by Delynn Uttecht
Every day horses are dumped for behavioral or physical faults or when the owners are unable to afford them. They get sent to kill plants to be made into products, including meat for foreign countries. The horses are shipped hundreds of miles across the U.S. border in trailers, tightly cramped, without food. The conditions are horrendous. Have you ever seen video footage of what happens at a kill plant? Sometimes the animals are cut open while they are still alive. Over 100,000 horses a year are slaughtered, that means one every five minutes dies (“Horse Slaughter”–Equine Voices). Slaughtering is inhumane and should not be permitted in America.
In America, horse slaughter is currently legal, but has not happened since 2007. In a rider on a 2006 appropriations bill, Congress prohibited any funding for USDA inspectors to inspect horses destined for food (“Horse Welfare”). That rider was renewed in appropriations bills until 2011, when Congress quietly removed it. Even though most Americans oppose horse slaughter, recently some states, like New Mexico, have been trying to bring back the slaughterhouses (Strom).
Horses are a symbol to our society and have been our inspiration. This is why we, Americans, think of horses highly and believe in better treatment. “National polls show that 80% of Americans strongly favor a ban on horse slaughter. However, American horses are being killed for consumers in France, Belgium, and Japan. Show horses, pony-ride ponies, racehorses, wild horses, carriage horses, and family horses are victims of the horse slaughter industry” (“Facts”). Horses should not be treated the same as cows and pigs, as they are not being raised to be slaughtered (Dodman). Most horses are raised for a job and a purpose, whether that is to show, to race, or work on a farm. Cows are raised to be become steaks and burgers or to be used for breeding.
Horses have been on this Earth for about three million years and domesticated by humans for the past 5,500 years (Schmid). Horses have helped us build up this nation by being our transportation, fighting mounts, and our machinery. Without horses, settling America would have taken longer. Horses today still provide transportation to some people like the Amish. Today, they are often used as companion animals and for sports. Horses compete in sports like polo and racing. Our show horses often become second children and companion animals. But horses also can help with therapy. There are many therapy barns in the country that help children with special needs. The horses provide comfort and exercise that helps stimulate their bodies. Horses give a special bond to troubled kids by teaching them dependence and responsibility.
People are either against or for slaughter. Many people are against slaughter because it is cruelty to animals and they have a soft spot in their heart. Others are for slaughter because it is simply their job. The workers might be truck drivers who transport horses to the plant, and without slaughter they would be unemployed. Upton Sinclair said “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it,” and he was right (Sinclair). It is true that the de facto ban on horse slaughter in the U.S. has had an economic effect, but that effect is insignificant. The current U.S. Gross Domestic Product is approximately $15 trillion (“GDP”). Back in 2006, when horse slaughter was permitted in the U.S., the industry was estimated to generate meat valued at $65 million annually (Sulzberger). So if the slaughter industry were to return to previous production levels, it would constitute .00043 per cent of the U.S. economy. That’s hardly a loss that that U.S. economy can’t afford to bear.
Slaughterhouse operators tell the public that all the horses they receive are old, broken horses that are done completely, but 92.3% of all horses sent to slaughter arrive sound and healthy, according to the USDA (“Horse Slaughter”– Equine Advocates). Horse slaughter prevents horse rescue, because rescue operators are often outbid by kill buyers at auctions.
Those who oppose the re-introduction of horse slaughter in America must face up to the problem of what to do with all those unwanted horses. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to slaughter. Euthanasia is a humane way to put your horse to sleep. You need a vet to administer a drug to the horse through a shot. The needle will be inserted in the horse’s main artery in his neck. Pentobarbital is the drug most commonly used. When a vet euthanizes a horse, the process takes a minute or so, from the time the needle is inserted and to the time where the heart stops. It will cost about $300 depending on the vet, where you live and if any other procedures need to be done (“Horse Euthanasia”).
After the horse is not breathing, most owners prefer to bury on their own land (if allowed by law) or let a rendering plant come pick the horse up. A rendering plant is where they convert the horse into useful products such as glue, hair, hide, and meat. Most of the time, the rendering plant will come pick up the horse for you free (Smiley). The horse, when at the rendering plant, will not face any inhumane practices as he is not alive, so no pain will be felt.
Since some people cannot afford their horses anymore, they will often abandon, starve or kill them themselves. Due to the number of horses being abandoned, some towns have set up an event where an owner can bring the horse to town and get it euthanized free, no questions asked (Smiley).
Horse rescue is another option. I remember the day my trainer unloaded a rescue horse from the trailer. He was bought at an auction when he was about to be won by a killer. I could see his bones, his missing patched of hair and his low muscle tone. We named the new horse Toby. Toby took about a year to gain muscle and enough weight so that we could ride him. The horse we received was the sweetest and safest; if killed, Toby would have never gotten the second chance for kids to love him. Many horses saved become great horses for all kinds of work. I know this from experience as my barn has helped save a couple. There are many rescue programs who are out there to save specific breeds of horses when they go to an auction to be sold.
One program I am familiar with is Saddlebred Rescue Inc. They will go to auctions and sales to buy Saddlebreds that would normally go to slaughter. The horses are brought back to their facility to start rehabilitation and find a permanent home as a lesson horse or a companion. If for some reason after a horse is adopted the new owner can’t keep it anymore, they will accept returns (“Saddlebred Rescue”). There are other programs out there to save perfectly good horses, no matter what breed. But these organizations cannot handle all the unwanted horses by themselves. People need to step up and help protect their breed. To help the organizations, you can help by making a donation or provide a foster home.
Send a horse to slaughter? For what benefit? This is one easy, quick way to dispose of old, unwanted horses. Some say this helps keep population down, like deer hunting season will do for deer. Another reason why people defend slaughter is for monetary gain. In foreign countries, one pound of horsemeat can sell between $15-25. The meat is cheaper than beef, low in fat and high in protein (“Horse Slaughter”–Equine Advocates). In some countries, horse meat is being banned if it is coming from the US due to some of the drugs that are used in horses that are not intended for human consumption. Since Europe is already set on the ban, other countries may follow suit, therefore helping all those opposed to slaughter (Drape).
Recently there have been an uproar as people in Europe have been finding horsemeat hidden in their beef including lasagna and meatballs, even in hamburger patties at Burger King in the UK (Godoy). The public is not pleased; people prefer to have the choice in what kind of meat they are eating. Americans are concerned that if horsemeat is allowed back in America, that horsemeat will start seeping into their beef as well. As for the cattle industry, they are worried as well. Since cattle are the main source for meat in the United States, it could hurt their industry (Strom).
One legal initiative against slaughter is the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011. The purpose of the Act is “To amend the Horse Protection Act (2006) to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes” (Allen). This is one way Americans are trying to stop horse slaughter. Another initiative is an amendment to Agricultural Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2013 that was passed in June of 2012. The amendment “seeks to expressly eliminate federal funding for USDA inspections of horse slaughter facilities.” The bill now has to be approved by the House and the Senate (Rowe). Individual states are also working on putting state horse slaughter bans into effect.
In the end, it is horse owner’s responsibility to do the right thing. Overbreeding is one problem that leads to excessive use of slaughter. Gelding is essentially neutering a male horse. Horses left ungelded will be bred to mares. Then there are unplanned and unwanted foals. If you are not using your horse for stud for breeding and showing horses, I believe you should geld your stallion. Gelding only costs around $200-400, this depends on where you live and other procedures that might need to be done. If your horse doesn’t make a good breeding stallion, you should also geld your horse. Mustangs in the wild should remain as stallions because The Cloud Foundation and The American Wild Horse Sanctuary are trying to bring back their endangered breed (Cloud Foundation, “Wild Horse Sanctuary”).
No matter the reason why you send a horse to slaughter, it is inhumane. I know never again will I joke to my horse that I will send him to the glue factory if he is misbehaving. I believe that after a horse is humanely euthanized, then you may proceed in sending a horse to the rendering plant or burying on you own land. Instead of breeding a horse, consider adoption first. There are alternatives to slaughter, which include adoption and euthanasia. If you own a horse, please remember he is a life-long commitment. Horses are like dogs and not just animals that you can give away when you feel like it. We need to put a stop to slaughter, rescue unwanted horses and minimize unplanned breeding.
Allen, Laura. “Support the America Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.” Animal Law Coalition. N.p., 2 May 2012. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. <http://www.animallawcoalition.com/horseslaughter/article/1817>.
The Cloud Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2012. <http://www.thecloudfoundation.org/>.
Dodman, Nick. “Q&A on Horse Slaughter with Dr. Nick Dodman.” Veterinarians for Equine Welfare. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. <http://www.vetsforequinewelfare.org/dodmanqa.php>.
Drape, Joe. “Doping at U.S. Tracks Affects Europe.” The New York Times. New York, NY, 8 Dec. 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/sports/drugs-injected-at-the-racetrack-put-europe-off-us-horse-meat.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&>.
“The Facts on Horse Slaughter.” The Humane Society of the United States. The Humane Society of the United States. N.p., 6 Feb. 2012. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. <http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/horse_slaughter/facts/facts_horse_slaughter.html>.
“GDP (current US).” The World Bank. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013. <http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states?display=default>.
Godoy, Marie. “Horse Meat Found In Ikea’s Meatballs” NPR : National Public Radio. N.p., 25 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/02/25/172869585/horsemeat-found-in-ikeas-meatballs>.
“Horse Euthanasia.” Horses and Horse Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2013. <http://www.horses-and-horse-information.com/articles/0198bye.shtml>.
“Horse Slaughter.” Equine Advocates. N.p., 8 May 2012. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. <http://www.equineadvocates.org/issueDetail.php?recordID=2“>.
Horse Slaughter.” Equine Voices Rescue and Sanctuary. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. <http://www.equinevoices.org/horses/issues/slaughter/>.
“Horse Welfare.” G.A.O. U.S. Government Accountability Office. N.p., 22 June 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2012. <http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-228>.
Rowe, Alison. “Current Status of Federal Laws Affecting Horse Slaughter: Equine Law Blog.” Equine Law. N.p., 9 Aug. 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2012. <http://equinelaw.alisonrowe.com/2012/08/articles/horse-slaughter-1/current-status-of-federal-laws-affecting-horse-slaughter/>.
“Saddlebred Rescue Inc. a 501C3 Horse Rescue.” Saddlebred Rescue Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. <http://www.saddlebredrescue.com/>.
Schmid, Randolph E. “Domesticated horses date back 5,500 years” NBC News. New York., 5 Mar. 2009. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/29537100/#.UTz>.
Sinclair, Upton. “It is difficult to get a… at BrainyQuote.” Famous Quotes at BrainyQuote. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/u/uptonsincl138285.html#Fo3v1VF7Zt8CW4RI.99>.
Smiley, Jane. “Why Horse Slaughter Is Necessary.” The Rail: The New York Times Racing Blog, 1 May 2009. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. <http://therail.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/01/why-horse-slaughter-is-necessary/>.
Strom, Stephanie. “U.S.D.A. May Approve Horse Slaughtering.” The New York Times. New York, NY, 28 Feb. 2013. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/01/business/usda-may-approve-horse-slaughter-plant.html>.
Sulzberger, A. G.. “Horse Slaughter, Stopped in U.S.” The New York Times. New York, NY, 23 Oct. 2011. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/24/us/Horse-Slaughter-Stopped-in-United-States-Moves-Across-Borders.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>.
The Wild Horse Sanctuary. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2012. <http://www.wildhorsesanctuary.org/>.