NOTE (This is a story Rene Romo and I worked on a couple weeks ago and little did I know it would Rene’s last story for the Journal. He has moved on to greener pasture. Rene and I often worked together on many stories near the border, covering stories on immigration, people’s struggles and many more subject to mention. I’m sad to see him go but I’m also sad that the chemistry we built throughout 12 years will be unmatched. He seldom worked his stores from a desk. Thanks Rene for all the memories.)
LAS CRUCES – When Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation in late March lifting that state’s 50-year-ban on slaughtering horses and exporting their meat, she framed the measure as a way to provide a humane alternative to the fate she argued awaits unwanted horses – neglect, abandonment, starvation. Six New Mexico livestock organizations took the same line in a May 10 letter urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to green-light federal inspections needed for the Valley Meat Co. to begin horse slaughtering operations in Roswell.
“. . . The unwanted horse issue must be addressed,” said the letter, signed by the heads of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, the Farm and Livestock Bureau, the New Mexico Horse Council and three other organizations. “Horses are being turned out on private, state, federal and tribal land, left to starve to death, die of thirst or become prey. . .We believe those horses deserve to stay in-country so that USDA inspectors can guarantee a humane process.”
Valley Meat supporters say a slaughterhouse in New Mexico, overseen by USDA inspectors, would provide a more humane death than in Mexico. South of the border, slaughterhouse workers have been known to use a knife to sever the spinal cord of a horse before bleeding it out, if a captive-bolt gun is not available to destroy the horse’s brain.
But the size of the abandoned horse problem, and whether the phenomenon is an argument for restarting horse slaughterhouses in the United States after a six-year absence, are, like everything surrounding the slaughterhouse, a source of debate.
“It’s not like there are only two options in the world, starvation or slaughter,” said Lisa Jennings, executive director of Animal Protection of New Mexico and a participant in the state Agriculture Department’s unwanted horse working group. “Trying to sell slaughter as a solution to horse overpopulation is absurd.”
Meanwhile, Valley Meat faces numerous roadblocks. While the USDA appeared poised to approve the inspections, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted last week to end federal funding that would pay for the inspections. That would effectively ban horse slaughter in this country.
At the state level, the company is expected to face opposition as it seeks a permit from the state Environment Department to discharge wastewater from the plant into lined lagoons.
There are no official estimates on how many abandoned horses roam the state, said Bill Sauble, chairman of the state Livestock Board, which takes no position on the slaughterhouse proposal. Gov. Susana Martinez has expressed opposition, as has most of the state’s congressional delegation, Attorney General Gary King and Land Commissioner Ray Powell.
Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, estimates that about 90,000 feral horses wander the state, with the bulk, about 70,000, on the vast Navajo reservation. Feral horses, domesticated animals that have been set loose or abandoned, are distinguished from federally managed herds of wild mustangs.
Some Valley Meat critics believe a slaughterhouse in the industrial border city of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, exacerbates the problem of abandoned horses. They argue that when Mexican livestock inspectors reject slaughter-bound horses for various reasons, some of the horses are abandoned at the border.
But officials with the Border Patrol, the Bureau of Land Management and the Doña Ana County sheriff’s department said abandoned horses are not a significant problem at the state’s southern border.
It’s another story in other parts of the state.
Nearly 1,000 horses are believed to roam the Jicarilla Apache reservation, according to a 2012 count. As many as 100 unclaimed horses are in the Placitas area.
Mescalero Apache President Frederick Chino Sr., who supports the Roswell slaughterhouse, told an Albuquerque TV station in April that about 4,000 horses run free on the tribe’s reservation in the Sacramento Mountains. But Sgt. Tyner Cervantes of the tribe’s Conservation Department, said the number is closer to 1,000 – and that that number is still too many.
“They are in the housing area, they are in the forest, they are everywhere,” Cervantes said. “I know that’s why we don’t have any mule deer. The mule deer are being pushed off the reservation because there’s nothing for them to eat.”
Patience O’Dowd, president of the Placitas-based Wild Horse Observers Association, doubts there are as many unwanted horses in the state as the livestock industry claims: “There has been no count to back up these numbers of 90,000 or tens of thousands.”
O’Dowd also denies there is an overpopulation problem in the nation generally. She said about 900,000, or 10 percent of the nine million horses nationwide, die each year by euthanasia or from natural causes, while about 160,000 horses were exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter last year.
Those exported horses “could have gone the same route as the 900,000 – composting, burial, cremation or rendering,” O’Dowd said. “There’s not an overpopulation problem. This is solely an issue where certain folks in the equine industry want to get the last $200 out of the horse’s hide.”
Matt Rush, executive vice president of the state’s Farm and Livestock Bureau, said whatever the number, the reality is that thousands of horses have been abandoned across the state. “This is a horrific problem,” Rush said. “We’ve created an uncountable horse problem.”
Slaughter backers say because of hard economic times, many owners cannot pay the cost of about $200 per month in feed and simply abandon their animals. Some don’t want to pay the cost of euthanasia, from $100 to $250, or disposal.
Sauble noted that Livestock Board investigations of animal cruelty cases, the vast majority involving horses, rose from 53 in 2004 to 161 so far this year. “We see it as in large part drought-related,” he said. “We are picking up unprecedented numbers.”
Selling a horse for slaughter doesn’t provide much of a return. Two industry officials said a slaughter-bound horse typically sells for under $50, but the owner saves the cost of putting the horse down and disposing of the body.
“If people can get some return on an animal, they may be more likely to send it to slaughter for a humane exit, rather than taking it somewhere down the road and turning it out where it’s going to starve to death,” Cowan said.
Horse slaughter in the United States stopped in 2007, after Congress stopped funding USDA inspections of horse meat in 2006. But when funding was restored last year, Valley Meat applied for inspections to convert a former cattle processing plant to handle horses. When American slaughterhouses in Illinois and Texas closed in 2007, the number of horses exported to Canada and Mexico jumped from 33,000 in 2006 to 78,000 in 2007.
The slaughter option is already available via processing plants in Canada and Mexico, with the municipally owned plant in Ciudad Juárez the closest alternative. Livestock industry representatives say a USDA-inspected plant in the U.S. is more likely to ensure that horses are killed humanely.
Opponents like Jennings, however, argue there is no such thing as humane slaughter, even when it’s overseen by the USDA. The long distances horses are shipped in trailers subject them to stress and injury. Past USDA inspections of horse-processing plants in Texas found many instances when workers were unable to render skittish, flailing horses senseless with a single shot from a captive-bolt gun and subjected animals to repeated shots. And, Jennings said, sensitive horses will be terrified as they are led into the kill chute.
“We can do better than this. We are pushing for a third choice – that’s through humane euthanasia,” she said.
Some critics argue the presence of the slaughterhouse in Ciudad Juárez aggravates the problem of abandoned horses, in particular at the border. Bernalillo resident Betty Pritchard, board member of Wild Horse Observers Association, says roughly 20,000 horses are rejected by Mexican agricultural officials for export to Mexico at livestock crossings along the Southwest border and that many of them are then simply abandoned by their owners.
“. . . Many are just dumped, set free, or whatever,” Pritchard wrote the Journal . “The point is, these ‘killer buyers’ are breaking the law by abandoning horses to become feral. . . Having a slaughterhouse here will just make it worse to increase the feral horse population.”
The source for the number of horses rejected at the border came from a European Commission audit of the supply chain for horses imported to Europe from North America in 2011. The commission routinely audits Mexican slaughterhouse practices as part of its efforts to ensure the safety of the food supply.
According to the 2011 audit, 19,203 live horses out of 58,300 presented at the border for import were rejected for a variety of reasons, including illness, injuries and inadequate identification and documentation. How many horses are rejected for export in New Mexico at a livestock crossing in Santa Teresa is unclear. From 2009 through 2012, an average of 10,279 horses were exported into Mexico from Santa Teresa. Crossing director Daniel Manzanares said the number of horses rejected for health problems, being pregnant or, in the case of males, not being gelded, is “a small percentage.”
Regional officials say if horses are abandoned at the New Mexico border, the number is small.
“We have a few on public land,” said Roger Cumpian, a range management specialist with the Bureau of Land Management, “but I haven’t seen thousands.” Several members of the ranching industry said they believe the debate over the humaneness of slaughter illustrates a rural-urban divide in New Mexico: rural folk seeing horses as livestock, city folk seeing them as companion animals. Seventy percent of New Mexicans oppose horse slaughter, according to APNM.
Here is a video about surfing in El Salvador. Let it be inspiration for anyone planning on attending our workshop in December.
Don’t worry, you won’t need a jacket or an umbrella. It’s sunny and awesome everyday. This upcoming workshop will teach
you how to interact in with other cultures through your photography.
These are a few of the images from the last month and a half. Between Graduate school and work, I’m surprised I’ve paid this much attention lately. A brutal year trying to
balance everything. One day I was shooting a memorial for a young lady who was killed by a police officer when I noticed two women pulling their hair and punching each other
in the middle of the intersection. No one would step in to try and stop the fight so I ran over and try to pull the women apart. Needles to say it was a situation I couldn’t handle.
Thanks to the guy riding the Harley Davison in the back of the photo who did the right thing in assisting. Road rage is a serious thing here in Albuquerque and to one of the women
fighting, shame on you for taking such action in front of your two kids who were in the back seat and watched this happen. I stepped away for a second to comfort them as they shook
in horror with shaky hands calling their dad on the cell phone. Welcome to Burque.
It sounds crazy at first glance, the idea of mining still frames from Google Maps and stitching them together like a flip book, but the end result is pretty, well, awesome! There’s not much to analyze here, just put it into full screen mode, lean back and enjoy.
I recently acquired my first smart phone and started playing with mobile video and making gifs. Click on the picture above to see what I’ve been up to.
As a storyteller I think it’s important to look at alternative forms. The idea of introducing time to still images fascinates me. Beyond fodder for Reddit or trying to mimic the newspapers in Harry Potter, there’s a real unexplored opportunity for expanding a story beyond 500 words or a powerful yet static single image. Looking at the iconic images of our past, one has to wonder what they may look like as a gif.
Not to say they would have been better, it’s hard to argue against the decissive moment, but perhaps in a different way these pictures would provide another emotional glimpse into the past.
Instead of an image of the Hindenburg Explosion perhaps a 10 second gif that acts as a mini newsreel.
Or perhaps gifs as portraiture? When Yousef Karsh took Winston Churchill’s cigar away he created an iconic portrait of the man, but how fun would it have been to see a gif of Churchill reacting to the request, brows furled, jaw clenched, perhaps an angry twitch or a moment of acceptance; seeing the man in motion.
The possibilities are out there, the next couple of years are going to be interesting.
Oh and for the record I say it’s pronounced gif, not jif like the peanut butter.
I recently had the opportunity to edit the week in pictures slideshow for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and culled together a slice of the world. It’s a small slice of the world, but it’s my view of the world. These are the everyday people whose lives we never cross and yet here they are, existing, living.
Not to get too abstract, but people are fascinating. Understanding the the other isn’t such an “other” but another reflection of the self makes the world seem smaller. Our cameras may funnel life and record a reflection of what we “see” but that is only a fraction of the story. The moment of reaction and connection before the shutter and the action of experiencing a join experience in the moment followed by the reflection for the self and unto all those who shall see what your eye and camera saw in this brief moment in time, that is the truth and mystery of photography. That is where it is, that is the power of an image to bridge an ocean.
Chopper — all 584 pounds of him — made his public debut Saturday at the Albuquerque BioPark zoo. The playful rhinoceros calf charged several toys and interacted with zookeepers, entertaining the large crowd on hand. Chopper was born in October, back when he was a mere 132 pounds. He’s been settling into the rhino barn and large backyard well, and now he’s ready to explore the front yards and meet guests, the zoo says. He’ll venture into the front yards for a few hours each day.
Local artist Francisco Leon, who works at the store Masks y Mas on the 3100 block of Central avenue, tries attracting customers by playing Cupid, the romantic icon who is
especially useful during Valentine’s Day week. The origin myth for Cupid, aka Eros, dates back to the fourth century B.C. Leon specializes in making leather goods such as belts,
wallets, buckles, as well as unique valentine’s Day gifts.
Bernalillo County officials arrived at a North Valley sheriff’s office substation Saturday morning to find 100 gun owners in line, eagerly awaiting their opportunity to get rid of unwanted and potentially dangerous weapons.
The turnout was so high that the $40,000 in Visa gift cards allotted for the gun buyback was quickly doled out over the course of two hours, and even then people kept showing up and disposing of firearms.
“It was way more successful than we had planned for,” said Pat Davis, chairman of Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers, which sponsored the event in conjunction with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office. “…We just lost count and got busy.”
At least 300 guns were turned over Saturday, Davis said, around 30 of which were forfeited for free. The weapons surrendered include at least seven assault weapons and a “Street Sweeper,” a revolving 12-gauge shotgun. Some guns will not be destroyed so that they can be used for training or if they’re antiques, Davis said. In addition to the weapons, two 2-square-foot boxes of ammunition were surrendered, along with two dozen highcapacity magazines, Davis said. Folks who stopped by to turn in their weapons got pre-paid gift cards valued at $100 for rifles, $150 for handguns and $200 for assault weapons, but Davis said the cards weren’t the main motivator behind the massive turnout, as was the case for the brother of the owner of the “Street Sweeper” shotgun.
“He said, ‘These belong to my brother, who has diminishing mental capacity,’” Davis said of his conversation with the man’s brother. “‘We’ve been worried for a long time about him being a weapon collector.’”
In two weeks, BSCO and Crime Stoppers will try to capitalize on the success of Saturday’s buyback. They hope to raise “twice the money in half the time” by seeking donations from local businesses in order to fund a buyback in the South Valley and perhaps even regular buybacks in the future.
“Can we make this happen?” Davis said. “Clearly, there’s an interest.”
The hundreds of people who waited in line during the seven-hour buyback were offered additional money from private buyers as they waited in line. Robert Murillo was selling six guns back through the event and was offered $50 more for the shotguns he hoped to get rid of, but he declined.
“I was worried,” Murillo said. “I don’t think you can sell it unless you know the (private buyers) are going to use them responsibly.”
Davis said the private buyers were acting within the law and estimated that 20 of the gun owners sold their weapons in line in lieu of a gift card.
“Most of the people who were approached said no,” he said. “(Private buyers) weren’t here in the spirit of the event.”
Some of the weapons sold to the county were stolen, Davis said, but the Sheriff’s Office will determine exactly how many early this week. Another chance
The second gun buyback event will take place Feb. 23 at the South Valley Area Command Substation, 2039 Isleta SW.
Story by Pat Lohman/Albuquerque Journal Staff writer