Friday, December 2, 2011

The Slaughter Issue

Obama signed a bill into effect last week re-funding USDA certification and inspection of horse meat. Now everyone on the interwebz is claiming that he had made slaughter legal, but the fact is that it was never illegal, the USDA simply lost funding for certifying and inspecting horse meat, thus the plants closed and a bunch of horse lovers got to feel good about themselves.

Wait a minute, you say, you’re PRO-SLAUGHTER?!?!

I like to think of it as pro-choice, in much the same light as abortion or gay marriage. If you don’t support it, then don’t do it, but the government shouldn’t have the right to outlaw something just because it doesn’t give everyone the warm fuzzy feeling that we as a society seem to crave.

To clear things up, I wouldn’t send my horses to slaughter. Every horse I’ve had to date has retired to family property where they either babysit other horses or new riders (old age doesn’t mean that they don’t have something to teach new riders) until they are no longer comfortable, then they are humanely euthanized. In a perfect world, every horse would have a home for life, either with its breeder, trainer, or the little girl who learned to ride on it. This world is not perfect. I feel that we can all agree on this as fact.
There are far more horses than homes. We can see this in the craigslist ads that read “10 horses must find new home today! Can no longer afford to feed!” or even by the BLM holding stations that have 1000’s of mustangs removed from public land so that they don’t starve to death by overrunning the available resources. All of these horses need food and water. Not all of these horses can or will be ridden or ever enjoyed in a sport capacity. When we look at the number of homes for older, retired, arthritic and unrideable pasture puffs vs the number of unsound (of body or mind) unfit horses in need of a home… well, let’s just say that those are statistics that are about as depressing as a midwinter Michigan day. Those of us that do have the room for the pasture puff generally use that room on the older retired former show horse or ‘heart’ horse, not to some random unknown freebie from CL.

Even after horse slaughter was ‘banned’ in the US, 100K horses on average still shipped out of this country to slaughter houses in Canada and Mexico. This means that the same number of horses was still being slaughtered; only they had a much farther trailer ride to endure first. While it probably made some people feel good that they weren’t being slaughtered in our country – ‘Not here so it’s not my problem’- it also means that we have no control in how humane or controlled the process is (not to mention all of the potential jobs and revenue loss since there is no tax on exporting livestock on the hoof). The drop in auction price in horses, since the hauling to the boarder is that much more expensive, has resulted in now worthless horses simply being turned the horses loose to fend for themselves-especially in the southern states- when their owners cannot longer afford to care for them (especially in this economy, it might be difficult to come up with the $600 to euthanize and dispose).

Next argument: “It would be like eating your pet!”
My answer: Horses are livestock, not pets. Yes, I love my horses, but they are still livestock. And no, I personally wouldn’t eat horse meat, however I also don’t eat peanuts but I wouldn’t ban them from being produced or sold in this country. Americans in general, don’t consume horse meat so slaughtering/rendering horses would be almost exclusively for export. I’m sure that there would be a few “Whole Health Foods” type places that might stock it… and horse byproducts are probably already in your sausage and hotdogs (ewwww), especially if made in Canada or Mexico.  
The only way that horses are like pets is the huge overpopulation issue. The uninformed say “Oh, let’s make horse sanctuaries or shelters, like we do for our dogs and cats”. If it were that easy there wouldn’t be so many equine rescues that are overflowing with unwanted horses. The only difference is that horse rescues usually don’t have a euthanasia policy, and simply turn away owners who can no longer afford their horses. Just take look at your local shelter (get real, they are ALL kill shelters), and estimate how many dogs and cats are euthanized in a year. Those 5-100 pound carcasses are much easier to dispose of than a 1000+ pound body.
Slaughter is an ugly issue. None of us likes to think of our show horses, retired packers or ‘heart’ horses riding that truck towards the boarder, but for some, it is indeed a kinder fate then what might otherwise await them. By allowing horse slaughter in this country we are able to keep a closer eye on how it’s being conducted. Pretty? No. Necessary? Yes.

The best thing we can do for our horses is to install good manners and quality training in them, in case they ever are sold they will have some skills to offer.

This blog was a downer, but it had to be said. Now I have to go ride so that I end my day on a good note…

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