In 2006, horse slaughter in the U.S. was effectively 'banned' because the funding for plant inspections was cut. All slaughter plants in the U.S. must be inspected by USDA/FSIS and if there is no funding available then there is no slaughter.
Recently, news broke that the Department of Agriculture had reinstated federal inspection money in a November 18 bill. Hallelujah!
Not suprisingly, there has been an uproar from anti-agriculturalists and people who are unfamiliar with the equine industry. Allow me to take the opportunity to lay out some facts:
- Although horse meat is not widely consumed in the U.S., it is consumed and described as a delicacy in countries like France, Canada and Mexico. We (the U.S.) comprise a very small percentage of worldwide population and shouldn't assume that if we don't like something, it's therefore taboo for everyone else. It takes all sorts of minds to make a world go round, folks.
- Horses are expensive - just like other livestock. Expensive to feed, expensive to own and very expensive to have euthanized by a veterinarian. By selling a horse to the slaughter market, an owner could save some money on a euthanasia injection but also contribute to feeding people in France, Canada, etc.
- When horse slaughter was stopped in 2006, horse welfare drastically decreased. Where there was once a market for horses who were past their useful lives there was now an abyss of no hope. It wasn't smart to take your trailer to the salebarn and leave it unlocked because you'd likely find yourself with a few more hungry horse mouths to feed. Others were unlucky enough to walk outside in the morning and find a few horses left in their pastures. And most horrible of all, there were instances where the hide that contained the brand had been cut off, and the horse had been set free - all to prevent the horse from being returned to the owner.
- This reinstatement of funding is holistically a great thing in many ways. Horse welfare will improve and jobs will be created. Job creation? Yes, that's right. Every slaughter plant that opens will employ several hundred people, if not a thousand, essentially stimulating the economy in that region.
These are all points that I have seen time and again be misrepresented or misquoted in the comment stream on horse slaughter articles. Many of those comments are outrageous and unfounded however there is one such mindset that needs to be addressed. On an article on Huffington Post, several comments have touted irresponsible breeding as the culprit of poor welfare. I hope that horse owners view the previous five years as a wakeup call. Equine people, if you can't afford to feed and care for a horse, please don't continue to breed them. If your child only wants one to ride occasionally, please seek out leasing options or buying an older horse - not contacting a breeder to have one specially bred just for your child. These are all strategies that have partially created the situation we are in. This is what a friend of mine said on Facebook and I can't say it any better myself:
"I couldn't be more supportive of the reinstatement of funding for horse slaughter in the U.S. It is desperately needed for our industry. However, those of us that own horses shouldn't just see it as a "garbage disposal" for our unwanted horses; we have to approach the problem up front. This means prudent and responsible breeding practices. Just because you think you want a foal, consider whether this horse will contribute to your lifestyle please! There is a lot more work that goes in to making a well-trained, confident, good horse than you may realize. I support horse slaughter and I support breeding GOOD horses, it's time to focus on the latter." - A. Wilson, cowgirl and responsible horse owner
All in all, this is a fantastic thing for agriculture and the equine industry, in my opinion. What are your thoughts?
Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~