At Utah State University, a group of undergraduate students, a professor, an equine extension agent and the coordinator of the equine extension program gathered their resources, and minds, to write a paper about the state of the industry as it stands now. It’s a long paper, and in it’s entirety can be found here.
However, I’d like to break it down into sections and discuss it that way. We’ve looked at the numbers in the industry. Now let’s delve deeper.
From Page 1:
In September of 2007 the last horse processing plant in the United States closed its doors. This came about due to pressure from animal rights groups opposing horse harvesting. A state law was passed that forced the Dekalb, Illinois, plant to close and this ruling was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for theSeventh Circuit.
Approximately 100,000 head of horses each year were being sent to U.S. horse processing plants prior to their closure. This is approximately 1 percent of the horse population in the United States (Ahern et al., 2006). The groups that fought for the closing of the processing plants do not want horses processed for human consumption.
The goal of this paper is to look at what effect these closings have had on the horse industry. This paper will analyze four arguments supporting the plant closures and the present environment due to the closure of the plants.
The main statements by the lead groups supporting a ban on horse processing include:
Argument 1. The United States should not participate in such a cruel, inhumane practice (HSUS, 2008).
Argument 2. The United States should not provide horse meat to satisfy other countries’ needs when Americans do not eat horse meat (Weil, 2007).
Argument 3. Horse owners will be responsible and take care of their horses (Horse Talk, 2007).
Argument 4. Owners have other methods to deal with unwanted horses, such as euthanasia, burial, sell the horse, or send to rescue facility (Horse Talk, 2007).
Now let’s take a closer look at each of these arguments in the coming weeks. We’ll start, obviously, with Argument #1.
The United States should not participate in such a cruel, inhumane practice.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) lists two accepted methods of euthanasia for horses: 1) overdose of barbiturate anesthesia, sodium pentobarbital administered with a sedative, 2) physical method of euthanasia from a gunshot or penetrating captive bolt causing trauma to the cerebral hemisphere and brainstem resulting in an immediate painless and humane death (AVMA, 2007).
U. S. horse harvesting facilities use the captive bolt method of euthanasia. As the AVMA states, “when properly used by skilled personnel with well-maintained equipment, physical methods of euthanasia (captive bolt is a physical means of euthanasia) may result in less fear and anxiety and be more rapid, painless, humane, and practical than other forms of euthanasia” (AVMA, 2007).
Dr. Temple Grandin, PhD, designer of livestock handling facilities and professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University is an expert in methods of handling animals at harvesting facilities. In an interview on the radio program, “Horse Talk,” from Park City, Utah, Dr. Grandin indicated that done correctly euthanasia by captive bolt is second only to chemical euthanasia in discussing humane methods of euthanasia (Grandin, 2007).
Jim Tucker, the manager of the Cavel International horse harvesting plant in DeKalb, Illinois, stated a licensed veterinarian was on site any time an animal was euthanized (J. Tucker, personal communication, November 27, 2007). Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, DVM, Director of the American Veterinary Medical Association Governmental Relations Divisions, indicated the horse processing facilities were highly regulated and a veterinarian was present to record any inhumane treatment (Lutschaunig, 2007). Lutschaunig also stated that the plants employ highly trained personnel utilizing the captive bolt (2007). Dr. Robert Lewis, DVM, American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Representative for the Legislative Advisory Council, stated the AAEP sent a team to the Texas plants and these equine veterinarians deemed the plants humane and the plants are USDA inspected and inspectors are on site (Lewis, 2007).
The groups behind the ban, instead of helping the animals they set out to help, have created a situation where horses are neglected due to a lack of options. They have also condemned horses to shipment out of the country to foreign plants with less than humane methods of slaughter.
Now I don’t want anyone to get their panties all ruffled about this because, like it or not, processing horses is part of the industry (it’s just moved to Canada and Mexico now). What bothers me about this argument, is the *humane* part. I have discussed this before, so if you missed it, you might want to read it, so you’ll understand my thought process. I will also tell you that I’ve never had to send any of my personal horses to the killers, but we have sent some that the ranch raised- some that were crippled and would never be sound enough to be ridden. We have sent old horses as well. And recently we sent some that weren’t old, simply because we needed the grass. Which brings up another issue to discuss that I believe warrants a separate post/discussion- contrary to popular belief, grass isn’t infinite. And wide open spaces, don’t mean that the space can handle many animals. As an aside, we do not set out to raise horses specifically for the kill pen, nor do we know anyone that does. I find that argument to be bogus. Horses are much more valuable if they’re sound, well-bred and if they have a job (running barrels, on the track, roping, working on the ranch, packing kids and novice riders around, etc). You’d have to raise hundreds of horses a year to come close to making a living on sending them to slaughter. Another reason that argument is utter bull-shit.
It’s worth noting that prior to the slaughter facilities closing, these equines (the perfectly sound, prime of their life horses) had a value of between $500 and $1000 as NON-KILLER horses. So in essence the argument could be made that closing the slaughter facilities, has in and of itself, created a larger market for killer horses, because even though I tried to give the horses away, I was unable to do so. Which begs the question- why were you unable to find a new home for these horses? Again, that’s something that we’ll discuss at a later time.
In the meantime, if you can be civil and refrain from name calling, let’s discuss this, if not, your comments will be deleted. As I said earlier I will also keep a running list of questions that I will answer when I have enough to make a post or answer them as it becomes relevant.
Have a good one folks- I’m going to spend my day riding, at least until it rains!