The United States is a nation of horse lovers, and the majority of the population wouldn’t even dream of eating them, but despite this, every year an estimated 130,000 horses are sent to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico where they are harvested for their meat, which then gets shipped to European and Asian markets.
This issue has created a definite divide: those who view horses as pets and those who view them as products.
Reviving Slaughterhouses in the United States
Sue Wallis, a Wyoming lawmaker, is spearheading the revival of U.S. horse slaughterhouses as she argues that not only would it be better for business, it is more humane than long, harsh trips across borders.
Other arguments put forth to support their position include the claim that domestic slaughterhouses provide a ready market for old, hobbled and unruly horses, making them more valuable, and since shutting down, there has been a glut of unwanted and neglected steeds that end up dying a slow and painful death.
Proponents for horse slaughter hide behind the guise that by reopening slaughterhouse plants in the United States, they will be doing the horses a favor, but it is clear to see that lurking just beneath the superficial claims of improved welfare lies the main agenda of lining their pockets and increasing their bottom line. The reality is simple: these long hauls to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses burn up the sellers profits, making the business a whole lot less attractive.
The Truth Behind the Horse Meat Industry
When you look at the facts, the slaughter of horses for meat is unnecessary, inhumane and harmful in many ways.
Regardless of whether the horses are shipped to foreign plants or killed in the United States, it is a brutal and terrifying end and is in no way humane. Horses are sensitive creatures with a heightened fight or flight response, making accurate stunning extremely difficult. As a result, horses often have to endure repeated blows and some even remain conscious during dismemberment, resulting in the exact opposite of a quick and painless death.
There is also no proven connection between the closure of U.S. horse slaughterhouses and an increase in unwanted or abandoned equines. In fact, when horse slaughter was banned in California in 1998, there was no reported rise and when the only plant in Illinois shut down for two years, horse abuse and neglect actually decreased.
In terms of the benefits to the local economy, there really isn’t any. These plants pose an environmental and economical nightmare, polluting water, permeating the air with a foul stench and decreasing property values. The low income and dangerous jobs offered do nothing to bolster local communities, and the minimal financial contribution they may make is far outweighed by the immense development suppressing burden they bring along with their presence.
Then, of course, there is the issue of whether horse meat is even safe for human consumption. Horses aren’t raised as food animals and thus are routinely treated with chemicals, most popularly phenylbutazone (aka Bute), which is a known carcinogenic to humans.
Animals and Compartmentalization
For most people, the thought of killing horses is akin to that of killing their own dog or cat, and an idea that will never be embraced. How would the public feel if the United States were to start opening puppy mills to breed dogs to ship to China for meat? There would be an outcry, so why should it be any different with horses?
In a recent interview Sue Wallis said “Chickens for eggs, lambs for wool, cows for milk, horses for work, and when their useful, productive life has passed, then you turn them into meat.” From her point of view, horses are livestock first and companions second. The problem is that when you look at animals as assets, where do you draw the line on which animals should or should not be exploited?
We compartmentalize by deciding which animals are acceptable to eat and which ones are not, and then we criticize those in foreign lands who have done exactly the same thing but with differing conclusions.
It is easy for us to sit in our ivory towers judging those who use and eat the animals we call our friends but when it boils down to it, is there really any difference between a cat, a dog, a horse and a cow?
Photo Credit: bozo_z_clown