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Friday, December 2, 2011


Activist from both sides of the fence have long argued pros and cons dealing with horse slaughter.  The argument is often spurred from emotional aspects rather than with logic. However, while both sides make strong points, which one is right? I personally love Horses, Rodeo, Carriage Rides and saddling up for a horseback ride. However, I too understand that when we outlawed horse slaughtering in the United States, we opened Pandora's Box allowing the same horse only to suffer greater as it is slaughtered across our borders in either Canada or Mexico.  

The majority of Americans are opposed to the slaughter of horses. Perceived as companion animals like dogs and cats, they are deserving of humane consideration as our pets, though many serve as working animals or for sport. Since they are not bred or raised for food, the thought of slaughter has created strong objection from horse owners and the industry of American horses.

Prior to the closing of American slaughter houses of horse meat in 2006, about 90 percent was exported overseas for human consumption, while the rest was used in zoos. Since Horses were plentiful, they once were a popular ingredient in early dog foods, though outlawed in the U.S. since the 1970s.

Horse meat in America raises a number of potential health concerns. Horses, unlike traditional food animals in the United States, are not raised with the intent of one day becoming human food. Since American horses are not "intended" for the human food chain, they often receive medications that is banned by the FDA during the life of food animals. Furthermore, there was a lack of tracking those medications, not knowing the history of those horses.

The European Commission Food and Veterinary Office found serious violations during inspections conducted in November and December 2010 of EU regulated plants in Mexico slaughtering horses for human consumption. Most American horses destined for slaughter end up at EU regulated plants in Mexico and Canada. The meat of some horses killed in Mexico are mixed with beef , then sold back to unsuspecting United States consumers. However, horse-meat dealers indicate that horses are lower in cholesterol content over American beef, high iron content and low fat content, suggesting horses as a redmeat for people with heart problems. Horse meat has been noted to taste sweeter than beef, although can be dry much as venison using added fat from other animals such as hogs to increase its softness when cooked.

Several years ago, I was having a conversation with Tom Scrima, of ACTHA "American Competitive Trail Horse Association" about the horse industry. The ACTHA has done wonderful things for the horse community along with raising money for many charities, horse rescue and and rehabilitation organizations to help ease the suffering of our equine friends through hosting many sponsored trail rides across the nation. In the mist of this conversation, we disused some issues dealing with horse rescues and horse slaughter. As Tom talked with me via cell phone, he was driving from Texas to Colorado. Ironically,  he had just drove past the Amarillo, Texas Stockyard where thousands of horses are auction off to buyers from Mexico for slaughter.

Although, these stockyards merely conduct the auction where horse traders hope to gain top dollar for their livestock. The auction also offer high-end quality horses not purchased for slaughter. Gideon Lucey, a Ranch manager at Frenchmen’s Quarter Horses in South Dakota recently was the high bidder on a fine broodmare at the Amarillo stockyard.

The former law was written to prevented horse slaughter in the United States. It did not outline nor prevent these sales to foreign buyers from Canada and Mexico who still operate slaughter houses. The GAO reported that horse auctions to foreign buyers for slaughter is about the same amount of horses slaughtered in the USA before the ban.  In 2010,  nearly 140,000 horses were shipped across the borders for slaughter. The dilemma of stopping slaughter in our own backyard, has not save these horses. It further removes the control of humane treatment of U.S. regulations and guide lines once the horse crosses our border.

My first view of American Slaughterhouses was an 8th grade reading project. I picked a book out by title believing I was going to read about the Amazon. It was the shocking novel written in 1906 by Upton Sinclair, titled "The Jungle."  Sinclair was a journalist who went incognito to work in the meat packaging plants of the Chicago stockyards. His seven weeks of gathering information in 1904 became the rejection from five different publishers. In 1905, his story was finally release in the socialist newspaper "Appeal to Reason."

His book starts as a story about an immigrant family of 12 trying to survive in the hopes of the America dream, yet reveals the harsh reality of life in poverty, unpleasant living conditions and struggles among the working class. The story unfolds with one household member, Jurgis Rudkus, who works in the slaughter house for slave labor wages in the unsanitary conditions of the meat industry. Clearly pointing out the severe corruptions in the meat industry, Sinclair indicates everyone has his or her price. Those in a position of power, including government inspectors, the police or judges, must be paid off, and where blacklisting is common. As several family members die, the remaining struggle to stay alive which inevitably leads to their physical and moral decay.

One part I clearly remember is the graphic details of the story character, Jurgis standing knee deep in the blood of slaughtered meat with hopes of getting a pair of boots so that he would not soak his legs or pants each day in animal blood. The cruelty of slamming a sledge hammer to the skull of cattle often requiring two or three blows was nothing near the work environment of the summer heat swarmed with flies and dreadful stink. Nor the extreme winter freeze of Chicago as the meat packaging exploited the labors of children and women. The morbid accounts gripped the souls of the American public as Sinclair detailed these working condition while indicating employees falling into Rendering Tanks were grounded with other animals parts, merely to be turned into Lard.

Intended to expose the exploitation of the American factory workers at the turn of the 20th Century, Upton's work became the concerns for food safety.  The Bureau of Animal Industry released a report stating Sinclair's allegations where fictional and utterly absurd.  In a letter written by President Theodore Roosevelt to William Allen White, it was clear to believe Teddy saw Upton Sinclair as a crackpot too.  "I have an utter contempt for him. He is hysterical, unbalanced, and untruthful. Three-fourths of the things he said were absolute falsehoods. For some of the remainder there was only a basis of truth."

Social worker James Bronson Reynolds and Labor Commissioner Charles P. Neill where sent by the President to investigate. Reynolds and Neill made an oral report back to the President that was never released to the public, although this inspection did lead to a congressional hearing and the passing of the Meat Inspection Act in addition to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Later, the establishment of the Bureau of Chemistry that would become the Food and Drug Administration in 1930.

Great improvements have been mastered through the decades since Upton Sinclair's book, "The Jungle." However, at the end of the 20th century found a researcher taking interest as to why The Cow goes Moo.   American doctor of animal science, Temple Grandin is a professor at Colorado State University and consultant to live stock industry. 

Temple Garndin
Fascinated with the patterns and flow of livestock in holding pens, Grandin redesign the layouts which reduce stress and suffering of animals being lead to slaughter. This improvement increased operational efficiency and profit implementing the use of long sweeping circles and single file funneling which prevents the herd from seeing what lies ahead. Additionally, taking note of animal survival instincts, her designs override the natural attempt of reverse direction.

Garndin, also having high functional autism, relates all to well these psychological anxieties of feeling threatened by everything in her surroundings. Her quest to promote humane livestock handling processes, advocate for autism and bestselling author, found Grandin listed in 2010 as Top 100 Heros by Time Magazine.  

American Cowboy Magazine polled their audience of readers asking, "In the long run, does horse slaughter help or hurt the horse industry and horse welfare in general?"  48 percent polled believe that it help the horse industry while 52 percent believed it hurts the horse industry. 

Canadian Slaughter Plant
Vicki Butler commented, "It is UTTERLYAPPALLING! It should NEVER be up for debate let alone get past! Hello! It was once banned! Do they even remember WHY they banned it 5 years ago? Must not have since they insist on repeating their mistakes."

Linda Henderson a horse woman from Wyoming said, "This is good news for anyone who cares anything about horses. 1.) Horses are LIVESTOCK, always have been always will be. This not your pet poodle, this is a 100LB farm animal that can be dangerous, hurt and even kill you. 2.) The # of abandoned and abuse horses has risen dramatically in the years since the ban on slaughter has been put in place, how can this possibly be better for the horses? It's not! 3.) This way the US can control the conditions that these horses are hauled and killed. As it was these horses were being hauled to Mexico and Canada where there is little to no supervision putting the horses in much worse conditions than, again how is this better for the horses? It's not! Much better to be done here where there are regulations.

Jim K. Dawson commented, "The problem with this question is that you are asking about the welfare of the industry in conjunction with the welfare of the horse. The question should leave out the horse industry because if you care about the horses, you would ask whether horse slaughter is good or bad for the horses industry aside."

One comment quoted:  "WHY PUT A GOOD HORSE DOWN"    We gave away control when we made those American slaughter houses illegal. The road to slaughter is cruel and without our control, it's worst than a Mexican Jail? Imagine, these are just horses and they treat people in a Mexican jail pretty damn inhumane. Imagine, the horses, they are just horses and who cares about the horses any way.

According to California Livestock and Identification Bureau statistics, the 1998 ban on horse slaughter in California was followed by a 34% decrease in horse thefts. Horses have been illegally sold to auctions, where they are bought by kill buyers and shipped for slaughter. These auctions provide a means of selling horses often without the consent of true owners through theft or misappropriation.

Included in the group lobbying for horse slaughter is the largest horse breeding association in the world, the American Quarter Horse Association. Other groups, such as the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP); the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA); and numerous animal agriculture groups also lobby in pro for horse slaughter. Included, are some animal agriculture groups that represent the traditional animal food industry of cattle, sheep, and pork, concerned that banning any animal for slaughter will lead to outlawing all meat production.

The Equine Welfare Alliance, Veterinarians for Equine Welfare, The Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, Canadian Horse Defence Coalition and hundreds of horse industry groups and animal welfare groups are against American horse slaughter. Most equine adoption and rescue groups also oppose slaughter for human consumption. These groups are protesting horse slaughter on the grounds that the industry is unacceptably inhumane and cannot be made humane. Additionally, country music singer/songwriter Willie Nelson has done advocating against horse slaughter and has his own signature rescue horses available for adoption. Madeleine Pickens (wife) of Oil and Natural Gas billionaire T Boone Pickens has campaigned to end the slaughter and Save the Wild Horses.  T Boone Pickens who professionally directed his interest in Wind Energy continues making huge contributions to political, educational and philanthropic causes donating nearly a half a billion dollars causes during his career. Pickens also lobbied for the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (HR 503) which would prohibit the slaughter for human consumption and the trade and transport of horse flesh and live horses intended for human consumption.

Frank Angst of the Thoroughbred Times reported,  "While the provision was lifted, the appropriations bill does not include any money to pay for horse meat inspections. Jay Hickey, president of the American Horse Council, which is neutral on the horse slaughter issue, points out that the appropriations bill only is effective through September 2012. Hickey said it would be a risky business proposition to open a horse slaughter facility with the possibility that policy could again change next year and force closure."

Regardless of how one feels about horse slaughter in the United States, exporting any horse overseas does not guarantee they will not end up become anything more than steaks or pet food.  One side of the fence clearly indicates a logical solution while the other paints the imagine of inhumane cruelty. Such is the case with thoroughbred race horse Ferdinand (1983–2002) who won the 1986 Kentucky Derby and the 1987 Breeders' Cup Classic. He was voted the 1987 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year and place into stud service in 1989.  Ferdinand was later sold in 1994 to Japanese horse dealer  Yoshikazu Watanabe.  In 2002, Ferdinand was sold for horse slaughter. In an interview with the Associated Press, Watanabe said: ''Ferdinand was disposed of during last year. He was getting old and was in some discomfort.'' It's tragic to see any horse slaughter and worst to known this horse ended up as either someones steak or pet food.


  1. it isn't nice to think of any horse going to slaughter but as long as there are irresponsible breeders and owners it is a better option than the animal starving to death. I have horses and i know the work time and amount of land it takes to maintain them and i am always amazed at the people that think the horse will survive i the back yard i mean look at all the grass they have no concept of a)how fast grass grows in what season B)how much a horse eats C) that the poop has to be picked up and horses wont eat where they have pooped or urinated will round cattle poop etc So being emotional about some have failed to weigh up the odds also i guess no one has seen the halal killing it happens in every meat processing plant that sells to Muslim and it is cruel and allowed as it is politically correct what we do for our own consumption is quick and efficient not so the Halal killing and we do it encase they want to buy ??

  2. In the US plants, one horse in ten was allowed to be slaughtered alive and conscious. One in ten being butchered alive was 'acceptable'. Just imagine what was going on when the inspectors weren't watching.

    If you own a horse, part of your responsibility is to end that animals life humanely if it is not longer 'useful'. Yes, you have to pay money rather than get paid if you euthanize a horse rather than sell it to the slaughterhouse but if you can't afford the cost of euthanasia and burial/rendering, you shouldn't be owning a horse in the first place.