Victoria McCullough is chairman of Chesapeake Petroleum, the largest private oil company in America. She is also an avid fan of driving, draft horses, and Clydesdales. But most importantly, it’s likely that Victoria has saved more horses from slaughter than anyone else in America.
How did your work on rescue begin?
On a rainy day in 2007, I remember learning that foals were being sent to a slaughter auction, and I sought insight from a local Florida group who were planning a rescue from the largest auction at Sugar Creek, Ohio. On that trip, 82 were saved. I quickly began a plan to purchase the entire next spring’s auction. We bought all 263 horses and burros and shipped them here to Wellington, Florida. We began a campaign within the local community to showcase the youth and usefulness of these horses that were so needlessly discarded. Wellington never failed; venues, polo, show jumping, dressage—everyone—came to offer homes. Vets offered services and products. Blacksmiths offered their arts; tack stores, their wares; feed stores, hay and grain. The generosity of Wellington is legendary.
What was your next step?
We created the Triumph Project to participate in government at the highest levels using our corporate relationships in energy, environment, and conservation. I had interned with the late John Conyers Jr., Chairman of The House Judiciary Committee, who served 52 years. John taught that the path to success was through relationships and friendships.
We formed partnerships, especially with Florida State Senator Joseph Abruzzo, to lobby the federal government. We chose him for his idealism, charisma, sense of humor, and loyalty.
Florida has the gruesome practice of backyard slaughter facilities in rural areas that market horsemeat to people who are mostly unaware of the toxic residues from vaccines, anti-inflammatory drugs, and painkillers that remain in the horsemeat. Representative Alcee Hastings brought our attention to an existing equine protection bill that was stalled in the Florida legislature. With the support of the cattlemen, sugar, and citrus bodies within the agriculture committees, and the support from then-Governor Charlie Christ, we were able to pass The Equine Protection Bill—the first law with automatic felony charges, fines, and significant prison terms for equine abuse, neglect, abandonment, and slaughter.
Our door opened to then-Vice President Joe Biden. We gained his support when we showcased the liability of America selling contaminated horse meat to Europe and Asia. The contamination from toxins in horses for consumption purchased here and then sold abroad does not nullify or absolve our liability.
There were immediate results. Having bipartisan support requested by Joe Biden from Mitch McConnell, we had the power to defund inspection money from the agricultural budget, which has been defunded ever since.
How successful have you been?
To date, the Davis McCullough Foundation has saved over 10,000 animals. The bulk of horses were Standardbreds, Thoroughbreds, drafts, and Quarter Horses, and the places they have gone range from becoming show horses to baby sitters, to park police, to polo, trail rides, or therapy horses.
Are you also working with America’s wild horses?
Wild horses are always fighting for their lawfully given grazing lands only to end up corralled and confined. We purchased 150 mustangs the Bureau of Land Management herded on the Shoshone Reservation in Nevada. The plight of wild horses had massive support when 807 became distressed in South Dakota. Our foundation and many others, led by Fleet of Angels, were able to conquer that crisis.