“It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”
– Noël Coward
I have gotten engaged in talking about horse slaughter because the pro-slaughter parties so often dismiss anti-slaughter activists as refusing to face the facts when it turns out that the pro-slaughter folks have felt quite free to twist the facts to suit their purposes. Read the following link to find out how the AP responded when a reporter that has been published in Forbes Magazine, Newsweek, and the Huffington Post asked them to correct the misinformation they are spreading:
So here are a few facts relevant to horse slaughter, and while you read them keep in mind that the accounting firm that the Government Accounting Office (GAO) hired to do its study also works for the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). That is a clear conflict of interest.
The study covered five years of horse related records and the stated intent is to see how banning horse slaughter affected horse welfare.
- The study runs from 2005-2009
- Horse slaughter was banned in 2007
- A 5 year study on the effects of banning horse slaughter would actually run between 2007 and 2012.
To start with GAO included 2 years of records from when horses were actively being slaughtered in the USA. Why?
- 2010 was significantly lower in numbers of horse neglect/abuse cases reported, enough to change the conclusion of the study
- in 2005/6 there were high numbers of neglect/abuse cases reported, enough to skew the study.
AND the GAO conveniently ignored all information regarding criminal activity and slaughter houses (click here) when:
- Incidents of horse theft dropped precipitously as soon as the slaughter houses closed.
What the numbers actually show is that horses fare better when slaughter is banned. The GAO is being taken to task for fraud over this, so I’ll go on to the next big lies.
Pro-slaughter advocates claim that slaughter houses mainly kill feral and unwanted horses that have no other options.
- fact is that 70% of slaughter horses are Quarter Horses
- another 16-19% are race horses (Thoroughbreds for sure, I don’t know if this includes Standardbred Harness racers.)
- I don’t have the percentage for foals sent to slaughter out of nurse and PMU mares commercially used to produce milk and hormones
Pro-slaughter advocates claim that slaughter offers a humane end to old, sick, injured, and neglected horse’s lives. Click here for an article on how horses rejected for slaughter are abandoned and left to die.
- There are strict rules about animals that can be slaughtered for food, and they must to be healthy and in good condition.
- It is a confirmed fact that most horses sent to slaughter are young healthy animals between 3 and ten years old.
Roughly 90% of the horses sent to slaughter are young healthy ‘sport horses’ commercially and purposefully bred and what I have seen for years is that a business model that considers horses disposable products that should be replaced when they are three years old when they can live to be thirty is going to produce more horses that can be cared for. In this model, money is made from stud fees, mare and foal care, and prepping young horses. Purses and prices peak at three-year old futurities. When there is no significant money to be made competing and drugs can no longer disguise their physical and mental injuries, these horses and any ‘excess’ stock are ‘discarded’, meaning sent to slaughter, and the cycle starts over.
This alone is bad news, not just for horses but for all reputable trainers, owners, and breeders whose efforts are marginalized. Why spend time and money training a horse properly or buying a well-trained one when you are going to kill it in a few months any way? The disposable horse paradigm is bad for the horse business. It fuels ignorance and abuse by driving down horse values, putting good horse people out of work, and encouraging consumers in the horse world to demand results that harm the horse. A start towards shifting it would be larger purses for older horses, lesser purses for younger ones, and banning breeders, owners, and trainers that send their animals to slaughter from both competing and registering horses.
What I had not known was that the AQHA pro-slaughter position encourages the equine equivalent of puppy mills. The AQHA website claims that they register an average of 85,000 foals each year but in 2005, the most recent year I could find on the equine demographics report, the number of new AQHA registrations was 165,000 or nearly double that number. Way back in the seventies the renowned veterinary pathologist James Rooney DVM wrote that Quarter Horse breeders were going to have to decide if they were going to eat their horses or ride them, so this has been going on for some time. The horse version of the puppy mill is perhaps worse in that the horses are intended to be sent directly to slaughter-house, but if I try to see the rancher’s point of view, I have to ask why run tens or hundreds of horses on range land and then take them to slaughter instead of cattle and why continue to do so for decades? Well, because:
- 1200lb Quarter Horses can bring as much as $2,000 each when sold for $1.65 a pound at the slaughter-house auctions
- Horses do not directly compete with cattle for grazing, they complement them
- So running both horses and cattle for slaughter increases ranch income
While I understand and identify myself with those who do not eat horses (click here), I do eat meat. I have slaughtered my own. As a multi-generational green environmentalist, I have also seen that grazing animals on range land is often the soundest ecological use of our resources, especially in the high desert. And where it has all taken me is to a profound understanding and appreciation of the generosity and grace of these animals and lands that offer up their own lives so that we may live ours.
What I don’t like is lies.
The truth is that if ranchers acknowledge that they can increase the carrying capacity and profitability of their ranch by species diversity, by running both cattle and horses, their argument for rounding up wild horses because of the damage they do to the range flies out the window. Not to mention how honestly admitting they are raising horses in order to kill them would incite the animal rights crowd into a frenzy. Rather than stepping up and admitting what is going on, there is not just misdirection, but flat out deception by the pro-slaughter advocates.
Finding hard facts on the economics of running a slaughter-house for horses is not easy. I can surmise that if Canada slaughters over 130,000 horses each year and has 4 slaughter houses that each facility processes 35,000+ horses per year or approximately 100 horses each day. A mere 10% of slaughter horses may be wild, neglected, unwanted, sick, injured, and/or old horses. That averages out to about 250 horses per state each year. The prospective Roswell NM slaughter-house alone would be in need of 34,750 horses above and beyond the number of of unwanted horses available each year. New Mexico has averaged an annual horse population of 125,-150,000, animals so that one slaughter-house would require 25% of the entire horse population in the state each year to stay in business. And here is a video about the impact of a horse slaughter house on the surrounding community:
The whole paradigm of deception and abuse that considers the horse a short-lived product that must be easily ‘discarded’ for maximum profit needs to change. It is going to take ALOT of public pressure to do it, so please, keep on getting the word out! New Mexico Congressman Ben Lujan’s is co-sponsor of the anti-slaughter act. Here is his email address: