Animal Rights Articles

U.S. Horse Slaughter Revisited

By Patrick Battuello, In Behalf of Animals
August 2012

According to a Veterinarians for Equine Welfare (VEW) white-paper on the subject, the slaughtering process is never an acceptable way to end the head-shy and flight-inclined horse’s life. And since American horses are not raised as food animals, their suffering from auction to exsanguination is all the more heartrending, an unforgivable betrayal. Last November, Congress restored the funding for USDA inspections at horse-slaughter facilities (the last three US abattoirs shut down in 2007), and now there are those agitating for a revival of this once thriving industry. But with 80% of Americans opposed to the slaughter of our horses for human consumption (ASPCA/Lake Research Partners poll, 2/1/12), proponents face a steep challenge. Undeterred, they are appealing to compassion and economics to sway opinion.

First, they say, the standing horses who are trucked hundreds or thousands of miles to Canada or Mexico, sometimes, with USDA approval, up to 28 hours without sustenance or rest, will endure far less distress if travel is restricted to slaughterhouses within our borders. Second, horses slaughtered on US soil will be afforded the full weight and protection of American law, specifically, the Humane Slaughter Act. And third, this new (old) industry will benefit American labor, local economies, and state tax coffers.

horse slaughter horse racing The last point is indisputable, but, I would argue, no way to decide matters of morality. The first two, reasonable on the surface, should only be considered if horse slaughter is, as advocates claim, necessary or inevitable. It is neither. From the owner selling at auction to the processor peddling the meat, horse slaughter is commerce, nothing more nothing less; it has nothing to do with humanely ending the lives of unwanted and abandoned equines. The VEW: “The horse slaughter industry is a predatory one that exists only because there is a profit to be made…. Rather than aiding horse welfare, as slaughter proponents contend, horse slaughter results in very tangible animal cruelty and suffering while engendering abuse and neglect.” Therefore, discussions about here or there are diversionary, for the real focus should rest squarely on why 133,241 American horses were strung up and slashed last year and how we can stop it.

The giant elephant on the kill-floor is horseracing: Forbes reports (12/21/11) that 86% of the 112,904 horses slaughtered in 2010 were Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds; in other words, horseracing (rodeo) refuse keeps the butcher lines moving. But this is precisely why the slaughtering of American horses should not be viewed as inevitable or as any kind of necessary evil. The relatively wealthy owner, instead of profiting one last time on his athlete’s head, could instead choose to euthanize by pentobarbital injection (costing, with disposal, a trifling $250 or so). Or, better yet, the masses could categorically reject cruel and violent ends for horses by boycotting the industries that supply slaughter’s raw material. If, on the other hand, proponents succeed in their dishonest campaign to sanitize slaughter with the hollow promise of USDA humane, horseracing’s dirty little secret, which is not so little or secret anymore, may be  

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