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An equine crusade



Andrea Eastman in July 2016 at her Big Sky home during the funeral for her late horse Chevy. Equine Advocates is awarding Eastman the 2020 Equine Savior Award on Sept. 26. PHOTO BY JOSEPH T. O'CONNOR

Former Hollywood agent to receive award for work rescuing horses

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BOZEMAN – Andrea Eastman is no stranger to making her voice heard. The former Big Sky resident who now lives in Bozeman worked as an agent in Hollywood for nearly 30 years, representing high-profile actors such as Sylvester Stallone, Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman, and casting movies such as “The Godfather” and “Love Story.” 

But this weekend, Eastman will be recognized for her work outside of Hollywood. For decades, she has carried the torch to save horses from slaughter and is receiving an award—the 2020 Equine Savior Award—alongside Outlaw Country legend Willie Nelson on Saturday, Sept. 26, for their efforts with the upstate New York nonprofit, Equine Advocates.

“This award means so much to me,” Eastman said in her acceptance speech, honored to be in the company of her longtime friends and fellow advocates. “All my life I’ve tried to help rescue [horses], because they mean everything to me.”

Since leaving Hollywood, Eastman has put her rolodex to good use. After learning of a controversial drug called Premarin, she got in touch with the producer of NBC’s Dateline by way of her client Katie Couric. Dateline broke the story in 2004, running a special called “The HRT Horses.”

Eastman was also fundamental in making horse meat illegal for consumption. In 1998, she reached out to her old friend Robert Redford, who signed the voter card that helped to pass Prop 6 and end horse slaughter in California. The proposition passed by more than 60 percent of the vote making California the first state in the nation to do so.

Premarin has been produced since 1942 and was sold for human use by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals—now Pfizer—as an estrogen-boosting pill promoted to treat symptoms of menopause and osteoporosis. It was, at the time, the number one prescribed estrogen supplement but causes a multitude of health issues including dementia and breast cancer, says Eastman. 

The drug is produced by collecting the urine of pregnant mares on an assembly line. The foals and mares are often maltreated during this process, deemed useless for other use after the urine is collected, and sent to the slaughterhouse, a practice Eastman calls “barbaric.” It is also common for them to be sent to auction and sold as horse meat, a delicacy in parts of Europe and Asia.

“I would like everybody to imagine, for a moment, that you are a horse,” Eastman said in her pre-recorded acceptance speech. “It has been proven now that horses and all animals have way more intelligence then we ever thought they had. They feel emotion, they are sensitive beings, they feel everything that we feel.”

Eastman says it’s common for horses to be purchased and forgotten—whether for show, for racing, or spending their lives carrying tourists around in carriages, they’re often sent to slaughter after becoming too much work or can no longer do the job. Last year alone, she says, 80,000 American horses were sent to slaughter.

It wasn’t until the risks of taking Premarin became the subject of litigations that Eastman was able to convince Dateline to break the story and start raising awareness. By that time she was already a trailblazer for the cause, putting her efforts into rescuing abused horses across the country.

“If it weren’t for Susan a lot of these horses would just be sent to slaughter,” Eastman said, crediting Equine Advocates Cofounder and President Susan Wagner. “It’s going to be an exciting event and I think people need to be aware of the issue. She’s a wonderful person and this is such a great cause.”

On Saturday, Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. EST (4 p.m. MST), Equine Advocates will hosting an online Gala and Telethon to not only honor those like Eastman and Willie Nelson who have worked to raise awareness for their crusade, but also to raise money for the nonprofit. The gala includes a performance by singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow who recently recorded the song, “Lonely, Alone” with fellow horse lover Willie Nelson. The music video for the song includes footage of Nelson with some of his rescued horses.

Actress Ali MacGraw, who appeared in such films as “Love Story” and “The Getaway” will be presenting Eastman with the 2020 Equine Savior Award for her work and activism. MacGraw and Eastman have known each other long enough to have marched in protest down New York City’s 5th Avenue against the Vietnam War. 

The program will be hosted by two-time Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress Bebe Neuwirth and cohosted by author and former news anchor Phil Bayly. The star-studded lineup includes Tom Chapin, The Gibson Brothers, Cathy Grier, Brooke Moriber and Livingston Taylor.

Learn more about Eastman’s equine advocacy and tune in on YouTubeFacebook and Equine Advocates website on Saturday night for the event.

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