Redwood Barn, he made sure that he got some of whatever I served the mares.

My "kitchen" was open . . . alfalfa, soaked beet pulp, Nutrena Safe Choice, Remission, 
poly copper and zinc, and a pinch of kelp were featured on the menu.

I love every second I spend in this place!

At the end of the day, I ran out of goodies. 
 Red Horse was SHOCKED, no goodnight treats.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Thanksgiving that Lives On in My Heart

In my heart there is one Thanksgiving table I treasure more than all others, the one at my grandmother's house.
 I am grateful my memories of all the Thanksgivings at Nana's house.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm Grateful for My Step-Dad, Harvey Morisoli

My step-father Harvey Morisoli died in the early morning hours on September 10th. While the cause of death was pneumonia, he had been suffering for at least 18 months from dementia and related health issues. On Sunday September 25th Harvey would have celebrated his 79th birthday.

I first met Harvey when I was in first grade and he was dating my mom, Lois. I liked Harvey best of all the fellows she dated because he liked me right back. He would talk to me and took me to see Old Yeller - just the two of us. He took the time to build a relationship with me. I absolutely adored him when I was a little girl.
From first grade on, Harvey was a constant in my life. He was one of the reasons that I made it through a sort of rocky childhood with enough pieces of self intact enough have the foundation required for a pretty good life. I will be forever grateful Harvey, for the many gifts he gave me over the last 53 years.
When I was in second grade, my mother and I were in a serious car accident. We moved from Toluca Lake, California to Watsonville to live with my grandmother (Nana). Harvey was a regular visitor. He finally asked my mother to marry him and she accepted his proposal. They day we left I was SO excited that we would soon be a family.

We lived on El Nido Street in Pasadena. I think that Harvey recognized my deep loneliness and helped to "negotiate" my mother's approval for my first animal companion Tamio. Often mother-daughter relations were rather prickly with me and my mom. Over the years Harvey helped buffer and diffuse the conflict.

I was a geeky kid who dreamed of horses and read for hours on end. Harvey would get me laughing with his goofy jokes, take me shooting in the high desert, and take me to the laboratory where he worked. I was in heaven sitting on a lab stool and looking at bacteria through the microscope he would set up for me.

My memories of Harvey are linked with the cars that he took such pride in: the blue Plymouth with cool fins, the shiny brown Valiant, his sleek Karman Ghia, and the white Plymouth he let me drive once I got my license. On the day I took it hot-rodding, jumped a curb, and threw out the front end alignment he took it all in stride and remained calm as he grounded me. Usually, though all the heated emotional dramas of adolescence, Harvey kept a cool head.

From the time I was a toddler until kindergarten I lived with my grandparents. Then there was a rocky couple of years. Thanks to Harvey, I got to grow up with some sense of having a home. When I was in 5th grade he was able to buy this house on Chatsworth St. in Northridge, California. I remember how proud he was of his first home and the hours and hours he worked landscaping the yard. We had a perfect dicondra front lawn and a rose garden in the back yard.

It was here that I got my first dog, Trixie. Harvey was in on this, as he was in on most of the important experiences that sustained me through elementary school and junior high.

He was there for all the important events in my life. Often my dad was there too. Harvey kindly and skillfully negotiated the potentially volatile weddings, graduations, and eventually family gatherings surrounding the birth of a grandchild.

During the years that I was distant from my family, Harvey helped maintain connection. When I was living in Oregon and needed a car after my divorce from my first husband, he took me car shopping. I think he enjoyed my constant canine companions as much as I did.

Throughout my teen years and my early twenties, our differences sometimes strained our relationship. I remember once I visited and got out my tools to change the water pump on my 1967 Galaxy. Harvey was outraged, just furious that I - a woman, would work on a car. He was staunchly conservative, a devoted member of the Republican Party to his death. Me, not so much.

Harvey was loyal and steadfast. He understood commitment. Now, years later, I appreciate how difficult it can be to be a step-parent. Conflicts with spouse or partner often influence the shape and extent of a step-parent's relationship with their step-children. Chronic resentments about ex-wives or ex-husbands can become toxic weeds that threaten to choke the growing connections in second families.

My brother Doug was born on March 8, 1962. I think that the greatest joy Harvey knew was being Doug's father. I idolized my brother - still do. I'm happy that Harvey got to experience the deep joy, satisfaction, and pride of watching Doug grow into a talented, kind, humorous, brilliant man who is devoted to his family . . . like his Dad.

I moved to Oregon shortly after this photo was taken. Harvey tried to find to encourage me to move to Contra Costa County where the family was moving. He had a new job as the CEO of a major chain of laboratories. Eventually I found my way to college and moved back to California. I regret that I missed out on a lot when I moved, especially being around to see my little brother grow.

Harvey did an amazing job as my step-father. He did an amazing job raising my brother who is one of the best fathers I know. He learned it from his dad, my step-dad.

For the last 20 years, twice each year, Harvey would head North to visit friends and family. I treasure these memories, the sight of him smiling on my door step, ready with a joke and a hug.

Harvey's work played a major part in his life, as for many men of his generation. Over the years he enjoyed photography, collecting firearms and cameras, target practice, music by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, caring for his roses, dining out, silly jokes, his grand children, going for long drives, sight seeing, and visiting his family.

Our visits followed a certain rhythm. We would dine out, visit the local gun stores and sports stores, and look at mobile home that were for sale. He talked about moving to Humboldt every time we talked. After he retired, Harvey got a real estate license and sold mobile homes in San Mateo.

The bottom fell out of the mobile home market about the time he started to get serious about moving. While he could have sold his lovely home in an adult park, he didn't want to take the loss. Then the thought of moving became overwhelming. I will always think he would have been really happy here.

A couple of years ago, I started to notice some subtle changes on our visits and during our phone conversations. Always somewhat introverted, Harvey became more and more quiet. His humor was still there, but it seemed difficult for him to really talk about anything personal. Once he said he felt bad about this, but he just couldn't think of anything to say. He began to complain of vertigo and anxiety while driving. He lost interest in the things that had given him pleasure.

I never dreamed that I was seeing the first signs of dementia.

I suspect my mother was the great love of Harvey's life. They divorced in 1979 but once the dust settled, they talked every day. Once I moved to Humboldt County (1983), Harvey would always stop in Contra Costa to see her when he came north to visit. After my mother moved to Eureka, he would take her to her favorite restaurants and ensure that we spent time "as a family". He kept his visits up until he became too ill to manage the long journey from San Mateo. This picture was taken on his last trip in April, 2010.

My step-father's physical and mental health deteriorated very quickly. My brother did an amazing job dealing with the maze of health care providers and the hard decisions that must be made with an elderly parent is no longer able to manage their own affairs. Harvey's strong sense of independence and pride, strengths that had served him well throughout his life, became difficult barriers that made the heartbreaking job of managing end-0f-life health care long distance more difficult for my brother.

Harvey often said that he didn't have many connections. Yet throughout his final illness and death it was very evident how many, many friends, business associates, and family loved and cared deeply about this kind-hearted, often lonely, private man. He was one of the most consistent men in my life, helping me to maintain connection even through difficult times.

Harvey has been laid to rest in the same ground in Santa Paula as his mother, father, brother, and many other family members. My brother saw to it that he had the Mass and funeral that were exactly as Harvey had wished.

In my prayers, I tell Harvey how much he means to me, how grateful I am for all he gave me over the years. I wish so much I had done a better job of doing this while he was alive. Of course he knew that I loved him. Yet in the final months of his life I let the symptoms of his illness become barriers to letting him know how much I appreciated him and of my gratitude for all that he gave to my me over the years. My life is far, far better for having been blessed to have Harvey as my step-father.

Thank you Harvey, may you be at Peace.