Well, the 5 year ban on funding dedicated to inspection of horse slaughter facilities has ended. The question now is whether the industry has been effectively killed, or if there is still a large enough market to find the funding and overcome the opposition.
Full disclosure: I have no problem with horse slaughter, and I also really like horses. The animals are subject to the same humane end as beef and poultry, and any objection to the consumption of horse products by those who enjoy other animal products is hypocritical. You may now choose to read or ignore the rest of this post if you wish, knowing that I’ll speak with this bias. I will however, make my points respectfully, and fully welcome reasoned and intelligent debate from anyone who disagrees.
Psych Your Mind has a great post discussing how we meat eaters manage to both love animals and eat them. A lot of it boils down to our separation of cow and steak, and how we perceive livestock animals as opposed to pets. Horses are unique in that they fall into both the work and companion categories, and it’s amazing to see how they can switch back and forth. This is similar to the many free chickens you find on Craigslist that no longer lay eggs, but “make great pets!”. The original owners clearly want them for production, but want no part in their non-economic use.
Google scholar shows a host of articles looking at the impacts of the ban that I’m not going to detail here. However I would really like to hear from readers in the comments, specifically readers opposed to horse slaughter and consumption! It’s difficult to find arguments not rooted in a religious, animal rights, or sentimental background, and I’m really interested to hear if there is empirical evidence that supports a slaughter ban. Whether it be based on export economics, public health (I have heard of food-borne illness concerns with horse meat), or potential detriment to other industries, I want to hear about it! So please feel free to comment and let me know where you stand on the issue!
In this economy of owners abandoning their horses because they can’t afford to keep them more horses could end up slaughtered versus placement in better homes. Horrible reversal!
Just a note: if horses are being abandoned by their owners because of the state of the economy, wouldn’t it be better that the slaughter houses are open? Once sold to the feed lots, these horses will be fed properly at taken care of (to optimize the profit that can be made out of them). I feel that is a better alternative then being thrown in the back field or abandoned completely and spend its last months alive starving and sick. Yes, there are those few horses that would receive good homes if their only option was death by starvation, but there are many more who don’t get that lucky.
And besides, the slaughter houses would not be opening back up if there wasn’t a market for it.
My wife is in the horse business, primarily hunter jumper, lessons, summer camps, etc…I also have worked in this busines part or full time for the past twenty years. Much of my objection to horse slaughter is ethical, but I believe it damages the horse economy too.
My biggest objection is that the vast majority of the horses bought by kill buyers are healthy and sound (the USDA confirms my view). On at least a dozen occasions I’ve bid against a kill buyer for a former race or event horse. Often these horses make great hunters or lesson horses. When a sound horse is sent to slaughter, it’s bad for the horse economy. Slaughtered horses will not need a vet, blacksmith, feed, or hay. Nor can they be used for lessons or in camps. There are alternatives to horse slaughter such as rendering, giving the meat to the dogs who fox hunt, etc…From an economic perspective, horse slaughter is a loser.