Horse Slaughter Legal Again in the U.S.
New horse slaughter laws
Horse slaughter, the practice of killing equines for horse meat, ended in the United States in 2007. A bill to end the practice passed in the House, but it never made it to the Senate for a vote. Even so, by that time, only three large horse slaughter houses were still operating in the U.S. – two in Texas and one in Illinois. In 2007, all three of these plants were shut down, largely through the efforts of the local communities. On November 18, 2011, President Obama signed into law a Department of Agriculture bill that will reinstate horse slaughter in America. How do I feel about this? If you know me and my hubs, you know I’m a lifelong horse lover. I’ve owned many equines, and I would have never even considered selling one of them for slaughter. Still, I’m a pretty practical person, so you might be surprised by my musings on the subject of horse slaughter.
Pro horse slaughter in the U.S.
Back when turning equines into horse meat was legal here, I was on the bandwagon with other horse lovers who were trying to make it illegal. I wrote letters and editorials, and I made phone calls to senators and representatives. After much public outcry, the American kill houses were finally closed. But what happened then? Horse slaughter in Mexico and Canada revved up their operations and began purchasing American horses to kill for horse meat. To be honest, I don’t know a lot about equine kill houses in Canada, but from what I’ve read, the horses are usually killed by a rifle. I know more about the horse slaughter in Mexico. There, a handful of plants are inspected by the EU, due to the fact that much of the meat is shipped to Europe for human consumption. In the rest of the kill houses in Mexico, however, there are few regulations. Conditions in some of these plants are horrendous. The way the horses are handled, the way foals are treated, the way the animals are killed – are all heartbreaking. At least here in the U.S., the slaughterhouses will be regularly inspected, and I’m certain that animal welfare groups will keep a close eye on them, too.
Horses being transported to Mexico and Canada often spend days crammed in a trailer without food or water. The horses are terrified, and some are injured in the process. If, for some reason, they can’t stand, they might be trampled by their fellow sufferers. If the horses don’t have to travel so far to the slaughterhouses, at least part of their suffering will be reduced. Also, the U.S. government or state governments will be able to inspect the shipping trailers because they’ll be within American boundaries.
Unwanted horses are a major problem in the U.S. now, as many owners simply can’t afford to feed their animals. Many equines have been found wandering on the side of the road, abandoned and starving to death. If these horses could be killed in a humane manner, perhaps that would be a kinder death.
Cons of horse slaughter in the U.S.
There are several things about legalizing horse slaughter in the U.S. that concern me. One is the easy availability of killing equines for horse meat. If someone has a horse they no longer want, would they actually even try to find the horse a good home or turn it over to a horse rescue before selling it for slaughter? If the price of horse meat is high enough, will some people start raising horses specifically for horse meat? And what about the wild mustangs that roam the American West? Are they going to be rounded up and turned into horse meat? I think it would be a real tragedy for these magnificent animals and their legacy to end because of horse slaughter.
Another thing that worries me about all this is horse theft. If horse meat is bringing enough money and kill houses are easily accessible, will people start stealing horses to sell for slaughter? This isn’t a farfetched idea. When horse slaughter was legal in California, equines were sometimes stolen and sold to slaughterhouses. In 1998, the state placed a ban on killing horses for meat, and horse theft decreased by more than a third.
Please understand, I’m not pro horse slaughter. I would never eat a horse unless my family was starving to death and the only way we could survive was by eating horse meat. All my horses were companion animals, even though some of them did work, too. I place eating horse meat on the same level as eating dog meat. Unfortunately, diners in Belgium, France, and Japan fancy horse meat, and they’ll pay a pretty penny for it. In fact, in some places, horse meat is as expensive as veal. And by the way, I don’t eat veal, either.
If I had a horse that I couldn’t afford to feed, I would explore every avenue in finding it a home or turning it over to a horse rescue. Hopefully, someone looking for horses for adoption would give it a good home. Realistically, giving your equine to a horse rescue isn’t always possible. Most horse rescues are full. There are too many unwanted horses and too few people searching for horses for adoption. If I couldn't give my horse to a horse rescue, sell it to a good home, or give it away to a good home, I’d have the horse humanely euthanized by my veterinarian. Unfortunately, this isn’t free, and the body has to be disposed of. If I had absolutely no other option, I would shoot my horse in the forehead before I would subject it to horse slaughter. I hate horse slaughter, but if it’s going to be done, it’s better to be done here in the U.S. than in some foreign horse slaughter house where there are no regulations and no oversight.