Oklahoma leaders pursue first horse slaughterhouse

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Note – This article needs your comments! Don’t post comments here, post them on the Tulsa World website. They are swamped with pro-slaughter comments.

By JANET PEARSON Associate Editor

A retired mare wanders a pasture together with other retired mares. Oklahoma lawmakers are expediting bills that would allow commercial horse slaughterhouses in the state. Associated Press file

A retired mare wanders a pasture together with other retired mares. Oklahoma lawmakers are expediting bills that would allow commercial horse slaughterhouses in the state. Associated Press file

Who knew we had so many animal-rights nuts in the Oklahoma Legislature?

Last week, both the state House and Senate passed by huge margins separate measures allowing horse slaughterhouses to operate in the state. Though lawmakers haven’t been doing a lot of talking – the Senate version passed without debate – the party line is that a slaughterhouse in these parts would be a humane solution to addressing the problem of aging, unwanted or sickly horses.

It’s possible a version could be headed to the governor’s desk as early as this week. Or, the two separate bills might end up in conference committee.

In any case, seldom have lawmakers acted with such swiftness. Could it be their compassion for horses is that strong?

Or could it be something else?

Since the ban on federal slaughterhouse inspections was lifted in 2011, there’s been a flurry of activity to open new plants in a handful of states. The few horse slaughterhouses in operation recently in the U.S. closed by 2007, when a federal ban on inspections was imposed.

The main argument in favor of slaughterhouses around here is that they could be a humane way to end the lives of horses that have few if any prospects for a better life ahead. Horses are being abandoned and neglected in huge numbers, claim proponents, who insist that a slaughterhouse is the only solution.

It doesn’t seem to bother them that abandonment and neglect are possible felonies; in fact, they seem perfectly willing to provide a for-profit legislative remedy to help these would-be felons. And it apparently is lost on them that there are much more humane options for ending a horse’s life if that’s necessary. But then, these more humane alternatives don’t produce a profit for anyone.

Graphic proof

Just how serious is this unwanted horse problem? There’s conflicting data. While abandonment and neglect could be factors in the numbers going to slaughter, the poor economy and the increasing demand from foreign markets also likely are major influences. In any case, there are other remedies to abandonment and neglect than commercial slaughter.

While proponents of slaughterhouses are quick to pounce on the neglect and abandonment issue, they avoid mentioning the increase in horse theft and property crimes experienced around communities located near slaughterhouses. Nor do they talk about the sometimes substantial legal costs that can be a consequence of slaughterhouses.

These issues and many others have been detailed and analyzed in a series of reports beginning in late 2011 through early 2012 in Forbes magazine, by contributing writer Vickery Eckhoff. One of those is the transport issue.

Eckhoff referenced a 900-page report done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2008 regarding its problems in overseeing the welfare of horses during transport.

That report graphically confirmed the USDA’s inability to ensure humane transport, through photos showing “extensive injuries, deaths and inhumane treatment” of horses transported to U.S. slaughterhouses.

The USDA could not ensure that the required documentation on transport was provided, because the paperwork function operated on the “honor system.” As a result, much documentation was incomplete or missing altogether.

Canadian authorities also found in their reviews of required documentation “missing and incomplete information on the horses’ previous owners or agents and misidentification of horses in accompanying photographs,” according to Eckhoff’s research.

The transport oversight problems raise this question: If federal agencies already are having difficulty in carrying out duties related to horse slaughter, does anybody seriously think they’re going to do an adequate job overseeing new U.S. slaughterhouses? Remember, Oklahoma long has had a problem with puppy mills, in large part due to lack of oversight on both the federal and state levels to monitor breeding. Does anyone have faith in this day and time that the necessary resources will be devoted to the monitoring of a horse slaughterhouse?

‘Horribly inhumane’

As to the argument that most horses sent to slaughter are sickly and old: First of all, the foreign consumers don’t want to dine on sick, old horses. They want young, healthy horses, and data show that’s exactly what they’re getting.

According to Eckhoff’s reporting, a study done by a Colorado State University veterinarian showed that 90 percent going to slaughter “are healthy, sound horses with no behavior problems.” She cited another study showing that under 4 percent of the horses sold for slaughter were older than age 10.

Other statistics from the USDA show that 92 percent of horses sent to slaughter arrive in “good” condition. So much for the argument that slaughter is just necessary euthanasia.

And just how humane is a slaughterhouse end? Eckhoff took that question to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, an anesthesiologist and veterinary behaviorist at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, who viewed film of the slaughter of more than 150 horses in Canada. The video revealed that in at least 40 percent of the stun attempts, the horses “were not rendered immediately unconscious, or revived after stunning.”

“My final conclusion, after reviewing 150-plus horse slaughters in this series of videos, is that the process was terrifying for most of the horses and, in many cases, horribly inhumane,” Dodman said.

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
11 Comments
  • holly allen

    stop this now this is terrible are you all going nuts

    February 25, 2013
  • Jane Kartes

    Horse slaughtering in the U.S. should not be considered! It is inhumane and the horses being slaughtered are sent in overcrowded conditions and not given food or water and are trampled in this transport. Any human being or Legisator that allows this will have to answer to a God that loves all animals.

    Not only to the horses die in fear, but they awaken during this process when the stun guns do not work! I have no faith in our current President who signed this Bill to allow slaughter in the U.S. and like his recent actions to those of Hitler! He wants to take our guns and our horses.

    I beg of you not to allow such atrocities to these Nobel animals.

    February 25, 2013
    • Valerie Wehmueller

      Thank you Jane, many share your thoughts!

      February 25, 2013
  • I would love to write a comment on the Tulsa World page, but couldn’t get through unless I bought a subscription. Maybe I didn’t do it correctly?

    February 25, 2013
  • Lorrie Roehm

    It has been illegal to slaughter horses in OK for fifty years! Now state reps, senators, governor, lobbyists and BLM are passing money from hand to hand = pay off for votes. Too fishy that the BLM Mustangs in holding facilities in OK and now OK wants to have horse slaughter. How much is BLM paying to get a horse slaughter plant to get rid of the Mustangs? This is all about profits for votes nothing for the humane treatment of horses! Look at the horse meat scandal in Europe now; and it keeps getting worse in Europe. Also flying horses live in crates to slaughter in Japan. Why are our American horses being eaten by everyone but Americans? Because we do not eat our companion animals! Stop the passage of these bills in OK! The slogan all over the internet “Boycott Oklahoma”

    February 25, 2013
  • Lorrie Roehm

    I opened a Tulsa World account but I still can’t post a comment. Any suggestions?

    February 25, 2013
  • You must be a subscriber to the paper to post, not just have an account. That’s it.

    February 25, 2013
  • Karen

    Was this or has this been a Care2 alert?

    February 25, 2013
  • Valerie Wehmueller

    I’d like to know if “they” would think a captive bolt to THEIR heads is “humane”, or the “answer” to their end of life solutions???? Is that what we should also do to our aged or sick fellow humans, or our dogs , cats, & other pets? At least if our pet is bad enough & suffering, or can no longer lead a quality life, we have it injected humanely, to end that suffering. With horses, it’s all about the money lining their blood-stained pockets, no matter how they “disguise” it!

    February 25, 2013
  • I too tried to post a comment to Tulsa World but couldn’t. I will say here what I would have said at Tulsa World. It is inhumane to slaughter horses, the stun guns don’t work on horses, they become petrified when they find themselves suspended by their legs and bleeding out. They don’t want worn out, sick horses for slaughter, they want young, healthy horses who could have a second career, if they were allowed to. Not to mention the horses that are stolen and sent to slaughter.

    February 25, 2013
  • Judy Lane

    Not sure if you know of all the horses being bred for the pharmaceutical companies for Premarin. Horses being constantly bred and producing foals and lots of them. It is like the dairy industry that keeps the milk cows pregnant. and producing lots of calves. Let’s stop the pharmacy companies from keeping the mares hooked up to those nasty collection bags. Google it if you want more information…..

    February 25, 2013