Horse slaughter is a practice of slaughtering horses for their meat and then selling this for consumption by humans. This practice has been the subject of a heated debate in the recent past to the extent that, at one moment, all the three horse slaughter plants in the United States had to be shut down. A vast majority of the American population opposes horse slaughter according to several surveys done by professionals. Just like other domestic animals like dogs, horses are perceived to be man’s companion. Because of this and their use in sporting and as working animals it is felt that horses should be given a humane consideration.
Though horse meat is not consumed in the United States, it is exported to countries where their consumption is practiced, for example, Japan and Europe and other countries that need it for their zoos. Before 2007, the United States had three horse slaughter houses; one in Illinois and the other two in Texas. These were however foreign-owned and most Americans didn’t even know that the practice was legal. While the common man viewed horses to be companion animals, the American Congress perceived them to be livestock. Animal rights activists were bitter with the practice and demanded its immediate disbandment.
In the year 2007, the slaughter houses were closed in the hope that the process would come to an end. However, this action meant that the practice continued in other parts. It meant that the American horses would be transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. This meant that they were out of the government of the United States’ control. This meant that they could be slaughtered in an inhumane way that no one could question, and their transportation was also brutal. Therefore, in light of these developments it has been established that there are animal welfare activists and animal rights activists.
Animal rights activists attempt to ensure there’s no exploitation of animals by humans by opposing such practices as the use of animals as specimens in veterinary and scientific research, hunting and the slaughter of livestock for consumption purposes. Animal welfare activists, on the other hand, try to prevent any forms of cruelty meted out on animals through the provision of care for needy animals, provision of proper euthanasia and sheltering animals. It is thus the push by animal rights activists to have horse slaughtering for human consumption to be banned whereas it is the objective of animal welfare activists to have the number of unwanted horses reduced. They are of the view that horse slaughter helps reduce the suffering unwanted horses experience since there are limited rescue facilities and it is relatively expensive to raise these animals. This has led to the emergence of a very serious debate on the topic.
Those opposed to horse slaughter argue that the practice of slaughtering horses is not an effective solution in the prevention of abuse and cruelty to horses or as a way of bringing to an end their suffering. It cannot be used as a replacement to humane euthanasia. It is argued that horse slaughterhouses are known to exacerbate the very problems they are supposed to eradicate; cruelty and suffering subjected to horses. Inter-state transportation of horses for slaughter still subjects these horses to suffering and does not guarantee the welfare of horses.
Horses according to them are not bred as meat animals but are perceived to be man’s companion. People mount trained horses, train miniature horses to assist the blind and also use horses in physical and mental therapy. Apart from being companions, horses are used in war and as transportation means. Therefore, there’s a certain special bond between humans and horses, and in the same way dogs and cats are treated, horses should also be treated.
Consuming horse meat is also viewed to be a health risk because of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals the equines are subjected to in their whole life are substances not fit for human consumption. Horse meat is therefore potentially harmful when taken as food. Routine drugs administered to these organisms are prohibited from being used in animals that would be used later on for human consumption. Certain substances such as Bute that are administered to these animals can easily lead to birth defects, agranulocytosis, a-plastic anemia, leucopenia in humans or even death of the person who consumes of the animal’s meat.
It is also claimed that most of the horses that are taken for slaughter are not always the unwanted horses but those bought by individuals referred to as kill buyers. These are people who act as agents of the foreign-owned horse slaughter houses, who, instead of purchasing old and diseased horses from the people decide to buy those that are in good health. It has been reported that about 92% of all horses slaughtered in America are normally in good health. It is therefore a malicious way of encouraging the practice to continue unabated by claiming that they help to reduce the unwanted horse population.
At times, the horses presented to slaughter houses for slaughter are those sold to kill buyers in livestock auctions by unsuspecting owners. These are then hauled to foreign countries for slaughter. This operation thus encourages horse theft as well as consumer fraud since kill buyers acquire these horses without truthful disclosure. Certain horses thus end up in the slaughter pipeline after an illegal sale at the livestock auction, and since they are sent directly to slaughter all evidence are lost in prosecuting the thieves. The horse slaughter practice is therefore unfavorable as it encourages fraudulent activities and horse theft.
Those in support of horse slaughter argue that the United States has more than enough horses, even more than what is required by the market. Severe floods and at times droughts that have made the cost of hay to rise, absence of land for horse breeding, the closure of stables in most remote areas and the underperforming economy has been the reason for the drop in the market for horses. A case in point is 2009 when the country was faced by recession. The hay prices more than doubled causing a hardship to a number of horse owners, and because of the closure of slaughter houses in 2007 there was widespread neglect of horses. These coupled with over breeding are what led to increase in the number of horses. The horses that get old and become aged end up suffering as no one wishes to buy them and the cost of taking care of them also becomes much to bear for the owner. Had there been a way to have these horses slaughtered there would be a payoff from the revenue acquired through the exportation of horse meat.
Even as animal rights activists continue to oppose horse slaughter, a number of veterinarians, horse owners and breeders view the practice to be a necessary evil. Despite the closure of the slaughter houses in the United States in 2007, the practice of horse slaughtering continued to take place. Not unless the large market for horse meat in the foreign countries that demanded horse meat reduced, horses would continue to be slaughtered to meet this demand. Horse meat, together with horse by-products are in very high demand in various parts of the world. Horse by-products are used as animal feeds, in the manufacture of fertilizers and tires among other things. Approximately 100,000 American horses were sold and shipped to foreign countries for slaughter every year. These horses are subjected to crude conditions when on transit. In addition, in these countries horse slaughter is not subject to regulation and inspection and neither are the slaughter facilities under the maintenance of organizations that support humane slaughtering of animals. It therefore does not fulfill the intended purpose to stop the practice in the United States as this would contribute to the problem instead of offering a solution.
Banning the practice of horse slaughter would imply that poor horse owners who have insufficient finances would resort to neglecting the animals. The animals would most often be let loose, starved and left homeless. There are inadequate animal rescue facilities in America to accommodate all the neglected horses. It is also unlikely that these owners would resort to euthanasia as the financial aspect makes it unfeasible. Because of the lack of a slaughter option after shutting down of the horse slaughter houses in the United States in 2007 meant that horses endured lots of suffering as there were mass abandonments during this period. The soundest solution to this kind of problem is horse slaughter. By deciding to have horse slaughter carried out within the confines of the United States, it will be possible to regulate these slaughter practices by the government through slaughter houses and as well ensure the animal’s welfare is taken care of.
Horse slaughter has been viewed as an important phenomenon in the contribution towards economic growth. It is no wonder that certain states such as Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota are up in arms to have the horse slaughtering industry be re-established. The residents of these states feel that these will boost their economies. Exporting of horse meat would not only bring in revenue but also help create a good number of middle class jobs. People employed in the horse slaughter plants and the middle men involved in the various transactions are gainfully employed in the industry. Besides, they say, it would rather the profits from this activity benefit the United States other than have the animals transported to Mexico or Canada and thus make these countries benefit from the profits at US’s expense. The by-products of course would have to be sought from the US by other countries in case the practice is re-established and thus additional revenue.
There are moments in time when the horses people own attain a level they no longer serve the purpose for which they were acquired. This is when they are aged and require to be disposed off. One has such options as euthanasia, donation, and sale among others. The ultimate decision on whether to end the animal’s life through euthanasia or slaughter lie upon the owner. However, since euthanasia is an expensive means of putting the horse down, most people in the current economy would prefer slaughter as the best available option.
Just as the slaughter of other livestock is accepted, then the slaughter of horses for consumption should be allowed. If it is claimed that horse slaughter is inhumane, then the slaughter of all other livestock should be deemed so. Therefore, if horse slaughter is banned then the slaughter of other livestock too should be banned. There are quite a number of reasons as to why horses are classified as livestock, and since the disposition and right to use one’s private property fall under the owner’s rights, then one has a right to dispose off his or her horse in a manner he or she deems fit so long as the organism’s welfare is taken care of and it is treated with humane.
Instituting ways of humanely slaughtering horses as well as ensuring horse transportation is regulated are the best ways of dealing with the issue of horse slaughter. The practice should in order to rid the country of the large number of unwanted horses. The practice helps reduce cases of horse abandonment, neglect and cruelty upon the animal. In addition, if it is not allowed, the same would continue without regulation and through application of very crude ways. These are reasons enough to ensure horse slaughter in the United States continues.
Baileys, Alison. "Horse Slaughter in the United States: The Unwanted Horse Problem ." 20 April 2011. www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org. 24 April 2012
Bekoff, Marc. Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. Ed. Marc Beckoff. 2. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2010.
Galuppi, Tony. "Should Horse-Slaughtering Plants Be Reopened in the U.S.?" 26 October 2011. http://voices.yahoo.com. 24 April 2012
Government Printing Office. "Proceedings and Debates of the 109th Congress." Congressional Record. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 17 June 2005.
Griffiths, Reuss. "Horse Slaughter." 15 July 2010. //ohiohorsemanscouncil.com. 24 April 2012
Jens, Chermaine. "Horse Slaughter: Truth and Deception." 5 August 2011. americansagainsthorseslaughter.com. 24 April 2012
Miller, Frederic P, Agnes F Vandome and McBrewster John. Horse Slaughter. New York: VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller e.K., 2010.
Shames, Lisa. Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter. Washington DC: DIANE Publishing, 2011.
Whiting, Terry L. "The United States’ prohibition of horsemeat for human consumption: Is this a good law?" 24 November 2007. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. 24 April 2012
www.hanaeleh.com. "Horse slaughter." 20 March 2012. www.hanaeleh.com. 24 April 2012