The reasoning is actually–surprisingly–less nonsensical than one might expect. As it turns out, horses are finding themselves the unwitting victims of the current economic slump. More and more owners cut them out of their household or business balance sheet–especially if they are “damaged goods” i.e. either old, sick or injured. And the same owners are just as reluctant to provide for their humane death as they are to care for them. As a result, the number of abandoned, neglected, and otherwise abused horses, has skyrocketed in the past couple of years. According to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office published last June,
Colorado data, for example, showed that investigations for horse neglect and abuse increased more than 60 percent from 975 in 2005 to 1,588 in 2009. Also, California, Texas, and Florida reported more horses abandoned on private or state land since 2007.
And if you think that the 2006 ban on government-sanctioned horse slaughter in the U.S. saves horses, think again. The same GAO report states that
since domestic horse slaughter ceased in 2007, the slaughter horse market has shifted to Canada and Mexico. From 2006 through 2010, U.S. horse exports for slaughter increased by 148 and 660 percent to Canada and Mexico, respectively. As a result, nearly the same number of U.S. horses was transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010–nearly 138,000–as was slaughtered before domestic slaughter ceased.
The spike in domestic investigations and the sharp increase in the transportation of horses across borders (whose overseeing is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture), have strained resources. Meanwhile, the value of the horses sold for slaughter has been dropping. “Unwanted” horses are basically left to die in appalling conditions, and the U.S. horse industry is losing revenue. Hence the decision by lawmakers to bring the horse meat market back to the U.S.–except for California and Illinois where a state ban is in effect.