Horse Slaughter Battle Continues in Some States
Legislative Efforts Emphasize Pros and Cons
After years of legislative efforts to pass a ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption, the federal government continues to hold off any legislative solution, leaving on-going legislation languishing in committees. In the meantime, the states continue with a diverse approach, some banning the slaughter altogether, and others sending Congress a strong message that they should not interfere with states’ rights to slaughter horses if they want.
While no slaughter plant has been in operation in the U.S. for the slaughter of horses for human consumption since 2007, some states are considering the construction and operation of horse slaughter facilities. These opponents of the ban on slaughtering horses for human consumption argue that U.S. slaughterhouses are far more humane than those in Mexico and Canada where horses are now transported for slaughter, and that U.S. regulation of slaughterhouses is far superior to those out of the country. In addition, they argue that it is far crueler to have horses abandoned and starving because owners can’t afford to keep them, than to send them to slaughter.
These arguments fail to address some very important issues:
- Americans do not eat horse meat and a vast majority of Americans don’t think that we should kill horses for meat.
- Horses are not raised specifically for their meat and are therefore not monitored for health issues and exposure to pathogens prior to going to slaughter.
- It is illegal in every state to abandon or starve an animal under your care and individuals who do so should be charged with crimes, not afforded an easy way to make a profit by killing a horse they no longer want to keep.
- Recent exposés of slaughterhouses for both cattle and swine demonstrate that the U.S. meat industry has failed to follow humane guidelines and that current regulations regarding slaughter are inadequate or—at the very least—unenforced.
- Methods used for the slaughter of horses were developed for cattle and are not suited to equine anatomy or temperament.
It is important to deal with another problem in the equine industry: what to do with too many horses. This problem arises because of over breeding in certain industries, including foals that are the unwanted by-product of horses used for drugs such as Premarin and Prempro, which use pregnant mares' urine in their products. Horses bred to pull carriages and for riding stables usually work for many years. Yet some owners have no sense of obligation to ensure that these horses have a humane death when they become too old or too sick to work.
Instead of conducting feasibility studies on the cost of establishing new slaughterhouses, proponents for horse slaughter should conduct a study into the practices of equine industries that result in so many unwanted horses. The question is, why are there so many animals being sent to slaughter, or being starved and abandoned by owners who refuse to take responsibility for their horses' humane care?
Since 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has included in its appropriations bill a provision that prohibits money being spent on federal inspections of horse slaughter plants. However, the provision was omitted from the 2012 agriculture appropriations bill, signed by President Obama on November 18, 2011. This provision created a de facto ban on horse slaughter in the U.S. Without federal inspections, slaughterhouses cannot sell their meat for human consumption, and without money being allocated, the inspections cannot take place. The omission of the language in the current bill could mean a renewal of horse slaughter, especially in states such as Montana and Oklahoma, where legislators have been openly lobbying for the construction of new plants.
Make your voice heard in support of federal legislation—or to support or oppose initiatives in your state. Check below to see if your state has weighed in on horse slaughter:
Check AnimalLaw.com for current legislation on this issue.
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