To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On reopening U.S. slaughter plants to horses

Yesterday I learned that our lawmakers recently passed Bill H2112, which re-legalizes the commercial slaughter of horses in the U.S. Horse lovers are rising up in outrage. How do you feel about it?

Being close to the "unwanted horse problem" (intensified by banning horses from U.S. slaughter houses), I know too much to have the luxury of a knee-jerk reaction. My husband is an equine veterinarian; he sees the good, the bad, and the ugly of horse ownership. We can testify to the horror stories that abound when people can no longer afford to care for their horses. Rescue facilities are full to overflowing and short on resources. Most vets will not euthanize healthy horses, and even if they were willing, often owners can't afford to pay for a backhoe to bury them or a rendering company to haul the body away if they live in an area with these options, or have them cremated if they do not. So horses too often suffer neglect and slow starvation or are turned loose to "fend for themselves" (in other words, starve, or get hit by vehicles, often killing people in the process). No one likes to think of horses hauled off to slaughter, but there ARE fates worse than death, and untold numbers have been suffering those fates with the closure of all U.S. slaughter houses to horses. The horses that are shipped to Mexico are enduring far more inhumane handling than they would receive here in the U.S. (as per undercover reporting), and even Canada is a long, exhausting haul that could be shortened by having slaughter houses open to horses within the U.S.

Personally, I'm a vegetarian in part because I can't stomach the thought of subjecting ANY animal to a slaughter house when I can be nourished less expensively and more healthfully on a plant-based diet. I've had pet cows, pet goats, and have pet sheep; horses aren't any more (or less) friendly, beautiful, or useful, so why do people get so much more up in arms over their slaughter? As long as people eat meat, animals will die at the hand of man, and as long as people have the freedom to breed animals indiscriminately, there will be more dogs, cats, horses and other animals than there are people with resources (owners, rescue facilities) to adequately care for them. As a result, many - too many - have to be destroyed.

One solution is for the government, in Big Brother fashion, to ban all animal breeding except for those with licenses to do so, and requiring the rest of us to spay/neuter everything, including horses, sheep, etc. Would you be for such legislation?

The bottom line for me is that opening U.S. slaughter houses to horses is a necessary evil given all other current realities.


Marie said...

A very brave post you wrote. But you put it in words that hopefully people against it will look closer at the whole situation. I would never send any of my horses to slaughter. But I too have seen horses suffer for much longer and much worse than what they would have to endure at a slaughter house. Unfortunately the slaughter house is the lesser of two evils. They will suffer there, but it will end. A starving horse, in an out of sight pen, may suffer for years.

Laura said...

Brava, Brava. If more "horse people" stood up and said the same thing, maybe we could get the backyard breeders (and larger, professional ones) to stop contributing to the problem.

I agree, however, that until we have an inspection-based breeding program for horses, dogs, cats, etc., there will be unwanted, uncared for animals everywhere. Getting us "free-thinking individuals" who live in the US to let someone tell us what to do with our livestock will be very hard - look what happened to NAIS!

Mary Ann said...

Michelle, I read your post with some trepidation, thinking it was going to be up in arms about the bills passing, and I was stunned to see that you agree basically with what I have thought (and propounded privately) all along. No one likes to think of the slaughter itself, but I know people who are still breeding backyard horses - who can't sell them - but keep breeding because "the market's going to come back". Humane slaughter here might be one of the answers to this problem.

TBDancer said...

It is the hardest reality responsible animal owners face from time to time: Life ends, and sometimes it ends at our hands, whether we actually "pull the trigger" or sign the euth authorization. We've signed many such forms, and it never gets any easier.

That said, the most important decision involves being a good steward, weighing the quality of life, deciding it is diminishing, and agreeing to send them on their "next journey" with compassion.

The key to slaughter is in Mary Ann's last sentence--in fact, in her first two words: HUMANE SLAUGHTER. We've all seen (or turned away from) the undercover tapes of slaughter in Mexico. The most vivid one for me was the man laughing as he stabs the terrified white mare over and over. She is trapped in the chute.

We show our humanity--our "good stewardship," if you will--when we make that difficult decision. We donate time and treasure to legitimate rescues to help where we can, we foster or sponsor when we can, but the bottom line is making the toughest of decisions when circumstances dictate.

TBDancer said...
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Theresa said...


I agree, it is a necessary evil and add my agreement with the voices above, all slaughter houses need to be monitored for humane treatment MUCH better than they are here, there and everywhere. Thanks for a great post on a hot button topic.

Sonya said...

Could not have put it and better than you just did! Bravo! I have been saying the same thing about breeding for years. Temple Grandin has stated that live video monitoring in all slaughterplants, for all animals, monitored by an outside party would do wonders for the animals that recieve this fate. Why are we so slow to do something?