The Problem with Horse Slaughtering

Natural Valley Farms horse offal dump

Since industrialized horse slaughtering became publicly known, a number of characters and organizations, sharing the common ground of obtaining an either direct or indirect benefit from the industry, have come in its assistance arguing there is a “horse problem” in the United States, not wanting to admit the problem is the horse slaughtering industry itself. Horse slaughter is a noxious, parasitic industry that affects negatively both the rest of the horse industry and the communities that host such businesses.

The most self-evident consequence of horse slaughter is the promotion of systematic, mass breeding saturating the horse market, by providing careless individuals and unscrupulous owners an easy outlet for horses excess of their intensive breeding programs, where they can obtain a very high profit (in the range of $400-600 per head, sometimes more, depending on weight and body conformation) with minimum effort. Throughout the country, tens of thousands of mares are bred systematically every year in the search of a “champion”, while those horses not showing the desired traits are simply discarded and tossed in an auction yard like trash. Many times, those very same “champions” end up trashed in the kill truck when they fail to perform up to their owners’ standards or these simply get tired of them. There is nothing wrong with these horses; they are simply regarded as an industrial “byproduct”.

In fact, some breed organizations (namely the American Quarter Horse Association and its satellites in the paint and reining horse world), not only actively promote mass breeding but also result to be the staunchest supporters of horse slaughter, to the dismay of most of their unsuspecting members. This attitude obeys to a strategy intended to increase their revenues in registration fees. Given such special interest it is not surprising either that, according to official USDA data, 70% of the horses slaughtered are quarter horses. Moreover, the top officials of such organizations are precisely one of the most important purveyors of fresh horses to the auction rings.

Without horse slaughter breeders would have no way but to be responsible for the lives they bring to the world and make cuts in their obsolete, mass-production breeding programs while the unnecessary “backyard breeding” would be drastically reduced.

Another consequence of horse slaughter is a rise in crime rates, specifically in those related to horses and property. Horse slaughter is an excellent outlet for stolen animals, providing thieves with fast cash and a way to physically destroy evidences of the crime. In fact, according to data from the California Livestock Identification Bureau, reported horse thefts dropped by a 30% a year after a ballot-initiative banning horse slaughter in the state was passed.

It is evident that without horse slaughter plants there are less incentives for thieves to stole horses but that’s not only type of crime decreasing if horse slaughter is suppressed. There are thousands of animal transport and handling regulations with tragic results that are systematically violated as a consequence of horse slaughter. From not providing horses with food or water to shipping blind and lame horses or not providing any rest, these crimes go simply unpunished, either because they are not reported or because of indolence from the corresponding authorities to enforce such regulations. Without horse slaughter industry, those nice individuals engaged in the sort of deeds commonplace in kill auction sales across the country (like Leroy Baker, Terry Saulters, “Ole” Olson and Don Nickerson, to name a few) would no longer have a reward for such activities; the horror stories about horse auctions would be a thing of the past.

Another little known consequence of horse slaughter is the ecological and economical damage caused to communities that host horse slaughter plants.

Overflowing wastewater tank at Cavel International plant

Overflowing wastewater tank at Cavel International plant, DeKalb, Illinois. Note the greenish feculent substance (microbial substrate) oozing from the top and the sides.

There are hundreds of wastewater violations in the archives of the cities and counties that hosted a horse slaughter plant. Horse blood is difficult to treat, apparently due to the amount of antibiotics routinely administered to horses in the US, and this creates a problem in the water treatment tanks at the plants.

These tanks work by decomposing organic waste by means of bacteria, creating as a final product a sort of organically activated mud, which is the substrate containing the bacteria and is reused in the tank, and treated, less toxic sewage, which now can be dumped in the city wastewater system. However, due to the overall difficulties in treating horse blood and parts, these treatment tanks do not work properly or do not work at all, and the plants end up overflowing with residues that theoretically should not be dumped in the wastewater system. Such sewage contains high levels of ammonia, amongst other toxic substances, which is highly toxic to aquatic species, and promotes a water condition called eutrophication, resulting in the dead of all forms of aquatic life save for anaerobic bacteria or those tolerating very low oxygen concentrations.

Despite the fact such waste exceeds the maximum allowed levels of ammonia and biological oxygen demand (BOD), the plants, as expected, systematically dump it into their cities’ wastewater system or, directly into the ground or on water bodies. Such activities not only damage the ecosystem but also put a strain into the cities wastewater treatment systems which, after years of continuous violations, become crippled and unable to process water adequately anymore.

Famous is the case of the Kaufman, Texas, whose mayor, Paula Bacon, denounced for years the violations and problems caused to the City Council by the Dallas Crown horse slaughter plant: Complaints from neighbors of the foul smells coming from the plant, horse blood coming out from bathtubs and drainage pipes, varmints gathering to feed on horse parts, dumping of blood in the streets and, to cope it all, failure of the city’s waste water plant. After years and years of chronic noxious waste discharges by such “corporate neighbor”, the city’s wastewater plant became unable to process all the waste it received and the City Council had no way but to upgrade it at the expense of the local taxpayer. Now that the plant is closed, the small Texan town is stuck with the loans to pay for an over-dimensioned water treatment plant it does not need.

Blood spill in Kaufman, TX home of former Dallas Crown slaughter plant

The image of the good corporate neighbor. Blood spill in Kaufman, Texas, home of the former Dallas Crown horse slaughter plant.

But that’s not all, not by all means. Not only Dallas Crown violated systematically the terms of their wastewater permit, but also refused to pay the corresponding fines, to the point of having several times their permit withdrawn and suing the City Council for doing so (with the added legal expenditures for the city).

To add more fuel to the fire, when the permit withdrawal case was heard, it was revealed that Dallas Crown managed, through an entrenched network of shell, front companies, to pay for the astounding amount of five dollars in federal taxes, despite reported gross sales over twelve million. To date, the fines accumulated during all the years Dallas Crown was in operation, are yet to be paid by Chevideco. To learn more about this particular issue, read the letter mayor Bacon wrote to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

These problems, however, were not exclusive of Dallas Crown and there are similar pollution reports, with alarmingly similar patterns, from other plants such as Cavel in Illinois and its successor, Natural Valley Farms, in Canada.

Natural Valley Farms horse offal dump

The reward after a life of service. Horse parts dumped in a pit near the Natural Valley Farms plant in Neudorf, Saskatchewan. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition .

In some instances, the plants were not so “considerate” and proceeded to dump horse parts, offal and blood directly in huge pits near the plant or in adjacent fields, which soon converted into huge piles of bodies. Animals Angels’ Canada and the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition have published a detailed report of such abhorrent deeds, which you can read here.

Rotting horse offal piles near Natural Valley Farms plant, Neudorf, Canada . Photo courtesy of the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition.

Rotting horse offal piles near Natural Valley Farms plant, Neudorf, Canada . Photo courtesy of the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition.

Horse slaughter itself also contributes to create an unsound horse market. By promoting the mass production of horses, the horse meat multinationals manages to keep in circulation the worst of the horse industry in terms of breeders, dealers and trainers, flooding the market with thousands of horses that many times are untrained or untamed, and causing overall prices and quality to drop.

Abuse, cruelty, crime, theft, foulness, pestilence‚Ķ are so far the only “benefits” that can be derived from the experiences of the communities that had to coexist with such an industry, yet many slaughter proponents keep repeating the same old mantra about the need to keep the horse slaughter plants open and provide legal protection to their deeds.

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
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