For years, Julie Caramante was a leader the fight to shutter Dallas Crown, Kaufman's infamous horse slaughterhouse. Dallas Crown closed in 2007, as did the Beltex slaughterhouse in Fort Worth, but Caramante, a lifelong equine welfare advocate, has continued to keep a close eye on the horse slaughter industry.
That led Caramante to the recent discovery that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department had sold horses to a known slaughter buyer. According to documents she obtained from the agency following a tip, TPWD had sold 11 horses from Big Bend Ranch State Park to Ruben Brito, who regularly transports horses to slaughterhouses across the border in Mexico. The story was first reported in Horseback Magazine
Included in the documents Caramante obtained is an email exchange between Dan Sholly, deputy director of Texas State Parks, and BBRSP officials.
"Have you been able to determine if we can move forward with this process of culling the horse herd at BBRSP?" wrote Dierdre Hisler, Region 1 State Parks Director.
"I don't recall receiving an answer (could be lost in my e-mails) to my question about sell pricing," Sholly responded. "Are we willing to take canner prices for our horses? Is that all they are worth? No blood lines? No high potential for more than dog food?"
Hisler responded that the horses "are not of QUALITY," and Sholly okayed the sale for $.25 per pound.
Kevin Good, an assistant to the TPWD director, said BBRSP has kept a small contingent of horses at the park to do various jobs.
"As horses do sometimes, they made baby horses," he said. "The herd got to a size where it had to be reduced."
Good said it isn't sure if the local parks staff were aware of Brito's connections to the slaughter industry when they made the sale and, even if they were, he's unsure whether state laws on surplus property would have allowed them to reject the offer.
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"The fact is if he's meeting the requirements of a state bidder, we can't exclude him because we may or may not like what their business is," Good said.
That said, TPWD is now reviewing its policies to see if there is a way such a sale could be disallowed.
Caramante is less forgiving, particularly given the way the same state park culled its burro population earlier this year.
"First the park shoots the burro's and now sends the horses to directly to a killer," she wrote in an email. "Guess they don't like anything equine."