Don’t reopen plants that slaughter horses for food

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chicagotribune.com, By Wayne Pacelle,  April 19, 2013

images-10Most Americans disapprove of slaughtering horses for food — 80 percent, according to a recent national survey. Responsible American horse lovers, breeders and owners shudder at the thought of any horse of theirs — horses born and raised to be competitors and companions — ending up on a foreign dinner plate.

For decades, it was a clandestine industry in the U.S. quietly operating in small towns and sending the meat only to foreign markets. Once the Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare groups started paying attention, it wasn’t long before those plants were shuttered. Now, there’s a move by longtime proponents of horse slaughter to reopen plants here at home.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that he’s not supportive of these efforts and that he hopes there can be a “third way” to manage America’s horse population, and that we can develop a system to deal with homeless horses without slaughtering them for food exports.

Just last week, the White House recommended in its proposed budget for 2014 that Congress bar funding for placement of federal inspectors in plants, a requirement to certify the horse meat for sale. Should Congress include similar defund language in its fiscal year 2014 appropriations bill, it would arrest plans by horse slaughter enthusiasts to open plants in the first place, and it would reinstate language that was in agriculture spending bills for several years as a bulwark against the reopening of plants that hadn’t operated since 2007. President Barack Obama’s move should give a lift to authorizing federal legislation — the Safeguard American Food Exports Act — to ban horse slaughter and the export of live horses for slaughter.

The horse slaughter industry doesn’t “euthanize” old horses — but precisely the opposite: Young and healthy horses are purchased at auction, often by people misrepresenting their intentions, and sold to slaughter plants where they are killed to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported that 92 percent of American horses going to slaughter are in good condition and would able to live healthy and productive lives.

When plants operated on U.S. soil, the USDA documented severe cruelty, including broken bones and eyeballs hanging from eye sockets by a thread of skin. Inside the slaughterhouse, where the air is infused with blood and death and the smell of iron, horses endure fear and torment, particularly when there are repeated attempts to render them unconscious.

Beyond being a predatory, inhumane enterprise, the horse slaughter industry could also be endangering human health by peddling tainted meat. Recent revelations in the European Union about horse meat masquerading as beef products and containing drug residues that fail to meet EU food safety standards represent one of the biggest food scandals in recent years. It’s of keen interest to The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International because we’ve been warning European authorities of the risks to human health posed by consuming horse meat imported from North America.

American horses are raised for use in show, sport, work and recreation and are regularly administered drugs that are expressly prohibited by current federal regulations for use in animals intended for human consumption. For example, a common pain reliever routinely administered to all types of horses, phenylbutazone, is known to cause potentially fatal human diseases. Then consider the hodgepodge of drugs used in race horses — including cobra venom and cocaine. Thousands of these horses are sold at auction for slaughter within days of their last race, resulting in potentially toxic horse meat being sent overseas. There is no known safe level for consumption of these drug residues in horse meat, and there is no system in the U.S. to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe for human consumption.

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
11 Comments
  • Daryl

    Keep the plants of slaughter closed for ever, never re-open a plant of it’s kind.

    April 19, 2013
  • Becky Canaday

    How barbaric, to slaughter horses. Will it be cats & dogs, next?

    April 20, 2013
    • dogs and cats are already being slaughtered food…its barbaric and cruel to slaughter any animal for food or any reason

      April 20, 2013
  • Debbie Tracy

    This horse slaughter after all these years should NOT even be an issue it’s 2013 have we not learned anything from the past?? STOP this now all of it once and for all!! It seems to me that everything we human’s touch we destroy or kill lets not do it anymore, get back to our values why we as a culture should be proud of our decision’s we make!!! WHY America use to be a Great Nation….. Let’s END THIS….

    April 20, 2013
  • why can”t these horses be fixed so they can”t overpopulate ? they fix dogs and cats, why not horses, put a limit on breeding.
    and most of all DONT SLAUGHTER perfectly good beautiful horses

    April 20, 2013
    • Daryl

      The Blm brings in studs and they are to be gelded right away so no breeding in the holding pens happens, but some said they got old studs they were not gelded when they got them, so I guess they are not doing their jobs there eighter? Put and end to slaughter of these horses of the
      wild.

      April 20, 2013
  • Great article Wayne. So much of what we from the media here in New Mexico is skewed toward pro slaughter, making it hard to get the word out. Thanks for writing this. We need to stop slaughter before it gets started.

    April 20, 2013
  • Merrillyn Humphries

    Save our precious horses from slaughter

    April 20, 2013
  • linda spinazzola

    ! I can’t.. for the life of me..understand why horse slaughter has to ever be in debate at all! our politicians, big rich cattlemen, the over-breeders, and FOREIGN investors, have to debate if they should knowingly and intentionally poison thousands of unaware
    men, women, and children, of foreign nations…or not to poison them! really? if foreign nations want to poison their own people for a buck…then let them! we all know horse slaughter is the most horrific form of animal torture, and must be stopped! the biggest problem in this country is NO ONE is held accountable for their actions or in actions! if you own or buy a horse, then you know the expenses involved..and your obligation to care for that animal! in this day and age with thousands of people eating organic, going green, and fighting to have gmo’s removed from OUR food supply… it has to make you realize….it is ONLY about the money! we need to contact foreign media outlets…and have them ask our government…why? the E U has banned horsemeat from the U.S.A.. I wonder what will happen when they finally put 2 & 2 together and realize that they have been eating our tainted horsemeat all along… and our politicians have been turning a knowing blind eye! GOD help our horses and us!

    April 20, 2013
  • Christine

    I’m willing to bet that there are some greedy losers oit there who have found a way to make money off slaughtering America’s wild horses. The land they live on, I hear is then to be used for more environmentally devastating cattle production. Thats the real story here.

    April 25, 2013
  • Daryl

    In our government is a move to remove the wild horses from being feed and taken care of by them, then why do they bring in more horses then they could get adopted out in the first place, MONEY is the answer. Wanting to remove the horse from their land and bring in cattle to graze or drill oil is the reason, they would get money for that. the land the horses is on has been fought for and won by the wild horses already.It is their land and water rights.

    April 26, 2013