by Marcia Mueller
As we try to stop the round-up of wild horses by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), we also need to think about other abuse of horses that receives less attention. One of those abuses is the slaughter of horses for food. Eating horse meat is obviously not an American custom, but it is a tradition in France, China, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and Scotland.
Three foreign-owned slaughterhouses operated for a while in the United States. However, they were closed when Congress banned spending for USDA inspections after public protests. Many Americans found the idea of eating horses repulsive and unacceptable. Unfortunately, no law was passed to prohibit sending horses to foreign slaughterhouses. Last year alone 140,000 horses were trucked to Canada and Mexico. This year again there was an attempt to fund inspectors for American slaughter facilities, but the ban has remained, and the horses will continue to undergo the trip.
So why is America allowing its horses to be killed to supply foreign demand? Two answers are greed and meeting the needs of irresponsible people who want to get rid of their animals and make a few dollars in the process.
The unfortunate victims come from a variety of sources, including horses from BLM round-ups. Wild horses and burros were allocated land so they could continue to live in freedom. However, ranchers need increasing amounts of public land for cattle grazing, and the horses are removed for the ranchers’ convenience and profits. Some horses from the round-ups are put up for adoption, and others are left in dismal holding pens (the ones that survive and round-ups and hazing!). Others can end up going for slaughter, even illegally. In 2012 the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros reported that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s friend Tom Davis sold 1794 horses for slaughter in Mexico. Davis later admitted that the horses were bought for $10 dollars each and sold as a group for $150,000, or about $73 per horse profit. Transport cost the tax payers $140,000. Davis has never been prosecuted for their deaths. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/oct/24/blm-illegally-sold-thousands-wild-horses-slaughter/ http://www.examiner.com/article/report-about-tom-davis-and-illegal-wild-horse-slaughter-made-public
Other horses sent to Canada and Mexico are victims of “backyard” breeders who are trying to make money selling them or even hoping get that great next winner at the race track. Many are horses who, like dogs and cats, are no longer wanted in this throwaway society. Included are the old, injured, and sick whose owners refuse to pay for euthanasia. Some may be ex-carriage horses who are unable to work the busy streets anymore. So increasing numbers of horses are found on abandoned property, left on roads, and even deposited in dumping areas like garbage. Sanctuaries try to save as many as they can, but the numbers are too great to care for them all. So it was decided that sending horses to slaughter was simply a way of disposing of unwanted animals and making the end of their lives a monetary transaction.
The trip to Canada and Mexico is a nightmare for the animals, as documented by Animals’ Angels. They are shipped in trucks not designed for the long necks of horses, and thus the animals are squeezed in and cramped in a space too small for them. Since some of the animals are sick and injured to begin with, the journey is even more hellish for them.
Pregnant mares give birth in trucks and the littles are often trampled to death before the truck arrives at its destination. The journey may last 24 hours, often in extreme heat or cold, with no rest, no stretching, no food, no water.
According to Animals’ Angels the stockyards where the horses are brought for sale are often littered with dead and dying animals with no one to attend to them or administer euthanasia. Furthermore, in spite of Animals’ Angels’ documentation, the sellers and killer buyers are almost never prosecuted.
The slaughter itself is sickening, especially in Mexico. In 2007 The San Antonio News-Express revealed that Mexican slaughterhouses use a “puntilla” knife to sever the spines of the horses before slaughter. The video obtained by the paper revealed the horses being stabbed multiple times in the neck. Finally, the stabbing paralyzes the horses and leaves them unable to breathe. They remain fully conscious during the slaughter process until they are “bled out” and die. Canadian slaughterhouses apparently use stun guns/captive bolt guns but the process often require two to four shots to work.
The slaughter of any animal is brutal. We fight the battle with Big Ag over the suffering inflicted on cows, pigs, sheep, and birds in America. That we are sending even more animals to their death in other countries is inexcusable.
We should not be sacrificing our horses for dietary customs abroad.
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