Seriously, we are. Those of us within the United States who love horses are shooting ourselves in the foot repeatedly, and it’s always on one issue.
First, let’s get a few things straight about slaughter, because it seems to be a subject that even the most placid people lose their cool about.
1. That supporting horse slaughter means you want to eat every horse you see. Ever.
This is ridiculous.I support slaughter, not because I like the death of horses but because I cannot see an alternative to it, and life without it has proved miserable for the horses involved. I do not want to see my Thoroughbred gelding on my dinner plate (or anyone else’s for that matter). It does mean that I want to see that untrained, unbroken, chronically lame and poorly conformed horse treated with dignity and compassion rather than allowed to starve to death in the comfort of someone’s back yard.
2. Horse slaughter is exceedingly cruel, causes stress to the horse, and looks like something out of a horror movie.
No. Captive bolt, the method used by slaughter houses, is a method of euthanization that, according to numerous vets, is more humane than even the chemicals we use to put our hopeless colic-cases or suffering elderly pets to sleep. Captive bolt severs the brain stem immediately- no time for pain, no time for panic, and no time to fight against death, all of which are possible with the use of chemicals. Because, see, horse slaughter is all about the quality of the meat produced. Horses going to slaughter will not be starved, because that horse is worth its weight. They are not kept under stress, because that causes the muscles to tense, lowering the quality of meat. They are treated decently, if only because indecent treatment spoils their worth.
As for the common scenes of a horse going to a Mexican slaughterhouse to be stabbed repeatedly in the spine… that is not at all what goes on in professional slaughter houses. Even if it were, to me that only gives me more incentive to fight to keep US horses within US slaughter houses. Our horses, though, are treated just the same in slaughter houses in Mexico and Canada as they would be in the US, though. Again, this is all about the quality of the end product.
3. Little Mary Sue’s 4h pony will end up on the menu.
No. Wrong again. The only horses bought by “kill buyers” are the horses that are not bringing in any money. A pony or horse that is broke to ride and even halfway trained will go for at least $400. Many auctions set the minimum bid at $400 to deter kill buyers. This is because a horse is only going to bring $300 or so at the slaughter house. Why would a buyer spend more money on a horse than he can make from it? It’s illogical.
In this manner, slaughter actually sets the baseline for our equine industry. Without slaughter, poor-quality horses start to sell for less than $200. They start selling for $100, $50, even $25. And they aren’t sold to someone who will keep them about 3 days and then humanely dispose of them (I know that sounds cruel, but the alternative is worse, I swear). Instead, they go to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, who have moved to the outskirts of the suburbs and consider themselves country. Perhaps they have a 5acre plot instead of the typical 1acre. They think they’re ready for a horse, and– oh look! That one there is only $25! He’s kinda cute, and look, he smiles at me when I go near him. So they buy the horse that bares its teeth at approaching people. They buy him for $25, and think that less than 5acres of grass is enough to feed this horse forever. This horse ends up spending a year on moderate pasture, and then the good grass runs out. He starts wasting away, because the Johnsons didn’t understand that a $25 horse still costs more than that down payment. They don’t know that he needs his hooves done every 6-8 weeks, or that he needs his teeth floated and his vaccinations kept up-to-date. They don’t know that hay and grain are necessary for that horse now that the pasture is all scrub grass. So this horse ends up starving to death over the course of 18 months.
I’d rather take the captive bolt, myself.
Still, it is true that horse slaughter is not as humane as it could be. But the answer to this problem is not as simple as banning the practice. Why? Because kill buyers just shipped US horses across our borders. This meant longer transport for the horses, longer for them to go through the most inhumane part of the entire process. And now we can’t even do that– Mexico and Canada have closed their plants to US horses because our horses didn’t pass inspection. That’s right. Our horses were tested and found to have too many drugs in their system to be considered safe for human consumption. With this new ban on US horses and the current outcry against slaughter within the US, how are we supposed to take care of our unwanted horses? Our rescues are full. They are beyond full. We have too many unwanted horses, and now too many would-be horse-owners who are uneducated about how much work it takes to own and care for a horse properly. We have too many people who believe that setting a horse free is a viable solution. Yes, he can run free. He is free to starve to death on his own, free to run across a busy street and get hit by a car– killing himself and possibly injuring the people within the vehicle. Turning horses loose is not at all what the movies make it out to be.
So, in my mind that leaves only one option. How do we make everyone else see that the alternatives to slaughter are worse than slaughter itself? First, we should educate them. Teach them the facts of horse slaughter– that the number of neglected, starving, dying, suffering unwanted horses jumped drastically since slaughter was banned. That captive bolt is actually humane. That the horses are kept as fat and happy as possible.
Next, we should start enacting legislature involving not the destruction of slaughter, but the betterment of it. Instead of shutting down plants, we should be working to increase regulations. Make the transportation more comfortable for the horses, make the plants cleaner, nicer, more humane. This makes slaughter less cruel, with an added benefit of creating jobs, which everyone’s so concerned about these days. Too many unwanted horses and not enough jobs in the US… I can’t think of a better solution than this. Can you?
In summary, yes, I support horse slaughter. I support the education and freedom of information about slaughter to US citizens, in the hopes that we will use this information and new education to enact legislature that benefits everyone- us, the horses, and the industry as a whole. I hope that one day this subject will be viewed with logic, and that no unwanted horse will ever have to starve to death in the back yards of people who “saved him” because they “love him.”