- On Friday, April 24 the Wolffer Estate
vineyard was the site of an early spring fund raiser for the Hamptons based Amaryllis Farm
Equine Rescue, Inc. organization. The mission of this animal rights not-for-profit is "To save slaughter-bound horses and ponies that still have quality of life, rehabilitate them and give them a second chance at life and being loved." Amaryllis is dedicated to public education and putting an end to equine slaughter.
Amaryllis volunteers Allen Eframimson and Holly Dunham at the event
Founded in June 2005 by Christine Barrett-Distefano
, in memory of her horse Rascal, Amaryllis has to date saved 85 horses, ponies and mules. Not to mention some chickens, ducks, piglets, a rooster and, yes, a llama called Dahli. Each year an estimated 90,000 horses are slaughtered in the U.S. and processed for human consumption in Europe and Asia, where horse meat is considered a delicacy in certain countries.
There are presently three foreign owned plants in America that are responsible for this animal cruelty. When asked why she founded Amaryllis Barrett-Distefano said, "Finding out at four-years-old that people eat horses. Then growing up at Sears
-Bellows and working at a hack stable and finding out what they had to go through transporting people up and down trails. To work with these horses, it was just amazing to me to think that a horse would let you ride them in the first place. To be that big and strong and brave and yet so submissive and gentle that they would follow a human through the door of a slaughter house. It made something short circuit in my brain. So we save the horses and try and bring people into the barn to show them why we do what we are doing."
Amaryllis Founder Christine Barrett-Distefano with her daughter Rachel
Distefano (A.S.P.C.A. Kid of the Year).
Victims, like many charities, of the present economic conditions, Amaryllis is desperately in need of financial support and supplies, but also needs volunteers who can help tend to the rescued horses. Their wish list includes good digital and video cameras, web tech support to improve their website, a tractor trailer of good grass hay monthly and a trailer load of pine shavings bedding.
Most importantly, they are in search of a donation of 40 acres of agricultural preserved land in Southampton town. At the moment the rescued horses are housed at over a half-dozen volunteered barns, but to bring all the animals together at a single sanctuary location would be a dream come true. Diane Orwith
presently houses two horses, Jasmine and Mayer, "Actually it is very cool, I have two horses that have sanctuary on my property. It's great, I go back there, clean up, feed them and spend time with them. They are getting friendlier, it's fun."
The self-described "number two horse manure shoveler" after Barrett-Distefano is volunteer and AFER vice-president, Michelle Jansson
. She described the struggle of maintaining the horses at different locations during the difficult winter, "It is so hard trying to get all the horses tended to on a daily, even weekly basis. This past winter I had to dig myself out after getting stuck during one of the snowstorms in order to get to my next location."
AFER is particularly dedicated to educating young people and offers various camps, lessons, and hands-on opportunities. "We are in the Hamptons and we are surrounded by beauty and luxury and some of the most incredible equestrian facilities in the world and still, school horses and trail horses that are no longer in service get sent away to slaughter." AFER Board Member Amy Pilkington
went on to say, "We are a place for those horses to have a sanctuary. Not only that, we are a place for kids to learn how to treat animals - to actually learn how to treat living things properly, with integrity."
The event was very well attended and Amaryllis supporters feasted on hors d'oeuvres and the extraordinary wines of the Wolffer Estate vineyards
. There was also a silent auction and Chinese raffle to further help raise needed funds. Animal lovers all, attendees Joanna McCarthy
and Eric Meola
reiterated the need to support events like this in such difficult economic times. "It is very sad, what is going on with all animals - dogs, cats and horses. I hate to use this term, but by default they are the first line of defense. What can we get rid of first, how can we save money? It is a very unfortunate thing," lamented Meola. "Get rid of your cars and boats first and keep the doggies and horses," exclaimed McCarthy.
John McLaughlin and Michelle Jansson (self-proclaimed number two horse manure shoveler) with her husband Jonas Jansson.
Australian born Wainscott resident David Miller
, in attendence with his wife Barbara
, may have summed it up best. "They are incredibly majestic animals. We need to keep them going, not put them down. They are not dog food."
To help support Amaryllis Farm Equine Rescue and stay abreast of upcoming AFER events and fund raisers, go to their website at www.forRascal.com or call them at 631-537-7335.
Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com