Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is the Horse Slaughter Movement Funded by horse Breeders?

Is the Horse Slaughter Movement Funded by Horse Breeders?
The slaughter of horses for human consumption is no longer legal in the US. Sadly more than 100,000 horses each year are shipped to Canada and Mexico to satisfy the palates of “gourmands” overseas. Upwards of 90 percent of the horses sold for slaughter are healthy, sound animals, according to USDA statistics. Of that 90 percent, some are bred solely for the slaughter market, others come from farms providing horse urine to pharmaceutical companies and others are horses with cosmetic or minor conformation issues which make them valueless to the breeders, many of whom are producing a hundred or more foals yearly.
Several states, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming, among others, are studying or considering opening horse slaughter plants under the guise of providing a more “humane” method of disposing of “unwanted” horses than shipping them in trucks cross country for slaughter in Canada or Mexico. There is also a well-funded, but virtually unknown national movement afoot, with bills pending in Congress, to allow horse slaughter for human consumption once again.
This issue is not about treating horses humanely or dealing with “unwanted” horses. It’s about profit, pure and simple. For example, the wording of the North Dakota bill includes “… to meet overseas export markets for horsemeat…” Clearly, sponsors of this bill see a market opportunity, thinly disguised as a way to “solve” a conveniently overstated problem.
As the movie line goes, “Follow the money.” Who would profit if a horse slaughter facility were to open in any given state? We know the slaughter facility will make money; that’s a given. But so will the people who supply the horses destined to become someone's dinner. Who is lobbying for these plants to reopen? It's my guess that it’s the potential suppliers who see the slaughter business as a way to make money off an “unwanted” or “valueless,” product, to quote the North Dakota bill’s sponsor.
For a breeder, each year’s “crop” of foals has a percentage of colts and fillies who do not meet the breeders’ standards. The North Dakota bill is sponsored by a rancher who raises Quarter Horses, which, coincidently, is the most common breed to be sent to slaughter. His last sales catalog listed 80-plus young horses for sale. Were there any “unwanted” or “valueless” horses sent to slaughter because they didn’t make “the cut”? Horse breeders, as well as horse associations, surprisingly, are some of the most vocal supporters of horse slaughter.
Other lobbyists for the horse slaughter movement claim a slaughter facility will alleviate horse “overpopulation” by providing breeders and others with a place to send horses (for a profit) to a “humane” death rather than let them face starvation, neglect or abandonment because the owner, for whatever circumstance, is unwilling to care for the animal. Horse slaughter proponents won’t tell the public that the death of a horse in a slaughter facility is anything but humane. They also won’t share statistics that don’t support their cause. For example, cases of abuse, neglect and abandonment, not to mention horse theft, actually went down when the slaughter plants closed. Supporters also won’t tell the public that there are dozens of rescue facilities, not to mention horse-loving youths and adults, who would willingly take a breeder’s “unwanted” horse and give it a loving home.
Horse slaughter is a highly emotional subject with “facts” bandied about with little but anecdotal evidence to back them up. Factual information can be found in the USDA records, as well as from organizations that track this type of activity. If, after researching the issue for yourself, you feel moved to contact legislators and share your opinion in opposition to horse slaughter, be prepared for a fight. Too much money is on the table for breeders, ranchers, kill buyers/shippers and foreign and domestic investors in slaughter facilities to let this issue die.
Here are the links to some websites you may wish to visit:
Article about horse slaughter provided by the Humane Society of America
Article in Agweek supporting horse slaughter, primarily in North Dakota.
Article from Animal Law Coalition detailing the results of a study on abuse of horses following the closing of slaughter facilities
Article from Animal Law Coalition providing information about horse slaughter bills in various states
Contact information for federal legislation to further protect horses
Vicki A Voice For Our Horses
No breed is more prominently represented in the slaughter trucks rolling
toward Canada and Mexico than the quarter horse. ~ John Holland

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