ABQ BioPark to buy 35,000+ pounds of horse meat to feed animals

Posted at: 09/02/2014 9:57 PM
Updated at: 09/02/2014 10:12 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

ALBUQUERQUE -- Many New Mexicans fought hard to keep a horse slaughtering plant out of the state, but there is proof slaughtered horses are ending up in the state anyway.

KOB learned the Albuquerque BioPark would like to purchase 38,000 pounds of horse meat, but it's something they've done for at least 30 years using taxpayer money.

The zoo spent $65,000 each year in most recent years, and defended the use of horse meat even though the average person has no idea the zoo uses it, and animal welfare advocates question just how dangerous the horse meat is.

"Is that true?" asked zoo visitor John Wright. "Yuck."

Monday, Albuquerque put out a "request for bid" for 38,000 pounds of meat, hoping for a bidder in the next few weeks.  The meat would be used over the next year.

The request doesn't sit well with some animal welfare advocates.

"The horse is an iconic animal for this country, and should not be inhumanely treated," said Patience O'Dowd of the Wild Horse Observers Association.

She said she worries just as much about the horses as the zoo animals because of all the chemicals she says horses receive, including Banamine and Bute. She said the chemicals are not meant for human consumption and shouldn't be given to other animals, especially when other animals are eating those animals.

At the BioPark, the staff defends the use of horse meat.

"The animals just prefer the horse meat, so that's what we went with," said Rick Janser, the director at the Albuquerque BioPark.

Janser said the zoo tried giving the animals a beef-based diet a few years ago when the federal government stopped inspecting horse meat facilities, but said the beef didn't stick with the animals.

"Our cheetahs just refused to eat it," Janser said.

Since then, he says the BioPark has gone with a company called Milliken Meat Products, based out of suburban Toronto, Ontario. Janser says the meat is safe and that the zoo adds supplements to the animals' diets.

"The bottomline is, we're here for the animals," Janser said. "That's what our main concern is. Politics aside, we've got to do what's right by the animals, and this was the best course of action."

The BioPark said many other zoos use horse meat as well, though some of moved away from it.

Keepers at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, often regarded as one of the best zoos in the world, said they stopped using horse meat "at least ten years ago."

Keepers there also said they've stuck with a beef-based diet because it's more affordable, and that they were exploring options with pork as well.