The children of the JCC BAYONNE
Rebrand for Habitat for Humanity's Brooklyn Chapter
UNWANTED PROJECT documents horses that were once ‘unwanted’ bi-products of irresponsible ownership and overbreeding from pharma organizations, meat producers, and the racing and horse show industries. It connects viewers with cause based fine art photography that educate the public, raise awareness about the plight of American horses and provide funding for horse rescues. To purchase prints click here
Although this project is not about me, I feel it’s important to give an idea of my experience in documenting this story. Several years ago, I stumbled upon the Catskill Animal Sanctuary in NY and learned that high production agribusiness animals are very much like our dogs and cats. They strive for our love and affection and need companionship as much as we do. After that realization, I wasn’t going to give another cent to facilities where these animals are cruelly born, bred and mistreated for the short duration of their lives. Before I left the Sanctuary, I had decided to stop eating meat and dairy.
A few years later, my father introduced me to Cracker Box Palace, a horse rescue in Alton, NY. It was snowing that day, allowing silence to envelope the hilltop pasture. I walked out into the plush white field, camera slung around my neck, not knowing how they would react to me or the device in my hand. I found myself surrounded by giant yet gentle and curious creatures. Listening to them breath, I innately knew that there was nothing to fear. I found my breath synchronizing with theirs. I could feel a connection to them and a sense of belonging -(perhaps because I had spent too many years walking the concrete jungle with no connection to nature –maybe I was having an extreme yin/yang reaction). Whether it was that or just a true spiritual connection, it brought me to a place of serenity that I needed. But I didn’t know it until I walked with them.
For many of us, it’s unfortunate that our modern day lives are spent without a connection to the true spirit of the earth and it’s beings. I hope this project will bring us closer to our companions and inevitably nearer to who we truly are. And in effect, make room for us to appreciate all that we have so we can give back for the good of our collective welfare.
A few words on the difficulties we face...
The argument by the US authorities is that there is an overpopulation of horses that need to be controlled. But really:
“The market for slaughter horses is set by the international demand for their meat in other countries, not by the number of supposedly unwanted horses. Unlucky horses that find their way to slaughter include yearlings, very pregnant mares (their near-term foals cut out of their stomachs and discarded in a pile), Off-Track Thoroughbreds that didn’t run fast enough (many with very famous bloodlines), and Amish horses - beasts of burden their entire lives, sent to slaughter as their final reward. There are also PMU (Premarin) mares, and their offspring, stolen horses, and yes, the family horse that no longer fits “little Suzy” that is unwittingly sent to slaughter. While some horses are knowingly sold into slaughter by their owners, many, many are not. According to USDA, in 2006, 92% of horses they inspected were young and healthy.”
“The Realities of Horse Slaughter in America”, by Anne Irving
In addition, the Bureau of Land Management is removing thousands of wild horses from the western lands of Oregon, Montana, Utah and Idaho, so that more cattle can graze those lands and feed the US's demand for beef. The BLM says that the horse population needs to be controlled so that healthy herds can thrive on healthy rangelands. What they don't tell you is that at the heart of this is a near extinction of wild horses. And in doing so, a heinously inhumane act of starvation, abuse, and slaughter is committed. The roundups are done during hot weather and helicopters are used to chase them for miles scaring them in the direction of holding pens. Many of them are only a few weeks or months old and unable to hold up running for so long, die in the process, breaking their legs and some even run off cliffs dropping to their deaths.
The BLM states that the wild horses are rounded up for adoption. Some of them find loving homes, but a large number of them are sold off to kill buyers and sent directly to slaughter houses. It is incredibly difficult to track what happens to each and every horse that ends up in a BLM holding pen, but it's becomes very likely that those horses will face a horrific death. While equine slaughterhouses are not open at the time of this writing, they are constantly fighting to re-open in the US. And unfortunately, even if our slaughterhouses remain closed, it doesn't stop them from being shipped to Mexico and Canada for execution. This paves the way for more roundups, overbreeding and more slaughtering. (And please note, there is a huge difference between slaughter and euthanasia).
Our pharmaceutical industry has thrived on hormone regulating drugs called, Premarin and Prempro which are made with an impregnated mare’s urine. This is not a small scale operation. Since its FDA approval in the early 1940s more than 30 billion doses have been dispensed.  Most doctors do not even know that they are prescribing horse urine to their patients. And, studies done on Premarin and Prempro have resulted in drastic increases in the risk for developing cancer.  In 2012, in the US, there were more than 5,000 lawsuits pending against the manufacturer, Pfizer.  Beyond the human affliction, the mares’ and foals’ suffering is unthinkable. Each mare is confined for the majority of her life. She is impregnated, then put into a stall to urinate into a catheter for the entire duration of her pregnancy. She will have her foal in a pasture, and then be taken from them much too early causing undo stress on both mare on foal. The foal is then taken to a kill pen by machines to be weighed and then brutally slaughtered for its meat. Often times the mother will stand alongside the foal and be slaughtered as well if she was considered not strong enough to withstand another pregnancy. No one benefits from an operation like this except the pharmaceutical company and it's supporters.