The last of Foxhunting Life’s many articles on the emotional subject of horse slaughter was published in May of 2014. It’s time for an update.
In 2014, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill which, in effect, assured that the ban on the humane slaughter of horses, instituted seven years earlier in the U.S., would continue.
This, despite a report by the highly respected General Accounting Office (GAO)—Congress’s own watchdog agency—that, because of Congress’s ban, and the subsequent closure of all horse processing plants in the U.S., unwanted horses had to travel further (to Mexico and Canada) and, in many cases, were slaughtered under worse conditions than before. As a result, the GAO emphatically told Congress that their ban on horse processing had actually harmed horse welfare.
This, also, despite a paper published by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) advocating the need for humane equine processing.
On the other side of this debate are the Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights groups that have provoked this nightmare for unwanted horses. Further, they have highjacked the term ‘horse slaughter’ to mean the killing of horses for human consumption in order to amplify and play on all the emotion they can bring to bear upon legislators and celebrities across the U.S.—the great majority of whom know nothing about horses.
Let’s look at what the respected American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), who do know something about horses, and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) which endorses AAEP’s position, has to say:
The AAEP advocates the humane treatment of all horses and believes the equine industry and horse owners have a responsibility to provide humane care throughout the life of the horse. However, a small percentage of horses are ultimately unwanted because they are no longer serviceable, are infirm, dangerous, or their owners are no longer able to care for them.
The AAEP recognizes that the processing of unwanted horses is currently a necessary aspect of the equine industry, and provides a humane alternative to allowing the horse to continue a life of discomfort and pain, and possibly inadequate care or abandonment. The AAEP encourages, fosters, and provides education regarding responsible ownership and management that will reduce the number of unwanted horses. In addition, the AAEP supports and commends the efforts of equine retirement facilities and adoption groups.
Regarding the care of horses destined for processing, the AAEP's position is that these horses should be:
Treated humanely and with dignity;
Transported to the production facility according to the guidelines approved by the United States Department of Agriculture in 2002.
Euthanized in a humane manner in accordance with the guidelines established by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
In addition, the AAEP recognizes that human consumption of horsemeat is a cultural and personal issue and does not fall within the purview of the association, whose mission is the care of the health and welfare of the horse throughout its life.
Although the last horse processing plant in the U.S. was shuttered by order of a federal judge in 2007, around 100,000 horses each year are, to this day, still being transported for slaughter to either Canada or Mexico. The horses endure longer trips and meet their ends in ways that are not under the control of the USDA, and, in many cases, hardly humane.
Horse retirement facilities are certainly a more desirable option to euthanasia in many cases, but such facilities in no way come even close to accommodating the number of unwanted horses, especially the failing, the unsound, the dangerous. Instead, their suffering has increased.
On a hopeful note, just last year, the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives voted narrowly to give a green light to reopening horse slaughter plants in the U.S. This was the first positive action by Congress that we have seen on the subject for three years.
Opposing that recommendation, HSUS is now promoting legislation to totally outlaw the transport of horses for slaughter...period. That would shut off routes to even Canada and Mexico and ensure that these horses will have to endure a prolonged life of discomfort, of pain, of neglect, or of injuring people because they are denied a humane release.
The GAO has already warned Congress of the folly they perpetrated in 2014. If HSUS is successful in their latest campaign, that harm already inflicted upon horses will be amplified monstrously, thanks to HSUS’s zealous and specious rhetoric spewed to well-meaning politicians and celebrities who know nothing about horses.
We can only work for and hope that the Congressional committee’s sensible proposal to allow processing plants to reopen will prevail, subject to the same USDA and AVMA-recommended euthanasia protocols that were already in force back in 2007. It would be nothing short of an equine tragedy to outlaw the one humane solution we have for the unwanted horse.
Posted December 31, 2018