In my political science class, we have a term paper about federal legislation. The topic I’ve decided to cover is horse slaughter, or rather the legislation that limits horse slaughter. It’s controversial among those with an opinion in the matter, but it’s a topic that the public is generally not versed in. It’s an agricultural issue, it’s a moral concern, and it’s a split topic.
Either you support horse slaughter, or you don’t. It tends to be a pretty polarized discussion.
So where do I stand?
Well, I feel that the evidence is pretty self-sufficient.
The Horse Population is Overflowing
Population management is a large part of proper animal stewardship. Responsible breeding practices can maintain populations…in an ideal world. However, “backyard breeders” and “oopsies” happen, even when the professional horse industry is responsible about its reproductive practices. I know folks whose income depends on the training and sale of horses, who have willingly chosen to pass on breeding for a year (or more) to help counter the horse overpopulation problem.
The simple fact is, there are more horses than there are responsible, capable, financially-stable owners in the United States. According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) there are 90,000 to 100,000 horses which are considered “unwanted” each year. This means that for whatever reason, the owner no long wants or can maintain that horse. With 90-100k horses becoming unwanted each year, and no humane and legal outlet for these animals, problems have begun to compound.
Horse Neglect and Abandonment is at an All-Time High
Just now, I mentioned staggering rates of unwanted horses; 90,000 to 100,000 each year. Owners who no longer have the desire or resources to care for their animals have very limited options. This creates a self-perpetuating problem with lower standards of care for horses. While I like to assume and wish that anyone who takes stewardship of animals will do so to their utmost ability, the facts are hard to dismiss. The simple fact is that as the horse population rises, so does the occurrence of horse-related problems.
I hold everyone to high standards of animal care; if you buy a horse, or adopt a horse, you should be willing to make that horse’s life of a suitable quality while that horse continues to live. However, without safe, legal, regulated horse slaughter in the United States, there is no last resort for these people. If they cannot re-home or re-locate the said horse, they have no options.
Horse Meat is a Nutritious Source of Protein
While many people would readily admit that they could never eat horse, there is a market for it. Many ethnic foods call for horse, and the exports to Europe and Asia were, at one point, a significant source of income for America. Horse meat can be a source of protein, B Vitamins, and iron. What right do we have to say that people elsewhere do not have the right to have affordable access to a nutritious food source?
More Live Horses are Being Exported for Slaughter
Without any outlet here in the U.S., more and more people are pressed to send their horses across borders for slaughter. The concern here is that the facilities elsewhere may not be held to the same standards as U.S. plants would be held to. Another article by the AVMA states that exports to Mexico have increased by 312%. That’s a staggering number. What’s more, there’s been an increase in exports documented for breeding and working. Some folks fear that the increase is due to the slaughter industry in other countries, primarily Mexico, and that documentation is meant to be misleading.
I am not an expert. I am just a college student with a term paper and a passion for responsible animal welfare.
With that said, this is what my research has shown me. This is what interviews with folks in the horse industry have led me to. I knew where I stood before doing this work, and now I am more steadfast in my beliefs. The federal law prohibiting the USDA inspection of horse meat, thus closing down the major horse slaughter industry in the United States, has had detrimental effects on horse welfare. Moreover, it’s influenced agricultural stability, the economy, and the job market domestically, and food availability elsewhere.
I know folks will disagree with me. I know that there are some people that, despite scientific evidence and proper animal care practices, are of the “bleeding heart” sort who can’t imagine horses being used for anything but companionship. However, this is where I stand. These are not by any means the only reasons that I support responsible, legal horse slaughter in the United States; these are actually just the tip of the iceberg. Thank you to everyone who was willing to answer my questions, point me in the right direction, and help me find sources for this project. I greatly appreciate all the help.